The Best Or The Worst?

Are you a cup half full or half empty kind of person?

There is an older preacher in Oklahoma who helps publish a monthly email titled “Good News.”  As the title suggests, the publication is filled with good new from churches and ministries from across the world.  Sometimes this good news comes from some of the most bleak circumstances while other times the good news comes from an environment that is overflowing with positive occurrences.

28936891_sHere’s what I appreciate about the “Good News” email…it is all positive!  The July issue of “Good News” had positive reports from the US, Africa, the Caribbean, and efforts online.  In a world that seems to be fixated on the negative, it is good to be encouraged and inspired by what others are doing.

For the same reason I really enjoy a quarterly magazine we get at our house called “Seeing.”  The latest issue is about summer work.  In all honesty it is about the things that we often refer to as ‘chores’ like mowing the lawn, watering plants, etc.  Through the power of prosaic, “Seeing” attempts to embrace the positive and connective power that daily tasks have on the family.

Perhaps I’m odd, but I reflect on ‘chores’ with a positive perspective as they provide a connection to positive childhood memories.  Working in the kitchen, helping with laundry, mowing…all these things bring back childhood memories of my parents.  I know I’m not odd because “Seeing” is filled with stories from others who connect back to their childhood and make connections with their own children through the work of the home.

Let me bring this full circle with the example of chores.  We can approach the work of the home with either a positive or negative perspective.  It can be something that has to get done, or it can be something that helps us connect with our families both present and past.  The work of the home is just one example in a life where we choose what perspective we bring with us in our daily walk.

Joseph was a man who chose to view the positive in life.  I am sure he had his moments where he felt low, but instead of being filled with bitterness and resentment he made the best of his situations and eventually saw the hand of God in the events of his life.  Continue with us as we explore the often overlooked portion of the story of Joseph >>> Dinnertime Devotionals 27

 

 

Tips for Buying and Restoring Used Furniture

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When hunting for bargains…search high and low!

Today we will be looking at a few tips on buying used furniture on Craigslist and at garage sales.  I have written this post using bullet points so you can easily skim the tips to find the ones that are best for you.  I’d love to hear some of your tips in the comments section of this post…

  • Good bones - “They just don’t make it like they used to” is a very accurate phrase for the comparison between modern furniture and most pieces that are 30 years or older.  The vast majority of current production furniture is made with some sort of pressed wood and sometimes even cardboard.  “Knockdown furniture” (furniture in a box for assembly) serves a purpose and can be useful but is primarily short-lived and disposable.  Never waste time trying to fix cheap furniture that is made of particle board and laminate.  Solid wood pieces are easy to find at garage sales and on Craigslist.  Wood pieces with minor defects can be a good bargain if you know how to touch things up.  Let me share a few tricks I have learned for quick touch ups for wood defects on those pieces with good bones!
  • Water rings – Giant white rings in the finish of wood furniture can be unsightly and drop the price dramatically.  If the ring is white and foggy looking, there is a quick fix.  You will need an iron and a thin piece of material like a dinner napkin.  With the iron hot and the steam off, place the corner of your cloth over the ring and begin making circles over the ring with the iron.  Continue for 5 to 10 seconds then pick up your cloth and spin it around to a cool spot of fabric and continue for another 5 to 10 seconds.  Moving the cloth keeps it from bonding with the finish of the piece.  This process allows moisture trapped in the finish of the furniture to be released.  Continue ironing and moving the cloth for about one minute and evaluated the ring.  Most rings will come out in a minute or two.  I would not try this method for more than a few minutes as you might damage the finish.  Water rings that are dry and faded looking might be a good candidate for the next tip…
  • Howard’s Restor-a-Finish – I am not compensated by Howard’s at all…but this stuff is AMAZING!  My parents introduced me to this liquid miracle.  Howard’s can be used on most stained wood furniture to revitalize the finish.  I have used it on dried out water rings, scuffs and dings, even sun faded furniture.  The product comes in a variety of colors so you can closely match your piece.  Apply Howard’s using a car polish pad or a piece of 00 steel wool (super fine steel wool).  Follow the instructions for drying time then wipe away any excess.  It is important to seal the piece with wax for a long lasting repair.  Do not try and seal the piece with polyurethane or any other type of finish as this will cause hazing.  I have restored desks, tables, and other items with Howard’s Restore-a-Finish and it is an amazing product.
  • Chalk Paint – I am not a huge fan of painting beautiful wood furniture, but sometimes wood pieces are too damaged to be refinished with stain.  Chalk paint is the new and hot item for painting wood furniture.  In most applications it covers with just one coat and has a unique look and feel.  Retail chalk paint is expensive!  I have already written about making my own DIY chalk paint.  Prep the piece by lightly sanding away any glossy finish.  The old paint or stain finish doesn’t have to be completely removed it just needs to be scuffed up if it was glossy.  Fill in any gouges with wood filler and allow it to dry if you want a smooth surface.  Chalk paint is applied with a standard paint brush and goes on pretty thick.  You might see some brush strokes but most of these will go away as the product dries.  Once the paint cures, make sure to seal the piece with a rub on or spray on polyurethane product.  Chalk paint will not be very durable if it is left unsealed.

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    Getting children involved in safe refinishing projects is great family fun.

  • Upholstery – Many times I have been surprised by how well furniture upholstery can clean up, but there are times when upholstery is too far gone or long outdated.  When buying a piece to re-upholster, here are a few things to consider.  How easy will the task be?  Dining chairs with removable bottoms are the easiest thing to re-upholster.  Simply pop the bottom off and staple your new fabric on.  Follow the patter the manufacturer used will help produced a good looking finished product.  Dining chairs with the cushion missing can be a good find.  Make a seat template from cardboard then trace the pattern onto plywood.  Using foam rubber panels cut out the desired shape and thickness for your seat and cover with material.  How expensive will it be? Couches and side chairs are beyond the skill set of the average DIYer.  It will cost several hundred dollars to get a side chair re-upholstered and at least $500 to get a couch recovered.  Use a 40% off Hobby Lobby coupon to get upholstery fabric at a good price.  Furniture with decorative tacks can be fun but time consuming.  It pays to get a tacking hammer to save your finger from getting pinched or smashed when tapping in decorative tacks.

There are many other tips and tricks for buying and restoring furniture.  Starting with cheap (or free) furniture projects is the best way to learn.  Buying furniture to refinish and resell is a challenging proposition due to the expense of the products use to make repairs and the time involved.  Buying and restoring used furniture is a great way to save money on home decor.  The unique and well built pieces you create are far superior to the over-price, mass produced junk that the big box stores pump out.

Blisters

The past few days I have been away from the office and the walking desk doing some incredibly hard work.  My brother-in-law and I have been working to put a new roof on his Mom’s sunroom.  It turned into a a fairly large job and I appreciated my friend Doug coming to bail us out with his expertise in roofing and my other brother-in-law coming to help out when we were all running out of energy.  But I’m not here to talk about roofing today…

hammer in handMy keyboard typing, mouse clicking hands aren’t used to the rigors of the scraper, hammer, and shovel.  At the end of the day I had a few blisters.  But here is the cool part…no…the amazing part.  What was a blister last night, turned into a tough piece of skin today.  Not only had my body healed but it had become even tougher.  How cool is that?!?

I wanted to find out a bit more about blisters and this amazing defense that was created as a part of my body.  The blister I had was a friction blister that was caused by repetitive motion that irritated the skin.  These are most common on the hands and feet.  As the skin becomes irritated, the outer layer of skin is released from the deeper layers of skin in an effort to reduce friction and prevent damage.

The clear fluid in a blister is the AMAZING part of a blister.  The clear fluid is serum or plasma that is released by the red blood cells in the impacted area.  This fluid actually helps the body to speed up the repair process in building new skin cells and connective tissue.  That is why the experts tell you not to pop a blister if the fluid is not creating painful pressure.  Blood in a blister is evidence of damage in the deeper tissues and pus in a blister is sign of an infection.

How cool is that?!? I know most of us don’t enjoy getting blisters or checking them out up close and personal, but this well designed defense mechanism of our body is an excellent credit to the Creator who designed us.

Of course we can best learn about God by reading His word.  Here is Dinnertime Devotional 26, an emotional one as Joseph and his family are reunited… Dinnertime Devotionals 26

Created For Good Works

Last week I was privileged to travel with my family to another church in the area to speak as part of their summer series of Bible lessons.  They are working through a study of Ephesians and I was asked to speak about Ephesians 2:10 -

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV)

The verse was given to me months before the date of the speaking engagement, so I really had a good chance to think about it and consider it.  I’m sure everyone else has already figured this out, but in preparing for this lesson I realized I have been misunderstanding this scripture.

8631585_sBefore really considering this text, I had always taken the term ‘created’ as being a reference to the fact that we were created as good people to do good things.  When I really got to looking at the context and the original meaning of the word that is translated ‘created’ I found out I was mistaken.

This verse is written to Christians and is about Christians.  A more accurate translation might use the word ‘transformed’ or ‘reshaped’ in Christ Jesus for good works.  Those outside of Christ haven’t been transformed for this purpose.  There are lots of people who aren’t Christians who are doing good things, but Christians especially are created for good works and to be changed people who are committed to doing good for others constantly.

We obviously aren’t going to fulfill that role perfectly all the time, but we can sure give it our very best effort.  And it is best to start at home and with the people we are the most familiar with.  Too often I find myself giving my best energies and efforts outside the home and I need to make sure to keep a good reserve for the people I love the most and am responsible for.

This week the Dinnertime Devotional series continues in the detailed exploration of the life of Joseph.  Enjoy… Dinnertime Devotionals 25

Dry Erase Board Buying Tips

After selling hundreds of dry erase boards, I thought I’d write down a few of my best tips on getting a good deal on a quality board.  When I started ‘flipping’ items to build a missionary fund for our family I quickly found that dry erase boards (also called whiteboards and marker boards) were a solid seller.  I’m going to start with a quick guide for finding the right board for your needs, list a few alternatives to dry erase boards, and then go over a bit of basic maintenance for cleaning and preservation of the board surface.

Finding the Best Dry Erase Board For You

Used dry erase boards are a great way to save money.  Make sure to have some help for moving and installing the board.

Used dry erase boards are a great way to save money. Make sure to have some help for moving and installing the board.

There are now a wide variety of board surfaces that you will come across.  The most common board you will find is a melamine (pronounced mel-a-may).  These boards consist of a backer board of varying thickness with a layer of resin infused paper on top that is called melamine.  These boards can sometimes have what appears to be a heavy duty sheet of aluminum foil on the back of the board which makes the work surface magnetic. Recently I have also seen some really cheap board that consist of a thin layer of melamine on top of a heavy layer of cardboard.

I have been seeing more and more aluminum and steel painted boards.  These boards are constructed of a thin sheet of metal that has been painted with a dry erase finish and then mounted in a frame on a backer board. Warning…this style of board tends to scratch very easily.  Some boards come pre-lined or with a grid system of dots for organizing tasks, times, or other variables.

High quality boards are made from steel and porcelain.  These boards are easily spotted because the finish looks deep as you look into it, they are heavy, and they sound like a solid glass/metal product when you tap on it with your fingernails.  I have also been seeing more boards that are made from a sheet of glass, which is naturally dry erase friendly but heavy and easily broken, chipped or cracked.

Dry erase boards with a built in stand are very handy.  The Quartet Ultima is pictured and it is the best portable dry erase board I have used.

Dry erase boards with a built in stand are very handy. The Quartet Ultima is pictured and it is the best portable dry erase board I have used.

It is also worth noting that there are executive dry erase boards.  These are almost always a 4×4 board that is housed in a wooden cabinet with closing doors that can be mounted on the wall.  With these boards it is ESSENTIAL that the mounting hardware is included in the purchase.  They are heavy and you need to install it per manufacturer standards.  Also keep in mind that the doors swing out so you will need at least 8′ of wall space to effectively use the board.  These board can come decked out with pin boards inside both doors, a clip for holding large notepads, projector screen and magnetic dry erase surfaces.  They retail for $800 to $1,000 but can be purchased on the used market for $100 to $150 in good condition.

Which board quality is right for you?  Consider what you will use it for.  Is it going in a shop for sketching up notes and ideas?  Consider buying a board with imperfections or using one of my DIY ideas below.  Will it be something you use every day?  Invest in a good quality board that is magnetic.  High quality boards will not experience ghosting (staining from dry erase markers) if properly maintained.

Make sure to note the space on your wall and the size of your transport vehicle.  Do you really need a 4×8 board or could you do just as well with a 4×6 or even a 5×5.  There are all sorts of sizes on the market these days.  As an example, I currently have 3×4, 4×4, 4×5, 4×6 and 4×8 boards in my stockpile of boards.  Just because you have a mid-size SUV or a minivan doesn’t mean you can transport a 4×6 board.  Take a diagonal measurement across the hatch opening of your vehicle.  Is it easily more than 48″?  Measure from the back of your front seats to the upper portion of the rear of your vehicle.  Most of the time I run into problems with the vehicle not being long enough to accommodate the 72″ length of the board.  I have had many buyers show up who can’t fit the board in their vehicle.

When and How to Buy

Several temporary boards setup in my office during the busiest time of my year.

Several temporary boards setup in my office during the busiest time of my year.

If you’re buying on the used market – CL, auctions, etc. – the best time to buy is during the summer.  Quite often the market is flooded with boards so prices go down or sellers are willing to negotiate to offload boards they have been holding for a while.  In the Fall and Spring I sell a TON of boards to people who homeschool.  In fact, I am currently building my supply of used magnetic 4×8 dry erase board with this specific demographic in mind.

I would highly recommend trying to buy your board on the used market.  You should be able to get it for at least half of the retail price, if not lower.  Here are some questions to ask:

  • Who is the manufacturer of the board? Does it have a model number or name on it?  (These questions will help you to research a fair retail price for the board and the specific construction and materials used.)
  • What are the exact dimensions of the board? Does it have ANY imperfections?  (Sometimes 4×6 boards are actually 44×62 or something just a bit off.  If your space needs are very specific it is a good idea to ask.  Asking about imperfections (dents, scratches, scuffs, etc) gives you a solid idea of what you’re buying.)
  • Does it erase well?  (Older melamine board start to lose their finish over time.  This is a valid question to ask.)
  • Does it come with mounting hardware? (Mounting hardware (L-brackets) don’t cost much but they have to be special ordered and that takes time.  Some boards use manufacturer specific mounting brackets that can be tricky to track down.)
  • What’s your bottom dollar if I come today with exact cash in hand?  (Always a good question to ask on CL.  Never insult a seller by shooting them a lowball number.  Offer them the opportunity for a quick and easy transaction.)

Whiteboard Alternatives

I am a horrible salesman.  About 20% of the time I talk people out of buying the board they are interested in purchasing.  When they say, “It’s for my kid’s playroom.” my mind automatically thinks….Home Depot!  Let me explain…

The white boards on the wall are shower board from Home Depot in a classroom at our church building.  We recently installed a smart board on top of the surface.

The white boards on the wall are shower board from Home Depot in a classroom at our church building. We recently installed a smart board on top of the surface.

Home Depot (not Lowe’s or any other hardware store that I’ve found) carries a type of shower board that is actually a melamine coated piece of hardboard.  The 4×8 sheet of thrifty white shower board can be found in the trim section on some horizontal racks.  The sheet runs less than $20 and gives you a relatively light, customizable, dry erase type of surface.

I covered a wall with this material in a classroom at our church and it has been functioning well for over 5 years.  The surface is not highly durable.  Do not rub it hard to erase marks.  You can rub the finish right off of it. Use a basic dry erase board cleaner to clean it.  (Tip!  You can buy dry erase board cleaner in gallon jugs for a fraction of the cost of the little bottles.)

There are also lots of paintable solutions coming onto the market.  The single step paint products that I have used have a fairly short usable life.  I have used the professional product from Goo Systems and it is pretty amazing.  It is challenging to apply and can be almost as expensive as an actual board, but it can be installed in some pretty amazing locations and applications.

Dry Erase Board Maintenance

Through years of experience using and maintaining whiteboards at our church, I have learned a few tips and tricks.  Here are the best ones I have:

  • Always use a whiteboard eraser.  The unique surface of the eraser works to lightly remove the finest of material from your board.  Using a towel can actually be a bit abrasive to the surface and can shorten the life of your erasable surface.  Paper towels are  THE WORST!
  • Always use dry erase board cleaning solution.  As I mentioned earlier, you can buy it in a gallon jug for a fraction of the equivalent amount in small bottles.  The solution is specially formulated and will not eat away at the coating on your dry erase board.
  • An example of ghosting on a dry erase board.  Try writing over it with a dry erase marker then erasing it all.

    An example of ghosting on a dry erase board. Try writing over it with a dry erase marker then erasing it all.

    Never use paint thinner or powered equipment to ‘clean’ a board.  I followed an online tutorial for cleaning a dry erase board surface that involved using a car buffer…I was left with a perfectly white but non-erasable surface.  I buffed the erasable finish right off the board.  Paint thinner and other chemicals are too harsh for the fairly delicate finish on melamine boards.  It won’t remove the finish all together but will significantly impact the longevity.

  • Erase the board after use if at all possible.  The cheaper or older your board, the more susceptible it is to ghosting from writing left on the board.  Cleaning a board after use will help preserve it.  In my experience red is the worst color when it comes to ghosting.  Sometimes you can remove ghosting by writing over the marks with a dry erase marker and then erasing it.
  • Use high quality markers.  Expo seems to have the market cornered on good dry erase markers.  I have used some off-brand markers and those made by other manufacturers and they tend to be difficult to erase or don’t mark well.

Conclusion

If you made it this far you are SERIOUS about white boards!  They are an amazing tool for creativity, teaching, brainstorming, and planning.  I keep several of them in my office so I can sketch out ideas and lesson plans…then I eventually sell them.  I would suggest buying only magnetic dry erase boards.  The functionality and flexibility of these boards can not be beat.  (I make my own magnets from the little magnetic advertisements I get in the mail.)  Always make sure installation hardware is included in your purchase and make sure to mount your board in the studs or with a wall anchor that is designed to hold the weight you are putting on it.  Thanks for reading my dry erase board buying tips!

The Real Treasure

Have you heard the latest buzz on social media?  It’s called Hidden Cash.  And the game was played recently in downtown Dallas and a couple weeks later in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Image courtesy @HiddenCashDFW

Image courtesy @HiddenCashDFW

What the media has been able to learn about this scavenger hunt is that a mystery millionaire is behind the game as a “social experiment for good”.  Clues are left on twitter about the locations of envelopes that contain money.

It makes for good TV.  Hundreds of people gather in places (in Dallas the designated location was Victory Park) and then wait for the clues to appear via tweets on twitter.  Then it’s up to the hunters to figure out the clues, race to the location and see if they correctly figured out the secret location.

In Sacramento, one guy was giving an interview to a TV reporter when he figured out the clue.  He dashed across the street and found an envelope taped to a fire hydrant.  He held up the envelope and clutched the money while celebrating his find and good fortune.

Like I said, it makes for good TV and pictures in the newspaper.

Here’s the mystery.  No one has been able to determine what is, exactly, the social media experiment.  Is it how many followers this “hidden cash” can get on twitter?  Is it to find out what people do with the money?  The envelopes typically contain between $80 and $250.  Do they spend the money to pay bills?  Is some of it put away into savings? Do people donate some of the cash to charity?  Or will the dollars be used on something frivolous?

This got me to thinking about Luke 15:8-10.  Do you remember which parable this is that Jesus taught followers?

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Here’s what strikes me about these verses.

Focus and determination.  This woman knew she needed to find that coin.  She sought diligently for the coin.  This was serious business that required her complete attention.

Time and effort.  We don’t know how long it took her to search for the coin.  It didn’t matter.  She was going to employ the resources needed to find the coin.  It wasn’t enough just to use her eyes and get on her knees to search for the coin.  She used a lamp to give her extra light and a broom to sweep the house.

It’s a big deal.  We all have a sense of accomplishment when we complete a task.  In this woman’s case, it’s more than shouting “yes!” and adding a fist pump in the air.  She told her friends and her neighbors.  It sounds unusual when we’re talking about a silver coin.  But, this is important.  It’s important to her and she wants to convey that importance to those she is close to.

Verse 10 drives home the point for Christians and those who want to pursue the Christian life.  Your life is important and your soul is so valuable to God.  What are you going to allow in your life that will separate you from God?  When you decide to live the Christian life, are you going to pursue it with everything you have?  And are you going to proclaim it through your words, actions and attitude?  What you have is much more valuable than an envelope filled with cash.  Think about it…and act!

Of course the best place to search for treasure is in the Bible.  This week the Dinnertime Devotional series follows the life events of Joseph as his brothers return to Egypt with Benjamin.  Check it out >>> Dinnertime Devotionals 24

Smile or Die

My wife was telling me about a toothpaste commercial that claims the average adult smiles 50 times a day.  We both thought that number was a little low so we started searching for more info on Google.  Quickly we turned up study after study about the smile frequency of adults and children.  Most studies would conclude that an average of 50 smiles a day is actually on the high side.

child smilingThe science and research of smiling is actually quite fascinating.  Let me hit you with a few points that stood out to me:

  • There are real smiles and fake smiles.  Scientists (and your brain) can tell the difference.  A fake or social smile activates the zygomaticus major muscle which controls the corners of the mouth.  A real smile activates the orbicularis oculi muscle which encircles the eye socket.  A social smile simply raises the corners of the mouth while a real smile activates muscles throughout the face.  Chemical reactions in your body send feedback about whether your smile is genuine or social.
  • Children smile about 400 times a day.  The happiest of adults smiles about 40-50 times a day.  An average adult smiles about 20 times a day.  No wonder we like being around children…they can literally light up our lives.  Smiling can change the way our brain functions, reduce stress, and can give our bodies a feeling almost similar to getting good sleep.
  • In 2000 Berkley professors Harker and Keltner researched the long-term success of women based on yearbook photos.  They tested the hypothesis that genuine smiles in high school yearbook photos would lead to higher levels of personal satisfaction, health and success.  Research proved their hypothesis and a summary of their report concludes with this statement – “People photograph each other with casual ease and remarkable frequency, usually unaware that each snapshot may capture as much about the future as it does the passing emotions of the moment.
  • A similar study of smiles on baseball cards found that those with large, genuine smiles lived 7 years longer than others.  Smile or die :)

Of course none of this information is groundbreaking for you or me.  We all recognize the personal benefits of smiling.  It is always good to get a reminder to take a break from the craziness of careers, raising kids, etc. and just enjoy a genuine smile and laugh with those we love and care about.

Family time and Bible study also leads to a longer life.  Check out this family Bible study >>> Dinnertime Devotionals 23

Lawn Maintenance Costs Revisited

One of the more popular series I have written on this blog is the “How Much Does It Cost” series of posts.  This time of year my post about the cost of mowing a lawn gets a lot of hits.  My scenario is different than most since I mow an acre of land in the middle of the city.  If you haven’t read my analysis, I suggest you give it a quick read before you go on…

In the year or so since I wrote the post a few other items have popped into my head that I would like to add to the conversation.  So it is time to revisit the topic…

Location, Location

My brother-in-law lives in a densely populated neighborhood where a good majority of the residents use a lawn service.  About a year ago he was out mowing his lawn when a service stopped by and offered him a quote.  They already did several homes on his street so every house they could add would increase their profitability.  Their 3-4 man crew can whip through his yard in about 5-10 minutes at a cost of $20 every other week.  You’d have to be CRAZY not to pay that minimal amount for a professional lawn service.

If you live in a densely populated neighborhood, consider asking your neighbors about the lawn service they use.  If you’re the type that enjoys negotiating, ask the lawn service if they’ll knock $5 off both your lawns since they’ll be doing two or more at one location.  A primary expense in the lawn service industry is transportation and time.  Multiple jobs at one stop really helps the bottom line.

The Voice of Experience

Click the pic for the full-size mower won't start pic-tutorial.

Click the pic for the full-size mower won’t start pic-tutorial.

Knowing someone who truly knows what they are doing is also amazingly helpful in saving time and money.  I recently wrote about the trick that I found out for fixing the fuel issue I had with several of our mowers.  If I hadn’t known where to go to ask about it I could have dropped a small fortune in engine repair or even mower replacement.  (The pic to the right is a simple graphic of how to clog a blocked main jet on side-mounted carburetor Briggs and Stratton engines.  Click for a full-page version.)

Someone who is a veteran of lawn maintenance can share some clever tips and tricks that will help you save a lot of time.  Watching the pros can also save you a lot of time.  I always used to trim and edge the yard after I mowed, but noticed that the pros almost always do the opposite.  One day I asked why.  The answer… clean up time.  Edging and trimming before you mow allows the mower to pickup a lot of the debris and blow it across the yard or bag it.  Time is money and the quicker you can get the job done the quicker you can get to other things….or out of the summer sun.

Find a neighbor with a beautiful lawn and try asking them some questions.  A conversation that starts with, “Your lawn is so beautiful! Could I ask you a question or two?” is rarely declined.  Professionals at independent hardware stores and nurseries are also a good source of help for speeding up the job and being efficient.

Know Your Value

I’ve seen people pinch a penny so hard that it costs them money.  A lot of people hate mowing the lawn, I happen to love it.  I wish I had more time to do it.  The old saying ‘time is money’ only gives us a glimpse at the big picture.  Time is money, family, friendships, accomplishment, and so much more.

I appreciate a tool that I stumbled across on Lifehacker.  The website Clearer Thinking put together a survey that is more than a simple calculator that determines your hourly worth based on income.  It factors in a number of items and helps users to think about spending versus saving time.  It is an interesting tool and I found it thought provoking.  You can try it out here

Concluding Thought

So, after thinking some more about lawn maintenance costs is it a good idea for you to mow your own or is it time to get some help?

My view for a good part of growing season.

My view for a good part of growing season.

Ready to get out and mow?  If you’re going to do it yourself make sure you protect yourself.  All the precautions on lawn equipment might seem stupid but they are there for a reason.  Keep that shirt on, wear some long pants, and at least some sneakers.  I much prefer my work boots and can’t imagine the fools who mow in a pair of flip-flops.  I’ve known a few people now who have lost a toe while mowing in flip-flops.  Keep your eyes covered with sunglasses or some other protective lens.  And if you like your hearing, wear some sort of hearing protection, especially if you’re listening to music.  Cranking the tunes over the roar of the mower engine can be amazingly damaging in the long run…trust me!  Nothing will make your lawn maintenance costs soar like a severe injury.

Blocked

A couple of days ago I learned a secret.  Let me set the scene for you and make a few applications to life….

Several pieces of lawn equipment decided not to start this season.  They had been unused since last summer.  I wheeled them out of the shed expecting to splash fuel in the dry tank, give a few pulls, and then be off and working.

IMAG0787When the mower wouldn’t start I tinkered with it a bit and realized it wasn’t getting fuel.  I determined that the issue was in the carburetor.  If you’re not familiar with small engines, the carburetor is the lungs of the engine.  It is where fuel and air are combined into a combustible form that the spark plug ignites and fires the engine.  No fuel in the carb = no go.

I went to our local hardware store and talked to the guy at the service counter who has been there for years.  He knew exactly the type of motor I was dealing with and told me how to fix it.  When the fuel in this style of carburetor evaporates, deposits and debris in the fuel system plug little holes in the bottom of the carburetor that send fuel into the motor.  He told me to take that part out and use a twisty-tie (with the paper stripped off) to poke the debris out of the holes.  His suggestion took just a few minutes, cost nothing, and did the trick!

A powerful engine that helps me accomplish a lot of work was shut down by a bit of gunk that was easily poked away by a tiny piece of metal wire.  That will teach me to be careless about the cleanliness of the fuel I put into the lawn equipment.  Over the last few days I used that trick on a mower, wheeled trimmer, and yard vac that had all stopped working and all three are now good to go.

In our lives I think we can also find ourselves blocked.  Many people have experienced the pain and fear of blockages in their physical heart.  As traumatic as that is, I think a blockage in our spiritual heart can have even longer lasting implications.

We must think about the things that we fuel our heart and mind with.  We may run along just fine in life as we are putting contaminated things (entertainment with inappropriate content for example) into our lives.  But eventually that will catch up to us.  We will find that our spirit has become blocked and we are no longer able to do the things that God created us be busy doing.

The solution to our blockage is as simple as the twisty-tie I used to unclog that contaminated jet.  When we read our Bible, pray, and do good for others we are working to remove the blockage that has built up in our spirit.  It isn’t rocket science and it doesn’t require amazing effort, it just needs to be done with thought and purpose.

We were created as powerful and gifted people to do good things while on this earth.  When we allow God to remove the blockages in our life, our power is restored and we can return to doing the things that we were purposed to do.

Speaking of contaminated lives…our study of the life of Joseph had progressed to the point where his brothers are paying the price for the bad decisions they have made in life.  I hope you enjoy Dinnertime Devotional 22  >>> Dinnertime Devotionals 22

Build Your Own Summer Job

It is the time of year when high school students are wrapping up their year of academia and college students are hitting the road for home.  The seasonal job market is flooded with labor and the openings are few.  Summer is the perfect time for a self-starting student to make some extra cash by building their own summer job.

A few words of warning about my ideas…

  • If you can’t get yourself up and going, building your own summer job probably isn’t the best idea.
  • You probably won’t get rich with any of these ideas but you can make some money and keep a very flexible schedule
  • Many of these activities should be done with a buddy…there is safety in numbers

With those few warnings out of the way let’s toss around a few ideas.

Craigslister

cost of lightingI always have folks I know who are wanting me to help them get their stuff listed on Craigslist or eBay.  It’s not hard but some folks seem to be terrified of listing their own items.  I have gotten to the point where I politely decline people who ask me to list their items.  But this makes a great opportunity for the high school or college student who wants to make some extra cash as a Craigslister.

You could start small by helping around the house.  Talk to Mom and Dad and find out what items they have around the house that they are wanting to get rid of.  They set the price, you list it and get the item sold and take 25-30% commission for your effort.

A few selling tips for Craigslist:

  • The item you are selling is mostly likely used, don’t ask the new retail price for it.
  • Setup a separate Gmail account for Craigslist and consider using the free Google Voice service on your smartphone to keep your personal number private.
  • Be quick and efficient with your communication
  • Meet in public places, preferably with a friend along for the ride
  • Don’t take checks and ignore any messages about PayPal, etc.
  • Great pictures sell items

Perhaps your family has a good and trusting relationship with a family friend who is looking to clear out years of built up possessions.  A student could spend an entire summer helping someone sort, research, and sell items.  Did you catch the word ‘research’ in that last sentence? Be careful to do some searching online to find out what similar items are selling for.  Negotiate a fair percentage of sales as your compensation for your work.  This could be a great help to an elderly friend of the family and a good learning experience for a student.

Scavenger

Our society of excess leads to some pretty good opportunities to scavenge and make cash.  I have no problem picking up an item that someone has left on the curb for trash pickup.  In fact, when I see people toss perfectly good items I feel I am helping the environment by getting those items back into use.  Again, you won’t get rich as a scavenger but you can find some interesting things and renovate or re-purpose them to make some money.  Again, this is a good activity to do with a buddy.  Here are some tips on where to look and what to look for…

  • The “Free” category on Craigslist is a good place to start.  Good things move very quickly so you have to be willing to get up and go at a moment’s notice when you make contact with someone.
  • Keep track of the mileage on your vehicle.  Know how much you are spending on fuel to make sure you are making a fair profit margin.
  • Know the trash pickup schedule.  The evening before trash pickup is a good time to find furniture and other large items on the curb.  I would advise hunting at dusk and calling it a night once it gets dark.  Newer neighborhoods and areas where people move in and out a lot tend to be good hunting grounds.
  • Avoid electronics of any kind.  Wood furniture and metal outdoor furniture can be flipped quickly.  Even things like loose drawers, etc. sell well for crafty folks.
  • If you can’t get it sold quickly put it out on your curb for trash pickup or recycling
  • Metal prices are high.  Aluminum is running around $0.60 a pound.  Keep an eye out for metal and learn about scrapping from your local scrap yard.

Final Thoughts

There are obviously a few logistical issues that need to be thought out with both of these ideas, but it is easy to start small and build steam during the summer.  Traditional fast food jobs and the like seem soul draining, so I wanted to present some other options.  These ideas aren’t for everyone, but perhaps they will spur on your entrepreneurial spirit.  From mowing lawns to babysitting there are lots of other great options out there for the self-starter.  The key is trustworthiness, initiative, and professionalism.  The future job market that many students will be entering will require initiative and motivation.  Summer is a great time to learn some lessons about the real world.

My 10K Update

May was a brutal month in my efforts to ‘flip’ items and make some extra cash for a 2015 goal for our family.  I took some huge hits on auction items that I would have usually avoided.  I have always thought electronics are a bad idea to buy at auction and now I have proven that to myself in a very expensive pair of lessons.  The good news, I still made a profit in May but I didn’t hit my $1K goal for the month.  Sales as a whole have been down but it is that time of the year.

The running portion of the 10K challenge is pretty much non-existent at this point.  I have something in mind for this month that will hopefully help spur things on in that area.  I still walk and work many miles each week and I can last all day out working on the property…don’t feel out of shape but the test will be in the running.  More on that later.