Free or Low Cost ways to Teach Your Child the Power of Giving

by Deborah Epperson

by Deborah Epperson

In today’s tough economic times, charities are finding their funding decreasing while the need for their services is growing. But how can we give to others when our own financial resources are pulled thin? More importantly, how can we teach our children the benefits of sharing with those in need when our budgets are stretched to the limit? Here are four free or low cost ways to teach your child the power of giving.

  1. Recycle Aluminum:    Save aluminum cans for recycling and donate the money to your child’s favorite charity. Take your child with you when you go to the recycling center. Let her send the donation in her name. Suggest she enclose a drawing, picture, or personal note with the funds. Most charities will send a thank you note. Kids love getting mail addressed to them. Or if it is a local charity, like your local Humane Society, the donation can be delivered in person.

2.    Food Banks:    When you take your child grocery shopping, give her $2.00 to use to purchase nonperishable items for the food bank. Teach her how to select the best value. (Example: a box of brand name macaroni & cheese is $1.09, but the store brand mac & cheese is on sale for 2/$1.00)  Ask your child to point out any buy one-get one free item you’d normally buy.  Donate the free item. Take your child with you when you take the groceries to the Food Bank so she can see the outcome of her efforts.  (Bonus: This activity teaches money management, math, and comparative shopping skills)

3.   Phone cards, gift cards, credits from companies:  Some airline frequent flyer programs offer free magazines subscriptions. Check women or teen shelters for what periodicals would appeal to them. Send gardening magazines to an elderly neighbor that loves gardening, but is on a fixed income. Cutbacks in funding have resulted in schools having to trim the number of periodicals they buy for students. Call your child’s school and ask what magazines are needed. Have your child select a magazine from the school’s approved list. Donate a subscription in your child’s name.

4.  Elderly:  If you’re going to the post office, grocery store, or pharmacy, have an older child ask your elderly neighbors if they need items like stamps, milk, or medications picked up. Have your child deliver it to neighbor and receive the kudos. Going for a walk with your child? Offer to walk a shut-in’s pet.

These are only a few suggestions of easy, free or low-cost ways to teach your child to learn to share. You can think of ways to add to the list. Many donations are tax deductible. Check with your accountant.

One of the greatest benefits in teaching our children to help others is the feeling of empowerment they’ll get with every grateful smile and every “Thank you” they receive. They’ll grow up knowing that regardless of their age, income, or station in life, they have the power to help their fellow human beings. What a great gift to give our children.

Thanks for stopping by,


Breaking TWIG – available at in ebook or paperback

Breaking TWIG

Breaking TWIG


By:  Author Nan McKenzie

February is Heart Month, a good time to get in touch with the feelings engendered within, since the weather can be so frightful in February.  I remember a very rainy day in February, driving north of Anaconda with my former husband and daughter and son.  “Stop!  Stop! I yelled, and RJ pulled the car over to the side of the road.  An impromptu river had sprung up beside the road, rushing along, finding its way over small hillocks and heavy tufts of laid-down winter grass. 

A small mother skunk was struggling out of the water, a tiny kit in her mouth.  She deposited the baby on a little hillock in the middle of the river and immediately turned back, swimming heavily against the current.  We could see three more babies, nearly in the rising water on a wet bank, baby skunksmewling, their wee heads bobbing up and down in the manner of newborns.  The mother skunk grabbed another baby and fell back into the river, swimming as best she could while trying to hold her little one out of danger.  After an agonizing several minutes, she was able to drop the second baby beside the first, and turned to paddle back.  Her movements were slowing, and her black head with its white stripe looked like it would sink into the water.  The rain was unrelenting, pounding down, adding to the misery. 

The third baby was grasped and hauled into the water, Mother being almost too tired and cold to climb out on the bank, but she gamely jumped in and paddled along, keeping the tiny one’s head up until she reached the other two.  Unfortunately, the water was coming up so quickly that the safe haven was quickly becoming dangerous, swift water pushing at the kits.  Nonetheless, she dropped the third baby and hardly moving now, pushed through the stream to finally reach her fourth baby, who was lying still and cold, almost unresponsive when she managed to struggle out of the water and grasp it in her mouth.  Again, she plunged into the water, both she and the baby going under and being swept away, but there she was, little head rising below the other three, baby still in her mouth, slowly climbing onto another iffy refuge.

We continued to watch as she threw herself into the water again to swim to the stranded three, and started all over to bring the little family together.  Tears were streaming out of my eyes, and I wanted to rush out and help her but the river was too full, too fast, and I was afraid.  Her poor heart must have been about to burst, but she finally managed to carry all three to a higher spot.  When we drove away, we all watched as she sat in the middle of the rising river with her babies around her.  I’ve often wondered about her fate, and how she and her babies finally did.  Now by golly, that’s heart. 

Our heart is a magical organ, capable of loving, giving, generosity, anger, hurt, evil and goodness.Jenna Kissing Mother (Small)  It is also capable of fining down to love a tiny flower, a teacup puppy, a newborn child, and yet it can expand to encompass a family, friends, co-workers, showering them with love, and expanding even further to love a neighborhood, a country, even all Americans.  Our miraculous heart can grow and grow until it sends its love to the entire world, as some of us may see in meditations. And it’s Heart that can make a mother do anything to save her babies. 


Is it a Mystery—or a Romance?

Leslie-WEB-ColorBy Leslie Budewitz

Join Leslie on Facebook for a chance to win a gift box of jam from Eva Gates Homemade Preserves. As Erin Murphy, the protagonist of Death al Dente, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel says, “If it’s made in Montana, it must be good!”

I love a good mystery. And I love a good romance. Actually, to my way of thinking, every novel is a bit of a mystery—or should be. Whether the book is shelved in the mystery section or elsewhere, some deep human question—some deep human mystery—lies at the heart of every novel.

And of course, so does love. Whether it’s romantic love, filial love, or that deep and mysterious form of friendship the Greeks call agape, the longing for love and all the related struggles tug at readers of nearly every kind of fiction.

But when my first mystery, Death al Dente, was published last year, I was surprised to discover that mystery readers have distinct opinions about how much romance is too much. Cross over the line, and your books will be categorized not as mystery but as romantic suspense. That’s not bad—but it does put you in another section of the bookstore, and give you a different set of readers. The audiences overlap, but some readers will never cross that line.

Other readers love a good romantic tug-of-war. The love triangle. Will Heroine choose Guy A—or Guy B? Will the man we suspected of murder in the first installment instead turn out to be Mr. Right? Will the man we were rooting for turn out to carry a torch for the long-lost love, returned from the dead in book five? deathaldent

Lo these many years, I found myself interested in two men at the same time. “You’re old enough,” I told myself. “You can date them both.” And so I did, for about a week, when the second man banished all thoughts of the first. (Except for that oh-so-uncomfortable conversation with the first man. He lived.) ANYway, I’m not the only woman to have such an experience, so when my girl Erin found herself interested in both Rick Bergstrom, aka “farm boy,” and Adam Zimmerman, the nerd-turned-hunky wilderness camp director who carried a torch for her in college, though she barely noticed him—well, it seemed true-to-life.  I was not prepared for the readers who said “oh, not a love triangle.” Others said “don’t let it go on too long.” I suspect that despite its realism, it’s been over-used—one series in particular comes to mind, the one with the NJ lingerie buyer who—well, never mind.

But don’t worry. Erin’s a woman who prides herself on both her decision-making and her intuition. She’ll know her  heart soon. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

How much romance is enough in your mystery? And how much mystery do you like in your romance?

Sisterly Love

The following is a except from my Memoir called a Grandmother’s Story.  Norma is my older sister by three years.

By the time us kids were in the fourth and sixth grades Norma was a complete through and through tomboy and the controller of the neighborhood. Norma-nator should have been her name.  I drove her out of her mind with my meek and shy ways.

We didn’t lack for playmates. Next door in a long green stucco house lived the Grilley boys, across the highway was the Nelsons. They were old, but their granddaughter played with us when she visited. The three Horner girls lived on the other side and on top of Saurey Hill lived the Saureys. This bunch of kids is who we played with or fought with depending on Norma’s mood for the day. We had my wish. A creek was only a half mile away. We followed a country road north until we came to a spot where the creek passed under the road, made a bend and went back under the road. This area was ours. We fished and swam, built forts and ate picnic lunches there.

Shy Brookies lived in that stream. We caught them on worms and Eagle Claw hooks, size number six. We crept real careful, not making a sound or casting a shadow on the water, as we flung our lines into the water. The current took the worms downstream under overhanging bushes where fish hid.

Norma caught her share as we all did, but woe be to any of us who made noise. One day Norma shrieked. She high-stepped quickly in the opposite direction.”What’s the matter?” I asked in a loud whisper. “You’re scaring the fish.”

“I almost stepped on a damn snake,” she answered.

“Not afraid of a little snake are you?” I asked, surprised at her forbidden word.

“Of course not! I just don’t like them.”

Norma is afraid of the small green water snakes, my mind said. This was an enormous discovery. I now had an equalizer!
I bided my time. Sure enough a few days later she told me to move further downstream, because I was in the particular spot she wanted.

Mumbling to myself, I trudged downstream and plopped on the bank. Movement caught my eye. I reached into the weeds and pulled out a wiggling, hissing snake. It was only a small water snake, but when I held it by the back of the neck, it dangled down a good foot. Wiggling. Mouth open and forked tongue sticking out. Perfect.

“See what I found,” I said as I quietly stood at her squatting back.

She glanced up. “Yukkkk,” she screamed. “Get away!”

I held it closer.

“Wait till I tell Mom what you did!” she screamed at me and ran for home.

A little guilt about having a loving heart should’ve nagged, but fishing was good that day

SCAN_20140206_184835111SCAN_20140206_183248621 This is me and my Sister. Taken just about the time of the fishing story. We are best friends now but enemies as girls. Funny how life does that. Marie F Martin

Evelyn and Lloyd: A Love Story

I knew Mom kept letters she and Dad sent each other during WWII, but didn’t read them until a few years after her death. I think I wanted to prolong the anticipation, and felt a little uncomfortable looking at something so intimate and revealing about my parents. I knew theirs was a passionate marriage. How could something that started in a Montana town called Sunburst be otherwise?

Reading the letters, I came to understand just how difficult the long hardships and separations caused by WWII really were. Dad, a teacher, became a gunnery officer on a ship in the South Pacific. Mom stayed on the Big West Oilfield with her parents in their little house. My grandparents had one bedroom, while Mom and my two-year-old brother and eventually, I, shared the other.

The letters reveal little running jokes, stories about new and old friends, and earnest concerns of a young couple managing ration books and occasional train trips to be together on a shoestring budget. Their longing and loneliness come through. Here’s Dad:

Dearest One,

       I “writ” you one letter today. What am I doing writing again? Could it be love?

Mom wrote of how brokenhearted she felt after seeing him off at the Shelby Depot after his too-brief leave. She held up until, at the café, someone put the song “Together” on the jukebox.

They weathered the war and their years apart. All of it became part of our family lore. Their letters, though, were their story alone. Here’s a piece of Dad’s last letter before coming home:

     “Well, Honey, we have written a lot of letters, haven’t we? Your letters helped out immeasurably. You have been grand throughout this whole business, Sweetheart, and I can hardly wait to get back with you, and I hope to God that we won’t have to be separated again.”

      They never were.

Happy Valentine’s Day.