Letting Go Is The Hardest Part {Sponsored}

Today I want to talk to you about my cell phone. (I know, don’t you love how my post titles are sometimes ridiculously misleading? I should work on that. You know, right after I actually work on posting more often. HA. Right.)

Moving back to Illinois — while super exciting and great for our family — had its fair share of bullet points in the cons column. We left the best friends we’ve ever had, my proximity to Target is nowhere near acceptable, and there is a serious lack of good eateries here. Most of all though, it meant saying goodbye to my precious, my darling, my one and only iPhone.

Go on and laugh but I was despondent.

All was not lost though, due to lack of service in our area we decided to break our contract with AT&T. In all honesty the only reason I ever moved to AT&T was to have the iPhone. I was never happy with their service. A few months after we moved back we resigned with US Cellular. Walking in to that office was like coming home (pun intended since we moving to Illinois was in fact…coming home. Come on that was kind of funny, no?).

I’ve been in many US Cellular stores and offices and I can tell you that I’m always always greeted with a smile and treated like a friend or neighbor. Not only is their customer service excellent but their coverage is reliable. Considering my job and the fact that we don’t have a land line telephone, it’s really nice to know that I can always depend on getting connected.

In addition to the reliability and service they’ve always been known for, US Cellular has created a new campaign for new and existing customers called Hello Better. (None of that silly business where the great deals are only open to new customers.) Hello Better is a campaign encouraging people to say goodbye to dysfunctional wireless relationships and say hello to a better experience. Goodbye neglect, hello respect.

The biggest change is the addition of a rewards plan. Get this, every month you earn points. You earn points just for doing things like…well just being a customer and paying your bill. Even better you can actually use those points for things you want like faster phone upgrades, accessories, ringtones, and overage forgiveness.

Admit it, this all sounds amazing right? Well settle down because I haven’t even shared the coolest part with you. Are you ready?In addition to passionate associates, U.S. Cellular provides customers with unique benefits such as the industry’s only points-based rewards program, no contract after the first contract ends, free incoming calls and texts, free Overage Protection and free Battery Swap for your device.

Suddenly dependence on a cell phone doesn’t have to mean being held hostage by your wireless carrier. Now if I could just convince someone over there that they need to pick up the new fangled iPhone that was released last week. I really tried to make it work with Android but it’s becoming clear that my phone and I are using totally different operating systems.

Are you unhappy with your wireless service? Maybe it’s time to consider a switch.

Disclosure: I participated in this sponsored post campaign for One2One Network. All opinions stated are my own.

 

When I Grow Up

I remember being a senior in high school, sitting down with my guidance counselor and discussing my career path. I remember what an absolute joke that conversation was. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up and she was absolutely no help to me whatsoever. I went to college with the intention of finding a job where I could work on a computer. No seriously, that was my main stipulation.

I don’t think I have to tell you that I bounced around a bit in terms of majors and ended up with a degree in a field I have no desire to work in. I love graphic design but hooboy am I NOT cut out for that as a 40+ hour a week career.

Today, nearly seven years since I first set off for college, I think I’ve found the job I was looking for all those years ago. I am the newest member of Sway Group/Sway in Real Life. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for this opportunity. First of all it’s just an amazing group of women, all of whom have been so kind and welcoming to me. I feel like I’ve finally found my place in this community. A place where I can thrive, be successful, and be myself

Going “back to work” after staying home for three years is a little daunting but I’ve never felt more confident in the direction I’m going. Speaking of where I’m going, I hope that I’ll see some of you at upcoming Bloggy Boot Camp stops. I’ll be attending Las Vegas (Oct) and Chicago (Nov).

I’d also like to thank all of you who put in good words for me or spoke highly of me, you’ll never know how much I appreciate it.

 

Problems Teachers Face

***I was compensated for this post.  All opinions expressed are my own***

I have a very distinct memory from high school. I was sitting in my civics class, ostensibly learning all about government and politics. In reality I was reading from a horribly outdated text book that was teaching me things a seventh grader should know while the teacher sat at the front of the room, his feet propped up on his desk, reading a newspaper. Obviously I blame my complete lack of knowledge about anything political on him. (kidding)

This also happened to be the same teacher that also taught my Computers class. I don’t know what exactly we were supposed to be learning in that class but I can tell you it’s where I learned my love for Fantasy Football. Our main assignment in that class was to create a spreadsheet that would calculate a fantasy score based on stats we pulled from the sports section. We spent the better part of that semester keeping track of his fantasy football league.

Looking back I can see that he probably wasn’t just bored with teaching in general, but being forced to teach classes outside of his realm of expertise. Unfortunately the problem of teachers suffering from stagnation is a problem that has only grown since my days in high school, leading to a growing percentage of job turnover.

I spoke with several of my close friends who are teachers, both in rural areas and large cities, about the problems they face as teachers. When asked about the biggest factor that keeps them from being successful they all cited lack of parent involvement. They also struggle with outdated resources and an astounding lack of technology for use in the classroom. For teachers at higher grade levels a major struggle is students who lack the basic skills needed to understand current coursework. Can you imaging having a 10th grader who you were to advance to an 11th grade reading level when they come to your classroom with a 3rd grade reading level? Unfortunately this is a prevalent problem in many areas.

Unfortunately there is no magic answer, no easy fix, to any of these problems. Parents and caregivers have to place a higher importance on education, administrators and educators have to set more stringent and more realistic requirements, and curriculum has to be adjusted to reflect the constant changes in technology. As one friend so simply stated it, “I think we absolutely need to use technology in our teaching; we can’t only teach kids the way we were taught. We have to adapt to their culture and new technologies. We have to keep them interested.”

How do you think we can begin correcting the problems facing our educators? Leave your thoughts to be entered to win a copy of the book Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School. This book, co-authored by Eva Moskowitz (the founder and CEO of the Success Charter Network in Harlem) and Arin Lavinia, discusses strategies used by a charter school in Harlem that led to dramatically improved test scores and a ranking as one of the top schools in the New York area. I will pick a winner from the comments section Friday the 9th at midnight (Central time).

Midwestern Twang Y’all

So here’s the thing, I swore I would never ever put up a vlog, ever. I’m just so awkward. When I watch myself on video I don’t even recognize the person speaking, I don’t feel like that’s my voice or my normal facial expressions and mannerisms. Despite all that today I am posting a vlog. It’s painful, be kind.

I am enamored with accents, I love (almost) all of them. I’ve always been jealous of those who have a discernible one. If I could choose any accent to have for myself I would totally choose Irish (with Australian coming in a close second). Sadly though, I have the monotonous accent of the midwest, OR SO I THOUGHT. Sidebar, did you know that a lot of journalists are sent to Iowa to learn how to speak without an accent? Jill told me that and I totally believe her. Anyway, recently I’ve had several people tell me that my accent is not Midwestern and is in fact more Southern. I…guess I can see their reasoning because those people believe that “Midwestern” is the areas of Northern Illinois (Chicago), Wisconsin, and Michigan (Maybe some of Ohio and Indiana too). I tend to think of “Midwest” as more…well just look at my handy little map I made.

That’s a pretty fancy map, no? (Upon review, I feel like North Dakota and maybe South Dakota people probably talk more like those from Chicago/Wisconsin but that small detail did not warrant me redoing that map.)

Anyway, this is all leads me to the video below. I’ve seen this on lots of other blogs, the premise is you say the list of words and answer the questions below:

Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught

And then answer these questions:
What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you use to change the TV channel?

Without any more ado, here you are. (Ignore the mess in my kitchen)

So what say you readers? Do I have an accent? If you’ve done a video similar (or are inspired to do so) link it up in the comments. I’d love to watch more of these.

P.S. You should also check out Ali Martell’s accent Vlog if you haven’t already, she’s adorable.

Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good


As many of you already know, I had the privilege of spending a day at the Toyota headquarters in California earlier this week. I was brought out as a member of TWIN (Toyota Women’s Influencer Network) as a part of my relationship with them through Clever Girls Collective. I had such a good time getting to meet some of the Toyota family, as well as some of my fellow Clever Girls bloggers. I definitely came away even more of a fan than I was before and I hope to share some of those experiences with you. Before I start trying to convert you all (kidding. kind of.) I want to tell you about one aspect in particular that is crazy fantastic and also time sensitive.

Beginning back on March 14th Toyota began its second annual 100 Cars for Good Program. Through this program Toyota will give away 100 cars on 100 consecutive days to 100 different nonprofits. Each day 5 finalists are profiled on Toyota’s Facebook page and online voters get one day to vote on who they want to see get a car. At the end of the day not only does the winner get the keys to a brand new Toyota but the remaining 4 finalists each receive $1,000 cash donation.

This year there are finalists from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The nonprofits range from those supporting disabled veterans to those providing services to underprivileged children (and everything in between). Winning nonprofits can choose from any of the following vehicles if they are voted as a daily winner:

  • Highlander
  • Prius v
  • Tundra
  • Sienna
  • Sienna Mobility (equipped for wheelchair access)
  • Camry Hybrid

I hope you’ll all take a minute out of your day to head over and vote. All you have to do is click right here to head over to Toyota’s Facebook page and click to vote. It’s that easy for you to help hand over the keys to a number of deserving nonprofits.

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Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.

More Than Four Wheels


This is obviously a picture of my baby. What you might not realize is it’s actually a picture of two of my babies.

Katelyn is not in fact in the basket, although if Chase could find a way to hold her down and stuff her in there I’m sure he would try.

That shiny filthy, sporty black SUV back there is also my baby. A Toyota Rav-4 sport edition, aluminum alloy (what?) wheels, 6 disc CD changer, MP3 capability, really awesome sound system, lots of other nifty bells and whistles.

It’s the first car that I owned by myself. My mom still went with me when I picked it out but my name, and my name alone went on the papers. That car drove me to the first day at a new job. It drove me to my wedding and home to my husband. It drove me to the bank to sign papers when we bought our first house. That car drove both of my babies home from the hospital. For the 14 months that my family was living apart it drove me and my babies across state lines more times than I can count. It carried not only us but some of our belongings to our new home here.

The inside of that car holds a crayon stain on the backseat from a purple crayon left out on a hot day. There are goldfish crackers and fruit snacks abandoned under the back seat in places I can’t reach. The spilled milk and baby throw up stains are gone but I know exactly where they were. The trunk is littered with scuff marks from strollers and suitcases. I quiver to think about the sucker residue from those unfortunate times when my kids demanded a Dum Dum.

As much as I love my little SUV our time together is drawing to a close. Our little family needs a not so little car. I have hopes of having another baby at some point in the future and considering my kids can hold hands from their car seats, I don’t think we could squeeze in another. And let’s face it, car trips of any length will be much more enjoyable if our kids can’t reach each other and each others’ things.

My Rav-4 is the fourth Toyota I’ve had, my mom and I have both driven a Toyota for as long as I can remember. We’ve even purchased them all from the same dealership. This time around I had all but decided that another Toyota wasn’t in my future. I just wasn’t sure we could afford the larger Toyota SUVs. Just as we were ready to start the arduous task of car shopping (seriously is there anything more obnoxious than overly eager car salesmen?) I got an invitation from the Clever Girls. They invited me to be a part of their Toyota Women’s Influencer Network (TWIN).

Sadly they won’t be giving me a new car (I know right?), but I will be spending the next few months learning more about their overall brand and sharing my opinions with them. In their words…

TWIN is a cool new advocate discussion group focused on cars, car shopping, driving, and the Toyota brand.

Toyota has been part of many major milestones in our lives, from our first family road trips, to getting our driver’s license, to buying our first car. Toyota wants to hear about your experiences, learn from your history, and know what you think about their brand. And their cup holders. And their interiors. And what’s under the hood. And technology. And going green, saving money, family fun, vacations… pretty much everything about cars, car shopping, driving and what’s important to you.

 I feel incredibly lucky to be working with a brand that has been such a huge part of my life. I hope you’ll stick around for the next couple of months so I can share with you the things I learn and of course share your opinions with me so I can pass them along to Toyota.

Now. Who wants to come be my personal car shopper?

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.

Disconnect

For the past four days I have been buried in packing paper, cardboard boxes, and to-do lists as we began our three-week long process of moving last weekend. You might wonder why it’s taking us three weekends and my answer is simply, we’re doing everything ourselves and we have a limited number of trailers to use. We’ll be doing the majority of it the last weekend but we’re trying to get a least a little moved and settled before then.

Since my husband is working I’ve been left to do all the “moving errands”, including multiple trips to walmart, calling every utility office known to man, dealing with repairmen and landlords, and figuring out where to put our massive amounts of STUFF.

I think it speaks volumes to say that unpacking and organizing my kitchen has been the least stressful thing I’ve done.

In addition to all the craziness of the past four days I’ve also been without TV and internet services. I know that this audience will appreciate the horror of that situation. After two days I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry, four days has tested the very edge of my limits. I spent the majority of this evening seated in a dark corner of a crowded sports bar because it’s also a free wifi zone. Believe it or not there isn’t a Starbucks for miles. That said, I promise you I’m not stranded in the outback somewhere, it’s just small town Midwest.

Our new (rental) house is far from perfect and needs a little bit of work but I couldn’t be more excited about decorating it up and making it ours. Also, really, a whole new space to organize is basically like five Christmases rolled into one for me. There’s also that little detail of being reunited with my husband to look forward to.

I promise as soon as I’m more consistently connected I’ll share more.

Until then wish me luck as I stumble around disconnected and enjoy this unintentionally hilarious picture of a pint-sized me rocking a cardigan.

 

 

Lost in the Past

When I was originally approached about being a brand ambassador for Live On I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to set up an account and start putting together the timeline of my children’s lives. I’ve been uploading photos, adding events, recording voice overs and narrating their stories. It’s almost like creating a living scrapbook for my kids, something I know they will treasure someday.

But Live On wants to do more than help you capture the present and the future. They want to help you document the past too.

Enter Live On Rewind. A service that lets you send in your non-digital media for digital conversion. They send you a box, you fill it with pictures or media, they scan and digitize it and send it all back. (Really, just pop over there and read a little about them and what they do, they explain it so well).

I’ve spent the last 4 days immersed in photo albums, picture boxes and scrapbooks. There were stacks and stacks of 4×6 prints, gobs of old Polaroids and even a handful of old black and whites.

My original intent had been to just grab a pile of pictures and fill the box to be sent off. Obviously the fact that it took me 4 days should clue you in as to how well that went.

Honestly, I just got so lost in the vast sea of memories. I spent at least one day with my college photo albums. Apparently for four years my camera only came out during parties. I laughed and laughed and sent lots of picture texts to my friends reliving our “glory” days. I relived my husband and I’s…courtship…if one could really call it that.

I went through an entire box of pictures from junior high and high school. I can’t wait to put together a montage of all of my horrendous hair and fashion choices. I’m almost ashamed of myself. I relived the horror of former boyfriends and crushes. I pulled out an envelope of tiny wallet sized photos of classmates and friends with handwritten notes on the back. (Did everyone do that? Write personalized notes on the back of the school photos you handed out to friends?)

I went through stacks of pictures of myself from infant to toddler and realized that my children DO actually look like me, more than just the blue eyes! I also realize that they get the majority of their attitude from me as well, my goodness I could scowl from quite an early age.

In all those stacks I found pictures that made me laugh and cry, I remembered things long forgotten. I whittled down my stacks and put some of my favorites into the Live On Rewind box and will send them off tomorrow. I absolutely cannot wait to be able to gaze at those pictures on my computer whenever the mood strikes me. Bonus points for all the sharing and blog fodder it will surely provide.

I can’t tell you enough how much I encourage you all to check out this company and try their services. It’s so easy, just order a package and they send you everything you need. Use the code “cgc64” to receive 30% off your order. Seriously, it’s SO worth it. Protect your memories.

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Thank you to LiveOn for sponsoring this blog post. Please LiveOn to learn more about sharing and preserving your most important memories. I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective. Although story ideas were provided, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Speechless

Last week I posted about Cole. I told only the smallest piece of his story and asked what I thought was a large favor.

You responded in ways that, quite honestly, boggle my mind.

Over 43,000 page views, 2,157 cards, 1700 emails, 220 comments, countless shares and one very special message from Spongebob himself.

The amount of love and support you’ve shown to Cole and my family can’t be measured.

It pains me to say that Cole was unable to thoroughly enjoy his birthday, most of the day it was a struggle to simply keep him comfortable. That evening, however, he had an hour or so of alertness and awareness in which he was able to laugh and enjoy some of his gifts.

Caleb and Dawn (Cole’s parents) wanted to make sure that everyone knows just how touched they were and still are at the outpouring of love for Cole.

I wish I could personally thank each an every one of you and I hope that someday should any of you need it, I will be able to pay it forward.

You’ve Got Mail!

Well you don’t really have mail so much as you’ve got me telling you to come look at my Christmas cards because chances are if you don’t share blood with me you aren’t actually getting one. I apologize but these bad boys were expensive, so even sharing blood doesn’t guarantee you a paper copy.

Anyway…..

Happy Merry Everything to all of you out there, you really do make my world a happier place.

The picture quality is a little poor because I had to use my phone as my *real* camera is currently refusing to take pictures (AHEM Dear Santa).

May you all have the very best Holiday season. Head over to Meghan’s place to check out all the other fantastic cards!