Monday, June 13, 2011

Go Back!-Today's Education

Graduation is a time for celebration. You've worked hard, spent countless nights hunched over your computer screen desperately trying to understand the impossibilities your instructor expects you to be able to discuss intelligently for the duration of the class (and hopefully beyond), and hope to find any indication that your study materials will hold some inkling of relevance in the real world. No, I'm not talking about high school (but congratulations to the graduation high school class of 2011!). I'm talking about post-secondary education. That's right. College.
For many of us, college was something we were expected to do immediately following high school. Some of us did exactly that. I, for one, left high school as one of our class valedictorians (yep, that's right, I said one of.) and headed off to college as one of the top incoming freshmen of that school. I worked hard. I played hard. I got involved in everything that I found interesting around campus. I took 15 credit hours per semester (the max allowed for incoming freshmen, and at 15 credit hours per semester, you had to have a faculty advisor's support and the dean's approval). I worked full-time off campus in the city where I attended college. I also drove home nearly every weekend, a 6 hour drive one-way, to work at our family business and at the job I held full-time all through high school. I made new friends, stayed out late, and studied even later. I also got hooked on caffeine pills (Yep. That wasn't fun.). I got burned out by the end of my first year. Worst of all, I did the one thing that everyone warns you against when you take on too much in college. I left.
The plan was to leave for one semester, come back, and be still be able to graduate with my friends as expected because of my big course-load and over-planning. That didn't happen. What started out as one semester turned into 10. Five years (and an entire lifetime) after leaving, I returned. And that wouldn't have happened without the awesome support and encouragement from my husband and the extreme determination to set an example for my children... and myself.
Since then I have obtained a Certificate in Human Resource Management and, in April 2011, completed my Bachelor of Science in Business Management. (YAY!) However, I decided to take things another step further. My alumni enrollment advisor, Nancy, must have thought I was crazy... I'm now enrolled in and currently working towards the completion of my MBA... with duel concentrations. Global Management and Human Resource Management. Yep. Duel. I'm told that is highly unusual. That figures. I never was one to be normal. Normal is boring. Besides, it's not like I am super-busy anyway, right? ;-) (HaHaHa!)
The world today is not like it used to be. Men and women have the opportunity to return to school at any point in their life without criticism or judgement. College courses are offered at schedules and locations that are convenient for any lifestyle or overwhelmed calendar. Yes, I mean any. All it takes is dedication, hard work, and self-discipline (especially if you choose the online degree programs!). Most importantly, you need to do it for you. My motivation included my husband and my children, but most importantly, I did it for me. If you aren't doing it for you, you will have a very hard time finding the strength to push through the hardest of courses (Like RES 341 & 342! Oh my gosh!-BRUTAL!). If someone tells you it's easy, they're lying. Plain and simple. It's not easy. It's hard. But it's worth it. And funding is out there to help! There are so many programs out there to choose from--and you don't have to get a degree... there are technical diplomas and certificates out there that hold a lot of relevance too! I've been in classes with all ages and walks of life-literally.
If you are interested in going back to school, give it a try! It's not too late. Take it from this recent graduate... the best things in life don't come easy... that's part of what makes them worth it!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dangerous Weather

Over the last several weeks, our country has endured many dangerous storms that have swept the nation. Joplin, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Sedalia, and even the Kansas City Metro have seen tornadoes touch down just this week alone. Sirens have gone off, our children have been rushed to designated shelter areas in their schools, businesses have closed, and families have huddled in their basements. But, here in Miami County, we've been very  lucky.

On Wednesday, the tornado sirens sounded across Miami and Johnson Counties. A funnel touched down in Louisburg along 69 HWY, overturning a truck, and virtually bounced back up into the sky, heading due north and not touching down again until it was in Johnson County. The driver of the vehicle was okay, and with Joplin and Oklahoma City on everyone's mind, Miami County breathed a heavy sigh of relief. We'd dodged a bullet.

So what can we do to prepare for storms such as these? First of all, don't be the idiot who ushers the entire family outside to watch for the tornado. By the time you see it, IF you see it, it will be much too late to get your family to safety. Don't get me wrong, I love watching storms as much as the next person (maybe even a little bit more!), but when it is a choice between the safety of my children and standing outside to watch green skies while sirens are blaring across the countryside, my children come first (and telling them to go to the basement while mommy stands outside is only going to create panic among the little ones).

Stay away from windows and other glass objects. Get away from areas where things can fall on top of you. The ideal place  to go in the event of a tornado is beneath ground-level, into a storm shelter or basement. If you don't have either of these, get into the innermost room in the house (typically a hall bathroom or closet). If you are in a bathroom, get into the tub. Use heavy blankets or pillows to cover yourself  and place your hands and arms over your head to protect yourself from potential flying debris. This should go without saying, but I will say it anyway. Make sure you've closed the door!

Nowadays, the public usually has a very good idea of what the weather holds in store for the day. The Weather Channel, Fox 4 KC,  and local radio stations provide you with updated weather forecasts throughout the day, many of which even provide their viewers/listeners with online access to current radar for the area. If it looks like you're going to be in for some bad storms, you are generally going to know about it ahead of time. Make preparations then, rather than risk your life or the lives of your loved ones if and when the ---- hits the fan.

Create an emergency kit and keep it stored where you will be taking cover in the event of dangerous weather. When sirens go off, you won't necessarily have time to go searching for your emergency kit to take with you. You'll need to get your family to safety immediately. So it's definitely a smart idea to keep this where you are actually going to be taking shelter from the storm.

Your emergency kit should contain:
  • Bottled Water. [FYI-You can pick up a small jug of Ozarka water at Wal-Mart or Price Chopper for right around $1.00 (give or take a few pennies).]
  • Important Documents. (Birth certificates, vehicle titles, insurance paperwork, etc. should be moved to a safe location where they will have the greatest chance of being protected from the storm. A fire-proof safe that is water resistant and can be bolted to the floor is probably the best place. However, if you don't have access to one of these, consider getting a safe deposit box at the bank, or a small fire-proof safe that you can store a few documents in and slide into a hall closet or stash in the basement. You can generally pick one of these up at places like Wal-Mart, Target, or even Home Depot for $30-$60.)
  • Battery Operated Weather Radio. (This should be pretty self-explanatory!)
  • Flashlight(s). (Duh!)
  • Extra batteries. (Again, this should be able to go unsaid, but make sure the extra batteries you have are NEW and are the correct size for the radio and flashlight!)
  • Blankets, thick towels, and/or pillows. (Not only are you going to need something to cover yourself and the kids up with to protect you from flying debris such as glass and from the rain, but it will help keep everyone warm and dry as well as possible. 
  • Joe and I take a small stash of snacks for the kids (crackers, cheerios, poptarts) downstairs "just in case." 
  • If you have little ones, don't forget to take some diapers and baby wipes into your designated shelter area before the storm hits.
If your laundry room is in the basement, that might be the ideal shelter, put everything in the dryer to prevent it from getting wet or getting blown away easily should the storm be very bad.

Turning off the gas line is also a good idea!

The emergency kit should be small/compact, since you likely are not going to have a lot of room in your shelter area. If you don't have anything ready and a bad storm hits-take cover! the most important thing you could ever have in that shelter is you and your family!

Andrea's younger brother, Patrick, lives in Joplin, MO. Above is a picture of the aftermath of the tornado. Patrick was unharmed, though his home received some damage. He was one of the lucky ones. Two streets over from his home was completely destroyed. Patrick was at church when the tornado hit Joplin, and immediately began helping dig people out from the rubble.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Family Friendly

Joe and I have four kids: Desiree-age 6, Kimberley-age 2, Alyson-age 1, and Joseph-5 weeks. So when we are out and about in the community, or even up in Johnson County where his parents live, we notice when events and/or businesses take into consideration the needs of families. For instance, which restaurants offer high chairs and slings for the baby seat without us having to track down three different employees to ask for them. We also notice which stores are "family friendly," which cashiers take the extra three seconds to smile at the kids and attempt to make small talk, and which professional offices have a little box of toys tucked away for the kids of their clients who stop in to sit and play with so they don't get bored.
Perhaps one of my biggest things lately is places that offer nursing mothers a place to breastfeed. It drives me up the wall when I ask if there is a place I can sit to breastfeed my son where I will not be so visible since some people seem to be offended by that sort of thing (though why they are still doesn't make sense to me), I am told to feel free to use the restroom. Excuse me?! Do you often sit in the bathroom and eat? No? Then why should my baby? Some places are happy to offer you an empty office or conference room, while others seem to scoff at the mere idea of allowing you to feed your hungry baby the most natural and healthiest food possible in their establishment.
Do you know what I do in those situations?
.....I feed him right in the middle of their public waiting area!

Boo-yah! Here's to all the mothers out there who have or are trying to breastfeed their children! Stand tall, be proud, and don't let society tell you not to do what you know is best for your child!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Crazy for Coupons?

Okay, so by now most everyone has seen, or at the very least heard of, the new TLC show "Extreme Couponing." This show highlights the talents of couponing gurus around the country, showing viewers stockpiles of products that these extreme couponers have obtained for next to nothing or even FREE through careful planning, clipping, and shopping. Every week you can watch as a new set of  everyday people, many whom have turned to couponing because of economic hardships and family necessity, take full advantage of sales, store discount cards, double- and triple-coupon policies, and, yes, even printable internet coupons.

My question is this.... Is it possible for the average family in Miami County, Kansas to do this too?

The answer? Maybe. 

Every month the P&G brandSAVER can be found in the Miami County Republic, offering up to several hundred dollars in savings on some of the most common everyday items most people are likely to use. Add to that coupons available through customer rewards programs (such as at Starbucks), product rewards (like Huggies Enjoy the Ride), birthday clubs (like Baskin-Robbins & Red Robin) and store loyalty cards (yep, just like our local Chopper Shopper Card), and you've got a potential for impressive discounts and potential freebies. Don't forget your internet coupons, too!

However, there are not many options for double-coupons in Miami County, KS. I've made some inquiries, and so far the only store that I have found in the county that doubles coupons is Moon's Hometown Market in Osawatomie. Now, Wal-Mart and Price-Chopper both take coupons, but when I spoke with representatives from their stores, I was informed that current company policy is not to double coupons. The manager I spoke with at Moon's, however, said their company policy is to double coupons "up to and including $0.50." They don't double coupons that say "DO NOT DOUBLE," and should a coupon value end up being greater than the current sale price of an item, the customer does get the credit, with the potential of cash back should the final balance warrant it. However, tax is still charged on all items, even if you are getting paid to buy them.

So, is it possible to walk away with only paying a fraction of the total  retail cost of your grocery bill? We think so. Can it be done in Miami County? Personally, I think the limited doubling options on coupons on the area has a pretty big impact on this topic. I do, however, plan to doing some additional "research" on this topic the next time I go grocery shopping for my family of 6 to see just how much money I can save... and how much time is involved!

What's your experience with couponing in Miami County, Kansas?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What's going on this weekend?

Even before we started County Squire, we seemed to be the people that people called to find out what was going on this weekend. Maybe it was because we have a lot of kids (our fourth child was born April 8, 2011) that seemingly everyone automatically assumed we had the inside scoop on activities in the area. Perhaps it is because we live mere blocks from Paola's historic square, so it seems logical that we would know what is scheduled to happen there all the time. Maybe it is just because most people who know me also know that I like to be the one who knows what is going on.
Whatever the reason, ever since moving to Miami County, we've received phone calls, emails, and text messages asking us "What's going on this weekend?" It started out with my in-laws wanting to know if there was anything going on down here for the kids that they might be able to do with them when they came down. Now I get asked as the grocery store, at school events, and even on my personal FaceBook page.
A lot of people would find this annoying. I actually think it is kinda neat. It reinforces why we started County Squire in the first place! Our community really offers so much to do that a lot of people just don't know about!
Maybe my favorite part about publishing County Squire is when people in our community stop to let me know about an upcoming event. Since it is absolutely free to list community events, it's become a great way to get the word out! We've really only begun to scratch the surface of what our community offers, and with every phone call, email, FaceBook message, and flier, we are able to add to our community calendar yet another activity!
So next time you see me in the grocery store, at a PTO meeting, out with the family for dinner, or even at Wallace Park with the kids, don't be shy! Come on over, say hi, and let me know "What's going on this weekend!"