Why She Will Always Live On

A long time ago, I was a first grader and I met the person who would be my best friend forever. No, this isn’t some story of silly elementary school friendship, this is a real life, forever and ever story. Wendy and I met at Pinecreek Elementary school, playing on the playground in muddy puddles. We had that one lone year together as children, then renewed our friendship when I moved back in tenth grade. Our time together was again short, but Wendy was a woman who will always live on through me, through my children, and hopefully through their children.

Today, after twelve long years without her physically here with me, my Wendy memories are burned into my brain. While there are days that I still feel the pain, there are days like today that I am proud of the person knowing her helped me become. Today, twelve years after she took her last breath, I know one big reason why God put my Wendy in my life. Even when she had so many reasons to take and not give, she gave. She gave and she loved. She gave with her whole heart. And she was such an amazing person for that.

It was December 1999. Our youth group had picked an angel to buy clothes and toys for at Christmas. We girls were in charge of getting the gift–boys know nothing about buying clothes for little girls. Wendy was in remission, but she led the charge of us getting our gifts. We packed into my dad’s conversion van and hit the road for DuBois. Warm clothes for the baby girl were a must, and then a fun toy. Wendy made sure we used our budget to the fullest to give our angel child the best gifts we could. Then we shared laughs over dinner, just a bunch of teenage girls making memories. We quickly lost track of time and got home late, but that was ok because our families trusted us girls together.

It didn’t matter what she had been through, she was always giving, always loving. Being the example of what we all should be. That December night was just one of many that I got to witness and learn all about giving with a joyful heart. Everyone needs someone like Wendy in their lives. The lessons she taught me will always live on and I am so thankful.

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Speaking of people who are great examples of giving wholeheartedly, take a look at what some of the peers from my first 2nd Grade class were up to this week. Green Sea Middle School Walk for Glaucoma (from SCNow.com). What great examples of love and lifelong friendship!

Couponing Magic Sneak Peek #StuffABus

Recently, Mr. Burgher hit up an amazing deal that has left our kitchen table full of various fruit cups and pineapple cans (most of which is for the Food Bank) and a handful of “Black and Gold Bucks”. We all have jerseys and plenty of Steelers stuff, but we didn’t want them to go to waste.

So, this afternoon, we turned some of these…

Into this magic for this year’s 96.1 Kiss FM Stuff a Bus benefit for the Marines’ Toys for Tots (please ignore my messy desk!):

When we added these toys to the growing box we’ve been collecting the past few weeks, tears came to my eyes. ‘lil Miss A asked who they were for and when would we be able to go out and give it to them. It breaks my heart to think that there are kids out there who will not have a portion of what ours will, so every little thing we can do to make some magic happen, we will.

PS–Mikey and Bob, if you are reading this, ‘lil Miss A demands that she has to see you again. She met you last year on the bus and her world will crash if she doesn’t get to see you this year. How could you melt this one’s heart?

If you are willing to help out with Stuff a Bus 2011, consider giving a new, unwrapped toy for the event. Collections will be from November 28 to December 2 at 10:00 AM in Monroeville. @FSMikey and @FSBigBob of the Morning Freak Show will be leaving out there for the week and sure could use us ‘Burghers to fill 25 buses this year. Can’t get out there? Donate at your local Walgreen’s or have us deliver for you–can we Stuff a Durango???? Read more about their awesome 21 buses filled last year, here.

Have a Heart

On October 22, Mr. Burgher, ‘Lil Man, and I walked with my work in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk.

We walked for:
* 2 Pop 4 Sure
* Uncle B
* Pappy Jack P
* Cousins M and D
* First Mate G
* And all the others who’ve been impacted by Heart Disease

Cause we really want to be around for this ‘lil guy and his big sister!

Do Unto Others

…as you would have done to you.

Recently, Mr. Burgher, our ‘lil Burghers, and I became #smhero (Social Media [super]Heroes) when we helped out with The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project. I was charged with the challenge of taking a Tote Bag and filling it with food when I visited the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank for the #BlogMob. This was an easy task, but we knew we had to do more.

First, we decided to have a Tote Bag Drive for ‘lil Miss A’s birthday. We asked that our family and friends bring their gifts in a reusable grocery tote bag instead of worrying about wrapping them or bringing a gift bag (because I honestly have a ton to “regift” in my stockpile).

We got a few questions like, “are you sure that you just want the gift thrown in a boring brown bag”, and the answer (obviously) was “YES!”. Our peoples came through amazingly–some even brought extras–and we ended up with 20 tote bags to donate to the project. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We will definitely continue this tradition for future parties.

Here are the bags that she got—we missed the boat on getting a pic with her and the bags before we turned them in, oops!

Then, I took the challenge to my office and asked my immediate co-workers to bring in totes. We’re working on expanding it to our department (and maybe the entire corporate office), but just through a week or two, we collected 20 bags.

I still needed to fill up my #smhero (Social Media Hero) tote with food for the Food Bank, so I gathered that together. Mr. Burgher was not happy with what I came up with, and he took a handful of bags from ‘lil Miss A’s party and filled them with goodies (toothpaste, pads, body wash, razors, etc) from his couponing trips.

We set up time to do the drop off after we participated in the Heart Walk. While we were there, I kept noticing people with totes from a vendor and I hoped we’d be able to connect with them and get some of their totes to add to the 41 we had to drop off. When I approached them, I was given 12 bags; however, Mr. Burgher noticed that there were still boxes of them behind the tent. Before we left the parking lot, he ran over to ask a different person if they would consider giving an entire box of 100 bags—they said yes! All we had to do was ask.

So, we met up and dropped off 153 tote bags, some filled with food for the Project. The good feeling hasn’t worn off yet! You can check out the incredible story that was on the Tote Bag Project’s website here.

Have we inspired you yet? I sure hope so! If you have reusable canvas grocery bags (aka tote bags) and you would like to donate them to the Project, either check out their site or get in touch with me. They’ve been able to donate over 7,000 bags to those who need them, and the potential to do more is huge. If all of you donated just one bag, we could make a difference in the lives of many. When I visited the Food Bank, I saw many people carrying their food in a multitude of containers (luggage, laundry baskets, pockets) and I know we can do better. Are you with us?

Called to Serve

This past weekend we helped my parents move a good portion of my brother’s workshop to their new parsonage. On Sunday, we went to one of my dad’s last church services in the area they currently live in. There was a guest speaker who spoke about missions (MERCI in NC), and prayers sent up for those impacted by this spring’s storms. Following service, they had a dinner to honor our family for the time there on the charge. It was a good time spent with family, but the whole weekend got me thinking about service.

Growing up, I have always been one to serve and do my part to give back to the community. I don’t want to brag, but I really hope my kids can say they’ve done a good chunk of service by the time they have kids, so I am going to share some of my past “causes”.

In elementary school, I was active in the Girl Scouts, Campfire Kids, and Buckeye Y. I spearheaded an adopted grandparent program for the elementary kids in my church, worked on community service projects, and participated in walks for this or that mission.

In Junior High, I was involved in Students Who Care (an organization that helped the food banks and also had an adopted grandparent program). My homeroom raised so much money during a food drive that my dad bought a van full of cases of Ramen noodles to deliver to the food bank. With my family, I was very involved in our church’s food bank and vacation bible school programs.

In High School, I was involved in several student groups that had community service projects. Our youth group did amazing work for Relay for Life (and Wendy), our local church, and the community. I served on a district and conference wide youth mission team, worked annual conference as a page and delegate, and helped with registration. I honestly don’t know how I had time to breathe as a teen. That’s how I stayed out of trouble, I guess.

In College, we had a huge focus on community service. Zoo Boo, Ronald McDonald House, painting a school, a women’s shelter, Race for the Cure, Book drives, you name it, I probably did it. My senior year I had the pleasure to be a captain of a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night walk team in honor of my cousin, Aaron. Many of my most favorite Chatham memories came from my time serving others.

Post college, I haven’t been as busy as I have liked, but I want to get back to it. Sure, there’s been the little things here and there (like United Way’s Day of Caring through work, church community Thanksgiving dinners, volunteering at Chatham for various events, VBS, PodCamp Pittsburgh, etc). But as a parent who is “oh so busy”, I often find myself just sending money and not time. So many organizations need our time! A few weeks back, Mr. Burgher and I went to volunteer at Schoolhouse for Teachers. We cleaned for a few hours, vowed to do more work at other local orgs, and haven’t gotten back into the swing of things. I think it’s time.

We’ve donated formula to “My Choices” and plan on making a donation to “On the Spot” and orgs taking supplies to tornado ravaged areas (we just need to do the drop!). Mr. Burgher will be taking some time to volunteer at the local food bank (and donate a ton of pasta we couponed for). If you remember, Mrs. ‘Ski and I were teaming up for Operation Every Cent Counts . We need to send out that first shipment (a few days late), so watch for an update there. I am getting more familiar with Pittsburgh opportunities through www.pittsburghcares.org and hope to invite you to join us on some service projects.

How do you give back to your community? Are you interested in giving back with us? Are you actively involved in a project and need our help? Comment below (we love to hear from you)!

That Darn Show!

I have to admit something to you, my dear readers. Awhile back, I swear I vowed that I was not going to blog about couponing because I work for an incredible company (one that if you are local is most likely your favorite grocery retailer) and I felt that sharing deals at other stories went against policy. While I remain loyal to my company for groceries, Rx’s, gas, and the like, sometimes I cannot pass up a good deal at the little pharmacy retailers. 90% of what we get at these chains goes as a donation, so in my heart of hearts, I don’t feel like I am doing a bad thing. I just didn’t want to write about it. I don’t mind having Mr. Burgher come online and tell you about his perspective, but tonight, I am going to tell you how I’ve been rubbed the wrong way by that darn show.

The other night, we were watching the show. An extreme couponer had a big haul to add to her already overflowing stockpile and it got Mr. Burgher pretty upset. He wrote a Facebook note:

watching the latest “Extreme Couponing” on DVR is making me sick. SO UNREALISTIC, stores rarely have EVERYTHING you want, the employees aren’t always that helpful….also, any “problems” that arise during the shop is always cleared up…if the register freezes in real life, the manager will now work that hard to fix it. they seem like they are making changes to make it more realistic, like showing that they have to preorder some things. now stores are changing their coupon policies because of the show and people using fake/illegal coupons which makes me ill since I bust my ass to collect all the coupons we get. Some people also use multiple store loyalty cards which is not exactly legal either. This makes it difficult for people like us who not only coupon for ourselves, but largely coupon for others.
Last week we donated 100 bottles of Similac to an organization that, among other things, gives resources and guidance to pregnant women who are trying to make a tough decision. Right now we are getting stuff together to send for disaster relief in Joplin and also a local food bank. Don’t just let crap sit on your shelves just to show it off for a tv show, give it to people who need it.

Yup, that’s right, the fact that we donated 100 bottles of formula to an organization called My Choice which had run out of formula to give to their clients is being overshadowed by our anger. Mothers who chose to keep their babies are given as much help and support as the organization can give, from providing an open ear to giving formula or diapers to those who can’t do it alone (and really, no mother can really do it alone). Last week, they had given their last bottle, then my dad pulls up with 100 bottles for them. We got the nicest thank you card ever, and I feel like we truly made a difference.

It gets better. Since I know a bit about the in’s and out’s of legality around coupons (working for a grocer and all), I have always made sure I know, carry, and abide by the store coupon policies. I do not like to clear a shelf unless I have a coupon that requires 2 items and there are only two items left. I have only got a handful of rain checks when other “Coupon Queens” clear the shelves just after the stores open or cashiers have hid items (I have overheard and witnessed this at a store and I really don’t even try to go back to that one). Rarely do I print coupons because that’s how some of those “extremists” do their thing–and often, the coupons out there can be fraudulent. I will print store specific coupons from their sites, but I always follow policy.

And knowing those policies, I was a bit taken back when Rite Aid issued a new coupon policy this week. After thinking about it, it’s a great policy because it limits people from clearing the shelves (putting a 4 item limit on all deals); however, the fact that there had to be an adjustment says that darn show had something to do with it. Well, following watching that show, I was bound and determined that we were going to give as much as we could to the people of Joplin and other cities ravaged by tornadoes this spring. I couldn’t sleep because I was so yanked up about it. I set out yesterday to coupon my heart out, getting supplies for free or cheap, telling myself that I’d deal with the new policy and do what I could for those in deed. I didn’t encounter any problems, but then today struck.

We went to the first store on our trip and only got 3 of the 8 things we had set out to buy. We knew getting up late this would happen, but usually you do better. At the second store, everything was out, so I settled on using my expiring store coupons to buy some water. The cashier who knows us as regulars, said she was expecting us earlier in the day because there were great deals, but that a lady came in early and cleared everything out of the store. It made me sad, because EVERYTHING we set out to buy today (minus the water–I drink wayyyy too much and some diapers) was going to be donated to Joplin. There were even signs up that said, “Due to manufacturer issues, we are out of stock of the item featured in this week’s ad. As a substitute, you can buy x product.” The ‘x’ product didn’t have a coupon (fraud if you tried to substitute it) and because they offered a substitute, there were no rain checks being given. Frustrated, I went to Rite Aid last, because I thought with the new policy, things would be better. They weren’t, and I walked out unhappy. The manager (who always gives me trouble and never wants my business) said, “Oh, there goes that coupon lady” as I walked out. No one greeted me or asked if I needed help as I browsed the empty shelves. It was awful. Luckily, I was able to get my diapers at another location, but I took the last of the sizes I needed and felt so guilty.

And customers are getting cranky with us. One lady was buying 3 Altoids and asked if she could go ahead of me and my water and pop just because she saw coupons in my hand. She then proceeded to pick up 3 more and count her change to the exact penny very slowly as if to make a point. When the register didn’t ring up correctly and I had to go switch a product at the cashier’s request, customers behind me were shaking their heads and sighing. I told the cashier to go ahead and process them because they were so impatient–they just laughed more.

Are we doing anything wrong? NO. Should we feel guilty? NO. Do we hoard? NO. But why is it so painful and stressful? Is our version of “extreme couponing” worth it while the fad wears off? In a way, I hope the show or the new policies and limited quantities help people see that what we do, while rewarding, isn’t cut out for everyone. We are in tough times in this country and everyone has a right to save some pennies, but there are too many people out there doing it the wrong way.

I can’t let today get me down. It’s time to pick myself back up, take the week to refresh, and go back to my merry shopping ways. It can be done, and I have a stack of receipts full of savings, a full pantry, a giving heart, and a healthy family to be thankful for.

By the way, don’t get me wrong–we love to share our tips and tricks with anyone who wants to hear! We just ask that you play fairly in the stores and follow policies so as not to ruin it for the rest of us. If you’d like to know more about how we coupon, feel free to comment!

Introducing…Operation Every Cent Counts

This post was written by Mrs. ‘Ski over at Oh Yeah? Roger That! about our joint blog community service project. If you are interested in helping us out, feel free to reply to this post, on her blog, or to lilburghers@gmail.com. We hope you will join us in making Every Cent Count!

Last week was Couponing for a Cause Week. Yeah yeah, I’m a week late. Shut it. If you follow B & G over at ‘lil Burghers, you know they LOVE couponing. B and I have teamed up for many projects in our lives before, but I don’t think any have been so personal for me and so DUH for her.

When the Japan earthquakes occurred, I stalked my twitter feed, waiting for the milspouses I’ve spoken to a few times to post they were ok. I wept. I couldn’t imagine being alone in a foreign country with two children. Oh, and knowing my husband was deployed across the world, unable to console any of us. Unimaginable for me. I’ve mentioned before that I often don’t feel like a milspouse. When I come across situations like the one I just described, I feel guilty. My husband was with me. If there was an emergency, he’s never too far away to come home to console me.

The reassurance that long distance acquaintances and their families were fine took far too long for my pregnant soul, but they came. The US military bases in Japan didn’t sustain any damage and everyone was accounted for. But it made me realize just how tiny my world has become. Because of the uniform my husband wears and the explosion of social media, I now had people across the world who I cared about.

Shortly after the earthquake, one of the milspouses mentioned her involvement in the Coupon Queens Of Okinawa. Essentially, the group is comprised of milspouses based in Okinawa who share coupons. They’re able to use coupons up to six months expired. That’s awesome! I knew I could help these families. Don’t tell G, but I got coupons every week that I just threw away. Why not collect them and ship them over!

And that’s exactly what we’re doing. ‘lil Burghers and Oh Yeah Roger That will be launching our first joint service project (in our adult lives). We shall call it “Operation Every Cent Counts.” We’ll be collecting expired and unused coupons to send to military families in Okinawa Japan. We’ll send our first shipment on June 1. That means any coupons dated 2011 will be useful! Email me (ohyeahrogerthat @ gmail . com)to arrange pick up of your coupons!