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Kim, thanks for being mature about it and taking criticism as a learning experience.  If you have speedlights already, I would say one way to REALLY upgrade your game is to look into off-camera lighting.  Even with base lenses and a low end body, getting your light to be dynamic and not just the flat shots everybody else has will make your photography so much better.  For those outdoor shots, get a cheap light stand, umbrella/softbox and something like a pair of PocketWizard X units to remote trigger the flashes (Nikon has an IR system built into their cameras/speedlites.  Its a small investment compared to fancy lenses, new bodies, etc. but will make your shots so much more professional looking.  Then just learn to manually adjust for that light.  Strobist.com is one of the best websites for teaching how to use off-camera flash.  They even have very simple walkthroughs that explain a cheap setup and how to use one flash, two flashes, etc.  Good luck and never be satisfied with your work, but always be looking to learn more and continue to grow.