Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Things I Know to Be True Part II

I’m not really here, I’m still on hiatus. It just seems that when you get used to documenting the (mundane) life that you lead, it’s hard to take a break. So, just pretend like you didn’t see me today.

Things I Know to be True:

1. The difference between a fourth-grade boy and a fifth-grade boy is that you have to shop in the men’s department for his shoes.
2. When your car won’t start in the parking lot of the bank and you have to pay to have it towed and pay to put in a new battery (the old one so dead it wouldn’t even jump start) and the total comes to an unexpected $200 on your Tuesday morning, you will be so incredibly grateful that this did NOT occur on the Ohio turnpike the day before that you will willingly and gleefully pay your local mechanic for the repairs.
3. Hanging out with Little Bird and George can help to suppress and distract from the agony of giving your dog away but upon arriving home, the sight of dog slobber on the wall can produce enough tears to drown in.
4. When you read the school supply list, where it says “no trapper keepers” you will find yourself lost in memories in the office supply aisle of Target, remembering how you used to spend hours at your best friend’s house rearranging your organizational system within your very own and much coveted, Trapper Keeper.
5. If your son uses pipe cleaners to make his yearly school sign (a sign that tells what grade he’s in that he holds up in his first day photo every year) the cats will think the pipe cleaners are there for the taking and will rip the paper apart in the night.
6. Without a dog in the house, you will remember that you do, in fact, have two cats who will now demand your attention.
7. If you allow your ten year old son to accompany you to the grocery store and invite him to help decide what you will stock the house with, you will need more than just a basket as you’ve grown accustomed to, and your total bill will quadruple.
8. If you simply want to add an “emergency phone” for use in your house (since you currently only have a cell phone) Verizon will charge you no less than DOUBLE your current bill to do so. Even if it’s a kid’s line. Even if the phone can’t dial more than 4 pre-programmed numbers. Even if you only want it in case he needs to dial 9-1-1. Even if.
9. If the U.S. Open is rain delayed and you continue to watch previous days’ play on the DVR, when you stop the recording you may freak out to see Agassi on Center Court playing James Blake – “wasn’t he just playing, but maybe that was two days ago…wasn’t he supposed to play Bagdadis next? How can this be the quarterfinals? They just played the first rounds….” Only to come to your senses and realize they are under rain delay AGAIN and are showing last year’s Open.
10. Sitting on side-by-side bar stools at the counter, with sloppy joes and baked beans for dinner, after Grace is said and you’re going through the highs and lows of the day with your son, you’ll realize once and again, there’s no place like home. And there’s no feeling in the world like being a mother.
11. Already relating to your new single-mom, mother of two, so recently divorced the ink isn't yet dry neighbor, you will agree without pause or question to watch her six year old daughter in the mornings before school so the mom doesn't have to drive all the way across town for day care and then try to hustle all the way back across and to the next town to get to work on time. You will agree to all of this, adamantly, without doubt, long before you register her words telling you that she will bring her daughter over at 7:20am. That's AM. That's BEFORE school. That's before you're normally out of the shower. Everyday. Way to go, Ames.

P.S. Here’s my unsolicited, completely shameless promotion for my latest most favorite find: Listerine Agent Blue Mouthwash stuff. I saw the commercial. I bought the product. It works like a dream. Your child swishes it like mouthwash BEFORE they brush and the blue sticks to plaque. Then they brush to get the blue OFF. It’s AWESOME!! With $2K worth of metal in his mouth and $5-6K more to go, there’s no way I’m letting this kid be a lazy brusher!


K. I’m done. I feel better now. I’ll be back in a week or two.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Plan

I didn’t understand God’s plan. I had thoroughly researched the breed prior to acceptance and had complete confidence that a mastiff would be perfect for my family. I dedicated time and finances to thorough training to address issues that were important to our situation. We had, by all accounts, been good, dedicated, concerned and responsible dog owners. But despite all of this, when I prayed for a solution, when I prayed for guidance on what to do now, the only answer that came was to “let him go.” God spoke to me through my breeder. She had sent a couple emails from people who were interested in a mastiff puppy but might consider a rescue instead. She was the one responsible for sending me the information I could not ignore. Reading about a family with four kids and six acres of land who had already rescued a previously abused and now people-shy mastiff, I couldn’t help but feel led to the conclusion that this is what God wanted me to do. This was the solution. Yet, driving with my much-loved pet and my saddened son to Indiana, I had trouble believing that this was truly the right decision. Surely I must have not done something right along the way and if I could just remedy that, then we could keep Gabe and all would be well.

We met the family without much impression. They were fine, not a thing wrong with the situation, nothing to scream at us that this was perfect or ideal, either. All that we felt for Gabe left us numbed to feeling anything about this new home. It could have been a dog’s heaven and I wouldn’t have wanted to leave him. As I unloaded Gabe’s blankets, dog bowls and food from the car, I had to keep pulling him back out of it. He was afraid, as he had been for the entire drive over, that he would be left. He hadn’t gone far from me or the car at any of the rest stops and was trying to secure his place on the return trip by staying firmly in the back seat.

When we left we didn’t look back. Eyes filled to the brim with tears, we weren’t out of their driveway before LM and I both were sobbing. I drove as fast as I could away from the home and out to the highway, eager to get to my sister’s to be distracted and supported. I tried to regain my composure to help show strength and confidence to LM. I started talking about a moment that I had with the mother, a moment that might help to explain God’s plan. The mother had shared with me the story of how they had come to having their cat, Stormy. Their Persian had passed away and she was not at all eager for another cat. But this grey cat showed up as a stray and made itself at home in their yard. They had been outside with their daughter one evening and the cat just came right over and jumped into Megan’s lap and made himself comfortable. The mother had explained that her daughter is very tactile, she loves animals and this was especially meaningful to have this cat take to her so well. Stormy became part of the family. As I relayed this information to LM, thinking that perhaps the daughter we didn’t get a chance to meet might be especially fond of Gabe, LM immediately jumped in with information he had learned when he had gone inside briefly. “She’s handicap, Mom. She’s in a wheelchair, one of those special motorized ones, like she won’t get out of it.”

Mastiffs are often trained to be therapy dogs because of their gentle demeanor and size. It’s easy for them to sit right next to a wheelchair and be within reach. They can place their head right into your lap, and they are very happy to sit that way for hours if you’ll just rub their heads or talk lovingly to them.

A thirty miles north of Fort Wayne, Indiana, a half hour after leaving a dog we both loved more than seems reasonable, LM and I were able to see the reason why, perhaps, God had led us to this family’s door. They weren’t the sort of people to actually put energy into training a dog. They might not even realize the impact a gentle, sweet, lovable mastiff might have with their daughter. But we think God does. We think it’s very clear why we had Gabe for the past two and a half years. Why we were so committed to his training, so dedicated to making sure he was obedient and gentle and well socialized around people and dogs. We just didn’t realize we were training a therapy dog for Megan.

Friday, August 25, 2006

1 Day Left (for Good and for Bad)

When LM was a toddler, my dad came to visit bringing a 5-disc cd player for us to use. Before we could even get it hooked up, LM took hold of the audio cables and walked around the house with them, talking on one end as if it was a phone and sometimes using the other end as a writing implement. Some of his favorite toys at that age were unused telephones. His love for electronic gadgets only got worse as he grew older. I have mentioned his loft, full of keyboards and miscellaneous computer cables and cords. I mentioned long ago about his fascination with an old word processor. If you knew his father, you’d understand where these genes originated. There is no doubt that this computer-geeky child is his father’s son.

Despite the stretch marks, photographs and painful memories, there was, for a time however, a question of who was his real mother.

Now, when I think about LM and all the things I miss about him, I realize how much we are alike. We’re both rather serious people when you first meet us. We’re social, sure, but we tend to have a more serious look on our face and it takes more to get us to laugh out loud than some lighter folks. We care about things deeply and for that, our feelings are apt to get hurt a hundred times a day. We’re both stubborn and independent. We don’t yell when we are angry but we tend to sulk quietly about transgressions done to us. We share a sarcastic sense of humor and a desire to infiltrate our conversations with big words we’ve read but might mispronounce. A book is a treasure to both of us and spending time curled up under a blanket together sharing a story is a mutually enjoyable evening.

This week has been one of the hardest I’ve endured in years. We are both trying to be strong but while we know we’re making the right decision for Gabe, it hurts more than we know how to bear. Tomorrow was to be our celebration of being back together, Day 54 that we’ve been waiting on all summer. And while it will be that, it is looking as if it will also be the day that we say goodbye to Gabe. I will be picking up LM on my way across Pennsylvania, giving him a few hours to say goodbye (to have the dog another week while knowing he was going just seemed too excruciating to bear). My sister will meet us in northern Indiana as LM doesn’t at this point want to go to the house where Gabe will live (he can always change his mind). I will take Gabe the rest of the way and meet up with my sister later. We’ll spend the night and perhaps Sunday, too, at my sister’s putting off the inevitable return home to a dog-less house.

We will get through this. It isn’t the end of the world, I know. We are doing the right thing and down the road I am confident we will feel good about the choice we made. We just have to get through it first.

I’m taking a hiatus. A sabbatical if you will, of unknown duration from blogging. My gratitude runs deep for all the thoughts and prayers that all of you have bestowed upon me and my family this summer and through this process. Enjoy the last bit of August. Celebrate the time with the people (and animals) that you love. Hug each other. I’ll be back soon.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

2 Days and Counting

It seems so appropos that I spoke yesterday of LM’s tender heart. We’ve had a hard night, but we talked again and while we still fight tears I think we both know we’re doing the right thing. I don’t have any idea how I will actually bring myself to drive my dog there and hand him over but God will give me the strength I need.

Last night was quite a reminder of how much I miss LM’s companionship. Being a single mom and having an only child we have a direct one-on-one relationship with very open lines of communication. I recognize the need to not try to be my child’s best friend, and to maintain a healthy parent-child relationship but ours is particularly close I suppose, because of the circumstances. It was difficult last night to not be able to sit and hug my child as he was crying. It was hard to go to bed not being able to check in on him and make sure he fell asleep. It was hard for me, to sit alone with such a feeling of loss and sadness. I just missed his company.

We have just two days left apart. I know that some of the enthusiasm about returning home is diminished when we’re aware that it also means we’re that much closer to saying goodbye to our dog, but before the conversation ended last night, LM said, “I’m glad I have you for a mom, Mom.” I said, “I can’t imagine a better son than you, LM.”

Two more days.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Heartbreak Part II

I have often felt that an answer to prayer needs to come with a “what to do now” booklet. The breeder we got Gabe from referred me to several people looking for a mastiff. One was a family in Indiana who already has one mastiff they have taken in as a rescue dog. I sent them an email with information about our situation, detailing the positives as well as the challenges of Gabe. The father emailed me back almost immediately with information about his family, his home, the dog they currently have and one they had to give up to a rescue years ago. Four kids, 9 acres of property and a mastiff they already adore, I knew this was a great match for what Gabe needs.

But the difficulty was having to talk with LM. I didn’t feel like I could go pick him up on Saturday and bring him home like everything was fine and then suddenly tell him that this was an option. I felt like he has ownership of this decision and he needs to know where matters stand before he comes home and sees his dog.

I spoke with my ex first, and he talked with his mom (where LM is currently staying) and then she and I talked out of earshot of LM so that she might understand the situation and could provide support for LM once we finished talking about it. I called LM a couple hours later. I didn’t want to cry, I wanted to be strong and reassuring but I sobbed. And he sobbed. And while I truly feel like this is the best decision we can make for Gabe it didn’t make it hurt any less.

And I told LM it’s just like when I let him go to his grandparents for the summer. It isn’t because I don’t love him, quite the contrary. It’s because I love him that I let him go. I know he will have a great time. I know he will be loved and have fun and learn new things. And for this same reason, I feel like we need to let Gabe go. We need to let him go where he can be happiest. I explained that it didn’t mean we wouldn’t miss him, but we had to look beyond the pain we feel and make a decision that is best for the dog. He wasn’t able to say much but at one point, in between sobs, he said, “I want to do what is best for Gabe.”

I assured him I wouldn’t make a decision without him. And that I wouldn’t do anything he was uncomfortable with. I told him to think about it, pray about it and see how his heart felt in the morning. That I would call and talk with him again and then we’d decide what to tell this family.

Some days I just don’t know how to love without causing pain. I don’t know how to let go of a dog that I love, and I don’t know how to make a decision that I know will hurt my son. But I also know that we need to do something about the situation we’re in and that perhaps in the long run, we’ll all be better for it. Perhaps.

Sure hurts like hell right now, though. And Gabe hates it when I cry.

Book Break

I know I’m boring some of you with my wistful thinking about my Little Man. I saw this over at Behind the Stove today and thought I’d at least try to entertain you with some book thought.

1. A book that changed your life.
The Five People You’ll Meet in Heaven, The Chosen, The Bible. The Five Love Languages.

2. A book you've read more than once.
Possession. The Notebook. Plainsong. The Chosen. Love Medicine. Where the Red Fern Grows. The Road Less Traveled.

3. A book you'd want on a desert island.
Possession. (long, romantic, complicated and with great words!)

4. A book that made you giddy.
I’m not sure ‘giddy’ is the right word, but last book I swooned over? Time Traveler’s Wife. Original and well written.

5. A book that you wish had been written.
The Bible The New New Testament

6. A book that wracked you with sobs.
Almost all of Nicholas Sparks’ novels, starting with The Notebook. Also, Deep End of the Ocean, Where the Red Fern Grows (LM and I cried together)

7. A book you wish had never been written.
Sophie’s Choice. Hated this book.

8. A book you are currently reading.
Jane Smiley’s “Moo”

9. A book you've been meaning to read.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (I’ve requested it at the library, but so far it’s not in).

3 Days and Counting

Three days!! Three days!! (Sorry, I'm seriously starting to get giddy about seeing my boy again.) Another thing I've missed about LM:

LM can be a very serious child. His sense of humor tends towards the sarcastic and his conversations are filled with the vocabulary of an adult. He doesn’t tend to be silly, or full of the giggles or even childish but his soft heart is truly unmistakable. While he was down in Tennessee this summer, he was at the pool one day with his cousin. Little Bird quickly found friends to play with but there wasn’t anyone LM knew there. That didn’t stop him from making friends with a child with Downs Syndrome. The child, according to my stepmom, was floating on a raft around the pool and LM asked his parents if he could pull the child around the pool while he floated, to give him a “ride”. The child loved the ride, and eventually started to throw the rings into the pool for LM to fetch. It never bothered LM that this child was “different” or “strange” and he didn’t get upset when the boy couldn’t swim with him or play like any other kid. He adapted his way of playing to accommodate this boy’s needs. I’ve seen it time and time again with LM. When we were choosing a charity, as we watched a video sent to us from World Vision, I will never forget how LM looked at me at the end and said, “Call Mom. Just call.” In such simple ways, LM touches my heart every single day. He shows such sweetness under all that seriousness. Can’t wait for one big hug.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

4 Days and Counting

A third thing I miss about LM is his carefree attitude about “fitting in”. With little interest in sports and a healthy aversion to girls (they still have cooties) he’d rather pretend to be Anakin Skywalker than Mr. Joe Cool. His favorite clothes include anything comfortable and red, it doesn’t matter what name is on the tag or how much it cost. It didn’t phase him to get glasses and it was only at my insistence that we had the red spots on his face lasered off. (We had another spot removed just before he left for the summer and I have asked from time to time if it has stayed gone, or if it came back. Last weekend, when asked, LM’s response to me was an exasperated, “MOM, I don’t look in the mirror. I’m not preoccupied with my image!”) The kids in our neighborhood come and go and LM is quick to meet someone new and takes it in stride when the neighborhood bullies pick on him. That’s not to say he isn’t sensitive, sometimes overly so, but in general, he tends to take life as it comes and doesn’t get bogged down by peer pressure to be one of the ‘in’ crowd.

Monday, August 21, 2006

5 Days and Counting

5 days left and counting (see prior post):

The second thing I miss about LM is his imagination. I built him a loft for his room when he was four. He never had an interest to put his bed in it, but instead has collected spare electronics to create his own “Command Center”. He has a DJ’s sound board, three keyboards, a Sega game system, a word processor, cords, plugs, old phones, anything he can use for his cockpit he will find a use for. He also has a huge Rubbermaid box of K’nex (for those without kids, they are the legos of today) that he will create space ships, fighter jets and hover craft with. It takes him twenty minutes to explain all the parts and pieces of one of his creations. LM has a shelf in the closet for old paper towel and toilet paper rolls, masking tape, egg cartons and the like. He has built contraptions since he was very small and continues to explore his creative side with the most basic of resources. Truly recycling at its best!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

6 Days and Counting

The date is set. After 54 days, I will pick up my Little Man Saturday at noon. I have butterflies. Last year, after a similar summer apart, I cried waiting for him to arrive at the designated meeting place. I know I will have difficulty focusing on much else this week so I figured I might as well dedicate my blogging over the next six days to the six things I’ve missed most about my favorite boy (in no particular order – aren’t you lucky I didn’t choose one thing for every day he’s been gone? Or every minute until I see him again? I could. I truly could. But I’ll refrain. My 2.3 readers are sweet, but more than six things about my boy might scare them away!!)

1. H.A.L.T. (Highs and Lows, Thanks) I miss talking over our days every night at dinner. I miss hearing what disappointed LM and what excited him. I miss the perspective of a 10 year old, reminding me that P.E. can truly be a low and having indoor recess can sometimes be a high. LM has had a summer of awesome experiences; he has learned how to knee board, rode a skeedo, went on a roller coaster, made several new friends and took on new responsibilities. We have kept in contact, talking on the phone every few days but I still feel out of the loop for how he feels about his summer and what has truly left a mark on his impressionable heart. I also miss the way LM listens to what was important about my day. He pays close enough attention that some days he can predict exactly what I will say. I miss the days when both of us agree that we are most thankful for the time we have to spend together. I will enjoy our three hours in the car together to get roughly caught up and then our regular routine to follow over the next several days, weeks and months to re-establish our open lines of daily communication.

Friday, August 18, 2006

My Daily Dose of Dog

Just go see "Oliver" today. Trust me. You're one click away from a great big smile.

Poker Night

We sat at the same table last week and although we never spoke then, we acknowledged that it had been nice playing together with a hand shake at the end. This week, we started at the same table but then he was moved to another and he was out before our tables merged again. He stood by to watch and I noticed he was cheering me on at times. He even came over to wish me luck and made me laugh with his enthusiasm for my sorry chip count. He stood off to the side, laughing, dancing to the music in a funny guy-who-has-no-idea-how-to-country-dance sort of way. He kept checking in to see how I was progressing (I wasn’t) and was as disheartened as I was when I was taken out in fifth place with my pair of jacks.

I went over to talk with another girl that had been playing at my table. She had been fun to play cards with and was engaged to the guy running the tables so I figured I’d surely have a chance to hang out with her again and I wanted to get to know her better.

The guy asked if I knew how to do the dances. I admitted I knew some of them. He wanted to learn and said he had been asking a couple women to teach him but they just looked at him like he was crazy. I didn’t offer, but then, he didn’t really ask me, either.

We stood and watched the final few players until a song came on that I knew and I went out to dance. When I came back he came to talk to me again and was dancing around in a funny but cute way. He was laid back, with a good sense of humor. Cute in a really great kind of a way, personable. A song came on where it tells you the dance steps throughout and I told him this was his song. The other woman wanted to go dance to it, too, and he begged me to come with them. It’s a song I loathe, but I went along. We had no idea what we were doing despite the instructions but we laughed and had a great time anyway.

With so few people left in the bar and it being well past midnight, the dj put on a slow song, one that just hits me in a certain way right now, and I knew it was my cue to leave. I made sure to tell the girl that I’d see her next week. I hadn’t caught her name but I’ll be sure to introduce myself next week.

I headed out to my car wondering how it might have all been so very different. If only he weren’t married.

(As I came home in this melancholy mood, I took Gabe out for a quick potty break before hitting the shower. I take him out just outside the door at times like these, lest he see the cat in the window and bark his head off in the still of the night. Instead, some neighbor cat was out on the prowl and Gabe spotted it under the street light and nearly ripped my hand of trying to get to it, barking up a storm the whole time. I drug him into the house and went back outside to clean up his mess. Nothing like reality to snap ya back into the present, is there?)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What I Read (Or So They Think)

I think I once shared my adoration for Amazon.com’s “list of recommendations” that the site personalizes based on prior purchases and any input on what I own and what I’m not interested in. Having sold my books and stopped my personal book-buying habit, the only books I’ve bought recently have been gifts. I now use this list to generate titles I might be interested in borrowing from my local library. Based upon Amazon’s current list of recommendations for me, I seem to be completely Star Wars obsessed (LM), but I might also enjoy the Hardy Boys (LM), The Black Stallion (Little Bird) and Walter, the Farting Dog (George). (I’m not sure that Louise Erdrich, Barbara Kingsolver, Kent Haruf and Jodi Picoult enjoy being listed alongside a flatulent canine.)

Pavlov Works at My Bank

I cannot for the life of me get my dog trained to not bolt when he sees another dog approaching, not to bark and lunge at a cat in the window, or to not drag me halfway down the street to say ‘hello’ to a dachshund, but having taken him through the bank drive-through ONCE before, where he witnessed the psychological test, I mean magic, of a milk bone arriving in the carrier, tonight, unbeknownst to me, Gabe had been salivating in the back seat since we arrived and upon hearing the bell, I mean sucking sound, indicating my deposit slip, I mean, a treat, was on the return, he tried with all his 200-pound might to jump into the front seat to get his head out the window, sharing his slobber with my t-shirt and causing Pavlov, I mean the teller, to nearly fall over from a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

It’s no wonder I can’t pick up men at the grocery store when I walk in with a t-shirt full of slobber and little chewed bits of milk bone.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Heartbreak

Part of me doesn’t even want to document my current struggle for fear of the repercussions that will flow in the comments but I’m nothing if not honest so bear with me (and tread softly, please).

Over the past year I have documented my love and frustration with my dog. He is truly a great dog, well behaved in the house, an excellent companion, loveable, great with LM, and obedient. I have welcomed people into my home that were wary of such a large breed and have been able to quickly put them at ease with his obedience and pleasant demeanor. I have invested an inordinate amount of money and time into training Gabe and have seen many successes come from that investment.

However, I continue to have increasing problems with him in the yard and on a walk to the point that a walk around the neighborhood is virtually impossible (for fear of running into another dog). I have socialized him regularly at the dog park and kept him exercised there but I obviously still have a need to just be able to take him out in the yard several times a day. He has never once been aggressive towards another dog, but will take off towards one (or a cat, or any animal he might see) to go investigate and play. Being 200 pounds, it’s not usually well-received by other dogs and owners.

To give my dog up is heartbreaking to me. I love him. I love his company when LM isn’t home. I love to sit with him at night while I watch football. I even love to hear his comforting snore beside me each night while I sleep. I love him, I truly do. But not like I love my child. I recognize that he is one of God’s creatures but I also recognize that he is a pet.

I have been researching rescue organizations that specialize in large breeds. I’d like to know that he could find a new home where he would have the ability to run and play without being so anxious in his own yard. It breaks my heart to even think of him gone, but I know that he would be adored by someone in that situation and would make such a wonderful pet for someone. He would be easy to love.

I know that the stress of trying to do best by my dog and best for myself has been weighing heavily on me lately. I am eager to move out of my condo mainly to accommodate the needs of the dog (not that I don’t want my own home, but I could be more patient about it if this need weren’t so pressing).

I know there are people who feel that a pet is like a child and cannot fathom giving a pet away under any circumstances. I can understand your position. Do not think I am heartless for mine. I have to do what is best for the whole family, Gabe included and I don’t think I’m giving that to him here. I don’t think I made a bad decision by choosing a mastiff to begin with, he’s been a delight, he’s been well trained and extremely wonderful in all the ways I knew he would be. It is impossible to know what dogs will have these sorts of issues and which won’t. If he were a jack russel, I could certainly just yank him back when he threatened to bolt but he wouldn’t be any more fun to take on a walk, either.

I guess what I’m asking is that if you could just say a prayer that a good home would be found for Gabe and to help me keep my focus on how he might bring happiness to another family, too, I would appreciate it. LM knows nothing about this process, but will if anything should appear to be final. If you strongly disagree with me, if you could just save me the personal blow this one time and NOT leave a comment, I would appreciate it. I am struggling with this enough as it is.

DirectTV vs. Cable: The Outcome

I mentioned last week that I was considering subscribing to DirectTV and the NFL Sunday Ticket. I did quite a bit of research, including talking with DirectTV subscribers (my neighbors) and to the guy at Circuit City (where their sign up deal wasn’t nearly as good as the one on the DirectTV website) and to my family. I called DirectTV twice before ordering and also spoke with my cable company to insure I had all the information to make an accurate comparison before making my decision.

After confirming with DirectTV that I could indeed receive my local channels and that I could receive my locals in HD, and after deliberating for quite awhile about whether to get an HD/DVR all in one unit, or to get two separate receivers and spend the money I would have spent on the HD/DVR lease for a second TV, I finally decided I had enough information and had verified all critical points.

So I subscribed.

The woman who took my order was wonderful. Cheerful and informative, she verified again that I would receive my locals in HD. She took down my information and said it wasn’t a problem that I didn’t have a phone line in my home (I only use my cell phone currently) she’d just make a note on my account. When I asked what the phone line was needed for she said it was used to order Pay Per View shows. I said that wasn’t a problem, as I didn’t use PPV. She not only gave me the current promotional price (saving me $15 a month over cable in the long run), she also told me how to receive $10 more a month off my bill for the next 15 months. I was thrilled.

But I was also concerned. My condo has northwest exposure. The satellite dish needs to face southwest to receive the signal. My neighbor pointed out that he still had a second unused dish attached to his balcony, (from a neighbor that had since moved out) and perhaps they could simply run the wires from there.

The installer came out 3 days after I placed my order and was confident that he could not only run the necessary cables from the already attached dish, but he could tuck them up under the edge of the siding so the condo association wouldn’t even notice (it’s not against the regulations, but with my association, they’d find a way to make it a fineable offense). I was thrilled. He asked me where the phone line was that would hook up to the television. I reiterated that I didn’t have an active phone line in the home, and even if I did, it was across the entire living space from where the TV was, so I didn’t want it hooked up. He said he would call that in and let them know and would make a note on my account. He went on to install my new HD/DVR.

Once the dish and cables were in place (threading them over the porch roof and into a window), once the HD/DVR was in place, the installer asked me what channel I had been watching prior to setup. I said, NBC/HD. He said, “you realize you won’t be able to get your locals in HD now.” I said, no, they had checked and I was able to. He said I should call Customer Service because he didn’t think I could.

He ran the setup for the HD/DVR and got me mostly squared away before departing.

I immediately called Customer Service to ask about the HD local channels. I was passed around from one attendant to another until I got to Mike. Mike told me that indeed, I do have local channels AVAILABLE in HD in my area, but because I have the HD/DVR receiver (as opposed to just an HD receiver) the dish that’s required to get the locals in HD isn’t able to communicate with this receiver so NO, I don’t have locals in HD. He assured me this was something that DirectTV was working on and they would have a new receiver available in the fall that would be capable. I said that doesn’t do me any good now. All my Sunday night football games are on NBC now and I wouldn’t have them in HD. “Lost” is on ABC and wouldn’t be in HD. Nascar is often on NBC and likewise, would not be in HD. This was a problem. He assured me that the DirectTV signal was better than cable anyway, even if it wasn’t in HD and that I might still enjoy the clarity even if it wasn’t HD. Uh huh. He asked what he could do for me. He said he couldn’t assure me that I could get a new receiver for free when it became available but he’d put a note on my account to do “everything possible to work with me” to get one. Uh huh. He also offered to compensate me by not charging me the $10 HD service fee for the first four months. I thanked him, but explained that the HD service was already FREE for the first four months with the package I had ordered. He said my account didn’t currently reflect that. I said, it’s your standard promotion that’s on your website, how can it not reflect that?!

So, I was frustrated but figured I could manage to not have locals in HD for a couple of months. (The real downside was that with DirectTV there aren’t “non-HD” channels per se, so the screen had to shrink with bars on each side to accommodate the channel if it wasn’t broadcast in HD. Comcast didn’t do this.) I called Comcast and canceled my cable now that everything seemed to be working and was the best it could be. It was, afterall, still cheaper than my cable even if I didn’t get the locals in HD.

Last night, one night after having the service installed, I went to the guide to see what movies I might want to record from the myriad of premium channels I was getting for the first four months (might as well fill up that DVR before I cancel all the movie channels!) When I tried to record a show, I received an error message saying that in order to finish set-up of my DVR, I needed to hook up a phone line and place a test call. It went on to explain that a phone line was necessary for DAILY updates and service for my DVR. Uh huh. I was not thrilled.

I called DirectTV.

The long and the short of it is that after being transferred to SEVEN different people, in a phone call that lasted more than an hour, and after getting contradictory information from multiple people, the conclusion is this: It is true that I cannot get my locals in HD with the receiver I currently have. Even though it is an HD receiver. Even though the rep and the two technicians that I spoke with thought otherwise. Nope. No deal. It is also true that the DVR REQUIRES a phone line for operation. Despite the fact that the rep and the installer both had this information and did not for one moment suggest it would be an issue.

I asked to cancel my account. I was transferred again. After much waiting, and learning that their system was “down” and he would have to “manually take this information” they explained that they would “send a box for me to ship the HD/DVR receiver back in”. I said, “When will they come to take the dish down and to get the cable off the roof?” Oh, they don’t do that. They just leave the dish up. I said, “No. You will come and take it down and make it just like it was before you were here.” Well, he just didn’t know if they could do that, it wasn’t standard practice…but a rep would call me tomorrow to tell me how to ship my DVR back and I could talk with them. Uh huh. I was not thrilled.

I asked when my account would be credited. He said he didn’t know because he was taking the information manually. After going back and forth for several minutes I told him I would call back tomorrow to verify that my account had been credited and to schedule a time for someone to come take the equipment back.

I called Comcast. The woman at Comcast immediately canceled the order to terminate my service and asked if someone had counter-offered when I had called in to cancel originally. I said no, they just set up the cancellation. She put me on hold and came back with an offer to reduce my cable bill for the next six months as a thank you for coming back to them. I thanked her profusely.

The outcome? After all is said and done, I went from paying Comcast $80 a month to an offer from DirectTV that would have ultimately cost me around $60 a month, to now paying $40 a month for the next six months.

This morning at 8:15 I received a call from DirectTV. It wasn’t the rep calling to arrange pick up of their equipment, it was a woman welcoming me to DirectTV. I said, “I canceled last night.” She said, “oh” and hung up. Uh huh. I was thrilled.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Legacy

In a small notebook we found in her dresser, my mom had recorded (amongst other things) the cost of delivery when my brother was born; the hierarchy of cards in a pinochle game (albeit in the wrong order); and, her three goals in life: to be a good wife, a good mother and a good Christian.

She never went to college and only worked for a short while as a dental assistant before becoming a full-time mother of three and the wife of a high school administrator. She never aspired to political office, never amassed large sums of wealth or fame. Her dreams were simple. And she was a success in all three.

Diagnosed with a brain tumor at 34, my mom seized every opportunity to share love, share her joy for life, and share the gift of a loving God. She never met a stranger she couldn’t befriend and share the message of Christ with. No one in my mother’s life was insignificant. She couldn’t change the world, couldn’t change the course of the disease, but she could choose how to live within it, and to live full of life and love no matter what the circumstance.

It is easy, when drowning in the waves of the menial and mundane to wonder our place in this world. Head on a pillow it is difficult not to dream of higher aspirations than to successfully potty train a toddler or to help a child navigate around the school bully. We curse the constraints that we think hold us back, finances, education, exposure. It has become the American Way to be wrapped up in work, achievement and recognition. Success is defined by property, wealth, a legacy of prosperity to hand to the next generation. We do not allow ourselves to believe that to simply love each other, to raise beautiful children inside and out, to spend time cultivating relationships and truly listening to each other is enough. We think there must be more to life than piles of laundry or a sink full of dishes. We think it is up to the famous, the wealthy, the leaders of the world to make great changes. We do not realize the power is within us. Touch one life, touch the hearts of many. To love each other is no small thing. We are all significant.

A stay at home mother of three from a small Midwestern town, my mother was embraced by God on August 10, 1993. She was 46 years young.

Her funeral was standing room only.

Monday, August 07, 2006

DirectTV vs, Comcast?

I'm looking into changing from Comcast Cable to DirectTV for a couple of reasons and I am looking for any feedback that anyone has on the subject. I'm very interested in the NFL Sunday Ticket, which DirectTV is currently offering at $70 for four months (with all local channels and several premium ones, too). It looks like that increases to $99 after the four month period (although I'm trying to find out from them if I can at that point only subscribe to a more basic programming option instead of the premium one since I have no interest in HBO, etc.) I currently pay $80 for my comcast cable (in order to have the HD channels and the DVR) so it's really not that much more for the DIRECT tv option unless I'm really missing something.

Any help anyone has would be greatly appreciated!!

Thanks!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Duh

Man at the Bark Park: "Ew! Your dog keeps getting drool on my shorts!"

Me: "Do you have treats in your pocket?"

Man: "Yes. Why? Does he want one?"

Me: (Too busy banging head on picnic table to answer.)

Friday, August 04, 2006

On Going Out Into the World

So I did. I drug my butt out of the house last night for the first time in awhile and went to play in a free poker tournament at a bar I used to frequent. It took all of my gumption and courage to actually go and once there I was reminded of why I so rarely hang out with real live people. They are weirdddd.

So that you understand, this poker “tournament” is hosted by a company that offers such things at various restaurants every single night of the week at lots of locations in my local area. It’s free to play and the prize is usually a gift cert to the restaurant you are playing at. This particular venue hosted bull riding, pool tables and dancing on top of a game of cards so that, while seated at our card table you were forced to try to see the cards with flashing strobe lights and the sounds of “Boot Scoot Boogie” blaring in your ears (I am a girl who happens to know how to Boot Scoot, so I’m not saying that in a derogatory way, just so you get an idea of the concentration level or lack thereof in the game.) The man to my left was adorned with tattoos and was intent on giving off an impression of poker superiority, an end to which he horribly failed at. Each time he found himself one-on-one with another player at the table, he talked about his hand and how he had read the opponent’s hand and on and on and on in such a way that it was easy to see he actually knew very little about the game (he never forecasted the opponent’s hand correctly) and always ended up with a terribly losing hand of his own. He also thought it was clever to show me his hand when I was out of play as if I wanted to see how badly he played the game. The woman to my right was distinctly the opposite. She was intent on managing our table according to WSOP (World Series of Poker) rules. When a player across the table from me threw in 20 chips, it may or may not actually be a bet of 20, he may have needed change out of the pot, so it was difficult with the way people threw in their chips to always know what the current bet was, and who was next to wager, or who was even in the hand. Queen of the Table would correct people who wagered incorrectly, would stop play if we went out of order, and even rose up to divide the chips in a pot that she wasn’t a part of!! Um, honey, we’re in a BAR where you can barely see or hear and we’re playing for a gift cert. I think he can string bet if he wants to. No one is really paying attention anyway.

So, with 24 people who started the tourney, I went out when there were about 10 left. I actually went all in on a hand that I figured I’d lose but I had had my fill of second-hand smoke and the Rules and Regs of Poker under such conditions.

I also got my eye full of men in wife beaters, scantily clad women who really thought they were sexy dancing to Shania Twain and a woman who thought she was so good at riding the bull she'd stand on it barefoot and ride. Um, yeah, about that head injury..

Will I go back? Probably. I like to play cards. I got to dance once or twice. And the place wasn’t packed like it is on a Saturday night, which I enjoy. I do wish the smoke didn’t have to be a part of the atmosphere, however as I have a raging nicotine headache today. But it is a good reminder of how strange some people are. I hope none at the table went home to blog about me.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Homesick

I could say a hundred things today but none of them seem to matter.

I miss LM. I miss him terribly. It has been a month and I have until the end of this one before I will lay eyes on him again. Today, it seems too much to ask of me to wait. I just want him home.

But for all the ways his experiences this summer has stretched his soul and touched his heart, I will leave him be.

Becoming a mom, and the process of childbirth was far easier and less painful than being a mom.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Too Many Questions

I’m still reading the classifieds and working all the angles I know to make a move back “home”. I am. But I don’t know if God’s decision last week was a “No” or a “Not now” and so in light of that, I’m not sure where that leaves me “in the meantime”. I hate my job. I do perhaps 10 minutes of work during an average 8 hour day (absolutely no exaggeration there). I was recently told that I can’t read a book at my desk (despite having NOTHING to do) and so my feelings of apathy and discontent continue to grow. But why would I change jobs here in PA if I really just want to change jobs and move to MI? But if I’m not moving to MI, shouldn’t I be trying to find a more fulfilling job here? And I still want a house, a single family house with a small yard. I do. But if you put in my mortgage requirements and my zip code (even the surrounding area, which would increase my commute significantly) there are ZERO properties available. Single family homes in my neck of the woods do not come close to being affordable to me. So, I stay where I am? But I’m having troubles with Gabe (still, yet, forever) on the leash and that makes me want to move even more.

Maybe God didn’t want me to have that job in Michigan and I’m okay with that, but I’m certainly not happy with where I am, either. Something’s gotta give as they say and I’m just not sure what. I could stay in the condo and deal with that lifestyle except for the dog issues. Do I give the dog away? My heart can’t fathom doing that! I can’t move here, I can’t afford to. Do I try to change jobs so I’m happier during the day even if that means having such a short stint on my resume?

Perhaps what I need is further explanation from the man upstairs. It would seem that he, like the dog trainer, isn’t getting my emails. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Somebody open up The Book of Answers and tell me what to do here!! (please?)