The Return Of Super Girl

As I navigate through a spring that has been complicated by weather that varies from a late-April  six-inch snow fall to high seventies in a single week, work that is moving at a crazy pace, a dizzying schedule of middle school sports, orthodontic appointments, and pre-high school activities, I am bushwhacked. Topping that was figuring out how to get my college-aged daughter home without having to drive there, rent a big trailer, and haul all her stuff home.

I am blessed to have raised at least one Super Girl. She navigated school as the youngest in her class with aplomb. I took a week off of work to take her to college, hundreds of miles away. We moved her into her dorm and then hit Target three times to fill up my SUV with fridge, microwave, bedding, snacks, and every single thing a Freshman could desire. Then, tears in our eyes, we parted.

She did fly home many, many times (Fall break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, her sister’s Confirmation,  and Easter). When she was home for any extended period of time, she working on painting the upstairs hallway and the front stairwell.

I saved vacation time to pick her up at the end of the year, but in the end she rented a storage unit, found a friend with a car to help her get her stuff to the unit, and checked-out of her dorm all on her own. She flew home with two checked bags and a carry-on. I planned to pick her up, but she had many delays due to a fire at a control tower at her connection city. In the end, a friend fetched her in the middle of the night and dropped her off at home. I snapped awake as she arrived at 1:30 a.m. and we shared a big hug of mutual relief and welcome.

Once home, my daughter e-mailed her summer job contact. While waiting for a response, she started painting.  It’s a big job. The hallway is done, although she wants to touch up the trim. She’s gotten much of the stairwell done, although there is the mystery of how to edge the top since it’s too high to reach without a scaffold. She started on the front room upstairs, and ran out of paint.image

While waiting for me to take her to the hardware store for more paint, she cleaned out the vegetable garden. At the store, we bought four more gallons of paint, four tomato plants, one cherry tomato plant, a red bell pepper plant, a cilantro plant, and a dozen sweet basil plants. While we waited for the paint, my daughter reviewed colors for her bedroom. Currently it is a bright green, with a jungle mural. The new selection is mostly greys with a pale green in the running. This will be her next painting project.

Summer just got a whole lot more productive. I’m energized to tackle my own projects knowing that, at least for a few months, Super Girl is not only good company, she’s also a major contributor to the care of our home and family. She even got her little sister to clean their bathroom…now that is bordering on miraculous!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the satisfaction of a job well done!




Finishing Off January

This month has been the coldest January on record and the snowiest month ever in my hometown. This is not news to me, nor my snow-shoveling-muscles. I’ve struggled to get on with my own true goals, spending my spare time shoveling snow, tromping through snow, caught in traffic when the roads are fine but the drivers are ultra-cautious. I’m not sad to see January in my rear view mirror…but there are a few tasks that need to go the way of January.

Although my number one goal these days is de-cluttering, especially of the paper variety, I am still concentrating on training for another half-marathon. Between that and the relentless snow shoveling, and “hitting the ground running” at work, I’m beat. I’ve failed to finish off the barest of January obligations. So in the last few days, I’ve tried to finish off some things that just must be done before the advent of February. Number one is to write my Christmas thank you notes. They are all now written and ready for the post.

The next thing on the list is to take down the Christmas decorations. I managed to get the tinsel and candy canes off of the tree (well, as high as I could reach without a ladder) in the last couple of weeks. At lunch today, I put away the Nativity scene. This means, that to finish off my January obligations, I’ve got to pack up the ornaments and disassemble the tree.

So, I tried my best to coerce my daughter to help me. She was a tough sell, but I did my best Tom Sawyer on her and got more help than I thought I would. She was especially helpful in finding and segregating the ornaments that belong to her and those that belong to her brother and sister. Meanwhile, I was trying to find my favorites, which all have their own original packaging.

Last year, my older daughter took the ornaments off the tree…and it turns out that my special ornaments all ended up in the wrong boxes. I’m not complaining, not at all. It was a tough Christmas for me and I am grateful that she helped me out so much. It’s time, however, to put the ornaments back in their correct boxes. So, nothing in my life is simple, not even un-decorating the tree.

The tree is now un-decorated and I have a realistic plan to take off the lights and disassemble it. I vow not to let the weekend pass with the tree up. Although, I really want to revamp the closet where I store the tree and ornaments. This is just another major project that I quickly put on my list and then don’t have the time to tackle. The closet now opens to the living room…a perfect coat closet. It used to face the dining room. During our renovations, it became evident that there used to be an opening between the front of the house and the dining room. I suppose there was a closet under the front stairs, but now the closet includes space between the front room and the dining room. It’s sometimes hard to decide when to go “historic” or “practical”.

I have so many February things to do, that letting December leak into January and then further into February is a non-starter. Wish me luck.

Find the Joy in the Journey…I can’t believe January is already over…time to revamp and enjoy the month of February!

The Myth of the Clean Teen Bedroom

I remember reading endless magazines as a kid…I guess that would be equivalent to spending a lot of time on social media sites like Pinterest these days. One pressing issue as a teen was how to have a clean room. Really? I’m guessing that teens did not have editorial control over the content in teen magazines back then! But, I do know that I had a neater bedroom as a teen than I do now. Judging by my own teens, a clean room is not a priority these days.

imageI recall the advice to make your bed first, because it takes up so much of your room that once it’s made, your room looks 50% clean with little effort. I kept this in mind as I tried to cajole my thirteen year old to clean up her room. I even bought her some new bedding, throwing out the greyed Hello Kitty comforter of her childhood and pre-teen years and putting aside the lovely pink sheet sets. Now she has a sophisticated look as seen in this photo. I try to ignore the mess in her room by focusing only on her bed!

Next I moved onto my son’s room. He moved out recently and left behind quite a mess. I’ve managed to dig through everything that was on the floor so that now all the mess is on the horizontal surfaces. I even found his Social Security Card, which I unwisely handed over to him when he was 18. And then there’s the bed. I did my best to wash and remake his bed. I even sterilized his pillows in my washing machine…they came out a bit misshapen. This is the result…weird pillows and a ripped comforter. I ended up throwing out the bedding and buying an inexpensive new set at Bed Bath & Beyond (yeah, 20% off coupons!). I bought new pillows and relegated the old ones to the decorative shams in the back.imageimage

So, now when I go into their rooms, I can look at the bed and try to ignore the messier parts of the rooms. That just leaves my older daughter’s room. She went off to college a month ago and I haven’t had a chance to neaten up her room. She told me today that she forgot her retainers…the upper in the bathroom and the lower, well, she thinks it fell out in her sleep one night. So, I’ve stripped her bed and thrown the bedding in the wash…but no retainer. She has newer bedding, so when I put her bed back together, it will look great.

Meanwhile, as I take a real gander at her room, I see quite a lot of work. I’ve spotted three water bottles previously concealed. She has two twin mattresses on her floor…Having gone to an all-girls high school with a 50 mile draw, she had great need to bond with her gal pals before they all spun off in different directions for college. I now know my next challenge. I will make each bed the centerpiece of each room…then I’ll actually have to clean…sigh.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even when you have to over-focus on bed linens!

Sleep? Hah! Not With 10 Smoke Detectors Beeping Randomly

It must be in the footnotes of Murphy’s Law somewhere that smoke alarms never start their low-battery warning beeps until the dead of night. Everyone stirs in their sleep, becoming very restless. Dreams start to incorporate sirens and ringing phones and other odd beeping noises. Finally, one by one, we all wake up and hear the angry, intermittent beep of the smoke alarm as it signals its low-battery status. Ear plugs are applied, heads dive below pillows, but to no avail. We are all tired and grumpy the whole next day. We go off our separate ways and forget about the beeps. They seem to stop when we return home for dinner and we often forget about changing the battery until we are once again awoken in the dead of night.

When we renovated our home several years ago, the wiring was brought up to code, including incorporating hard-wired smoke alarms. We have ten of them, or at least ten about which I know. Finding them all took some legwork, walking all over the house trying to find the beep. One was so elusive that I had to contact my architect and ask her to look on the mechanical drawings to see where the alarms were supposed to be located. That alarm was tucked into the attic rafters.

The smoke alarms use 9v batteries. Nothing else I own requires a 9v battery, so I don’t tend to keep them around. In the past, I’ve tried to just remove the old battery until I had time to go buy a new one and replace it. This does not work. A low battery or no battery produces the same result…an annoying, intermittent beep; a loud, irritating, ear-splitting beep. I guess I can forgive the time my husband ripped one of the alarms right out of the ceiling…that worked. If you want a laugh, here is a clip from Friends called Pheobe’s Fire Alarm that my sister shared with me. I love the part when Phoebe takes out the battery and it beeps anyway.

One time, I had just a single battery on hand. One alarm was beeping, but I couldn’t figure out which one. Some of them are quite close together; they are placed inside each bedroom and in the hallway outside the bedroom. The beep is so piercing that it was hard to tell which of the many alarms was causing the problem. I finally narrowed it down to my older daughter’s room or the alarm right outside her room. I got the ladder out and replaced the battery in her room, but the beeping continued. I put the old battery back and replaced the other…still beeping. My spare battery was dead.

The offending device

In an attempt to be more proactive, the last time I was at Costco I bought an enormous pack of 9v batteries. I had recently replaced one alarm battery and thought maybe I’d just replace them all. I haven’t gotten around to it, of course, and last night, another alarm started beeping.

Maybe I can become one of those über-organized people who change all the alarm batteries when they set their clocks back in the fall. I’ll just get a head start this year and put it on my calendar for 2013. So, no more will the alarms beep their low-battery warnings in the middle of the night. If only I could figure out why, about once a year or two, the alarm sounds on its own even though there is no smoke. It stops after just a short while, but every alarm in the house goes off. This is not a sleep-through-it event. We are all sitting up ready to flee the house!

So, back to that serenity prayer…I can control the dead-battery warning…and so I will.

Find the Joy in the Journey…there is much joy in sleeping through the night!

Cell Phone Culture Shock

It’s hard to recall a day when a cell phone wasn’t part of it, and yet I got along without one for most of my life. I can’t remember if I ever used the phone when I was really little, but memorizing the number was one of my earliest tasks. I still remember that number, even though we moved when I was 5 and got a new number. Of all the numbers I’ve had in-between, from home and work, I only remember that old one and my current numbers. As a matter of fact, I barely know anyone else’s phone numbers because they are all in my cell phone’s phone book, readily at my fingertips.

I got my first cell phone 16 years ago when my husband and I took a 10-year anniversary trip to the Virgin Islands. In the end, it didn’t even work there, so it was not the safety net I thought it would be for keeping in touch with my sister while she cared for my toddler son and 5-month old daughter for a week. It wasn’t until 11 years later that I finally fixed the voice mail when we were on vacation with our children and our youngest had a seizure. Suddenly the fact that I never got incoming calls was an issue. It turned out that all incoming calls (for 11 years?) were going directly to voice mail and I didn’t have access to it.

Clearly, my cell phone was under-utilized in those early years. I didn’t know too many people who even had one. My husband didn’t even have one . Today, our family has six cell phones. I’m working on eliminating a line, because my husband has a work phone and a personal phone which he never uses. We also have a landline…I’m wondering why I haven’t canceled that already.

These days, I feel bereft without my phone. I mope and feel disconnected all day when I leave it at home as I did one day this week. Usually, I just go home and get it because it is too much stress otherwise. Of course, I have a phone at work, but none of my family or friends knows the number…they don’t need to as they can always get me on my cell.

More than phone calls, though, it is the texts that keep me comfortable with my kids’ comings and goings as I’m at work. They can ping me with a quick question without disrupting my work. “Did you feed the dog?” “Can I go over to my friend’s house?” “Did you wash my jeans?” “Is Dad coming home tonight?” “Can you call my school and tell them I’m going to be late?” Well, some texts prompt a call-back…but at least I know to call.

Then, there are all the other features available on a smart phone of which I am now addicted. If I’m stuck in line or in a waiting room, or even in a boring meeting, I can do some quick checks. Do I have any Facebook notifications? How about e-mail? Maybe a work e-mail or schedule change? Is it my turn to play Scramble with Friends? Hmmm…wonder what my latest stats are on WordPress.

So, the day I forgot my phone, I sat in a one-hour meeting for an hour and a half waiting for my turn to talk. I kept eyeing my old HP12C calculator wishing it were my phone, or at least that there was something mildly distracting I could do with it. I picked it up and calculated some numbers that I discovered I would need when my turn came. Not quite the same thing, but useful and relevant anyway.

I managed to make it through the entire workday with no cell phone, and nothing bad greeted me when I got home and took a look. Even so, it does provide me with a sense of control when I’m away from home, a way to stay connected with my kids and my traveling spouse. Without it, I am a bit distracted. My how times have changed!

Find the Joy in the Journey and embrace the technology that makes life better for you!

The Best-Laid Schemes

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Robert Burns in the poem, To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough

I like to think I lay better plans than mice or men, but perhaps that over-confidence leads me to be overwhelmed when plans go awry. This is not to say that I plan everything out in my life, but I do try to keep my schedule and the kids schedules aligned. I’ve about given up on my husband other than to give him some “blackout” dates where he has to be home…or rather with me wherever I am! Going on four years of the commuter-marriage lifestyle, I’ve come to expect the unexpected with my husband’s schedule and therefore plan family life out so it can work without my husband. This is mostly a logistical issue and having another driver at home for much of the last 3 years has helped tremendously.

So, when my younger daughter’s Girl Scouts awards ceremony fell at the same time as my older daughter’s dentist appointment, I told the dental office that I was sending her without me. This caused quite the tizzy, but I told them that they had changed her appointment (causing a three month delay) and I wasn’t about to reschedule. We compromised with me sending a note and my 18 year old “adult” son along with her.

Later that evening, I came home with my younger daughter just as the older two were off to see The Avengers. I let the younger one go along too and did a little bit of writing. Not much later, my cell phone rang and it was my younger daughter calling to tell me that she and her sister were shopping and could she spend the money I’d given her for the movie at the mall. It seems that the theater has a 6 p.m. curfew after which only those 18 and older or accompanied by someone 21 or older could enter the theater. As a mother, I was ok with my 16 and 12 year old daughters seeing a movie with their brother. I thought it was ludicrous that it was “ok” with the mall for them to be unaccompanied while shopping but somehow an invitation to shenanigans to allow them to see a movie.

I rolled with these punches and my daughters came home from the mall when it closed. My younger daughter went to bed and my older daughter planned to pick her brother up after the movie and get up and take her sister to school in the morning so that I could take her brother to the oral surgeon to have his wisdom teeth removed. After she left for the mall I let the dog out and was ready for bed. Fifteen minutes later I heard them return and call for the dog to come inside, but no dog. I grabbed a flashlight and ran out into the yard…the dog had dug a hole under the fence at the back of the yard and had run away!

I threw on a sweatshirt and some shoes and ran around the block calling for the dog and my daughter got in the car and drove around the block. I was on the street behind our house and checking out the parking lot across the street headed for the cashier to ask if she’d seen our dog when a man came from the sidewalk up into the parking lot and I approached him. Had he seen a black and white dog? Yes, he had, and he pointed across the street to two houses and off I went just as my daughter pulled up and parked in a driveway. I called the dog and out she shot, right past me to my daughter.

In the morning, I was up and out early with my son headed for the oral surgeon. About an hour later my older daughter called me…she’d left her set of keys in my car and since I had the extra set she had no way to drive her sister to school. I called the school and told my sorry tale. Fortunately, the last week of sixth grade is not particularly critical. When my son was out of surgery, the doctor told me he couldn’t be alone for the first 24 hours…funny they never mentioned that at the consultation we had just days before.

At that point, I realized that my plan for my son to help out with logistics the next morning was not going to work since he’d be on Tylenol 3 and probably just not up to driving anyway. My older daughter, who needed a ride, quickly devised a back-up plan and three days of logistical mishaps came to an end. I thought about those three days and realized that I did not get overwhelmed…I just rolled with the changes including an unexpected schedule conflict with the dentist, the sudden oral surgery appointment due to a cancelation, and the late realization that my son couldn’t help with driving the day after surgery.

Find the Joy in the Journey even if it’s just realizing that you can handle more than you thought you could along the way.

The Summer Schedule–Peak of a Working Mom’s Juggling Act

One of the things I’ve had to do as a working mother is plan out my children’s summer schedules. Generally, to get the most flexibility of choices, I’ve had to start researching options early in the year and get the details nailed down by mid-February. With three children, it’s quite a juggling act. I know I spent my own childhood summers quite differently. When I was young, my mother was home with us and she drove me to swimming lessons and other programs at the local rec center. But when I was a teen, she was working and I had my summers to myself. I continued in swimming to the extent that I could, but I was too far ahead and ran out of classes before I was old enough to take senior lifesaving. Instead, I started working summers when I was fourteen.

With my own children, I’ve tried to keep them occupied and also tried to offer them something each summer to help them along their way to discovering their own passion. You could also say I had them in educational programming, but that sounds too dull! They have variously studied art (older daughter), science (younger daughter), and a variety of college courses such as Economics, Statistics, and Psychology (my son).

But, in the in-between times, there has been a need for day camp or visits to relatives, or me taking vacation from work to be home with them. I usually have a Gantt Chart outlining the whereabouts of each child for the 14 weeks or so of summer. We cover swimming lessons, overnight camp, day camp, vacation, family visits, and other ventures.

This year I tried to keep up the same effort, but flailed more than usual. Then again, my son is in college and it’s now his job to find himself employment or a volunteer position. I’ve offered to help him figure this out, but, alas, he is far too independent to allow me to help and far too inexperienced to manage it on his own. The highlight so far has been oral surgery to remove four impacted wisdom teeth…and I am contemplating if he could handle having three supernumerary teeth removed later in the summer. (These extra, un-erupted teeth, may explain why even though he had braces, another logistical nightmare, his teeth are more crooked than ever.)

As for my older daughter, she agreed to a camping trip with a girlfriend’s family the week after finals and she’s staying with my sister for three weeks (corresponding with my husband and I being gone on vacation), to take a course in animation. The rest of the summer is hers, and she would like to work, but it’s tough to find a job for such a short timeframe.

That leaves my youngest. At her age, I was planning every day of my older children’s summers. At 12 years old, each of my children has qualified for a People-to-People trip abroad and this year is the time for my youngest. This also coincides with my husband and my anniversary trip. Other than that, my sister offered to have her for two weeks if I enroll her in a sports camp. So, she has five weeks of activities this summer, far short of the norm. She also has some summer work for school and an older brother and sister to look out for her when she’s home.

It seems that the years of carefully planned-out summer schedules, is coming to a close. This is a part of the approach to the empty nest that caught me a bit by surprise, although it shouldn’t have.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and remember that letting go may be a chaotic transition, but ultimately there is joy in the outcome.

I’m Moving to the Clouds and I’m Not Coming Back!

I am a list maker. I have an enormous To Do List in the form of a composition book. I like to look through it every once and a while and feel a sense of accomplishment for all the items I’ve crossed off. I’ve even been known to add an item to the list JUS T SO I can cross it off! The things on this list are important things, but they are not urgent things. To me, urgent things are either completely unexpected (rare) or things that happened because I never did the important things that would have prevented the urgent situation (fairly common). This list is an attempt to assure I do the important things. I also use my calendar extensively. I would take it to the clouds too, but because it’s housed at my company’s server, it’s over on its own cloud which I can only access through my work computer or my cell phone.

But back to my lists…I have many including lists for:

  • Groceries
  • Things to buy
  • Frequent traveler numbers
  • Employee ID numbers of childcare services I’ve used
  • Vacation days
  • Books to read
  • Music I like
  • Gift ideas
  • Gifts received and thank you notes written
  • Summer program ideas for my kids
  • Assignments for work
  • Assignments for my non-profit work
  • Blog ideas
  • Ideas for my 50 by 50
  • People to send Christmas cards to
  • People to send Hanukah cards to
  • Favorite restaurants

Well, you get the picture…I like my lists. Unfortunately, my lists have taken on a life of their own as I keep separate notebooks for some of these and a bunch are just Outlook notes on my work computer. I find myself lugging along all kinds of notebooks and I find myself printing out interesting things from the internet and keeping all of these things in a tote bag that I haul around with me in case I need to add to a list or need to access some information.

My shoulder aches just thinking about, so I’ve decided to take my lists to the clouds. I signed up for a note taking application and slowly but surely I’m transferring my precious data to the cloud. I’ve only scratched the surface of the functionality available such as tagging information to make it searchable and web-clipping things I want to read later. I’m still learning about the functionality to attach pictures, videos, audio clips, and scanned documents.

It’s time to clean out my tote bag and leave it behind! I am now able to access my information from home, the office, my cell phone, and from my new tablet (as long as there is Wi-Fi available).  Next up is exploring all the ways other people use the note taking application. Some use it for project management, others for workflow…I have a lot of exploring to do with the hopes of becoming more productive with less paper-clutter in my life and an easy way to access any information I’ve stored in the clouds.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even if it takes you to an ethereal world!

Cable TV Triumph…Now Onto My Other Utility Problems

The cable guy came right on time and fixed all of my cable problems. He even checked the lines at the pole and the house, installed a signal amplifier, and swapped my defunct HD box out for a much better model. Wow! I am a happy TV viewer and next Monday when my husband wants to watch Monday Night Football, my daughter wants to watch The Lying Game, and I want to watch Terra Nova, we can all be happy, if separate.

As I’ve been working on my household organization and painting projects, I’ve been doing so on a shoestring. I did buy the console for the mudroom, but I used left-over paint for my painting projects, and repurposed bins for organizing things. Back in June I wrote in Celebrate or Sacrifice? Celebrate of Course!, about three unexpected expenses, new transmission, new ceiling, and hospital bills. What I didn’t write about were several other unexpected expenses that happened around the same time including my husband’s backpack being stolen with a new pair of shoes and running clothes in it and our family computer finally biting the dust. To make it worse this all started happening literally 24 hours after I’d made my first furniture purchase in well over a decade.

I have been trying to do my 50 by 50 projects without spending any money and I get a sense of accomplishment that I wouldn’t get if I paid someone else to do them. Some things, however, I need to hire out and with the success of the cable repairs, I’m itching to get started. I need to hire a plumber to fix a list of things, including a leaky kitchen sink. I need to hire an electrician to put in some outlets that I didn’t think of when I chose where to put all the outlets during our renovation. A gutter cleaner and chimney sweep would be great too! I almost added window cleaning to the list, but, really, I can clean windows.

When we first bought our house, we had no air conditioning so I started installing ceiling fans in all of the bedrooms. It’s not particularly difficult, although it can get tricky to hold up the heavy fan while climbing a ladder. I installed a few of them, then when I wanted to install a larger one in a bigger room, it was too cumbersome for me to manage, so my husband offered to do it. This caused a problem as he did not want to bother with turning off the circuits first! Then when he had the wires exposed, there were a tangle of them and it wasn’t clear which ones to use. He hooked the fan up to a few wires and the fan started going around! We tried turning off the switch, but that didn’t work! Finally, he conceded to turn off the circuit, which meant turning it back on again to see if the wiring was right. Eventually, we got it working and soon forgot about all those odd wires in the ceiling.

When we renovated, the builder discovered that although the exposed knob-and-tube wiring in our attic was disconnected, there was live knob-and-tube wiring in the ceiling! That explained the “extra” live wires when we installed the fan and why they didn’t work the way we expected. Thank goodness we never had an electrical fire! Nowadays, I leave the electrical work to electricians.

The builder also fixed the top of our chimney, but even so, we never use it. I’m always waiting until I can get it inspected and cleaned first…well, now’s the time. The plumbing is also something I could probably do myself, but at this point I’d rather have a plumber come in and fix things quickly and do it right rather than me learning-as-I-go. As for the gutters…they are 33 feet off the ground…nope, not going to do it and not going to ask my husband, who is too impatient to turn the circuits on and off multiple times while doing electrical work, to climb up and down a very tall ladder dozens of times…I can just see the ladder-skootching and lots of potential for disaster!

Find the Joy in the Journey and know your own limitations so that you can live to enjoy the rest of the journey!

My Cable TV Trials

Jokes about the cable company abound, and there are even movies made to continue the fun. In real life, however, it’s no fun to have to wait for the cable guy and take off work to do so. I have to say, though, that the field guys for my much-maligned cable company are actually incredibly nice and helpful…once you can get them to your house! Customer service is another problem all together, as I’ve been lied to by them more times than I care to remember.

A couple of years ago, through many dire Federal warnings, I became aware that I had to have “digital converter boxes” for each of my TV’s to continue to receive a signal.  The warnings declared that if I had cable, I would be unaffected, but I was. I don’t know if this is because the cable companies jumped on the digital converter box bandwagon in order to charge customers rent for the boxes, but I know that ultimately I had to have the boxes or I wouldn’t get my cable service. This turned out to be a real hassle, but I chose the, “mail them to me” option rather than pay to have someone install them for me. All went well at first as I set up one TV after the next. A couple of months later, however, one of the boxes failed.

I absolutely hate going to a utility office and dealing with such things, but I finally did pack up the box and head over to the local cable office. I found a very long and slow-moving line. It soon became obvious that many people had bad digital converter boxes…and some people actually chose to stand in the awful line just to pay their bill! I guess they are unfamiliar with ACH or even the US Postal system…When I finally got to the front of the line, they barely asked me any questions and chucked my box onto a large pile of other defunct boxes.

Now, what business can afford to buy such cheap devices that a huge percentage of them are defective and they have to deal with replacing them? The obvious answer is government-protected, monopoly, cable utilities. With my new box, I was able to get my TV’s to work and I was happy for a while. When the boxes started to fail again, I gave up. My life is too busy for trips to the cable company just to stand in line and I don’t have the time to set up in-home appointments…besides, why should I pay for their poor quality?

The holidays came and went.  Winter re-run season came and went. Softball season came and went. Summer has come and gone…and now I want my TV’s back! I had given away our last cathode-ray tube TV and bought an LCD TV to replace it, but it was still in the box. And just a week ago, I bought my younger daughter the recently released The Lion King DVD…which only came bundled with a Blu-Ray version…so I broke down and bought an inexpensive Blu-Ray…and the not so cheap cable to go with it. And so, I actually wanted to move the TV’s and DVD players around to optimize our viewing experiences. The converter box in my bedroom wasn’t working and the TV was too small for watching foreign films (I couldn’t read the sub-titles). Since when my husband is away and the kids are in bed or studying, I like to watch foreign films, this was a problem.

So, I decided that I would first try to fix everything myself rather than call the cable company. I was surprised to find that the TV in my room worked…somehow the converter box had “healed” itself. Then I was worried about replacing the TV with a different one only to have it fail, but that all went very smoothly and now I have an enormous TV in my bedroom, surely large enough that I can read the subtitles from my bed, and it works!

I was not so lucky in the guest room (formerly occupied for 16 years by foreign exchange visitors), where I got the digital converter box to sync with the TV, but now have no cable signal. Also, I had no luck in the family room, where most of our TV watching happens. The main cable box is there and we’d been having problems for about a week where the video froze, but the audio came through. Actually, this prompted the whole project since it put a crimp in everyone’s TV viewing right in the middle of baseball playoffs, football triumphs,  and the start of hockey season…not to mention a couple of competing serials.  So, this is where I put the all new TV and the all new Blu-Ray. The Blu-Ray is amazing! As a very immoderate collector of DVD’s, I was blown away by the difference Blu-Ray makes (and woe to my DVD collection). But nevertheless, the cable is still not working.

Finally, with all the TV’s in their new positions, I called the cable company and requested that they send a re-set signal…all via phone tree, of course. So, then I sat awaiting the results. Nothing. I called back and they tried to fix the two TV problems separately to no avail. I’m reduced to the 3-hour service window a couple of days hence. Wish me luck!

Find the Joy in the Journey and try not to let the cable company get you down!