Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sayonara, 2011!

This time last year I was preparing for a New Year's Eve date with a man who would some two weeks later break up with me via text message.  I lived in a little apartment by myself in Grand Prairie, Texas, and I worked out approximately 4 times a week.  I fit into my skinny jeans, and I spent lots of time writing songs and going to Opening Bell Coffee in Dallas for open mic night.  I liked my life, but it was definitely missing something.  What a difference 365 days can make.  2011 has been a good one.  It has had its share of bad, but overall, I am happy with the things this year has brought my way.

2011 was the year that...

  • I bought sparkly gold shoes
  • It was cold and icy in Dallas for more than one day
  • I rediscovered my skill for making homemade buttermilk biscuits
  • I turned 34
  • I met Jake Turner and
  • I went on a date with him and
  • I married him
  • I got to travel to Nashville
  • I discovered that my body cannot handle roller coasters anymore
  • I spent five days in Mexico and gained three pounds
  • Urban Taco came out with potato, zucchini, and poblano tacos (this is a noteworthy event)
  • I bought Simon and Garfunkel Greatest Hits Collection on record for only $2 at an estate sale (which necessitated the next bullet point)
  • I bought a record player
  • I bought a new couch
  • I traveled to Chicago and spent time with my lovely friend Dotti (aka Christi, Dooters, Dotterpants)
  • I used my iPhone 4 for just about everything- photography, banking, recipes, social networking (of course), blog writing, dining out, scheduling, Alabama-football-score-keeping, traveling, keeping my two-year-old niece entertained (which might also make me her favorite)
  • I got a Keurig
  • I got the worst haircut of my life.  Thank you, Clarice
  • I wrote a blog and got Facebook unfriended (twice) by an adult family member that didn't agree with me
  • Netflix raised its prices and I didn't bat an eye
  • Netflix threatened to changed their DVD service to "Qwikster", which would have required me to keep up TWO Netflix-related accounts (to which I almost deleted the whole thing)
  • I decided to buy clothes that fit, no matter what size they are (no one sees the size tag but me)
  • my Mary came to visit (four whole times)
  • beautiful Amasa Joy Thexton was born (aka Dooters Julianne & DJ)
  • Caryn (Amasa's lovely mother) had a baby and looked like a supermodel the next day (giving me hope that I will not end up morbidly obese when I have a baby)
  • My best bud Elisa found out that she is having a sweet baby boy
  • I decided to learn to crochet a baby blanket (for Elisa's baby boy)...  I really should get on that
  • I watched all seasons of Mad Men on Netflix
  • I got a new job
  • I moved to The Colony, Texas
  • I finally got a two bedroom apartment
  • I became a part of Ranch Community Church
  • I had a conversation with my twelve-year-old nephew about his having a girlfriend
  • I got deleted from Facebook by the twelve-year-old nephew AND his girlfriend
  • I got a fancy camera for Christmas (but don't think for one second that I will give up my Hipstamatic)
It's funny how quickly life changes.  I am sitting at my dining room table, looking out at my new apartment, which has been newly decorated by my incredibly talented brother.  My husband is in the chair in the corner with his computer, trying to find out if there is a legitimate iPad 3 release date (he will not rest until he gets an iPad).  I am about to get up and get ready to go to my new church and get a few things ready for church services tomorrow.  Pretty much everything that my day will consist of are things that have come along in 2011.  Lots of changes and lots more to come.  About 12 more hours and I will welcome 2012 with open arms.  Sayonara, 2011!  It's been fun.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AT&T Stinks

Every time I move, there is always a certain level of frustration in the doing of the small things.  Beyond the obvious enormous task of packing and unpacking, there is the transferring of all services.  This last move proved to be particularly frustrating, especially in the internet service department.  And that department's name is "AT&T Stinks".  Internet is kind of important in this day and age, and much of my preparation for my job as a children's minister is done on the internet.  (Plus, there's blogs and Facebook and Pinterest)  So access to it is kind of essential.  But let me tell you, at this point, I wish AT&T had a backside so that I could kick it to the curb.  I wish I didn't need the services AT&T provides.  Here is my story.

The week of my big move, I ventured into the great abyss that is the AT&T website.  It seems simple at first.  My choices are laid out before me.  Wireless.  Digital TV.  Internet.  Yes, Internet.  That's what I want.  So I click.  And let me tell you, right off the bat, I was overwhelmed.  I needed a person to talk to.  I wanted to tell a person what I needed and I needed the person to tell me how he or she would make that happen.  And so I searched for an additional ten minutes or so to find an actual phone number to call.  Like a real, ten digit number (eleven, if you include the 1) where I could talk to an actual person.  So I called.  I answered approximately six questions to get to Representative #1.  I explained to Representative #1 about how I was moving and I needed to get internet set up at my new home.  She responded that the high speed internet service I had been using was not available at my new address, but that I could be set up with DSL.  No problem.  Whatever.  I assumed that Representative #1 was in the process of handling my situation when the line went very quiet.  Representative #1 was gone.  I don't know how it happened, but she was gone.  So I waited a few minutes (my phone number was right there in my account information) to see if she would call back.  She didn't.  So I called again.  Same six questions.  And I believe that call eventually led to me yelling the word "Representative" into the phone repeatedly because the computer on the other end didn't understand me.  Eventually, though, I got a real person on the line.  Representative #2.  But Representative #2 couldn't help me.  Neither could #3.  Finally, I was transferred to Representative #4.  She understood what I needed, assured me that she would set it all up, and she set to work on making internet magic happen in my new place.  The modem would be free.  All I had to do is commit to a year contract and I would be eligible for a discounted rate.  Fine.  Whatever.  After an entire hour (yes, an hour) of talk time with AT&T, it was settled.  The modem would be in by Friday, the day after move-in.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then came Friday.  We received our box.  I wasn't home, and Jake texted me "We received a box with two cables in it".  Seriously?  Two cables?  I assured him that I would call AT&T.  He said that he already tried.  They were closed.  Of course they were.

So Monday (Thanksgiving week).  I called AT&T.  By this time, I knew the customer service number by heart.  The first woman was a harsh Middle Eastern woman that I could not understand for approximately 40% of the conversation.  The conversation went something like this.

Me: We didn't receive a modem.
Her: You didn't order a modem.
Me: I was told you guys were sending me a modem.
Her: Not if you don't order one.
Me: I figured if you said you were sending one, I didn't need to request one.
Her: silence
Me: So, with these two ethernet cables you sent me, can I get internet?
Her: No.
Me: So how did you expect me to be able to connect to the internet without the modem?
Her: more silence
Me: So, can I order a modem?
Her: Not today.
Me: Why not?
Her: Because your order hasn't posted in our system.  You can order one tomorrow.
Me: Seriously? I have to wait until tomorrow?
Her: Yes.

And the conversation went downhill from there.  What it comes down to is this: I don't know how internet access works, really.  I assume that the company I purchase it from does.  I was wrong.  There were a few awkward silent moments, mostly due to the fact that I didn't understand Representative #5.  She blamed me, apparently I didn't say the magic modem-ordering words, and I was suffering the consequences.

I called AT&T back twice that day.  Not ordering til Tuesday meant not receiving the modem until Thursday, which was Thanksgiving, which meant not receiving the modem until Friday, a week later than promised.  Both Representative #6 and #7 confirmed the order issue.  Tuesday.  I would have to wait until Tuesday.

Long story short: We decided to drive to an AT&T store.  We checked their return policy, and we purchased the same modem that was supposed to be sent, with full intentions of returning it when our free one came in the mail.  It sounds a little shady, but it's legal and all that.  So we went home, connected our two cables, and we were up and running.

Rest of the long story: I called AT&T to get the modem ordered.  I waited a week or so, mostly because I procrastinate, but also because I wanted to be sure that they had plenty of time to make sure our original (incorrect) order had posted.  When I asked about ordering the free modem, they dropped the bomb.  It's not free.  It's $100 (same price that we paid at the AT&T store).

Conversation went something like this.
Me: It's not free?
Her: No, ma'am.
Me: Then why would they have told me that it was free?
Her: I am not sure.
Me: Do you have recordings of that original conversation?
Her: No, ma'am.
Me: Do you have notes from that conversation?
Her: No, ma'am.
Me: So, basically, she could have promised me internet access for $2 a month and a free trip to Hawaii and there would be nothing I could do about it.
Her: silence
Me: Can I speak to a manager?
Her: We have a 48 hour call-back policy.  A manager will return your call within the next 48 hours.
Me: Fine.  I can wait.

That was exactly one week ago.  I have received no phone call.  I guess when I said "I can wait", AT&T took me seriously.  And the terrible thing about all of this?  I don't have much of a choice.  AT&T is one of two service providers in my area, and the second one has great promotional pricing... the kind of pricing that they lure you in with and then it changes to the price of a mortgage as soon as you are comfortable with their service.  So it looks like I am stuck.  Stuck with my $100 modem and internet service that goes out at least 5 times a day.  Unreliable internet service is better than none.

So for today, in the spirit of the season, AT&T is going on my Bad List, second only to Wells Fargo (you can read about that here).  They get no presents from me.  No Christmas cards or fruitcakes.  No customer referrals.  AT&T stinks.  Please remember that.  And Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mama!



Today my Mama (or Mawmaw, for those of you in extreme southern states), my dad's mom, is celebrating her 90th birthday. And it seems that at 90 years old, there is so much that deserves celebrating. She survived the Depression. And childbirth. And a life married to an old grump. And then his death. And then life on her own. She could celebrate three children, nine grandchildren, and fifteen great grandchildren that love her. And having a sound, clear mind, even though the rest of her isn't always in prime condition. Having a reasonable amount of hair and mostly her own teeth. Lots to celebrate. And yet, there was no real party. Just a nursing home cafeteria lunch and some balloons and a note taped to her door announcing her big day.

My mom, dad, my brother Craig, my niece Reagan, and I loaded up this morning to head out to see her. It was a long drive from my home in The Colony to my parents' house in Grand Prairie, and an even longer drive to Conroe. And the truth is, I considered not going. The weather has been rainy and gross, and yesterday was busy and exhausting. I was tired.  But family is important, and grandmothers only turn 90 once, so I made the decision to go. And I am so thankful I did.

We brought my guitar because the O'Dell family doesn't go anywhere without being prepared to sing a little something. We found Mama sitting in her wheelchair in the hallway in a red housedress, her silver hair looking a little frizzy from the humidity outside (thanks for the frizzy, gray-haired genes, by the way). She cried when she saw us, either from relief that we came or to make us feel guilty that she has to live there. I would not be surprised by either.

We wheeled her into the front lobby of the nursing home and we sat amongst the tacky Christmas decorations and watched her struggle to unwrap birthday presents and cards. I reached over several times to help her tear off tape and ribbon and thought about how thirty plus years ago, she probably did the same for me. We talked family and life and we all repeated ourselves three or four times to be understood. She asked me if I still had a good husband, and I laughed. Yes. Yes I do. My aunt and uncle joined us, and I took out my guitar and we sang hymns and other old songs, some very badly and some only partially because we couldn't remember the words. That's what happens after 30. Your mind gets all full up. There's only so much room up there. But every now and then, on a familiar one, I would see Mama's mouth moving, and I occasionally heard her scratchy singing voice over the sound of the guitar.

And then came the inevitable. We had to go. The four hour drive back to Dallas was looming before us, and Mama probably needed a nap before dinner. So we wheeled her back to her room, and I made a silent note to myself to exercise more so that I can be one of those old people that walks three miles a day instead of one that requires a wheelchair. We sang a few final songs for Mama and her roommate Ruby. We took a few pictures, cried a little, and said goodbye. There is always that uneasy feeling of finality in those kinds of goodbyes. The knowing that this could be the last time we sit and talk. The last time for a goodbye hug.

And even though I am sad, today isn't about being sad. It's not about goodbyes. Today is about celebrating the life of a woman who invested in the lives of her grandkids. It's about playing dominoes at her kitchen table. About standing on her little kitchen stool to cut out homemade biscuits. It's about playing outside with Craig and Kari on the rolling cart reserved for wheeling the trash cans to the curb on trash day, but knowing that Mama wouldn't mind (even though Papa definitely would mind). It's about days spent with her as she worked at the dry cleaners with her magic moving clothes rack. It's about a lifetime of cooking and cleaning and telling stories and dancing for your grandchildren to make them laugh.

She has been saying that it's her time to go for twenty or so years. And yet here she is. It's not her time. Not yet. And so long as she is healthy and not in pain, I am happy that she is here. So happy birthday, Mama. We love you very much. I hope to see you again soon.


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