Saturday, January 30, 2010

O for Out with the old...

and in with the new. I bought a new car yesterday! Well, actually, I am leasing, which is a much better decision for me because I under drive my cars and the monthly payments on leases are smaller. I’m lucky that all of this bad car juju happened at a time that I am financially stable, have good credit, and could afford a decent down payment. Wait—no. I’m not lucky; I’m smart. I’ve worked hard to crawl from debt to financial stability, and I’m proud that I’ve done it all on my own. I’m proud that my husband and I are in the position that we’re in. There’s no luck about it, and sometimes it annoys the hell outta me when people do attribute it to luck; that totally discounts all the work I did to control my financial life and my future.

Music Man and I took a trip to the local Volkswagen dealer yesterday. I test-drove the Beetle, the Jetta, and then the Beetle again. Then it was decision time. I struggled a bit with this, as I do with almost any decision I have to make. This was a big decision, and I was making it much sooner than I thought I’d have to. Thankfully I’d done my research and would’ve been happy with either car; it just came down to how they drove.

The Jetta had a little bit more get up and go than the Beetle, and it had quite a few more features—including super fancy touch screen radio and blue tooth to use with your cell phone. The Jetta also had quite a bit more room than the Beetle. Well, in the backseat anyway, the Beetle seemed to have more space up front. Since the payments were going to be about the same between the two, and I liked the way both drove, it really was a tough decision.

Should I be practical? If so, the Jetta was the answer because it was bigger, and with all the features, it was more car for the money. OR Do I finally, for once in my life, do the fun thing and get my dream car? If so, the Beetle was the winner; I’ve wanted one ever since VW started making them again, and this one was red. I’ve always wanted a red car, and that’s just never worked out for me.

After much discussion with Music Man, I decided to get the Beetle. It was my turn to be selfish. Since we’re the ones most often in the car, having more room in the front seat area was more important than backseat room. The only people who’ve ridden in the backseat of my car in the past couple years are my nephews, and at 9 and 4 years old, they will have no problem fitting in the backseat of the Beetle for at least the next three years. The Jetta was a little intimidating to me—it was just too much car.

As we started working through the financing, I found out that, though the prices of the cars were pretty much the same, the leasing worked differently. The Beetle payments were affected more by my larger down payment than the Jetta was, so my payments were actually smaller with the Beetle then they would’ve been with the Jetta.

As we waited for the financial paperwork to be gathered, I told Music Man that I couldn’t believe that my dream car was finally becoming a reality. I told him that I was surprised that this all was happening so quickly, because I was used to having to wait a couple days for a car after completing the paperwork. Just as I said, “I guess this was just meant to be!” the salesman came out to tell us that it was not. There was a problem…

The Beetle wasn’t available, because it had already been sold. It should’ve had a sold tag in it, but someone royally messed up. Once again, it seemed as though I just wasn’t meant to have a red car. The salesman said that he had checked inventory at local dealers and there seemed to be a couple comparable cars available. He asked if we could sit tight while he checked on those. We told him we could. He came back a while later to tell us that they’d found the exact car at another dealer, but it wasn’t available. He then said that they found a similar car—the only difference being that it didn’t have a spoiler—at a dealer a few hours up north. I told him the spoiler wasn’t as much of a deal breaker for me as the color was (I actually like the car a little better without it.), and he said he’d work on getting that one.

Music Man and I left to do a little shopping while the salesman worked on getting me my dream car. When we returned to the dealer an hour later, there was still no news. I was tense and started thinking about what other colors I could be happy with.  In the mean time, we met with the finance guy to run numbers to see what my payments would work out to be. I was happy with how the numbers worked out, and hopeful that the up north dealership would come through with the car.

After about another hour, we finally got the news that the car was mine. The only thing the salesman wasn’t sure about was which day the car would get down here from up north. Saturday (today) was a possibility, but it most likely won’t be here until Monday. (Well, probably Sunday, but the dealership isn’t open then, so I won’t get it until Monday.) I told him I could live with that, and we completed all the paperwork.

Despite that little hiccup, things ended up working out, and I am really really pleased with my Volkswagen experience. Every single person we interacted with at the dealership was super nice and very easy to work with. Since the salesman we had spoken to over the phone when I did the financing pre-approval wasn’t available right when we got to the dealership, another salesman stepped up to get us started on the test drives. Both he and our original salesman were profusely apologetic over the miscommunication about the original car, and both checked in on us regularly with updates and to make sure there wasn’t anything we needed. It seriously was an incredible car buying experience, despite the problems we had.

Paperwork done and check written, we headed home. All that was left to do now was to get rid of the Saturn. Our salesman at the VW dealership had a few wholesaler buddies he thought might be willing to take it off our hands and asked if it was okay if he passed our number on to them. Talk about going above and beyond to help! Music Man had also posted it on Craigslist with a price of “best offer.” I was pretty much willing to take anything I could get for it at this point, since it was worth negative money to me. If we didn’t get rid of it by the end of the weekend, I was just going to donate it.

Music Man got plenty of emails as a result of the Craigslist ad, but none of them were firm offers. Then, at about eight o’clock, he got an email stating that the person would pay $750 cash and would have it picked up by Saturday afternoon. We agreed that this was probably the best deal we were going to get. Music Man called the guy to work out the details. I had realized yesterday that I was probably going to have to get the new tabs in order to sell the car, so Music Man told the interested party that we’d get the tabs Saturday morning. The guy told him not to worry about it, because he was taking it across the border to a different state, so it didn’t even matter. That saved me over a hundred dollars, so I was pleased!

This is the part of the story when I get to tell you how amazing my husband is. He got up early this morning to go to the dealership to clear up our responsibility to them, to clean out my old car, and to meet the buyer. We agreed before he left that we wouldn’t pay the typical $250 diagnostic fee the dealership usually charges. In my opinion, I was saving them quite a bit of money by not taking their offers for a down payment towards a new car or payment on half of the “new” transmission. The least they could do was cut the diagnostic fee in half, or better yet, waive it completely. Music Man was able to talk them down to $60, which was fine with me. About an hour later, my husband was home with $750 in hand and the sales card portion of the title completed, indicating that the car was no longer my responsibility. Freedom at last!

Turns out the guy who bought the car is going to try to put a new transmission in it; then, he's going to give it to his seventeen year old daughter. That gave me all sorts of warm fuzzies. The car is a great car for a teenage girl—both safe and fun. It reminded me of the first car my stepdad ever bought me and how happy I was not only that he got me a car, but also that he got me a fun car. No teenage girl wants to drive around in an “old person” car if they can help it. I really hope the guy is able to fix it up for his daughter—it runs really good and has nice new tires—with a new transmission, it will be a great car.

I’m excited about my new car!  I can’t wait to drive it! Monday can’t come soon enough for me, even though it will mean one more ride to work from my mother-in-law. I just know the car is going to be worth the wait—I’m so so so excited!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

U for Update (on the car situation)

The original story can be found here:  B for Breakdown, BFF, and Bail Money

The Saturn service guy called me yesterday afternoon; the later in the day it got, the more sure I was that the news I would receive would not be good. You’d think I’d have prepared myself for that, but I didn’t. I was really hopeful that they were going to tell me that my serpentine belt needed to be replaced, and a few hundred dollars later my car would be on the road again running like a champ.

Not so.

My transmission is shot. I believe the words the service guy used were, “Your transmission failed.” It was all I could do not to yell, “NO! YOUR transmission failed! Your stupid, crappy product failed. Instead of doing the right and honorable thing and recalling the cars with this particular transmission, your company had to be dragged into court for a class action lawsuit.” In the back of my mind, from the moment the car quit working, I just knew it was the transmission though. I knew it.

My car is only six years old and only has 57,000 miles on it. This should not have happened. The service guy knew that just as well as I did. The hits just kept on coming as he proceeded to tell me that my front links (whatever those are) also needed to be replaced.

Service guy went on to say that Saturn has money set aside to cover 50% of the transmission replacement. I was confused, because from what I’d read about the class action lawsuit, I should have been covered 100% for the repair. Well, it turns out that I’m lucky I’m even getting the 50%. You see, GM declared bankruptcy this past summer. GM owns Saturn, and as a result of the bankruptcy, all deals are off. Super! Really. This could not have happened at a better time! (Red is the new sarcasm font.)

My out of pocket charge for the 50%? $2,500 (Plus another $250 for those front links, but really, what’s another $250 at this point?!). You read that right; two thousand five hundred dollars. Oh, and I would later find out that that price is for a half refurbished transmission, not brand new, with a one year warranty. I nearly cried. I called Music Man to tell him the news, and we both agreed that we should call my stepdad (my favorite car expert) for advice. Because $2,500 is a decent down payment on a new (or newer used) car, it just might be best to cut our losses at this point. Music Man offered to make the call since I was busy at work, and it was easier for him to do since he was working from home.

In the mean time, I did a little research. Turns out that owners who’ve dealt with this issue and have had their transmissions replaced have not fared well. It would seem that the “new” transmission is even worse than the initial one. In the many, many consumer report complaints I read, no one’s “new” transmission made it much past the one year warranty. In fact, many owners have gone on to have their transmission replaced 2, 3, or 4 times. That is ridiculous!

Music Man called to tell me that my stepdad said that my car, as young as it is and with as low mileage as it has, should have many good years left in it. As such, if the transmission they were offering was new and had a decent warranty, we should replace it. He said he thought it had to be a refurbished transmission though, because he had called around to a bunch of places and he could not find it priced as low as the dealership was offering. Music Man called the dealership and was told that the transmission was in fact half refurbished and the warranty was only for one year. Un-freakin’-believable!!!

Music Man asked the dealership what they’d give us as trade in value for the car. Initially they said $1,000, because the car runs well but can’t go anywhere without a transmission. Music Man was somehow able to get them to go up to $3,500. That’s not so bad, and it’s definitely better than nothing. However, there was a catch. (There always is; isn’t there?!) That money could only be used towards a car available on their lot. We did a little checking on their website, and guess what’s available? Just guess…

The majority of the cars currently on the lot are Saturn Ions (Didn't see that coming, did ya?!) containing the very same worthless transmission as my current car. There is no way I’m getting into another Ion at this point. In fact, at this point, there’s no way I’m getting into another Saturn car. PERIOD! It’s a shame really. I used to love Saturn. They’ve treated me so well in the past, and I love that the cars are American made. This whole experience has left a sour taste in my mouth though.

The sales manager at the dealership told Music Man they are actually converting to a Volkswagen dealership. This was great news! When I’ve thought about getting a new car in the past, I’ve often thought about Volkswagen. Then, the not so great news: they will not have their new stock of Volkswagens for another six weeks.

I cannot go without a car for six weeks. As it stands, I had to hitch a ride to work with my mother-in-law this morning. I’m just “lucky” enough that she works a few blocks away from me. While I am grateful and appreciative of her willingness to transport me to and from work, I cannot handle that for more than a few days; let alone six weeks. It’s just. NOT. Happening.

I’m going to try to take the day off of work tomorrow to research new cars. Then, Music Man and I are going out Friday to look at some cars and to do some test drives. I hate that I’m being forced into buying a new car, because I typically like to really mull these things over and research the hell out of them. However, there’s just not time for that.

I have some ideas of what I want, what I’m willing to spend, and money available for a down payment, so it’s not as though I’m completely unprepared. I’m also not at all opposed to leasing a car; the payments are usually smaller, the car is covered under warranty for the duration of the lease, and since I totally under drive my cars, the mileage limits of a lease aren’t a worry for me. We’ll see how it all plays out.

What say you, dear reader? Do you love/hate your car? Why?

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

B for Breakdown, BFF, and Bail Money

Yesterday was such a Monday. Well, the bad luck actually started Sunday night—an ominous warning of what was to come, apparently. I was following my normal Sunday evening routine of doing laundry and surfing the ‘net. I was in our bedroom putting a load of laundry away when Bug jumped up on the bed, which is nothing unusual as he and Wiggly sleep in our king sized bed with us. All of a sudden, I heard a noise I shouldn’t have; a “wet” noise. I turned around, and sure enough, Bug was peeing on the bed! I immediately yelled at him, which prompted him to run off the bed, finishing up his pee along the way. I yelled for Music Man to come take him outside, because even though he’d probably finished peeing (Bug, not Music Man), he needs to learn that outside is where pottying is done. I then began to strip the bed and prepare myself for a trip to the Laundromat to wash our comforter.

I stripped the bed, put new sheets on, and finished up putting away laundry. I heard Music Man and Bug come back inside, and Music Man saying, “You need to come here. I can’t chase you, buddy.” His voice was strained. I then heard him jumping/crawling up the stairs (Music Man, not Bug). Turns out Music Man slipped on some ice and hurt his foot pretty bad. Thankfully, when he let go of Bug’s leash in the process, Bug ran up to the front door of the house and not off into the neighborhood or into the street. (A Pug is no match for any sized motorized vehicle.)

I told Music Man to ice his foot and to take some Advil (After asking him if he thought he needed to go to Urgent Care, of course; I’m not heartless.), and I ran off to the Laundromat, hoping that they were open at 8 o’clock on a Sunday evening and that they would remain open for at least another hour. When I arrived, I saw that they would be open until 10, which was great. I dumped the comforters* into the commercial sized washing machine, thankful that such machines were available. These things were huge—two of me probably could’ve crawled in there with room, which is saying a lot because I’m not a small girl. I sat down to read a book as I waited the 35 minutes for the machine to finish.

(*Yes, plural. We actually had the backup comforter on our bed when Bug peed on it. On the evening I went to the ER a couple weekends back, Bug soaked himself and his kennel while we were gone. He is being a very stubborn potty trainer. Not wanting to deal with giving him a bath at 2 a.m., Music Man had cleaned him up with puppy wipes, which apparently didn’t do a good enough job because the little bugger reeked of pee, which in turn made our regular comforter reek of pee after Bug slept on it all night. We hadn’t yet made it to the Laundromat with the regular comforter, so this trip became a necessity.)

About an hour and a half and around $12 later, I headed home with freshly cleaned comforters. I checked email, went up to the bedroom to put the clean comforter on the bed and to fold the second to last load of laundry, went downstairs to take the last load of laundry out of the dryer, and headed to bed; thankful that the hectic evening was over and hoping that the pissy (no pun intended) end to the weekend indicated that a good week was ahead. Ah, wishful thinking…

When Music Man woke up Monday morning, he was in quite a bit of pain. His foot hurt so bad that he could barely stand on it, and it was quite swollen. The foolish man was going to just suck it up and go to work. I told him that he should go to Urgent Care, because he couldn’t drive to work with his right foot (the driving foot) the way it was. He insisted that he could drive with his left foot. (MEN!!!!) I told him to give me a bit of time to shower and get ready and that we would go to Urgent Care. He then said he’d drive himself to Urgent Care. I ignored him and jumped in the shower, figuring that he should know that we would be going to the clinic once I finished up. As I was finishing up with the shower, Music Man came into the bathroom, and the following exchange occurred:

Him: Well, I’m off to work. Have a good day. I love you.

Me (incredulous and not willing to beg the man to go to the frickin’ doctor): Whatever. I love you too. I think you’re stupid and I’m pissed, but I love you. (Passive aggressive? Me? Nooooooo.)

Him: WHY?!?

Me: Because you need to go have your foot looked at. You’re acting like an idiot. You can’t drive to work with your left foot, and you really want to try to tell me that you’re going to limp along all day like that?!?!

Him: FINE! I’ll go! I’ll see you later.

Me (downright angry at this point): I AM DRIVING YOU!!! YOU ARE NOT DRIVING ANYWHERE! *GLARE OF DOOM*

He heads downstairs to wait for me and to call into work.

Almost ready to go, I yell down: Call the clinic to see if x-rays are available this early. I’ll be ready soon.

Him: They are equipped to do x-rays there.

Me: Yes, I KNOW! They’re equipped to do CT scans too, but no one was available to do one or to read one a couple weekends ago, which is why we ended up going to the ER and I ended up paying two co-pays in one night.

I hear him on the phone and soon he tells me that the clinic has x-ray technicians available and ready. We kennel the dogs, and off we go. When we arrived at the clinic, I dropped Music Man off at the entrance to the building so that he could go inside and check in while I parked the car. On my way in, I phoned my boss to let him know I’d be to work a little late. About an hour later, Music Man walked out to the waiting room ready to go home. He had the good sense not to look smug as he told me the doctor said nothing was wrong; he probably just twisted his foot and there was probably internal bruising. Ice, pain reliever, and rest were the recommended treatment. As we walked to the car, I asked Music Man if he was at least happy to have gotten it checked out; to know definitively that there was nothing serious wrong. He said he was glad he’d gotten it checked out and thanked me for driving him.

On the way home, Music Man decided to work from home for the day, because he realized that it was a far walk from his car to his desk at work and that he didn’t feel like dealing with that with his foot in as much pain as it was. It was now my turn not to look smug or scream, “I TOLD YOU SO!”

I got really cold in the car on the way home; I hadn’t worn my jacket, because I had been warm enough in just a sweater, and I was regretting that decision. Even though the heat was on in the car, I was chilly. So, once we got to the house, Music Man hobbled inside and brought my jacket to the door for me. I put it on, got back in the car, and headed off to work. Even though I was on the freeway about two hours later than normal, traffic was still heavy due to the light snow and heavy winds the weather demons were raining down upon us. I finally arrived at work a little over two hours late. The work day itself was pretty uneventful. At a little after 5, I left for the day. This is where things really got really fun…

As I was heading out of downtown St. Paul, which is where I work, my car started acting funny. It wouldn’t accelerate or drive properly. It felt as though I’d hit an ice patch, and my tires would spin and spin suddenly grabbing dry ground and propelling me forward. The thing is the roads weren’t consistently that icy, so I realized something was going wrong with the car. Suddenly, whenever I would accelerate, the engine would rev and rev, but the car wouldn’t speed up. Then, the check engine light went on. GREAT! I drove on, trying to find somewhere to pull over. None of the downtown streets, lined with parking meters, would work as I do not parallel park (it’s something I’ve never been adept at doing, so I just avoid it at all costs), and I had a feeling I’d need to be somewhere where a tow truck might be able to easily access my vehicle. I slowly crept out of town—my car refusing to go anymore than 20 miles per hour at this point—and eventually pulled over in a parking lot right on the edge of downtown.

Growing up with a mechanic as a stepdad, I learned more than the average person about cars. In order to drive my own car once I got old enough, I had to easily identify all of the things under the hood. I’ll never forget the impromptu quiz my stepdad insisted upon as he popped the hood of my first car and pointed at different things, asking me what they were. He insisted that I know the basics, and I’m thankful for that. As a result, cars aren’t so scary to me. So, once I pulled into the parking lot, I put the car into park and pulled the car manual out of the glove box to look up the possible problems that would cause the engine light to go on.

I didn’t want to call the auto rescue service if I didn’t have to. And, while I didn’t think I could fix an engine issue all on my own, I thought perhaps there was something I could do to get the car running good enough to drive to the local Saturn dealership about ten or fifteen minutes away from where I was. The manual indicated that the problem could be a vapor lock caused by bad gas. I got out and undid the gas cap, and when I did it sounded as though I’d opened a two liter bottle of soda. This just had to be my problem, right? I left the gas cap off for a few minutes and left the car running. The book said that this should clear the problem, and that while the engine light probably wouldn’t go off for about a day, the car should run fine.

Thinking I had solved my problem, I put the car into gear and drove out of the parking lot. Things were fine for a couple minutes, but when I turned onto the main road that would take me to the freeway, the engine started revving again and the car once again wouldn’t go over 20 mph. My mind was racing a mile a minute as I tried to figure out somewhere safe to park and wait for a tow truck. I drove up about a block and turned on a street leading to a large condo development. I parked on the side of the road and tried to call Music Man. He didn’t answer his phone. Wonderful.

I then called the 1-800 number for the auto rescue service, which my mother-in-law pays for as a Christmas gift to us every year. It seriously one of the best Christmas gifts we get. (I love practical gifts.) We’ve probably used it at least once a year since she started doing this. I was very thankful, at the moment, to have the ability to simply call a number to get rescued. Unfortunately, I didn’t get through. The phone rang and rang and rang and eventually hung up on me. Lovely; this was just getting better and better.

I tried calling my husband once again; no dice. I cursed my luck as I tried the car service again. I’ve never kept a car for this long. My first Saturn was a lease that the dealership “bought back” from me early. Because I under drive my cars, the mileage was so low for the age of the car that they could turn around and sell it for a nice profit. This is my second Saturn, and I bought (well, financed) this one. I just paid it off last year, and I remember thinking about how this was the longest I’ve owned a car, and now that it’s paid off everything will start to go wrong with it (Murphy's Law, ya know?). That’s just the way my luck seems to work, and now, here I was.

The car service finally answered. I indicated that I needed my car towed to the Saturn dealership. The customer service rep tried to convince me to have it towed to a nearby Pep Boys, because, “They’re number one in customer support….blah, blah, blah.” I had heard about a class action lawsuit for my year and model—2004 Saturn Ion3—in regards to the variable transmission. Apparently, after about 5 years or so, the transmission just goes out. Just in case this was what was wrong, I wanted the car to be at the dealership.

After asking if my license plates were valid, the service rep put me on hold to find a tow service that would be able to come get me. As I was on hold, I realized that my plates technically weren’t valid because my tabs are expired. I just realized this weekend that my tabs are usually due in December and that I hadn’t gotten the notice in the mail at all. I’ve been driving around with expired tabs for weeks now!!!! Music Man got his notice in the mail recently, which is what prompted me to think of mine; he was going to go to the DMV sometime this week to buy our tabs since he gets off of work before the DMV closes and I do not. I wasn’t willing to admit this to the service, because I was afraid that they wouldn’t help me.

As I was on hold, Music Man finally tried calling me back. I didn’t answer, because I didn’t want to lose the car service and have to try to call them back again. Eventually, the customer service rep came back on the line and told me that he’d tried eight different providers and finally found one that could assist me. They estimated an hour and a half until they’d reach me. Fan-freakin’-tastic!

I dialed 411 on my phone to get the number for the Saturn dealership. I called the service department to see how late they were open and was told they’d be open until 9. I asked if I could have my car towed to them, and they said that I could but that they might not get a chance to look at it until the next morning. Perfect! (You know, a sarcasm font would be reeeally nice.)

I was happy at this point that my car still ran, meaning I had heat, and that I’d decided to grab my jacket on our trip back home this morning. I listened to the voicemail Music Man had left me: “Hi. I just saw that you tried calling. I hope everything’s okay. Call me back.” I tried calling him back, and I got no answer. I tried calling half a dozen more times as I wondered if any of the residents in the condo development were going to think my vehicle suspicious and call the police who would arrive and ticket me for my expired tabs. I was getting really worked up.

I couldn’t figure out why Music Man wasn’t calling me back; this wasn’t like him. On my final attempt at calling him (for a while anyway), I had visions that he had fallen again while taking the dogs out. (He is not graceful; this last fall was his second this winter.) I was sure that he was now lying on the side of our street while our dogs ran the neighborhood—hopefully not getting hit by cars. Yes, I’m a worrier. When he didn’t answer this final call, I left him the following message:

“This is your wife calling. I don’t know where in the hell you are, since you just tried calling me back a few minutes ago, and I don’t understand why you can’t answer your damn phone! Everything is NOT okay. I’m sitting here waiting for a F#$%ing TOW TRUCK to come and get me because I’m STRANDED. When you get this message, call me back; IF you can manage that!”

Yeah…I was getting angry—no; furious. Where in the hell was he?!??! I’m stranded and I can’t get a hold of my husband. I was there this morning when he needed me, even though he didn’t know he needed me, and now when I needed him he couldn’t manage to answer his phone. While cursing him, I texted my BFF, and for your enjoyment, that exchange follows below.

(Note: This is an approximation, since I deleted the actual text messages from my phone in order to get rid of what could be incriminating evidence in my upcoming trial, which you’ll see I was convinced was going to happen at this point. I’m just now realizing that that was a pretty lucid thought, so I wouldn’t have gotten off on temporary insanity, which is why it’s really good that it didn’t come to that. Oh, and just to defend myself a bit here: I am not proud of many of the things I said, and I am not proud of how angry I got. I love Music Man to pieces, and for the most part, we do not have many disagreements. It is, fortunately, not typical for me to get this upset with him.)

Me: My husband is a worthless idiot. I am stranded & waiting for a tow truck. He’s not answering his phone. I am going to kill him.

BFF: Oh no. Are you okay? Do you need me to come get you?

Me: I am fine. My car is not. I’m waiting for a tow truck to take me to the dealership. (I try calling my husband again. No answer.) Have bail money ready. I am going to kill him.

(I need to interject for a moment here. BFF and I have had a “bail money” agreement in place for forever. Whenever one of us is ready to go medieval on someone’s ass, we let the other one know to have the bail money ready. This serves a few purposes: (1) We know we can count on the other person for bail money in the event that one of us goes to jail, because, ya know, that’s what friends are for. (2) It sometimes serves to remind one that, perhaps, one’s anger is getting out of control. (3) We work together, and neither of us wants to go for an extended period of time without having our “work wife” there to keep us sane; this agreement helps ensure that one will return to work quickly if thrown into jail. And (4) that’s how we roll; we are hard core.)

BFF: How long is the tow truck going to take?

Me: About an hour and a half.

BFF: Do you want me to check Facebook?

Me: If you want to. I doubt he’s out there. I don’t know where he could be.

BFF: Status is nursing his foot with beer.

Me (nearly having a stroke): Then he should be answering his phone!

BFF: Maybe it was A LOT of beer! (This is why I love her; she can make me laugh even when I feel like ripping my husband's limbs off and beating him with them.)

I began envisioning how the media jackals would swarm after my arrest: “We first met Elle two years ago when her sister’s life was cut short by a tragic murder. In a shocking twist, Elle now faces charges of committing the very crime that robbed her of her beloved sister. Elle is being held in the county jail; homicide charges are pending.”

(Why, yes, I do have an overactive imagination, dear reader. Remember, I had nothing better to do than think as I sat in my car for over an hour listening to the radio, texting BFF, and trying to call Music Man.)

It was then that I came to my senses and realized that I quite obviously was not going to murder my husband. The reason I was furious is that I was scared. It wasn’t like Music Man to be this undependable, so in my mind, something bad had to have happened to him. It was then that I also remembered that, because of what happened to my sister, I hate when people joke about murdering someone, so it was especially bad that I had joked about it. I felt awful, and then I decided: Whatever. I'm human.

At this point, I tried calling my husband again. Again, there was no answer. I have been in my car for over an hour now, and I really have to pee. I decide to shut off my car, lock it up, and walk to the coffee shop that’s about half a mile down the road. When I get out of the car, I’m hit by a gust of wind and snow goes down the neck of my sweater. Now I have to pee worse, and I’m again very thankful that I rethought the coat thing this morning. I pull my hood tight, put on my gloves, and start walking. The coffee shop looks way farther away than I remembered, and the "shoeties" I wore to work are not really appropriate for walking about half a mile on an icy, snowy sidewalk, but I have to pee.

About two blocks away from the car, my phone rings. It is not my husband; it’s not his custom ring. I answer. The man on the other end of the line asks for Music Man, and I say, “Ummmm...this is his wife.” He says, “Oh, Sorry! I’m on the way to tow your car and just wanted a little more detail on where you are.” (Apparently the car service info is all in my husband’s name.) I tell the driver he can’t miss me. There’s only one way to turn onto the road I’m on off of the main road he’s coming down. Once he turns off onto the road leading into the condo development, my car is right there at the right side of the road. I turn around and head back to the car as we have this conversation.

I get in the car, start it up, and turn on my hazard lights to ensure that the driver will see me. My bladder is ready to burst, and I’m ready to cry. I’m exhausted, now have a headache, am worried about my husband, am wondering how much it’s going to cost to fix my car, and I have to pee. I’m also upset that I have to ride to the dealership in the tow truck, because it is my only option. These are the types of stories that end in, “and she was never heard from again,” I think as my overactive imagination once again takes off. I remember all that I learned during the criminal trial of my sister's murderer, and was glad that I had been texting BFF because that created some evidence. The investigators would at least be able to track the cell towers my signal pinged off of before I disappeared.

I look behind me, and I don’t see the tow truck yet. (Maybe I can make a run for it!) I try to exercise patience. Within a few minutes, I see the truck on the main road waiting to turn at the light; it is from a large, reputable towing company, which tells me I’ll be safe. My rescuer has arrived!!!!

After the driver maneuvers the truck into place, he hops out and approaches my car. He asks what’s wrong with it, and I tell him. He asks if I’m riding to the dealership with him, and I confirm that I am. He then says, “You can go ahead and hop in the truck. Just leave your keys in the car and I’ll get ‘er loaded.” He seems like a really nice guy. I climbed up into the ginormous truck and buckled my seat belt, leaving him to his work. Then, my phone rang; it was the ring. Music Man had gotten my message.

I pick up the phone and hiss, “Where in the HELL have you been?!?” (So much for feeling bad.) He said his phone had died and that he had figured that I’d just called earlier to let him know that I was running late. When I didn’t arrive home within almost an hour of my normal time, he realized that he should plug his phone into the charger and call me. He asked where I was, and I told him that I was sitting in the tow truck that had finally arrived. I told him to meet me at the Saturn dealership, because my car would most likely stay there overnight. My car loaded onto the flatbed, the tow truck guy and I headed off to the dealership.

BFF texted me: Do you need me to pick you up? I can put the kids in their pjs and load them into the car. (Have I mentioned that I love her? 'Cause I totally do.) I created more evidence texted back that I was in the tow truck and on the way to the dealership. I told her I'd finally talked to Music Man and he was meeting me there.

Did you know tow trucks don't have shocks?  Yeah, I didn't either, but apparently they don't. The ride to the dealership was the bumpiest ride of my life, and I really thought I was going to wet my pants. When we arrived, the tow driver told me to go ahead and head inside; he said he’d unload the car and drive it into the service bay. He told me to be very careful climbing down from the truck because the little steps get icy; he was a really nice guy. I walked into the dealership and over to the service area. The man on duty said, “Are you Elle?” They had apparently remembered that I’d called and realized that it was me based on the fact that my car was being driven off of a tow truck.

The service guys said it was a good sign that the car was driven off the truck. I told them that, if a car could consistently be driven at 20 mph, then it was. That not being the case, yes it’s nice that the car still runs, but there seems to be something very wrong with it. I told them what it had done before and after the check engine light went on, and the service guy said it sounded like a frozen throttle. The tow guy had run back to his truck to get paperwork for me to sign and had returned, just as Music Man walked in. Tow guy said, “Hey, did you know your tabs are expired?” I told him I had just noticed that the previous day and that I was going to go get the new ones tomorrow. He said that he just thought he’d let me know. (Did I mention he was a nice guy?!)

I signed the paperwork, thanked the guy profusely, and gave him a $20 tip. (I never know if I should tip in these situations or how much to tip. I figure a tip can’t hurt. He seemed quite pleased with it, so I must’ve done good.) The Saturn service guy hooked the computer diagnostic tool up to my car and said that the problem wasn’t what they’d thought it was. They said they’d have to keep the car overnight and look at it tomorrow. Super…could the evening get any better?!?

Music Man and I headed home in his car. Music Man suspected that the serpentine belt was the problem on my car, because when he last brought my car in for an oil change, they’d said the belt would need to be replaced soon. They had also indicated that I would know when it went, because the car would basically quit moving; the belt basically runs the whole engine. The belt itself costs $50-$100, but because the whole engine has to be removed to get at it, labor is a few hundred dollars. Lovely. Still, it would be cheaper than a new transmission. I really hoped that it ended up being just the belt.

We decided that Music Man would work at home again today (he’d already gotten permission from his boss to do so because of his foot), and that he’d give me a ride to work this morning so that he could go get our tabs later today. We ate a quick dinner of crappy fast food, watched a little TV, and I headed to bed exhausted. What a Monday!!!

As of January 27, there's been an update, which can be found here: U for Update

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Friday, January 22, 2010

C for Childfree

I alluded to this subject in another post, and now I’ll expand on it. I want to start off by saying that the thoughts and opinions I’m about to share are just that: mine. I am not trying to offend anyone in any way. If you have children, or someday want to have them, that’s great for you (and I hope that decision works out very well for you). That is your decision to make, just as my decision to remain childfree is mine. Similarly, your reasons for deciding to have children are your reasons, just as my reasons to remain childfree are mine. In other words, my decision and reasons should not impact you in any way. I am simply sharing my point of view on the matter of children, or lack thereof. I am in no way trying to offend anyone. Nor am I trying to dictate how anyone else should make his or her own decision.

To any parent who might be reading this (I know there are a few of you out there.):
(1) Thank you! I’m glad you’ve stumbled on my blog, or even visited on purpose if you’re a follower or regular reader. I am appreciative of anyone and everyone who takes the time to read what I write. If you’re a first time reader, welcome!


(2) Before getting defensive about anything you read below, please read that first paragraph again.


(3) Please be mindful of the language I’m using when I do talk about parents. I’ve tried really hard not to use all-inclusive words like “all” or “every,” because I know that, just like all people, all parents are not alike. Instead, you will notice that I use “many” or “some.” This means, when you see the word parent (or mom, or dad, or any variation thereof) below you should not automatically assume I am talking about you.

If, after all of that, you still find yourself feeling defensive, there’s probably a reason for it. I am totally open to discussing it with you, if you so wish. You can leave a comment or send me an email to get that ball rolling. Okay.  Here we go…

I respect parents—good ones (I’m talking to you my friends, followers, and bloggers whose blogs I’ve read and commented on.)—because I know it’s a hard job. It is one of the many factors that my husband and I considered while making our decision. I would be remiss to say that we will never change our minds. I’m one of those “never say never” people, so I will not risk opening myself up to eleventy billion “I told you so’s” by saying that our decision is final. It is, however, something we’re quite sure of and seem to be settled on.

I don’t want to start any kind of war, but I’d venture to say that those of us who are childfree by choice put a lot more thought into our decision then some parents out there. It is not a decision my husband and I made lightly. We thought about every single aspect of our lives and how much every single thing would change if we had a child. Some may even say that we did, or do, over think it. Many parents out there do not consider all of these things. They decide that they want a child, they start “trying,” and that’s pretty much it. The decision to have children is an easy one. By that I mean that it’s one that is generally accepted by society as being good; it’s the popular choice. It is expected: You grow up, get married, and you have children (sometimes not in that order at all, but I don’t have the time or inclination to list out all possible variations and/or alternatives). That’s just the way things work, right? Well, for many people, the answer is most definitely yes. For my husband and me, it is not.

Unlike some of the more hard core childfree by choice individuals and couples out there, Music Man and I are not derogatory about those who chose a different path than us. We don’t refer to children as “sprog” or “crotch parasites” or “satan spawn” or “f@%$ trophies.” We do not refer to parents as “breeders” or “child-burdened.” We do not refer to moms as “moos,” “moomies,” or “womban.” We do not refer to dads as “duhs” or “duds.”

Well, maybe sometimes we do, but only in private and only as a joke.


If we’re venting about a really bad run-in with unruly children or awful “parents” who don’t deserve the title, and are thus more aptly labeled breeders in order to distinguish them from the actual good parents out there, because we have nothing against the good, responsible parents out there.

A common misconception is that the childfree hate children and some do; however, Music Man and I do not. We like kids, and we love our nephews (ages 4 and 9) and niece (age 4) dearly and greatly enjoy spending time with them. And though we’d do most anything for these kids, we enjoy and appreciate having the option and/or ability to hand them back when we’ve had enough. We’ve had our nephew (the 4 year old), or nephews, over for weekend stays and we’ve had a lot of fun. We’ve also ended up completely and totally exhausted, with a new appreciation of our lifestyle, and a reaffirmation of our choice. I know what some of you might be thinking: “It’s totally different when they’re your own.” I’m sure it is, but you know what? I can’t justify taking that risk just to find out whether or not it’s true.

Our decision to be childfree can pretty much always be reversed. Should we decide within the next few years that we want children, my IUD can be yanked out* and we can start trying. Once our fertility window slams closed, we can adopt or foster. There’s comfort in knowing that our decision can be reversed. The same cannot be said for having children. One or both of us cannot wake up one morning, suddenly having decided we just can’t or don’t want to do the parent thing anymore, and drop the child(ren) off at a shelter or something. That’s just not how it works. (Well, for most of society anyway. I am well aware of people trying to sell their children, abandoning their children, or pawning their children off on a relative. Those are not parents, in my opinion.)

(* I need to take just a moment to say how much I looooooove my IUD. It is absolutely the best birth control I’ve ever had. And also, OUCH! It hurt like a mo-fo going in, so really, it can’t and won’t just be “yanked out.” There is a procedure. At least I think there is. Perhaps it really does just get yanked out, but that yanking is meant to be done by a trained professional, i.e. a doctor.)

Also, while my mom currently has custody of my deceased sister’s son, that might not always be the case. As she ages, she may find herself less equipped to care for him. In which case, my husband and I will gladly step up to take custody of my nephew. This is something we’ve been open to since right after my sister died, and we know that we could and would do a good job of taking care of and raising him. While having our own child(ren) wouldn’t affect our ability to take custody of my nephew, nor would it change our decision to do so, it would complicate things a bit (especially financially). If we’re meant to have the parenting experience, perhaps this is the way it will happen.

So what are our reasons for not wanting to have children? We have both selfish and selfless reasons. The selfless part of me doesn’t want to pass along my chronic physical and mental health issues—migraines, sinusitis, allergies, depression, and anxiety—to children, because I’d never want them to suffer the way I do. The selfish part of me doesn’t want to give up the disposable income, free time, and spontaneity that I currently enjoy. (Also, on a completely superficial level, we love being called DINKSDouble Income No Kids—we think it’s fun.) I’ll hit on some of my (our) major reasons below.

One of the biggest reasons is freedom and spontaneity. Music Man and I live a pretty carefree lifestyle. We like having the ability, on any given night of any given week, to get out of the house and go out on a “date” if the mood strikes us. We like taking mini-vacations to our favorite North Shore city or going on weekend camping trips. We like going out to the local bars to listen to live music and have a few drinks. With very little planning on our part, we can do all of these things. On the rare occasion that we want these getaways to be sans dogs, we simply go online and schedule the dogs at our favorite local doggy daycare. Wiggly loves it there! (Bug hasn’t been yet; he has orientation next month.) It’s like a doggy vacation for her—she gets to run and play with all of her doggy friends, she gets spa treatment (including bath, nail trim, and nail pawlish), and she gets a bedtime snack and movie when she stays overnight.

Despite the fact that we’re married, Music Man and I also live somewhat independent lives. He occasionally has weeknight gigs or band practice, and I have weeknight classes. We both occasionally meet with friends for dinner and/or drinks after work. Granted, we would probably still be able to do these things if we had a child, but we probably wouldn’t do them as often because we’d feel guilty about saddling the other parent with child duty all alone. The parent who most often is left to stay home alone with the child (most likely me, because I am more of a homebody), could develop resentment towards the parent who goes out more often. In other words, once one becomes a mommy, being a wife, friend, etc., has to take a backseat; especially in the child’s younger years.

Another reason we don’t want children is the time demand. When I have classes, I don’t have a ton of free time, so the time I do have I try to use wisely. I juggle trying to spend time with friends and family and trying to spend quality time with my husband. On the weekends, I sometimes spend my free time napping. I love the rejuvenation offered by naps; they’re good for my soul. I also like to use my free time knitting, reading books and blogs, watching movies (Yay for Netflix!) and catching up on shows that I’ve Tivoed over the week. (On a side note, I completely and totally love my Tivo. It is one of those gadgets that I didn’t think I really needed, but now that I have it, I’d never want to lose it.)

On the occasion that Music Man and I don’t have commitments on a weekend, it’s nice to be able to make it up as we go along. Sometimes we’ll go out to breakfast and then run errands. Other times we’ll sit around the house watching movies, eating take out, and enjoying each other’s company. Perhaps we’ll decide to hop on the light rail and ride to downtown Minneapolis to go to dinner at one of our favorite pizza joints, stopping on the way back to the train to have a drink or two.

If we had a child, many of these things would no longer be possible, or at the very least, wouldn’t happen very often. It’s just hard to be as spontaneous when you have to find a babysitter or figure out an age appropriate, child friendly establishment to go to instead. I would hardly have time for myself anymore (neither of us would), and I just don’t want to give that up. Music Man and I also wouldn’t have as much time to be alone together, and we don’t want to lose that. One on one time is very important to us, and we don’t want to upset the perfect balance we have going. Also, time to myself—to do whatever I want to do—is incredibly important to me. Sometimes I just need to be alone and/or to do absolutely nothing (read: be lazy), and that’s just not possible with a child to take care of.

I’m also not a very big fan of change, and having a child changes one’s whole life. I have a hard enough time getting up in the morning and getting ready for work. That whole routine would be exponentially harder with a child thrown into the mix. I’d have to get a whole ‘nother person ready for the day, and I’m lucky most days to have myself ready and to work on time. If I don’t get a chance to sit down and decompress after a long day at work, I get really really frustrated and crabby. I need to be able to just sit down for a minute with nothing to do or focus on.

Children create a financial burden that we are unwilling to take on. Kids are expensive! According to figures I’ve seen, it will cost upwards of $250,000 dollars to raise a child born in the year 2010 in the Midwest to a dual parent household. Holy Cow! I could buy a house with that money! Music Man and I both make fairly good money; our bills are always paid on time and we both always have spending money left over. That extra money is squirreled away to savings for a trip we’re planning, towards a down payment on a house, or to build up our emergency fund. We enjoy eating out, so we probably spend more money than a lot of people doing that. And, of course, those mini-vacations we take aren’t always cheap; especially when you factor in doggy daycare costs.

Our lifestyle would seriously have to change if we had a child. No more eating out, no more drinks out, no more going on mini vacations (or any vacations for that matter), and no more concert tickets or big ticket purchases. Our extra money would instead be spent on diapers, formula, food, clothing, daycare, etc. I’ve heard many of my parent friends and family members complain about the cost of these things, especially daycare. I nearly wet myself when I found out how much my BFF pays for her two kids (both under the age of 4) to go to daycare. No thanks! While we could afford a child, that’s not where we want to spend our money; we’d rather spend our money frivolously than have to budget for a baby.

When I start my career as a social worker, our budget will change quite a bit. I won’t make nearly as much as I make right now, and it will probably take me years to get back up to my current level (if ever). We will most likely have to cut back on frivolous spending, and it will become even less feasible for us to afford a child. I am well aware that plenty of people have children that they cannot afford, and some are very very happy with that decision while others are not. It is not appealing to us to create undue hardship for ourselves, so even if we wanted a child, we wouldn’t have one until we felt as though we could afford it. That means different things to different people, apparently, but to us it means living comfortably within our means while providing for the child’s basic needs as well as occasional fun extras for both us and our child.

Our priorities at this point in time do not include expanding our family. With me being in school for at least the next three years, and then entering into a brand new career, now is definitely not a good time to have children. Also, having children is not important to me; what is important is getting me into a fulfilling career that I’ll love. Once I graduate, I will have the ability to work crazy shifts for a while if I need to. Music Man and I can pick up and move, with relative ease, to where the jobs are if we need to. (This is one of the primary reasons we currently don’t own a house either.) On the same note, Music Man is fortunate enough to have found work that he likes doing, and he is focused on working his way up to where he wants to be within his company and/or field.

We care about the environment. Music Man and I believe in global warming, and we try to do our part to help the environment. We use reusable shopping bags, reusable water bottles, I have super cute reusable coffee mugs that I use at work, we recycle, we use personal care products (soap, shampoo, etc.) that are all natural and organic (which is also very good for the body), we use compostable dog poop bags, etc. Now, I’m not saying that parents don’t care about the environment; I know many who do. What I am saying is that the planet Earth is overpopulated, and as a result, our resources are being used up at an alarming rate.

We don’t want to contribute to that overpopulation, especially when we don’t feel the need to extend our legacy by producing little genetic matches of ourselves. Neither of us thinks or genes are that great that the world just needs us to reproduce. I believe in replacement reproduction; that is each couple should have no more than two children—just enough to replace them.** By not having children, we are helping to keep the population balanced. Many people have many, many more children than they really should, and let’s face it, some should have none at all. Some people are just not cutout to be parents; unfortunately these individuals seem to be the ones who are reproducing at an alarming rate. (**I realize this is kind of a controversial concept and statement, and I’m not saying that’s what you should do. I’m also not judging you if you have more than two children. This is just the way I feel.)

I do not deal well with lack of sleep; in fact, I get downright bitchy if I’m tired. Just ask Music Man—he’ll tell ya! (No, he won’t. He’ll lie and say he doesn’t know what you’re talking about, because he believes that I am nothing but pure perfection. HA!) I have witnessed the temporary “zombification”*** of beginning parents, and it’s not pretty.

(*** Yes, yes, I know it’s not a real world, but it is fitting. It describes the semi-permanent, less than half awake, glassy eyed look of new parents. In some cases, it indicates decreased comprehension skills, decreased cognitive ability, and increased agitation. Feel free to use it, but remember, you saw it here first! You’re welcome! J)

My sisters, whom I absolutely adore, looked like hell the first couple months after giving birth. They were constantly sleep deprived, and since they, like me, tend to get overly emotional when tired, they were sometimes a nightmare to be around. My middle sister would sometimes cry just because she was so overtired. The BFF I mentioned earlier still has days or weeks when her kids aren’t sleeping particularly well, so she is often exhausted.

I flirted with zombification a little bit when we got Lucy. She was a teeny tiny 9 week old puppy when we got her, and just like a baby, she did not sleep through the night. We’d have to get up several times to comfort her and/or to take her outside to potty. A few times, I woke up in the very late evening/very early morning hours to a kennel covered in dog poop, which meant I had to clean up the kennel and bathe the puppy while half asleep and pissed off that my already exhausted self was losing even more sleep. I was not a pleasant person to be around at this time. In fact, there were times that I was so awful with my lack of sleep induced behavior and tantrums that I’m surprised Music Man still married me rather than running like hell and not looking back.

There’s a reason that, when we decided to add another dog to the family, we did not get another young little puppy. Thankfully this stage of puppyhood only lasted a few months for Lucy; with a child, it’s much much longer than that. I am not cutout to be a mombie. I know my limits, and I’m telling you right now that I just couldn’t do it. In fact, dealing with sleep deprivation without harming themselves or others is one of the things I find most awe-inspiring about parents. True story.

I’ve kinda been there, done that; I helped raise my younger siblings, especially my youngest sister. As a result, I have always been mature beyond my years. The experience taught me a lot; most importantly that raising children is hard work. I get frustrated really easily, and I’m very impatient. These are not good qualities to have when dealing with children, because they can be very frustrating to deal with and large amounts of patience are required.

Thus ends the summary of Music Man’s and my reasons for not wanting children.

As a result of our decision, Music Man and I face many critics. His mother is devastated each and every time we remind her that we will not be having children. Though my mother-in-law seems to have no real affinity for children, she desperately wants grandchildren. Why? Probably because that’s the way it’s supposed to be, and probably because her brother has grandchildren. (Everything’s a competition, don’t-cha know.) Until she agrees to babysit at the drop of a hat, whenever we ask, every single time we ask, it’s just not happening. She doesn’t seem to realize that this is decision is solely ours, and while it does affect her to a degree, it is not as life changing for her as it would be for us. My mother, on the other hand, has given up on asking about when we’ll have children or commenting on why we don’t. I think the fact that she already has three grandchildren helps.

Ever since our wedding day, we have constantly been asked, “When are you having kids?” (Because, ya know, that’s how it’s done!) It’s frustrating to feel as though we constantly have to defend ourselves and our decision. When people find out that we do not plan on having children, many of them look at us as though we have the plague or (to be more current) the swine flu. I think some of our relatives have even contemplated asking for the return of the wedding gifts they gave us, because not having children after getting married is blasphemous. It is just inconceivable, and as such, our marriage probably shouldn’t really be considered real.

Once people are made aware of our decision, the inevitable questions start: WHY? (As though it’s any of their business.) Are you serious? (Yes.) Are you sure? (Yes.) Why do you hate kids? (We don’t! I really hate that this is always the automatic assumption.) Then, the unsolicited advice and opinions start: You would be great parents! You’ll change your mind someday. Oh, parenting isn’t as bad as some people make it sound. Being a parent is the most rewarding thing you will ever do in your whole entire life. Being a mom is the best job in the world. And on, and on, and on.

Right now, we are able to stave off most of these conversations by using my schooling as an excuse. To shut people up, we tell a white lie: “We’re not going to even think about kids until Elle finishes school.” We shouldn’t have to do this!

It boggles my mind how many people seem to think that our sex life and my uterus is their business. That’s just creepy. Sometimes, I just can’t help but to be bitchy. In response to “You’ll change your mind someday,” I say, “Well, at least I can! You’re stuck with your decision.” In response to “Being a parent is the most rewarding thing you will ever do in your whole entire life,” I say, “Wow. I’m really sad that, up until children, your life was so meaningless. That is incredibly pathetic. I feel sorry for you.” In response to “Being a mom is the best job in the world,” I say, “The very fact that you describe it as a job is telling. I enjoy my role as wife and puppy mom. I’m very happy with where I’m at in life.” Most of the time though, I just refuse to discuss it further; I’m firm, but not rude. I say something like, “We are happy and confident in our decision at this point. It’s the right decision for us, and you are not going to change my mind.”

Sometimes, we are challenged with, “Well, if having a dog is like having a perpetual toddler, why don’t you just have kids?” This is a valid question. While having dogs does decrease spontaneity a bit, it doesn’t affect us as much as having a child would. We can easily get our dogs into doggy daycare when/if we decide to go out of town. For a child, we would have to plan to take them with us, or we’d have to find someone to care for them. Then, we’d have to pack up all of their stuff (i.e. almost half of our belongings) to send along with them. All we need to send the dogs to daycare with is their food, and that’s only if they’re staying overnight.

Also, dogs aren’t as demanding for time as children are. A good long walk or hard play sessions wears them right out, and a tired dog is a happy dog. If I want to nap on a weekend, the dogs are all too willing to nap right along with me. And, as mentioned above, the sleep deprivation period was much shorter than with a baby.

Having dogs also took a toll on our finances, but most of the money was spent on upfront setup charges—buying a kennel, collar, leash, toys, etc.—maintenance costs are much lower. The most expensive cost for our dogs is for their food, and that’s because we choose to feed them high quality, premade raw food. When we go to work during the day, we kennel the dogs and they sleep all day, so we do not have to pay a weekly daycare charge. We will also never have to pay college tuition for our dogs (even though Wiggly is very very smart).

In short, Music Man and I are very content with our four-legged children. They can be trained to behave exactly as we want them to, we know what to expect from them in terms of behavior, they give us unconditional love, and we utilize our nurturing instincts in caring for them. Best of all: they can be kenneled when/if we need a break or want them out of the way!

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

S for Seven Random Things

Shell over at Things I Can't Say was tagged in “My Seven,” where one has to list seven random things about oneself. Shell "tagged" all of her readers. I thought this might be a fun little exercise, so here we go!

1. I am a twin. Yep! It's totally true. I'm a fraternal twin. My brother is 45 seconds younger than me, which means a lot when you're a twin, because technically that makes me the oldest. Though my brother claims that it was only because the doctors grabbed me first—it was, in other words, the "luck of the draw" (my mom had a C-section). My brother also likes to joke that I tried to kill him in the womb, because I “stole” all the nutrients. He says this because we were born about two months premature, so we were really really tiny. He was, however, quite a bit tinier than me. The doctors came to the conclusion that my brother was probably conceived about a week after I was. To which I say, “EWWWWWWWWWW!” and “WEEEEEEEEEEIRD!”

2. Speaking of siblings, I have two other sisters. One was born about two years after my brother and I, and the other was born when I was ten-years-old. The youngest one is deceased. You can read a little bit about how that happened here. I miss her every single day, and my heart sometimes physically hurts over it (just as much as it did the day I found out). My sister was cremated, and my mom, grandmother, siblings, and I got cremation jewelry pendants in order to always have a little part of her with us. I wear my heart pendant necklace every single day, and when I’m tired, nervous, sad, “zoning out,” bored, or annoyed, I rub and play with the pendant and think about my sister. Many people tell me this will eventually get easier, and some days (or weeks, or months) are better than others; however, it’s been two years, and I have yet to believe that.

3. My sister’s death had a lot to do with my decision to return to school. I reanalyzed my whole life, and realized that life is too short, and can be gone in an instant, so it shouldn’t be spent just going through the motions or doing a job I hate. I decided on social work because many people have told me that I’m a good listener, give good advice, and should be a counselor or therapist. I want to help people, specifically domestic violence victims and children. I learned many lessons from my sister’s death and feel as though her story and my life experience will lend an advantage in working with and understanding victims of domestic violence.

4. Music Man and I met on the Internet almost three and a half years ago. What is interesting about our meeting this way is that it turned out that we lived less than a mile apart, but had it not been for the internet, we probably never would've met. We were engaged within nine months, and got married on the two-year anniversary of our first date. I was ecstatic on my wedding day for all of the “normal” reasons, but especially because my name was going to change. I was excited to ditch my long, unique, hard to spell and pronounce, Scandinavian last name for a much simpler and more common name. (I kept it as my middle name though, because it is unique and I was attached to it more than to my original middle name.) Also, because I was my family’s spokesperson to the media up until a little over a week after my sister’s death, googling my maiden name just brings up all of the various news stories about her death. I’m glad to technically not be “that girl” anymore…as if that legacy no longer follows me because I no longer carry that name.

5. The reason I call my husband Music Man on this blog is that he is a musician; he plays bass in a local band. He’s not trying to make it big or be a rock star—it’s more of a hobby for him—he plays for fun (though some of the gigs don’t pay too bad, so that extra spending money is nice). I went to Music Man’s gigs a lot more when we were dating than I do now that we’re married. He doesn’t seem to mind, but I sometimes feel badly about it. In my defense, many of the gigs are weeknight gigs; Music Man and I agree that it’s not fair to the dogs to kennel them in the evening after they’ve been in their kennels all day while we’re at work, so I stay home with them. Also, I’ve gotten busy with school, and homework just needs to come first sometimes. And my final excuse is that I’m getting old!  I cannot stay out until past midnight and still roll my ass outta bed bright and early the next morning to face another day. I just can’t do it. Sometimes, Music Man plays great gigs in our favorite city on the North Shore. We use these gigs as an excuse to take mini-vacations in which we rent a hotel room for a night or a weekend and enjoy one of our favorite cities in the whole state. This happens at least a few times a year and is a super nice excuse to get away and refresh for just a bit.

6. My house is an absolute pigsty right now. It’s bad! Last semester was a demanding one, and then I spent the first couple weeks of this year being very sick, so the housework has been set on the backburner. Music Man has tried to keep up with his share of the household chores, but our house is still shameful at the moment. I would be embarrassed to have anyone over right now. I don’t know what has happened to me—I used to be so cleaning crazed that there was no way my house would ever get to this level of dirty. I used to clean even if I was sick—sometimes I swore it made me feel better. I don’t know if my priorities have changed, or I’ve become lazy, or what. I do hope to remedy this problem by cleaning my ass off tomorrow, and Music Man and I are going to price out housecleaning services to see if this is a luxury we can afford. (I would be willing to cancel Netflix and Cable at this point.) Having help just every other week would have a huge impact. Of course, we’d have to figure out what to do about the dogs on those days.

7. I hate cleaning bathrooms. HATE! But, I refuse to let Music Man take over the task, because I just don’t trust that he’ll get it done the “right” way. I’m the same way about laundry; I don’t mind doing laundry so much—it’s the folding and putting away part that I hate (especially socks and underwear!). I am a bit of a perfectionist and a control freak, which seems to conflict with number 5, and I’m surprised Music Man puts up with it sometimes. (This is one of the many reasons we have decided not to have children. I think I would just lose it if my children weren’t completely under my control all the time, and we all know that’s not a realistic expectation to have of children; not to mention that it would probably make for a not so good childhood.)

Wow! That was harder than I thought it would be, but there you go. I am an open book; if there are any questions you have, dear reader, don’t be afraid to ask them in the comments section on any of my blog posts. I will address them by replying to your comment within the comments thread or in a future blog.
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Friday, January 15, 2010

S for Smart Puppies

If you’ve been reading along for a while now, first THANK YOU (it truly is a pleasure having you along for the ride), and second you know I have two dogs: “Bug,” a Pug who is approximately a year and a half old, and “Wiggly,” a two-year-old Boston Terrier. Music Man and I are those people.  You know what I mean, the ones whose dogs are their children. Yep! That’s totally us. We get our share of teasing from friends and family, and Music Man’s mother often reminds us of how much she’d love human grandchildren, but we love being doggy parents. And, since it’s the only type of parents we’ll probably ever be (we are childfree by choice, which is a blog for another day), we take our roles seriously and try to raise good doggy citizens.

I read about a study that was recently done to determine how smart dogs are. The study showed that dogs can understand up to 150 words and can count up to 7. Why a dog would need to count, and how “they” determined dogs could count is completely beyond me, but it’s a cool little fact. The study also indicated that dogs, even adult ones, never really get beyond the comprehension or behavior level of a two-year-old child. This does not surprise me at all. Nor, I would imagine, would it surprise any dog owners out there.

I can vouch for the fact that dogs know many words. Ours know kennel, sit, down, wait, off, here, come, dinner, breakfast, hungry, mommy, mama, daddy, treats, NO! (they sometimes pretend not to know this one), good girl/boy, bedtime, nigh-nigh, and many many more.

I didn’t need to read this study to know that my dogs are, in fact, quite smart. The ways they interact with each other shows just how smart, and manipulative, they can be. For example, there’s the never-ending battle of the Elk antler. We buy Elk antlers for the dogs to chew. We like them for several reasons: (1) they last quite a long time, (2) they’re all natural, (3) they’re cruelty-free, harvested from the ground after shed by the Elk, (4) the dogs looooooove them, and (5) they are great for the dogs’ teeth. Unbeknownst to us, some antlers are apparently better than others. We learned this quickly when the dogs started fighting over one particular antler, even though there was a perfectly good second one available.

The other day, Bug had control of the antler. Wiggly kept trying and trying to get it from him, and I kept telling her “No,” because Bug had it first and they need to take turns. Wiggly was not happy about this. Bug was getting really sick of her attempted theft, so he took the antler into the “untouchable zone” (also known as his kennel). Smart puppy! Wiggly soon proved that she is much, much smarter...

She went over to the front door and rang the Poochie-Bells, which we have trained the dogs to use in order to let us know they need to go outside. She knew exactly what would happen when she rang the bells: Mama would get up off the couch, get bundled up, leash the dogs, and take them outside. She also knew that her brother would jump at the chance to go outside, completely forgetting about the antler. Her plan worked.

As soon as I started to get bundled up, Bug ran out of his kennel and did his impatient “I want to go outside” dance while Wiggly ran to his kennel and grabbed the antler.  Though I knew that neither dog probably really needed to go outside, the bells had been rung, so we had to go out. It’s the principle of the thing. The dogs need to know that ringing the bells means going outside.

Out we went, and I was none too happy when my suspicions proved true as neither dog actually went potty. Wiggly had simply used the bells as a mere distraction to get her brother to give up the antler. Sure enough, when we got inside, Wiggly grabbed the antler and lay down in the middle of the living room floor chewing away and reveling in her victory. Of course she got to the antler first, because she’s always the first one in. Bug is afraid of the door, so he waits until it is completely open before he runs inside. Wiggly knew this too. Unbelievable!

Our Furry Scholar


Her Unwitting Victim (Who really does look rather witless here.)

Since figuring out how effective this tactic is, both dogs have used the bells not for their intended purpose, of course, but to go outside to snack on the delicious piles of rabbit poop that are all over our yard. Unfortunately rabbit poop is apparently quite a delicacy to dogs. While I don't want them to continue to think they're outsmarting me, I also can't ignore the ringing of the bells. I just know that the time I choose to ignore them is the time that one of the dogs will really need to go, and I don't want them deciding that the white carpet (I know, stupid, right? It's a rental, so I didn't get to choose.) is a fabulous spot to relieve themselves.

Who knew that dogs could plot and scheme and be so manipulative?!? Music Man and I need to watch out. It’s two on two, so the teams are at least evenly matched, but with smart dogs like these it might only be a matter of time before we’re overtaken. Good thing we have size in our favor!
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

D for Dropped

…a class, that is. I’m really not happy about it either. We’ll back up a bit so that I can explain things in order. I’m still sick!  I took Monday off of work to catch up on rest as instructed by the hospital. On Tuesday, I felt incredibly out of it, so I called into work again and stayed home and slept all day. I figured that all the medications they'd pumped me full of in the hospital were finally working their way out of my system. Yesterday, I woke up feeling worse than I had since Saturday. I remembered that the only thing the hospital had found on my CT scan Saturday was a little fluid in my left sinus. (Well, besides me ginormous brain of course!) At the time, it wasn’t cause for concern, but I thought it had probably turned into an infection. No...that's not right. I didn't think it had turned to an infection; I knew it had. I have become a pro at self diagnosing sinus infections, because I've had so damn many.

As Music Man got ready for work, I asked if he’d be able to come home early that afternoon to take me to urgent care, which he said he would. I called into work again, slept until around 10:30, got up, showered, and waited for Music Man to come and get me. I was dizzy, my head felt heavy, I had practically  no energy, and I had a slight fever. (Yep! It's a sinus infection.) At the clinic, I was diagnosed with a major sinus infection (no surprises there) and prescribed antibiotics and rest. I called work when we got home and left a message for my boss to let him know that I’d be out the rest of the week.

My Psychology class started at 6 o’clock, and there was no way I was going to make it with how I felt. I emailed the instructor, remembering her strict attendance policy, to ask what she thought I should do about missing the class. I explained my circumstances; not by way of making excuses, but just to explain why I wouldn’t be there. I told her I was willing to work to catch up for missing the first class, and asked if she’d explain the homework that would be due the following week.

She wrote back within an hour and told me that she couldn’t change the attendance policy and that “missing simply isn’t okay.” While she said she couldn’t advise me on what to do, because there are “other people with that job,” she said that not attending that night meant I would be taken off the roster and someone else would grab my spot. She made sure to let me know that there was a waiting list for her class, and plenty of students who would readily jump into the spot of an absent student. I didn’t really understand that part, because what was she going to do? Call these students to let them know: Surprise! You get to come to class tonight!

That’s not realistic. Meaning they would be notified this week, and they’d attend class for the first time next week, which is exactly what I was willing to do; I simply needed to know what I'd miss in terms of lecture and class discussion and what work was required of me between now and next week. She went on to explain to me how demanding accelerated classes are, as though I didn’t know that, and condescendingly recommended that perhaps I take a full semester course because they’re more flexible about attendance.

Needless to say, her attitude was a major turnoff. I’d obviously started off on the wrong foot with this woman. Even if I did do the work to catch up and did turn up in class next week, she’s already got a chip on her shoulder where I’m concerned, so do I really want to battle that for 10 weeks?  My answer was no. So I did something I was hoping to never have to do; I dropped the class. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but I only had until the 15th to drop without being charged for the class. This means my whole degree plan will now be half a semester off, so I’ll have to double up on classes for half a semester or something. I’m pretty pissed about it.

I don’t think I’m special, and I don’t think I deserve special treatment in any way, but I’m a straight A student at this point. Perhaps if she’d taken the time to figure that out, she’d have known that I would’ve had no problems staying caught up in her class. I’ve taken enough classes at this point to know that the first day of class is usually administrative stuff—reading the syllabus, going over the instructor’s expectations, etc. In other words, it’s not as though I was missing out on anything major. I simply needed to know what some of the assignments on her syllabus meant—what exactly was expected of me. That’s it!!!! It would’ve taken her just as much time to write that all out in an email as it would’ve to write the response she did send. What a fuckin’ BITCH!  I seriously hope there are other instructors that teach Psychology, so that when I sign up to take it this summer, I’m not stuck with her.

Whatever. My health has got to come first, so I did what I had to do. After resting all day today, I’m feeling much better than I have all week, which is so good. Hopefully one more day of rest tomorrow will see me finally becoming healthy for the first time this year! I’m sooooo sick of being sick!!!!!  I will be going to my doctor for a physical in a couple months. I plan on talking to her about whether she thinks sinus surgery would help me. I also plan on getting a referral to an allergist—if I can get my multiple allergies under control, sinus issues would probably decrease greatly. We shall see.

Something’s gotta happen to make things better. I cannot continue to deal with sinus infections every other month. It’s getting ridiculous that I have to worry so much about getting even the simplest cold because that cold has the ability to take me down for a whole week by turning into a sinus infection, which is exactly what happened this time around. I’m reeeeeeeeeally hoping this is the end of me being sick for a while. I think I deserve to be healthy for the rest of the year after spending the first few weeks of the year so sick. Here’s to hoping!!!

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