Monday, May 30, 2011

Cutting the Cable - Part II - The Decision

To recap, I've been taking steps to dismantle my Verizon bundle - cut cable completely, change phone service, but keep the internet. I had purchased a Roku and tested the availability of content that my kids like and found that they were quite capable of doing without traditional cable. We had decided to go with Vonage for phone service due to Magicjack not allowing us to keep the phone number we've had for 10 years.

We are now beyond the contract expiration (April 2011) and hubby is still having trouble deciding to go completely without cable. He is a news and weather junkie, and I'm totally a football widow from August to February. So what to do, what to do... I kept saying "Cut it!!!" Of course, I get all the sci-fi and Grey's Anatomy my little heart can handle through the Roku :) While the hmmming and hawwwing was going on, I did a little more searching and found a subscription service called PlayOn.

PlayOn is an internet streaming service for devices like a PC, Wii, Xbox, iPad, Android, Roku, and many others. There are free movies, live sports, TV Shows, and much more. PlayOn supports the channels that come with their lineup, but they also have a vast community of users who write computer script to access other cable channels. They have a 14 day free trial and you don't have to buy any equipment - just have one of the supported devices, and if you're reading this - you have one! They have different tiers for subscriptions - monthly, annual, or lifetime (only $80!).

Last night, after a call to Verizon to verify pricing (since our latest bill was $20 higher now that we are off contract), the decision-making conversation came to a head. Verizon informed us that all pricing will go up June 1, contract or no. When I spoke with a Rep the other day, they said internet only was $50 a month, and oh by the way, your internet package is no longer being supported since our signup was 2 years ago. Apparently, they've upgraded from 10Mbps to 15Mbps as the basic package, so our service is slower than their most basic. That didn't register in my mind until the next day, so I called back. Rep #2 says, oh no internet only is $60 per month. I asked why our less than basic super slow internet wasn't upgraded when they upgraded across the board. Response: well the customer has to ask for the upgrade. We don't just do it automatically.

Please tell me how I'm supposed to ask for an upgrade that I don't know exists. So the decision to switch to Comcast was made right then and there. To make this long story short, Kevin has decided that he is not quite ready to cut the cable until he is sure this Roku/PlayOn thing will let him watch live football on the TV. So we've entered into a one year contract with Comcast for internet and TV ($80 per month). This next year we'll save only about $40 a month, but that will help a little bit. It will also be used to help him slowly upgrade his TV-watching equipment to be ready for the overhaul. We still have a standard TV downstairs that he uses, so that will need to be upgraded to a flatscreen HDMI-ready TV, and purchasing a Roku player for him.

We've subscibed to PlayOn for one month to check the streaming quality and how live is live. Right now, The Weather Channel is streaming about 2 minutes behind live - but we still have our super slow non-upgraded Verizon speed. The big test will be faster Comcast speeds and football season. Stay tuned, because we certainly will :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Weight Loss Woes

Why does weight loss have to be so hard? I've been down this road a few times and it's very tiring and seems to have no actual destination. Starting attempt number 57 (I guess, I don't know) and taking you along for the ride.

A little background: I was not a chunky child. I was always a good weight for my height. In high school, I weighed about 95 lbs soaking wet and after a hefty McDonald's meal and wore a size 5. I was about 5'2".

That's me, 1985. I grew 2 more inches and went up a size by the time I was 18. I'm good with that. My metabolism slowed down a little around 20 - you know, Freshman 15 and all that. However, I did have a gym membership and was going at least 4 days a week. Young, spritey, no kids, money to spend, that sort of motivation. In this photo, it was my 23rd birthday and I was still comfortable with the weight I'd settled into - roughly, 5'4" and about 135-140lbs (lots of leg muscle!).

I think that dress was a 10 or 12, can't remember, but I do remember that I felt in shape and wasn't freaking out over the size of my clothes. As you may know, I'm a dressmaker (didn't make that one) so numbers by themselves don't frighten me. I don't actually care what the tag says since manufacturers can vary in sizing. Nice white makeup face too, huh? :)

So moving onto when the weight became a problem. My first child was born in 1993. My OB said, "Oh don't worry about weight gain, you'll have 9 months to put it on and 9 months to take it off." Ugh, famous last words! I gained 60 lbs during that pregnancy and had a 7lb 12oz boy. Guess what? It didn't just fall off like she said. And yes, I was exercising. Okay, so your body changes a bit with pregnancy, (and just to explain the photo - yes I put the cart before the horse). Here's me, 1994, still 5'4" and 175 lbs.

But weight! (pun - see what I did there!) There's more! Stay Tuned....

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cutting the Cable

We aren't totally poor and destitute, but we are a one-income middle class family. We don't have tons of credit card debt, our cars are paid for, and we never take all-out destination vacations. But to make this homeschooling/one-income thing feasible, we do have to cut corners. Sometimes it seems those corners keep whittling away until there is only a small disc left, but that's a lament for another day (sigh!).

Like most everyone else, we have one of those lovely TV, phone, internet bundles from the local provider, in our case - Verizon. Over the years, we've played that back and forth game between Verizon and Comcast (our only choices) to get the best price on the bundle. Verizon made us do a 2 year contract this last time, which expired in April 2011. My oldest son started at an out-of-state college last summer (thank you FAFSA and Grandmas!), so I've been really watching the bundle bill and looking for a way to cut the cord.

At Christmas time, after doing a bit of research for a couple of months, I decided to purchase a Roku player, to test the waters in my home (cable dependency). If you are unfamiliar with Roku, it's a small device about the size of a slice of bread, that plugs into the wall and into your TV. It connects wirelessly to your modem and provides internet streaming directly from the modem to the TV. Some channels are free, but some like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu require a monthly subscription. Well, I'm already paying for Netflix, so that wasn't a big deal.

The Roku has really been wonderful! For a one time charge of $80, the device is mine, and my kids have found just about everything they want to watch either through Netflix or free content. I was actually quite surprised how easily they disengaged from the cable box. (I did help them along a little bit by actually disconnecting it for 2 weeks, so they would have to learn how to use the Roku and search for what they wanted to watch.)

Then I began searching telephone replacement options. I have a pay-as-you-go cell phone that I don't use often, and no one else in the family has one, so I need land line service. I checked in to Magicjack and Vonage. I have friends who've used both; they've had good and bad to say about both. My preference was to go with Magicjack since it's $40 for the first YEAR, and $20 for each YEAR after that - but they don't let you keep your number. So hubby has opted for Vonage - $16 per month - our device is due to arrive next week. I'll let you know how that goes.

So obviously we are beyond April, and we hadn't made any decision about whether or not to keep cable. Actually, I decided we should drop it, but hubby is afraid of not seeing The Weather Channel, MSNBC, and live football games. In my world, these don't matter, so I was good to go. Then I discovered PlayOn...

Stay tuned for Cutting the Cable, Part II - The Decision....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Seriously, by now, pretty much everyone knows about the evils of HFCS. But when did they start putting it in sandwich bread?! What? Seriously?! Sugar is listed as an ingredient, but HFCS comes before it. Are they intentionally trying to kill every last person in the nation? "They" can't even use the excuse that it's just sweetening if sugar is an ingredient and the product is SANDWICH BREAD.

Not sure what I'm ranting about or why? Food for thought, click here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

First Year Away

My oldest son, Max, came back today after his first year at college. He's not a freshman, nor is he 18. This has been the hardest year of my life. He went away at the start of his sophomore year (having completed freshman credits at the local community college) at 16. He turned 17 without me. He turned into a man without me. He has excelled and disappointed himself without me there to help him. I don't know yet the full extent of the life lessons he's learned, but I feel fairly secure that I did a good job. I'm not sure at the moment that he's aced all his classes, but I think that he has learned a lot about the world and himself. Sure, there have been disappointments, but life is that way. As a homeschooling mom, I'm happy to have him home, whole and safe, with all the lessons learned - good or not.

I was young once and made mistakes. I'm pretty sure he's made less than me. I call that a victory.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Universal Healthcare

I spent this past week watching "Sicko" in bits and pieces (only because my kids kept interrupting me). I know I'm a little late to the game here, but I thought I'd better watch it, since healthcare is all we hear about it in the news. I have long thought that we needed some kind of overhaul to our present system. After watching Michael Moore's documentary, I'm ready to do something about it! But what? What do I do? I'm one little house mama with so much going on that it's hard to keep my head on straight.

We are the only industrialized nation in Western civilization without universal healthcare! Cuba has a better treatment rate than we do, and they don't turn anyone away, nor do the patients have to pay. Cuban hospitals treated a group of our American 9/11 workers because our systems wouldn't help them. I'll say it again: Our heroes had to go to Cuba to get treatment and healthcare that was being denied to them here in the US.

I won't talk about how beautifully universal healthcare works in Canada, England, and France, as well as other European nations. Watch the movie and find out for yourself. Do some research and look at the statistics. Citizens in other parts of the Western world live longer, feel better, are healthier and happier. They aren't starving because of higher taxes; they don't worry that their cancer treatment is considered experimental so they'll die before they get help. They aren't overworked, working more than 40 hours, not taking sick or vacation days, etc.

We have gone horribly wrong somewhere, and it started with healthcare for profit. If you know how I can make a difference (without money, cuz like you - I don't have any), where I can go to start a revolution or become part of one, please leave a comment with info. Heck, leave a comment about how you feel about this!

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