Getting smart about phones

(as printed in the Nov. 25 edition of The Great Bend Tribune, Great Bend, KS)

I make a point of not going shopping on black Friday.  I can’t stand shopping to begin with, and I especially can’t stand shopping in a crowd.  My kids are like most kids though, and love to shop.  I guess I used to when I was using someone else’s money.  We all know whose–Mom’s.  I sent the kids to visit their grandfather on black Friday, but I know it’s only a short reprieve.

I like to give gifts, I just don’t like shopping for them.  I want to take some time to really consider the person I’m giving to, and what would really be a gift for them.  Shopping is distracting–too many external messages to bombard, suggesting-nay-guilting you into giving more or differently than you intended.  

One of the most pervasive is the cell phone advertisement.  Somehow, giving a new cell phone has usurped giving a piece of diamond jewelry when it comes to saying how much you care about someone–at least that’s what the cell phone companies want us to think.  
After opening my last cell phone bill, let me just say, I’ll take a diamond pendant any day!

I won’t mention what company I have a contract with by name, but I will say that when I got a load of the bill for the “new and improved” plan that I’ve gotten myself into, I can hear them now pretty clearly, and the sound is “ca-ching”!

Here’s the scenario.  Eight years ago, I gave up my land line telephone and became a cell phone only user.  It seemed like a wise financial move, since most of the time I used my cell phone anyway.  I was happy with the decision for several years.  Then, my oldest turned 12, and needed a cell phone.  No, really.  She needed one.  Okay, I needed her to have one because I wanted the peace of mind that we could contact each other anytime while she was away from me.  A luxury, by the way, that no other parents in the history of the world ever before had.  And it was cheap–that peace only cost me an extra $10 a month (plus fees and taxes).  

Since then, I’ve had text overage surprises that have cost me hundreds of dollars.  Every time a kid sends-or receives- a text, it counts.  It doesn’t take long for a teen to go over 1,000 texts.  Especially when they consist of “K” and “LOL”.  Of course, I upgraded to unlimited texting.  

Somehow, getting a cell phone became a right of passage for 12 year-olds the world over between the time the oldest and the middle child celebrated that birthday.  I got in further by adding yet another cell phone with unlimited texting to the plan.  

Then, mom got a “smartphone.”  Interesting name.  Makes you feel like you’re making a good decision when you buy a smartphone.  But when it means you’re locked into a more expensive plan because you need “data”, who’s really smart?  To top it all off, once I switched plans, the old one vanished.  There was no turning back.   

Mom and dad used to have a saying.  “You kids are nickle and diming us to death!”  
I used to think my gas and electric bill was too much.  Now, it’s cheaper than my cell phone bill. The thing is, I’ve made some improvements to my house, and my utility bills actually went down.  The “improvements” I make to my cell phone contract, however, only increase my costs.

This year, no one is getting a new phone.  I drew the line before my youngest turned 12.  I had to.  After all, the oldest will (hopefully) be heading to college in a few years.  

I’ve been checking out the costs for land lines lately.  They’re not cheap, but compared to my cell phone bill, they’re downright economical.  This year, instead of a new cell phone under the tree, I’ve got a different idea.  I think I may go retro, and introduce them to a whole different world of communication.  It may cost me a little upfront, but I think in the long run, it will bring those future dreams closer within reach.  Can you hear me now?


A new addition


 (Daily Prompt from 11-6-2012:  Take a subject you’re familiar with and imagine it as three photos in a sequence. Tackle the subject by describing those three shots.)

In June, a stray we took in, Annie, had puppies.  We knew the time was close, so we prepared her crate for her, and on the morning of June 30, 2011, I woke to find she’d given birth to four puppies, two brown girls, one white girl, and one tan boy.  I could hold each in the palm of my hand, and they felt so vulnerable and warm, making the tiniest of squeaky noises.  Annie was very protective of them, never letting a single one out of her sight. We moved them to a box filled with towels, and there we could observe and she could nurse them and come and go as she needed to.

The puppies grew steadily, and began to gain strength in their legs.  Eventually, they were up and walking around, and Annie began trying to get away from them because they had voracious appetites, and every time she was near, they would try to latch on.  She began to get testy with them, and as soon as the veterinarian gave us the go ahead, we offered solid food, and she weaned them.  The time had come to find them new homes.  It was a bittersweet time for the kids, because they had grown attached to the puppies, but understood Mom was not willing to keep them.  At least not all of them.  One was beginning to work its way into her heart, but she kept it to herself.  One afternoon, she took photos of them and posted it and a simple note–puppies for sale, call this number–on the bulletin board at the local Orscheln’s Farm and Home store.

Friends couldn’t believe she intended to sell the puppies.  They were from a stray, tiny little mutts that had no papers.  They would be coyote food if the family hadn’t taken in Annie when they did.  But, Mom knew she would have bought one if she was in the market.   While they were at it, the kids agreed it was time to sell the guinea pig too.  So, when the first father called and mentioned they’d like to see the pig, but his daughter really wanted a puppy, Mom simply hid the puppies away.  The girl loved the pig, and they bought it and the cage too.  Bye bye guinea pig.
When the first mother called asking if she and her daughter could look at the puppies, mom tidied the house, but the gates up, and brought three of the puppies into the room.  One of them, though, she stashed in the back porch with Annie.  The little girl ended up falling in love with one of the chocolate brown girls, and her mother paid $20 to bring it home.  Now there were three.

The next couple of days were quiet, but then a young couple called on the puppies.  Again, mom put one of the puppies in the back room.  This time, the kids were home, and wanted to know why.
“Its to keep Annie quiet.  Besides, if there are too many choices, its too hard to make up your mind.  We want them to go home with one.”
The couple fawned over both of the puppies, unable to decide between the white spotted puppy and the other one.
“We really would love to have both of them,” the man said.  “We just can’t afford both right now.”
Mom wasn’t really sure she bought that.  Still, she was in a dealing mood.  “How about $30 for the both of them?”   The couple looked at one another, smiled, and agreed.  They peeled off a $20 and a $10, and off they went with their new companions.  Inside, the kids were in a state of shock.  They cried they weren’t ready to say goodbye to both at once.  The youngest kid cried, sad that he would not be able to see them grow up.  He’d grown fond of holding puppies on his lap while he watched television after school, and bringing one into his room when his friends came over to play.
“What about boy-boy?” he asked.  Mom paused, then finally answered.

“I think he’s going to stay with us.”  Of course, he wasn’t everyone else’s favorite.  Each child claimed to have wanted a different puppy, but Mom didn’t care.  This choice she was making for her.  Something about the cuddly little tan poofball warmed her heart in a way no other dog had before.  He looked like a teddy bear, an Ewok and Elmo all in one.  He was full of energy, but also very cuddly.  He was her new baby.
The next day, she stopped at the store and took down the photo and her phone number, and bought a new collar and leash.