Monday, July 27, 2015

Eliminate the Unnecessary: Cable TV

I've decided to start a new little feature here on Enthusiastic Fantastic called Eliminate the Unnecessary. I believe there are many things in life everyone can do without. Yet each of us have different unnecessary items on our lists—i.e., one human's trash is another human's treasure. As I discover my unnecessaries, I'll share them here! :)

*Before you continue, please note that I've not been compensated in any way for my reviews of products listed here. I wrote this post because of my sincere desire to share my experiences and information to help others. :)

My husband loves ESPN. Because of that fact, we've had cable TV—on and off—for many years of our marriage. Greg and I signed up for cable TV in the summer of 2000. It was literally the first time in my life I had had cable TV in my home! Yes, I grew up in a semi-minimalist home where cable TV was considered an unneeded luxury. Thus, I was quite the couch potato during our first round of cable TV. I recorded at least 30 movies and watched channel after channel because I wanted to make sure I was getting my money's worth! I soon realized, however, what a colossal waste of time my cable TV habits were. I was glad Greg and I decided to let go of that promotional rate deal and we canceled cable altogether.

The second time we enjoyed cable TV was in 2004. It was given to us for free because our upstairs landlords (we lived in a basement apartment) had signed up with a satellite dish company. I was smarter that time and didn't have a need to watch it constantly because I wasn't paying for it. Thus, there was no need for me to feel like I was getting my money's worth! :)

The third time Greg and I had cable TV was when we moved to Colorado in 2004. We signed up out of necessity because there was literally no other option for TV. Thankfully, we had their very basic standard network TV channels package (a downgrade from what we had in Utah), so I think we paid only $13/month! It was crazy-cheap and we got a few extra channels thrown in for free!

When we moved back to Utah in 2008, Greg requested that we sign up for real cable TV because he just couldn't live without ESPN any longer. He didn't say those exact words, but that's how I interpreted his request! ;) Because we had been through so much (his mom had just died, we sold our dream home at a loss, and he switched jobs) I figured it was the least I could do for him. ;)

Our move to Texas in 2010 meant that we naturally had cable TV because we had to use the same company for our home phone and internet access. Their triple-service bundles saved us so much money that we couldn't say no to their cable TV package!

All of that said, when we moved back home to Utah in 2013, I really did not want cable TV in our lives anymore and said as much to Greg. He would not be swayed from his love for ESPN, so I agreed to sign up for cable TV again. I came to terms with it because Greg works from home most of the time and we needed the cable company's high-speed internet in order for him to do his job effectively and efficiently. Again, we couldn't beat their internet/cable TV bundle!

I think we would have stayed semi-happy with our cable TV company if it weren't for the fact that they kept raising their rates. I detest having to call their customer service line each year trying to get the best deal. I mean, I would rather just have their prices set—without a contract—like Netflix! I think cable TV companies would keep so many more customers that way!

This year, Greg and I were both greatly disturbed by our cable TV provider's rate increase. Each time we called their customer service department to see what we could do to lower our bill (we hadn't decided what to do after only one phone call), the prices they quoted us just kept rising! When we would semi-settle on a contract option, they would say, "Oh, yeah, that price is before taxes and doesn't include your extra set-top-box." I was at my wit's end!

The very last time I called our cable TV company for rate deals, I had Greg listen to see what we wanted to do. Greg agreed with me that we should keep only our internet service, cancel cable TV altogether and go the digital antenna TV route. I couldn't believe my good fortune! I was beyond excited that Greg was finally on the same TV channel with me! Ha ha.

Thus, I told the customer service rep, "Yeah, that's just not going to save us enough money—it's not worth what we're paying for how much we use it." So we kept our internet service with them, but canceled cable TV! What the customer service rep. didn't know is this: we've had two Rokus and a Netflix subscription for years, and we just discovered Sling TV! I also finally signed up for Amazon Prime this year (Hi! Free shipping!), but I haven't tried out their TV/movies on our Rokus yet.

The very afternoon we canceled cable TV, I returned our set-top-boxes—after waiting 45 minutes, of course. Ugh. (I was a little annoyed.) I can't tell you how liberating it was not to have those electricity-sucking boxes in our house anymore! Super big smiley face!!! :) That said, I knew we wouldn't have even regular TV access in two of our three rooms if I didn't buy two more digital antennas—we had an old-school rabbit-ear digital antenna, but it wasn't great quality and frequently blipped out.

After doing quite a bit of online research I decided to buy three new antennas. (Three TVs in our house may seem like a lot, but we have one in our small upstairs family room, one in our downstairs family room, and an old-school TV in Greg's and my bedroom that uses a digital converter box.) The reason I bought three new antennas is because I realized that our house is about 35 miles away from the digital TV broadcasting signals in our state. *Click on the DTV link to see how far away you are from the broadcast signals in your state. I finally understood that the reason our basic rabbit-ear digital antenna wasn't working very well (it would go fuzzy anytime someone walked in front of it the wrong way) is because it's not meant to pick up signals that are 35 miles away!

Anyway, I bought a package deal at Sam's Club: two Mohu Leaf HDTV antennas for the price of one(!)—which included the Mohu Leaf Ultimate (50-mile reception) and the Mohu Leaf Metro (25-mile reception). At another store, I bought an RCA 50-mile digital reception amplified antenna. (I won't include the RCA antenna link because that store's prices and links always change. Plus, I'm not giving it my Enthusiastic Fantastic Seal of Approval. {I just made that up. I don't know if I'll continue using it, or not!} To know why, read on! ;) ) I also bought one more Roku 2 for our little upstairs family room because we love our Rokus so much! They are worth every penny!

I was utterly amazed at the picture quality of the Mohu antennas—they have the best reception! I was even able to get a signal in our basement without a window near the antenna! Our basic digital TV picture quality is even better than our old and expensive cable TV signal!

Happily satisfied with my Mohu success, I decided to connect the RCA antenna upstairs because our TV is literally right in front of a rather large window. I thought for sure that our upstairs TV's picture quality would be just like our TVs with the Mohu antennas, but I WAS WRONG. Yeah, I'm truly so sorry to say that the RCA antenna didn't cut-it compared to the Mohu antennas—not even close! Thus, I boxed up the antenna exactly as I bought it and returned it to the store.

Actually, I went back to Sam's Club first before returning the RCA antenna and bought another Mohu antenna two-pack. At that point in my get rid of cable TV adventure, I didn't care about the antennas price because of all the money we'll be saving every month by not paying for cable TV. Plus, it's a one-time purchase that will last us indefinitely—unlike cable TV! I thought even if we just kept the extra antenna for emergencies, having a clear reception is totally worth the cost! :) Yet when I told my mom about the extra antenna, she decided to buy it off me for $20. Of course I said, "Yes! Thank you!"

But back to getting the extra Mohu two-pack antennas: you would have laughed so hard if you could have seen me at Sam's Club that day. You see, there was only one box left on the shelf and it looked like it had been ripped open. I was worried that the quality of the antennas might have been compromised and seriously debated about ordering another one online and having it shipped to me.

After looking around for a minute, I saw that another big box of (probably) six Mohu combination antenna boxes had fallen half-way off the back of the top shelf and were tipped up so you couldn't see them unless you were specifically searching. Yes, I'm quite the ocd Monk! ;) I was instantly excited! On the bottom shelf, I scooted the other small electronics' boxes to the side, looked around to make sure no one was coming (Not that it mattered what anyone else thought, I just didn't want an employee to be like, "Hey! What are you doing?!"), pushed my purse up tightly around my shoulder, slipped under the top shelf, walked back a ways and reached waaay upI almost couldn't touch the Mohu boxes, but I did! I grabbed one Mohu antenna box, looked at it, decided I wanted to try just one more (I know, I'm weird), liked the second box better, backed myself out of the bottom shelf and put the first antenna box back in the main big box on the top shelf. Whew!

Those two previous paragraphs were probably unnecessary (In fact, is anyone still reading my blog post at this point?! Ha ha.), but I was beyond pleased with my success! :) Finally content with my efforts, I drove home, connected our second Mohu Leaf Ultimate to our upstairs TV and fully collapsed on our couch.

I was so excited that my tiring two-day TV adventure yielded such fantastic results! (I really was bushed with all my researching, running around and connecting/disconnecting of technology.) Now my little family can watch regular network/public TV, Netflix (and all the other free goodies Roku has to offer {like BYUTV, Mormon Channel, TED Talks, PBS, PBS Kids, etc., etc.}), and Sling TV in three rooms! Before we cut our dependence on cable TV, we had only two rooms that could get two of the three entertainment options. And we were paying a ridiculous amount of money every month for cable channels we weren't even watching! To some, our current TV setups might seem excessive, but we are a family of five with different tastes in entertainment, so I'm grateful for the many options we are given through modern technology!

My disclaimer about Sling TV is this: you still have to pay $20+/a month for it, and you only get to watch it on one TV at a time—no matter how many Rokus or other digital devices your account is connected to. Yet the $25/month we'll be paying (Greg requested the $5 sports package) is such an awesome savings compared to what we were paying for cable TV! Not to mention, we rarely watched more cable TV channels than what Sling TV currently offers. As Greg and I debated switching to Sling TV, we realized that they have all the main channels we watch anyway! :)

By the way, being able to watch Sling TV on only one TV at a time really doesn't phase any of us because we have basic TV and all the other free options on Roku to choose from on our other two TVs! Also, in our I-get-everything-I-want-right-now society, I don't mind having my family share and take turns with each other! :) Oh, I sound like such an old lady! ;)

Bottom line: my heart feels amazingly free, happy and light because we canceled our expensive cable TV package! Wahoo!! Yippee!!! I'm ecstatic knowing we have access to the world and its entertainment at a discounted rate! I love that my beloved sports-minded Gregor—who works so hard for our family—can still enjoy his favorite thing besides me! Ha ha. Just kidding. (He loves many other things—including our children and playing basketball three to four times per week.)

I've fully accepted the fact that ESPN will never be out of our lives, and now I'm truly (and finally) okay with that! :)

P.S. Just to clarify, I've never not liked ESPN. I like ESPN! It's just that ESPN isn't my go-to channel by default because I have so many other interests. That said, I like watching many programs on ESPN with my Gregor—especially 30 For 30 and their other featured stories about athletes. I love hearing everyone's life stories! I also truly enjoy watching Stephen A (Smith), he's a pretty fun guy!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Hello, July!

Every day, I have many tasks to work on. I have projects waiting to be finished so I can flush them out of my consciousness. But over the past several weeks, I've had this insatiable craving to just hang out here on my blog. Oh, who am I kidding? My blogging desires are a daily occurrence! Ha ha. Yet time and again, my responsible adult side wins the battle in my "yellow" brain. Thus, my blog sits—quietly awaiting my return.

Make no mistake: it is a battle for me to not blog for hours every day! I'm sure my yellow self is constantly fighting to move my body in the direction of my computer, and every time I walk past the keyboard, it shouts and squeals its frustrations—always hoping for a better outcome next time. ;) *And no, I haven't seen Disney/Pixar's Inside Out, but I imagine it's probably pretty accurate compared to what happens in my head! Ha ha. :)

I know I've mentioned it before, but it's worth reiterating that I often walk through my house thinking, "I don't want to do anything!!! I just want to have FUN! Aah!" Inevitably, I do what needs to be done...even though I don't want to! Today, though, I'm going to blab for a little while. YAY! :)

So...hello, July! I can't believe you've come again so soon for a visit! I mean, I didn't get to spend very much time with June so I really hope I didn't hurt her feelings! That said, I'm surprised that you've been here 24 days already! Whoa. Are you sure you don't know how to speed up time without us knowing about it? I honestly feel like my kids just finished their last day of school! Yet here I sit, only one month away from sending my babies back to the care of their teachers. That thought makes my face look sad. In fact, thinking of my children back in school for nearly seven hours every day brings tears to my eyes, but I won't dwell on that right now. Instead, I'll be excited for the many days I've had and will have with my babies at home. :)

My little family and I have had so much fun this summer! The weather in Utah has been something to behold! We had such a rainy summer start that our mountains resembled Hawaii! Oh, they were spectacularly beautiful! Now our days and nights have become more "typical dry Utah," which makes me immensely happy!

Just last week, as I shook out our hair-cutting cape in the driveway, I looked up at the sky and wanted to squish the puffy clouds! I wanted to fly my body into the stunningly blue sky and never come down! I saw the cute little birds in my neighbor's bird feeder, breathed in our wonderfully-non-humid air, and instantly felt my heart swell with joy! I was near happy tears! Yes, July, I'm thrilled with the weather you've brought to Utah!

The past several weeks have been filled with memorable events—here are just a few:

  • track camp
  • track meet
  • basketball camp
  • multiple swimming lessons
  • happy extended family get-togethers
  • the birth of my precious niece
  • many late nights belly laughing with my children
  • deliciously cuddling with my sweetest husband
  • attending our little city's community play
  • watching Hale Centre Theatre's amazing production of The Little Mermaid
  • celebrating our beloved America and pioneer heritage

I've also enjoyed the many opportunities I've been given to serve others in my church and neighborhood. :) Yes, even amidst the busy-ness there is an underlying peace in my heart that cannot be squashed—despite my what my previous post might convey! ;)

Although, July, I must say that as much as I like you, one of our most important and joyous moments happened on June 15th. You see, that glorious date means we've been back living in our happy 70s home for two whole years! I'm amazed that time has flown so quickly.

I'm also relieved to say that my "Moving PTSD" has finally moved-on! Yes, my heart is absolutely, totally, and fully settled. I no longer have strange dreams, weird adrenaline rushes, or major stresses and worries like I did in Texas. I'm thankful every day for my now-peaceful heart!

I read somewhere that it takes, on average, two years to recover from a traumatic event. (For the life of me, I can't find the link. Sorry!) Obviously, there are umpteen more traumatic events than moving half-way across the country! ;) But for me, these past two years of living in Utah have been a healing golden balm to my soul.

I don't think anyone could ever truly understand how my heart hurt for so many years. I calculated the other day that my little family was in turmoil—in one form or another—from 2006–2015. Thus, my joy is that much more intense and mind-blowing simply because my little family is finally at peace...knock on wood! Ha ha. But in all seriousness, I'm grateful for all of our trials, for they make our good moments that much better! :)

July, another reason I love when you visit is because you bring my baby boy's birthday with you! Despite my worries that my youngest handsome son's birthday this year wasn't the greatest, he made my heart sing when he spoke these words, "Mom! This is the BEST birthday I've ever had!" And he really meant it! I could see pure joy in his contented face and I thought my heart would burst with happiness—endlessly spilling chocolate kisses all over everyone! ;) Oh, I was so happy to hear his words!

But July, the fun hasn't stopped yet! You see, just this past Tuesday, my husband and I were able to finally refinance our home's mortgage! Yippee! Hip hip hooray!!! It was truly such a huge day for Greg and me. You see, we've been wanting to refinance our home since 2012, but it just could not happen.

Greg really wanted to refinance our home last year (2014)—and on paper, it made perfectly rational sense to do that—but I kept receiving the spiritual impression (from the Holy Ghost) that the answer was definitely, "NO. Do not refinance your home—you need to wait." That wasn't the answer either of us wanted, but Greg agreed to wait because he knows how important it is to listen to my spiritual promptings. Oh, I adore Greg for his pure love and dedication to me! :) I love Greg for millions of other reasons, too, but you know what I mean. :)

This year when Greg said it was time to refinance our home, I prayed about it and didn't feel any spiritual stumbling blocks! Yay! I didn't get that big "NO" pit in my stomach like I did last year. Hooray! So I said, "Great! Greg, go ahead and initiate our refinance!" Of course I ended up doing all the paperwork because I take care of the finances in our household, but Greg perfectly blasted off our refinance rocket in the right direction. My diligent Greg works so smartly, brings home the bacon, and I do the rest! Ha ha. We make a really great team! I was totally overjoyed at how smoothly our refinance process went. I think this is the first time in years that I've really relaxed for an extended period of time—literally!

Yes, July, I think you're quickly becoming one of my favorite months! :) I'm glad you've made such a happy impact on our lives. Even though I'd love for you to stick around longer than seven more days, I understand that you need to make room for August and all of her changes...let's hope she brings good news with her!

And with that, my blogging friends, I must be on my way. Happy Friday night to you all! :)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pesky Pernicious Perilous Pride

Have you ever thought or said any of the following phrases?

"Can you even believe they said that to me?!"
"I can't believe they did that to me!"
"Who do they think they are?!"
"They can't say that to me!"
"They can't treat me like that!"

I have. Each and every time one of those phrases entered my mind, I felt completely justified in my annoyance, anger and hurt...until now.

You see, I recently found myself in the middle of a few interactions that helped me finally understand why there is so much written about pride in the scriptures. (A simple search of the word pride on returns 119 references in the scriptures and scriptural helps.) The basic warning that covers it all is found throughout the scriptures: "...beware of pride..." It might sound strange to some, but up until a while ago, I didn't worry that much about pride.

As I reflected on those prideful interactions, I found it super interesting to remember my 2015 fascination with President Ezra Taft Benson's marvelous lesson about pride. I highly recommend reading or listening to Chapter 18: "Beware of Pride,"  Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 229–40. I listened to his lesson (while getting ready for the day) at least nine or 10 times this year—probably more, but I lost count! I'm sure I'll listen to his lesson again.

Knowing what I know now from my recent encounters, I know I was inspired by the Holy Ghost to listen to President Benson's brilliant words. I needed his advanced tutelage in order to prepare me for those prideful and somewhat hurtful interactions. And yet, even as I write about the hurt, I know that pride is what allowed me to feel hurt in the first place. Oh, the irony!

It is the strangest thing for me to finally and wholly internalize that being offended has everything to do with pride.

Please don't laugh at me for coming late to the pride-knowledge party, for I truly never thought about pride in that context before—that is, until others let me know I offended them in some way.

I won't go into details of the instances that spurred this post, but suffice it to say, apparently (at times), my personality has been offensive to others. To find out that information was shocking, unexpected and totally disheartening. Yet as I thought back on my life, I realized that that idea was not new—which astounded me! For I never, ever purposely tried to offend or hurt anyone.

Over the past several weeks, I've tried not to dwell on those surprising, revealing, painful and pride-filled interactions, but I admit, they entered my mind from time to time. After all, I'm only human. I didn't let those unhappy thoughts linger in my happy mind—I pushed them out as quickly as they came, but sometimes they recurred. I tried not to beat myself up over mistakes made throughout my life, but sometimes I shuddered at the thought that anyone could take such offense at my words and actions—or lack thereof!

Despite my social blunders, thankfully, I've come to understand the following:
  1. When someone is offended by me, their pride is taking over—and vice versa.
  2. Another person's pride is none of my business—and vice versa.
  3. I cannot spend my days worrying that someone might be offended by me, for pride is (or will be) a problem for everyone at some time in their life, or another. Thus, it's nearly a guarantee that someone will be offended by me, no matter what I say or do. Besides, constant censoring of oneself is not only tiring, but it hinders a soul's growth.
  4. When it's been pointed out to me that I've offended someone (unknowingly), sincerely apologizing and changing my ways (to the extent possible) is the only thing I can do. It's completely up to the other person whether they want to forgive me, or not.
  5. I will continue to freely apologize any time someone is offended by me. I wish those instances would stop, but knowing my "offensive" track record, I can't see that they will completely disappear. Refer back to point three. :)
  6. No matter how much I want to fretfully worry about my varied social faux pas, I must accept that I can't undo what has been done. It is what it is.
  7. When I have been enlightened by someone as to the errors of my ways, I should not allow their sad words to stay in my thoughts and further hurt my heart.
  8. If I allow myself to be hurt or offended by someone else's words, my pride is taking over.
  9. I must learn from prideful situations, forgive others and move on. *That doesn't mean I forgive the person/people and then foolishly allow myself to be put in harm's way again. No. It means I let the incident go; stop talking about it; protect myself from future incidents; and pray for strength to happily continue moving forward! :)
There are many great quotes about pride that I must share from Chapter 18: "Beware of Pride," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, {2014}, 229–40:
"Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right. ... 
"Pride is characterized by 'What do I want out of life?’ rather than by 'What would God have me do with my life?' It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God. 
"Humility responds to God’s will—to the fear of His judgments and to the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts."
However, this good quote made my heart sink:
"Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin."
Um, yeah... After reading those words, I felt like I was the pride equivalent of "Cher" on Clueless—which is probably no surprise to some! ;)

Here are two more important quotes from President Benson's lesson:
"God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Alma said, 'Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble.' (Alma 32:16.) ...Let us choose to be humble. We can do it. I know we can."
"We must cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride. (See Alma 6:2–4; Matthew 23:25–26.) ...We must yield 'to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,' put off the prideful 'natural man,' become 'a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord,' and become 'as a child, submissive, meek, humble.' (Mosiah 3:19; see also Alma 13:28.)"
As I internalized that the remedy for pride is humility, I felt like there was no hope for me—for I am a very strong-willed (And physically strong! Ha ha.), outspoken, opinionated, energetic and exuberant lady! Hi! Enthusiastic Fantasticanyone?! ;)

I felt like I would be in "eternal" trouble for just being who I am because, apparently, some (or many?) people perceive my personality as prideful—even though I don't view myself as prideful. I worried that because others view me as prideful, perhaps our Heavenly Father views me in the same sad light?? My thought process might sound strange, but it's how I felt.

Nevertheless, as I re-listened to President Benson's lesson, my thoughts continually drifted back to this glorious quote (below) that was given to President Benson by his eternal and lovely wife, Flora Amussen Benson. I say "given" because Sister Benson's words truly are a gift!
"Don't worry about the world's opinion of you as long as you're right with the Lord."
Thank you, Flora, for your words are precisely what my heart needed! :)

In my mind, everything I've done in my life—albeit imperfectly—has been within the bounds our Heavenly Father has set. In other words: I've followed our Savior Jesus Christ and His teachings to the very best of my ability.

Like our Savior, everything I do revolves around our Heavenly Father's will. I'm not 100% successful at following His will all the time, but, day in and day out, I am trying my best to do what is right. Thankfully, the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes up the difference for what I am unable to accomplish. Truly, if I'm right with the Lord, nothing else matters.

What further helped heal my wounded heart is this fabulous quote:
"But humility does not mean weakness. It does not mean timidity; it does not mean fear. [We] can be humble and also fearless. [We] can be humble and also courageous. Humility is the recognition of our dependence upon a higher power, a constant need for the Lord's support..." – Chapter 22: "Carrying the Gospel to the World," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 275–86
Can I get a hallelujah?! Because, yes, I freely and fully recognize that I am completely dependent upon the Lord. Yet in that same breath, I know I can continue being strong, fearless and courageous in my life—and I have the Lord's blessing in doing so, as long as I follow Him! :)

I will "ponder the path of my feet" and proceed with my daily endeavors to rid my soul of that pesky pernicious perilous pride. I'll willingly continue traveling along our Savior's path throughout eternity!

P.S. Aren't words so much fun?! :)