23 January 2011

Tough Guys

Wisconsin men are tough. They will not let a little snow or arctic freeze get in the way of hunting, ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, sledding, or playing football in short sleeves. My husband can currently be found in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, skiing with this brother. Last year around this time, he took off all his clothes and jumped in a frozen Lake Lucerne. Not me, I took pictures, fully clothed.


Holland also has a long tradition of polar plunges. They are called New Year's Dives. They have become quite popular is the last decade. Hundreds, if not thousands of tough Dutch guys and girls run into the North Sea on or around January first. But when the temperature drops too far below zero degrees Celsius, those dives are canceled for fear of injuries and hypothermia.

Not in Wisconsin. This year's Polar Jump took place yesterday. And the temperature may have been sub zero, I am sure there were more than enough tough guys, and the occasional tough girl, who were willing to take the plunge.

22 January 2011

Arctic Freeze

Another sub zero day in the Northwoods. It is gorgeous and sunny but so cold, the inside of your nose freezes the minute you venture outside and your breath is taken away.

It's a day to stay inside, play with your child, and bake cookies.

Ice castle in Eagle River

Recovering The Satellites

It wasn't too long ago I publicly sang the praise of satellite radio. How happy I was with the commercial free stations, the freedom to listen to Bruce Springsteen all day long, or songs from the seventies, or Christmas music round the clock. So happy in fact, we decided to purchase a year long subscription before our trial was even over.

And so our troubles began.

Ryan wrote XM Radio a check for $173,27 which was cashed on October first. We thought we were good to go. We were wrong. The payment, as it turns out, was never applied to my account and in December we received our first bill for the same amount plus $2,10 for 'invoice costs' as it was put.

I called XM Radio's Listener Care department. A cute name but not a very realistic one because neither listen nor care are verbs one associates with this service after trying to deal with it. I have spent hours on the phone with them, trying to work things out with people who have not mastered the English language very well and could not care less about this listener. When you ask for a supervisor, you're disconnected. On my third try my call was routed to a girl that seemed to grasp my problem and she supplied me with a fax number for the billing department. I faxed over my proof of payment and hoped for the best.

Two weeks later I received a reply: a reminder invoice with another $2,10 tacked on to cover the cost of the invoice. They must have some fancy printers there. I called Listener Care again, only to find out the fax number I was given was not an XM Radio fax number. Really? Where did I send a copy of my bank statement to? She had no idea. She gave me a different fax number, a genuine XM Radio number she assured me.

The number didn't work. I tried for two days. It rang but was never picked up.

And so I called the Listener Care department for a third time and lo and behold, I was transferred to a supervisor without being hung up on. I was given a third fax number. I felt really good about that number because it came from a supervisor this time, someone in charge.

"The number you are trying to reach is not in service."

Phone calls were obviously getting me nowhere and I decided to write a letter, a very polite one even. I enclosed copies of everything and again, hoped for the best.

Two days ago I received my response. My service was scheduled for deactivation if I didn't pay immediately. Sometime today they made good on their word and cut me off.

I have run out of options. It is impossible to resolve anything with a company that refuses to communicate. When I searched online for an alternative way of contacting XM Radio, I stumbled upon Consumer Affairs' website with 62 pages of complaints about this company. Most experiences, from what I have read, are similar to mine.

I am ready to throw in the towel and write my $173,27 off as a bad investment. But I learned from Consumer Affairs that XM Radio is not done with me. I have more bills to look forward to, charging me for the six weeks of service between the end of my free trial and the day I was cut off. Plus $2,10 for the cost of the invoices no doubt. Followed by collection calls at all hours of the day, because of course I am not going to pay them.

We'll see. In the meantime I am back to listening to regular radio. Not commercial free, but at least it's hassle free.

21 January 2011

Toddler Talk III

I have a funny child, I could record her all day. Here are some highlights of the past months.

After Ryan told her it was our anniversary, that we had gotten married four years ago, she looked at me and exclaimed: "You got married?!?"

And later to her grandmother: "Mom got married!"


At daycare during a nature walk, outfitted with little magnifying glasses: "Connie, I think we have a mystery here..."

"I am so frustrated, I am going to turn into a monster!" And no, we have not been watching The Incredible Hulk. She was just demonstrating she learned a new word that day. Everything was frustrating to her.

There is a lot of talk about bugs going around at the moment. People are calling in sick left and right. Lola knows why: "If you eat a bug, you get sick."

"Row, row, row your boat. Gently down the stream. Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary. Like a spider's dream."

It is almost time for bed and Lola will do anything to avoid having to go to bed. We're discussing the messes in our rooms. I suggest we clean up this weekend. "How about you clean your room tomorrow and I clean my room today. But maybe you need some help with the little things. You know who could help you?" Big smile, pointing at herself. "But only if you listen to me. Do you promise to listen to me?"

20 January 2011

Clean And Shiny

The creature is taking a bath. She has quite the collection of bath toys but she informed me earlier she wasn't sure she wanted to play with them anymore. So I gave her a scrubber instead. And now I have a clean bathtub.

I am brilliant, if I do say so myself.


16 January 2011

One Of Those Mornings

There are a couple of work reports I need to write that I really have to sit down for and concentrate on. However, the daily hustle and bustle of the casino hasn't allowed for it. My intended solution was to go in nice and early and arrive before everyone else. To aid in my early departure I had prepared everything the night before. I prepped the coffee, I laid out my clothes, and all the chopping and browning for my slow cooker meal was done.

I got up shortly after 5 am, got dressed, and made myself a cup of coffee. As I started loading the ingredients in the crockpot, something seemed off. Three cups of rice and only half a cup of water? I looked at the recipe again.

Snag #1: the recipe called for cooked rice.

No problem. I hauled out the rice cooker, filled it up, and turned it on.

Snag #2: sometimes our rice cooker jumps back to the "warm" setting.

When I walked into the kitchen twenty minutes later, my rice was not done. I turned it on again. Why hadn't I just cooked the rice on the stove? By this time, I was running seriously late. Lola had gotten up in the meantime and I dressed and fed her. When my meal was finally ready to go, it was almost 8 o'clock. We decided I would take Lola to daycare and Ryan would pick her up, instead of the other way around, so I could work a little later to make up some time.

I dropped Lola off and was on my way. I was happily driving along, bopping to the music, feeling pretty good. There was no sense in stressing over lost time since there was nothing I could do about it. The sun was shining and the roads were clear.

Snag #3: at the Oneida/Forest county line a power line had fallen onto the road and all traffic had come to a full stop.

For the first time ever since I moved to Wisconsin I was stuck in traffic. I reached for my blackberry to call work and answer some emails while I was waiting.

Snag #4: my blackberry was still sitting on my nightstand.

Since Big Blue has a built-in cell phone, I was able to let my staff know I was going nowhere at the moment and I would be very late coming in. I also called Ryan to chat.

Snag #5: Ryan was not too far behind me, on his way to a dentist appointment that had already been rescheduled three times.

I told him to let them know he probably wouldn't make it. Not too long after that though, WPS pulled the power line back up and everything started moving again. Ryan made it in time and I finally clocked in at 9:52 am. Only three hours late.

15 January 2011

Happy 2011!

I started this post on New Year's Day, hence the title. I could have sworn there was a picture of an eagle here before. You see, as I was sipping my coffee outside on that crisp January 1 morning, there was an eagle soaring overhead. I watched that eagle for a good ten minutes, marveling at its beautiful and graceful movements. What a wonderful sight to start the new year with.

I went back inside to share it with you, only to find the router had crashed, bringing my resolution of posting twice a week to a screeching halt. The problem has long since been fixed but life happened and blogging did not. To bring you up to speed on our adventures, here are the cliff notes.

* The casino's Marketing Director left and I am now pulling double duty. It's been hectic to put it mildly.

* I have taken up belly dancing classes. Every Thursday evening, I shake my pelvis for an hour with four other middle-aged women. We look silly, we feel silly, but our pelvises love it.

* Lola has entered the Princess Phase. In addition to a tiny Cinderella doll with rubber dresses (that I have to dress and undress), she is now the proud owner of pink and silver princess sneakers that light up when she walks. While we were making our way to the cashier after picking them out, she told every single person in the store she had new shoes.

* Ryan and I went on a date this week. Nothing spectacular, just drinks and dinner. We are going to do this every month. I just hope our next dates go better than this one did. We must be out of practice. Come to think of it, we never dated. We pretty much met and got married. We obviously need to do it more often. Practice makes perfect.

* The whole family received ice skates from Santa Claus. We tied them under last week and went skating in the park. It was after dark and we had the rink to ourselves. We didn't skate very long but we had fun. It was Lola's very first time on skates. In two weeks, we are taking her skiing.


* While we were skating in circles, there were two cars parked outside the rink, one with its door wide open. We looked around but didn't see or hear anyone. Very strange. As we were getting ready to leave, a woman came out of one car and got into the other one with the open door. I have a sneaking suspicion we stumbled onto Rhinelander's red light district. Ryan isn't sure.

* There are four business trips in my immediate future. I am flying to Palm Springs at the end of this month, to the Wisconsin Dells in March, and Phoenix and Las Vegas in April. I could get used to this.

* And last, but certainly not least, I have one more trip planned. On March 17, Lola and I are flying to Holland for eight days. Finally I will be able to introduce my daughter to her aunt and her cousins. We cannot wait. It has been four and a half years since I have seen most of my family and friends. Ryan is not coming, he cannot take that much time off work yet.

You're all caught up again. As for the present, I am tending to a sick child. She has a cold, a sore throat, and a bark like cough. Poor girl. I hope she feels better in the morning. We are going to make cupcakes together.

I wish you all a (very belated) Happy New Year!

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