A Latina Grinch

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FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

Those are usually the words that come out of my mouth when I am feeling cranky during the holidays.  Except that I say them with a heavy Spanish accent and using a very low and monotone voice.

In reality, I have nothing serious to be complaining about.  I have no business whining or being bratty.  But let’s be real here, it gets exhausting faking jolliness all month-long.

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

I am suffering from a severe case of the, “I don’t wanna’s”.  Have you ever suffered from this?  It can be very serious and highly contagious.

This Puerto Rican Grinch is at the peak of her illness and needs medical attention (or a good slapping) ASAP.

Here are examples of how this ailment is manifesting itself: 

1. There are rotten bananas liquefying on the kitchen counter and a decision needs to be made.  Banana bread would be the logical solution.  My response:   I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna.

2.  After laboring over placing a fake garland with lights attached to it on the mantlepiece and ensuring that the lights worked prior to using it, the lights don’t work.   New lights would be the logical solution.  My response:  Sh#%&*@^!!!!  I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

3. My in-laws need my husband and I to stay at their house overnight to help out while my mother-in-law goes to a Christmas show two hours away.  The logical and usual response is to do this lovingly and with no hesitation.  My response:  I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

4. My Puerto Rican mustache is in dire need of waxing.  We are talking Señor Brick House!  The logical solution:  wax the hell out of it.  My response:  I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

5. I have mad amounts of Christmas shopping to do.  I even know what to get my loved ones.  Some gifts take two seconds  and a simple click of the submit button.  The logical solution: buy the frikin’ gifts already!  My response: I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

6.  By this time, I have usually indulged in Puerto Rican no-good-for-you fried goodies and have listened to festive (and loud) Puerto Rican Christmas music to get me in the mood.  Logical solution: go to freezer, defrost said no-good-for-you fried goodies, fry those suckers, eat them, press play on your Christmas play list, grab your maracas and güiro and dance the merengue ’till you pull a muscle.  My response: I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

PLEASE SEND WELL-WISHES FOR A SPEEDY RECOVERY!

FELIZ NAVIDAD TO YOU AND YOURS!

 

One More Day

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I am convinced that I have gained more strength and wisdom in the past two days than I have throughout my entire life.

I can only describe it as a sort of awakening and clarity that has jolted my senses and filled my heart with hope, love and understanding.  I can feel my soul rise above me and watch me take it all in, in amazement.

The beauty of it all is so vividly apparent and pressed right up against my face.  Like a flashing billboard on a moonless night, it is luring me in all the while wondering what took me so long to grasp its invaluable simplicity.  

So very simple.

As I wallowed in my insignificant thoughts of the day, I remembered a commitment I had made to the woman who cleans my house.  She has worked with me for years and in spite of her less than ideal past, has transformed herself into a caring religious adult.

As a result of her illegal and reckless behavior as a young woman, she was diagnosed with the HIV virus twenty years ago.  She is fortunate to have access to top medical care and is optimistic about her future.

In honor of World Aids Day today, her church was hosting her and celebrating her successful battle with the disease and her spiritual transformation.  She would be speaking at this event and thus invited people in her life to join in on the celebration.

I did not want to go.  Although I respect her and her accomplishments, it was cold and rainy out and the last thing I wanted to do was to go to a ‘strange’ church filled with people I didn’t know and sit through the two-hour program.   I went as far as texting her to ask her when specifically she would be speaking so that I could skip the rest of the event.

Then, I resigned myself to the idea that I would be going and  stopped to pick up a bouquet of flowers for her.  I drove myself to an unfamiliar location in the cold rain and sat in the last pew at the church.  I figured it would be an easy escape once her speech was over.

The ceremony began with a beautiful song sung by the choir.  A song titled, One More Day.  I settled in my seat opening my mind to what lay ahead.  I listened to the beautiful words and music.  I felt my shoulders relax and my breathing slow down to a resting breath.  

Verse one:   

I woke up, early this morning
And I saw, a brand new dawning , When I got up, I opened my eyes, I said Lord I thank you for keeping me alive.

Unlike the solemn mood of the songs at the church I occasionally attend, I was enjoying this inspiring and upbeat gospel piece.  

Chorus Lead: Thank you Lord,
Choir: One more day
Lead: For one more day
Choir: One more day
Lead: Lord you been good to me
Choir: One more day
Lead: For just one more day
Choir: One more day

After numerous speakers told their stories of lost loved ones, talked about the stigma that still exists for AIDS patients and the lack of worldwide rhetoric about a disease that killed 1.2 million people in 2014 alone, it was my friend’s turn to speak.

To say that I couldn’t wipe the tears off my face fast enough is an understatement.  She told of her many struggles, of the costly mistakes she made, of the number of people she used and lied to and of her terrifying diagnosis and death sentence she received 20 years ago.

She expressed her gratitude to her loved ones, her church and all the people in her life who chose not to judge her.  Who chose to accept her in spite of her past and who made her feel that she mattered.  Once she saw that others loved her, she stopped thinking of herself as unworthy and began to love herself.  

She repeated the words, one more day and expressed her gratitude for having the gift of life.

Verse 2:
Lord you kept me, from all hurt and harm
Lord you kept me safe in the cradle of your arms
Lord I want you to know, I won’t complain
Everytime I think of your goodness, I gotta praise your name
opportunity to live one more day

I saw hope.  I saw hard work.  I saw love.  I saw gratitude.  I saw forgiveness.  I saw the value and the blessing of, one more day.

How self-absorbed and petty I was to try to get out of attending this event. How presumptuous of me to assume that I was doing this person a favor by going, when it was obvious that I received much more than I gave.

A situation yesterday where I met with my niece who has chosen to live a more wholesome life after a tumultuous past,  combined with having experienced this beautiful service today has enlightened me so significantly.  It has given my hardened and at times cynical soul a reason to believe again.  

To believe that people can change.  To believe that love can overcome almost anything.  To believe that there is always hope.  To believe that with hard work and devotion, happiness and peace are possible.  To believe, that even when putting all religion aside, gratitude for who we are, what we have and for every new day we live, is imperative to achieving a fulfilling life.

One More Day.

So very simple.

 

 

Love Has No Timeframe

I realize that I have written about my mother’s second marriage here before, but as I sit and watch her and her wonderful husband hanging out in my living room with me, I can’t help my desire to want to shout out their story and tell it over and over again.

My mother.  A beautiful and caring woman who has been my life line, my strength and my inspiration.  Someone who has taught me to accept what is, to make do with what one has and to persevere when the desire to quit is lurking nearby.

In her mid 70’s after having lived as a widow for twelve difficult years following the death of my father (her childhood sweetheart),  she met a man.  A man she was not looking for.  A man she was not interested in meeting.  A kind, intelligent persistent widower who had heard about her via mutual friends.

He lived in California, she in Puerto Rico.  Friends insisted they talk on the phone.  He gave her his email address, she purposely lost it. He had family in Puerto Rico and used that as an excuse to go meet her.  She reluctantly accepted his dinner invitation.

They dined, they talked, they laughed.  They dined again the next night.  And the next.   They laughed some more.  A month went by and they continued to ‘secretly date’.  Not a word was said to family or friends.  Not a word to their kids.

She traveled to the States to care for me after an operation.  While at my house, she behaved strangely.  She giggled often.  She texted a lot.  She smiled. She sang.  She skyped.  She was more giddy than my teenage daughter.  What was going on?

My husband caught her skyping in the middle of the night.  Who was she taking to?  She answered texts while at the dinner table with her grandkids watching her.  She was in her own little world.

Finally, I demanded she tell me what was going on.  She smirked, hesitated and blushed.  She informed me that she had met a ‘nice man’ who lived in California. WHAT??

After interrogating her, alerting my siblings, conducting a paid background check on him and google earthing his home,  I sat wide eyed with a dropped jaw, in disbelief.  She was flying to CA to visit him.  WHAT??

She flew to him.  She remained the moral and assured woman she had always been.  She stayed at a hotel near his home.  They dined, they laughed, they talked.  She called me to tell me they were engaged.  WHAT??

Who was this man?  Was she in danger?

Within a week, he had flown back to my home with her.  They were engaged and beaming with glee.  At a luncheon with my siblings where he proclaimed his love for her and his desire to marry her, we too were instantly smitten.  What an amazing person.  What a kind, loving and respectful man.  How he cherished my mother.  How happy they seemed.

On December 4, 2015, they will be celebrating their 5th year wedding anniversary.  They are by far, the sweetest, cutest and happiest couple I know.  They hold hands, they kiss, they watch out for one another, they travel, they dance, they dress up, they live and they love.

They say love is patient and kind.  I see that it is also within anyone’s reach, no matter the age.

Wishing them both many more years of love and health!

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All Names Matter

egr.vcu.edu

egr.vcu.edu

 

Did you know that George Foreman (former professional boxer) has 12 children?  And did you know that his five sons are also named George?  

They are, George Jr., George III (“Monk”), George IV (“Big Wheel”), George V (“Red”), and George VI (“Little Joey”).  Imagine if they didn’t have nicknames?  How on earth would they know when they were being addressed?

I can sympathize with all the Georges.

I was born in the 60’s and at that time, Mary and Maria were two of the top 3 names given to baby girls.  I was also born in Puerto Rico where almost everyone is a Maria.  In recent decades however, it has become more ‘acceptable’ to use less biblical names which means there will be fewer Marias in our future (oh no!)

Speaking of biblical names, I have decided to reveal my full name for you today (I know, it’s so exciting!) Once you see what it is, you will never think of me in the same way, especially if you thought my name was really Brickhousechick.  

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Once you know my given name, you may feel the urge to bow to me, carry rosary beads and definitely pray.

Ready?

 

 

My birth name is….

 

 

Drumroll please…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is:  María de Jesús 

 

We’re talking Mary of Jesus, people!  Yes, of THAT Jesus!

(You can start praying now)

To add to this most epic proclamation, I will tell you that my mother has the exact same name.  She too is Mary of Jesus.  

Will you believe me if I tell you that my sister is also a Maria?  She is María Luisa, as is a cousin of ours.   Two other cousins are both named María Rosa and others are, María de Los Angeles, María del Carmen, María Milagros, María Consuelo and María Concepción.

This is what my Maria's should be like

Hello, my name is Maria

 

You may be wondering how we function and interact with each other while sharing the same name.  The truth is that we do what George Foreman does.  Everyone has a nickname.  It’s like an Oprah giveaway, “You get a nickname and you get a nickname and you get a nickname!”

In fact, we use our nicknames so much so, that I had to do research for this post in order to find out their real names!

Some of our nicknames are common for our given names but most make absolutely no sense at all.  

We are: TUTI, CACHI, TITA, CUCHI, LULU, FIFA, CONCHI, CUCA, CUCH.

(If you need a cigarette after that, I’ll understand)

As for the Puerto Rican men in our lives, many are named José with a second name to follow such as, José Luis.  Their nicknames, I find, do not accurately represent their stature, strength and particularly, their machismo.  Well, judge for yourself: 

PEPITO, PEPE, TITO, PEEWEE, XUANCY, WISO, KIKO, ÑITO, PAPO, SAPO, CHU

(Not exactly RAMBO type names)

When I started this blog, I decided to call myself Brickhousechick because I didn’t have enough names attached to me already I thought it more closely depicted what I am all about; strongly solid on the outside yet somewhat mushy and soft on the inside. If you are wondering what in the world to call me now, just know that you can continue to call me Brickhouse unless you feel inclined to call me María de Jesus The Mother of God’s Son, which I will gladly respond to.

All names matter except when you all have the same name, in which case, all nicknames matter.

drawasamaniac.com

drawasamaniac.com

 

What’s your nickname?

 

Serve Your Man First

speakeristic.blogspot.com Credit: Magazine illustration, 1954 (colour litho) by English School, (20th century) Private Collection/ © The Advertising Archives/ The Bridgeman Art Library Nationality / copyright status: English / copyright unknown

speakeristic.blogspot.com

Growing up in a traditional Puerto Rican family, I observed from a very young age the gender roles my parents and family members took on when going about their daily lives.  Although both my parents worked and had mutual respect for each other’s careers, when it came to certain things, tradition took over.

This was evident particularly at meal time.  My mother always served my father his meal before serving anyone else.  If they were at a function with a buffet style dining, she got up, went through the line, made up a plate for him first and then went back for her own plate.

As my sister and I grew older and paid more attention to this phenomenon, we made it abundantly clear how much we disagreed with this tradition and that it would not be repeated with our future husbands.  No way.

Our two loving brothers couldn’t resist celebrating this tradition and would ask my sister and I to serve them first.  We of course, didn’t.  I accepted serving my father first because he was my father but laughed at my brothers’ attempts to guilt us into it.  As it was, my sister and I were already miffed about having to always wash dishes while my brothers could go off and play.  Grrrr.

Well, it is 2015.  My husband and I have been married for 26 years (wow that sounds like a lot) and as promised, I did not take on the serving him first tradition.  If anything, due to my physical limitations, it was he who had to serve me first and do a lot more of his share of the household chores.

He did it all with an abundance of love.

As my husband and I face a change in his career which requires a tremendous amount of stress, long hours, night meetings, responsibility, devotion, commitment and leadership, there is nothing I want more than to take care of him.  Within my health limitations, I want to to help him in every way.

I want him to be healthy.  I want to make sure he sleeps well, eats well and manages stress in a reasonable way.  If this means being a “traditional” 50’s wife whose day is spent making her husband’s life easier, then so be it.

Bring on the cute short aprons and the recipes!

Bring on the drives to the dry cleaners (I’m not ironing) to pick up his shirts!

Bring on the slippers to warm his feet once he gets home!

Bring on having to take the recycling and trash out myself!

Bring on getting a lawn mower service (I’m not mowing the lawn!)

Bring on listening to every single boring detail of his day with a smile!

Bring on having to give him massages (maybe)!

And most of all, bring on serving him his meals first!

 

And I will  do it all, with an abundance of love.

 

 

 

A Closed Letter To The CEO Of My F-%@* Phone Plan

September 17, 2015

Dear Mr. CEO of Fauxrizon:

It’s me, Brick.  You know, the loyal customer who spent 6 days repeating herself with your outsourced employees in order to restore her internet?  The one who you sent a new refurbished phone to replace her broken phone and who cannot use her new refurbished phone because there is a vertical @ss line blocking the screen and not allowing her to type certain letters?  I thought that might jog your memory.

Listen, I know how extremely busy you are coming up with new ways to dupe idiot customers like myself so I won’t make this too long. Having worked in management for many years, I understand the importance and impact good customer service can have on a company.  It is  actually a pretty simple concept even a 5th grader can grasp.  Mano a mano, you and I know how it works, right?  Mistakes happen, you empathize, apologize, acknowledge the mistake and then you own the problem solving and resolution to make sure that your customer is satisfied.  Does this sound at all familiar from training you may have gotten way back when you were a pion?

I am typically a calm person with very low blood pressure, in fact, so low that doctors often mistake me for a dead person.  I am also fair and understanding and will be the first person to compliment, praise and recognize good customer service when I see it.  I am known to friends as the “letter” writer.  I have written letters to people such as Mr. Apple, Mr. Microsoft, Mr. Citibank and Mr. President of a prominent hospital, expressing my likes and dislikes of their business practices.  In fact, I wrote a complimentary email to the supervisor of one of your outsourced employees from India who held my hand (through the telephone wires) throughout my whole internet malfunction debacle and who talked me out of canceling my services with Fauxrizon.

So Mr. CEO, I have a few simple questions for you:

  1.  Do you and your Fauxrizon employees sit around a board room brainstorming ways to make your customers want to go postal on you?
  2. Do you conduct clinical test trials using innocent people from the streets to test out your company practices?  Do you use placebos to make those poor suckers think they are getting a good deal?
  3. Is a unempathetic dismissive personality a must-have requirement for your Fauxrizon employees?
  4. Do you brainwash them to be the cheapest they can possibly be and to not offer the warranted monetary compensation for their dissatisfied Fauxrizon customers?
  5. Is there a “back” room in corporate headquarters where all the broken phones go, where technicians sit around trying to fix them (but don’t succeed), and are then sent back out into circulation so that customers who had a defective phone get a second defective phone?
  6. Do you and the other big wigs at Fauxrizon have “monopoly” parties celebrating the monopoly you have over the business?
  7. Do the security guards you hire to stand guard at your locations to “help out” with rightly-so disgruntled customers, carry guns?

In all honesty, I do not believe you are really this evil.  There must be some integrity left in you that perhaps you have unknowingly repressed!  It happens.

Look, I am no CEO.  But what I am is a loyal customer with some common sense and intuitive knowledge of how successful a business can be when honesty, integrity and respect for customers are a top priority.

Sincerely,

Brick

ps.  How long will I have to wait for a second new refurbished phone with no vertical @ss lines to arrive at my home?

52, It’s Not Nice To Meet You

One year ago today, I decided to take advantage of restaurant “freebies” that are offered to customers on their birthdays (I am becoming my mother-in-law.) My plan was to go to a Mexican restaurant to eat my free birthday burrito and then hop over to an ice cream establishment to get my free sundae…because I’m me and I love food.

I was quite pleased with my grand idea and did not mind one bit that I was doing this on my own without anyone to share the experience with.  Isn’t that what blogging is for?  Some of you may remember that post detailing (TMI) how wrong the whole thing went.  Let’s just say I never made it to my free dessert location due to the fact that the burrito grounded me stuck on a white shiny porcelain fixture at the closest Target Store. Lucky for me, I was able to enjoy many other scrumptious birthday meals once I recovered.

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Although I am very tempted to give the freebies another chance (check out the personalized invite above), I think I will pass and just stick to stealing sugar packets from restaurants and consider those, my freebies.

This year, due to my ailing stomach and aging intestines, I will most likely have a less than remarkable birthday meal/s.  I have been cutting back on carbs and gluten, not necessarily by choice but out of an attempt to ease the increasing daily abdominal discomfort.  It this what 52 looks like?

Let’s see, the birth-day meal possibilities are…endless.  It will most likely consist of a small bowl of cottage cheese with a handful of blueberries as my late breakfast, a round piece of cardboard (I guess they call them rice cakes?) with peanut butter and cucumber slices on top as my snack.  A cheese stick (“I can’t wait to eat my cheese stick”, says no one ever) will be my second snack followed by a salad topped with home-grown acidic tomatoes (that hurt my stomach) from my garden, chicken or fish, more flavorless fresh cucumbers also from my garden, a handful of almonds with some type of blah dressing.  I will then eat two whole bite size dark chocolates for dessert before I begin weeping.

My point being that pretty much anything I eat these days causes me pain and bloating.  I have reluctantly called my doctor to see if we can figure out what is going on THIS TIME.  I am NOT at ALL bitter that my body keeps failing me, really – I am NOT!  What would a year be like without some kind of illness or health challenge?  I wouldn’t know.

All is not lost, however.  I am still very blessed and fortunate for what DOES work and particularly for my family and friends and all that shit…

Thanks to my little sister (who just turned 50 – Thank GOD), the month of September promises to be a month of celebrations even if no good food is to be consumed by me.  My crazy cousins and I are taking her for a girl’s weekend in a couple of weeks to celebrate her being almost as old as we are. WOOT! WOOT!  It should be a weekend filled with lot’s of laughter, happy tears, incontinence (we are old) and lot’s of celebratory liquid gold!  I will sacrifice my abdominal discomfort to make sure my sister has a great time and is as drunk as a sailor!  Did I mention she finally turned 50?

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, our dear mother surprised my sister and I for our birthdays, with a trip to Monterey, CA where she lives for half of the year.  We are leaving mid September for 12 fabulous days of complete bliss!  See how happy I am that she turned 50?  We are two years apart and our birthdays are one day apart so by default, I get to tag along and get spoiled for HER 50th celebration.

So, 52, I guess it’s a little nice to meet you. 

Cut The Carbs, They Say…

Eat Less, they say

Everything in moderation, they say

talk-too-much-blah-blah-blah-o

blah blah blah

Cut the carbs, they say

Stay active, they say

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Watch your portions, they say

ctpost.com

ctpost.com

Cut all sugar,  they say

blah-blah-a-o-o

yada yada yada

Don’t drink, they say

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I hate you, they.

I am trying, damn am I trying.

But, I can’t even…

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Because…

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Teen-Wolf

I need THIS:

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And THIS:

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And THIS:

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And THIS:

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And THIS:

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Because…

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It has been over three weeks since I began doing what THEY say.

I lost 5 pounds and gained back 2.

I have eaten some carbs on weekends, then I go cold turkey during the week.

I still look like I am 12 months pregnant

and I am 12 months pregnant-hungry.

**********

Go to hell, THEY!

Listen Up Parents Of Young Children, It’s Time To Talk About That Dreaded C Word: College

usnews.com

usnews.com

Wait, wait, do not walk away.  Just hear me out.

I know this is not a fun topic and I am not trying to be a Debby Downer, but if you have young kids and you have not started saving for their college years, continue reading.  I promise I will not judge you.

{Disclaimer: I am not a financial planner.  Although I did work in banking for over 10 years and I know a little something about money, what makes me an ‘expert’ in this field is the fact that I am a mom of two college age kids who wishes she had saved way more money when they were younger.}

You still with me?

We can all agree that cost of attending college is absolutely absurd and that something has to change, yesterday.  But you cannot bank on it changing by the time your little one is college-bound. Here are the current and projected costs of attending college:

Projected 4-Year Tuition and Fees –

* Private College Today (Enrolling 2015) = $134,600.

* Private College in 18 years (Enrolling 2033) = $323,900

* Public/University Today (in-state resident) = $39,400.

* Public/University in 18 years = $94,800

* 2 Years Community College & 2 Years Private College Today = $77,400.

* 2 Years Community College & 2 Years Private College in 18 years = $186,400  

(source: savingforcollege.com)

****************

I know, I know.  This is extremely depressing to see but stay with me. 

Right off the bat, let’s clear up some common misconceptions out there about affording college.

College Funding Misconceptions

1. “That’s what financial aid is for!  We are not rich so we will definitely qualify for aid.”

{Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha(slaps knee)hahahahahahahahahahaha}

2.  “We can’t do anything about it now, we will find the money when the time comes.”

{BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA(snort)BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH}

3.  “Grandma and Grandpa will give us the money.”

{HOHOHOHOHOHOHO(even Santa is laughing)HOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO}

I had to laugh (and cry) when I discovered how wrong I was and wished I had been better informed.

Although these common misconceptions may actually work out for some parents, trust me when I tell you that it is a small percentage of people.  Reality is typically not that rosy and most of us cannot afford to think this way.

Let’s discuss the first misconception, Financial Aid. “Federal Student Aid provides more than $150 billion in grants(money that does not have to be repaid), loans, and work-study funds each year.” (www.ed.gov/blog).  To qualify for aid, there are several factors that are taken under account including student and parent income and assets, household size, and the number of children in college.

As a ‘middle class’ family with two children, we applied for aid for our son when the time came.  Although he qualified for subsidized and unsubsidized loans (I don’t consider loans aid since they need to be paid back) and work-study, the fact that we only had one child going to college and that we exceeded the income qualification (barely), we did not receive much real aid.  This only reinforced our belief that, once again, that the middle class get screwed.  Sigh.

Once our daughter joined the college pool two years later, we were awarded more aid (still not enough to cover the astronomical tuition costs), but this time from her college.  This aid will end as she enters her junior year because my son will have graduated and we will only have one child in college (this is where having multiples can have financial benefits).  What they don’t take into account is that just because your child is no longer attending college does not mean that you are done paying his college costs.

The lesson being that you should not expect or rely on federal aid to cover your costs. Many colleges will offer aid for the first year to lure students in, but will not offer that aid in subsequent years.  In addition, merit aid (based on achievement) is not offered as widely as it should be.

Having said all the above, it is recommended that everyone apply for Financial Aid.  The application process although tedious, is free and worth doing in the event that you qualify for any amount of aid.  For more information about Financial Aid go to: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/prepare-for-college or https://fafsa.ed.gov.

The second misconception is that if you are financially strapped now, you will have plenty of time to ‘deal’ with college costs later.  Look, most of all are strapped and living paycheck to paycheck, but there is no way you will catch up later unless you expect to get a substantial raise or can accurately project a future significant rise in income.  

Starting the savings process early is the first step, funding it on a regular basis is key.  

We opted for a 529 plan for our kids.  A 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. It is named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code which created these types of savings plans in 1996. Although contributions are not deductible, earnings in a 529 plan grow federal tax-free and will not be taxed when the money is taken out to pay for college.” (source: investopedia).  See http://www.irs.gov/uac/529-Plans:-Questions-and-Answers for more information.

Although we opened up the 529 plans when the kids were young, we did not fund them enough.  When this happens you risk the fact of liquidating all the funds as early as the first year of college.  Let me say it again, we did not put away ENOUGH money.

collegeusatoday.com

collegeusatoday.com

Perhaps if you are fortunate, misconception number three will be your reality.  Grandma and Grandpa have set money aside for your little Johnny or Bette to attend college.  If that is the case, I applaud you and your parents.  There is nothing a grandparent wants more than to be able to provide for their cherished grandchildren.  But, if your parents are like most, their cost of living, their healthcare costs and their long-term-care costs have risen monumentally and they have had to re-adjust their finances.  Or maybe they suffered a tremendous financial loss in the stock market.  

The point is that there are too many unpredictable scenarios that could alter their well-intended plans to help your children financially.  Things may look promising now but you do not know what the situation will be as they age and live longer than past generations. See grandparents.about.com for more information.

pinterest.com

pinterest.com

Our children understand that they will have significant student loans to pay back as they enter the work force and navigate this tumultuous economy.  This is a fact for most families.There has been an alarming increase in the number of four-year college graduates with very large debts. Back in 2004, only 1 percent of students who earned a bachelor’s degree that year had borrowed $50,000 or more, adjusted for inflation. That grew to 10 percent in 2012.” (Source: us news.com).

Not all students are college-bound and there is absolutely nothing wrong with trade schools but regardless of what works for your family, there will be a cost attached to helping your children take advantage of the opportunities available to them, in order to succeed.

Although I am proud of our efforts and initiative we took early on, I regret not being better informed of the complexities, realities and steps necessary to prepare for our children’s college years and for letting some of those misconceptions blindly lead us along.

I hope that if you have young children and you were brave enough to have read this post in full, that you have learned something valuable and helpful to get you started with the  “C” word savings process.  

Now, go get started!

Dear Children, I Apologize For The Behavior Of My Fellow Adults

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Dear Children,

I am so very sorry that many of us have let you down.  I am sorry that we disappoint you on a daily basis by engaging in the very behavior we urge you not to engage in.

From a very early age, we adults encourage you to share your toys, say please and thank you, mind your manners, be kind and respectful to others and to never to be a bully. We take you to church, socialize you and expose you to people who are different.  We teach you tolerance and acceptance and hope that you will grow up to be a kind and happy adult.

But in reality, we fail.  We ourselves don’t share.  We are demanding of others, we do not take accountability for our actions, we blame others, we are not kind or respectful to others and we do the bullying.  We model the exact opposite of what we want you to become, and for that, I truly apologize.

I apologize for the times we yell at your coach during your sporting event.  I apologize for giving the finger to a driver that forgot to turn on his signal.  I apologize for saying bad things about your friend Tommy’s mother.  I apologize for calling your teacher stupid.  I apologize for judging our foreign neighbors and the gay waiter at the cafe.  I apologize for encouraging you to always fight to get your way and to question all authority.  I apologize for making you think that you are entitled and owed the things you want.

I am sorry that you saw the mean things we wrote on another person’s Facebook page and for the heartless tweet we retweeted.  I am sorry you witnessed us threaten to sue someone because we didn’t get our way.  I am sorry that we are not the adults we are supposed to be.

I am forever embarrassed and appalled that you have to witness adults engage in insulting rhetoric toward one another.  Everywhere you turn, there is an adult not behaving like an adult should.  An adult with no respect for others and absolutely no civility.

I apologize with all my heart that you have to hear our elected officials, the very people who are supposed to serve us, engage in preposterous rhetoric and behavior.  I am sorry that they have made a mockery of a diplomatic and respectful process our founding fathers worked hard to develop.   I am sorry that even at the highest level, there is bullying.  I am sorry that you are being held to the highest standards at school and punished if you bully someone, yet the adults around you get away with it day after day.

I am truly sorry.

I can only hope that you see how the behavior we are engaging in, does not work.  That the wisdom beyond your years helps you recognize how flawed we are and that in spite of it,  you choose to follow your little kind and growing heart to be the person you are meant to be.  That you let your pudgy little hand reach up to the sky and grab the opportunities that await you.  That your developing eyes see no colors, no borders and no walls.  That your innocent and caring soul knows without a doubt that spreading love and kindness is the ticket to a happy and fulfilling life.

I apologize on behalf of all adults.