I couldn’t find my password book all morning. At first I figured it would show up, after all I never took it out of the house. But as time passed and it still wasn’t showing up, I started to get very uptight.

Normally I take my disorganization in stride. This personality trait is in the genes and I work at not letting it get too out of control. Of course that’s all relative. What’s good for me would be crazy out of control for someone else.

I actually did start to panic. This book has A-Z everything. If I can’t find it, Amazon’s stock might take a slight dip if I couldn’t get signed in. What would happen if it fell into the wrong hands, such as my husband’s? What would he learn?

He’d see what I’m really spending our money on, for one thing. Such a trusting fool. If he only knew how much we spent on wine. He doesn’t drink wine, but what’s mine is his. He’d also see our attendance at happy hours. Unfortunately, he dutifully comes home immediately after work so I’m not sure how to spin that one.

He’d learn that we spend $100 a month on a gym for him that he goes to about once a month. That helps makes up for my food and wine expenditures.

He’d be able to sign into my recipe box at Epicurious. That would be nice. Maybe he’d try out a recipe.

He’d be able to log on as me in Facebook and LinkedIn, both places where he doesn’t have an account but knows he probably should. It might be fun for him to find old friends. And maybe he could update my LinkedIn page for me, as I’ve been meaning to do so.

He’d be able to check into our car insurance and see if he can get better rates for us.

He could use my account to buy a Groupon or Living Social deal and surprise me with something. Better yet, he could use some Hilton Honors points and surprise me with a little travel. Now we’re talking! He can then order some Nespresso capsules for me to enjoy before our trip. My previous orders are there so he’d know what to buy.

He’d be able to watch any show he wanted because then he could sign onto our Netflix account, which I use nightly to watch old Frasier and Cheers episodes. I don’t think he’s ever used the account.

He could sign onto Oprah’s site to learn how to decorate, cook, manage money, dress for success and even meditate. I sound like I’m being sarcastic, but I miss Oprah. We used to be close.

He could also schedule an appointment to get a blood test at the lab. Why he’d want to do that is not clear at this time.

The other things he could do is shop at my favorite stores, see my fabulous pictures on Flickr, order photo albums from Shutterfly, get coupons from our local market, pay our bills, sync a FitBit, purchase postage, spy on me and the kids by looking at our cell phone records, take an online course at the community college, Coursera, or Skill Share, book a flight on United or Virgin (to get us where we are using our Hilton points, of course), and much, much more.

There’s so much one could do online just from my little password book, I’m exhausted just putting a partial list here. Why bore you with more? The use of the internet, and my dependence on it, is great, as long as it’s always available. What would happen if it just went away? Perhaps the most stressful thought if that happened is how would I be able to identify that somewhat recognizable person on that old TV show? And how would I know where Transnistria was if I couldn’t look it up?

By the way, I found my password book when I decided to really think about the last time I used it and what I was doing. And there I found it in a location I had never placed it before. And I was happy. And then I wrote this post.


Paying for College

Paying for College

Last week, a couple of friends invited me to join them to see a screening of Ivory Tower  that included a discussion panel with the director, Andrew Rossi. The documentary is about the cost of college, is it worth the cost, how did we get here, and more.

I didn’t want to go. Normally, I will go along with friends just for the socialization aspect of an event, but I didn’t want to spend one more minute that I have to on this topic.

You see, by the time I’m done with the third kid I’ll have spent about $190,000 on college for them. And they also took out student loans! My husband and I didn’t believe in paying 100% of their education, so we budgeted and planned for spend up to two thirds of the cost (based on collegeboard.com‘s figures), up to $15,000 a year for four years. Well, that was for the first two. We increase it to $20,000 max for the last because the prices had gotten so outrageous.

So, why didn’t I want to go to the movie? Because it makes me irritated.

I know we discuss this more often now that Donna’s little one isn’t so little anymore and is heading off to college this Fall (August isn’t exactly Fall). My youngest kid will be starting her sophomore year, and the older two have graduated and I think (hope) are “launched.”

Here are some of my thoughts, and I know they are simplistic. But I hope there’s some nuggets of truth in what I have to say. My concerns are mainly about public colleges. The private will adjust when public education makes some correction that is badly needed.

• Students and parents need to understand their choices. This includes me. I always talked to my kids about when they “go off to college” not ever really emphasizing the local Cal State and UC campus. I realized I made a mistake a few years back. While I know that there is a great growing experience when living in a dorm, are they really worth that kind of money? Since I went to a local Cal State, I don’t really know what I missed I suppose.

Another example of me being the parent who loves to complain but need to look at how I got myself in this situation is how my oldest kid had a full scholarship to Cal State Long Beach. This included four years of tuition, room, board, parking, copying services, and $100 a semester towards books. She turned it down to go to UCLA and we were good with that (although we did have some sleepless nights, but hey, you want your kid happy, right? Retirement is overrated.).

•  Parents and students need to stop looking for state-of-the-art facilities that don’t have a direct impact on their education. Yes, if your child is going into a science or technology program, you don’t want them working with outdated equipment. Some of the recreational facilities, dorms, and resources the students have access to are amazing. Who do you think is paying for these facilities? I’m not saying that having a good gym with equipment, kayaks for the lake that’s a mile away, etc., shouldn’t be available. But if you’ve been on a school tour recently, you probably know what I’m talking about. Maybe I’m just jealous that these young people are having way more fun than me.

•  The Federal government needs to change their guidelines as to who the grant money is going to and which schools are able to accept the money. I really want to help those kids who don’t have the advantages my kids have had. But my kids went to school with students who drove very nice cars and lived in nice homes and received Pell grant money. I haven’t been able to figure out how that happens. On the other hand, I know one family who’s main breadwinner lost his job just as the oldest was a senior in high school. If I didn’t know about that, I would have assumed that they were working the system, but they really did need some help at that time.

Then there’s the private, what in my day we called vocational schools, that have embarrassing job-placement rates. I just read today that the Obama administration just suspended federal funds for Corinthian Colleges. What took them so long to do something about these scams? Some of these for-profit “schools” have been ripping off students, parents, and the taxpayer for years.

I really don’t know what the answer is to make sure those who need it have access and to screen out individuals and businesses who have learned how to manipulate the system.

•  Use the campus all week long. From our experience and from speaking with others, not that many classes are held on Fridays anymore. Buildings are often only used four days a week at many universities and community colleges. Maybe the school doesn’t need that new science building if they updated the current one and used it six days a week. Also, maybe additional classes can be added so that students can take the classes they need to graduate. Perhaps this will help the graduation rate get back to four years (only 39% are graduating in four years at all 4-year universities). It also might help students drink less, since Thursday has become the new Friday on college campuses.

I’m open to hear my thoughts are wrong. I’m forming these opinions almost entirely from my personal experience, therefore they are very biased. But if things don’t change, it really is going to be a system where the middle class, like my family, will have a very different experience than the poor and the rich. We are being squeezed out of the market.

Pour Me Another

Pour Me Another

I launched my blog, SoCal Mom, back in 2003. It feels like a lifetime ago, and I guess it is – in cyber-years.

In 2003, I was a stay-at-home mom with a daughter in the second grade. The economy was booming and we felt confident about the future. We had gotten into the habit of flying to the UK to visit my in-laws at six to 18-month intervals. In fact, the impetus for beginning my blog was to document one of those trips because we decided to include a side trip to Paris.

A lot has happened since then – most of it cataloged at SoCal Mom (on the original Typepad site and then moved to its own WordPress installation).

In 2003, I had to explain to people what a blog was (that is, if I chose to tell them that I had one in the first place). Writing a post felt like an isolated act — I never expected my posts to see the light of day by anyone other than a handful of family and friends. So you can imagine how excited I was when I started to receive comments from total strangers who responded positively to something I had written.

Those folks did not stay strangers for long. People who commented on my blog often had blogs of their own, and I left comments on their posts, too – and before long, I had an entire world of new friends (literally, because they lived all over the world).

In 2003, the tech community thought of blogging as an activity practiced mainly by men, illustrated by several essays that wondered “where are the women bloggers?”  This was such ingrained “common wisdom” that it led a trio of savvy ladies to respond by producing a conference just for women who blog.  By this time, I was plugged in to a rather sizable community of mothers with blogs, a personal network that grew after I attended the first BlogHer in 2005.

Today, women online are recognized as a marketing powerhouse, capable of driving consumer sales and opinion – and mom bloggers are either held in high esteem (by brands) or denigration (almost everyone else). This is pretty typical of American society in general, which both venerates motherhood in abstract but shows little respect for actual mothers.

In 2003, when I tried to think of a name for my blog, SoCal Mom was the most appropriate name I could come up with.

In 2014, with my only child about to become a college freshman in a faraway state, it doesn’t seem to fit me any longer. The problem is: If I’m not SoCal Mom — who exactly am I? For 18 years, my identity has been so wrapped around my role as “Megan’s Mom” that I barely remember what it was like to be just “Donna.”

For several years now, my sister and I have toyed with the idea of doing a project together. We actually started one last year, but the concept was fuzzy and never quite gelled. “Two Drinks Away” is a second attempt to create a space where we can hash out the things we’re thinking about and even have a conversation of sorts… much as we would if we were living in the same town and chatting over coffee… or cocktails.

Because in our experience, the answers always seem to lie just Two Drinks Away.