Applying for Financial Aid…oh my lord

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I thought, what the heck?  I have two girls going to, likely, private universities next year and one in a private high school, so why not respond to the University of Richmond’s prompt to complete financial aid information for the 18-19 school year?  What could it hurt?  I may not qualify – perhaps you’re supposed to spend 67% of your income on education.  My choice, I realize, but why not apply?

I started this process at 2 PM.  It is now 8:40, and the cuss words that have come out of my mouth have ensured I will not go to heaven.  There is no possible way at this point.  I crossed the line.

After figuring out how to log in – to let you know my level of frustration, the final password I used in FAFSA was HolYsHit123%.  After six other attempts, I was DONE.

When my inappropriate password would not work to “electronically sign” the document after hours of entering my deepest darkest financial secrets, I called Brenda who works for our US Government.  “Mr. Tanner, I cannot talk with you.  This is your daughter’s account.  I must talk with her.”

“Listen Brenda, who in the hell do you think sired this child???  Me.  And furthermore, I AM FULLY FUNDING HER COLLEGE EXPERIENCE!  You gonna talk to me!”

“No Mr. Tanner.  I CANNOT talk to YOU.”

“Did Donald Trump tell you not to talk to me?”

“No.  He did not.”

Hypothetically, if my college bound child was not at home, I would call her little sister into the kitchen to talk to Brenda.  But that is probably illegal, and I would never break the law.

When my daughter came downstairs, I put Brenda on the speakerphone.  She was slurring like a drunk sailor, which I could understand because I’d been arguing to her for 30 minutes at this point, so I was coaching Stephanie as Brenda gave her instructions.

“Mr. Tanner.  You cannot speak.  This call is between your daughter and me!”

“SHE COULD NOT UNDERSTAND YOU.  I WAS INTERPRETING.”

“You were talking to me,” Brenda snarled.

“I was not, you…”

Michelle, I mean Stephanie, put her hand on my shoulder.  “Dad, I’ve got this.”

After checking our emails for the fourteen messages Ms. Brenda had to send us to reclaim our just formed usernames and passwords, we finally got the frickin’ document signed.

Then… as if FAFSA wasn’t enough punishment for not being wealthy, I had to sign into the College Board website, required by three of our prospective universities, to regurgitate the EXACT same information to them.  LITERALLY – THE EXACT INFORMATION ENTERED ON THE FAFSA form.  And… one of the universities also wants a copy of my tax return and my W-2 sent to them, because uploading them for FAFSA and the College Board web site isn’t enough.  That ain’t nothing but lazy.

They also sent a nurse over to get a stool sample and asked for the receipt from the hamburger I ate at Hardees on Raeford Road in Fayetteville, NC, on July 16, 1974.

My daughters can’t balance a checkbook.  Can they really be expected to complete an in-depth form about their father’s financial status?

If I was a kid without significant parental support having to complete this process alone, I would say: Screw college!  It is simply not worth it.  

Which is very sad to me.

P.S.  I am very thankful and appreciative that there is financial assistance for those who need it.  But dang people, we gotta do better than this.

 

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Packing Up

Full of shoes… FULL!

In May, I drove to Washington to pick up my eldest daughter from college.  DJ lives in a sorority house.  Go Alpha Delta Pi.  I’ve been trying to figure out their secret handshake, ‘cause I’m sure they have one, but she is mums on the sorority rituals.  I think they sacrifice chickens at night in their basement – but I’m not exactly sure.  Anyway, as I entered her room, I was simply amazed at how she packs, or doesn’t.

Well, she sort of does.  Like stuff is shoved in various toting devices, but when I arrived, there seemed to be very little rhyme or reason to the organization of her belongings.

A laundry bag might contain some laundry (perhaps clean, perhaps dirty – only a sniff could tell), a can of beans, shampoo, a desk lamp and a broom.  Her comforter ripped off her unkempt bed and carried by hand.  She did put her shoes in a 3’ x 3’ x 4’ plastic container.  There were thirty five pair, and it weighed 700 pounds.

I pulled my back out trying to get her suitcase upstairs when we returned to Raleigh.  It was crammed to the brim.

I am amazed at the amount of stuff that two girls can fit into a 10’ x 10’ room.  I’ll have to say they utilized their space very, very well.  Under the bed, check.  Over the closet, check.  Hanging from the rafters, check.  And amazingly, DJ knew where each item lived.

If on display, you could fill a Walmart Superstore with items from their shared space.  It took two medium sized SUVs to get my child’s possessions back to North Carolina.  It actually expanded over an eight month period of time because when we dropped off in August, it took but one vehicle.

I remember my mom and dad coming to pack me up after one particularly rancid set of roommates.  We were living in an apartment, and they drew the short stick with the other parents.

My dad spent the day in the bathtub trying to Clorox the black ring my roommate and I had created over an eight month period of time.  It’s amazing what comes off your body.  It’s amazing what happens when you don’t clean something for two-thirds of the year.

My mother found a Tupperware container as she worked on cleaning our fridge.  She recognized it – it was red with a white lid.  However, the contents were unrecognizable due to the thick layer of green mold encasing the months old tuna salad she’d sent back with me at Christmastime.  Close to penicillin.  YUCK.  What were my roommates and I thinking?  And yet, I turned out alright in the areas of cleanliness and tidiness.  In fact, I’m quite a stickler when it comes to my house.

Perhaps there is hope too for my daughters.  I think that there is a household organizational gene that does not quite fully develop until after graduation from college.  At least that is my hope.

Stephanie, the Pickle Farmer

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Another junior, another week of college tours!  Whoa baby.

What a great way to spend one-on-one time with your kid.  A car, a dad, a daughter and 947 miles of walking around college campuses.

The first one was interesting.  It declined from there.

Things I rediscovered about universities and making that all important, life-changing decision:

  • Every school has a blue light emergency system. This is pointed out at all of the schools for parents who are scared to death that their kid is going to be attacked walking across campus at 2 AM.  I am one of those parents.  I like the blue light stations.
  • For a high school junior female on tour, the cuter the male guide, the higher the satisfaction with the college. At Furman, half of the tour was given on long purple golf carts.  Stephanie and I had been near the back of the walking portion of the tour led by a cute, peppy female co-ed.  When the staff member pointed us toward the golf carts for the remainder of our visit, a blonde stud muffin with a million dollar smile stepped out of the driver’s side inviting us to embark.  Stephanie knocked over two other girls, three moms and a grandmother to sit on the row behind Sven.  I glared at her.  “I’m really interested in this college” she defended.  I should arrange for the cuter guides to meet us at the cheaper schools.  Seriously?  We can’t make a decision on where to attend college based on the hotness factor of the dude leading the tour!  That is NOT a good measuring stick.
  • At each school, the first question prospective students are asked is “What are you considering for your major?” Stephanie is undecided although she has some interest in psychology.  I suggested she share her potential major.  She did not.  She didn’t want to commit.  I told her it didn’t matter what she said on tour, that it was not binding – that they would not force her to become a child psychologist simply because she mentioned it in April of her junior year in high school.  As we drove down the highway, we saw a sign for Mt. Olive College (we did not tour there).  But since Mt. Olive is famous for pickles, I suggested when asked about her future vocation at the next stop she say, “I am considering becoming a pickle farmer.”  We wondered how that would go over at Wake Forest.
  • I was aware that most higher learning establishments housed a Starbucks. I was unaware that the most frequently asked question by students on a college tour was, “Do you have a Chic Fil A?”  I do not know why that surprised me.  When DJ went to college in Washington, DC, she picked up jogging as a hobby.  That was shocking since she absolutely HATES to run.  But then, I realized, she was not running for exercise or endorphin pleasure.  She was running to catch the Chic Fil A food truck.  There are no stores near campus so she had an ap on her phone that tracked the vehicle’s whereabouts.  If within three miles of her dorm, she would don the running gear and high tail it to chicken.  By the way, all but one of the universities we visited had a Chic Fil A.  So don’t panic.  One is near.

This is not my last child nor my last week of tours.  Although a bit boring and repetitive, I would not trade this time with my kids for anything.  What an incredible way to get uninterrupted time with someone you love.

UBER

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When DJ went to college, I told her I would pay for four things:

  1. Her tuition, room and board
  2. Her books
  3. Her transportation
  4. A set amount of spending money each semester

Numbers 1, 2 and 4 have worked out well.  Perhaps I should gave given a bit more clarity around number 3.

What I meant by “I will cover your transportation” was that I would get her back and forth from school.  It’s a 4.5 hour drive one way.  Sometimes I drop her off or pick her up.  Sometimes she flies.  And sometimes she takes the train.  Yes.  I cover those expenses.  I want her to come home – often.  So I’ll pay.

I also figured, up in DC, that she might buy a Metro card to ride the train to Target or to, I don’t know, Mount Vernon.  I am happy to cover that OCCASIONAL expense.

She took our initial conversation in a different direction…

The UBER direction.

Apparently my credit card is attached to her Uber account, and I just received the bill.

In one month, she charged 18 Uber rides.  She also charged seven “car shares” and one $14 Metro ride.  I don’t even know what a “car share” is.  What I do know is that one shared a car to Maryland on November 17 for $35.75 and another shared a ride back on November 18 for $28.88.  Who in the heck was she spending the night with in a different state?  She says it was a Camp Seafarer reunion.  Yada, yada, yada.  I don’t care if she was spending the night with the Pope… he needs to pick her up from campus in his large white window filled bus.

I asked her, “Are you taking Uber across campus to class?  You can’t do that!  You must walk!  That’s part of the college experience.”

She told me she once went to the zoo, and it was educational.

“Well what about the other 17 rides?”

“Dad, there are two charges for every one destination.  You ride there AND back.”

She did have a point.

She then explained that it could have been worse.  She has often been using UberPOOL which sticks you in a car with complete strangers allowing you to split the cost.  In fact, she forwarded me an email she received from email@uber.com.  It said, and I quote,

WOW!  You’re pretty savvy.  By choosing to ride UberPOOL, you saved $95.55 in 2016.  

She should have forwarded that to me because she didn’t save anything by using UberPOOL.  Cause she didn’t pay for Uber.  I DID!!  We had over $180 worth of transportation charges in the month of November.  AHHHH.

I didn’t know I was going to have to include Uber in my monthly expenditures.  Jimini Christmas!  These girls are slowly breaking me into little, bitty pieces.  I’m a shell of the man I used to be.

 

Home Again, Home Again Zip-pa-di-da

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She came in on a train direct from Union Station.  It was Friday night, the week before Christmas.  I was so joyful.  DJ, my college sophomore, was returning for an entire month!

I was committed to our performance in the Christmas Carol play so her grandmother picked her up.  DJ was in a hurry because she had agreed to bar tend at a neighbor’s Christmas party for cash.  I’m so proud – my daughter, a barmaid.

I was amazed that she got her suitcase into the house.  It was the size of a pirate chest, but heavier.  She dropped it in the kitchen, its innards spilled out under the bar – she apparently had a quick change.

I called my buddy Jack to see if he could help me get the Samsonite up to her bedroom.  He couldn’t come over until the next day.  So when she got home, we broke the contents up into four laundry baskets and then carried the almost empty case up on its own.  My grandmother always said, “You can eat an elephant in small pieces.”

I do love my girl.

She had plans on Saturday night and spent Sunday night with high school friends.

Tuesday she went to the beach with the same high school friends.  She returned Wednesday night.  We ate dessert together.  Quality time.

On Thursday she returned to the coast to meet a dude from college for dinner, the one she just spent an entire semester with.

“Honey, do you think you’ll be able to stop by the house to receive your gifts on Christmas day?”  I was just wondering if I should perhaps mail them to a friend’s house.  She assured me she was free for the entire day.

I love that child.

I enjoy the memories of times gone by when she visits:

  • her bedroom floor unfindable due to the mound of clothes
  • arguments over earrings borrowed from siblings
  • bras and socks on the kitchen counter

Memories – beautiful memories.

Oh, and when she’s here, three drivers get to share two cars!  I love sharing.  She loves getting up in the morning to drop me off in the work carpool line.  She even packs my lunch (just kidding).

“I’ll pick you up at 5:30 dad.  Be waiting for me in the lobby of your building because I have dinner plans at 6.”

Before break she called home and said, “Dad, I’m a little worried about being home for a full month for Christmas.”

Worried?  What’s there to worry about?  This is heaven on earth.

The Return of the DJ

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DJ in the house!

DJ has returned!  The eldest, the heir to the throne, is home.

A friend who has a son who is a junior in college told me to get ready.  He said his wife was recently walking around the house with a basket full of toilet paper rolls.

“What are you doing honey?”

“I’m hiding the toilet paper.”

“Why?”

“Douglas is coming home for Thanksgiving.”

“Yeah.  I’m aware of that.”

“You know what he does don’t you?”

“No.”

“Throughout the week he steals our toilet paper and puts it in his car so he doesn’t have to buy it when he returns to school.”

“Interesting.”

I was ready.  I counted my rolls.  I don’t think DJ is a Charmin swindler.  When she left we still had a nice stash.

She has, however, left every garment she brought back to the State of North Carolina in my den.  Shoes on the kitchen bar stools, coats, and there were several, on the floor by the back door, a bra in the bathroom.  Within 24 hours her bedroom looked like it had been hit by a category 4 storm.  Just like high school!

How does this child live in a 13’ x 13’ room with three other people?

On Tuesday she told me that I could expect my credit card bill to be a bit higher this month.

“Dad, have you noticed I really don’t use your credit card at school?  Just like you asked!”

“You have done a good job of keeping your expenses down.”

“Yea, and I have $290 left on my GW card to get me through the next three weeks.  Tons more than any of my other friends!”

“Live it up!”

“But since I’m back home, I figured you’d be OK with me charging my expenses this week.  I’ve sort of eaten out a couple of times with friends, purchased a few Christmas presents, oh, and I’m getting my nails done tomorrow – on you!  Thanks.”

We have eaten at her favorite restaurants, watched her favorite movies On Demand, cooked the meals she likes the best and shopped for clothes that she desperately has to have.

“Dad, I’m gonna need shoes for my winter formal.  You might as well buy them now.  These are on sale.”

Apparently the last four pairs I purchased for the four high school winter formals just won’t do even though her foot stopped growing in eighth grade.

Frankly, I don’t know how she has survived this long without the critical articles of clothing we purchased this week.  Bless her heart.

On Thanksgiving Day, it became grossly apparent to me how children fall back into their high school behaviors as my 78 year old parents worked their butts off in the kitchen while my brother sat in the den watching TV.  The gall.  Oh, and he wouldn’t even pass me the remote!

What goes around comes around.

Lights, Camera, Action

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I guess that other families do this too but perhaps we are an anomaly.  If they don’t, perhaps they should.

The smallest, stupidest, things can bring our simple minds so much joy.

Last week when visiting DJ in DC, we discovered that our reading light, when turned the right way, was equivalent to a Broadway Show spotlight.  A Tanner just can’t resist the limelight, even if there is but an audience of three!

This is our rudimentary work.  We call it A Night at the Hamilton, the name of our hotel.

 

 

DC, here she comes!

clinton-weiner

Whew! It’s over. I dropped DJ off at college in a city with a population of 658,893. Well, now 894.

DC, full of vagrants, drug dealers, secret service agents, spies, politicians, eager boys who don’t have a curfew and DJ.  It does not help to know that Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner also frequent the place.

I live in anticipation of a phone call, a text, a photo posted on Snapchat, a Facebook pic – give me anything!!  A crumb child, a crumb…

The drop off was less dramatic than the anticipation of the drop off. I was fearful the drive up would be five hours of angst. Well, it sort of was, but it was all traffic related. I actually discovered, at a friend’s suggestion, an app called Waze. When the traffic gets bad, a lovely voice comes over your phone and directs you to leave the highway. You then meander through side roads and neighborhoods, passing grandma’s house with the pumpkin patch, fenced in warehouses with parking lots full of toilets, and strip bars featuring the likes of Honey Berkshire. You also get to pick your handle. I’m Sheamus Ninja (I always wanted to be called Sheamus and a ninja is just cool).

Lisa’s parents accompanied us which was very helpful and a good distraction.

On Saturday, we drove to F Street which was blocked off for thru traffic. I parallel parked and was accosted by an eager upper classman. She gave me a ticket that marked the time I arrived, 12:21 PM, and the time I was expected to pull away from the coveted curb, 12:36 PM. We had exactly 15 minutes to unload DJ’s life. The only thing she didn’t take to college was a single sock with a blown out toe and her sisters. Every other item she had accumulated since birth was in my automobile.

Pops sat on the curb with the stacks and stacks of plastic bins, suitcases, lamps, and hangered clothes we had unloaded while Nana and a handsome co-ed move-in volunteer rolled a large cardboard cart to the elevator line. I began to haul the remainder of the items up the seven flights of stairs to the corner room created for two but housing four.

It took Nana 45 minutes to get on the elevator, and by the time she arrived at the room, she shared that Daniel, her new-found friend, roomed with a kid from Raleigh. She also shared that he wanted to get into the Business School but that “C” he had in calculus was holding him back. She learned of his lineage, his dating history, the average number of times he consumed alcohol his Freshman year, his preference of boxers, and the sororities with the worst reputations. Had she stayed at GW three more hours I feel certain DJ would have met all 1,200 students housed in her dorm.

After bed making, closet cramming, shoe storage constructing and picture hanging, the time had come. All of her roommates had left the room. I asked if she wanted us to wait for them to return. She said, “No. You can go.”

I went out to the hall, took a deep breath and pulled my sunglasses out of my pocket to cover my about to be watered up eyes. Everyone got a good laugh when I walked back in the room.  No one could 100% tell that my eyes were pooled with tears, although the fam knows me well enough to assume.

When I got to the car, just Michelle and me, I started convulsing. DJ had warned her, “You’ll be with dad alone. When (not if) he starts crying, it’s your responsibility to cheer him up. Don’t play any sappy music. Talk in that goofy voice that cracks him up.”

She tried her best but to no avail. I just had to get it out.

There’s something terribly difficult about sending your kid to college for the first time.  For me, it’s less about my fear for them and more about the end of something so incredibly wonderful.

Thus far, I have enjoyed each stage of my children’s lives as much, if not more, than the stage before. I’m going to hold onto that.

Letting Go

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Next week I drop my oldest kid off at college.  How did it come to this?

I mean, I assumed she’d grow up, this should not be a surprise.  But damn Sam – I’ll be fifty this month, and she is gone.  In my mind, I am thirty-two, and she should be going to kindergarten.

She still has blonde curly hair, just like the day she entered this world.

At first glimpse, I thought Lisa had birthed a Smurf.  Her head was cone shaped, and her skin was blue.

“What’s wrong with our baby?,” I asked the nurse.  “She’s the color of Gatorade.  And her head is a triangle.”

“She’ll get her color,” the nurse assured me.  “She is the first through the birth canal.  She’s a pioneer!  Her head will smooth out.”

I was thankful I had an older brother.

I used to carry her on my shoulders.  I can’t do that anymore without risk of paralysis.

I read to her every night and most often we had a tickle party.

“Daaaaddy.  Will you tickle me?” she’d ask.

The moment I’d start she’d curl up into a ball and implore me to stop.

Even when she was older I’d pray with her each night, and we’d argue about who loved each other more.

“I love you the mostest!”

“No!  I love YOU the mostest!”

In high school, she danced like a champ, the most graceful girl on the stage.  I worked hard not to miss the special moments in her life, particularly over the past five years.  I wanted to be there since her mother couldn’t be.  I hope that one day I’ll have the opportunity to recount DJ’s life for the woman I most loved.

I was at a funeral last month for a man who was about a decade older than me.  His two daughters spoke at the service.  They both gushed about the father who had raised them.  As one shared memories of how he had parented, she said, and then he gave me wings, the greatest gift he could have given.

In theory, it doesn’t seem that hard.  She has to do all the work, all I have to do is let go.

And yet, what a scary thing to do.

I’ve Been Oriented

Mice

I learned some things at college orientation this week at The George Washington University.

  • It’s not George Washington University, it’s The George Washington University. Are there others?   Did someone else try to start another one?
  • A pit is formed in one’s stomach when dropping their kid off at a dorm, even if it is only for two nights.
  • A lump is formed in one’s throat when one is sitting at an outside bar with a buddy and one sees his daughter strolling down the street with two guys one does not know from Adam.
  • A panic comes across one’s mind when one finds out his daughter got home at 1:20 AM after walking home from the Lincoln Memorial with yet another group of unknowns.
  • If a skinny mouse eats a fat mouse’s poop, he will get skinny too (one sat in on a biology lecture).
  • All the parents at college orientation are old, except me.
  • One should never call their child at college.
  • As if the school is not expensive enough, GW has a box that you must uncheck on your online bill in order not to donate fifty additional dollars to the library fund when paying tuition. At $60K a year sticker price, one would think the Library should be covered without the additional support.
  • The Kennedy Center is a short walk from campus, and they have free concerts 365 days a year. Now you’re speaking my language.
  • The reason so many helicopters fly over DC is because there is nowhere to park one’s car.
  • Leaving DC, there are four big fat highway lanes that only about six people are allowed to use – which is cruel.
  • The relief one feels when one’s daughter is happy is euphoric in nature.