Archive for July, 2014

The spin (cycle) on college laundry

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Three weeks from today we’ll be driving to Southern California to deposit our youngest daughter, Jennifer, in her freshman dorm at Pepperdine. There are some aspects of her transition to living away from home that I sometimes get anxious about. Thoughts such as: Will she get along with her roommates? Will she focus on her classwork? Will she know how to set boundaries in relationships? Will she floss her teeth?

One thing that doesn’t concern me, is whether Jennifer will be able to handle doing her laundry. To put it in the catchphrase du jour, loading a washing machine is in her wheelhouse.

So that’s why I was surprised to get a letter last week from the university’s Office of Housing and Community Living offering laundry service; this program is “committed to helping students experience an easy transition between home and campus life.” Apparently there are students who can get a perfect score on their SAT but for whom sorting lights and darks could present a challenge.

I suppose the laundry service is for students whose moms picked up their laundry from their rooms and delivered it back all nicely folded. For these kids, laundry service makes it an easy transition from being spoiled at home to being spoiled at college. Now instead of mom, it’s a van that picks up their wash. But shouldn’t living away from home be about learning to take some responsibility for yourself?

In the piece of direct mail, they present the biggest benefit of the laundry service as efficiency because it “preserves the most valuable and scarce resource in the life of any college student…TIME!” I beg to differ; college students have loads of time – it’s just that they often don’t make very good use of it. Life is pretty darn good when you’re in college because all you have to do is show up for class and study occasionally; you don’t have the responsibility of a family, earning a living, finances, chores, etc.

Yet for these privileged students, their time is so valuable, that mom and dad can kick in another $800 a year so that they don’t have to concern themselves with such mundane tasks as doing their own laundry.

Okay…the school’s offer of laundry service is just evidence of what I already knew – which is that my daughter is attending a college that has a lot of over privileged students.

As I continued reading all the inserts stuffed in the envelope, I encountered something that is just downright odd. The mailing included a piece recruiting students to work at the laundry, describing it as a great student job with flexible hours and (no big surprise here) free laundry service.

I am all for students working during college; all Jennifer’s siblings all had jobs and she will too. But here’s the thing: the mailing describes the laundry service’s “10-Step Care Process” which includes emptying the pockets in pants and jackets, inspecting for stains, and meticulously folding all garments.

So students working in the laundry will be inspecting their classmates boxers for stains, folding thongs and pulling who knows what out of jean pockets. Eewww!

I’m going to suggest Jennifer transfer her barista skills to a Starbucks near campus.

Bypassing life insurance

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Friday we celebrated – if you consider managing to stay awake in front of the TV until 10pm a celebration – the three month anniversary of Steve’s triple bypass surgery. We continue to be very grateful that the arteries in his leg have adapted so well to their move uptown to his heart. And even though his sternum went through something akin to “cut along the dotted line,” it has knit back together just fine.

We hope and pray that this reworking of his plumbing means that we can look forward to Steve being around for many, many more years.

But his new lease on life has put us in a bit of a quandary because it happens to come at the same time that we have to make a decision about his life insurance policy. We’ve been making the same monthly payments for the past 10 years. However, the policy expires in a few weeks and if we rollover the policy to a new one with the same maximum benefit, the monthly premium will jump 1200% to about $4,500. If we could afford a monthly payment of that amount for any reason, we wouldn’t be renting a condo in Cotati.

So what to do?

You wouldn’t find me a few miles up the road at the Graton Resort and Casino gambling, but am I willing to gamble that Steve will live for at least another 15 years and instead of making monthly payments for life insurance, we could use the money to replace one of our 150,000 mile, 12 year-old cars? Should I call up Alex Trebek and get a “guaranteed acceptance” Colonial Penn policy? No need for me to concern myself about how to cover the funeral expenses; Steve’s already told me just to have him cremated and put the ashes in a Starbucks cup.

And if we do want to buy life insurance for him, it’s a little more complicated now that he has had heart surgery. While we think he’s the picture of health, insurance underwriters don’t necessary think that way. So if we get a policy that we can afford the monthly payments for, it will pay out enough for me splurge on a vacation – assuming I fly Southwest for a long weekend in Southern California and stay with my daughter.

Steve and are finding it a little strange to be contemplating the risk to reward factor when it comes to his life expectancy. Today was a really good day but trying to guess what will happen in the next 10 years? Like Scarlett O’Hara said in Gone with the Wind, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Philomena is phenomenal

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

If you’re old like me, you might remember how movie critics Siskel and Ebert used to give a film either a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” at the end of their TV show “At the Movies.” But for me, instead of my thumb indicating whether a movie is worth watching, it’s my head. You see, if we pop in a DVD or start a movie on Netflix on a Friday night and I manage to stay awake for the entire movie, so that I don’t look like a bobble head, with my head bouncing off my chest until I finally just give into the consuming desire to sleep, that’s a really good movie, worthy of a “heads up.”

I hope fellow blogger Gil Mansergh will forgive me for stepping into his bailiwick this week, but let me give you an example.

A couple of weeks ago we watched the compelling documentary, “The Rape of Europa” which tells the story of Europe’s art treasures during WWII and the Third Reich. Part world history and part art history, it’s an amazing story covering 12 years and seven countries that left me in awe of the brave people who worked to save and rescue hundreds of years of some of the finest pieces of art in Western Culture.  It was definitely a “heads up” movie.

Because the documentary included the intriguing story of the Monuments Men, we thought we would defy the overwhelming number of green splats on Rotten Tomatoes (only 32% of critics liked it) and rent the recent George Clooney directed movie. “The Monuments Men” looked promising because it has a great cast; in addition to Clooney, it stars Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and John Goodman, plus a bunch of other good actors. But this movie was truly awful. Clooney couldn’t decide if he was making “Hogan’s Heros” or “The Magnificent Seven” or “Danny Ocean meets Hermann Goering.” I was heads down and soundly asleep in 10 minutes and Steve had the DVD back in the Netflix envelope in 15 minutes.

However, fearing that “The Monuments Men” might be a real turkey – which it was, Steve had also ordered “Philomena” on Netflix as a backup. After watching it Friday night, I kept thinking about the beautiful pacing of the story, the excellent performances of Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, the dialogue that was always true to character, the touches of humor, the pain that Philomena carried for 50 years wondering about what had happened to her son, and her solid, persevering faith throughout it all. You know a movie is really good when it stays with you into the next day. Needless to say, I loved the movie; not a moment of drowsiness in its entire 98 minutes.

My review? “Philomena” gets a heads up, way up.

Minor no more

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

So our youngest daughter, Jennifer Lynn turned 18 yesterday which is certainly bittersweet for me. All our children are adults now. Of course, they never stop being my “children;” but I will have to start thinking of them as my “adult children.” My days of being a mother first and everything else secondary, are past.

Jennifer Lynn started listing off everything that she can do now that she’s an adult: rent a hotel room in her own name, get married, buy cigarettes, buy a lottery ticket, buy alcohol in most parts of the world, live independently from her parents’ control, and vote for the most progressive candidate on the ballot. She loves to watch the color drain from my face.

She is an adult now, but for the next 45 days until she goes away to college and we become empty-nesters, she is our last child still living at home. As we were chatting about this with her during her birthday dinner in San Francisco, it really hit me – how much I am going to miss having her around.

I was sad when her older sister Valerie headed off to college. But Valerie had been such an uncommunicative pill during her senior year of high school that once she and Steve pulled out of the driveway to drive to Southern California to deposit her in the dorm at Chapman, my teary eyes dried up pretty quickly. I breathed a sigh of relief; the black cloud had left. Let me add, that since going away to college, Valerie is an absolute delight to spend time with. Having to figure stuff out on your own without the immediate support of mom and dad tends to be an attitude adjuster.

However as teenagers go, Jennifer has been a pleasure to have around; generally,she is very chatty and only occasionally acts out her rebellion by not telling us where she is.

As I think about the coming year and how I am going to miss her once she leaves, I had to think about the alternative. Would I rather have Jennifer keep working at Starbucks, go to the JC, and live at home instead of taking advantage of the huge opportunity that has been given to her (thank you God) in the form of a full tuition scholarship to Pepperdine? No, of course not.

Will the next six weeks also be bittersweet as we prepare to say goodbye to our youngest adult child? You bet. I’m choking up already.