Wednesday, July 29, 2015

College Bureaucracy Hell.....Better Than a Video Game

I have never had the problems dealing with institutions of higher learning(aka universities)with my older 2 children as I have had dealing with them in regards to child number 3, College Boy.

The older 2 by their sophomore year were pretty much on top of things and I was on autopilot with regard to having to "deal" with anything concerning their schooling, other than filling out the dreaded FAFSA each Winter and writing the checks to fund said schooling.

But this kid........!?!

Need I say more?
Yes, yes I do.....a lot more!

First off he is so off in his own world that he totally missed signing up for Fall term 2015 classes last Spring.  He DID make it to "Make-Up Day" but some of the classes he wanted/needed were filled.
He also totally missed Housing/Dining sign-ups for Fall 2015 back during his Spring 2015 term.
Then he missed the Housing "Make-Up Day" altogether.  He says it was because he wanted to room next year with a particular student and then gave me a story about how they need to both simultaneously submit their info/choices to Housing in order to get a room together.
And of course, that didn't even turn out to be accurate.

Now these educational institutions KNOW what the brain of a teenage boy is like.....dealing with them on a regular basis, how could they NOT know this, right?
Yet they handle things in such a way as to set them up for failure with getting all this completed correctly and in a timely manner.

The first thing schools do is NOT allow access to anything concerning the student by their parents.
Who decided this was a good idea?  Especially since the vast majority of parents are footing the bills for these students!
I know it's a privacy issue but every acceptance letter to college should come packaged with it, besides the forms to start applying for housing/classes/dining and financial aid, a form for the student to sign to allow their parents access to school information.

I find it ridiculous that even though I am still legally responsible for this child and I am paying his freaking bills! that I am not allowed to see any information pertaining to him/his grads/his balances due unless HE shows it to me.  Or he signs something they keep on file at the school that gives me permission to even speak to someone in charge about his matriculation at said school.

I don't even get access online to his account and he has to log in and show me the information I need to find.

We got a card from the school about 2 weeks ago informing us that his Fall invoice for school would be available online on July 24, 2015 and that payment was due in full(unless you opted for a billing plan)by August 7, 2015.  That's a 2 week window of opportunity and cuts it very close if you are an old fogey and mail a check rather than put this on your credit card or debit card.

So I try to go online and access the bill and hopefully just pay it electronically since it is faster.
But no, I can't access the bill.
So I have to find an opportunity when College Boy is awake when I am also awake and not practicing his instrument or rushing off to work his part time job.
Easier said than done I tell!

We finally are both free and awake on Monday his day off.  He has to go online on HIS computer since the school's website won't let him log in from my computer.
And I finally get to see the bill and save it to a flash drive so I can print it out forms from my machine.

But the Invoice/Bill says there is half of a $6,500 student loan applied to this bill!
A student loan nobody here applied for......
And to boot it is unsubsidized meaning interest accrues and builds as soon as it is disbursed. yuck.

College Boy looks at the loan amount and says that's cool and now he'll be able to spend more of our money of crap like pizza and going out at school.  I have to explain to him that an unsubsidized loan will grow as soon as you start the clock on this money and by the time he is in a position to start paying this back(and yes, YOU are paying this back, not your father and I!)after graduating and finding a real job, it will be far more than what they are loaning you.

So now I have to call the school and find out 1-why this loan is on his account, and 2-how to get it removed.
And when I called on Tuesday morning of course since CB hadn't signed a FERPA form to give us access to  his records they can't talk to me.  I tell her, "Well if you want to get paid for him to attend school there somebody had better talk to me about something because I pay his bills!" lolz

So she allows me to ask about this student loan issue and then informs me that Noah has to call or email a certain person in their Financial Aid office who handles the direct student loans and request that it be rejected.  I can't do this, even if he had signed a FERPA form.
So now it's on CB to handle this detail.

While nosing around on CB's online account at the school I came across an interesting item tucked in some corner of the site.
The reason we NEVER receive any paper communication from this school(other than this 1 card in the Fall and another 1 in the Spring)is because if you want paper communication you have to OPT IN!
So let me get this are only going to communicate with the bill paying parents electronically(unless you opt into paper communications which you never let us know we need to do this)but do NOT allow these bill paying parents electronic access to their student's information/account/emails.

Give it a minute to let that all sink in.

Is this all kinds of messed up or what?!?!

I just wonder how many kids show up for move-in day at college with their bill not paid and clueless parents? lolz

ATTENTION COLLEGES--Parents are old, old fashioned and use to PAPER COMMUNICATIONS for IMPORTANT STUFF!  This is how things worked in our world for forever.  We are not 20 somethings use to an electronic everything!
Make Paper the default and let parents OPT OUT if they wish.

So if this craziness isn't enough--now I have to deal with the Residential Life stuff of Housing and Dining.
College Boy's bill says he is on the 14 Meal per Week plan.  I suppose since he was on that one last year and he missed the sign-up/change date they just kept that one on his agenda.
We found that with his schedule last year that he was NOT eating 14 meals a week at the school's facilities.  We were paying gosh knows how much each semester for uneaten meals which drove me crazy!
So there was a 10 Meal per week plan and something called a 175 Block Meal Plan.  These 2 plans were within $2 of each other in price so the same financial outlay basically.  But of course the school's website didn't explain what the difference was between them besides $2.
After emailing the school last week and waiting a full WEEK for a reply explaining what makes these 2 plans different I finally did on Monday.
They both supply an average of 10 meals per week but if you don't use 10 meals a week they carry over into the following week, etc. until the semester ends on the Block Plan. 
This will be a much better option for CB and will result in NOT wasting money on food he doesn't eat.
So we changed his meal plan and will save about $125 a semester(big whoop, right?).  This savings I can use to throw some money at him if he runs short of $ for food during the semester if need be.

Then it was on to the Housing issue. 
He had finally selected a room option in May and luckily they still have available units(even though the sign-up deadline was long past).  And they had paired him with a suite mate and he isn't rooming with this frat brother friend.
So I ask about making a change to a room with said frat brother.
Housing would have to move him out of his current suite and put him in a vacant suite(if they can find one of the option he chose).  Then this frat brother has to request being removed from his current room and put into the CB's new room.  This would be problematic at best seeing as CB would have to get in touch with frat brother in the next 2 week's and get him to handle the request on his end.

But then when the Housing person looked even if they want to try to get this changed they can't because frat brother's parents are paying for a cheaper/different room frat brother would have to have his parents cough up more cash for the upgraded suite to make this even possible.
So at least we know and CB can get his sulk over this glitch in his plan out of the way before he shows up at school.

So I have mailed out the school payment this morning and am waiting on CB to call the Financial Aid Office to get the loan removed and for the school to correct the bill.  Worse case scenario(other than if the loan co. disburses the money to the school before Financial Aid contacts them)the school says that I have overpaid CB's fall bill.  I can live with that for now.

And we won't be filling out a FAFSA this January for CB's Junior year.  It's just a waste of time on our part seeing as "we are rich" according to the government.
Senior year he will need to take out some loans especially if he has to do an unpaid internship and live on his own in an apartment, somewhere in the country outside of where his school is located for that. 
But until that is needed we are opting OUT of FAFSA.

College Boy's school's Estimated Cost to Attend is $25,280.
Our calculated EFC(or Expected Family Contribution) by FAFSA is $55,111.

CB thus gets nothing for financial needs scholarships, no subsidized loans or state grants.
The only tax benefit we get is a possible $2500 back for the American Opportunity Tax Credit when we file our taxes.
Oh boy......

So if you want some fun and entertainment in your mundane life, go sent a kid off to school.  It's better than a video game.
Though buying a gaming system would be a helluva lot cheaper!

Three more years of this stuff and then you can stick a fork in me and call me DONE!!!



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

May 2015 Louisiana Road Trip Part 1 OR I am Almost a Country Star

"I always seem to stumble onto some weird shit."--Sluggy

Mid May of this year and we were off on another road trip to see our daughter in Louisiana.

Up and on the road bright and early on Sunday May 17th it took just about 2.5 hours to get out of PA and cross over into the South..........

Last year's trip we took I-81 all the way down into Tennessee, then down into Alabama, across Mississippi and west through Louisiana.  This year we decided to take a bit of a different route to LA as we wanted to spend some time in Kentucky this trip.

We took I-81 into Maryland and then picked up I-68 West into West Virginia.

Maryland sign as we left.
Sorry we won't be back for a couple of weeks! ;-)

Another 1.5 hours and we were in West Virginia.....

While driving down I-81 we always see many large crosses along the highway, going across I-68 we see a fair share of gigantic American flags too......

We were getting mighty hungry by the time we hit Morgantown, WV so we got off the road to find something to eat for lunch.

We saw a sign for some chain restaurant that wasn't too nasty but we missed it once we got off the exit and ended up driving for miles.
Then we drove back toward the interstate and saw this place right across from a mall so we went with it......

Schmitt's Saloon and Davisson Brothers Music Hall.
I figured Hubs could get a nice brew and we could get something fried or "bad for us" to eat.

If I only knew......

As we approached the door to the place we say this big sign posted on the door........

This event is being filmed, videotaped and/or photographed.  By being present at this event each person in attendance irrevocably consents to being filmed, videotaped and/or photographed and releases all producers and users of such fill, videotape or photograph from any liability for loss or damages.....yadda  yadda yadda.


So we go inside and hope for the best.

Seems we stumbled upon a real life saloon and music hall(with a stage and theater lighting)venue for live bands.  Supposedly the "premiere live band venue in West Virginia".



A wall of posters by the bathrooms from past local and national country acts that have played this hall.

So we go in anyway and get a table across from the bar and a waitress in a denim miniskirt comes over and slaps down a couple of menus that have the heading "Event Menu" on them.
Event Menu??
The plot thickens......

The menu has about 9 items on it so we choose a couple of burgers, Hubs gets a beer and I stick to iced tea.

It's a Sunday afternoon and we have great fun looking at the small crowd in this here bar.

Hubs loved the couple at the bar......a 40ish guy trying to look 20 years younger with his wrinkled up also trying to pass for 20 skinny gal friend dressed in white pants so tight seam failure was always seconds away.  I counted that this guy drank 6 beers in the almost an hour we were there.

At about beer round #5 said gal friend actually fell off her bar stool.  Nobody batted an eye.
Just a day in the life of a bar fly I suppose.

My favorite was the one I dubbed "Rastafarian WV Granny".  Now picture this--an old, almost toothless white woman wearing glasses, dressed in an almost see through granny nightgown and bedroom slippers with ta-tas that hadn't seen a bra in decades with Rastafarian dirty blonde dreadlocks.  I think she got lost and wandering out from a nearby trailer park and was looking for the way back home.

She must have shuffled back and forth by our table 20 times in the short while we were at Schmitt's.

I thought about getting a photo of her but the flash would have tipped her off and besides I just tried NOT to make eye contact every time she shuffled by. 
These are exactly the kind of people who take a "shine" to me and decide to just come over to me, a complete stranger, and strike up a conversation like we have been pals for years.  I just didn't want to take that chance today......

As we waited on our burgers, the emcee got up on stage at the mike and said their FunFest show for today was starting and they had 3 bands on today's program.   And then he added that after the show they were going to film a music video for county singer Scott Shelby and that is why that sign was on the front door.

The emcee continued that they needed more people in the saloon so asked everyone to call or text their friends to come on down around 4pm and they could all be in the official music video for the title track of Shelby's new album, "Still Got It".

I begged Hubs to let us stay and hang around for the filming of the video but he didn't want to be driving late into the night.  But wouldn't it be cool to be able to tell people that I was in a music video for some real life country singer?  8-)))

And with that, a band began playing music and the girl singer started wailing into the mike.
I decided to take a clandestine bit of video while the crowds milled around and Hubs played on his phone.  That video is HERE.

After nobody seemed to notice and shut me down I took another short bit of video.....

This band is called "Trial by Fire".  They have a Facebook page HERE.

The guy on the right with the orange guitar got my attention with the first tune they played.  He put his guitar backwards behind his head and shredded during their first number.
Now THAT takes talent.....

HERE is another proper video of another of the songs they do.

We ate while the band played on and then we left before the other two bands took the stage and totally missed the opportunity to become famous via music video.
Oh well.....easy come easy go. lolz

Here's the website for singer Scott Shelby

And here is the music video that was filmed at Schmitt's that day after we left.  They hardly even show the audience/crowd so maybe it was a good thing we let this one go by.  I bet the next opportunity for fame and fortune are just around the corner......ya, that's it......

We got back onto the Interstate and made tracks ourselves.....tracks for Huntington, WV where we were to stop for the night.

Only problem was, the stretch of highway between Morgantown and Huntington WV wasn't conducive to me keeping food down.  Somebody should have warned me that this stretch of interstate was rather twisty and hilly.   And I'm not talking regular twisty and hilly.

I have since dubbed West Virginia, "The Land of Roller Coasters".  On that day it sure felt like I was on a gigantic roller coaster without end, holding onto a plastic bag in case my lunch wanted a repeat performance.
I did manage not to hurl but was I ever glad when we hit Morgantown and could get off the highway.

Here are a couple of photos I snapped with my free hand when the waves of nausea weren't rolling like the road.....

That's Roanoke WV, not Roanoke VA.

 Angry clouds matching my nauseous stomach rumblings......

And I SWEAR this is about the only FLAT stretch of road that day.......but it was twisty and curvy......sigh.....

We had a reservation for the Quality Inn on Route 6 leading into Huntington.
$89.60 for 1 night in a rundown "seen better days" Quality Inn with no amenities outside of a pretty bad free breakfast.

We stashed the luggage and went out in search of dinner as it was getting dark.  I wasn't too hungry still but Hubs was famished.

We opted for a Bob Evans tucked into the other edge of town past Marshall University rather than attempting some of the places blogger buddy Jay had recommended.   My stomach needed bland and boringly predictable food........

My grilled chicken came with a flag stuck into it so I had a little fun in the near deserted dining area......I embarrass Hubs everywhere we go.......

By the time we finished our meal and headed back to the motel it was pitch dark and our GPS "Vicki" was still having seizures--shutting down suddenly and then reviving long enough to bark out directions that made little sense before shutting down or recalculating yet again.
"Vicki" was not earning her keep on this trip.....

So we tried to find our way back up Route 6 despite a bunch of one way roads that confused Hubs even more in the dark.

A cool retro neon sign outside a bus station.

The Marshall U. sign I snapped right before Hubs took a wrong turn down a one way road....!!!

Yep, I noticed that there were headlights coming toward us from a distance and they were from ALL the driving lanes and that is how I figured out he was going the wrong way down a one way street.
Well, that and the headlights started flashing at us.

So we ducked into a driveway and waited for the traffic to pass and made a turn and went back down the road in the correct direction.

I guess we are just too old to drive in a town we aren't familiar with at night.......well, that plus I was still between cataract surgeries.....

We made it back to the room safe and sound after that and dare not go anywhere until daylight.
It sure wouldn't have been much fun to meet our end on a dark road in West Virginia.
Besides I can't squeal like a pig very well.....


Monday, July 27, 2015

This Week on the Dining Table

It's the "Lazy Week" Edition--

Not much going on here this past week.  If you don't count getting a head start on my month end money stuff.
Here's about the most excitement I had last week......

I opened this bottle of root beer brewed in the Virgin Islands that I picked up while in Fredericksburg VA.
It was quite tasty as root beers go and if I see it again at this price in my travels I'll buy some more.
Onward to the meal planning!
Here's what was planned last week.......

1. Sunday--Chicken Parm, Tossed Salad
2. Monday--Roast Chicken, Squash Casserole
3. Tuesday--Leftovers
4. Wednesday--Tacos
5. Thursday--Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Cole Slaw(leftover)
6, Friday--BLT sandwiches
7. Saturday--Leftovers
And this is what actually happened--

1. Sunday--Chicken Parm, Tossed Salad
2. Monday--Roast Chicken, Squash Casserole
3. Tuesday--Leftover chicken Parm made into Subs
4. Wednesday--Tacos
5. Thursday--Leftover Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Cole Slaw
6, Friday--Risotto with Leftover Chicken and Mushrooms, Stir-fry Veggies
7. Saturday--McDonald's Chicken Sandwich

Pretty much everything as planned except no BLT's and I made Risotto using leftover chicken and I was too tired to cook Sat. night so Hubs went to Mickey D's and got me a chicken sandwich(he got a Big Mac).  I made a cheese grits with leftover country ham for breakfast Sat. morning and served it with fried apples slices.  Now I have a big dish of THAT to use up.

As for my grocery spending last week.....

2 trips to Weis, doing the paper product deal x 2 and some other loss leaders plus a gallon of milk at the independent grocer.  I spent $81.39 on $228.87 of regular retail goods.
Plus that $100 I dropped on Rite-Aid gift cards(to use later this year) so I am up to $181.39 of spending for last week.

Leftovers going into this week--some roast chicken, taco meat, tiny bit of barbecue pork, cole slaw, lots of risotto, stir-fried veggies and a big portion of that Grits breakfast casserole I made on Sat.
We had some food waste this week--some of the baked beans from the July 4th picnic got moldy before they all got used.  Oh well.
Here is this week's food plan--

1. Sunday--Kielbasa(from the freezer), rolls, onions, pickles
2. Monday--crab cakes and fish, leftover cole slaw, leftover stir-fry veggies
3. Tuesday--leftover roast chicken made into something TBD, grilled yellow squash
4. Wednesday--maybe Chinese take-out or "breakfast for dinner"
5. Thursday--eating out
6, Friday--eating out
7. Saturday--leftovers(risotto?)and veggies

What I need to buy for this menu?.....I don't need a thing.  It's only a partial week's menu and I am not grocery shopping again until August rolls around.  The only thing I see worth going to the store for, here this week, is pickles.  How pathetic is that? lolz
What is getting fixed and served at your house this week?    

Was last week's plan successful, did you go off plan or did you not even plan what was going to be eaten that week?

Any great deals on food at your stores this week?