Posts Tagged ‘college’

I Checked CHET Out

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

This post was sponsored on behalf of Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET). All opinions and photos are my own.

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Want to feel old? Think for a second about how many years it will be until your oldest kid goes to college. In my case, the answer is ELEVEN. ELEVEN YEARS. That is less time than I have been married, less time than it’s been since I graduated from college, and WAY less time than it’s been since I myself was 18 and headed off to college. Along with feeling really old, the thought of sending my kids to college fills me with fear and dread. Do you know what college costs? I don’t. I know the answer is somewhere between “a lot” and “an amount you will never be able to afford by the time it is your turn to pay for it”. The average cost for a 4-year private college in New England is more than $52,000. I have three (and a half) kids. This is the part where I usually throw my hands up and turn on HGTV and think relaxing thoughts about renovating my backyard to include a fire pit and a water feature. These tiny homework-doers can just stay small and live with me forever.

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But denial is not a good way to stop things from happening (see also: birth, child vomit, lactose intolerance) and these kids are getting older and smarter by the day. Making a plan is the only real option, so I finally sat down at my computer with my Important Papers file and looked at the Connecticut Higher Education Trust website.

Here are the quick facts about CHET:

    • The Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) is Connecticut’s 529 college savings plan.
    • CHET works like a Roth Retirement account, your contributions grow tax-free along the way, and are tax-free when you use the money for college.
    • PLUS for CT taxpayers there is a CT state tax deduction on the contributions you make to CHET each year, up to $10K for joint filers and $5K for single filers.
    • Money saved with CHET can be used at accredited colleges or universities in the country as well as some abroad.
    • CHET funds can be used for wide variety of college costs, tuition, room & board, computer, any supplies required by the school, etc.
    • If you don’t use the savings (for example, if your child gets a scholarship) you can roll the money to another child.

And here’s how it actually worked out:

I went to the site and clicked on “Open an Account”. They asked for my social security number and info, then Evan’s social security numbers and info. I entered our banking information so I could make the required opening contribution (it’s only $25) directly, then chose which investments I wanted to put the money in.

This was the part where I normally get stressed and run away, because I am not a financial guru or investment specialist. I am a person who has definitely HEARD the word “index fund” before but can’t quite remember where. There is a ton of information about each option on the website and there are actual humans you can call and talk to if you want, but my eyes and brain quickly start blurring when I feel overwhelmed by the choices. I ended up reading some of the advice, showing the options to E, and then just picking something, because a fear of choosing the wrong option 11 years before he goes to college shouldn’t stop me from investing in Evan’s future. There was an option to set up reoccurring contributions with lots of flexibility, but you don’t HAVE to. It asked me to agree to the risks and terms, asked me to set up a username and password for managing my account, then I was done. Repeating the process for each of my other children took less than 2 minutes, since they were all under my same account and the info was saved.

After I set them all up, I sent my mom an email for each account with an easy link so she can make contributions herself, either online or by mail. You can send them to anyone in your address book on special occasions (birthdays, holidays, etc) or “just because”. I think she was probably ready to just set up the accounts on her own (you can do that! you don’t have to be the parent, so if you have grandkids or nieces or nephews who you think need a 529 absolutely look into it!) but now I am done and she can rest easy.

Right now, CHET is running a contest in honor of 5/29 day (May 29th). One winner will win a $1,529 contribution to their account and two runners up will win $529 contributions. Free money?? YES PLEASE. You can check it out and enter easily here.

ALSO. If you had a baby in the last year (or you happen to be having one soon), CHET has an amazing Baby Scholars program, where they will give you up to $250 for free just for putting money in your kid’s 529. It’s not a complicated, convoluting system either – you put money in, they add money. I am kicking myself SO HARD that I didn’t do that for Lincoln before it was too late.

I feel like that was a LOT of words to talk about something that seems really boring, but it’s one of those things that’s been on my to-do list literally for years and I am so glad I can finally cross it off. Give yourself an A+ in adulting today and check CHET out.

Charleston Photos 2015

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

I went to the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. When I was looking at colleges, I picked out ones with strong marine biology programs because I was 1000% sure I wanted to be a marine biologist when I grew up. And look how that worked out! Here I am, an extremely successful marine biolo- what? I’m not actually a marine biologist, because sometimes the thing you decided you wanted to be when you were 7 years old isn’t a thing you are actually good at? I never would have believed you when I was 17.

When I was 16 I learned to scuba dive and went on a 3 week dive trip in the British Virgin Islands, which made me even more sure I wanted to be a biologist. One of my instructors/adult supervisors was named Will and he was a professor at the College of Charleston. He also drove a motorcycle and had a huge scar on his leg from where he was bitten by a nurse shark once. I figured if C of C was cool enough to have him as a professor, then I should definitely go there.

After I narrowed my college choices down to a handful, my mom and I drove south for 8 hours to visit the schools I was thinking about. We drove down I-95, took the exit for I-26 and followed that directly into downtown Charleston. I hadn’t even gotten out of the car before I decided that was where I was going. During the campus tour I barely paid attention because it didn’t matter – I was moving to Charleston. My mom suggested I apply to some of my other schools at back ups, which I did, but only because they didn’t require essays. There was no point. I was so in love with Charleston I would have moved there even if I hadn’t gotten in.

You can tell I really love my husband because I was willing to leave my favorite city to be with him, although I did insist my entire family, all my friends, his entire family, most of his friends, plus my husband himself (who had been transferred to San Diego) all come back to Charleston for the wedding.

It’s just a perfect coincidence that Kiawah, the site of our borrowed beach house, is just outside Charleston. This year my college roommate (who feels the same way about Charleston as I do, at least I’m pretty sure) had the good idea to stay an extra night in the city before the beach, so we could eat there and walk there and take pictures there without dragging all the kids back in from the beach. I think we’ll make it a tradition, so I can get a picture of my kids in this alley every year for the rest of their lives.

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Our hotel is that one right behind Evan. I’ve alway wanted to stay there, and not just because I love that fountain.

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That restaurant is where my college roommate and her husband got married, so obviously we all had to go there.

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That pink house is the narrowest house in the city, less than 15 feet. I would live in it in a second.

I Could Have Been A Star

Monday, October 17th, 2011

I’ve told this story approximately a zillion times, not because it is a super awesome story but because it is one of only 3 celebrity-meeting stories I have and definitely the most interesting.*

A zillion years ago, I met my husband at a country line dancing bar. Wait, let’s call it a club instead. Cool people go to clubs. Huge rednecks go to country line dancing bars, and even though I played one for a while in my early 20’s I am not really a redneck – although I can do a mean Boot Scoot Boogie. I noticed E because he was the best dancer. Seriously. He is a REALLY GOOD DANCER (back me up, real life friends) even though he is a skinny white guy from Ohio who played soccer while his brother and sisters took tap and jazz and ballet. He told me once that when he first started going to clubs/bars he recognized very quickly that he was a terrible dancer so he would practice in front of the mirror – but he might die of embarrassment if I wrote that on the internet so pretend I didn’t.

(Truthfully, I am NOT a very good dancer, but if I let E lead I can fake it enough to pass for someone who knows what they’re doing.)(Also, we’ve tried taking actual dance lessons before and get super bored and quit because who wants to spend all their time one-two-cha-cha-cha-ing when you can just TWIRL?)

Anyways, we spent a lot of time at that country line dancing bar club. We were friends with the bouncers and the bartenders, we knew which dances you were supposed to do to which songs, we knew the HARD VERSIONS of all the HARD DANCES*. One of the guys who also came and danced a lot was named Chad, but because he wore suspenders and button down shirts like a chorus orphan from a local production of Oliver we called him Suspenders. It turned out Suspenders was a choreographer, quite a good one, and was contacted to work as the choreographer for a movie that was being filmed in town. He had already invited all his fancy dancer friends to audition as back-up dancers for the movie but he needed a couple more people. He told E and I to show up on a Saturday and proved to the movie people we could fake-swing dance and smile pretty we could have parts in his movie too.

And that’s how I ended up as a back-up dancer in The Notebook. I had two costume fittings and one rehearsal and then I showed up one day to hair and make-up and BAM! I was on the set with James Marsden and Rachel McAdams.

Yep, that's me.

There wasn’t actually too much dancing involved – we were just background to the main character’s fancy choreography – but E and I were Couple Number 1 and it was our job to spin back and forth in front of the camera because my skirt looked cool when I did that.

After being on set for a few minutes and rehearsing with the director’s guidance and gawking nervously at the movie stars who deigned themselves TOO GOOD to come say hi to us (except for James Marsden, who watched us dance and said “Hey, when do we learn to do that? You guys are great!”) one of the wardrobe ladies came over to me.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I need your earrings.” And then she removed them from my ears, walked over to Rachel McAdams, and put them on her. Apparently they were TOO SPARKLY for an extra. Or maybe just too sparkly for an extra with SUPER AWESOME HAIR.

Wearing my replacement, less-sparkly earrings. Also, my own mother looked at this photo on my mantle and said "Oh, is that E's grandparents?"

In the movie, the entire scene has been cut down to five seconds of slow-motion dancing during a montage of Rachel dating/falling in not-good-enough-love with James. I am not even a tiny bit visible.

They told us not to bring cameras (and cell phone cameras weren’t a thing) so to prove this really happened I only have these two pictures in the parking lot, plus a pay stub for $125 worth of work as a “dancer”.

It was still really really cool.

*Here are the other two stories:  #1 I won backstage passes to the TRL Concert Tour in 2001 and met Jessica Simpson who was incredibly sweet and got me a Diet Coke from her dressing room and also Destiny’s Child who were bitches and wouldn’t let anyone touch them or take photos. #2 I was an extra in the movie Radio, where I Cuba Gooding Jr called me cute and Ed Harris swore a lot and was very short. I told you they were boring.

**Because I am a dork, I YouTubed one of the fancy line dances to see if it was there (it is) (but they’re not doing it very well, I’m way better) and got lost in a YouTube hole of ALL the line dances we used to do. It’s kind of ridiculous HOW MUCH I miss line dancing. DORK OF THE YEAR.***

***ALSO, I would like to point out that YouTube wasn’t really such a thing in 2000, so to learn the dances you had to watch people in real life do them at full speed and then just JUMP IN with the choreography. You didn’t get to learn it at home in your living room. This is why they are mostly done at bars – you need a couple beers before you’re brave enough to try it.

Extreme Moments in Bad Fashion: Volume 1

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

In a far off land, a long long time ago, possibly in another life, I wore a lot of REALLY ugly clothes. And by ugly I mean extreme skimpy and inappropriate for public as well as unfit for human eyes. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

If anyone ever makes a movie about my life, “It seemed like a good idea at the time” would be the tag line on the posters for both high school AND college.

Most of the blame falls on a) being 19 b) losing a lot of weight and suddenly being about to FIT into extremely skimpy clothing and c) being a regular at a bar where a fake velvet cheetah print bell bottom unitard was considered perfectly normal attire. Did I mention this bar also had a disco ball shaped like a saddle? And that it was not just a bar but a country line dancing night club? Where I was not only a regular but once asked to take part in a “Girls of Neon Moon” charity calendar?

Are you going to stop laughing soon? I’ll wait while you go put on dry pants.

FOR THE RECORD: The calendar never happened. So stop Googling.

ALSO FOR THE RECORD: I met E at that bar. And married him mostly for his line dancing skills.

As part of our current home renovation, we needed to make room in the storage half of the attic for all the junk we need to get out of the living space half of the attic. Since I am the kind of person who Has A Hard Time Getting Rid Of Things, I found three giant tubs full of clothes I have kept for far far too long. Some are just too small (I gave them to my friend Megan who has lost like a zillion pounds and wears tiny midget sizes now), some are just out of fashion (I donated them to Goodwill), and some are so terrifically awful I kept them just to take pictures.

I present for your mocking pleasure – The black sparkly mirrored pants:

I appologize for the bad lighting. But TRUST ME, you don’t want to see them any more clearly anyway.

I bought them at Gadzooks. Did you have one of those in your mall? It was like Hot Topic for club goers – less hair dye, more pink.

I think I mentioned before they were a size 5. Turns out they’re actually a 7. But they’re a 7 the same way fat free mayonnaise is actually mayonnaise. NOT AT ALL.

Good news though! They’re stretchy!

Now, you may be asking yourself “What does one wear with such lovely, lovely pants?” So I present, the matching shirt.

Hmm….maybe on the hanger it’s a little hard to see.

I swear it was in the “clothing” section of the store. Gadzooks again, in case you hadn’t guessed.

Still not convinced it’s a shirt?

Sigh.

Fine.

Please don’t blame my mother. She raised me better than this.

P.S. For the record, don’t expect awesome vintage pictures with future bad fashion posts. They all seem to have gotten lost somewhere between my college apartment and this house. But boy am I going to hold this against my kids some day – LOOK WHAT PREGNANCY RUINED!

THIS HAS BEEN…Extreme Moments in Bad Fashion!

Story time

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I like to think I’m pretty good at telling stories. I have a good sense of timing and rhythm and can make something slightly amusing into a must-tell party anecdote. It’s one of the reasons I like blogging so much, because I get a chance to tell so many stories and really take my time writing them up in the most entertaining way possible.

In high school, I had a friend named Matt who was eightybazillionty times better than I will ever be at telling stories. He could make anything funny, and even after retelling the same story over and over and over he could still have us rolling on the floor laughing over that one time he walked into the wrong hotel room and yelled at a total stranger. Or the time he was canoeing with the Boy Scouts and the younger kids ran their canoe into a dead cow that was floating in the river.

I swear, when Matt told it, the cow story was the FUNNIEST STORY EVER. And he told it so many times I could have (and did) repeat it word for word. But I’ve forgotten most of the context and all the funny parts. Now it just sounds sad and kind of gross. It seems I’ve forgotten tons of those anecdotes over the years, stuff I thought I could never lose from my brain, the same way I thought writing “Today C and I met J at the ice rink, but SHE was there and made me mad” in my diary would still mean as much to me today as it did in 1995.

So in the interest of never forgetting, today I’m going to share two stories: one that happened a long time ago but is still one of my favorites (although it’s truly much funnier in person) and one that just happened recently but is too good not to be immediately added to my collection.

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Although I didn’t exactly go to a Serious College, I at least picked one that didn’t make my guidance councilor cringe. And although I didn’t exactly take College Seriously I was proud to graduate in the standard 4 year/8 semester time frame without ever getting into trouble that involved police involvement or parental notification.

It was finally the week of graduation and I was attending mandatory ceremony rehearsal. My school graduated everyone together, all walking one huge stage, in a beautiful outdoor extravaganza that hasn’t changed at all since the school was founded in 1770. Except for in 1905 when they started allowing in women. Or 62 years later when they integrated (South Carolina is not the most progressive state, y’all). The women wear white sundresses and carry red roses and the men wear formal white dinner jackets and red boutonnieres.

It’s very, very Southern.

Somehow, thanks to pure luck, a major in the most common concentration at the college (Communications, WHOOOP!) and a last name that started with a “G”, I ended up sitting in the very front row. Since the stage is raised above the audience I was in pretty much the only seat that made my parent’s presence worthwhile – every student in rows 2-infinity was invisible until the moment their name was called to walk. It also meant I had to sit like a Lady in my skirt and pretend to be interested in the most boring 90 minutes of speeches EVER.

Towards the end of the mandatory rehearsal, the head of campus security got up to make a few announcements about the behavior he expected from us as Ladies and Gentlemen of a Certain Quality. We were not allowed to make spectacles of ourselves during graduation. We were not allowed to make condom balloons. We were not allowed to show up late. We were not allowed to show up DRUNK.

“Because,” he said in his most serious rent-a-cop voice,”If you show up intoxicated, I WILL be arresting you and I WILL take you to jail. You’ll be happy to know the Charleston County lock-up serves Rice Krispies for breakfast.”

The girl sitting next to me rolled her eyes. “That is so not true!” she scoffed. “I’ve been to jail TWICE and all I got was toast!”

During the ceremony later that week I made her wave to my parents. I wanted them to see how worthwhile that education they just finished paying for was.

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In case you’re new here (or you forgot), my friend Erin got married a couple weeks ago and I was one of her bridesmaids. Erin was actually one of MY bridesmaids back in prehistoric times when E and I got married, which I thought was really special. I also thought it gave me the right to be Mrs. Bossy McBossypants when it came to offering advice, whether it was asked for or not.

At the rehearsal, as we practiced lining up and walking (two things everyone learned in kindergarten but requires 2 hours of practice before all wedding ceremonies), someone mentioned that after the ring-bearer brought down the pillow he needed to give it to the best man, who would in turn put it on a little table, because when it came time for the exchange of rings they needed to be available.

“Oooooh” I said doubtfully, “You’re putting your REAL rings on the pillow? Maybe you should use fake rings. We used fake rings, like from a gumball machine. I mean, I’m not saying your ring-bearer {who was at least 12 and not at all irresponsible} can’t be trusted but those rings are important.”

I was assured the rings were fine on the pillow.

“Well. Ok. If you say so. Although I don’t think anyone would NOTICE the fake rings and then your best man dosn’t have to worry about untying them or anything but if you want to do it your way that’s good too. I’m sure it will be fine.” I was really annoying about it. I think I followed up my comments with a story or two about lost rings at various weddings, although they might have been stories I read on the internet rather than anything that happened to anyone I know.

“And just so you know,” I jokingly added, “I’m wearing my wedding rings today for the first time in like a zillion years so if it comes to it, you can always borrow mine.”

Fast forward to the ceremony and the moment when the minister asks for the rings. The best man grabs the pillow, unties the groom’s ring…and starts to look panicked. He glances at the ground. He turns over the pillow. The minister says “Do we have the rings?”

15 incredibly long seconds tick by while everyone stares at the ground uselessly.

The bride snaps around and whispers “Give me your ring!”  I hand my bouquet to the bridemaid behind me, yank my diamond band off my fat swollen finger, and pass it to her before anyone even notices.

Erin hands the ring to the minister, everyone thinks the crisis has been averted, Elliot puts my wedding ring on Erin’s hand and they are declared husband and wife. And lived happily ever after.

Personally, I think using my ring means I’M married to Erin. Or maybe E is married to Erin? Or we’re all four married to each other? I am fine with any of the above scenarios. And if you had to use someone else’s ring for your wedding ceremony, I ring that’s brought 6 successful years of marriage and 2 babies to the original user isn’t your WORST choice, right?

P.S. I did not say “I told you so” or anything similar to “I told you so”. Although several people said it for me.

P.P.S. It turns out the ring-bearer didn’t lose the ring at all – it was still tied to the pillow, just tucked under a ribbon. The best man just couldn’t find it and once he started to freak and assume it was lost no one thought to double check the pillow. So the person we should have been worried about messing up is the Englishman who had been drinking constantly for the previous week. Shocking.

What’s your favorite personal story?

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