Pie-in-the-Sky Proposals for College

Today, the buzz among the education folks that I follow on twitter is Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for student debt forgiveness. From the Daily Beast:

According to a Medium post detailing the policy, the debt cancellation would also apply for every person with a household income between $100,000 and $250,000, with the cancellation amount declining a dollar for every three dollars in income above $100,000, so that a person earning $130,000 would have $40,000 in cancellation. It would not cancel debts for people earning more than $250,000.

The immediate reply was from Phillip Klein at the Washington Examiner, who said that this plan was a cash handout to millennials and wouldn’t help Gen Xers who have already paid off that burden. His article then led to more angry tweets.

Whenever I interview a college student or a recent grad, the number one thing that always comes up is the cost of college and the noose of student loan debt. It is the rare family that has enough saved to choose the college of the choice for their kids without the concern about price.

I’ve talked with recent grads with over $100K in student loans. I’ve talked with others who worked three jobs to pay for school. I know people who will never, ever own a home, because they took out too many loans in grad school for a PhD program.

I talked with a student a few weeks ago (for an article that hasn’t been published yet), who had no clue that her family couldn’t afford a four-year college until she got her acceptance letter. Nobody is really sure how much money they’ll receive from a college until that final letter arrives.

This young woman’s family couldn’t contribute anything towards her college education, while colleges expected that she could find $50K per year. She could get about $7K in federal loans, but the rest would come from horrible private loans. But since her parents wouldn’t co-sign for the private loans, the point was moot. She went to a community college for two years before transferring to a local four-year school.

But she was exceptional kid. Most students like her wouldn’t have made it.

Making college affordable must be a big part of any 2020 Democratic platform. Student loan reforms are only one part of the problem and do nothing to stop that process that creates them. There has to be more money for lower-middle class families, easier transfer process between community colleges and four year schools, more social supports on the college campus, more inclusion for people with different learning styles, better pay for the majority of professors who don’t have tenure jobs, and great support for various career goals.



The last hour of the drive through tidewater North Carolina to my in-laws beach house is through one of the poorest areas of the country. Rusty shacks off the highway. Jesus on the radio. A sign outside the local corner store advertises pizza, AIDS tests, and a carton of smokes for $20.

Once we cross the bridge to the beach, it’s like entering a bag of skittles with candy colored beach mansions and clear blue skies.

We’re down here to check in on the in-laws and recharge our own batteries with long runs and books. I needed it.

Steve rented a convertible from the airport in Raleigh. He and Ian are super happy. I’m stuck in the backseat with wind blown hair.

Travel and Trees

I finished tying up all the loose ends on some malingering articles just in time for next week’s trip to North Carolina. In fact, I finished a couple of days earlier than I expected, so I’ve been using the past two days to get caught up on house and family chores.

I tackled the vacation-work travel folder yesterday and typed up itineraries, booked a train, and fixed the frequent flier miles. We actually haven’t gone anywhere that requires a plane for ages, so the frequent flier situation required talking with somebody in Bangalore to get everything up to date.

We’re taking our first European vacation this summer, since our honeymoon. 22 years. Steve and I travelled extensively in Europe before we had kids. He lived in Austria for a year and student-taught in Germany. I had an English boyfriend at one point and a sister in Madrid. But then kids came, so we found ourselves on a lazy river in Orlando Florida instead of a cobblestone street in Florence.

No regrets. The lazy river was fun, too.

This July, we’re going to London, Edinburgh, and Inverness for ten days, and am totally psyched. We’re staying in adorable airbnbs in Scotland, which is the only way to travel with two nearly adult boys. They need their own rooms, and we need ours.

Before we go there, I need to finish more research on my odd, odd family tree. I must find out which side they were on at Culloden, so I can imagine them either under a headstone or executing officers.

I’ve still been haphazardly researching my family tree. The Fitzgerald side is complicated because there were about four hundred years, where they only seemed to have four names for their sons — Garrett, William, Maurice, or Edmund. And there’s a mash of family legend polluting the research of others on the Internet. I need some quality time to read through the peerage charts to see who’s who. But in the meantime, I’ve been reading some wikipedia entries on some of more colorful cousins.

There’s Lord Edward FitzGerald (1763-1798), an Irish revolutionary, who married Pamela, the illegitimate daughter of Louis Phillippe II, the Duke of Orleans. He died while resisting arrest for treason. And there’s his mom – Emily FitzGerald (1731-1814), who was sleeping with her kids’ tutor. DNA tests have shown that Lord Edward’s dad was really the eccentric tutor, not the Irish Duke. The Scottish side is equally crazy; I need to get this sorted out before we go.

We’re planning on making travel a bigger part of our lives. I even bought color coded packing cubes (I love OCD travel supplies). Getting older sucks in so many ways, but having the time and the resources to travel again, is definitely a perk.


I joined a beginners running club a couple of weeks ago. I’ve intermittently run for the past couple of years, but I wanted to go back to basics and learn to run with a group. And this winter was a wasteland of personal fitness, so I needed to start at the very beginning with a “Couch to 5K” program.

At the duck pond in town on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings, Linda, the trainer, blows whistles for us to run and then walk. We’ve built up to a three minute run and a one minute walk for thirty minutes. It’s unbelievably awesome. I mean it’s not like I’m Jack Dorsey or anything, with a wackadoo fasting schedule and all that, but I do like getting muscle-y.

I think that I’ve earned a new running outfit, so after I tidy up a few loose ends with work, I’m going to the mall to get a new running outfit. And maybe a new dress. And maybe a manicure. Retail therapy is always good.

What’s your exercise regimen these days?

The Best Laid Plans

On Sunday night, I took a big hunk of pork out of the freezer. Frozen solid, it was going to take some work to defrost the meat, so I could turn it into pulled pork sandwiches on Monday. I put it on the counter, even though you are absolutely not supposed to defrost meat that way. I figured it would be fine for three hours before bedtime, when I would put it in the fridge to finish defrosting.

I forgot about it. It sat there all night. In the morning, when I remembered the pork, it was way past frozen and was disturbingly room temperature. After consulting with friends, I tossed it in the garbage. I was too afraid of teaming bacteria to make it into a meal for my family. Nobody wants to eat old pork.

Because I’ve been rather down for the past week, I didn’t have the mental energy to come up with a Plan B meal. We ended up at an overpriced burger joint in town, where I picked at a salad and had a glass of wine.

I thought I had an awesome work opportunity for the fall, but it didn’t happen. Tant pis. Stupidly, I had already figured out the bus schedule and started finding babysitters. dumb. dumb. dumb. I should have known that my age and my untraditional career path were unforgivable.

Anyway, I’m regrouping. Starting with thinking about dinner plans for tonight, I’ll run to the supermarket. I’m tackling some real-life chores that were put on the back burner for a while. I’ve got to finish off some work projects this week, and then we’re going to NC to visit Steve’s folk for a week.

In the meantime, I’m going to blog. This place always helps me think through tough matters. I’m off to see a school presentation on the budget and then I’ll be back to share some links and pictures.

Be good to each other.

An Outsourced Life

Back in the early years of this blog, when we were living on a shoe-string budget as we recovered from the economic devastation that was grad school, I did a lot of soul searching about paying for staff that would free up time to work full time.

I did have some childcare, though never full time, and I had a bi-monthly housecleaner for a few years. I always felt a lot of guilt for paying someone to do work that I thought that I should be able to do myself. I ended up working a lot of very low wage jobs over the years that gave me the flexibility to do it all.

Of course, I wasn’t really doing it all. Those low wages jobs – freelance writing and adjunct/temporary professor jobs – aren’t exactly the fast track to proper careers and healthy paychecks.

But just in the past few months, we’ve outsourced a great deal of our household and kiddo chores. I just wrote a fat check to Ed the Landscaper to clean up our weed-covered yard, so Steve doesn’t have to arrange his entire weekend around dealing with our corner lot. I hired a housecleaner who came last week to de-gross our showers. (Oh, the humiliation.) I hired a math tutor for Ian whose math is too tough for us, so he can go beyond the classwork in school. I hired a reading tutor, because his special ed English class is seriously flawed, and I’m too burned out to be patient with his reading disability. With a small subsidy from the state, I’m hiring respite care for Ian on Saturday nights.

I’m writing checks left and right. And it’s all new. And it stresses me out, because even as we’re beyond the grad school years, we’ve never stopped thinking like grad students. Also, Steve and I grew up in families without helpers. My dad in his early 80s still mows his own lawn and shovels the snow from the driveway.

Ideally, I would like to simplify our lives, so we don’t need so much help, but we’re not there yet. In fact, things seem to get busier and messier. Our standards for tidiness have increased. I’m not going to stop feeling guilty about all this help. I’ve traded the green mold in the shower for a thin layer of self-hatred.