Still Thinking About the College Cheating Scandal

I grew up in the farming community of Floydada, Texas. My family was working class, and my scope of the world was severely narrow. Neither of my parents attended college; although, my mom was a voracious reader and instilled a great and enduring love of reading in me.

As a kid, my grades were always solid. I learned easily and had a real talent for test taking. But, if it hadn’t been for my relationships with friends whose parents were college educated and who had been groomed to aspire to higher education from birth, I’d probably never have given it much thought.

As it was, my first semester at college was a lesson in cluelessness. I didn’t know how to negotiate the system. I had no idea how to secure funding, and my parents hadn’t saved money for my education. Naively I felt the whole college experience seemed like more bother than it was worth.

Long story short, after that first semester I dropped out and married Studly. While most of my high school friends earned degrees and entered the work force as professionals, I was raising babies and trying to help Studly Doright make ends meet by working in clerical positions. Not until we hit a huge bump in our marital and financial road did we consider sending me back to college as a way to create a better life for our family.

Studly negotiated all the ins and outs of college financing, and my grades qualified me for scholarships and grants, but we still owed a considerable amount in student loans after I’d earned my degree. Sometimes the weight of the debt felt impossible to bear, and that was before we started funding our children’s college educations. Bottom line–it costs a bundle to send kids to college.

Now, I’m no Alberta Einstein, but I performed admirably as a college student. Early in my second year as a returning student in my 30’s, a classmate glanced at my grades and gasped, “You have a 4.0?!”

Apparently his sister had graduated summa cum laude with a 3.99 grade point average, and that was a big deal. I’d never even heard of such a thing, but all of a sudden I had a goal beyond earning a degree. A single “B” in my college algebra class kept me from a perfect 4.0, but I still had the summa cum laude etched onto my diploma.

Often I wonder at how many others are out there who, through accidents of birth, never understood what their options were or didn’t have the means or knowledge to fulfill their destinies. How many super bright young people will be stuck in low end, low paying jobs because they aren’t exposed to the possibilities of a better life? Or if they’re aware of them, the opportunities seem out of reach due to a lack of financial resources and/or a certain savvy that children of college-educated parents have simply through environmental influences.

And then there are the kids with every advantage whose parents still feel the need to bribe and cheat in order to move their progeny even higher on the food chain. How utterly crass and elitist is this practice? Is it a status thing? Like having a trophy kid?

As conservative politicians push for public funding of private schools, we are going to witness an even greater divide emerge between the educational haves and have nots. I predict that the elites will become more so as those who were raised as I was become even less likely to have the means to access higher education.

And yes, I know that life isn’t fair, but don’t we owe it to our society, hell, to our world to make higher education a right instead of a privilege? It seems some in higher office prefer to have an uneducated populace. I can only imagine why.

Peace, people.

Accidents of Birth, and Other Thoughts

This whole college cheating scandal has me pondering a great many things, some closely related to the sordid story, and others only tangentially connected. My thoughts are jumbled, so I thought I’d try to organize them.

  1. What the hell!? Who does this kind of crap?
  2. Should a child born in, say Bumblebutt, Alabama, to poor parents be penalized for his/her lack of exposure to a wide variety of opportunities while kids born to wealthy parents are given access to the world? How do we equalize opportunities? How many intelligent, capable kids are shuttled through a flawed system that could instead be benefiting from their talents?
  3. Should the children of the parents who paid bribes to get them into elite colleges be punished for their parents’ wrongdoing?
  4. Is there a way for these parents to make amends in the form of paying for underprivileged students to attend college?
  5. Do we want to see these parents do jail time?
  6. If you had the money, and a lack of ethics, and wanted your kid to have a spot at an Ivy League school would you be more likely to offer a bribe or to pay for someone to boost your child’s SAT and/or ACT scores?
  7. I’m a great test taker. If there was money to be made in the test taking by proxy business would I be tempted?
  8. Who am I kidding? I can’t even cheat at board games.
  9. Is bribing a college admissions officer to admit one’s child any different from donating land or a building to a university in order to achieve the same results?
  10. Is anyone else really pissed off about the arrogance and sense of entitlement this scandal has exposed?

I’m not sure jotting all this down has helped organize my thoughts. What have I missed? What would you suggest? I’ve got more to say, but I’m saving it for later. Did I hear a groan out there?

For those who aren’t familiar with the above referenced scandal, here’s a link to a concise report from the New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/14/us/college-admissions-scandal-questions.html

Excitement and Anxiety All Wrapped Up in One Package

Have you ever been so excited for something to happen while simultaneously hand-wringingly worried about the same event? I’ve been so in need of a spirits booster. My digestive system isn’t being all that cooperative these days, and I’ve felt like a useless, grumpy old biddy.

Part of my grumpiness stemmed from thinking I wouldn’t get to make my annual drive to Illinois to stay with the grandkids while their parents took a much needed vacation to a sunny beach. I really look forward to the one week a year when I get to hang out with the three Illinois grandkids, and when that was threatened I figured my days of being useful were probably over. (Okay, I get dramatic sometimes, so sue me.)

Then yesterday evening my daughter and I were brainstorming back and forth and we wondered if the kids could fly to Florida and hang out with us during their spring break week while their parents flew to Mexico. The more we talked the more our plan came together, and this morning we booked flights for the three who are ages 16, 14, and 6.

I jumped up and down and whooped a couple of times (take that, grumpy old useless biddy) and then realized I’d now be a nervous wreck until the kids were safely in Florida. See, I do have a purpose! Worrier-in-Chief. Fortunately, I have only a week to wait on their arrival, and I have plenty to do between now and then.

(The photo below was taken at Christmas. Cannot wait to hug these three!)

Peace, people!

A Harrowing Stay

A blogging friend recently commented about staying in a Bates-type motel on a recent vacation to Alaska. If you’ve never seen the movie “Psycho,” the reference might be lost on you, but trust me, one does NOT want to spend any time, let alone an entire night, in such a place.

Studly Doright and I, along with our infant daughter, once had no choice other than to overnight in just such an unsavory hotel. We’d flown from Amarillo, Texas, to Houston when our baby girl was due for her heart checkup at Texas Children’s Hospital. We spent one night in a moderately priced hotel before her appointment and then afterwards drove directly to Houston Hobby Airport for the trip home.

Unfortunately a storm system moved in and our return flight was canceled until the next day. Studly and I had stretched our resources just to pay for the trip. An unexpected night in Houston was not in our budget. Had we not had an infant with us we might’ve just stayed at the airport, but our baby needed a place to sleep.

We searched the hotel directory at Hobby for a motel we could afford. There were several we could swing, but with the added cab fare they were financially out of reach. Finally I found a hotel that had cab fare included. It seemed perfect and we made a reservation.

Upon our arrival we noted the hotel appeared a bit rundown. The neon sign had missing letters, and the stucco was peeling off the facade in places. The lobby smelled strongly of roach spray, and a sign behind the desk had room prices listed by the day, the week, and the hour. Let that last one sink in. I had a bad feeling about the place.

A woman in a skin tight, cleavage baring, leopard print jumpsuit took our information and most of our money before handing us a green key for a room on the first floor. Walking down the musty hallway to the we heard the sounds of despair: babies screaming, elderly people moaning, people doing what people do in seedy motel rooms. I had the strong urge to run back to the lobby and hail a cab.

Our room door looked as if someone had taken an axe to it. There were deep gouges next to the frame, yet the lock looked solid. Inside the room we were confronted by what appeared to be a large bloody handprint on the wall above the bed, the smell of roach spray wafted on the air, stronger even than in the lobby. Oh, and the sliding door onto the tiny patio wouldn’t close all the way, so we couldn’t lock it. That might explain the presence of the handprint.

Our sweet baby was asleep in my arms, so we made her a nest out of our previously worn clothes, laying them on the sheets so her little body didn’t have to make contact with whatever might’ve been infesting the mattress. Thank goodness I was still breastfeeding her, since money for food had been all but depleted.

Studly ran next door to an all night diner to find a snack for the two of us while I watched over the baby and jumped at every sound. When he made it back we nibbled on our makeshift dinner and then tried to rest in a way that wouldn’t require us to make full contact with the bedding. We didn’t dare turn out the lights, but Studly actually snored while our daughter slept in innocent bliss. I, on the other hand, don’t remember closing my eyes for even a minute. Someone had to keep the bogey man at bay!

The sounds coming through the partially opened balcony door indicated violent activity in the vicinity. Sirens blared all night, and I swear I heard gunshots at least twice between midnight and two a.m. It was no place for sissies, and brother, let me tell you I’m a big ol’ sissy. Morning couldn’t come soon enough.

I didn’t rest until we were safely on the plane headed back to Amarillo the next day, certain that we’d barely escaped with our lives. And those Southwest peanuts and the free soft drinks were akin to manna from the gods.

Nowadays we can afford to stay in nicer places, but I never enter a hotel room without remembering that scary night in our own Bates Motel. Bloody handprints are a deal breaker.

Peace, people.

Sweet Sleep in an App

Sleep is often my fickle friend. She’ll visit three nights in a row and then not again for a week. It doesn’t matter how I’ve spent my evening or what I’ve eaten for dinner or watched on the evening news. Sometimes, though, there is a correlation between my late evening internet usage and my ability to fall asleep, so I do try to put my phone away an hour or two before bedtime. Even then sleep isn’t guaranteed.

Staying in strange hotel rooms adds to the likelihood that I won’t sleep, and last week when I traveled to Austin from Doright Manor I spent a sleepless night in a Drury Inn in Lafayette, Louisiana. Now, that’s when my gastric pain started, but even once it tapered off I could not fall asleep, instead tossing and turning until the sun rose.

I wearily went about the business of getting ready to travel on to Austin, showered, and turned on the morning news to keep me company as I packed. Lo and behold the panelists on one of the morning news shows were discussing sleep apps. I listened and jotted down some notes before leaving the room.

When I got to my Austin hotel I read over my notes and picked one of the apps to try. It’s called “Calm” and I’m here to tell you it’s working wonders in my life. I slept beautifully both nights in Austin, and only struggled with sleep one night afterwards–and that was most likely because I took a nap that same afternoon.

I chose the “Calm” app for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s also a meditation app, and I seem to respond well to meditative exercises. But the main reason was that in addition to offering calming music and white noise, the app has different narrators read excerpts of books as bedtime stories for grown ups.

Studly Doright laughed at me when I told him about the app, but now he’s noticed a change in my sleeping habits that’s resulted in me being a happier spouse. Even dealing with whatever is going on in my digestive tract, I’m able to fall asleep listening to these stories.

I was afraid the narration would bother Studly, but he claims he can’t hear anything other than my breathing. That’s an unexpected perk of growing old, I suppose. I tuck my iPhone under my pillow and most nights I fall asleep within just a few minutes of the story’s beginning.

So far I have some favorite stories: Matthew McConaughey reads a piece called “Wonder” that I still haven’t heard the end of. Astronaut Terry Verts tells of seeing earth from space, and his words are beautiful and peaceful.

There are many stories I haven’t gotten to listen to yet, but right now I’m sticking to a few tried and true tales.

I tend to find the deeper male voices more calming, or maybe the women’s voices just make me want to listen longer. Regardless, this app has made a huge difference. (Hoping I’m not jinxing my progress by typing this).

The initial week of “Calm” is free, but it costs right at $60 for a year’s subscription. That almost turned me off, but after the week was over I was convinced the app was worth it. If you’re struggling with sleeplessness, you might want to give it a try. Let me know if you do. I’d like to compare notes.

Peace and good sleep, people!

A Mixed Bag, and That ISN’T Cocaine!

(Note: I wrote this on Tuesday evening. Hopefully by the time it publishes on Wednesday I’ll be well rested and powder free.)

The sleep fairy was a fickle critter last night. Studly Doright was out of town, and I stayed up past my bedtime packing for my own trip to Texas. My thoughts were racing and every little noise made me jump. One would’ve thought I was on a drug-fueled high, except that I don’t do anything stronger than caffeine these days, and that only sparingly.

Maybe I got in three hours of rest between the hours of two and five before I gave up the fight and decided to shower and get on the road. Since my night vision really stinks I waited until sunrise before saying goodbye to the cats and turning out the lights at Doright Manor.

For the first couple of hours I made good time, then weariness began setting in. I made frequent stops, and I’m fairly sure I have now officially patronized every rest area between Tallahassee, Florida, and Lafayette, Louisiana, where I stopped for the night at a Drury Inn. Look at this cool sculpture that adorns the wall of a welcome center in Mississippi:

At a gas station in Mississippi I purchased a product I’ve heard about my whole life, but had never tried–BC Powder. I’d wanted Bayer aspirin, because the hypochondriac in me decided I might be having a heart attack. I get weird when I’m tired. The clerk suggested BC instead, and I bought it and a bottle of water to wash it down.

Having never used BC Powder, I was unprepared for it to be just that, a powder. Go figure, right? As soon as I was back in the car I opened the package and white stuff went everywhere. It was on my shirt, my pants, the car seat. After cleaning up the mess, I gingerly opened a second packet and with some measure of control managed to shake it onto my tongue where I could then send it into my system with the water.

Now, only after I’d washed it down did I notice that caffeine is a key ingredient in BC Powder. Great. I’ll likely be awake most of tonight, as well. Oh, and when I had a chance to look in the mirror in my hotel room I realized I had BC Powder on my face. No wonder the hotel desk clerk kept giving me odd looks. I promise, it’s not cocaine!

Peace, people.

Packing Isn’t My Bag

Early Monday morning I rolled over in bed to watch Studly Doright pack for an overnight business trip. The act took him exactly three and a half minutes. I timed him.

On Monday around 3 p.m. I began packing for a week long road trip to Texas. As of nine p.m., I’m still at it. Now, keep in mind this isn’t a business trip. Most days I’ll just wear jeans and a blouse; although, I am packing a dress and heels for the evening that my niece and I go to see Michelle Obama in Austin.

So why does it take me so long to pack?

  1. I get distracted easily. I had to watch the Ellen Degeneres Show, and then I needed a snack.
  2. The characters in the book I’m currently reading are in a rough spot, so I had to stop and read them out of it.
  3. My favorite jeans needed to be washed.
  4. My niece texted me to say I needed a clear bag for the Michelle Obama event, so I had to go shopping.
  5. My regular wallet was too big to fit in the clear bag, so I also had to buy a new (cheap) wallet.
  6. I got hungry. Again.
  7. My cats’ litter boxes had to be cleaned.
  8. The car I’m driving to Texas was filthy. I drove to the car wash and cleaned it inside and out.
  9. The cats needed to go out on the back porch.
  10. Then the cats needed to come back in.
  11. Out.
  12. In.
  13. Facebook.
  14. Write a blog post.

I know I’ll get the job done eventually. Maybe after “The Voice” is over.

Peace, people!

Road Trip!

Tomorrow I’ll set out on a road trip in my “old” car, a 2015 Mazda CX-5 with an outrageous 85,000 plus miles on the odometer. The car was in a minor accident back in November, but one can barely tell even upon close inspection.

My first destination is Buda, Texas, outside of Austin. There, I’ll rendezvous with my niece, CB, who bought two tickets to see Michelle Obama and invited me to join her. I can hardly wait for Thursday night!

On Friday I’ll drive north to Dallas where I’ll deliver the car to my son. He’s buying the Mazda for our oldest granddaughter, but it’s a surprise, so shhhh! I’ll spend a couple of days in Dallas with my son and his family before heading back to Doright Manor near Tallahassee, Florida.

The original plan was for me to fly home, but Studly Doright decided I needed a car to run around Tallahassee in. I’ve already put nearly 6,000 miles on my 2019 Lincoln. Apparently that’s excessive, so I’ll be picking up a used car at a dealership in Dallas and driving it home. This will be my every day driver, and chances are it will someday end up being another grandkid’s car. Of course, at the rate I rack up miles, it might have a million on it by then, but who’s counting?

Peace, people.

Wednesday, Part 2: The Good

My Wednesday started off with a (bad) bang when I locked the keys, along with my phone, in my car at a Goodwill store in Tallahassee.

https://nananoyz5forme.com/2019/02/22/wednesday-part-one-the-bad/

Now, some people might’ve gone home after such a downer of a start, but not me! I gamely soldiered on, running errands around town, eating a late lunch at Newk’s, and then shopping at Lucky’s–hands down the best grocery store in the universe.

I’ve decided one of the reasons I like Lucky’s so much is that everyone there is so friendly. There’s a great conversation to be had on every aisle and in the checkout line, to boot. No one seems to be in a hurry when shopping at Lucky’s, so buying groceries there is a refreshing change of pace.

I completed my shopping and returned to Doright Manor where I had a couple of hours to kill. Studly Doright was out of town, so I didn’t have to plan a meal or anything. With my free time I read the newest Gareth Powell book, Fleet of Knives, and cleaned out some closets. If you’re into Sci-fi, I heartily recommend Gareth’s Embers of War series. My only complaint is that I read them too fast, and the third book in the series hasn’t been written yet. Damn!

Around four p.m. I washed my face and drove across town to join Meetup friends for trivia night at Southwood golf club. We did well, finishing third, I think. The group that made it to the event was a nice mix of people from past Meetups and brand new folks. Meetup has been a godsend for me, and I enjoyed every minute.

After trivia, a couple of the ladies and I decided, on a whim, to head to The Moon, a Tallahassee nightspot, to see Los Lobos in concert. It was such fun. I danced all by myself and sang my heart out. Of course, the band saved their hit, La Bamba for the encore, so any thoughts I’d had about sneaking away early were dashed. It was a great way to end a day that had started on a bit of a low note.

So if there’s a moral to my story it might be, “What starts with a lock could end with some rock.” Or, “Shake it off. Shake, shake it off.” I’m open to suggestions.

Peace, people!

https://youtu.be/nLAWPrCUQQ0

Wednesday, Part One: The Bad

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and then…you rock out. (With apologies to the 80’s sitcom, “Facts of Life” theme song.)

Wednesday was a day of highs and lows, starting with me locking my keys and my phone in my car while dropping off a donation of clothing at a local Goodwill thrift store. For starters, I honestly didn’t think it was possible to lock my keys in my new Lincoln Nautilus. My previous car, a Mazda CX-5 had a fail safe to prevent such unfortunate events from occurring. Live and learn, I guess.

So there I was taking up a spot in the busy donation lane at Goodwill, and I couldn’t call for assistance. One of the Goodwill employees loaned me her phone, and I tried calling the dealership where we’d bought the car. Lincolns supposedly come with all sorts of perks, so I thought I’d see if they could help me out. They hung up on me. Not once, but twice.

We haven’t been all that thrilled with Tallahassee Ford-Lincoln since purchasing the car, and this incident certainly didn’t endear them to me. Matthew McConaughey and I need to have a talk.

https://youtu.be/GAuDTd2-Z1k

The sweet woman who’d loaned me her phone suggested I call my insurance company because some providers have specific locksmiths they want customers to use. As we were looking up the number, one of the other employees said, “Hey! It looks like you can punch in a code to unlock your car.”

Oh, yeah. I’d kind of forgotten that feature. Maybe this was a reprieve. But only if I could recall the code we’d set up back in December. On the third try I got it right and sheepishly thanked the folks who’d assisted me. After unloading my donation I moved my car and got the heck out of Dodge. Come to think of it, maybe I should’ve bought a Dodge….we did live in Dodge City for a year.

Tomorrow, if I don’t get sidetracked, I’ll bring you “Wednesday, Part 2: The Good.”