Girls in STEM

Dash and Dot (from Wonder Workshop) arrived in our house and they were a hit. I was able to capture Miss C’s first time playing with Dash and her face lit up (pun intended) when she saw what it could do. So excited to seed, develop and nurture a love for the sciences in my daughter.

Caterpillar - 09.30.151 comment

Meet Sonnette & Duwaine


Names: Duwaine & Sonnette Bascoe
Class Years: c/o 2003 and 2002, respectively
Number of Years Married: 13 wonderful years
Current Location: Penfield, NY (right outside of Rochester)

1. How did you meet?
We met on Spelman’s campus freshman year (1998) on Halloween night. With mutual friends, we went to Centennial Park, hung out, and made a connection that has lasted for 13 years!

2. How did you know he was the one?
I knew hubby was the ONE on one night when we were talking on the phone (freshman year). I wasn’t feeling well so to try to make me feel better and laugh, he started talking to me in Elmo’s voice…”I hope you feel better soon. Get some rest. Elmo loves you.” When this happened, I said to myself, “OMG! I’m going to marry this man!” I don’t even think he knew at that time that I had a love for Elmo and Tweety Bird, but he kept winning my heart thereafter.

3. How did he propose?
Duwaine proposed 2nd semester sophomore year on Spelman’s campus right in front of my dorm, Morehouse James. He was dropping me off after a date. After saying our goodbyes, I got out of his car and started walking toward the steps of the dorm. He called to me, and when I turned around, he had a song playing that we can’t remember the name of, but it was about getting married and putting a wedding ring on (cheesy, I know ), and he was down on one knee. He proposed, I cried, and girls in my dorm that were secretly watching from their windows started clapping.

4. What is your advice for a successful marriage?
Guidelines for a successful marriage include keeping God at the center, keep dating and making each other laugh, remember to exercise grace before truth but always be truthful with each other, don’t sweat the hard times, because they’re only momentary.

5. Question 5
Duwaine knows how to keep me laughing…as I am answering these questions, he sent me a text that made me laugh out loud. And we love each other unconditionally…through the good and the bad; the pretty and the ugly…literally… lol. Duwaine has truly shown me how to love someone without contingencies and how to be a true friend.

6. Question 6
It’s never too early to start saving and working toward becoming debt free. You definitely don’t have to wait until you have children. In fact, it’s easier to get on this track before children come into the picture.

7. Question 7
Duwaine and I have four AMAZING children together: Sean (age 10), Aniya (age 6), Xander (age 13 mos.), and Xavier (age 13 mos.)…yes, they’re twins and identical. Having our children has brought Duwaine and I closer and made us value our union even the more. There’s nothing Duwaine and I wouldn’t do to keep our bond strong, laughter and joy in our home, and our family together.

10. Question 10
In 10 years, Duwaine and I will still be in love with God and each other; financially free; enjoying our first born child’s college years; celebrating big our daughter’s sweet 16; enjoying and keeping up with the twin’s shenanigans; consistently taking family vacations together; volunteering in the community and giving our children an example to follow; thriving in our careers (maybe the wife of a supreme court judge?)…basically, we’ll be enjoying living! In 20 years, we may be grandparents and enjoying and spoiling our children’s families…wow!!

11. Question 11
One of my favorite memories is of Stegalls freshman year. Duwaine and a couple of his friends, who also had girlfriends staying in HH, would go to Stegalls and bring us dinner. It makes me laugh now because Stegalls was a hole in the wall with questionable cleanliness, but they had great chicken fingers. Wings and things was another favorite spot of ours. It broke our hearts when they closed down.

Marriage - 09.29.150 comments

6 Steps for Creating Your First Budget

When Hubby and I attended our first budgeting class together we were asked to create a quick and dirty, back-of-the-envelope type budget. Well, this exercise was not quick and it definitely was not easy. I had no idea how much money we spent (or in actuality more like overspent) every month. I didn’t know the cost of a gallon of milk or a gallon of gas even though I was face to face with the gas pump a few times a week. In fact, I was a bit nervous because I had just gotten a Keratin treatment and Hubby had no idea how much it costs, but he was soon about to find out. Most blog posts about budgeting tell how to manage an existing budget, but just getting started can be like feeling around in the dark if you’ve never done it before. I wish I had been a little bit more prepared before I created my very first ever budget, so here are a few tips I would like to share so you’re not caught off guard like we were.

1. Enroll Online
Enroll in online banking for all your financial accounts, whether checking, savings, credit cards and loans. It’s easy, safe and convenient. You’ll have access to accounts 24/7 which you can check on a laptop, tablet or mobile device. Each online account makes it easier to track your spending, review your daily balance and even pay bills (which saves you time and stamp money). To enroll, simply go to your bank site for each existing account and follow the prompts to register for an online account. Most folks nowadays already use online banking, so if you currently do not, this is a huge help in seeing where all your money disappeared to last month.

2. Keep Track of Income & Expenses for One Month
If you have online banking and that’s all you use, then this step is pretty easy. You can just write checks or swipe away all month long if you use credit or debit cards. However, if you use cash for some items, you’ll need to keep your receipts and I mean all of them. This even includes the $1.29 Slurpee you got at the gas station. The best way to do this is to snap a photo on your phone of each receipt you receive when you use cash. This way you won’t lose it.

3. Create spending categories
Start with the big ones like housing, transportation, food (which I like to separate into groceries and eating out), tithes, savings, and lifestyle (such as shopping and hair and nails – oh yes you’d better believe I have a hair line item in the budget). After your first month you may find yourself adding more categories which is expected. You’ll see that you spend in many more places than you originally thought. For example, automatic drafts that you don’t even think about you may completely overlook, and little things like vending machines and seemingly little things like tolls, you’ll see quickly add up significantly.

4. Clump expenses into categories and add them up
Now that you’ve got access to all your accounts and you have some high-level buckets created, pick a thirty day period to look back at all your expenses. It’s easiest to select the previous month, because hopefully it’s very similar to your current spending habits. This step is hardest and the longest step in creating your first budget. You’ll need to log into EVERY online account you created and write down EVERY expense under the spending categories you already created. And if you need to add or modify your spending categories once you start to see what your expenses actually look like, of course that’s okay. Make sure you include your credit card payments, student loan bills, and any other debt. One easy way to tell if you spend more than you make is if you’re not paying off all your credit card bills at the end of the month. If you leave a balance on the card that you cannot afford to pay each month, then you’re living beyond your means.

5. “Rip-off-the-band-aid” arithmetic
This is where you close your eyes and hope for the best. Just kidding. Knowing and confirming that you overspend is the reason why we don’t budget. We don’t want to see what’s really going on with all the pennies that run through our fingers each month. Add your total monthly take-home income together (all your paychecks after taxes, retirement and insurance are taken out) and then subtract all the expenses you tallied up in step 4 and see what remains. Don’t be alarmed if your expenses exceed your income. That is the case for most people and the most important thing you can learn from creating your first budget. In fact, this can be a bit shameful when you see the reality. I’ll write another post sharing what to do if you have money leftover in the rare case that’s you, but more likely you’ll want to know next steps if you spend more than you make. These first five steps are pretty labor intensive, but necessary, so that you can really see and feel what’s going on with your finances.

6. Evaluate and re-allocate.
The most important next step is for you to evaluate your spending patterns and see if you’re okay with how much and where you money is going. If you’re not okay with some expenses, or the amount of money you spend in that area does not align with your values, you can start to eliminate it. Some folks see that spending $300 on cable when they have $100 in late or overdraft fees may not be the best use of their hard earned money. You can create your next month’s budget by sifting dollars around now that you’ve had a chance to reflect on your current spending.

For your next budget, you will assign an amount to each category based on what you now know is reasonable from looking at the previous month. If you spent $1000 on food last month, it’s not reasonable that you’ll only spend $200 this month because you’ll need to create and get used to a new system of behaviors to reduce your spending first. Start making changes in discretionary buckets first and keep the big bills like utilities the same. If you’ve already cancelled some unnecessary expenses, you can re-allocate those funds to more important areas such as debts or savings. You may find yourself reducing the total bucket for several lifestyle expenses by cancelling fees and subscriptions, ending that daily Starbucks trip, limiting expensive hobbies, paying bills early or on time to eliminate interest surcharges and reducing eating out at restaurants (food is usually the most shockingly under estimated category for most people because it’s a highly emotional purchase).

Thankfully, there are tons of apps out there that can help you create and manage monthly budgets and expenses going forward. Decide on a method that works for you. I highly recommend the EveryDollar app to get you started. Hubby and I use it every month and sit down to create our budget together. We check-in weekly to see how things are going and to discuss if we need to make any changes. We call this discussion a Budget Committee Meeting. This meeting is designed to last only 17 minutes and it’s a great way to get a quick pulse on if you’re sticking to the plan and discuss future budgeting goals.

Finances - 09.28.150 comments

Meet Clarrette & Preston


Names: Preston Gray and Clarrette Bush Gray
Class years: Both Dual Degree c/o 1994/95 (Identify with ’94, walked with ’95)
Number of years married: 20
Current location: Charlotte, NC

1. Where did you meet?
Since we were both dual degree students and NASA scholars, we had lots of mutual friends starting the summer before freshman year. I am not sure why, but we didn’t actually meet each other in pre-college or freshman year and I am sure we had one class together. In fact, parents weekend, I borrowed my father’s van and took my friends out to a party. A couple of guys that my friends knew jumped on the hood of the van, playing around. I didn’t know them and began screaming that they not mess up my father’s car. I found out later that some dude named Preston was the one that jumped on the van. It was not until the summer after freshman year at NASA Stennis Space Center, where we were both interns, that we actually met.

2. How did he propose?
Preston had a wonderful plan to surprise me and propose on New Year’s Eve. We had plans to attend a huge gala with my parents in Mississippi. He wanted to get on one knee and at the stroke of midnight, pop the question. Well a few days after Christmas, my best friend and I drove to Atlanta to pick Preston up. After a dinner and a movie, we returned to my apartment. Preston reached in his pocket and pulled out the ring and said simply “I got you a ring.” He was so nervous and excited that he couldn’t wait until New Year’s Eve to ask me. I was completely surprised! He got on one knee and placed the ring on my finger as I said yes!

3. What do you think are the guidelines for a successful marriage?
Friendship: We started as friends and have maintained that relationship. We really are each other’s best friend.

Respect: Preston is the smartest, hardest working person that I know. He is also one of the funniest. But most of all he is my biggest cheerleader and supporter. That was really important to me as I stayed home for 17 years to raise our four children. He always said it was my choice to stay and my choice to work outside of the home. He supported me either way.

Communication: We talk about everything, eventually. I learned early in our marriage that I like to fuss and get it all out on the table, but Preston needs to think about things before he is ready to “discuss”. So I have to give him time to get his thoughts together and of course that gives me time to cool down. By the time we come back to the subject, the heat of the debate and the temptation to call names or bring up irrelevant information subsides. We can have rational discussions and make good decisions together. Of course it may take months to agree on major issues if ever, but we continue to keep communication open and respectful.

Dating: We have always made time to spend alone, romantic time together. Even when we had four young children and little extra money, we just got creative and made time for one another. I am not very spontaneous, so I would set up the monthly calendar of when we would go out. Preston would pick the spot and activity. We also would plan vacation weekends or over night getaways so that we could stay connected. Now that the children are older, we date weekly. And Preston is still spontaneous and surprises me with fun and different activities (Salsa lessons, hotel rooms downtown,etc)

5. What makes you such good friends?
We have always had each others best interest at heart. We started out as friends, working across the hall from one another during our internship. As a matter of fact, we both dated other people and would give one another advice on situations. We were friends for over a year before we began dating. In that time, I became pregnant by someone else I was seeing and had a little girl. Preston, my friend, was there during one of the most difficult times in my life. He was supportive and a friend through everything. The next summer, we were working together again and by the end of the internship, we both knew that we wanted to date.

We also challenge each other to be better. We both have dreams and goals we want to achieve individually and we continue to give each other honest advice and support to achieve our goals. From homeschooling, to real estate, to investments and career moves, we turn to one another and trust the others opinion to get to the next level.

6. What are your money management tips for newlyweds?
Budget together and meet regularly (weekly or biweekly) to adjust as necessary. Live off of one income if at all possible. That was not our original plan, but it worked out wonderful for us. We married our senior year at Georgia Tech so we were used to having nothing. When Preston hired on with his job, I went to grad school. That meant we had just a little more than nothing. We were able to buy our first house with a gift from his grandmother. So we were getting by on one salary. Our oldest was 4 by this time and we knew we wanted more children. After the 2nd child was born while I was in grad school, I wanted to take a little time off before working. 17 years later and after 2 additional children, I started working full time! The point is because we didn’t get accustomed to 2 incomes, we had the flexibility to make choices. I taught occasionally at a community college as well as flipped houses during that 17 years for additional income. But my main goal was to raise our children and minimize cost by staying at home. We didn’t pay of daycare or after care. No one had to take off of work for doctor visits. I was able to manage the house maintenance and other issues except the yard, I had yard work! We were also flexible to move to different locations and advance Preston’s career, including our move to France for 4 years. We certainly sacrificed in order of me to stay home. The biggest area was in the college fund for the children. So now I am working full time to fund it now that the youngest is in college. We have one that has finished college, one that is a freshman and two to go!

7. Has your marriage changed since you had children? How?
We have four children, ages 23, 18, 16, and 13, and one grandchild, age 2. I would say that our marriage has gotten stronger since we have had children. We married when my oldest was 2 years old, so we had children from day one. We both wanted a big family and were committed to do what it took to raise them successfully. For us that meant learning how to keep our relationship strong and staying on the same page. We are a great team and that is certainly what it takes to raise 4 intelligent, funny, caring kids. If nothing else, they out number us! But we are good at keeping a united front and staying on message: Our goal as parents is to pour into our children everything that God has given us to raise them to be college educated, productive members of society and to be able to take care of themselves ie. get out of our pockets! Even when we disagree on parenting approaches, one of us will allow the other to take the lead. The children may know that there is a discussion between us, but the final decision stands and the overall goal is achieved.

9. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life as a couple?
We are in this together and we have to do what works for our family and our goals. We have taken many roads less traveled, from me being a highly educated stay at home mom by choice, to moving to a foreign country with 4 children and a dog! We live our lives with purpose, trusting God to continue to lead us in our next adventure.

10. Where will we be in 10 years? 20 years?
In 10 years, all of our children will have graduated from high school and college and we will be in our early fifties! That is the beauty of having our children young. We are looking forward to having more time to spend with one another and more resources. I am working now to help pay for our children to go to college without loans, but I will retire as soon as the youngest walks across that stage. In 20 years, we will both be retired and splitting time between our beach house (to be purchased!), our permanent home (who knows where??) and visiting our children where ever they make their homes.

Marriage - 09.16.150 comments

Kicks and Giggles

Caterpillar, Our Quiver - 09.05.153 comments

Hi. I live in North Texas with God, my man, my boys, and a sweet baby girl.
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    51 weeks
    50 weeks
    49 weeks
    48 weeks
    47 weeks

  • Meet my big boy, my speedracer. He is 39 pounds of car racing energy.
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  • Meet my cowboy with the heart of a lion. He believes all the horses in Texas belong to him. Read more.

    Meet my sweet baby girl. She loves sleeping and I love hearing her coo.
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