Monday, April 24, 2006

wedding planning = moped building ?

This whole moped-building, end-of-school project of Brett's is starting to remind me of planning our wedding.

Just like with the wedding, his moped-building crises have mounted, first occuring monthly, then occuring weekly, then daily, and now, occuring hourly or even minute-ly.

It seems like every minute there's something else that's going wrong, from the paint chipping off, to the front wheel not spinning like it should, to the handlebars not fitting properly and needing to be drilled out and notched so as to fit around the forks. (I type to the sound of the drill behind me, which is making me sooo nervous, becuase this is the second pair of handlebars he's tried to make work, so if he screws these up, he's out of luck.) Those are just the crises in the past hour, since I got home from the Westbrook City Council meeting.

This situation also reminds me of planning our wedding because I know that in the end, it will all turn out ok, even if it's not exactly like the perfect vision in his head, just like our wedding wasn't perfect -- right down to missing tuxes for the groomsmen, a screwed up hem on a bridesmaid dress, no forks for the cake, and no liquor insurance-license-thingy until 5 hours before the wedding. But it all didn't matter at the end of the day -- tuxes were found, a seamstress came to the rescue, forks were bought (even if they were plastic), and by some miracle, a liquor insurance-license-thingy was able to be obtained on such short notice.

But just like I was a basket case even up to the morning of the wedding, right now, I know it's really, really stressful for Brett.

I'm not sure what I can or should say or do in this situation. My MO as of right now is to listen to his moments of panic and depression, to smile and say, "Sure," when he asks me, "Do you wanna come help me for a sec," and to generally try to encourage him that he can and will get it done, and that it will be wonderful.

On top of all of that, he's getting a migraine tonight, and no wonder. The stress and worry and problems and his desire for perfection are all getting to him, and all I can really do is just to be there if he needs me to hold this bolt or tighten that nut, and to hand him Advil in copious quantities.

It's not that I mind helping, I should say...I'll just be glad when all of this is over.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Someone out there hates the Gilmore Girls

We've been Netflix members for almost a year now. Unlike our rentals from Hollywood Video or Blockbuster, which always seemed to be damaged to the point of being unplayable, we had never had a problem with a DVD from Netflix. That is, until one of the Gilmore Girls DVDs I requested back in January or so arrived cracked in half.

I sent it back; they sent me a replacement.

A couple weeks ago, it happened AGAIN! A Gilmore Girls DVD, from Netflix was cracked.

I got another Gilmore Girls DVD yesterday, and guess what? CRACKED AGAIN.

I swear, someone at Netflix has issues with Gilmore Girls or something.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

since when did this happen?

While I was at work today, I made a phone call to the offices of one of the towns I cover. I wanted to make an appointment with a town official, to go over something for a story I want to write for next week's paper.

The phone call was a fiasco, with the substitute secretary telling me that I couldn't make an appointment, that I'd have to call back on Monday morning and hope he could fit me in.

See, I know that the normal secretary would have penciled me in somewhere, even if it was with the caveat that he might have to reschedule. But this lady? Totally didn't care that I have deadlines and stories I need to plan, and just kept saying, "Call back Monday morning."

I ended the call by (stupidly) saying, "Thank you."

And as the reciever hit the cradle (rather angrily, by the way), these words slipped out of my mouth with more vehemence and volume than I expected: "For your LACK OF HELP."

Everyone in not only my office, but the office adjacent to mine, burst out laughing.

My officemate said something to the affect of, "Wow, you've gotten so hardassed since you started working here!"

She's so right. When did it happen that I became the potty-mouthed person I am today, a person who swears way too much? That I became this girl, the one who drinks beer at lunch and then goes home and drinks nearly a whole bottle of wine that very same night? (Yeah, I did that after I wrote that entry. No, it did not feel quite as good as I'd hoped it would. I actually felt really sick. No, I haven't really had much at all to drink since then.)

This job has turned me sour. Dealing with people all the time, trying to do the best I can with the limited resources I have, working insanely long hours with no freaking overtime pay...ugh. I don't want to be a drunken, swearing, mean-behind-people's-backs kind of girl! But I aaaam!

At least I'm almost done; at least there's an out. Some of the qualities I've gained have been good. The assertiveness, the not wanting to take crap from people. But the potty mouth and the drinking? Not so good.

Oh well. I wouldn't trade the experience I've gained at this job for anything, though. I mean, I'm one of the lucky few who has been able to write for a living. It still boggles my mind sometimes! At least now, I know I'm capeable of it, and hopefully when we're back in Seattle, the door will be open for me in terms of writing possiblities, even if I don't do it full-time. Now, if I could just kick that swearing habit...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

a plea

I think most everyone knows by now that I'm going to France this summer, as a staff member on a trip with SPU. (For those of you who don't know, it's a month long, from July 12 to August 15. The first half of that is spent in Honfleur, in Normandy, and the second half spent in a town called Uzes, near Avignon in Southern France. I'll be helping with French speaking, translation, etc, and acting as an additional chaperone.) I'm completely thrilled and I can't wait. When life gets hard lately, I just imagine myself here, sitting by the pool and reading. That's where we are staying in Uzes.

Anyway, another amazing part about this is that Brett is more than welcome to come for the first half. Brett has never been out of the country, to anywhere but Canada. I really, really, really want him to be able to come.

We realized that we have enough airmiles for a plane ticket, too, thanks to our Alaska Airlines credit card, and the multiple flights back to the Pacific Northwest over the past few years. Again -- another blessing.

Oh, and did I mention that we would be there together over our third wedding anniversary?

Yeah. So perfect.

Except we can't get a reservation using airmiles to save our lives. AUGH!!!

The explanation the airline people are giving me makes sense, I guess, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

Apparently what's happened is that the airlines release a set number of mileage plan tickets for each flight 330 days before that flight. And apparently there are people just waiting to pounce on said tickets.

People like us, who wait until (*gasp*) three months before the trip, are apparently out of luck.

I've called repeatedly, as the reservation agents have suggested, in case anything changes. And things have changed, every time I've called. The first time, there was nothing within three days of the dates we wanted him to leave and come back. The second time, we could get him there, but not home, and this time, tonight, there was NOTHING either way.

So, here is where the plea comes in.

I really, really, really, really want Brett to be able to come. (I know I said that before but it's the truth.) He's never eaten a real tarte au citron, or walked through a European marketplace, or seen a 14th century cathedral, or been to see the Louvre, or any of that. I want him to experience that, and I want to experience that with him!

If any of you readers have any advice about this, about how to get him a ticket using airmiles (we absolutely cannot afford to pay for a ticket outright; they're running around $1200 right now), or if you have any connections with either Alaska Airlines (who our miles are through) or any of its European partner airlines...please! HELP! Any good advice you can give would be welcome...and in lieu of advice, your prayers, good thoughts, and lots of crossed fingers that we'll be able to get him a ticket would be awesome, too.

Friday, April 14, 2006

I should get a diploma, too. Or maybe something slightly more sparkly than a diploma.

Freakin' A.

I have just spent the last three hours sanding, sanding, sanding down the fiberglass and paint on Brett's moped for his school project. I'm covered in fiberglass/bondo dust, and little flecks of paint from the moped. I feel gritty, and I have a cough from the dust. I had to wear a mask!! A freaking mask! I mean, just look! I look ridiculous. (Note to Snarkies: Notice, my fat, fat arms. LOL.)



We go to New Hampshire tomorrow to paint the moped, at our friend Kahlil's dad's sign shop. He has a spray booth and is kind enough to let us use it. Well, to let Brett and Kahlil use it, really. I'm tagging along to hang out with Kahlil's mom, Bridget, who is completely fun and someone I want to be like in another 20 or 30 years.

I'm looking forward to hanging out with Kahlil and his family, which will seem kind of like a vacation, especially as I am taking the train home by myself Sunday night.

But dude. After everything I've done for Brett's schooling, particularly this past quarter, I seriously deserve to get a diploma too. I should get to walk across the stage with him or something. (I'm not saying I want to, I am just saying that there should be some kind of special award for super-patient spouses. Like maybe these. Or these. And yeah, there's these too. Sigh. Ok, I'm so not getting any of those, because one of the reasons I've been so patient this semester is related to the fact that this project has cost so damn much money and I haven't really said a word. So those aren't really a possibility, alas.)

Anyway. Between the different aspects of this project, and of school in general, like the financial aspect (helllOOOOO poverty and credit card debt), the time aspect (I never see my husband), the I-am-covered-in-fiberglass-dust aspect (BLECH. I need a shower), the I-edit-and-rewrite-papers aspect (I feel like I've had a huge hand in helping write every paper he's had to since he started college), the moped parts in every room of my house (yes, that's right, every room), the calls of, "Do you wanna help me?" (and even though I'm thinking, "No, that absolutely the last thing I want to do right now," I still help), the fiberglass dust that is currently all over my kitchen (see below) ... it's just a lot. (Yes, that is my kitchen, and my sweater on the chair, which are covered in sanded fiberglass/bondo dust. No, for some mysterious reason, Brett won't close the door while he's doing this. Yes, the cat gets out, and she's not supposed to. Yes, I try to keep the floor clean, and no, I don't succeed very well. Yes, that is Brett's major manass that I get to see all the time.)

I am, of course, extremely proud of Brett, and of what he's accomplished, and of how he's changed and grown artistically while being at school here. I'm really excited to see where he'll go with his art once we leave Maine.

But, when it all comes down to it, I don't want to brag or anything, but I? Have put up with a hell of a lot the past two years, especially the past two months, and it just seems like there should be some kind of reward in this for me, too. I guess that's not how it works...but darn it, it should work that way, after all I've done.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Kathleen Walker Show: All Drama, All the Time

I feel like 99% of what I post here is drama. I know that it's not quite that high, but still. And I know a lot of it is drama that I create for myself. (I'm trying to work on that whole "creating drama for myself" thing, with mixed results.)

But I digress. In the past two days, I have gotten two bits of news that have both been really, really hard for me to take. Both of these things involve people very close to me, and both of them are MAJOR drama. Sad drama. Hurtful drama.

I'm not really ready to write about either of them in detail in such a public place as a blog. One of them (let's call it Drama Situation A) I almost certainly will write about here in coming weeks, but due to current circumstances surrounding it, I can't really talk about here. (Although, if you're dying to know, email me, and I may be able to share that way.)

The other situation, (We'll call it Drama Situation B) I will likely never talk about here, but has just as far-reaching possibly even ultimately a more devastating impact as the first one. It's just of a more private nature and not something I can really share with all of Internet-land, at least right now. Maybe I'll share portions of it in the future, but that's really going to depend upon what the people involved in the situation do next.

For some reason, Item B is a little easier for me to digest. I don't know why; it's equally as hard as the other. It shouldn't be any easier, but I guess such is the mystery of human emotion. Who knows why some things affect you more than others?

Item A, however, is something I'm having a very. hard. time. with. I just found out this morning in fact, in a very roundabout way, and am completely shocked and hurt about the situation in general, as well as how I found out.

I have about 900 emotions flowing through me. Jealousy, frustration, embarassment, anger, sadness. Hurt that I wasn't told directly. It's really running the gamut right now and I'm (unfortunately) at work and really need to try to get some things done. (Crying at my desk is not one of them.)

So, I guess I should try to work, even though I'd really rather go home and eat ice cream and maybe drink some gin. (With tonic, of course.) Too bad they don't have gin-flavored ice cream...hmmm...

Anyway. Not to sound totally self-righteous, but at least I'm making better choices with my life than these people are. That's comforting, I suppose. And, at least maybe all of this will be fodder for a great novel someday. That's comforting, too.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

you'll probably all think I'm crazy now, if you didn't before

I've been having the strangest dreams lately.

They're not bad, necessarily, just kind of disturbing. Well, ok, the part in one of my dreams last night where I saw an entire wedding party brutally shot...that part was really disturbing. And bad. And gross. And the fact that I didn't even seem to be freaked out by that in my dream? Was bad too.

But that's not what I mean. I mean, yeah, that's bad and weird, but what I've been dreaming lately in these dreams is different than that. The dreams are kind of recurring, not because it's the same exact dream over and over, but because the same themes recur in all of them. That theme involves me doing something I consider to be destructive, over and over again. (Not like killing someone, but something that would be destructive more in an emotional way.) In my dream, I know it's destructive and yet I keep doing it, knowingly and willfully. It's really strange.

It's starting to creep me out and piss me off. I dream these things, and then the dreams and the images from them stay in my head for at least a day or two afterward, sometimes longer.

Augh!!! Go away, weird dreams! I don't need you messing with my head like this!

Friday, April 07, 2006

*pulling away from wall, rubbing head*

Feeling much, much better, and much less stressed, than I was earlier. The stress is still present, but not as bad as it was this afternoon. I mean, I didn't get jack done for work today, but oh well. Hopefully it will all come together on Monday, like it usually does. Whatever. Only 26 more days and I'm sooo outta there.

We went to meet with our tax preparer after work tonight. She'd called earlier this week to tell us our taxes were ready, and told us we'd be getting a refund of very much considerably less than I was expecting. I was shocked, and actually really upset. We've always gotten a much, much larger refund than what she told us and I didn't see why this year would be any different.

Well, as we went over everything with her today, I noticed that she was doing a different thing with Brett's education expenses than other tax preparers had done in the past. Basically, she was taking them as a deduction and not as a credit.

I asked her to try doing it as a credit, just so I could see the difference...and she did. And I was right -- now we're getting back about 7 times what she said we should be!!!! It's even a little more than I was expecting!!

I was RIGHT. Ok. Not to gloat. But still. It feels pretty good to have been right, and to have gotten what we did back. It isn't a ton but it will be a nice little chunk that we can use for an apartment deposit in Seattle.

Anyway, after that, Brett and I went to our favorite Indian place -- Jewel of India in Biddeford -- since the tax lady lives down that way. That was a nice treat, except my nose is still all stuffy so I couldn't really taste much. I brought home what I didn't eat in hopes that my nose will be clearer tomorrow and I can eat it for lunch.

Now we're home, and Brett's already in bed since we think he may be coming down with what I am still getting over. (I really, really hope not, though! He does NOT have time to be sick. He is on an extremely tight schedule to get everything done on time for school...so please keep him in your thoughts and prayers, that he'd stay well and be able to get everything done on time.)

I think I'll join him soon...it's been a long week.

*banging head against wall*

I just want the next 26 days to be over. I wish I could fast-forward and get through them in the blink of an eye. 26 days until I'm done with work, and 28 days until Brett's done with school. 46 days until we move.

The stress is growing exponentially. Brett's a complete wreck thinking of all he has to do to get through the next few weeks to be done with school and to graduate, (which is driving me nuts, as much as I'm trying to be patient), I haven't packed one box in preparation of our move, I'm sooooo over my job to the point where I have no motivation to get anything done, I'm worried about money, I'm still getting over a really awful cold (which kept me home 2 days this week)...

AUGH. I just want to scream.

chanting: *only 26 days, only 26 days*

Sunday, April 02, 2006

a really, really long post in which I step on my soapbox about Maine's awful economy

I've recently talked to a lot of people roughly my age (early 20's to mid 30's, or thereabouts) about money in Maine, and about how hard it is to get by in this state. I've been thinking about it as far as Brett and I are concerned, too.

To begin, I'll tell you what our story has been. Brett and I moved here in late 2003 with several thousand dollars in the bank (money we'd saved when we were both working full-time in Seattle) and no consumer debt (zero credit card debt, no car loans, just a few student loans).

Living in Seattle, we made decent money. Not enough to make us rich, but definitely enough to where we were very comfortable. Brett was making just around $11 per hour ($22,880 per year) as a security guard, I was making about $28,000 per year as an admin, with great health benefits that cost around $120 per month for both of us to be covered completely for medical, dental, and vision.

We went out to dinner frequently, we bought organic, we treated ourselves to coffee and bagels almost every morning and lunch out several times a week. Brett could afford to splurge on records every now and then, and I could go to Nordstrom and buy a pair of shoes without giving it second thought. We were able to buy some furniture, and go on a few short weekend trips -- all paid for by what we brought home each month.

On top of all of that, we managed to put away almost all of Brett's paycheck during the months we were married and living in Seattle. Combining that with a nest egg of money we'd received as wedding gifts, we had a nice little chunk of change in the bank, probably between 3 and 5 months worth of expenses, when we moved out here.

And then we arrived in Maine.

I got work right away, making a paltry $9 per hour working as an admin assistant. (A $10,000 per year pay cut from what I'd made at a similar job in Seattle -- not counting what was taken out in income taxes, which Washington doesn't have.)

Brett worked in a coffee shop for a while, making about $6.25 per hour plus tips, which were maybe another $1-$2 per hour. (Before working as a security guard, he had worked as a barista in Seattle, making about $9 per hour, plus about $3-$4 per hour in tips. Pretty big difference from here to there.)

Despite this drop in income, we were paying the same in cost of living expenses. Not a good combination. Things got really, really tight. That only got worse when I lost my job in March 2004.

We were able to wing it for a month or so until I found work. Thank goodness for those savings (which were eaten up then) and the tax return. That was the first time we had to rely on the credit card for some basic expenses, if I recall.

The next job I had paid a little better. I was making closer to what I had been making in Seattle, which helped for a while. We did ok during the summer months, when Brett could work full-time, but when he went back to school each semester and had to cut his hours, things got really tight.

At my current job, I make even less now than I did at the job I had before this one -- right now, I make roughly 11% less than I did in Seattle. At his current job, Brett makes the most he has in Maine, but it's still about 18% less than he did in Seattle.

Our cost of living has gone up, too, since we moved here. We had to buy a car (when we hadn't needed one in Seattle) just to get around the area, since the public transportation system is a joke. That means not only a car payment, but money spent on gas, tolls, insurance, and maintenance. We pay through the nose for heating oil (at around $2 per gallon for a 275 gallon tank...well, let's just say it was freezing in our house this winter). Our electric bill is now about 5 times what it has been in any place we have ever lived in.

It's really discouraging. On top of all of that, healthcare costs just for me are about $170 per month, for medical only. To add Brett on would double that, which is something we just can't afford. So he has a catastrophic policy through his school, and we just pray nothing happens to him.

I've drawn a few conclusions about our experience. Most of the people I've talked to about this agreed with those conclusions, which are:
-- The wages in Maine are virtually unlivable when compared to the cost of living
-- If someone is from away, it's likely they moved here with money in the bank and perfect credit and now have massive credit card debt and little or no savings
-- Money is a constant worry, from how to pay the bills (or picking which bills get paid this month and which don't) to how to afford food and gas for the week
-- Many people never thought they'd be in this position, fretting about how to pay the bills and concerned about how it will affect their credit. They always considered themselves to be financially savvy and able to make sound choices about money
-- The chances of buying a house in this inflated market are slim-to-none
-- If a person plans to stay in Maine, there is no hope of this situation ever getting better

This is a huge problem. No wonder young people are leaving Maine. They can't afford to stay here!

To clarify: most of the people I have talked to, not to mention Brett and me, are living frugally. Very, very frugally. Few dinners out, few extravagent purchases, few vacations -- if any. It's not as though we're spending irresponsibly or are abusing credit to get what we want now. On the contrary, we use credit for things like groceries, gas, school supplies, plane tickets to a family member's wedding...that probably being the most extravagant purchase invovlving the credit card. (And how can you tell your cousin, "No, I can't be a groomsman for you because we can't afford to come for your special day, even though you took off work and took the time to come to ours." I guess some would say that that should be your answer if finances are that tight, but as most people know, family politics are more complicated than that, and not coming to a cousin's wedding could have more far-reaching consequenses within the family than it might appear at first glance.)

The financial aspect of life in Maine is a huge part of why we're moving back to Seattle. We have dug ourselves into a really scary hole of debt and financial instability since we've been here. That's something I never thought I'd say, but it's true. At least we have the hope of getting out of it, with a lot of hard work and sacrifice, once we're back in Seattle. We're the lucky ones since we actually have a way out.

Many of our friends and acquaintances won't leave; they can't leave. Their families are here, their careers are here, they are invested here. One man I talked to moved here from the DC area a few years ago. He experienced a situation very similar to ours (no debt, plenty of money, etc) and now he's in the same boat we are (deep in debt, making too little to cover the bills). He said that he's thought about moving, but his parents live here now, his girlfriend is here, and her family is here. He doesn't want to live thousands of miles away from them. So the choice for him, like many others, seems to be: abandon family to find financial stability, or abandon the thought of financial stability to be near family.

It's an awful Catch-22.

So much of the data relating to this topic is anecdotal, although I did some Internet research and found some data from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as well as the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA).

I did a little research and put t his chart together, comparing the Median Household Income and Median Housing Cost for Seattle (according to a 2004 HUD report) with that of Cumberland County (according to a 2004 MSHA report).

I think it's pretty telling.
Notice that the Median Household Income (MHI) for Seattle is 56 percent higher than that of Cumberland County. 56 percent! That's almost double the income here in Maine!

And then notice the rental amounts. (A note: I couldn't find any data comparing the exact same housing data. Seattle's is for overall housing cost and Cumberland County's is for 2-bedroom rentals. It's not exactly apples to apples, but it's the closest thing I could find.)

Seattle's Median Housing Cost (MHC) is lower (LOWER!) than that of Cumberland County, Maine.

No wonder we're all in debt up to our eyeballs and living precariously from paycheck to paycheck.

I don't really have any conclusions here, other than the obvious one: something in Maine's economy must give way. It has to. The cost of living here has far outstripped the wages. There are so few jobs that pay a livable wage. Most of them are highly-skilled jobs, either working for one of the hospitals as a pharmacist, nurse, or physician, working for the bio-medical research company IDEXX as a researcher, or working for either National Semiconductor or Fairchild Semiconductor.

Most run-of-the-mill jobs -- receptionist, admin assistant, security officer, retail, maintenance work, etc -- pay between $7 and $11 per hour. If you're lucky, you'll be in a job where you can accept tips to help supplement that. And again, if you're lucky, your job will offer some kind of health insurance, which will likely be at least 10% of your pre-tax income. If it doesn't, then you're probably out of luck. Even catastrophic insurance is extremely expensive here.

Otherwise, you'll be like most young Mainers -- working multiple jobs just to keep your nose above water. One friend of mine works 3 days per week for a chiropractor, nannies 2 days per week, works for a church for a few hours a week, works at a local juice bar one morning a week, and babysits on a regular basis. She's in almost the same position we are -- in debt, scraping by, with very little way out. And she's working FIVE jobs! On top of that, she has no health insurance, so a recent bout of the flu left her unable to work for a week and paying out of pocket for a doctor. Just another financial setback, and another common story.

I could go on, and on, and on. I have stories galore about this, of friends in the same position we're in.

It's extremely discouraging.

I'm relieved we're getting out now, before it gets any worse for us. If we stayed, even a few more months, I have no doubt we'd be in a much worse place than we are now. Granted, the cost of moving isn't cheap, but better pay a few thousand dollars (rather, put a few thousand more dollars on the credit card) and be in a much better financial place a year from now than we would be if we stayed around here, twiddling our thumbs as we watched our credit score plummet and any hope of getting out of debt in a reasonable amount of time fly out the window.

So why write all of this? Why advertise to the world our frightening financial position?

Because it needs to be talked about if anything is going to change. People in this position need to overcome the stigma associated with financial problems and stand up and say, "I cannot make it here. Something has to change." Awareness needs to increase, and legislators and business owners need to take a hard look at what they can do to improve this situation. I don't have any solutions, and I realize this kind of change can't happen overnight. But the reality is that the process needs to get started -- NOW.

Another reason to write all of this is also associated with that stigma of not talking about financial trouble. Talking to others in the same position is extremely comforting, as one acquaintance of mine said. Knowing that we're not alone. Knowing that it isn't just by "using credit unwisely" that brought us here. (If you had a choice between not getting home because you have no gas, or not buying groceries this week and putting it on the credit card, what would YOU do?)

Admitting we're in debt, admitting that the bills don't always get paid on time because it's a choice of buying gas to get to work and paying the electric bill, admitting that we're scared out of our minds about our financial position -- it is so freeing.

I think it's a basic human tendency to derive comfort through knowing you're not alone, through sharing adversity. So that's why I'm writing. Because I think it's important people stand up, not only to start the ball rolling in terms of changes to the economy, because a key part of that is realizing how widespread this is. However, it's also important that people realize that they are not alone, and that there are many people in this state struggling with the exact same things.

In this situation, not having money (and having debt) doesn't make you a bad person. It shouldn't make you a second-class citizen. I've come to realize that my person-hood is separate from my bank account, or the balance on my credit card. When things are really hard financially, and I'm feeling crushed by the debt and the inability to buy groceries or pay a bill, I remind myself that I am NOT the sum of my assets or of my debts. It helps to remember that.

Thanks for reading this far, if you made it. This turned into kind of a tirade, so I apologize for that. However, it doesn't surprise me, since this issue is a favorite soapbox of mine.

I truly hope the economic situation in Maine improves, even though we won't be here to see if it does. Our friends here deserve to have a better life than one of being crushed by debt and never seeming to make ends meet.

And with that, I'm done. I'm going to go make some chocolate pudding cake and try to forget my financial woes for a while.

*steps off soapbox*