Hardy Mainers? I think not

Today we have yet another snow storm, of course being that it is winter time and winter in Maine, I expect snow.  Problem is any time it snows it seems like everything in this damn state shuts down and frankly I am tired of it, look I come from Chicago so I am used to snow and cold but look schools and stores don’t close at the drop of a hat back home.

Shit, I can count the times growing up we had a snow day, and that is on one hand. Yet here in Maine, let it snow six inches and add some ice and shit is closed. Even the damn restaurants close…um, look when you stuck at home with nothing to do, you like to get a treat from the outside world. If I ran an eating establishment I would be open but that’s just me.

However native Mainers like to run around as if they are the hardiest folks on the planet. When we first moved here people would ask were the winters too harsh for me up here? Um, no. I rarely even wear full winter gear because aside from the snow and ice storms, the average winter temperature seems a lot warmer than Chicago where a sista had all kinds of long underwear, hats and winter gear. The wind in Chicago didn’t play and I used to live right near Lake Michigan.

Look to my fellow Mainers truth is, I think some of ya’ll are a tad wimpy when it comes to the weather. Some years ago back in Chicago, we had an early March snowstorm that dropped 18 inches of snow and it was my first day at a new job and I was expected to get to the gig. Nothing was closed, hell I waited out in freezing blizzard conditions for 45 mins for a bus to take to downtown Chicago, got to the gig late and the boss was actually salty about it. He had no mercy on me and the fact that there was 18 inches of snow, there was a job to be done. Needless to say I often feel the same way these days about snow, so what? You can’t stop living because its snowing.

Anyway its another snow storm, thankfully the grocery store was open so I am all stocked up and hopefully can get to work tomorrow if we are open.

Wally where are thou?

So this weekend in my little town brought yet another storm, thankfully this time it was snow but it was a lot of snow, there is well over 20 inches of snow in my yard. Unlike my hearty Maine neighbors I am a cheapskate and have never bought a snow blower or any type of of snow removal implement other than an old fashioned shovel. Needless to say when we have the nasty storms that dump over a feet of snow, I am often praying that my neighbors have mercy and spread some neighborly love and plow us out.

Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t…enter Wally. See, Wally is the ole school hustler that I never expected to see in a place like Maine. He is the white version of the guy’s in my Granny’s old neighborhood in Chicago. Guys who don’t work 9-5’s instead doing odd and end jobs to get by and maybe even some things I don’t want to know. The Wally’s of the world tend to look a little rough around the edges, in this case Wally is probably not much older than me and the spousal unit, however he looks like he has lead a hard life.

I met Wally last winter when after a particularly brutal storm, he knocked on my door and offered to shovel, he was with another man and they only had one shovel. So he asked if he could use my shovel, despite my common sense I said yes, well Wally and homie did a bang-up shovel job for a mere $20 in less time than either the hubby or I usually do. After paying him, he asked could they use the other shovel while they went around the area trying to drum up more work, he promised to bring it back.

Well I said yes and the hubster figured we would never see that shovel again, but hours later after making some cash, Wally brought my shovel back and I have used him ever since for large storms. I must say that I don’t mind shoveling but when there is over a foot of snow, my enthusiasm tends to wane since at that point shoveling ceases to be relaxing and becomes hard work.

So what’s wrong with Wally the hustler? Only issue I have is he shows up early in the morning, I am talking before 7 am and I am not a morning person. Once Wally woke me up at 6 am….I don’t have a job that requires me to get up that early and ringing my bell that early is a guarantee that mini-me will wake up which is what I don’t want. So I have to remind him don’t come so early.

Which brings me to this morning, I woke up at 6:15 am figuring I would be up when Wally rang, well it seems I missed Wally based off the footsteps at the door when I went downstairs at 6:20. So when a young man not much older than elder boy came knocking at 6:45 offering to shovel, I said yes. Today is a busy day, and the spousal unit’s knees have been bugging him and frankly I am not in the mood to shovel my way out the driveway.

Um, how come when I told young man what I normally pay he looked at me like I was crazy. See, Wally does my driveway and walkway for $20, and when he has his partner they normally get it done in less than 20 mins. Now doing the math, that’s not bad money considering that by the end of a morning they probably get at least 10 houses and with a 50-50 split, not bad at all for not even a half day’s worth of work.

Well young hustler was looking like I had given him an indecent proposal, so since I only had a crispy $20 bill and wasn’t about to head to the ATM for more cash, I asked him to do the driveway and part of the walkway for $20. 30 mins later, while we can get the car our the drivewaym I still have to shovel a path to the car since young hustler apprently didn’t think it was a good idea to shovel at least a small path to the car from my door.

Damn, even young hustlers are lacking in work ethics these days…see the reason the Wally’s of the world get by is they know when its time to bust a sweat, instead young blood figured he was going to get some easy cash.

Anyway at least I am not trapped in the house and can start my day, but Wally where are thou? Don’t leave me hanging again.

Finances and contentment

OK, I had several amazing topics in mind this morning for posting but instead a discussion on a local chat board has been on my mind all day and after chewing it over with the spousal unit, I figured I’d blog about it and see if anyone else wants to weigh in.

On my local discussion board, someone interested in moving to Maine asked about the costs of living in Maine because they were stunned to realize that Maine was not as cheap as they thought it would be. Well as a transplant, I weighed in with my two cents and the fact that my experience is that living here is costing me way more than living in Chicago ever did.

For starters, while buying a house is cheaper (the one huge perk), the fact is taxes are pretty damn high, there is only really one major insurance provider and rates definitely reflect that (this is a state where the insurance company can’t really turn you down so all the other providers blew this pop stand and the one remaining company has sky high rates). Unlike living in a large urban area, a car is a necessity and the state has all sorts of sneaky ways to tax you and charge you but more importantly salaries are on the low side so even though Mister Spousal Unit and I have advanced degrees and in Chicago had a comfy life here we do struggle to keep our ends meeting. No two ways about it.

Anyway another poster said yes its a rough place to live but native Mainers are ok with it since nobody makes any money so everyone makes do. (I am paraphrasing). Well the remainder of the conversation made me ask myself is the problem that I want too much?

See, one of the reasons I busted my ass as an adult doing undergrad in 3 years while juggling a husband and kid is that I was tired of working at jobs where one bad thing happened and bam your financial standard of living went downhill and next thing you know, you need help from the state. I saw my folks do that dance way too many times. Like many folks, I bought the dream that education meant financial security. Problem is I had to finance both my undergrad and graduate degrees with student loans and well lets just say that somewhere in Kansas or Arkansas my student loan debt could buy you or me a house.

The thing is I am 35, and Mister Spousal Unit is 40 and frankly I am tired of paycheck to paycheck living since while being self employed has its ups, the checks don’t get automatically paid on the 15th & 30th. The past 6 years we have and I am being honest here had to finagle things like eye exams, doctor visits, we are in that state of being solidly middle class yet we have jack shit. The hubster hasn’t seen his family in almost a decade except for my father in law who will fly out here and I have been home to Chi-town in 4 years…why? Too damn expensive to go anywhere.

Right now our 11 year old car is on its last legs and a sista is freaking out since its either take out a loan for a car I really can’t afford meaning more financial juggling acts or buy yet another piece of shit.

Now maybe my fellow Mainers don’t mind this sort of hand to mouth existence and at 25 I might not have been too bitter but at my current age, this shit is getting old. I don’t want an Escalade and a trip around the world on a yearly basis but I do want all the basics covered and some extra left over so that when I need to take a jaunt to NYC or Boston to get my locs done, its not this huge affair that requires major planning. I want to know when the kids need shit, I can do it and not think about it or put off a bill for a few weeks to get shoes and clothes for fall.

I know there are folks who look at us and think well damn you are middle class, I live off less, and yes that is truthful but as someone who has worked hard, I want, no I need a break too.

So maybe I am asking too much as far as financial contentment but what says you? Personally while money doesn’t always create happiness, the fact is it costs money to live and I am having a hard time being happy when I am always making financial miracles take place.