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.

We be Negros, now get away from me…

The past day or so has been personally challenging for me, I am going through my monthly leave me the fuck time of month, work has been crazy and we have family visiting from 2000 miles away. The sort of shit that makes a sista just want to scream.  So this morning, I called one of my good sista friends who lives not far away, and told her she needed to scoop a sista up for breakfast before I lost my mind this morning and snapped on everyone up in this beyotch which I would figured would be bad form when the in-laws are visiting. After a decade of officially being in the family, I suspect they still think I am bit out there but hey its all good.

So when my girl rolled up, I decided we should go eat at the local spot I eat at every Friday, they make a mean breakfast burrito sans meat plus I had my bottle of Thai hot sauce in my purse since I was ready for eggs and heat. (note: does anyone other than a Black woman carry hot sauce in her bag?) The particular place we were headed is a place I have been eating at for years, the folks that work there almost border on being friends, they are cool folks, of course being in Maine, they are white, but shit they cook right, so that is all that matters when my tummy is growling.

Anyway T & I pull up and walk into the spot, I ask the waitress if she can still hook me up with breakfast since I knew breakfast was ending, she was like “Black girl for you no problem” So me and T sit down and I am ready to order. Now in case you haven’t figured out T is Black like me, we rarely get together because our schedules never mesh but we have the type of relationship that if one of us needs something we are there for the other. All this to say, we rarely are in the same place at the same time.

Well apparently it was the day for fools to look us up and down, I admit I was oblivious since I was just sipping my coffee but T who actually lives in the same town as the Bush family was like “why all these folks looking like they crazy” so I look up and sure enough I see a big homey white woman walking towards a sista, talking about my hair…. I am too tired to get too detailed but next thing I knew she is asking me about my hair and how I do it, then her husband gets in on the action and next thing you know these strange ass white folks is touching a sista’s locs. Noooooooo. The waitress is looking mortified, she is a bit of a roughneck so she tries to intervene, mind you I am already having a bad day.

Now nobody got hurt and I did end up having my breakfast and blowing off steam but not before the adult child of the two nimrods apologized profusely on behalf of her parents. After the dust settled my girl says to me that knowing my temper, she was surprised at how calm I was, truth is so was I. I hate people touching me and I hate people touching my locs even more especially since they were partially covered. That said, I knew it was the time and place to just be chill because I was already so mad this morning that had I snapped at the bumbling white folks, well.. a sista might not be writing this at the moment since I would be at the county lock-up and that’s no joke.

Getting old is teaching me when to let some things go and this was one of those times, but damn, yes I am Black, I have dreadlocks and yes I live here in town and I do know the family that runs this joint, so get the hell away from me, you crazy ass mofo.

Homeowner Blues

Its yet another rainy day here in Maine, this summer is shaping up to be a soggy ass mess. Its either humid as hell and I hate humidity or torrential rains, neither are things that put a sista in a good mental space. That said, its one of those days I don’t have much on my mind but didn’t want to not post so today is a ramble or shall I say rant about the joys or shall I saw woes of home-ownership.

I am starting to think my Pops was a smart man, when he proudly declared many years ago that he didn’t want to own a house. He used to tell my Granny, don’t leave us meaning him and my Moms your house because all we will do is sell it. I used to think he was silly, that was until the spousal unit and I decided to become homeowners several years ago.

We actually fell into home-ownership to be honest, it was not a long thought out process. Long story short we were renting a house in our little hamlet and a few weeks after my Moms passed away, the owner told us he was selling the house which meant that we would have to move since most likely the new owner would want to live in the house. Problem was it was the 3rd time in our marriage that we had been displaced because a place we were renting was being sold/got sold and in my highly emotional state I really did not want to be displaced. Actually with the death of my Mom, I felt the pull to plant some roots which probably had a lot to do with the fact that later in the same year I got pregnant with mini-me, I digress though.

Anyway initially  we figured we would buy the house we were renting until we started looking around and realized that the owner was crazy and that for what he was asking we could get a whole lot more house. So, we settled on a 100+ year old Victorian with 10 rooms, the kinda house that back in Chicago would set you back at least a million or more. However anybody with any damn sense here knows better, which is why most of the Victorians are not owned by native Mainers, they know these puppies are money pits. No, its always the transplants from big cities that buy these pits because we lovingly think back to our original cities and how homes like these would allow us to be envy of all our friends. Yet in Maine, no one envies the fool with the big old house.

But it was love at first site, plus the sellers reduced the price substantially since we needed to put a new roof on the house…. yeah, that should have been my sign to flee but what can I say I am a sucker for a large house.

Now when we first got this house, I figured it would be a breeze to take off all the wallpaper and re-do the walls, turns out this is industrial wallpaper and does not come off easily and to hire a professional could easily take a cool 20K. Speaking of, the roof itself turned out to be almost that much..ugh.

First winter in this house we nearly froze despite having the oil tank filled twice a month (note: in many New England homes, houses are heated with oil, yes oil. A big ass truck like a truck that supplies the gas station comes to your house to fill up your tank which is generally 275 gallons. The price of home heating oil is comparable to the price of gas) seems we had an inefficient heating system that decided 6 weeks before mini-me was born the tank started leaking in the middle of summer which resulted in us getting a whole new heating system. Can you say, shit!!

Anyway with each passing year in this house, it turns out that my spousal unit has no inner handy man, he is a lovely man but when it comes to doing shit on this ole house, I pretty much have to point it out to him. It also turns out that even simple shit that you might expect a chick to enjoy like gardening is so out of my frame of reference, hello… I grew up in the city. That despite my best efforts we have that yard, you know the one that always looks jacked. Granted it looks better when I get the halfass yard dude to take care of shit, but half the time he is nowhere to be found and between working and the kids and life it takes time for me to actually get out there and considering that a few weeks ago when I went to trim the hedges I actually cut the cord to the trimmers, its safe to say I won’t be back out there anymore. Instead I sit here waiting for someone to give me an estimate on yard work and hope the price is reasonable.

Now don’t get me wrong, owning a house is not all negative but I do find that many of the perks are greatly exaggerated, yes I can paint my walls purple, but that’s only if I ever get the ugly wallpaper off. Yes, there are financial perks but really the day to day of home-ownership can wear you down, shit last Thanksgiving day the fridge decided that would be a good day to die and guess what when you own, you have to replace the appliances, no landlord to bug.

So while I enjoy having multiple toilets and a house that is large enough to live/work, truth is one day the spousal unit and I might look forward to pulling up and being renters again. Turns out home-ownership is not all its cracked up to be.

Thanks for letting me vent about this ole house and tomorrow I promise something a bit more substantial.