Ex, money

The latest, lowdown methods of grifting from friends and relatives…

Well, here we are, folks… the last week before Christmas. I’m amazed by how quickly the year has flown by. I’ve probably helped a few retailers make their sales goals this year. Last night, our neighbor hosted an outdoor gathering in her driveway, passing out Gluhwein for people in our cul-de-sac. It was really fun, except Arran threw a fit because he’s become so averse to being separated from us, even if we’re just outside the house.

As we were enjoying hot mulled wine, I realized that I hate my five year old parka. I’d been toying with the idea of buying a new one, but the one I liked was very expensive. I bought my current parka from Eddie Bauer some years ago, when we still lived near Stuttgart, and I needed it more. I never bothered to replace it, because it doesn’t often get that cold up here. This past week has been an exception. So, after getting pretty cold last night, we said goodnight to our neighbors and went into our house, where I promptly ordered a new parka from Woolrich. Woolrich used to be an American company, but it got sold a few years ago. Now, most of its physical stores are in Europe, and the US only has a few. I found a coat that, for me, was very expensive, but wasn’t anywhere near the most expensive parka on the site.

I felt a slight twinge as I put in my order, as it wasn’t so long ago that we were climbing out of what seemed to be insurmountable debt. But then I realized that I currently have plenty of money to pay the credit card bill. In fact, even if I’d chosen the most expensive parka on the site, I’d have more than enough money to pay for it. And it’s time I got a new coat. Bill really needs one, too. Maybe after Christmas, he’ll pull the trigger. I think he’s been wearing his coat for about ten years.

We’re still feeling the effects of having once been “poor”. When Bill and I first got married, we had little money. He was recovering from divorcing Ex, and the horrifying financial situations that resulted from that marriage. I was just out of graduate school, for which I’d taken out federal student loans. We both also had credit card debt, and Bill had child support to pay. Thankfully, our cars were mostly paid for. Still, there were months when we had just a few dollars in the bank before payday. I remember when Bill used to freak out when we’d spend $100 at the grocery store. And now, he doesn’t bat an eye when I spend $900 on a new coat.

Bill and I have worked very hard and diligently to secure our finances. From 2007 until 2014, we gradually chipped away from our debts. Then we moved to Germany, lived in a relatively inexpensive house, and Bill started getting military retirement pay, along with a salary. We knocked out our debts as quickly as possible. When we moved to Germany, I still owed about $40,000 on my student loans (originally about $57,000 for all three degrees), in spite of paying more than the minimum for years. But for the four years we lived in Stuttgart, we kept throwing money at that debt until it was finally gone, nine years ahead of time. I was shocked we were able to do that. I certainly wasn’t expecting it when we moved here.

We both know that the future is uncertain, and even though we’re now in a good place, there could be “rainy days” ahead. So I squirrel away money every month, and make a concerted effort to pay off debt as soon as possible. It’s a GREAT feeling to no longer owe anyone… especially Nelnet, the student loan servicer that bought my loans just a few months before I finished paying them off.

Yesterday, it became very obvious, yet again, that I am very different from Ex. I have an eye toward the future. Ex, on the other hand, lives in the present. And while I’m not sure exactly what is going on with her right now, I strongly suspect that she’s about to be a “free agent” again. Why do I suspect this? First off, she’s been making comments about her marriage on Twitter. She’s tweeted a couple of quips to the actors on The Outlander on how their characters’ examples could “save” her marriage. Secondly, she approached Bill’s stepmother for financial help, asked her to give her items that she might want to “pass down”, and even suggested that she move in with her in New Hampshire. We know that Ex has “hosted” other seniors in her house– her late mother (whom she apparently despised) and #3’s mother have both lived with her. Bill’s stepmom owns a home and has retirement income. Ex would no doubt love to get her hands on that money/equity. And now, something new has come to light…

Yesterday, Bill heard from his younger daughter, who told him that older daughter has now enrolled in graduate school. Older daughter is 31 years old and still lives with Ex. She doesn’t have a job, but spends her time taking care of her severely autistic younger brother. Ex doesn’t have a job, either, and in a recent crowdfunding plea, mentioned that she lives in a “one paycheck” household. It’s no doubt earned by #3, who gets paid by the hour.

Now… I happen to know that student loans can be a temporary lifesaver in terms of living expenses. When I was a graduate student, I got federal loans. I was also a graduate assistant for all but one semester of my time in school. Being a G.A. drastically knocked my tuition costs down, which allowed me to pay rent and other bills with my loans. I also had a part time job, and got paid a very small stipend for being a G.A. It was a Godsend to have that assistantship. If I hadn’t had it, I don’t know how I would have survived, since I was an out of state student. I probably would have had to become a South Carolina resident. I also would have needed private loans.

Older daughter went to a private college for her bachelor’s degree. Younger daughter has told us that both she and older daughter went to college, and Ex would siphon the extra money from their student loans into the household… and her many impulses to buy junk on the Internet, food that would rot in the fridge, or anything else that struck her fancy and might “fill the void”. Younger daughter eventually dropped out of college and paid back her loans. Older daughter, on the other hand, seems to be following her mother’s lead.

The program older daughter is pursuing actually sounds very interesting. I don’t know how employable she’ll be at the end of it, or even if she intends to find employment. Ex supposedly got a graduate degree, but she doesn’t use it. She has claimed that her loans have been “paid off”. My guess is that she used money from her children’s loans to take care of that debt, if, in fact, she’s being truthful about paying off her loans. We also happen to know that Ex doesn’t have a great record of paying off debts. She has declared bankruptcy more than once.

Last night, Bill looked up the program older daughter is studying. We don’t know which school she’s attending, but the one closest to where she lives is at a private university, takes about three years to complete, and costs about $75,000 (total, not per year). But it does offer a “low residency” option, which means she can do a lot of it online, which will suit Ex just fine. Ex doesn’t care if older daughter actually finishes the degree, after all. She just wants the influx of loan money to keep her going. And she definitely needs older daughter around to take care of Ex’s son… and do the housework. Younger daughter has said that her older sister struggles in school. She has dyslexia, doesn’t drive much, and has other challenges that make school difficult for her. So there’s a good chance that this stab at higher education may do nothing more than plunge her further into debt.

Now… none of this is any of my business. And, for all I know, this could turn out to be a great thing for older daughter. Maybe she’ll meet someone special in school… either a love interest, or a mentor who can help her escape Ex’s clutches. Maybe she’ll succeed beyond her wildest dreams. She legitimately is a very talented artist, and this graduate program would use those talents. But… I have my doubts about this plan, and since I’m not LDS, I don’t subscribe to the “doubt your doubts” mindset. Common sense is telling me that this graduate school plan is likely going to explode in their faces. Or, it will not be so good for older daughter, anyway… since the loans it will take to pay for school will be in her name, not Ex’s. Student loans, by and large, can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy.

I was fortunate in that all of my loans were Stafford or Perkins. When I got out of school in 2002, I took advantage of a very low fixed interest rate of about 3% and consolidated all of my loans at that rate. I see that currently, Stafford loans for graduate students is at 6.54%. I’m pretty sure older daughter still has loans to repay, although COVID has stalled payments and Joe Biden has been trying to give students a break. She wouldn’t have to pay on any government loans when she’s in school, although I have no idea if she took out any private loans to fund her undergrad education. I know from personal experience that even with a low interest rate, paying back big loans is onerous. And even if she just gets government loans, it’s going to be hard to retire that debt.

Now that I think about it… I kind of wonder if Ex has taken out life insurance on anyone in her sphere… Seriously, I wouldn’t put it past her. Well, it’s not my problem. But it’s sure sad to observe. I hope it works out for older daughter. And I wish Ex would get the karma she so richly deserves.

Standard
communication, condescending twatbags, Ex, narcissists, Twitter

“More! I want MORE!” The tragedy of wanting everything NOW…

Like my title? It was inspired by Police Academy. I was thinking about the scene in that 1984 film, when all the hapless new police academy recruits are doing physical training, and the busty blonde Callahan is counting sit ups as she wails, “More! I want MORE!” The cadets all groan in unison as they heave their bodies on the upward count, another painful sit up done. I probably should have rethought that, though… Given today’s topic, maybe Veruca Salt would be a better inspiration for a title. It’s too late to change the title, though.

Some people are never satisfied with what they have…

This morning at about 3:00, Arran woke up and wanted to be fed. I think the combination of taking Prednisolone and being a beagle mix has made him ravenous and insatiable. He’s eager for his meals, and he’s eager to help us eat our meals. Although it’s obvious to us that he’s feeling a lot better than he was a month ago, I wonder if it’s a special kind of torture for him to always want to eat. But then he jumps up on the bed and snuggles with us, begs for a walk, and kisses me. Of course, I came to the rather sick realization yesterday, that one of the reasons he was licking me was because it happens to be my special time of the month. To a beagle mix, I probably smell like a rare steak right now. Sorry… I know that’s gross, but it’s probably the truth.

This theme of excess and never being satisfied with what one has is on my mind again today. Last year, I reposted an article I wrote about the Duggar family back in 2012. At the time, they were still talking about having more babies, and I wondered why they couldn’t just enjoy what they had. I mean, 19 children is quite a quiver full, right? They’ve done their part to repopulate the world with Republicans. Why not just enjoy the children and grandchildren, instead of trying to have more? In that post, I remembered how, when I was a small child, I would ask my mom for more food when I hadn’t finished what was on my plate. My mom, being ever the grouch, would say “Why don’t you eat what you’ve got?” Then I would try to enjoy what I had, and that would frequently be enough for me.

As I listened to Mrs. Duggar talk about “gifts from God” coming in the form of more children, I began to think she was sounding very unsatisfied. If I were to follow her reasoning about wanting more children, I would think she was pretty ungrateful to God, who had already “blessed” her with 19 precious “gifts”. Why not enjoy those children, most of whom were still under 18 at the time, instead of begging for more? More gifts that, by the way, she wouldn’t be taking care of… because we all know the daughters raise the Duggar children. But, thankfully, Mrs. Duggar’s womb finally cried “uncle”, and she’s now done birthing babies. Hopefully, she’s enjoying being a grandmother, because it appears that the “gifts from God” are no long forthcoming from her womb.

According to Twitter, Ex, like Mrs. Duggar, is unsatisfied with what she has. There she is, a woman who supposedly has so much, if you go by her tweets on Twitter. She still seems to think she is entitled to more than what she has. This is how she describes herself on Twitter.

Mom: 5+2 amazing people, 3 autistic, 1 nonverbal, 5 grands! Autism advocate, writer, seaglass lover & fibro warrior! I VOTE; you?

But then she has this very idealized view of what love should be. And even though she is a mother of five and a grandmother, she feels the need to promote an image on social media, interacting with strangers instead of tending to her own family. They apparently aren’t enough for her, if I’m to assess her latest comments. Lately, she’s been going off about student loans. I saw that she recently commented that she no longer owes them. But I also know that she made her daughters take out loans and used the extra money on herself. Then she posts this:

Me: M.Ed. Specializing in Educational Leadership with years of experience working in global higher ed and k-12 special education, about to embark on a PhD. You: ? I do not consider myself above others; rather, I’m grateful for the “Liberation of an Education”©, which all deserve.

Ex dropped out of high school and got a GED, then took about twenty years to finish a bachelor’s degree, which she finally did seemingly because, years ago, I wrote an email to her. I pointed out that she lacked the education and experience to diagnose my husband with mental health issues, which she had been doing for too long. Next thing we knew, she was back in college, then supposedly getting a master’s degree, which we’ve been told she doesn’t use professionally. Even back then, she was talking about going for a doctorate someday, but if you know the truth about her, it doesn’t seem feasible. Now… she DID work for a university, but not in any high level capacity. We were told she was released from that position for doing something “inappropriate” with funds. So, I think the above statement is a liberal stretch of the truth. Yes, she has worked in “higher education”, but it was as a glorified clerk. And yes, she has experience with special ed, but it’s only because she has a son with autism and has done some volunteer work with local organizations.

It’s not that I think Ex is dumb. She isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with her intellect, and if she put her mind to it, maybe she could earn a doctorate, although it probably wouldn’t come from a top school. However, doing that would mean several years of sacrifice, paying lots of money, and submitting to peer review, which I know would be very difficult for her. Then, what would she do with that degree? Does she want to teach or do research? Or is she just after a few initials after her name that she can flaunt on Twitter, or whatever follows it when it inevitably collapses? Isn’t there a smarter way to get that regard she’s obviously seeking? One that doesn’t involve years of study, high tuition bills, and more debt?

One thing I learned when I was in my graduate program– which was full time and took three solid years– is that I am capable of getting a doctorate if I want one. I took many classes with people who were either doctoral candidates or already had terminal degrees. They were my peers. For me, the knowledge that I’m smart enough, and capable of higher education, is sufficient. I’m satisfied. Graduate school, in my case, was in some ways a waste of time and money, because I don’t use the degrees in the way I expected to. In other ways, the time and money were very well spent, if only because I proved to myself that I could do it, and I learned skills and knowledge that are applicable in everyday life.

But I know I don’t need to earn a Ph.D. I’m fifty fucking years old, and I have nothing to prove. I also realize that I don’t have talents for either science or business (public health), nor do I particularly want to work with people (social work), nor do I want to analyze literature (English). So pursuing a Ph.D. would be a true waste of time for me. It would simply be for vanity’s sake, and people in the military community already dislike me enough for being an “uppity liberal woman.” (I’m sort of kidding… because at this point, I don’t care what people in the military think of me.)

Ex seems to think that having a doctorate will make her a more lovable, interesting, important person. I think that if she did get a Ph.D., she would become more insufferable, obnoxious, and arrogant. See this related tweet:

You cannot degrade the value of higher education, that implies exactly what I referred to… privilege, value, social standing! Every human being has their own capacity for learning; education should be based on ability to succeed rather than one’s ability to pay for it. 1/2

This woman denied her three eldest children the typical high school experience. All three of them dropped out and got GEDs, like her. Her eldest got a degree from the university where she was working before she was fired. Older daughter got a degree from a very expensive private art college, which she no doubt had to get huge loans to fund. Younger daughter didn’t finish college, but had to pay back loans she got at her mother’s behest. I don’t know about #3’s kids. I think their daughter is in college. Ex has made many comments about her desire for her daughter with #3 to study acting… as she apparently also hoped for former stepson and younger daughter. I think she has a dream that one of them will be rich and famous, so she can ride their coattails. She doesn’t seem to realize that a career as an actor, particularly a famous one, is fraught with pitfalls. One only has to read Jennette McCurdy’s recent book to understand that reality. But, on the other hand, her kids are at least used to being around narcissists, because they have apparently been raised by one.

Even though she seems to hope her children will someday be rich and famous, Ex is presuming to be an expert on education, a field where making a lot of money isn’t really a thing for most. And Ex is not a teacher. Younger daughter has told us that she was frequently told to “figure it out”, when she needed to know something. Her mother, who is trying to make people believe that she’s this benevolent, open-minded, intelligent person, denied her and her siblings the right to normal childhoods.

This next bit is truly ridiculous, as my husband still has an aversion to any kind of boxed convenience foods, thanks to his years of living with Ex… I don’t see her growing her own food. She doesn’t cook or clean; those duties were fobbed off on Bill’s daughters, whom she never even bothered to teach any skills. They had to figure it all out for themselves.

Sad that our governments [she is referring to the UK’s government] have utterly lost their minds. I want to immigrate to Scotland, don’t mind being poor and having to grow the majority of my food! I’m poor here… everyone is poor here because of policy. Everyone except that damnable 1%… we all live in debt to survive.

I would like to tell Ex that when Bill and I met, we were both broke and heavily in debt. I had student loans, a car loan, and credit card debt. He had child support, credit card debt, a car loan, and recovery from a bankruptcy and foreclosure he went through with Ex. When we met, Bill’s credit rating was in the 400s. Now, it’s in the upper 700s. Today, I have no credit card debt, no student loan debt, and no car loan debt. Bill owes some on our Volvo, and his credit card. If he needed to, he could pay off his debts today. It took years for us to get to this point, but we’re now here. And we’re going to stay here for as long as we can, barring any catastrophes.

Yes, it IS possible to live with low debt loads, as long as you don’t have chronic medical problems. You simply have to make managing and controlling debt a priority, do some planning, make smart choices, and practice some discipline. We’re not in the “damnable 1 percent”. We aren’t rich, but we’re pretty comfortable. We work together as partners, and are committed to not be drowning in debt. Consequently, we have been able to enjoy a lot of the things Ex claims she covets. And no, we don’t live in debt to survive, although we used to do that. We made changes so we don’t have to do that anymore. We also don’t have kids, largely thanks to her. Kids are expensive. She has five of them, and one will probably never be able to live on his own. Imagine where she could be if she’d simply been satisfied with what she had twenty years ago and set a few goals, instead of wanting and trying to have it all. Maybe she could have even had it all at some point… just not all at one time.

This could be Ex’s theme song. It’s a great song, and maybe inspirational to some. But if you focus on having it all, you miss out on enjoying what you already have.

I get the impression that Ex lives as if she will die tomorrow. So, instead of taking things as they come, she wants everything NOW. And she wants us to believe that she is worthy of having it all, when the truth is, none of us can have everything. Even super wealthy people typically lack other things in their lives, like stable relationships with mentally healthy people who aren’t trying to use them for their money or influence. Like, Donald Trump supposedly has a lot of money and power, but he still wants more, doesn’t he? He’s not satisfied with being married to an ex model, owning hotels and golf courses around the world, or even being a former US president. And yet, he continually wants more. Ex is not that unlike him, is she?

Anyway, I think we can add this Ph.D. ambition to Ex’s long list of desires for her life… like a fence for her house, a therapy dog, a trip to Scotland, unlimited wealth, unconditional love from her husband and kids (which really doesn’t exist, unless you’re a dog), and an idyllic house that looks like one she saw in a snow globe. 😉 Nothing to see here. It’s just another typical day in paradise for a garden variety narcissist.

Queen’s lyrics to “I Want it All”…

Adventure seeker on an empty street
Just an alley creeper, light on his feet
A young fighter screaming, with no time for doubt
With the pain and anger can’t see a way out
It ain’t much I’m asking, I heard him say
Gotta find me a future move out of my way
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now

Listen all you people, come gather round
I gotta get me a game plan, gotta shake you to the ground
But just give me, huh, what I know is mine
People do you hear me, just gimme the sign
It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth
Here’s to the future for the dreams of youth

I want it all (give it all I want it all)
I want it all (yeah)
I want it all and I want it now

I want it all (yes I want it all)
I want it all hey
I want it all and I want it now

I’m a man with a one track mind
So much to do in one lifetime (people do you hear me)
Not a man for compromise and where’s and why’s and living lies
So I’m living it all, yes I’m living it all
And I’m giving it all, and I’m giving it all
Oh oh yeah yeah ha ha ha ha ha
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
I want it all

It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth
Here’s to the future
Hear the cry of youth (hear the cry of youth) (hear the cry of youth)
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all and I want it now

I want it all yeah yeah yeah
I want it all, I want it all and I want it now
Oh oh oh oh oh

And I want it (now)
I want it, I want it
Oh ha

Songwriters: Brian May / Freddie Mercury / John Deacon / Roger Taylor

Standard
business, modern problems, money

“You left me… just when I needed you most…”

When I was a youngster in the late 1970s, there was a popular song by the late singer-songwriter Randy Vanwarmer called “Just When I Needed You Most”. I am reminded of that song this morning, just after I called USAA to report fraudulent activity on my debit card. Some of my most faithful followers might remember that on March 8, 2022, I wrote a post about exasperating issues with USAA involving “heavy handed” fraud detection alerts. For the past few years, USAA has been shutting my debit card down at the drop of a hat. Every single time they did that, the charges they were detecting as potentially fraudulent were legitimate.

This morning, as I was checking my bank balance, I noticed that I had three weird charges that I know didn’t originate with me. One was for Insomnia Cookies, which I have learned today is a cookie bakery chain in New York City that, evidently, delivers at all hours. I had never even heard of Insomnia Cookies before today, but I have a pending charge from them on my debit card. One fraudulent charge was for Uber Eats, which does exist in Germany, but not in our area. I have never ordered from Uber Eats in my lifetime. The third charge, which was evidently reversed, was for Uber. I have also never in my life used Uber.

None of those wonky entries tripped USAA’s fraud alert system, even though they were “in person” charges for goods and services obviously made in places where I don’t live, and have never told USAA I was, or ever would be, visiting. And yet, last week, when I was bitching at USAA for denying my legit charges in Europe, they were questioning a charge to an Armenian Brandy Boutique in Belgium that I have ordered from multiple times over the past several years. What gives?

Sigh… I relate.

I spoke to a USAA member representative at 5:30am, who began the dispute process for me. Now, I have to wait until the new debit card gets to me, which will take some time. And I have to change all of the payment methods for which I’ve been using the USAA debit card and use credit until I get the new card. I don’t like using my credit cards unless it’s absolutely necessary. I spent too long getting myself out of debt to feel comfortable using credit cards for everyday purchases, even though I can and do pay them off immediately. It is annoying that I’ve had to call them so many times about having my card erroneously shut down, but now they’ve missed actual fraud. Clearly, USAA’s security system isn’t working to its fullest potential.

Meanwhile, last week, I made a request to PenFed that they open a new checking account for me. While I was talking to them, trying to get the new checking account set up, their computer system went down. I was told they would send me information about opening the account. It never arrived, so I’m going to have to call them again today.

When we first moved to Germany, I told Bill that I thought we should get a local *German* account. He disagreed, and got one at the credit union on post. Now, he’s changed his mind, and we’re going to look into opening an account that can be used locally so that this kind of crap might be less of a pain in the ass for us.

Dolly Parton did a very nice cover of Randy’s song. Looks like she’s being joined by Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski.

A number of my friends have told me they’ve stopped using USAA. I’m beginning to think maybe that would be a good idea for us, too. This decision is probably going to be painful and inconvenient. We’ve used USAA for so long that it feels like dropping them would be like divorcing a spouse we’ve been married to for decades. I have been a customer since 1994. Bill has been one since 1984. But unfortunately, it looks like the time has come to reconsider this business relationship. Or, at least start moving some of our business to more secure/less irritating outlets. I actually wanted to ditch USAA years ago, but deferred to Bill, since he’s the breadwinner. I think maybe he’s starting to see the light.

I also checked the Corona Warn app to see if I’m still getting a “red tile”. As of right now, I am. The tile is supposed to expire today, though. I haven’t been sick with COVID-19. Or, at least, I haven’t shown any symptoms of illness, other than my usual asthma cough. So, I guess the bright side is, I still have my health. At least for the time being.

I might be back later with a rant about current events or something else. For now, I think I’ll practice guitar and walk the dogs. That will help me blow off some of this irritation and tension.

Standard
Netflix, TV

We fell into Squid Game over the weekend…

In spite of the beautiful fall weather we had over the weekend, Bill and I ended up staying home on Saturday. I was sitting on the bed, flipping through Netflix, when I landed on Squid Game. I didn’t know much about it, although had seen a lot of press about it. I was initially kind of turned off by it, even not knowing anything about the story. I could see a lot of weird colors and settings in the photos and I had a feeling it was going to be bizarre.

The trailer…

But anyway, since we didn’t have anything else to do, I decided to press “play”. The show began, and Bill quickly joined me. It’s not that often that I land on something he really wants to watch. Bill is a typical guy, and he likes action and violence more than I do when he watches TV or a movie. We watched five episodes on Saturday and the remaining four last night. I thought I would have nightmares, like I did after I watched The Handmaid’s Tale. To my great surprise, no bad dreams haunted me last night or the night before, although I do remember that Saturday’s dreams were pretty busy and vivid.

At first, I wasn’t sure that I’d be interested in Squid Game, even as the series began. But then I was intrigued by the very American sounding voices that were dubbed into the original Korean. And then, the actual premise hooked me, even as I was absolutely horrified by the violence and dark themes.

There they were, all of these Koreans, basically tricked to going to a hellhole, where they are forced to play children’s games. They were there because almost all of them desperately needed money to pay off debts they otherwise could never repay. The payoff for success is a huge pot of money, dumped into an enormous piggy bank that is suspended over the players. Not succeeding means death– quick and sure, with a single shot to the head or chest. It’s brutal and shocking, and ultimately kind of sad. But then there are interesting quirks and twists, and a few comic elements. Plus, there’s a lot of symbolism and uses of color to make the show even more visually appealing and intriguing.

I don’t want to get too much into the plot about this series, because I know a lot of people are still watching it or haven’t seen it. I don’t want to spoil the ending. Do I think you should watch it? Well, that all depends…

In some ways, I think Squid Game is as dark and dystopian as The Handmaid’s Tale is. It’s certainly very violent as it makes a point about the relentless pursuit of wealth. I had some flashes of depression and shock as I watched the players suffer and the tensions build as each one was dispatched, with no thought at all for the people left behind and the witnesses. With each death, a cheery female voice announces that the player has been eliminated. It’s jarring, and surreal.

But on the other hand, as the story progresses, some depth and wisdom emerges. The main character, who was kind of a careless loser at the beginning of the series, develops some decency and turns into a man. It wasn’t unlike the character of Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman. He starts off as a callous jerk, who doesn’t care about anyone but himself. By the end of the film, he’s developed heart, courage, leadership, and decency. That part of the story appealed to my heart, even as it was broken watching all of the carnage.

Indeed, at the end of the series, we see that the game continues, with new players… not unlike officer’s training school continues in An Officer and a Gentleman, when Gunnery Sergeant Foley delivers his spiel to new recruits. The difference is, of course, most people either get through officer’s training just fine, or they decide to quit. Losers in Squid Game die. And it’s all for the mighty pursuit of money.

I had no idea how serious the debt problem in South Korea is. I suppose that’s another reason why so many Americans are drawn to this series. I think debt is a serious problem in the United States, too. It’s so easy to fall into it, and so hard to get out of it. I could see how some people would be attracted to play a game that would lead to their early deaths. Of course, there were a few times when I had to suspend disbelief. For instance, I wondered how the game could continue, when so many people played it and suddenly disappeared. Wouldn’t people wonder where hundreds of their friends and family members disappeared to with each new round?

Teasing is fun sometimes.

But I also know that people love a good fantasy… Squid Game is a good fantasy, I guess. Some of it is downright creepy and weird, and I marveled at how someone came up with this story, with its twists and turns and special effects. I also thought the actors were great. I found myself wanting to learn more about Korea. The series made it look like such a cool culture.

I was once offered a job teaching English in South Korea. I decided not to take it. There were a few reasons for that. I did kind of feel sad about turning down the job, since I thought it would be exciting and interesting. But I had student loans to pay, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it on what the school would pay me. Also, I didn’t know if I would appreciate the lifestyle in South Korea, or the culture. Now that I’ve watched Squid Game, I think I’d like to know more.

Anyway… I definitely think Squid Game is an interesting series. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is disturbed by gratuitous violence. I’m glad I watched it. I’m not sure if I would want to watch another season of it… I wouldn’t be surprised if one materializes, though, since I think it’s going to make Netflix a lot of money. But the creator has already said that if he does make another season, he would use other writers and directors. I’ve seen what happens when new people come in and change a show’s vision. It’s not always good. On the other hand, Bill told me the director lost six teeth making the first season. Teeth are a terrible thing to waste.

Now that I’ve seen Squid Game, I may have to learn more about that part of the world… I’ve already read a lot about North Korea. Maybe it’s time I read more about the southern part of the Korean peninsula. I still don’t know if I want to visit, though. I definitely wouldn’t want to be playing Squid Game myself. It’s amazing what’s coming out on television these days. I grew up in an era when we were all happy with cookie cutter sit-coms.

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business, complaints, money

It’s really not that simple, cuz– or, my husband invested in me and it paid off.

Yesterday, I ran across the below political cartoon. It was shared by my very conservative cousin from Georgia. Actually, he’s from Virginia like I am, but he’s lived in Georgia for decades. Anyway…

This is a rather simplistic cartoon. I was tempted to leave him a comment, but decided not to, since his sister is being memorialized today.

Full disclosure. I have actually paid off my student loans. They were paid off about nine years early, back in 2018. I was originally scheduled to be finished to be finished paying in 2027. I made paying the student loans off a priority, and I am fortunate enough to be married to an extremely kind, generous, and cooperative man who was alright with helping me (a whole lot) in my quest to lose this obligation that hung over my head for so many years.

My mother had saved some money for me to attend Longwood University (then Longwood College), and I also worked during the summers. I still left my undergraduate career with Stafford loans, some subsidized and some unsubsidized. I think I borrowed about $10-$12K, but I’m not altogether sure of the total amount. I remember my parents were thrilled when I got the financial aid during my junior year. It was, and still is, a state supported school, but the price of attending rose significantly when I was attending in the 1990s. That school is also in a rural part of Virginia, where jobs in town were relatively scarce, and employers didn’t want to hire people who weren’t staying there year round. I didn’t qualify for enough work study to make that a viable option for me at the college.

Nevertheless, when it was time to graduate, I attended the mandatory video session during which I was reminded that I had taken out loans and they would need to be repaid. And after graduation, I paid every month on time and in full, although again, it was with help from others that I was able to do that. I was lucky enough to be living at home rent free.

After my first year post graduation, I joined the Peace Corps. In those days, it was possible to defer student loans. I did defer, but also arranged to send $30 per month of my readjustment allowance (then about $200 a month, I think) to defray the cost of interest on the unsubsidized loans. When I finished my service, I worked for a couple of years and paid on my loans– I think it was about $125 a month.

Two years after I came home from Armenia, I decided to attend graduate school. Because I would be going to graduate school, I was again able to defer my student loans. I was also able to take out more loans, which I did. Although I attended the University of South Carolina, which was out of state for me, after my first semester, I was able to land a job as a graduate assistant at South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). That gig didn’t pay well, but it did reduce my tuition to about 20% of the IN STATE rate– a HUGE savings. I also had a part time job on weekends and some evenings. Still, I needed loans, and when all was said and done, I graduated with two more degrees and five figures of debt, courtesy of my Stafford and Perkins loans.

About two months after I graduated from the University of South Carolina, I decided to consolidate my loans. Doing that took me out of my “grace” period, but locked in a 3.75% interest rate. I’m not sure what today’s rates are, but I bet they aren’t that low. I’ll also bet that today’s students, particularly during the pandemic, don’t have as much ease in finding well paying jobs, which even twenty years ago wasn’t that easy. Anyway, when all was said and done, I had borrowed $57,000 for all of my education– that’s for all three degrees. Even in the early 00s, that wasn’t too bad for all I managed to get. But it was still a lot of money for me. I wasn’t sure how I would repay it, even though I had fully intended and expected to find a good job.

Well… as you can see, I didn’t set any records on fire in the employment world. As I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, I was very fortunate in that I met and married Bill, who is an unusually empathetic and cooperative person. And once we were married, he was willing to help me pay for my loans. I started off paying $180 a month, which pretty much only covered interest and a tiny amount of the principal. At the time, we didn’t have much extra money because Bill was paying child support for three children and recovering from the financial disasters wrought during his first marriage. I was also trying to find work, but was unsuccessful.

I paid that same paltry amount for five years, until Bill went to Iraq and got a temporary salary boost. While he was deployed to Iraq, I used the extra money to pay off his credit cards in full. I also started paying extra toward my student loans. It wasn’t much at first– just $20 a month. Within six months, I was a full payment ahead. Slowly but surely, I added more money to the extra I was paying. It got to the point at which I started getting letters from my creditor telling me I didn’t need to pay. But I kept paying more and more until I was years ahead of schedule. And in 2018, when I was down to owing about $2000, I paid it off in one fell swoop. Put this in perspective– even after years of paying more toward my loans than I had to, when we moved to Germany in 2014, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. By 2018, I owed nothing.

It seems crazy that I was able to do this. Looking back on it, it seems highly unlikely that I could have, if things had been any different than they were. If I hadn’t married Bill (who had a pretty checkered financial history– common sense should have told me not to marry him– in this case, I’m glad my heart won over my brain)… If I had had children (expensive even if they’re completely healthy)… If we had gone through infertility treatment or pursued adoption… If my parents hadn’t been self-sufficient… If we hadn’t stayed healthy… If Bill hadn’t been able to stay well-employed… If we’d had huge legal fees due to Bill’s ex wife and kids… If we had bought a home… If I had gone to a more expensive school… If I had dropped out or took longer than scheduled… If I had had a higher interest rate… If I had borrowed from private lenders… I also made a determination that I would pay off those student loans first, because they can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy and I didn’t want to have them hanging over my head if disaster struck.

Everybody’s situation is different. Yes, paying back loans is an obligation. However, I think today’s students have gotten a pretty raw deal. For one thing, even if a person chooses to attend a state supported college, states are not contributing as much money to higher education as they once did. That’s been the case for years. I remember one year when I was still at UofSC, tuition went up 15% because the state didn’t contribute as much. Tuition never seems to go down, either. For another thing, college has been vastly oversold, making degrees less valuable than they might have been. Not everyone should attend college. Some people aren’t ready to go. Some people aren’t academically inclined and should pursue a field that is more technical. But college should not just be reserved for the privileged who are lucky enough to be able to afford it due to the circumstances of their birth. It should be a place where academically talented people can go to build their skills in whatever field they want to pursue.

One of the comments I noticed on my cousin’s post was about how some degrees are “worthless”. It always bothers me when people scoff at any academic field. Maybe you don’t think a degree in women’s studies is useful, but it’s useful enough that people who have studied it have been able to get jobs teaching it, researching it, writing books about it, or even making fun of it. I know many people think the arts are “worthless” pursuits. I heartily disagree with that. I was friends with many music majors when I was in school. They were among some of the most talented, hardworking people I knew in college. They had to be hard workers, since they took so many one credit courses that met three times a week. Moreover, the arts make the world a better place to be. And ditto to those who think English is a worthless degree. Being able to write, think critically, read carefully, and speak the language coherently are vital skills that are lacking in many people. If you don’t believe me, hang out on social media for awhile.

I also think people should be careful when they dismiss the pursuit of certain occupations as a waste of time. Everyone is unique, and we all have different skills and talents. One could argue with me that I should have studied accounting because it’s a well-paying field. But I am not good with numbers and I’m not particularly detail oriented. I would have struggled in an accounting degree program and probably would have hated the job. That would have made me a mediocre and probably unsuccessful accountant. And that would also make me a lot less employable. I am, however, really good at music and writing. I would stand a much better chance of being gainfully and successfully employed in jobs that use those skills and talents, even if there aren’t as many lucrative jobs. The world doesn’t need any more shitty accountants. And maybe the world doesn’t any more writers or singers… but at least I do those things reasonably well and enjoy the work. Those skills and the personal qualities affiliated with them can also transfer to other jobs.

I will agree, however, that too many people choose to go to college when it’s not a suitable choice for them. And there are cheaper ways to get a degree, too. A lot of people are overly concerned about going to “prestigious” schools, when a state supported school or even community college would suit them fine. Lots of people get college education through the military. That’s what Bill did– all three of his degrees came from private schools and were mostly paid for through scholarships and his G.I. Bill. He even has some money left of his G.I. Bill. These are topics that are worth discussing, especially with people still in high school. BUT– I also think the government should take steps to reduce the cost of college and relieve some of the debt burdens on young people.

I am 48 years old. I finished paying student loans in 2018. I expected to be paying until I was in my 50s. I don’t have any children. One of my parents is dead, but the other is in her 80s. She is, thankfully, reasonably healthy and very self-sufficient, and I also have sisters. But what if I was having to pay my loans, support children, and pay for a nursing home for my mom? What if I also had a mortgage to pay? What if I also had a chronic health issue that wasn’t covered by health insurance? What if I didn’t have health insurance? Or… what if I had a financial setback that led to being late on a bunch of bills? When Bill and I first got married, he was recovering from foreclosure and bankruptcy brought on by his ex wife’s irresponsible spending and his failure to take control of his finances. It took years of effort to climb out of that hole. It took a lot of work. Fortunately, we weren’t distracted by the misfortunes that befall so many people. We were VERY lucky. I was especially lucky. I hit the husband lottery.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that it’s not as simple as borrowing money and paying it back. Yes, I agree that repaying loans is a responsibility. But the cost of education should not be so heavy that young people are saddled with debts that make it difficult or impossible for them to ever get out from under the burden. And we need to do a better job of teaching young people about alternatives to college and encouraging them to take them. There should be no stigma toward those who choose a different path.

This morning, as Bill and I were talking about this, I looked at our investments, which I started doing on a very small scale back in 2012. I think I initially invested about $1000. Well, that amount has grown almost 50 times– before long, we will have investments that will total in value as much as that initial consolidated loan was in 2002. Without me, Bill wouldn’t have that money, because it never occurred to him to invest. He knew nothing about it and had neither the time nor inclination to learn. So I like to think of that as paying him back somehow… although he says that having me around is payment enough. See? I hit the husband jackpot! 😉 Perhaps I should think of it as Bill investing in me and getting a return.

P.S.– I made another song…

This is dedicated to the three relatives who are gone… and those who have been kind enough to help us grieve.

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