This story was reported in collaboration with our partners at Patch.com.
As politicians in Washington fought over proposed cuts to the federal budget, Kristin Blankenship, a resident of Northern Virginia, began planning some budget cuts of her own.
"No haircuts, no dry-cleaning and only the essentials as far as food," she wrote on Patch.com. "That ping in the car will have to wait to be checked out."
Blankenship's is a military family -- one of thousands in the D.C. area -- and if the wrangling in Washington leads to a government shutdown, she, like so many of her neighbors, may have to go weeks without a paycheck. Blankenship is already preparing for this possibility. "My family is not spending any unnecessary money," she wrote.
Across the United States, the anxiety of military families appears to be a persistent theme. In Odenton, Md., Rebecca Cleary, an "experienced Navy wife" who writes for Patch, noted that her Facebook newsfeed is "dotted" with status updates from fellow military wives who are concerned about the uncertain status of Congress' anti-social network of budget negotiators.
Down the coast, in Bradenton, Fla., a military wife and mother of four named Erin Bell said she canceled the family's weekend plans in order to prepare for the possibility of weeks without a paycheck. Her husband -- the family's sole earner -- was not available for comment. (He's stationed on an atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean.)
It's not just military people who are fuming about the prospect of a shutdown.
In a slideshow posted on Maryland's Germantown Patch, a project manager named Happy Kumah showed that a person's name is not always an accurate reflection of a person's state of mind. "I think it's terrible," he said. "I'm an immigrant here. When you come from another country, you expect things to be done in a different way."
Things are bound to be especially unhappy in Maryland and Northern Virginia, where the federal government employs lots of people (and not just ones named Boehner and Reid and Obama). As Lisa Rossi, a writer for the Westminster Patch, points out, Maryland is "home to more than 130,000 non-military federal employees -- the largest contingent of workers in the state."
Employees like Brenton MacAloney, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, who, when asked what he plans to do with his free time if his office closes, issued this surprisingly sunny forecast: "I'm probably going to brew some beer."
As it turns out, MacAloney wasn't the only Maryland resident who saw glimmers of a silver lining in the looming storm. (I am, of course, assuming that he enjoys brewing beer; it seems unlikely, though not impossible, that he's simply preparing for the eventuality that he won't be able to afford Budweiser.)
Also in the when-life-gives-you-lemons department was this remark from Eric Czerwinski, who lives in gridlocked Frederick, Md.: "Less traffic."
Concern about the shutdown wasn't limited to the east. In Mountain View, California, a Patch editor got hold of a note sent by NASA's director of human capital to agency employees. "If funding lapses," it read, "you will be furloughed." The NASA Ames Research Center, which is based just north of Mountain View, employs 2,500 people. All those researchers and rocket scientists, except the few deemed "essential," will be lost in space if a budget deal isn't reached soon.
A century ago, a government employee named Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation establishing the national parks system. If the government shuts down, the parks will close, too. And as the writer of this Plainview, N.Y. Patch points out, this means that people hoping to visit President Teddy Roosevelt's historic summer home will have to wait; the estate is maintained by the U.S. National Park Service.
Other parks mentioned in this week's Patch stories include James A. Garfield Park in Mentor, Ohio, which -- thanks to a budget melee that sometimes has seemed like an impending civil war -- could soon have to cancel its "Coming of the Civil War Program." And, in a winning bid for the Tea Party Irony Prize, Minute Man National Park in Concord, Mass. -- the birthplace of the American revolution -- could have to close its gates.
As Drew Hansen, a Patch writer in Del Ray, Va., reported that an angry audience member told Democratic Congressman Jim Moran at a local town hall meeting, "I don't want to be Greece. I don't want to be Spain, Portugal, Ireland or the rest. We don't have to be, but you and your 534 colleagues are allowing that to happen."
At least one Patch source, however, actually hopes for a shutdown.
"Go ahead," said Bryan Tupper, 27, a member of the Manatee County Young Republicans in Bradenton, Fla. "That way, the government isn't spending money and putting us further in debt." (Tupper stressed that he was not speaking in his official Young Republican capacity.)
Maybe he should call up his neighbor Erin Bell, the military mother of four who had to cancel her family's weekend plans, and offer to take them to a Chuck E. Cheese's or something.