Hi all

Just wanted to let you know there are a couple new posts at my new boxcarkids blog http://www.theboxcarkids.net/wordpress. WordPress.com has a new upgrade that I purchased that redirects traffic to the new blog so hopefully you’ll all reach it that way.
New posts:
If This Were Fiction, and
Tenterhooks

Posts in the pipeline:

The Best Corners for Pandhandling

Room Without a View

The Pernicious Effects of Poverty

I know some folks are still linked to this site- just wanted to let you know to pop over to theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/ to catch up with the latest – whoa, big drop – move of our roller coaster life!

Unless congress extends the unemployment benefits we have 2 checks left. Tents are on sale at Big 5 – I wonder if I should replace the family sized tent we discarded at the end of our 2 months of camping last summer. If we have to hit the road we will need to lose the trailer as we can’t pull it with the minivan.

I hope most of you have found our new blog by now – updates are posted there regularly.

will be at
http://www.theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/

Finally got the basic files transferred over- just need to do some clean up and put our logo photo back on the site. It doesn’t look very different yet as I don’t have the affiliate/ads up but I’ll be working to get those things going soon.

Thanks to everyone for the support and advice on moving the blog. I have procured a domain name -theboxcarkids.net (not my first choice which would have been .com but it wasn’t available), and am working on finding a hosting site that will allow me to migrate this blog and continue to blog in word press. I’m setting up affiliate accounts with Amazon and eBay and a few other reasonable organizations. I hope to debut the new site in a week or so. Even if it doesn’t make much money at least it gives me something (other than helping my daughters with their school reports on the Civil War and China and the model of the Great Wall) to engage my energies and interest. Something besides the worrying and fretting which occupies me most days. If only our internet connection were more dependable!

A few days ago I called Tricia to find out how her doctor’s appointment went, got her voice mail and left a message. Tonight she called back. It looks like the hip replacement operation will have to be postponed – she has a staph infection in her blood that needs to be treated and the doctor wants her weaned off cigarettes and beer before she goes into the hospital. I commiserated with her about the delay and the possibility of going into rehab – which will probably be the only way for her to quit, and promised to pick her up for a girls’ day – including taking her to Jack in the Box for curly fries, but she still seemed down. She asked me if I remembered Luba – another homeless woman who lived in her old camp. I said yes of course – Luba was a slight Hispanic woman of middle age with a quick smile. She had a little chihuahua dog who shared her sleeping area. Tricia told me that Luba had died the day before yesterday – no one knew what caused her death. It could have been anything; there is so much untreated illness among the homeless. She was 56 years old. I hadn’t heard of her death- although I had read that the Amtrak train recently hit a homeless couple loitering near the tracks in our town, killing the man and severely injuring the woman. I checked those names to make sure it wasn’t Ben and Tricia. I wonder who mourns her.

Many people have encouraged me to move my blog to a site that allows advertising in order to try to make some money from it. I like wordpress- the ease of it and the amount of detail and number of options they provide me in blogging. And I like the spare, elegant, non-commercial look of my blog. I began it not to make money but to express myself, provide an outlet for my thoughts on our situation, and connect in some way with other people. The donation link provides people who are genuinely moved to help a way to do so without crass commercialization and blatant ads obscuring the content.
But our situation has dragged on much longer than I anticipated and so many things – like job retraining or a bigger trailer or summer camp or new glasses or a root canal – are out of reach unless I can find some way (and yes, I’m applying right, left and center for available jobs, and no, I’m not quite ready to stand on the street corner with my most photogenic kid and a sign that says “Anything Helps, God Bless.”) to add to our income. So I am considering moving my boxcarkids blog to a site that allows ads. As someone who used to mute all commercials when watching TV, I’m not pleased to be thrusting ads on my readers but I hope if I move, many of you will continue to follow our adventures (or misadventures as they may be).

I think I’ve found a potential job retraining opportunity that could suit me and make use of my previous experience in the environmental field. Our local community college has a short course this summer that would allow me to earn a Building Performance Institute Certification. This is supposed to be a growing field with an increase in jobs. It costs $1600 in tuition so I can’t actually take the course this summer as our projected expenses already outstrip my unemployment check but if they offer it in fall, or more likely next winter, I might be able to save up enough to take it.
Here’s the course description:

Train to become an energy efficiency auditor and earn your BPI Certification (Building Performance Institute) in only one week. A recent study by the California Community College’s Centers of Excellence indicates that the need for building auditors will increase by 54% over the next three years throughout South Central California. Individuals in the fields of construction, design, inspection, contracting, and utilities will want to take this new course to learn to identify the relationships among overall performance, efficiency and durability. Class participants will learn to target, diagnose, and recommend procedures to remedy inefficient building performance. Course fee includes classroom training (1 full day + 2 half-days), field training (2 half-days), course materials, study materials, BPI application fees, written exam fee and field exam fee. The written and field exams will be held on Day 4 and 5 of the course. Course fee includes classroom training (1 full day + 2 half-days), field training (2 half-days), course materials, study materials, BPI application fees, written exam fee and field exam fee. The written and field exams will be held on Day 4 and 5 of the course.

 The April unemployment numbers came out not too long ago and provided another economic head scratching moment for those of us following the statistics. Head scratching because in April the economy added a record 290,000 jobs (yeah) and at the same time national unemployment claims rose from 9.7 to 9.9%.   Hmm, more jobs, more unemployed people?  Turns out the increase in jobs brought out people who had given up looking (and therefore were no longer counted among the unemployed despite the fact that they had no job). 

President Obama’s take – “[April’s] job numbers come as a relief to Americans who’ve found a job, but it offers, obviously, little comfort to those who are still out of work.”  The number of people unemployed in the nation stood at 15.3 million in April this year.   Counting those who have given up looking for work and part timers who would prefer to be working full time, the so-called underemployment rate rose to 17.1 % in April.

“When you look at the employment report from 20,000 feet, it’s all good numbers,” said Brian Wesbury, chief economist at First Trust in Chicago. “What happened [with the higher unemployment rate] is that people rushed back into the labor force.”

“That will slow down and we will see the unemployment rate come down. But in order for that to happen, we need job gains and we are getting that now.”

Indeed the jobless rate declined in 34 states in April. So things would seem to be looking up, right? Briefly. Then on May 20th NPR reported that number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week by the largest amount in three months, saying that the surge is evidence of how volatile the job market remains, even as the economy grows.  Applications for unemployment benefits rose to 471,000 last week, up by 25,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

 So for us job seekers it’s a bit of a roller coaster – hopes up, hopes down.  And depending on your demographics your outlook might be colored by other factors.  For instance if you were a secretary or travel agent the opinion recently voiced by a number of economists – that some lost jobs will never come back and some out of work people may never regain their economic place in society – might send your outlook right off the cliff.  In the past few months this idea has been the subject of articles with headlines like “Lost jobs are likely not coming back;” “Jobs That Aren’t Coming Back; “ and “Even in a Recovery, Some Jobs Won’t Return;“  All of which essentially say the same thing – many of the jobs lost in the recession – in industries as varied as construction, interior design and auto manufacturing are no longer deemed necessary.  During the past few years of belt tightening companies have automated processes, out-sourced work, shifted duties and learned work arounds for laid off employees (such as having managers file their own papers, make their own coffee and book their own travel – administrative staff took a big hit, 1.7 million jobs lost).  Sorry folks, the recovery has begun and employers are thinking they’ll just keep some of those cost-savings after 2 years of penny pinching!

 Other demographics come into play for the job seeker as well.  Geographic demographics for one.  While the job market may be getting better in some parts of the country, several states – Michigan, Nevada, and California topping the list – are not seeing any significant improvement. In April California’s unemployment rate was at 12.6 percent, nearly 3 points above the national average.  The good news was that it ‘held steady’ – unchanged from March.  2.3 million Californians remain unemployed while non-farm payroll jobs increased by 14,200 in April. At that rate…well, you do the math.

Then there’s age.  Oh to be 30 again!  Although nationally the youngest workers were hardest hit by the recession, older unemployed workers are finding it harder to land a new job and are remaining unemployed longer. 

 “Things have been very tough for older jobseekers. Duration of unemployment for persons aged 55 and older has soared since the start of the recession and remains higher than for younger workers,” according to an analysis by Sara Rix of the AARP Public Policy Institute. “Those numbers do not paint a rosy picture for millions of older Americans, many of whom may never find jobs comparable to the ones they have lost since December of 2007.”

 I understand the AARP is holding job workshops to help older workers find “meaningful” employment.

Add in being a single parent with a damaged credit rating and you’ll begin to see why I’m not celebrating the economic recovery just yet.  I admit to owning a bleak outlook but not, I’m sorry to say, one I believe is unrealistic. I’ve been out of work for 10 months now- about 9 months longer than I ever expected I’d go without a job!  I apply for jobs and even interview from time to time, without landing one.  I am discouraged. I see the recovery as hope that my children may yet have opportunities but I am no longer confident about remaking my life from the ground up.

For a sobering take on the jobless recovery and what it will mean for America check out this article: “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America” in the Atlantic.

Thanks for all the comments and good ideas!  Our summer plans are slowly coming together and I’m using several of your ideas!  We signed up for the kid’s free bowling – there’s a bowling alley not to far from us that is participating.  I’m applying for a YMCA campership for my youngest 2 (both 7); and my middle daughter (9 year old) has received invitations from friends in Virginia and Seattle and I can use  my soon to expire frequent flyer miles to send her to visit for several weeks.  My oldest is playing summer league basketball and is old enough (12) to be on her own for a bit if she needs to be.  We are continuing to explore options locally and I’m continuing to apply for jobs (2 more this week- one at a Naval Base as an environmental technician and one as a forest ranger).

Someone asked if I’d let Tricia or Ben babysit – and the answer is no, nor would the kids be comfortable with that.  Tricia is disabled – in fact she’s going to have a hip replacement this summer now that her medicare insurance has come through, and both Ben and Tricia have habits that undoubtedly help them get through life (smoking, drinking and possible other substance use) but that I don’t want around the kids.

Update – As a commentor mentioned the shoe rental isn’t included in the kids bowl free, nor are adults (although for $24 you can add adults to the bowl free deal for the summer).  Shoes are $4 per person.  We signed up and it might be something we do for a special treat. 

Heard from the Y – there are no scholarships available that would help us – too many people in the same situation! Camp for 2 kids would be $900 a month with a scholarship- half my monthly income, so that is out.