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“Flapjack I’m sorry but we’re running low on food, water, and overall enthusiasm.”
Bubbie, in “The marvelous misadventures of Flapjack”

So, when I was laid off at the end of July I focused on what needed to be done then and there, assuming it was an interim situation and we would manage to survive it.  No matter what, we could deal with it together in the short-term.  When we pulled out of the driveway of our rented house (leaving the keys in the mailbox) with the car stuffed to the brim with camping equipment, cooler, dog crate and 4 kids, I spun it as a great adventure.  It didn’t hurt that I started us out with a week at a campground with a water park.  We were camping!  Lanterns and campfires and marshmallows.  What fun!  It was a fantasy that didn’t last long – and by the end of 2 months of moving in and out of a more barebones campground it had become real drudgery.  Oh we moved with a practiced efficiency, setting up and tearing down camp, and packing the van by rote.  My pre-teen became quite the chef on the Coleman camp stove and we no longer flinched at the specks of dirt or insects that ended up in the meal (I took heart in recalling  my grad school buddy who lived for months with the pygmies in Africa and on her return thrilled and disgusted us with her culinary tales- if she could do that, we ought to be able to deal with ‘civilized camping’).  But we were sunburned, bug- bitten, dirty, and tired and dispirited.  The longer the situation wore on, the more it took from us.

Purchasing and moving into the trailer gave us such uplift.  Yes, we could tell from the beginning that it was a small space – perhaps not much larger than our two tents put together, but the security (a door that locked after being in a tent that wouldn’t zip up), and the amenities – real beds, our own bathroom – no trekking together across the campground to a shared public toilet, the air conditioning, the refrigerator (!!) – Oh it seemed like heaven.  Our own little cozy cabin.  But again, in my mind it was a short-term solution; a better, safer, more comfortable and efficient (wireless internet) place from which to find the next job.  I never doubted (then) that I would find another job – I’ve worked all my life since I landed my first job at the age of 14 and when I wanted to leave a job, I’ve always easily lined up another.  I don’t suppose I’m the only unemployed person to discover that the economy trumps my personal experience and skills.  But it’s been a blow, nevertheless!  Like other job seekers I watch the news, looking for signs that we have entered into a ‘recovery’; but like a cloudy crystal ball, the signs are nebulous and indecipherable.  The economic indicators shift like a flag on a windy day, pointing first one way then another.  The pundits, like the competing groundhogs Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie, disagree on whether a recovery is on the horizon or whether we’ll endure another year of economic winter.  And then there are the particularly scary predictions for a ‘jobless recovery.’  I think that’s where the banks make money but the rest of us stay on the bread lines.

I won’t lie and say I’ve been a Pollyanna filled with hope and sunshine for the past few months.  My job search has become like setting up and tearing down the campsite was by the end of the summer.  I do it by rote.  I’m no longer excited when I find a job opening and I don’t linger by the phone or check my email several times an hour after sending in an application.  I send it in and forget about it and get on with life.  For the past few months I’ve been trying to ignore a nagging fear that a job might not appear in the short term.  And yesterday, an in-depth article published in the New York Times, titled “The New Poor: Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs” tolled the death knoll for any Pollyanna tendencies I still harbored, it blew out my candle of hope when I read it.    

Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed.

Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.

The place we are in, the solution that we could put up with short-term, may be the place we are in for, well, for much longer.  And like Bubbie says in the quote at the beginning of this post – we are running low on overall enthusiasm.  This was meant to be a stop-gap measure and I am absolutely sure that it is NOT a healthy situation beyond that.  At the very least we need more space and privacy to avoid the cracks in our family becoming fissures we are unable to traverse, much less repair. As much as I have felt unable to make long-term plans, it appears that I may be naïve if I don’t try.


Box Car Kids

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