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This is what it looks like, in slow motion.  This is the unravelling.  This is the end of a families dreams for the future, for its aspirations and for its plans.  This is the beginning and the end right here.  Don’t let your guard down, don’t ever think you are safe, that your future is all set.  Don’t plan to pay for your kids college, to travel when you retire.  Don’t plan to stay healthy, and don’t expect to take care of yourself when you get sick.  Don’t expect to have a roof over your head.  If you already have one, don’t expect it to stay.  For the love of god, don’t ever expect any sort of security or dignity.  It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how badly you want to work, how many letters you have after your name.

It doesn’t matter if you went to a good school, come from a good family.  It doesn’t even matter if you’re in good financial shape with no debt and never even got swindled by a crappy mortgage high interest rate cards.  You can be sitting there with all your ducks in a row, heat turned all the way up to 68 and before you know it, one little shift in the universe will send you and the people you love most into a tail spin.  You will slowly start hurtling towards earth, faster.  And faster.  And you will cling to anything you can find, even as you stop being able to feel.  Anything.

Don’t think a handshake means anything to anyone anymore.  Don’t ever think that someones promises hold any weight.  Don’t expect that your hard work will ever pay off.  And don’t think you can run.  You will be pinned down, forced to live through it.  You will be forced every night to lay awake and think about where you can get food, money, security.  You will get really good at doing math in your head on the fly, and you will also learn that people are selfish by nature and largely don’t really care about you or your kids.  You will feel yourself being observed and discussed.  You will find yourself marked as Other, so that people who are just like you used to be don’t have to feel what you’re feeling.  The betrayal, the promises that you stupidly believed in.  The phone will stop ringing soon.  You know people get uncomfortable when you talk about it.  You know people stop caring, lose sympathy.  Your friends will start dropping like flies.

I don’t think about Next Year, or In Ten Years.  I can barely think about next week.  I don’t know anything anymore.  I don’t know how I’m going to stay in my house, how I’m going to feed us, how the hell I’m going to pay for heat this winter, how I’m going to pay for the Halloween costumes I just ordered two nights ago thinking that there was a job that was going to start this week.  Silly me, apparently deciding terms of employment and negotiating a salary and shaking hands is meaningless.

We are good people.  We work hard and save money and invest in the market.  We give to charity and volunteer.  We bring casseroles to people when they are sick, or have a baby.  We are good tippers.  We have never carried debt aside from student loans and mortgage, both of which we watch closely and refinance at low rates.  We overpay our bills to get ahead.  Our cars both have 130K miles and are 8 years old, and we are perfectly ok with that.  We don’t have iPads.  We own one TV.  We haven’t taken a vacation in years.  We wear hand me downs and clip coupons.  I don’t know what we did to deserve this.  I don’t know how many more times I can handle my daughter asking me if I’m crying because I’m mad at her.  All of the clichés about something better around the corner, and windows and doors opening and closing, just sound like cruel, horrid jokes now so please spare me that.  We are the 99%.  We are also the 47% for the first time in our lives.

So, here is your front row ticket.  Now you can observe from a safe distance what it looks like when a family falls apart.  Enjoy the show.

I know people mean well (or, sometimes they don’t) but I’m a little tired of getting this question.  It’s always during a lull in the conversation and brought up in a cheery, conversational tone that makes me think that it was deliberate.  I know that someone saw “the job numbers” on the TV machine and though, “Gee, I wonder if [token unemployed person] has seen these.  I’m going to ask them in a bland and non-offensive tone to communicate my empathy for their situation.”  Yeah.  It’s not working.  I don’t look at “the job numbers”, because they can be interpreted in many ways, and because it doesn’t get us a job. We watched them in the beginning for signs of hope, but they never seemed to correlate with our experiences.  So, if you want to help the Long Term Unemployed, don’t condescend to us. Just give some resources to your local food pantry, please.   Speaking of food…

I try to do one food project each day.  We are getting a glut of vegetables from our CSA now, and I’m working hard to keep as much of it as I can for the winter.  In the past I have done a lot of boiling water bath canning, and some pressure canning, too but It’s hard for me to think of anything messier, more time-consuming, or hotter.  I find myself dreading every canning project, especially after last summers 110# of tomatoes.  Yes, it paid off when I ended up with a bookshelf in the basement full of quart jars with fresh tomatoes in them, and I only just ran out of them a couple of weeks ago.  But man, that was a lot of messy work.  I don’t want to deal with it again, so this year, I’ll be oven roasting and freezing some tomatoes, and packing others in oil.  Much easier.  I can get one bushel (which is about 54#) of sauce tomatoes for $20 at a local farm.  I’m hoping to get two bushels processed before the end of the season.

Today I got a Groupon for $10 for $20 worth of meat from a local butcher, so I jumped on it and drove over there.  For less than $50, I got a pound of duck fat, three pounds of freshly ground lamb that they cryo-vaced into individual packages for me to freeze, 2.5 pounds of lamb shanks, 3 ham hocks, and 2 pounds of chicken feet for stock.  So everything went into the freezer except for one pound of the lamb that i made into some lamb meatballs with roasted eggplant sauce.  Yum.  We had everything on hand from our CSA or in the pantry, so it was almost a free meal.  That always feels good.

J talked to his recruiter today who had a great job at a growing company with fantastic people that he would be perfect for……in Baton Rouge.  I cried.  I just refuse to believe that there isn’t something here that he would be great for.  He is willing to commute to DC and NYC on the shuttle.  He is more than willing to telecommute with some travel to a home office.  We cannot afford to sell our home, uproot our family and move someplace with no job market in this economy when they could fire him in a  year.  It’s not fair.  He has a few more resumes in, but he always does.  One company who had expressed some interest in him suddenly decided to go in another direction with the job description.  At least he got a reason.  That’s incredibly rare these days.  Usually you send your résumé through an online form, and then the computer decides whether to put you in to the next step or lock you out.  If you move on to the essay portion (yes, the essay portion), then you have the opportunity to answer some questions in under 500 words about why you would be a  good fit for this job.  Then you hit Submit.  At this point, you either send it out into the ether with no further information and just wait for a phone call, or as is more likely to happen, you get a generic message saying that you’re not right for this position at this time.  Nothing has been reviewed by a human, no feedback is given, you have no one to contact, no phone number, name or interview.  It’s dehumanizing and disrespectful and these online HR systems are losing out on a  lot of great job candidates.  It’s just humiliating.  J read today in an article with tips on how to get around these systems that you shouldn’t even say “summa cum laude” on your résumé, and to change it to “high honors”, or your résumé will get screens out as porn!  We are not dealing with geniuses here, but there is seemingly no way though this impenetrable HR firewall.  Of porn.

Now, I’m off to watch the presidents jobs speech to congress.  Fingers crossed for a miracle.

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