Not Everyone is Optimistic

Well the job numbers didn’t turn out as good as expected (only 103,000 new jobs in December) but the unemployment numbers have dropped a bit – down to 9.4% (from 9.8%) and while some of the drop might be due to drop outs – people giving up on even looking for jobs (I’ve never understood that but I guess if you have a wage earning spouse you could just forget going back to work), some of it is because a small number of people actually found jobs. 

That small number isn’t enough to raise hopes across the unemployed.  We still need to add 450,000 new jobs each and every month for the next five years to return to full employment. According to an article on CNN detailing a research report prepared by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University and titled  “The Shattered American Dream: Unemployed Workers Lose Ground, Hope, and Faith in their Futures,” the unemployed have exhausted their financial reserves, are not optimistic about finding a job in the next year, fear they will never regain the financial position they had before the recession and have little faith in the government’s ability to help them (that includes both parties). 

Another recent NPR story, discussing the same research report, noted that 26% of the unemployed workers who were part of the study in August 2009 had found work by November 2010 when they were re-contacted by the researchers.  The researchers report “40 percent of those who have found jobs who have told us they’ve had to change fields entirely. About half of them have taken a pay cut or cut in benefits, and more than half of those who have taken new jobs say that they’ve taken them to get by rather than their next start on a new career.”

We are seeing what is likely to be a permanent downward economic mobility – the antithesis of the American Dream and a rare occurrence in American history.  Even if the unemployed find work, according to this survey as a group they feel “they are going to have to adapt to a new lifestyle and give up many things that they consider desirable and even some things that they considered essential.”

Even my current optimism, based less on any concrete beneficial changes in my life, and more on the relief of some daily pressures, doesn’t extend to the long term.  I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to regain the financial position I held 2 or 3 years ago before a complicated series of events sent us down this road.  I doubt that I’ll ever own my own (brick and mortar) home again.  I don’t have any retirement funds left, or any health insurance.  Thinking about the future paralyzes me. We live a day to day life – but I guess that’s why I can sometimes be happy in the face of all the adversity. 

Today we rearranged the closet, moving all hanging clothes to the shower rod (since we don’t use the shower – can’t as the tub is always full of laundry bags or trash and recycling bags) to make room for another organizer with bins for my middle daughter’s clothes.  We sorted through the books on the bookshelf and made space for her little bin (12x12x12).  We have started moving things from one storage unit (which leaks – the last straw was going there on Christmas Eve to retrieve presents and discovering that the week’s rain had flooded the unit) to another larger yet cheaper and closer storage center.  It’s a good opportunity to pare down our possessions (again) and we have donated a box of children’s books to the school and another of Mom’s books to the friends of the library.  Several bags of outgrown clothing and kitchen utensils we make do without went to the thrift store. Then we set up a little shelf of things the kids might want access to so we can easily shift books and toys from storage to the trailer and back again as interests and needs change.  Now everything doesn’t feel so ‘lost’ and out of reach. 

Between that change and the additional outside activities we are all feeling more positive even though the future still seems less than less than hopeful.

This entry was posted in hope, job search, poverty, recession. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Not Everyone is Optimistic

  1. Jeannette says:

    The entire country is hurting, it’s sad, scary and challenging. What I keep thinking is those of us who are living below our means —way below, survival at its finest.

    I used your Amazon link to purchase much of my shopping this Christmas, hope it was credited properly to your account.

    Happier days are in front of us I pray

    • boxcarkids says:

      Thank you! I think to effectively ‘monetize’ a blog one must spend a lot more time and effort extolling the advertisers. My largely passive approach has resulted in a trickle of money from Amazon and Google that pretty much pays for the web hosting expense with a little left over! Perhaps if we had regular internet I would do more to promote the monetizing aspects but maybe not as I don’t really like overly commercial blogs. We could get cable internet for around $40 a month but I can’t afford that right now.

  2. maja says:

    My house is fairly small so re-organising and culling of stuff is constantly necessary. It’s a good feeling to do it. Is your middle daughter coming back home?

    • boxcarkids says:

      In just 2 weeks! We are very excited. While I appreciate the generosity of our friends in hosting her all this time I’ve felt like a part of me was missing. While it will make for even closer quarters for awhile it will be worth it to have the family whole again!

  3. Here is one with 4 bunks, a Queen, and a slide in Ohio. it is a 2004 and is listed for $10,500… seems like a decent price. Not sure what it would cost to have someone deliver it to CA, though, but might be worth checking out.

    Things are generally cheaper in the midwest so you might find a good bargain in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, etc. and still be able to afford shipping.

    • boxcarkids says:

      Yes, I’ve noticed prices are lower in a lot of other places- just wish I had someone who could check things out in person (and notice if there are any ‘soft’ spots in the floor!!).

      • I wish I knew what to look for. This one is not too far from me. But I would be very apprehensive in giving any kind of opinion since I am not familiar with what makes an RV a ‘good’ RV.

        The man who writes Man vs. Debt ( recently bought an RV to live in for six months and he and his family travel. He bought his at an auction that featured 200 RVs of different styles. I wonder if there are an auctions like that near where you live? I understand that sometimes you can get good deals at auctions.

        Good luck. Your situation is inspiring.

  4. Becky R says:

    I can’t believe you don’t have health insurance. I think you should swallow your pride and go apply at social services. I am a single mom as well, so I know how they make you feel, but sometimes you have no choice. You have
    to maintain your health or you will not be able to work again.

    I applaud you for all you have sacrificed and that you can still maintain positive.

    Also the Y by you may offer a free membership as well, which I am sure you and the kids would love.

  5. Phyl says:

    Maybe you should move to MN. This article

    states that this woman and her four kids got a 3BR apt provided for them through some housing program within 8 months of moving to the state, while she continues to have no job and attends college. Plus, they apparently get a membership at the YMCA (based on the photos w/ the article)? Then her family was highlighted in the newspaper at the holidays so people could donate gifts & stuff to them.

    I’m sure the woman still has struggles but that’s a heckuva nice set of security blankets that have been given to her.

    I think the take-away message here is: Please do investigate all available social support programs, not just where you live today!

    The original newspaper article is now in their pay-per-view archives so the only free copy is via google cache. The text of the article is below, if the link above doesn’t work.

    St Paul Pioneer Press, 12/10/2010
    Holiday Wishes: ‘I want to work. I want to provide for my kids.’
    Editor’s note: The 25 families in this year’s Holiday Wishes program — 91 people, including 57 children — are asking for basics, such necessities as shoes, winter coats and food. In this economic climate, it’s not easy to ask readers for money.

    “It’s a struggle being a single mom. It’s a struggle living in poverty. It’s a struggle to provide for my kids,” says Rhonda Williams, 32, of White Bear Lake. “Right now, my kids and I have a three-bedroom apartment thanks to East Metro Women’s Council supportive housing program. I feel very fortunate to be here.

    “I moved to Texas when I was 25. I worked as a cosmetologist. Then, my marriage ended. I came back to Minnesota last year to help my sister through some hard times. My kids and I moved in with her — we thought it was going to be a temporary thing, but I couldn’t get a job. Months passed. It was tight — she has five kids, plus my four, that’s nine kids plus two adults. Eleven people under one roof. It was frustrating for everybody. We were living out of suitcases, sharing beds. It was claustrophobic.

    “After eight months, we moved into this housing program. My family’s situation has been a shock to me, considering I lived in a home in Texas with two bathrooms, and I was working.

    “I thought I wanted to own my own salon, but working in that field is hard on the body and stressful. I want to be the first person in my family to get a four-year degree. I want to break the cycle. I have one
    more semester left at DeVry University. I’m studying business, but I don’t have enough financial aid for the last semester.

    “I’m doing everything I can to be work-ready. In January, I’m starting a training program, ‘You Be the Change,’ where low-income people learn to speak out on behalf of themselves and the communities in which they live. I’m also a mentor with Girls in Action, for Dr. Verna Price, at North High School in Minneapolis. This group of girls is very smart — they have
    life in them — they just don’t have resources.

    “My holiday wishes are to get a degree and to get a job. I need a second chance, though. I have a misdemeanor conviction for working while receiving public assistance and it’s definitely holding me back. I recently was turned down for a job because of it. This was devastating to me, because I believe have a lot of skills, I have a lot of talents.

    “I want to work. I want to provide for my kids. My sons are 15, 8, 5 and 3, and although we literally recycle the clothing among the boys, we could use some more. I also need to get my car fixed. I can’t afford gas. Right now, we’re out of juice, we’re out of fruit, we’re out of kids’ snacks. We were out of toilet paper, but a friend bought us some. My family helps, too, whether it’s my sister picking up my kids for me, my mom buying us laundry soap or cousins making it possible for my 8-year-old son to play basketball.

    “My oldest son, his tennis shoes are worn out, he keeps saying his feet hurt. He wears size 13 — they’re expensive. He doesn’t have boots this winter. I have to thank him in this story. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have been able to go to school at night — he baby-sits his little brothers; he keeps them in line. He has his moments when he’s the annoying big brother, but he often takes on almost a fatherly role with them. On Father’s Day, I congratulated him and said it was ‘Big Brother’s Day’ instead. I would love to be able to reward him for all he’s done for our family, to be able to give him money to buy shoes.”


    “Rhonda lives at our supportive housing at East Metro Women’s Council,” wrote Kathy Blegen-Huntley, director of development and marketing for the organization, which works to prevent and end homelessness for local families with children. “Unable to make enough money to support herself and her children, they experienced homelessness. She moved into supportive housing, determined to make a better life for herself and her children. She is articulate and has been volunteering to tell her story to tour groups and others, helping our community to understand the various reasons for homelessness.

    “Rhonda has been working hard on attending college, wanting to be the first person in her family to obtain a four-year degree (all while completing programming that includes life skills, budgeting, parenting, etc.). Without some additional financial assistance, she may not be able to finish.”


    Money to finish her last semester of college, a job, gift cards for Walmart, gas, food, shoes and winter boots for her eldest son, clothes for her children, a desktop or laptop computer for schoolwork.


    What is Holiday Wishes? Holiday Wishes is a Pioneer Press/Greater Twin Cities United Way program that raises money for needy local families. The Pioneer Press shares the families’ stories and their hopes for the holiday season. United Way gives you a way to help make the families’ wishes come true.

  6. The flooded storage unit depresses me and I didn’t have anything in it. I applaud your efforts to keep chaos from totally ruling and allowing each child their own space, small as it is.

    • Debbieo says:

      Dear Practical,
      I found your blog through this one and enjoy reading it. My problem is that your blog take forever to load and sorta locks up my computer. Is there something I can do different? I have enjoyed reading it but deleted it because of the length of time it take to load the pages.
      Thanks, Come visit my blog if you want.
      Boxcarkids, thanks for letting me use this format to communicate with practical.

  7. Lynda says:

    Are you still looking for a bigger trailer? If you go to Craigs List : Sacramento: travel trailers there’s a 2000 30 foot trailer with a queen in front and 4 bunks in back…no slide-outs but the price is right $7500. The awning looks good, too. Just a thought….oh the trailer is in Fresno…closer to you than Sacramento.

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