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Another Empty House

Took a walk in my neighborhood last weekend and came across a young family with two small children moving out of their home. They were struggling to load a sofa and I stopped to help.   It is a lovely, modest home, not an outrageous McMansion.  The guy got laid off from work a year and a half ago, and they could not make it on the salary of the wife – a school teacher.  They just wanted a stable life for their family.  You know, the kind of life that Idaho is always bragging about.  The quality of life, particularly for families, written about in magazines in the last 10 years.

Unless they already moved other stuff, I did not notice any outrageous purchases.  In fact the moving van was small.   No big fancy boats or other recreational vehicles that folks often look to as a sign of “mismanagement” of money.

It is a nice section of neighborhood close to a school with other families.  I can imagine they had dreams of settling in, kids playing in the neighborhood, enjoying what the Treasure Valley had to offer.  I did not ask when they bought their house –  as in before or after the bubble burst. Nor did I quiz the guy about how often he was looking for work, or where had he been looking. No rude accusations that I have heard all too frequently from our supportive leaders here in Idaho – “Have you been watching TV all day, or are you out there looking for work.”

Too late for that as the house was in foreclosure and they were moving in with her parents.

They want to stay in Idaho.  Just another story of good, hardworking people who had a dream of homeownership, want to work, give back to the community, and enjoy Idaho.  Now the house stands empty, added to the inventory of other empty homes in the block.

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February 21, 2012 Posted by | Oddments Editorial | Leave a comment

HB 404

HB 404

Dear Senator,

In support of Occupy Boise and their place at the Courthouse protest area.  Please allow them to continue their work.  The site is a good use of public land.  They are a strong and visible symbol of the extreme inequities and hardships that continue.

The escalating costs of living, higher education, outrageous cost of medical care juxtaposed with a lack of jobs available and low wages is the eyesore.  Hardworking folks are daily losing their homes and people who love Idaho are forced to relocate.  It is extremely unfortunate that you are using your precious time now in this venue while the people you are representing make choices between food on the table or medical care.

Please let them remain.

Thank you,

Susan Emerson

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Oddments Editorial | Leave a comment

Hey – Just Go Get a Job!

My Facebook post a couple of weeks ago – this was On My Mind: 

Susan grows increasingly dismayed, cranky, and hostile over judgments such as “People who are unemployed like being unemployed.” Or, “Go get a job, you could have one if you wanted.” My unemployed friends just love spending every day crafting resumes, networking, competing with at least 100 or more for jobs that include the gamut – from fast food restaurants to professional positions. They enjoy potentially losing their homes, and leaving a community they love, having to make decisions between food on the table and medical care. These are wonderful hardworking people who want to work, make a decent living, stay in the Treasure Valley, and participate in all it has to offer as well as give back with their volunteer time.

January 13, 2012 Posted by | Oddments Editorial | 1 Comment

Hey! Just Go Get a Job!

Somehow, so far, I have survived the ax, even after a close call spring 2010.  At that time I was informed my position was planned for elimination due to budget cuts.  I felt an odd mixture of relief, anger, and gratitude.

I felt relief, as the situation was extraordinarily crazy. I was logging 70 plus hours a week and always on call – but hey it was a paycheck during a time when the papers daily reported new rounds of layoffs; Anger, due to the time, stress, training I had put into the position to be an effective employee, and in the end it was not going to make a difference; Gratitude, because I was given a 3 month notice.  I know other folks who after years of hard work, long hours, and loyalty were given less than a day to put their stuff in a box and escorted off the company property like a criminal.

Thankfully, I was transferred to another department and remain employed working with a fantastic group of people.  Daily, I take time to sit in gratitude, acknowledge the fact that I have a job, benefits, paid sick leave,vacation time, decent shelter, and food. I don’t, at this time, have to make a choice between seeking medical help and putting food on the table for my family.  But as I learned in spring 2010, that could change at any time. Even with benefits, a medical condition could wipe me out financially.  I have a strong work ethic, education, and reputation, as do the other thousands of people who have been laid off.  Did I just get lucky?  Is that what this is – the ax starts swinging and some are on the chopping block and others are not?

The stories of so many other folks – not so pretty (or lucky, if luck has anything whatsoever to do with this deplorable situation).   I have many women friends who are looking for work.  Two were laid off.  The other three are women who made the choice to take a back seat to their husband’s careers while they allocated a greater percentage of time at the home front with their children. Three marriages ended in divorce, and the ex-husbands have gone on to nice paying jobs and careers.  The women, all college educated are struggling.  They are incredibly bright, talented, dynamic women who want to work and contribute.  Two of them are working for $8.00 an hour now, with no benefits, grateful to have a job, but with their talents extremely under-utilized.

My one friend was diligent in pursuing a college education even as they relocated at least 4 times so her husband could tend to his career.  She tried to stay viable, worked part-time positions outside the home, as well as crafted opportunities with companies that allowed her to work at home.  Now divorced, she opted to stay in the family home to finish raising their teenage children. You know, continuity of school and community for her children; items deemed to be important by the Family First/Value rhetoric of our Legislators.   Her ex-husband relocated to  another state to accept lucrative employment.  A career forged due to the fact his wife managed the children and household so he could focus on his job, travel, and training opportunities.

A year later and with over 206 applications submitted she is still unemployed.  The result is to watch an extremely dynamic, competent, intelligent women nearly have a breakdown due to the stress, uncertainty and feelings of being invisible, inadequate as well as lose confidence in her abilities.  On food stamps and the house on the edge of the foreclosure process, she has panic attacks as she worries about being out on the street.   I worry she is going to have a heart attack from the stress. In the midst of all this she gets to endure deplorable comments, listed below, and from allegedly educated people.

  •  “It is her own fault for not staying together with her husband – they should have worked it out.”
  •  “Look she has a big screen TV, so you know they were living past their budget in the first place.”
  • “She should have gone to college right out of high school, and then she would have a better shot at a job or career.”
  •   “Why don’t you have your children go live with their dad, while you get yourself and your life together?”  (One has to wonder if the dad receives any commentary on his choices – such as “Why didn’t you find a job in Idaho so you could be closer to your kids and help out?”)
  •  “Why can’t you just get a job, oh, it is because you really want to remain on unemployment.”
  •   “Hey – just go get a job!”
  •  “Hey – you could get a job if you really wanted one!”

I know plenty of people, married and unmarried that did it the alleged “right way, made the right choices.”  They went to college out of high school, budgeted, saved, made substantial down payments on their homes, did not run up credit cards, lived within a budget, and had solid retirement plans.  They lost their jobs due to outsourcing.  Loyalty, ethics, hard work were repaid with, “Here is box for your stuff, you have an hour to gather things up.” They sought jobs while depleting their savings.  Many tapped into retirement money trying to keep their homes.  Many suffered through foreclosure or bankruptcy.  A painful irony is the debacle of all the displaced families with no homes, while rows of houses sit empty.

I am at a loss of how to end this blog post.  It is painful to watch good, hardworking people struggle, and lives unravel. The robber barons continue to flaunt their wealth and are not held accountable for their actions. The effect of unemployment is debilitating, and is certainly not something they dreamed of living through when contemplating what they wanted to be when they grew up.

January 10, 2012 Posted by | Oddments Editorial | Leave a comment