Sunday, October 25, 2009

Now That's More Like It

The cold soggy weather broke open for a few days, and finally delivered on the crisp, colorful Fall I was looking forward to seeing in Arkansas. Temps climbed back into the 70s this weekend and we made the best of it. I raked leaves in my yard (one of my favorite things to do). And Katie and Travis took Mick on a bike ride along the Arkansas river and across the Big Dam Bridge. I'm not much of a bike rider, so I wound up driving the cars to and fro, but still, it was a beautiful scene, on a lovely afternoon.

This bike trail is about 2 miles from our house. Its part of a 16 mile flat, paved looping trail that goes along both sides of the river and across two bridges. I expect that we'll spend lots more time hiking and biking on this trail.

Katie and Travis have the same birthday. On Sunday, friends with their toddlers and dogs gathered in Perryville for a birthday party. We all enjoyed the sunshine, the food, and the company. They served us a variety of her Farm Girl meats smoked to perfection, some home grown potatoes and Katie's fabulous angel food cake. Yummmmm! Here's a picture of Katie and Travis on their front porch, and Honey riding on the hip of Katie's farming business partner, M.C.

Today, the temps dropped again and the rain is coming back. Its like a curtain closing over me or a scene change in a movie. Brrrr.

I try to keep things cheery in this blog of mine. But sometimes self-consciousness takes over: here I am complaining about the weather when other people have so much more trouble than me. This morning on the radio, for example, I heard that one billion people are 'urgently hungry' all over the world, meaning that they have trouble finding a single cup of food every day. Millions are still unemployed. Kids are graduating from college but can't find jobs because so many experienced adults are competing with them for entry-level jobs, even for internships. If the economy doesn't overwhelm us, maybe we'll get swine flu or cancer or food poisoning. See - I'm gloomy this morning!

My hope is always restored when I spend time with with Katie and her friends - or any of the wonderful people I know in that generation. If the world really does completely fall apart, I think maybe this bunch could put the pieces back together. I just hope they don't have to - that the economic clouds part for them and their beautiful babies - and they get to have a fair chance at creating the world they imagine for themselves. It will certainly be a beautiful one.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Family, Work and Healthcare

Another advantage to living in Little Rock is that its easier to visit my dad in Virginia and Mick's brothers in Florida. We just got back last night from spending 6 days in Virginia with my dad, his wife Lucila, and my sister Iris. For the benefit of those who know them, here are some photos of Dad, his wife Lucila, and my sister Iris - with Mick and me - during our visit.

I had not seen Dad since the economy fell into such deep distress last year. My dad knows that Mick and I have been very hard hit. You could say that we were laid off not by one boss, but by a thousand different publishing and design clients. I'll spare you the details, but only say this: our 2009 income is less than 40% of what we earned in 2008. Ouch.

In this visit, Dad asked me if the move to Little Rock is helping and I could honestly tell him that yes, it is. Alameda County's unemployment rate was 10.7% when we left, and layoffs dominated the news. In Little Rock, unemployment is at 5.7% and people seem to be suffering less. Here's a NY Times map if you want to see how your own county is doing.

Mick and I are both working a little bit right now. In fact, I met with an exciting new client earlier in the week. Can't tell you about the project yet because its a secret, but I can tell you that it felt WONDERFUL to be in my business clothes, toting my laptop and w-o-r-k-i-n-g!

It seems obvious to me that more people would have jobs if they or their employers could subscribe to a government healthcare program like Medicare, instead of having to buy insurance on the open market. I mean, talk about 'stimulus'!!!

One of my friends who owns a small business said to me just today, "I haven't been able to raise my prices or give myself or any of my employees a raise for years now, but today I get a notice from Blue Cross that they are raising their rates by 15%. We have to pay thousands of dollars more for the same services we got from them last year. Nothing new or better for us, just more money for them. Where am I supposed to find that extra money? My customers don't have it and neither do my employees, but when Blue Cross demands it from us, we have no option except to pay."

Our Arkansas senators are both Democrats, but they split on the public-option question. Mark Pryor supports it, but Blanche Lincoln does not. I have written to her and phoned her offices many times - every time I can think of some fresh argument. Feel free to pass along your favorite arguments and I'll write her again.

Meanwhile, my heart goes out to all the people who want to work, but don't have jobs. There are millions of people in that position and I know how they feel. And all the ones who work but don't have health insurance coverage. And all the ones who do have coverage but are afraid to use it. And all the ones who . . . and well all the rest who are hurting these days. Everybody is making adjustments, like Mick and me, and I hope everybody can find some comfort somewhere.