Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Portrait: Blue Ridge Foothills, North Carolina

The economy in NC had already taken a hit when I moved here at the age of 30 in 2001. The furniture companies were gone except for the dinosaurs, the names that real buyers trusted. But we started to see even the largest of companies start to back off. The market was dwindling they kept saying but it didn't mean a lot to us at the time. We were educated artists, we were writers and performers and we worked in the trenches for the government during the day to pay for our spotlight Jones at night.

We foolishly did not see it coming. We experienced some warning shots but passed it off as the effect of bad behavior by the ex; why couldn't she work and get her PhD? We took the children on to our governmental benefits and tightened our belts to make up. So what, we couldn't travel as much.

In 2007 my husband lost his job with the county agency he'd put 10 years of blood sweat and tears into and along with it the major health benefits. The environmental agency I worked for experienced severe cutbacks due to defense spending and political priorities. I lost any hope of a permanent full time job doing something I passionately cared about. On the up side I started to get paid at the theatre instead of just volunteering and my husband created a lucrative freelance business and got in with a small publishing company that fit his style and time schedule. Along with these new promises came out of pocket insurance coverage for a family of four with a couple of high-risk individuals. We suddenly understood what Hillary had been talking about all this time. It was the beginning of the end and the long slow slide that has brought everyone to their knees.

We cut the satellite, the TV, didn't replace a broken microwave, and eliminated entertainment from the budget. We rent movies for a dollar a day at Redbox, and the kids come with us to our Theatre and Symphony performances for a night out. We've come to rely on the kindness of comps. We don't eat out. We cook chicken legs or thighs at least once a week.

So the last thing to go was the health insurance. The ex has to apply for Medicaid (bless her republican heart it's killin her!) and I just hope I don't get pregnant before I can afford the $500 IUD. Let's not even talk about the $150 a month anti depressants.

So far the worst it's gotten is out of cat food, out of gas, 15 days late on rent, and no paycheck until next week. We make it as far as we can then float a check at Wal-Mart. At least they're good for something…

The future continues to look bleak. The Arts are dying. We lose donors every day as banks and car dealers close their doors. The environment has to not implode until the stimulus money gets here next December. Our county social service agencies can't afford to pay their people gas money to check on at risk kids.

We've started to talk about garden and living space sharing among friends. So when the Internet is gone and my privacy is down to nothing, living with everyone I trust in the world and canning vegetables; essentially living my Grandmother's life, I guess it will be as bad as it gets. And frankly, it's starting to look pretty damned good.

Blue Ridge Foothills of North Carolina