My partner, Ted, and I are completing our usual cross-country drive for the holidays -- from Chicago to Ohio, N.C. and then Florida — visiting family and friends in various stages of stress and hopefulness. Unfortunately, our ongoing economic crisis is certainly being felt at home.
Ted’s Ohio-based family includes many high school teachers. We were sitting with one when the TV news announced the layoff of 100 public school teachers for a suburb of Columbus, OH. Besides firing teachers, staff and administrators, several Ohio schools are shutting down athletic programs next fall (no more football!) as well as dumping the usual humanities suspects — art, music, foreign languages. Even busing for students who live within two miles of the school is on the chopping block. Ohio voters  rejected an income tax request that would have closed a $23 million school budget deficit. Now the school board is forced to take drastic actions.
In other states — a family member’s partner recently suffered a job loss, a stroke, and is facing the final foreclosure of his house in January. Nieces enrolled in college have been living at home with their parents (a situation that is about as much fun as it sounds). And a good friend who has been a mental health worker for twenty years dropped his health insurance because of a $2000 deductible and his significantly reduced salary.
Catching up with these friends and family members is an important part of the journey home to my own family. I was surprised, though, at the extent of the economic woes that we have encountered. The news is suddenly becoming more personal.
My immediate family in Florida is not thinking about money as much as they are grateful to have my sister Emily home from Afghanistan for her two-week break from USAID work. Emily has experienced frighteningly close RPG attacks in Kabul and was recently visiting a hotel that had a large suicide bomb explosion only a few weeks ago. My whole family, particularly Emily’s husband and two young children, will be relieved when her required war zone experience ends and she can move on to her next assignment with her family by her side.
As many military families  must also feel — having your sister home for the holidays makes up for some of the other economic troubles. I’ll keep hoping for more peace on earth…