“Each day is a special gift from God, and while life may not always be fair, you must never allow the pains, hurdles, and handicaps of the moment to poison your attitude and plans for yourself and your future. You can never win when you wear the ugly cloak of self-pity, and the sour sound of whining will certainly frighten away any opportunity for success. Never again. There is a better way.”  – Og Mandino

Its hard not to be constantly reminded about the tough economic times in which we find ourselves in. Especially if you live here in Las Vegas, which is now the worst in the nation, you are constantly bombarded with sights and pressures of poor economic conditions. You can check out the different indicators that tell us how healthy the economy is, much in the same way you might see monitors hooked up to a patient in the hospital that measure heart rate, blood pressure, and vital signs. NPR’s “All Things Considered” did a recent report that discussed the effects of unemployment in the nation and covered the debate as to whether or not the Unemployment Extention will have a positive effect on the economy or if it will simply be another drag on the nations already multi-trillion dollar debt. While Republicans filibuster the current bill, (H.R.4213 – American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010), citing the fact that America can’t afford it, Democrats claim that the unemployment extension will actually have a positive effect on the economy. According to Moody’s Analytics, for every dollar that goes out in unemployment benefits, the economy gets a $1.61 stimulus shot in the arm. Now, I’ve got a minor in economics, but I haven’t looked up how that figure is calculated, but either way, it can still be debated, as the Republicans are currently doing.

Another shoot with the lovely Sam at my place

There are measurements and monitors that gauge every aspect about our economy. We know tourism was up slightly last month from the flights and hotel bookings. We can measure the recent slight drop in unemployment and sadly deduce that its wasn’t necessarily a good thing. The drop was due to less people actually looking for work, moving away because they may have lost their benefits. Vegas is like the water hole on that one National Geographic episode where you see lions, elephants, hippos, and alligators jockeying for position around the best spots, when only muddy slim remains. I don’t know…maybe its not that bad, but can that vision be far off.

I’ll tell you one thing that isn’t being measured and that’s the health of families. I’m struggling to make it, myself, but all around me, I see families being ripped asunder. Just a little while ago, I couldn’t help but to listen outside my apartment door to a woman who was talking on the phone to her man. She was basically fed up with their current situation as she described how she’s barely able to take care of her two girls and how he’s become distant and is avoiding them. The woman was pissed. At times, she spoke as if they were problem solving, but in an instant she’d hammer him with something that he was being insensitive about or that he wasn’t doing enough. I’d hate to be here with a family right now. I most definitely wouldn’t stay. I’m glad my kids are not here. They are both grown and are holding down their own fairly well. A mother with two girls, though?? And a father who is obviously feeling less of a man?? It makes me think about some of these fathers you hear about that just up and leave. Or the mom who goes to the grocery store but never comes back. Will this couple inevitably divorce? Who’s to say. Even if the economy heals and they both find jobs, the damage is done. Even if their relationship heals over, there remains yet still a scar.

How do the children fair? I heard no evidence as to the children’s welfare in the woman’s conversation, but you can only imagine. My kids were pretty hardy and understanding. My ex-wife and I showed them enough love that they understood times were tough and they acted accordingly. I don’t recall them bitching about not having the finer things like some of their friends. At times, our hardships were precious. We have one particular remembrance that we refer to as “Christmas Out of the Trunk”. My wife and I were determined to have a Christmas for the kids and we finally got them toys and gifts at the last minute. There was no time to wrap anything. We just gathered around the trunk of the car and said, Merry Christmas! Times weren’t always that bad of course, but I am highly thankful and most grateful to my kids, even Jeremy, for being so understanding during those tough times. I am here for my own reasons and I stay here for the same. I could go back to Texas where the economy fairs much better, but that’s not where I need to be right now. My mission is not complete here and I refuse to be driven away by economic issues. The time is not right, yet. I stay because I feel I must. Stubborn…yes. I won’t deny it. But I’m here, damn it. And I’ll get it done. When or if I leave, it will be of my own choosing. But what are we going to do about these families who have more responsibilities than I do? How do we measure the pain of broken homes and scarred children? I don’t know, but in the meanwhile, I hope this unemployment extension bill passes soon. Its no where near enough, but for many families, its certainly better than nothing.