By Chris Lane
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Two years ago, the Houston Press interviewed the mother-daughter duo of Jamey Duckworth and Sarah Konczakowski for a story on the Enron disaster. Duckworth had lost her job and, in 2001, was forced to seek government assistance for the first time in her life. Duckworth had been on her own for most of the time her daughter was growing up, and she'd scrimped and scrounged enough to raise her small family in The Woodlands. And, as much as it stung her pride to accept some relief, she had no choice.
Two years after that story ran, it would be nice to say Duckworth is back on top and it's as if nothing ever happened. But that wouldn't be accurate. Duckworth says her new job at a human resources consulting firm pays about $20,000 less than her old position at Enron. But here's the thing: Duckworth has managed to repay all of the nearly $8,000 she owed in back house payments. And she handled her less-than-sympathetic homeowners association, which, she says, slapped a lien on her house for overdue association fees.
Basically, if you were to bet on a single mom and her daughter surviving whatever crap comes their way, you could do a lot worse than Duckworth and Konczakowski.
Now 21, Konczakowski is studying finance at the University of Houston, and she's engaged to be married. She, her fianc and her mother have been pooling their money for a nice wedding, one that's been continually postponed because of a lack of cash.
"I'm pretty proud of her," Duckworth says of her daughter. "I'm kind of proud of myself, but I'm very proud of her." As for Konczakowski: "Emotionally, we're way better," she says. "It's made us a lot stronger."
Fortunately, Duckworth lives only a few miles from her new office. When you're saving your home and paying for your kid's education, things like fixing the air-conditioning in your car have to wait. The defunct a/c is one reminder that things are different now. But there will probably be more. You don't just crawl out of a hole, brush off the muck and walk away.
"I think we're going to get through it," Duckworth says. "We're certainly not going to forget it. But we're going to get through it."