Gratitude week 38

  1. It’s been one of those weeks and I’m glad it is over. Nothing major, but sometimes it’s the little things. My son got his exhaust fixed on his car and a few days later the exhaust is loud again and a headlight burnt out. But I’m thankful that all my kids have vehicles that for the most part work so I don’t have to take them to work or school.
  2. Honestly, I’m grateful that the census job is almost over. It’s been stressful lately. I’ve been going to rough neighborhoods that I have been having difficulty closing cases in. Yesterday as I was walking through a neighborhood a man yelled at me to leave. I’ve been feeling quite anxious lately and I think an overall sense of not being safe is adding to that. It bothers me to see the living conditions of the children. Filthy apartment complexes with signs on the doors saying its recently been sprayed for roaches. Garbage littering, broken beer bottles shattered, and a haze of stale cigarette and pot smoke lingering in worn apartment hallways. Today as I was working several young unattended children came up to me and asked me if I had any quarters for them. It’s really quite heartbreaking. I also saw a woman walking around on a busy street in a bathrobe. Oh, all the stories I will write about the things I saw that will change my life.
  3. I’m grateful though for all the wonderful people I met through the census job. It gives me hope that humanity is not totally screwed despite people having to live through tough circumstances.
  4. I’m grateful that despite windy conditions Paul and I were able to take my cousin and her husband sailing. We haven’t seen each other in about 5 years at the family Christmas party. Even then we really didn’t have the chance to catch up and visit. Plus she works in the editing field and wants me to reach out when I am ready to publish my book.
  5. My daughter is moving home at the end of the week!
  6. Paul’s birthday is this week and it is the 25th anniversary of the day we met. I am renting a really nice hotel room where my daughter lives to celebrate then the next day we are moving her home.
  7. We are supposed to get some warm weather within the next couple of days. It’s been so chilly here that I’ve heard some people put on their heat. Not me! But I did break down and briefly wore my winter jacket outside.
  8. I am feeling a lot better. I had a couple of bad days of stomach cramps and nausea. I was worried that I might end up really sick with colitis again. I felt pretty miserable. Miserable enough to ask God to just let me die. Please Lord take my life because I can’t take it anymore. I still managed to somehow stumble to work. As I was getting ready for work, Paul came in to tell me he was having chest pains that radiated down his arm. What a sad lot we are! He figured out he wasn’t having the big one but just pulled a muscle. When I asked God to take away my life I didn’t mean Paul. In that moment I felt really grateful for Paul because who really knows how much time we have left. That’s the scary part about getting older. Someday all of this is going to end. We are starting to get reminders of that.
  9. I’m grateful I managed to find the time to finish the book I was reading. It was probably one of the most depressing pieces of fictional family drama that I ever read. Everything fell apart but in the end everyone and everything miraculously came back together. All broken relationships were mended. I found the book to be rather triggering. It made me think of the book I’m writing. There are plenty of messes that don’t seem to be resolving themselves. It was so sad reading it that I wondered what people would think reading my book. Too bad I couldn’t just write it with a happy ending. I want the feel good book of the year. I want people to feel good about what I write. But is that real life? Does it give hope when things magically come together? Or does it give more hope that we can handle things when they don’t?
  10. I got some good test results back this past week and I am meeting with the wellness nurse this week. Despite a couple days of setback, I am hoping that my path forward will include better health.

Gratitude week 37

  1. I was supposed to leave for a couple of days last week and work the census job in far northern Wisconsin. Maybe it will still happen later this week. I don’t know. I went from working almost 45 hours the week before to working 3 hours last week. Although it was unexpected, I am grateful that the census project is almost completed.
  2. I am grateful that I was able to tackle some extra chores on my unexpected time off such as weeding and washing the dog.
  3. I’m grateful that I was able to spend one of the days off with my mom. Her health hasn’t been the greatest and I have been frustrated that she hasn’t been doing the things she should to take care of herself.
  4. I’m grateful that my son’s friend, whose car broke down in our driveway, was able to get his car fixed after being here for a week.
  5. Although there was a bit of a miscommunication that resulted in conflict, I’m grateful we took our son’s car in to have his exhaust fixed. He got pulled over and was given a warning to get it fixed. He wanted to fix it himself with a friend after getting his first paycheck this week from the auto parts store. The problem was that his friend wanted to weld the piece underneath the car. Neither have experience with mechanics or welding autos. After I found out his car has an oil and gas leak, I told him that fixing it would not be safe. I probably saved their lives after recently finding this out. We then made an appointment to get it fixed while he was at work. My son was angry because he thought the appointment was to fix another problem, not the exhaust. We argued about it since he wanted to fix it himself because it would be cheaper even if it was dangerous. The cost was not as much as he was expecting since he needed to pay for some of it. Later my son apologized for his behavior. This is big. I don’t remember him ever apologizing to me before.
  6. Last school year both my son and my youngest daughter failed (or should I say didn’t pass/incomplete to be PC) their writing class. How appalling as a writer to have children that don’t want to write. Who doesn’t love to read and write?? My two kids I guess. Seriously, WTH?? I can’t wait to have the time to sit down with a book or write. My son is retaking the class and asked for my help. This is another big step for him, asking for help. He never does that. He is maturing which I am grateful for. Part of being a healthy adult is learning to admit mistakes and asking for help when needed. I am still working on that. It was something that was frowned upon in my house growing up. I was taught that making mistakes were wrong. I was to condemn others for making mistakes while pretending I was perfect. It was absolutely from the devil to ask for help. I still struggle but I am working on it as well.
  7. My daughter Angel will be moving home the end of next week!! I know she is not as excited about it as I am. She has gotten used to being independent and that is a good thing.
  8. My husband and I are tossing around the idea of starting up a new and exciting business venture.
  9. We were finally able to make it to church yesterday after about a month.
  10. It was nice to get together with our best friends this past weekend to celebrate my husband’s and his best friend’s birthday. I’m grateful we found another couple where the guys and the girls are best friends. It should work out that way more than it actually does.

When nothing is everything

I’m not going to lie, I was a little afraid the first time I got census cases assigned to me in a rougher neighborhood.

The neighborhood was known for its shootings. It was a place I was rumored to say I would never work. I didn’t fit in. In most other neighborhoods I could blend in.

I was the only white lady around town on that day. An older lady yelled out to me from her window that she had a knife and she was not afraid to cut me. She had to be talking to me because I didn’t see anyone else around. I ignored her and moved on. Was she crazy or was she seriously afraid of me?? I was glad I didn’t have to make a stop at her house to find out.

It was a hot Sunday afternoon. Too hot to stay inside without air conditioning. When I got there, I felt like I just stepped off the plane into some warm Caribbean country. The neighborhood was full of old houses. A warm breeze blew through the streets. Somewhere close by, but never seen, was the sound of a live Mexican polka band. I’m not sure what the music is called but it was very upbeat and relaxing. In a strange way, I felt like I was on vacation which helped calm my nerves.

I saw a family outside, an older man surrounded by his children perhaps. I was wandering around stopping at various houses at times lost. I stopped when their dog barked at me and asked if I was going in the right direction. They were very friendly. I told them maybe I would be back.

I ended up wandering back an hour later and they were still there. There had to be about 10 people sitting on plastic chairs laughing and talking. I was told I needed to speak to the grandmother of the house. She did not speak English but would have a grandchild translate.

The grandma beckoned me inside. As a census worker, we are not encouraged to enter homes to conduct interviews. It was not forbidden either. I felt like it would be rude to turn down the invitation. I entered the house and there were about 20 children inside playing. They were not on screens, they were not fighting, they were just playing quietly with each other.

The house was clean but sparsely furnished. They did not have much, but I was asked to sit on their modest furniture so I sat. I spoke to the grandmother. Although in the eyes of the world she had nothing, she had everything.

She had on a warm Sunday afternoon what most families are lucky to get on Thanksgiving. Even then it is usually filled with stress. Will there be fights about politics? Will Joe drink too much? Will all of the kids be on their phones acting bored? Maybe we can zone out and watch a game on TV so we don’t fight. This forced let’s try to pretend to get along thing just seemed to come naturally to them. Maybe it was something they did every Sunday afternoon.

I thought about how I did not see my brother yet this year. My other brother I saw months before back in January. We rarely talk. My parents are contemplating divorce. Broken families. Stress. Always busy. Rarely taking the time to just sit and rejoice in each others presence on cheap plastic chairs.

After the interview was over, I was offered something to drink. I felt very humbled by the experience. I told the family as I was leaving how blessed they were as I tried to keep the tears from my eyes.

They had nothing. The kids didn’t have cell phones. I didn’t even see a TV. The house was old. The furniture was worn. Yet they had everything.

Somehow I found myself envious of everything they had as I left to go back home to my big empty house.

A day in the life of a census worker

It’s been over a month since I started the job of being a census enumerator. I wanted to write a lot about my experiences but have been having a hard time finding the time because I have been working 40 hours a week. Today is the first day I’ve had availability but they didn’t have enough work for me.

Just some basic info, the United States of America started counting its people in 1790 and has done so every 10 years since then. No, this is not something new although I’m surprised how many people know little about the census. I’m not doing the census to COVID track anyone. Yes I did hear this from someone. To put things in perspective, we have been doing the census long before there were automobiles.

Here is how the process works. Every day I work, I have addresses sent to my government issued smart phone. We use an iPhone 8, same phone I have so I didn’t have to do much to learn how to use it. We don’t go door to door anymore.

I interview people using the smart phone and plug all of the info into the phone. By the end of the day, I usually put on an average of 50 miles even if I am only a couple miles from home. I am paid for my mileage and a fair wage. I did have people ask if I was a volunteer.

One of the best things is that this job is very flexible. I pick my own hours. We do get paid more for working after 6 PM and on Sundays.

I have to go up to houses when sometimes every instinct inside of me is telling me to turn around and run in the other direction. I’ve been to abandoned houses in the middle of nowhere. I’ve been to places with no trespassing signs. I’ve been to houses that say beware of dog. I’ve had Dobermans snarl and lunge at me from behind a closed door. There is no doubt they would’ve torn me up if they were left outside unattended. There have been dogs outside when no one was home. I have to decide if I’m safe or not. I have to make quick judgments because my life depends on it.

I’ve been to houses of extreme hoarders. I’ve had to maneuver around piles of garbage to get to the front door. I’ve full on walked through cobwebs. I’ve climbed staircases that I wasn’t sure would hold my weight. I’ve been to the roughest part of town where there have been shootings. I’ve been to some very remote areas. I’ve traveled on a ferry to an otherwise inaccessible island. I’ve knocked on doors during thunderstorms in the pouring rain. Not to mention the whole COVID thing.

So far I’ve met many different people of various races. I’ve met the young and old, the healthy and sick. I’ve met many who don’t speak my language. I’ve had to find a way to communicate with someone who had a severe speech impediment. I talked to someone who was blind. I never know who is going to greet me on the other side of the door. I’ve been showered with appreciation treated like a hero and I’ve had the door slammed in my face a couple times.

It’s easy to focus on the bad times. The other day I had a guy that answered not sure to every question I asked with a smirk on his face. Seriously the guy had to be around 30. I wanted to ask him if his parents were home. But I kept calm, cool, and collected. If someone treats me like crap, it’s on them not me. I’m not going to let them define me or my day.

A vast majority of people are nice. I’ve been offered food, water, beer, and a chair to sit on. This is really bringing me out of my shell. I try to connect to people and they feel like they can talk to me.

I’ve met many people who have lost a spouse, parents, or close friends and family members this year who didn’t have the heart to fill out their censuses. I’ve heard about painful divorces. I listen to them and offer my condolences. So many people are suffering this year. I try to give them hope things will get better and sometimes after I leave they remain for a short time in my thoughts and prayers.

I’ve met the mom of a friend of my son. Never in a million years would’ve I guessed I would be going up to their house wearing a mask and asking his mother her age. I never thought I would be going to the bank wearing a mask asking for money either. What other things are going to happen that we never thought of as a possibility? That really says a lot since I am an anxious over thinker as it is.

We are only allowed to ask questions to respondents age 15 and up. I did ask a couple of people if they were old enough. They were in their 20’s. My gosh am I getting old! Everyone under 30 is starting to look like a teenager to me.

If no one answers the door, I leave a notice with a specific code just for them to fill out online. I am never allowed to put the form in their mailbox. This would be a crime. I am also not allowed to open any doors even if it is a screen door to knock on an inside door. If a door is broken, census workers could be blamed for it if they open it. Most people have doorbells and dogs so I’m pretty good.

The job can be stressful because you never know what to expect. I often get lost. It’s hard on my body. I am in and out of my car all day. I spend a lot of time on my feet. I crouch down a lot to fill out forms. My hands get sore from carpal tunnel being on a phone all day. And sometimes when I am out in the middle of nowhere I really have to pee.

The job is really rewarding. I believe in the importance of what I am doing. I’ve learned a lot not only about other people but about myself as well. I’ve had to face my fears. It has really brought me out of my shell during a time where it would be really easy to have an excuse to hide in it. I’ve become more assertive.

Every day is a new adventure.

Gratitude week 36

  1. Summer for what little left we can squeeze out of it.
  2. Today is the unofficial last day of summer in Wisconsin and it feels like it. It was too windy and cool to swim this past weekend. But it was a nice weekend to play games, go hiking, and snuggle up by a fire.
  3. September has arrived. Autumn is my second favorite season. I like the cool crisp nights. I’m grateful for the changing of the seasons and the variety it brings.
  4. I’m thankful that my census job took me to beautiful Door County this past week. I even traveled to Washington Island which is the tip of the thumb of our state. I had to travel on the car ferry to get there and back. I felt like an adventurous traveler. I can’t wait to tell you about my adventures!
  5. While on the island, I was as close to a fox in the wild as I have ever been.
  6. I was able to visit with my brother Luke and his family up north for the first time since COVID.
  7. My daughter Angel came home for the weekend.
  8. It will be less than 3 weeks until my daughter moves back home.
  9. I’m grateful to be sleeping in my own bed tonight.
  10. I’m grateful for the time up north with family this past weekend. With everything going on it was the first weekend most of us could be together since Christmas.

Gratitude week 35

  1. Summer, for what is left of it. We are starting to feel some fall weather patterns push through. The A/C is off and the windows are open.
  2. Having a hot and windy day last week on my day off to make for perfect sailing weather with our boat neighbors.
  3. Staying safe this past weekend as a census worker in a really rough neighborhood.
  4. Having the day off today to go school shopping. My daughter starts her last year of high school tomorrow. I usually don’t put off school shopping until the day before but I really was not sure and still am not quite sure what is happening this school year. Yeah, just when I thought I had everything figured out too. (Last child in last year of school).
  5. Being able to meet up with my best friend for lunch over my break from work over the weekend.
  6. Making plans to see my brother and his family up north at the family cabin for the holiday weekend. It will be the first time we got together since COVID.
  7. Seeing my daughter this weekend. It will be less than a month until she moves back home.
  8. School is starting back up again. It’s been over 5 months.
  9. I’m grateful to be able to work hard and earn some extra money by doing a meaningful job.
  10. I’m grateful for the ham in the oven for supper. I’m grateful I will be able to eat before 8 PM since I have the day off. I’m grateful to have the windows open and not having to worry about cooking heating up my house.

Gratitude week 34

  1. Summer! The weather has been absolutely amazing this summer.
  2. My son got the job he applied for at the auto parts store. I cautioned him about taking his own car for the interview, apparently they offer 20% off of car parts for employees. Man they are going to go broke with my son. His car is a wreck.
  3. I was able to work overtime this week.
  4. Paul and I went up north to the family cabin on my day off. It was his first time up there this year, my second. We were able to kayak around the lake and go swimming. It was strange because we were the only ones up there. My mom has been avoiding me like the plague since I started this census job. The kids grew up, the dog is too old, and I haven’t seen my youngest two brothers since this whole COVID thing started. But it was nice to have a quiet place on the lake to relax.
  5. Paul and I were able to go sailing and the weather was perfect for it.
  6. I have the hottest day off this week and we made plans to go sailing and swimming with our boat neighbors.
  7. My cat seems to be feeling better on the thyroid medicine.
  8. I’m grateful for the nice people I’ve met on my census job. Someone gave me a bottle of water when it was hot out today. I bring my own water but it doesn’t stay cool for very long. I hate drinking hot water.
  9. I’m grateful to have a good supervisor.
  10. I’m grateful that last night I had a good nights sleep.

Gratitude week 33

  1. Summer! The weather here has been perfect. I wish it would just freeze this way. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the proper word to use…freeze….brrr.
  2. I was able to visit with my daughter for a little while this weekend.
  3. My husband made me a dairy free, yeast free, gluten free pizza that wasn’t flavor free.
  4. I was able to get my 40 hours in at work this past week.
  5. I took my cat in for his yearly vet visit. At 14, I thought this cat would live forever. He is as energetic as a kitten. He’s also become very vocal at night. Turns out he has a thyroid disorder. He lost 3 lbs from last year going from 11 lbs to 8 which is a lot for a cat. The vet ordered some medication for him and gave him his shots. For the next couple days, my cat became lethargic and didn’t want to eat or move around much. I literally thought he was going to die. He is starting to feel better so I am grateful for that. I’m hoping that the medication will make the rest of his time here with us relatively pain free.
  6. I am grateful to be able to work around my schedule.
  7. I’m grateful to have some new stories to tell. If only I had the time to tell them….in due time.
  8. I’m grateful to have some time off at the end of the week to go up north. We really haven’t been up to the family cabin all summer. This year no one even got the dock in the water.
  9. Feeling productive.
  10. My son has a job interview tomorrow.

Gratitude week 32

  1. Summer! It has been absolutely gorgeous out.
  2. For the time spent visiting with my daughter when she was home last weekend.
  3. Looking forward to my daughter coming home again this weekend.
  4. We were able to take my mom sailing and give her a good birthday.
  5. For the motivation to work 40 hours despite being tired.
  6. Having a husband who is willing to pick up the slack.
  7. Having my last house call be right next to a place selling used books. I was able to get a paper bag full of books for $2. I found some cookbooks and tons of old self-help books. Watch out, by next year I should be new and improved while whipping up some nice dishes.
  8. Conquering fears. As a census worker I never know what kind of situation I will be entering into. It can be intimidating and anxiety producing. So far on my first week I’ve encountered questionable dogs, stormy weather, angry/rude people, abandoned/creepy houses, and being in places were I did not feel a sense of safety. I was sent to the roughest part of town where there have been shootings. I am going door to door in a time of great fear of COVID. But more often than not, during this time I have also witnessed the goodness of strangers.
  9. Feeling efficient and productive. Almost every day I need to ask my supervisor for more work. Sometimes I am so focused I don’t even pay attention to where I am going. The other day I was walking while I was following up with work on my phone and I ended up almost getting into someone else’s car. I went to sit down and wondered why the seats were a different color. My gosh, how embarrassing.
  10. Tomorrow will be my first day off since starting last week. Yeah!!

The first few days at work

The morning started rough. I awoke bleary eyed. I haven’t been sleeping all that well since I started the census job. My body, always resistant of change.

I went to feed my pets which all mornings is rather uneventful, well except for today that is. I opened the lid of the cat’s food container reaching inside only to find a mouse feasting on the food inside. Freaked me right out. Not the kind of excitement I needed to start my day.

I feel tired but good. I have my drug back. Work. The days go by and I find I don’t think about anything except for what I am doing. I’m not overthinking. I’m not anxious. My mind almost completely void of troubling thoughts. Then after the day’s work is done, my thoughts turn to mush. No worries, no grand stories. Nothing much.

Not only do I have a greater appreciation of those who travel door to door, but I am now thankful of people who clearly mark their houses with their house number. You wouldn’t believe how many times I turn around just looking for the street address of one house even with the map app on.

For the most part, people have been nice. I appreciate that as well. I have been doing a lot of walking. It’s funny but the first couple of days my legs and feet have been sore and I am a runner. I have a new respect for people who are on their feet all day at work.

It’s nice to spend the day working outside on these warm summer days. I haven’t had to go house to house in a downpour yet. Then I might be telling you a different story.

Things at home have been piling up. The dishes have yet to be done and the laundry needs folding. But for a few minutes I thought I would slip away to let you know that as for today everything is okay.