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 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!!

Gratitude week 29

  1. Summer!!
  2. My birthday was this past week. Although the weather didn’t cooperate with my outdoor plans, I was able to go out to eat with my best friend Cindy. We went to a gluten-free restaurant. The food was amazing. They even had gluten and dairy free cheesecake. Plus it was open mic stand up comedy night. I’m thinking that would be a fun hobby. I’m planning on doing stand up in the near future.
  3. My daughter came home this past weekend. We started looking at places for her to live. It is starting to feel real that after 4 years she is moving back home. She also bought me a puzzle and mini vacuum cleaner for my birthday. It was everything I wanted but didn’t ask for.
  4. I spent a lot of good quality time with my daughter Angel and son Alex over the last few days. We went out to eat and did a painting class along with Paul and Angel’s boyfriend.
  5. I got a massage for my birthday week. Plus Paul gave me a gift card so I can go again.
  6. I am starting the training for the census job this week. It should be interesting!
  7. Paul and I took the church leadership sailing. It was very windy, but thankfully everything went well. We took them out without ‘taking them out’ which was a win.
  8. I am grateful for my daughter Angel whose birthday is tomorrow. I can’t wait until she moves back! It was nice to celebrate our birthdays together.
  9. I’m grateful to be busy since Estelle left. I miss her!
  10. Although I was supposed to be getting back from Europe this week and don’t have any vacations planned in the foreseeable future, I am grateful to have a sailboat we can get away on.

Gratitude week 16

  1.  I created an Instagram account that I can use to stay in touch with Clara.
  2.  I have been sleeping a lot better which greatly improves my mood.
  3.  I helped Paul shave his head. What better time to try out a new look?
  4.  I was able to de-clutter some of my house which always feels good.
  5.  All of my family members are healthy and safe.
  6.  I am finally off of the antibiotics.
  7.  This whole virus thing coupled with a resurge of winter is forcing me to change. I can no longer hold onto structure, work, exercise, and routine addiction. It is painful to go without it but sometimes growth hurts. I am so bored that maybe I will try a new way of doing things that I wouldn’t have otherwise done if not forced.
  8.  Maybe it’s time to slow down and let go. Maybe life is more than tasks, goals, bucket lists, and achievements.
  9.  Now is the time to redefine purpose and meaning.
  10.  I feel motivated to write with even more truth. Maybe now would be a good time to start working on the second edition of my book.

Gratitude week 9

  1. And still more compliments about my hair from strangers.
  2. February is over! It was a really tough month and my husband was gone half the month.
  3. Spring is in the air. The sun is shining. The temps are above freezing. A fly just buzzed by me. I’m excited for what is to come.
  4. My daughter will be spending her college spring break here. I miss her so much.
  5. We will be taking our family road trip to Florida this month.
  6. I finished the book Complex PTSD and learned a lot about myself. I started a new    book called Childhood Disrupted. I am now healing with mindfulness.
  7. My husband started reading Complex PTSD. He is working hard to be supportive.
  8.  I am in a pretty good mood today.
  9.  This morning my husband and I watched 7 deer walk through our yard.
  10.  I feel like there are brief periods of time I have a reprieve from my stress.

Gratitude week 6

  1. People are still complimenting my hair. I receive the most compliments after a sweaty workout or when I have unbrushed hat hair. What!!?!
  2.  My son had a dentist appointment this week. As an adult, I passed along the reminder I received on my phone. I DID NOT tell him when to get up or where he needed to go (thinking he would know and I would be the annoying mother hen if I did so). He ended up getting lost and was going to be late. I called the dentist office as a courtesy…my son got lost and will be a few minutes late. The lady who answered was really snippy with me and said he needed to reschedule. This freaked me out because I worry a lot about my kids being late. Thankfully, when he got there about 10 minutes late they still took him for his appointment. Despite all of my worry, everything ended up turning out fine.
  3.  My daughter Angel came home from college for a visit and spent the night on Friday. I haven’t seen her since Christmas Day.
  4.  The big fight between Arabella and Estelle is over. There is relative harmony in my house right now. There was even a brief moment this weekend where all five of my kids were talking and laughing together.
  5.  I am grateful to have a husband who is following his dreams. He is taking classes this weekend and starting a new career. I am really excited for him and proud of all his accomplishments. He really motivates those around him. It’s never too late to try something new.
  6.  I was grateful to watch Arabella and Clara perform at solo and ensemble this past weekend. I love to watch my kids perform.
  7.  I felt grateful to go on a date with my husband before he left. I was able to order a pizza with goat’s cheese and afterwards ordered dairy-free ice cream. The food was unbelievably good for being vegan/dairy-free. The ice cream was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Plus it was nice to go on a date alone with my husband. It’s been awhile.
  8.  I found a dress for my daughter’s college graduation. In a few months, my oldest will be a college graduate. I am excited for her future. She already has a job lined up and might be moving back to the area within the next year.
  9.  I am thankful to live close to the store. As I was making supper Friday night, I noticed one of the ingredients was rotten. I opened an unexpired canned good that was moldy inside. Thankfully I was able to zip to the store and back without having to eat too late.
  10.  I am thankful for my organization skills. I like to plan ahead and leave early. Although my mom and kids gave me some crap about it this weekend, things don’t always go as planned. I like to plan for that. You never know if you are going to get into an accident, hit a deer, or a random meteorite might hit the Earth (JK). The solo and ensemble event was at a school I was not familiar with. It took awhile to find a parking spot. There weren’t many signs directing us to the right sites. Then last minute, both of my daughter’s events were moved up to an earlier time. I got us there with less than 10 minutes to spare. You’re welcome! It takes a lot of organization to effectively manage a large family.

Traveling with friends

All I can say is proceed with caution. We’ve had some good experiences and some bad. The first trip we took with friends didn’t go that well. We knew what they were like ahead of time so we should have known. They have been known to drink too much and get into arguments. Sure enough, it happened on vacation and we weren’t sure if we would still be friends when we got back home.

Last year we went on vacation with another group of friends. It went well because our friend Cara insisted on planning everything a year in advance. You can pretty much trust someone who is a project manager to plan a good trip. All I had to do was show up.

Fast forward to 2020. This year we are planning a spring break vacation with Cindy and her family. We started talking about it last spring. I wanted a commitment by late summer, but didn’t get one until Thanksgiving. By the time I looked at a trip to Disney for 10 people all the deals were gone and nothing was left in our price range. So I started looking at places to stay outside of Disney.

My friend Cindy wanted me to do all the planning. I have the time, plus I am very detailed, organized, structured, experienced traveler who tirelessly thinks about and searches every option. I had no problem with that. I researched flying vs driving. They were pretty convinced they wanted to drive. Again, I looked at all the options. I even called a place that rented out a 12 passenger van. I researched the driving route. Everything. Then I presented it to them and they said they didn’t like the van idea because it had bench seats which weren’t comfortable. Okay.

Then they wanted to fly again. So I searched all the airlines again. Now the prices were sky high, pun intended. They baited you with an affordable flight but once you wanted to return home you had to add on another $250 if you wanted a good flight. What I mean by good flight is not leaving late at night and getting to our destination the next morning, leaving very early morning, or having 2 layovers.

From our home airport the going rate to fly to Orlando was almost $1,000 per person. I flew to Thailand for less than that price. Insane! We couldn’t fly anywhere out of the state of Wisconsin for much less than that. Yes, I checked. Everyday I checked. We could fly out of Chicago for $750 per person which is still pretty expensive. But we were leaning towards doing that.

We are now less than two months from our trip. I asked Cindy to give me a call and we could sit down at our computers to book a flight together. I just sat down to eat supper with the whole family, nothing short of a miracle, when my phone rang. I didn’t answer the phone because I have the boundary that no one is going to disturb supper with my family. It was Cindy.

By the time I was done eating, Cindy had already booked their flight by phone. Yes, by phone! She told me she was able to find a flight for half the cost and wanted us to do the same. I was like, no way! My husband looked up the company they purchased tickets from. The company had several complaints filed against them with the BBB. Some consumers were calling this company a scam. Sure, they got a cheap flight but they are also taking a big risk. They received their ticket confirmation from a gmail account. Geez!

I was very upset. They couldn’t wait until I was done eating to talk about it? They totally circumvented me in the process after all the work I did. But then I realized something. Our friends are very spontaneous, disorganized, and impulsive whereas I probably ruminate the details more than a serial killer. Honestly, I was so upset and hurt that I didn’t even want to go on vacation with them anymore. We’ve had such a rough start before the trip even started. It all could’ve been prevented if they were more organized. But I already knew this about them.

It took a couple of days to feel better. Last night our family made the decision to drive down to Florida. We want an adventure. We want to do our own thing. We will head out after school on Friday and spend the night in Chicago. From Chicago we will drive to Chattanooga, TN. Then we will spend almost a week in Orlando with a couple days at Disney, a day in Universal, and some down time at the beach. Then we will spend a couple of days in New Orleans before heading back to WI.

Today I spent the morning planning out the rest of the trip and I almost felt happy. I love planning trips. I’m glad we are taking two separate vehicles now. We have the option to do different things. We can be structured and they can be spontaneous and hopefully our worlds don’t collide.

Stay tuned…