The benefits of working

Just like our greatest strengths can be weaknesses, some benefits of working were the same as the downfalls. Working for the census was adventurous and exciting yet at the same time anxiety producing. I had fears yet at the same time I had the joy of confronting my fears. I had to go to dangerous neighborhoods, yet at the same time it was sobering to see how other people lived.

There were some things I really liked about working. Working allowed me to get out of the problems of my own life and throw myself into something productive. I got paid well. I was able to contribute a paycheck to help support my family. I was able to set my own hours. I believed in the importance of the work I was doing.

I got some exercise because I did a lot of walking. I explored parts of my state that I’ve never seen before. I became familiar with the neighborhood around me.

As crazy as it sounds, this job also pulled me out of my shell especially in the time of COVID when I had every excuse not to interact with people. I met some really awesome people that I probably would hang out with as friends if we met under different circumstances.

I felt respected by the community in general. People thanked me for my service in counting the people. Other people respected me simply because it was something they could never do.

There were fun times that I just had to laugh at myself like the time I almost got into someone else’s car because I wasn’t paying attention. Then there was the time I came home from work and realized I must’ve stepped in dog crap somewhere along the way.

I met up with a lot of different families. I listened and learned about other people’s lives. I watched and observed how other people lived without judgment. People are very interesting. It was a job I could combine facts with people.

Thankfully the whole time I worked I was able to stay healthy and safe. I think the experience was worthwhile.

An extreme outlier

There are some things I am rather hesitant to write about. Then I find this struggle within myself to describe things as they really are to give you an accurate recording of what the experience was like for me.

There was a downpour that evening as I was about to end my shift as a census enumerator. I found myself at a house in the middle of nowhere at the end of a long gravel driveway. There was a man hanging out in his garage drinking. He had a full bar out there complete with bar stools and a couch. Several guns were on display on the wall behind him.

As I approached he told me I should take off my mask because they didn’t believe in wearing masks. I hesitated. The census told us if we did not wear a mask on the job we would be fired. It wasn’t as if the guy would be calling me in to report me though. I honestly didn’t even know how I felt about having to wear a mask. I just did it because I had to. I admit that I am a big time rule follower, something I both love and hate about myself.

All these thoughts were whirling around my mind as I hesitated. I was not afraid. But I didn’t know this man. I was at his house. He had been drinking and was very blunt as I stepped out of my car into the pouring rain. Things could go very bad and I was alone with him out in the middle of nowhere.

I felt like I was being tested. If I failed the test, I would need to take it again or they would send someone else back. The guy asked me if I was some sort of liberal or something. I told him I was not and took off my mask. I tried to find the common ground between us to reach him.

I noticed the man had a puppy that was very well behaved. I asked him a few questions and complimented him about his dog. I finally passed the test. He invited me inside to sit down, but not on the couch because that was the dog’s bed. He said I could if I wanted to but I would get full of fur. He completed the questionnaire and bid me a good evening.

Thankfully with this job I worked with my people from my culture. I knew how to handle the situation whereas an outsider might have freaked out by the outliers. I don’t feel like I compromised my beliefs in any way. But I did break the rules to complete a case.

It was never as easy as walking up to a stranger’s door and having them give me their personal information. You really had to think quick on your feet and be prepared for anything. But most importantly, they needed to feel like they could connect with and trust me.

I miss the life I planned

Today was a sad day. We cancelled our trip to Florida.

There has been a lot of feelings going around our house lately from sadness, anger, and anxiety.

We are preparing to spend the next two months at home.

Our foreign exchange students are having an especially hard time because they are not at home. The separation from their families has been heartbreaking for them at times. Both students have shed tears of sadness and fear.

Some of the foreign exchange programs are sending their students back home. But as of right now, ours is not. My daughter is uncertain about whether or not she wants to be a foreign exchange student next year.

What isn’t uncertain at this time?

Prom has been cancelled. My daughter’s college graduation has also been cancelled. Thankfully she lives off campus because otherwise we don’t have extra room at our house for her to move back home.

One of the host parents of a foreign exchange student said she could no longer handle the responsibility of caring for a child that is not hers. They decided out of fear to abruptly stop hosting. Now the child does not have a home.

The foreign exchange students are panicking. Will they be sent home? What will they be sent home to? Will they have to stay longer? Their whole experience is off the rails now.

Our foreign exchange student from France, Estelle, has parents who are not together. They disagree about what should be done. Her dad wants her to come home, her mom wants her to stay.

Now I long for the days when I had to convince my kids to get out of bed to go to school.

This is the beginning of the new normal.

All of the restaurants and bars closed in Wisconsin. I never thought I would see the day the bars would close on St. Patrick’s Day. The churches will be closed on Easter. They closed the mall today. We can no longer order items on Amazon.

I’m trying to get everything done before I can’t do it anymore.

Today I got fingerprinted for the census job. I tried to make an appointment immediately after I got the link but apparently the link was not active right away. I called their 1 800 number and got a recorded message. I figured I needed to get in ASAP because I didn’t want to call that number again.

I plucked my eyebrows and shaved my legs. I even painted my nails. This will be the last time I leave the house in awhile. Normally I wouldn’t shave to get fingerprinted. I mean, it is too cold to wear shorts.

Yesterday I ran outside. I won’t lie, it was cold. I had to be careful too because the roads were icy in spots and I nearly fell. I really miss the gym. I even miss my stalker. I miss the guy that sweats on the machines around him. I miss the lady my age who runs and smiles at me. I imagine we are friends although we never spoke.

I miss the life I had planned. This is my new life now.

On a good note, I should not have an excuse not to write everyday.

Stay safe!

Gratitude week 2

  1. We spent the weekend in Chicago and didn’t get murdered. The girls and I went to Chicago with Paul. He attended a conference and we went shopping. I had a nightmare before we left that the girls got murdered. I was a little nervous being the “chaperone” of my daughter and our two foreign exchange students. I was afraid because they do not understand our culture and might not know what is safe. All the people that we met were wonderful. We walked 6 miles then took an Uber back to the hotel and didn’t get murdered. I don’t know what I was so worried about. Ah, I am too much country mouse.
  2. We were supposed to get a major snowstorm on the way back from Chicago. Instead we only got a dusting of snow which made the drive a lot better than we were expecting. Gotta love when the weather forecasters are wrong!
  3. I met with my therapist who read my book over Christmas break. She said it was a Christmas present to herself (which is good I told her, since I didn’t get her anything). She thought it was so wonderful she wanted to read it again. She thought I should go deeper with my writing. I am grateful that so far two out of three readers were very happy with my book. I am meeting with my third test reader tomorrow.
  4. I decided to get an even shorter haircut this week. I also am growing out my blonde hair color and letting it go grey. I think it doesn’t look the greatest. However, I got complimented by two strangers on my hair this weekend after wearing a hat on it most of the day. Bizarre. Two people raved over my unbrushed hat hair. Then another stranger complimented me on my new glasses.
  5. I am grateful my son was in a really good mood all week. Although now that I think about it, maybe it was because we were all leaving for the weekend and he had the house to himself. I also found a really cool shirt for him that he loves.
  6. I am grateful to find a beer that I am not allergic to. Also, I am grateful for goat and vegan cheese so I can enjoy macaroni and cheese and pizza. Although we had good Chicago style pizza, I am grateful that my husband makes the best pizza around that I can eat.
  7. Although I love to travel, I am grateful to be sleeping in my own bed tonight with fresh clean sheets.
  8. I am grateful we stayed at a really unique hotel called Fieldhouse Jones in Chicago. The decor was amazing, all antique sports stuff. Our bedroom wall was about 10 feet from the L which was cool. Paul and I played a game of air hockey in the hotel basement this morning. Although he beat me by one point, it’s been a long time since we had fun together.
  9. Although there were periods of rain and snow, I am thankful it wasn’t too cold to walk around Chicago.
  10. I am grateful that I don’t have a lot of plans for the rest of the month and can finally have some down time.

My intolerance

You may have remembered that I said I was going in for allergy testing a couple weeks back. Let’s just say that now I know why my mom wanted me to go in for testing. Something about misery loving company.

Although I don’t have any allergies that could send me to the ER, I was found to be intolerant of several of my favorite things. I guess the whole general premise is that if I am able to give up the things I am sensitive to, then after a year I may be able to reintroduce them into my diet.

The top foods that I am sensitive to are dairy, chick peas, and brewer’s yeast. I wasn’t expecting it at all. So no more cheese or beer for me for awhile. I might as well just exile myself from Wisconsin. Gotta love the dairy state. Not to mention that beer is pretty much a staple here as well.

I decided that after the Oktoberfest party this past weekend, I was going to give up the things I am most intolerant to. Then I will work on things that I have a minor intolerance to such as black pepper, rice, eggs, tomatoes, peanuts, almonds, crab, turkey, and baker’s yeast (breads, pizza crust, etc..). Seriously, what can I eat??

Friday night Paul made his famous homemade pizza. Then I sampled almost all of our friend’s homemade craft beers at the party on Saturday.

The party went by way too fast and soon Sunday morning came. I drank my coffee with my new hemp dairy free creamer. Yeah, my coffee tasted like rope.

I am a total cheese addict. I honestly don’t think I’ve gone a day without dairy in the last 20 years. It has been really hard. Although I do feel a lot less bloated.

Yesterday I went to a health conscious food store with my mom. She is dairy free too. I felt better after that. I was able to find some goat’s and vegan cheese. I was even able to find mac and cheese. Now if the stuff tastes good, that will be a bonus.

I am hoping to feel better and have less stomach issues. Maybe after I get this whole food thing figured out, I’ll go in for hormone testing. Two weeks of the month are total heaven and the other two weeks are complete hell. Thankfully the 50k will be in the good 2 week span. But I am back to having insomnia again. I haven’t slept for more than a few hours at a time over the last several days. I’ve been trying hard not to bite anyone’s head off, especially when I see them eating cheese.

A cold craft beer with a side order of cheese curds sounds so nice right now. I’m sure it will get easier and I will feel better. But right now giving up my favorite things has not been a lot of fun.

Expectation reflections

It hasn’t been too much of an adjustment having 4 teenagers in the house.

Our foreign exchange students have been very quiet and friendly. When we told others of our plan to have 2 foreign exchange students, they cringed. Most shared horror stories of wild teen exchange students that made every effort to sneak out and party. So far there haven’t been any problems.

It’s probably because they are not comfortable being family yet. There aren’t any fights or talking back. We are all on our best behavior, no belching or farting. My husband has been giving them special treatment. He is buying the foods they like, taking them to places they are interested in going, asking if they are too hot or too cold. It’s hard not to treat them like visitors.

This is going to sound insane, but I felt a twinge of jealousy. It triggered something inside of me that reminded me of my mom’s special treatment of my autistic brother Matt.  Everything in our house revolved around Matt and what he wanted. I honestly wasn’t expecting to feel that way.

Of course, the students paid a lot of money to have a great experience here. I want things to be wonderful for them. Things are going really well. The girls don’t seem to be too homesick. If anything, at times they seem a little bored. But I’m sure that will change once school starts and they make friends.

It’s fun because they get excited about all of the little things, like going to the grocery store. They eat differently than we do. They use their knife and fork to cut things more. They cut up grilled cheese sandwiches instead of just picking them up and plunking them in their soup like I did.

Today Clara made homemade German potato salad for our friend’s Octoberfest party tomorrow. Real German food!

I also didn’t realize how much Hitler and the nazi’s were the butt of American jokes in TV and movie comedies. Awkward! But none of us were alive when any of that happened. If anything, countries that were once at war can be friendly towards each other again.

Hopefully in the next couple weeks the girls will come out of their shell a little. As for right now, I’m really happy that things are going better than I expected.

A new family

Last night our foreign exchange students arrived, Clara from Germany and Estelle from France.

I felt anxious all day. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

I worried. Would our new “children” like us? What will this next year be like?

My oldest two children are not as excited about it as I am. I think they think I’m replacing them. But maybe in a way I am. They are adults and don’t need me being a mother hen to them anymore. They are off living their own lives like they should be.

I am excited about this new adventure, but as with anything new a little frightened too.

I wonder what it would be like to see everything for the first time through their eyes. Maybe even for us, the old will become new again.

I hope it is a wonderful experience for all of us.

 

The real up north

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This past weekend we traveled to the farthest northern point of Wisconsin.

If you aren’t familiar with our state, we are located in the northern mid-west of the United States. We are surrounded by bodies of water on each border of our state, except our southern border which has Illinois. To the west, we have the Mississippi River. To the north, Lake Superior. To the east, Lake Michigan. With so many lakes, it is a wonderful place for fishing, sailing, and water sports of any kind. The diehards even go fishing on the lake’s ice on the coldest days of winter.

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Most of our population lives near our biggest cities of Madison, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. It takes approximately 8 hours to drive from the southern most point to the northern and 5 hours from the farthest west to the east. A lot of our lakes are practically deserted…peaceful, serene, and quiet.

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Wisconsinners are very hardy folk by nature. We have to be to survive our winters. We are known for the Green Bay Packers, the Great Lakes, brats, and beer. Unfortunately, we are also known for being one of the drunkest states hosting some of the drunkest cities in the nation, if not world. Drinking is a huge part of our culture.

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The far northern portion of our state has a lot of wildlife not related to drinking. I captured a picture of Paul fishing. But in doing so, I may have gotten a little too close to an otter den. I was chased down in the water by hissing otters. I can’t say that ever happened to me before. We also saw deer that were too numerous to count. This part of our state tends to get the largest snowfalls and coolest temperatures.

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I love taking pictures of our state’s beauty. The northernmost part of our state is rugged and wild with the lowest population.

On the way home, we stopped for brunch at what was rumored the best restaurant in the county. It was almost a 2 hour wait, so we decided to skip brunch and headed towards home. It took us over an hour to find another restaurant. Was it the only restaurant in the county?? Gas stations and restaurants are scarce. But even rarer is good cell reception. You might be in trouble if you run out of gas on a snowy winter night without cell reception. Even the highway traffic is minimal. I think we saw more deer than cars.

But I would have to say, even though I’ve been to many beautiful places, that Wisconsin is still on the top of the list. I wanted to share that beauty with you.

Vegas, part 3

The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane were the slot machines at the airport. There were slot machines everywhere…not just in the casinos. There were slot machines in restaurants and in the hotels, pretty much everywhere except the bathrooms. TV screens with rows of sports games were open for bets in the casino. Everywhere we went was filled with bright lights, the ping ding of gaming machines, and the smell of stale cigarette smoke.

I decided that I would do something different in Vegas. I didn’t gamble. It’s not that I am opposed to it if it is done in moderation. Frankly, gambling doesn’t interest me. Plus I spent a lot of my time in LV with my daughter and her friend who were both underage.

We did walk the strip a couple of times. Las Vegas reminded me of a mix of Denver and Times Square in NYC. I know that is a descriptive cop out, especially since I am not posting any pictures today. My pictures of the strip did not turn out great and after all of the bad news I didn’t feel like being a camera toting tourist.

It was hot the whole time we were there. Hot as in 100 to 110 degrees…the highest temperatures that this Midwestern girl has ever seen. We watched the volcano at The Mirage and you could feel the heat pouring off of the fire. We saw the fountain show at the Bellagio and longed to take a dip in the water. We went to the Venetian for a nice Italian meal. They even had gondola rides, but I am saving that for when I really go to Italy.

The strip was bustling with people. I linked arms with Angel just to get through the crowds without getting separated. There were more lanes of traffic on the strip than there are in Milwaukee. Motorists in cars were honking at tourists trying to cross the street in hordes. Greasy men were handing out business cards with mostly naked women on them. Scantily clad showgirls were asking men to take pictures with them.

I saw what I was expecting to see…glaring neon lights…young ladies in short skirts and high heels…old men gambling…a few tourist parents with children in tow…young scruffy men smoking pot…a few homeless begging for spare change…men in expensive suits…hookers…foreigners.

I also saw what I wasn’t expecting to see…I thought that the prostitutes were going to be drug addicts and maybe on the seedy side. I didn’t find that to be true. We saw some prostitutes leaving a hotel room when we were on the way to our room. One of the women walked out putting on a cover up. The prostitutes (and even the showgirls) were some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. Maybe things were seedier on the other side of town, I wouldn’t know.

It was nice to take in the sounds and sights of Sin City for a day or two, but this country girl could never live there.

 

The wrath of Evelyn?

I wasn’t going to write about this, but maybe it’s a sign.

I am rather confused on how to read it.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

I’m not a very superstitious person.

Ah, who am I kidding?? I get all bent out of shape from a bad fortune wrapped in a crappy tasting cookie.

It started last week on the evening of the first snowstorm in April. We scheduled an appointment for our realtor to come out to get some pricing together on our house. A distant cousin of mine is interested in buying our house before we put it on the market.

The snowstorm prevented the realtor from coming out on the scheduled night.  

I jokingly said to my husband that maybe we weren’t meant to sell the house to my cousin.

After the realtor came out, we scheduled a meeting with my cousin for this past weekend.

This past weekend we got hit by Blizzard Evelyn, the biggest snowstorm our area has seen in over 100 years.

Now Evelyn was my grandma’s sister and my distant cousin’s grandmother.

Another sign, perhaps?

I was fairly close to my Aunt Evelyn. When my kids were little, I often visited her with my grandma.

I felt like I had a lot in common with Evelyn. She was a thin wispy woman that always seemed to worry. Her house was always clean. She had a hard time sitting still. She loved visiting with the kids. Sometimes when we were ready to leave, she would open up the door to a side room with a waiting 10 course homemade meal. She was a lonely widow. How could we say no?

I miss my visits with my grandma and her sister. They have both been gone a long time now. I have remembrances of both around my house. My grandma helped plant the trees in my backyard and I have my aunt’s paintings on my walls. It was soothing to think that maybe a relative would buy our house and the memories of these sweet ladies would live on.

I always envied my cousin. She was the only child born to her parents after over a decade of infertility. She was a miracle baby, a beautiful princess. Her parents spoiled her rotten.

As a child, I wanted her life. I would’ve given anything to be her.

Looking back, I’m glad that my hardest years in life were my childhood. It gave me strength, made me tough, and built my character. If the best years of your life are your childhood, everything else is downhill. How can you be happy when you’ve had it so much better before?? But, of course, I want my children to have a great childhood unlike my own. What is disservice!

I don’t want my cousin’s life anymore. Maybe now she wants my life.

She got married and started a family a couple of years after I did. But, unlike me, she left her husband and children behind for another man. Her family was devastated. Since then several years passed. She is now living with a much older man who just left his wife of many years.

My cousin’s story is not all that much of a rarity anymore. Staying married for a long time to the same person is.

My grandma and her sister married young and stayed with their husbands until death. It seems easy, ideal actually, to have that one true love that you stay with through thick and thin.

No one I know really wants their children to marry young. Finish college first. Then be out on your own for awhile. I am guilty of wanting the same thing for my children. Yet we want them to find that one true love that they stay with for their whole entire life like our grandparents did. It’s not practical.

Last week, Paul and I ran into an acquaintance who told us she just got divorced after over 20 years of marriage. Right now I can think of only one other couple we are close friends with that are on their first marriage and have been married longer than us. That is sad.

Something is broken in our society and I don’t know how to fix it. The only thing I can do is be a good example of marriage.

But sometimes I feel like my marital bliss is smacking the faces of those who failed.

Ha ha, I finished the marathon but you dropped out of the 5K. Is that how they view us??

It’s hard to get good marriage advice. It’s just as tough as getting good parenting advice. Sometimes I feel like people are giving me marriage advice similar to parenting advice…they tell me how to raise toddlers when I have teenagers. I am beyond those years now. I want something meatier than just make time for each other or communication is important. I’ve searched, but haven’t found. Good luck, you’re off the charts now. After 20 years, how do you take it to the next level??

My cousin wants to move into my house to be closer to her children. How can that be a bad thing?

But then the biggest blizzard ever recorded in over 100 years hit the weekend we were supposed to show my cousin our house…BLIZZARD EVELYN!!

Is this some sort of sign?? Did we invoke the wrath of Evelyn?? Is someone else supposed to buy our house?

Evelyn, I don’t care if I sell my house to a bunch of satanists as long as I sell my house!! Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit. But weren’t you when you dumped all of that snow on us?

Now if we get another snowstorm this weekend when we rescheduled the visit with my cousin, I am really going to start worrying.

Maybe the whole thing is a coincidence, but it all seems rather bizarre.

Or maybe I’m reading it all wrong.

Maybe it’s a sign that we should move to Florida.