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.

Gratitude week 47

  1. Just 8 more days to go on the detox diet. Yeah!
  2. I’m grateful for my daughter Angel. She has been really helpful since I’ve been on my diet and stepped up to make a couple meals a week so I don’t have to cook things I can’t eat. I’m grateful that she moved back home if only for a little while.
  3. I made a calendar for 2021. I’ve been making my own calendars since I had to take the pictures to a printer, so over 10 years. I was considering not doing it this year since pretty much everything we had planned was cancelled even Angel’s college graduation. I didn’t even take my camera out of the bag once since the pandemic started. I’m grateful I was able to scrounge up some pictures to make it happen again this year.
  4. I’m grateful for a pajama day yesterday.
  5. I’m grateful on Friday night to play The Mexican Train game with Paul and Angel. I have become rather addicted to that game as of late.
  6. I’m grateful for a good appointment with my therapist. She inspired me to keep telling my story even if it is difficult if it makes me feel better. I hope to finish up with the census stories this week and dive into something a bit darker…
  7. Although they drive me a bit crazy at times, I’m grateful to have all my children living with us under the same roof.
  8. I’m grateful that my husband found a great job so I can take time off to do what needs to be done to take care of things around the house.
  9. In some ways I am grateful for a low key Thanksgiving. I think it will be a lot less stressful.
  10. After Thanksgiving I am excited to get a tree and decorate the house for Christmas. I know it is not much. But I am grateful to have something fun to look forward to.

Gratitude week 46

  1. I’m grateful that I am halfway through my detox diet. It is getting harder now. I’m not feeling as good as I did before. I lost 7 lbs. in the last 2 weeks. Perhaps after this I will never eat vegetables again.
  2. I’m grateful I was able to find a new car. As the kids are getting older, my cars are getting smaller. I bought a compact car, a Kia Forte. It is a couple years old with very low mileage in my price range. It has some nice features like heated and cooled seats. I really like it.
  3. Clean sheets.
  4. Quality time with the family swimming and playing games.
  5. Having pajama day on a lazy Saturday since my plans were cancelled due to COVID.
  6. I’m grateful this week for our veterans and the sacrifices they made to serve our country.
  7. I’m grateful to the service people who came out this week. It helped us put the finishing steps on getting ready for winter. Today it is very breezy and cool with no sunlight in sight. We finished winterizing just in time.
  8. I’m grateful to be able to learn new things by reading books and watching intelligent shows.
  9. I’m grateful for the stories I wrote and the ones I will write. It’s also wonderful to read about other people’s lives just by reaching for my phone in my own house.
  10. I’m grateful for friends who stepped up and supported us through these trying times.

Gratitude week 41

  1. I updated my address and am ready to vote. I also helped my son register as a first time voter.
  2. We met with a new doctor for Arabella and we really like him. I think he is going to be able to help her.
  3. I have been struggling with my daughter’s depression and decided to take a drive by myself to clear my head. I headed up north and discovered unexpectedly that my dad was up there alone as well. I said some things I needed to say to him. He did say he was sorry for hurting me and also said he loved me. I think God guided me there and it is crucial for my healing process. I have been fluctuating between rage and forgiveness far too long to be healthy.
  4. I am done working for the census now. It’s been an expected yet not easy adjustment. I’m grateful to have extra time to get some of the back burner tasks done like washing windows and changing light bulbs.
  5. Yesterday I got out my winter clothes. I got rid of a bunch of clothes I don’t wear anymore. It felt good to get rid of things I don’t need and to get ready for winter.
  6. I’m grateful that although I live in a COVID hotbed, so far all of my family and close friends have been safe.
  7. I’m grateful our president recovered from COVID. There is so much chaos and craziness in our country right now that I couldn’t even imagine more…
  8. I’m grateful to finally be able to talk to my best friend. For some reason she didn’t receive ANY of the texts I sent to her this month. I was really starting to worry.
  9. It is absolutely gorgeous outside right now with the fall colors. I really need to try to enjoy each season because I think I am going to be stuck here for quite a while. I think I’m going to have to challenge myself with gratitude in this area especially when things get dreary, cold, and dark.
  10. Arabella’s senior pictures turned out really cute.

The missing piece to missing peace

I met with my therapist this past week. At the end of our session she asked me what I needed. I told her that I wanted more enlightenment on my path towards healing and growth.

Be careful what you wish for.

The next day I had the first appointment with my daughter Arabella to see a psychiatrist. She has been struggling with depression and anxiety the past couple months.

Honestly, I didn’t really understand why she was struggling. We tried to give her a wonderfully normal childhood, something my husband and I never had.

The doctor started with me asking about my family history regarding mental health issues. I probably rattled off a dozen close relatives that struggled with anxiety and/or depression myself included. After awhile the doctor cut me off and didn’t even bother asking for my husband’s family history of mental health issues.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression since I can remember. I always thought my struggles were caused from the childhood trauma I endured. I always had this fantasy that once I made peace with my past and healed from the trauma I experienced then I would finally be free from the chains of anxiety and depression. Poof! Gone! I would finally be the carefree person I always wanted to be and not the person I am and always was.

I also have the fantasy that if I had enough faith in God I would be free from this. But I kept giving it over yet God refused to take it away. I felt guilty because every time I tried to cast it off it came back. There was some shortcoming in me. I failed to have enough faith. But maybe some things cannot be changed. Maybe I just have blue eyes. Maybe I should not expect God to change them to brown.

I’ve seen all my children struggle with anxiety. We did everything we could possibly do to give them a normal life. I’ve watched my mom suffer from debilitating anxiety, panic, and insomnia. I’ve brushed it off saying she always had so much to worry about. I’ve watching some of her siblings struggle with anxiety. Anxiety almost seemed normal.

I’ve watched my dad struggle with depression. At times I have wondered if he was going to end his life. I saw his father and his father’s siblings struggle with anxiety and/or depression. His aunt on his mother’s side. I watched my own siblings struggle. This all seemed normal too.

Over time I learned how to outrun my demons. Being an extreme runner burned off the anxiety. Always keeping busy or immersing myself in work keeps my demons at bay. But that means I can never relax or they come back. Writing soothes my soul. But it never goes away.

Trauma and difficult live circumstances makes the anxiety and depression worse. But guess what? Even if I don’t have anything to worry about I create scenarios in my mind. I have to constantly fight this battle within myself.

This week I received a new piece of enlightenment. Even if I never experienced childhood trauma, I still might have struggled with anxiety and depression. In fact, if I didn’t experience trauma then maybe I would feel worse about myself because there wouldn’t be a logical reason for it.

We live in a world that constantly makes us try to feel worse about feeling sad. You shouldn’t feel depressed because you are rich, good looking, smart, popular, etc…… I’ve been guilty of doing this myself. Her life is perfect. What does she have to feel sad about?

What if it is simply and purely genetic like my blue eyes? What if it was a pattern of behavior passed down from my ancestors centuries ago? A genetic propensity paired with modeled behavior is hard to break. I could wear colored contacts but that wouldn’t really change the color of my eyes.

Even if I tried to give my kids a wonderful life, I still might have passed this on to them. I also have come to the realization that although I can manage it I will never be free from it. That’s the kicker. I thought if I healed I would be a different person. But the truth is, I am still going to be me.

Maybe growth and healing isn’t about changing into a different person. Maybe it is the freedom to accept myself and others the way they are. Maybe that is the missing piece to missing peace.

Gratitude week 39

  1. I’m grateful for the warm sunny weather we had this past week.
  2. I’m glad because of the good weather we were able to have a wonderful sailing afternoon.
  3. We moved our daughter back home yesterday!!
  4. Paul had a wonderful birthday. We went out to eat at a nice sushi restaurant and rode around town with the top down on our daughter’s Jeep. We stayed overnight at a nice hotel and helped our daughter move back home.
  5. I’m grateful that I have known my husband for 25 years. Not a lot of people are given enough time.
  6. I’m grateful that my dentist appointment went well. I was really nervous that maybe I would back slide since I missed my last appointment due to COVID. Everything remained pretty stable.
  7. I had an excellent appointment with my wellness nurse this week as well. My latest test came back with wonderful results. My body is healing itself. My diet is not as strict anymore.
  8. Yesterday I ate regular pizza for the first time in over a year and I felt fine.
  9. My son’s friend, who came over this past week, ended up testing negative for COVID after he was around someone who tested positive a few days before they got sick.
  10. I’m grateful that my dedication paid off and has brought about healing. I’m grateful for good news!

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.

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 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.