Kicking off the new year

I finally was able to fall asleep after the cops left almost 24 hours after I awoke. It wasn’t a great start to the new year. Sometimes I have to wonder why these kind of things always happen to me.

I was starting to feel stressed about New Year’s Eve. I mean, why not?? I was planning on having a few people over. Then I got the call from Arabella that she was planning on coming home which stressed me out even more. Apparently Will’s mom kicked them out and they wore out their stay in Kansas. I had no idea why.

On New Year’s Eve, I awoke to find out Dan started feeling sick the night before. Angel was around him a few days before. We both became extremely anxious. Maybe we were getting sick too. Was the sneeze just a tree allergy or something more sinister this time? We were tired and must’ve taken our temperature a half a dozen times and it was always within the range of normal. Then Dan tested positive for COVID.

I called all the people who were coming to let them know. Basically it was just my best friend Cindy’s family and my own. Cindy just recovered from COVID the week before. Since all of the guests recently had COVID and Arabella still wanted to come home, the party was still on. By this time, I put everything on hold and was now behind on the cooking and getting ready for the party.

The party itself was fine and relatively uneventful. I talked to Arabella more about her boyfriend Will. She said he was a Y2k baby. The world was ending the next day might as well hook up with a random stranger, then 9 months later a baby without a daddy. His mom ended up marrying someone later and had 3 more kids. The step-dad didn’t get along with Will so when he was in middle school they shipped him out of state to live with his grandma. Every Christmas he goes home to visit his mom. Apparently when he goes home there is a lot of screaming and yelling. Then all of a sudden they show up here and I am the world’s greatest mom. I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

The party wound down at 1:30 AM and I was off to bed. My son was also having a party in the garage apartment. From the sounds of it, his party was still going because I could hear the bass drum beating from my bedroom. Paul put his earbuds in and was soon snoring while I laid there awake. An hour later, still awake, I heard noises and a car alarm going off. I got up to look out the window as a car took off swerving around the driveway almost hitting another car. Then the car came back.

Outside it sounded like fighting and someone was honking their horn over and over. I looked over at Paul who was still asleep as I put on my robe. I opened the front door to listen. There seemed to be a problem and I was getting upset. How inconsiderate to the neighbors to have all that noise at 2:30 in the morning. I put on my boots and stormed outside.

There were two guys yelling at a girl I didn’t know who was screaming and crying behind the wheel of the car. Next to those two guys were 5 more guys. I only knew my son and his roommate. I asked them what the hell was going on. They didn’t know. They just said the girl was upset and wanted to leave. The car was running and she was ready to drive off in her boyfriend’s car. No one really knew what to do. The boyfriend was yelling that she was too drunk.

I decided to talk to the girl. She was crying saying she just wanted to go home. She said her boyfriend was mad and accused her of talking to other guys. She said he was in jail before for beating her. I tried asking her questions which she didn’t respond to in order to decide for myself if she was capable of driving or not. She seemed pretty incoherent and I thought she was drunk, on something, or both. She was in no position to be driving.

Everyone just stood there as I was talking to her not sure what to do. I told her boyfriend that he needed to reach into the car and take the keys out of the ignition which he did. It was freezing outside and I was still afraid all the ruckus would wake up the neighbors, so I shooed everyone back into the garage. I was hoping things would calm down, but they didn’t. The woman was still screaming and now flailing her arms at her boyfriend who was yelling back. He was a pretty big guy, bigger than most of the guys there. But he didn’t put his hands on his girlfriend, it was more the other way around.

Then the girl took off screaming and sat back in the car again. It seemed like she was on her phone and I was hoping she would find a ride home. By then it was 3 AM. I decided to try to go back to bed, but laid there staring at the ceiling listening to my husband snore. I worried about the girl. I worried about Dan.

At 3:30 AM, I heard sirens and saw a police car outside of my house. I just about died. I had to run to the bathroom because I felt sick. I called my son who said the girl called the police and he was going to talk to them. The police were there about 20 minutes.

At this time I was in full PTSD flashback mode. When Matt would be physically aggressive towards strangers we tried to get him out of there right away. Mom said the police could arrest him and he would get locked up for the rest of his life wearing a straightjacket and having people hurt him. I had to run to the bathroom again. I was so horrified.

After the police left, I called my son and he didn’t answer. A million scenarios flashed through my mind. What if my son was arrested? What if this girl was drinking underage? What was going on?

It seemed like an eternity later when my son called back. He said he talked to the police and told them what was going on. He said the girl had too much to drink (thankfully she was 22) and they stopped her from trying to leave but she was upset. They talked to the boyfriend and ended up arresting the girl. It was probably for the best. What if she tried walking home or passed out outside and froze to death? Those things have been known to happen around here when people drink too much when it is freezing outside.

Everything was done and I could finally sleep. I looked over at the clock, it was 4:15 AM. I had been up since 5 AM the day before, almost 24 hours. My husband and I woke up at 7 AM. He asked how I slept. I told him pretty good after the cops left. WHAT???!? He slept through the whole thing.

So, yeah, my new year started out a little rough…

Wishes

I wish I could say my good mood has lasted but alas it has not.

I can’t pinpoint anything major just a general feeling of disappointment. Our furnace is still out, plus our boiler for our pool and hot tub are out too. We live in a big old drafty house. Something always needs fixing it seems. Thankfully we know what the problem is with our furnace and it is under warranty. We went from having to get a new furnace this morning to having to pay a couple hundred dollars to have it fixed this afternoon which is great. But I spent my whole day dealing with this and not all of the problems are fixed yet. I suppose it’s too much to ask for a switch that I can turn on to make everything work again.

I feel frustration about COVID and how it is tearing families apart for yet another holiday season. I’m angry about family attacking family over politics and vaccination status. If you don’t believe what I believe then you aren’t welcome to be a part of this family anymore but I still care about you bullshit. I’m so angry I want to cut some extended family out of my life forever. The sad thing is at one time I actually thought they might have cared.

I’m sick of hosting the family holidays. I’m angry that my mom never took it over after my grandma was unable to do it anymore. I’m angry I had to take on the responsibility in my mid-20’s after looking at my daughter that age and thinking about what I had to do at her age. I’m angry I never got to be a child or even a young adult without having to parent my parents who just never seem to be able to handle life without burdening their children.

I’m angry for the crime my dad committed. Tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary. I’m angry that some family members brush it aside as if it never happened. I’m angry that some family members harbor anger towards my daughter for turning him in. I’m angry my dad is so shitty of a dad and grandpa he will not be invited to my daughter’s wedding. I’m terribly jealous of people who have supportive parents. Neither my husband nor I have had that. I’m angry my husband and I have a hard time with relationships because no one ever taught us anything useful. What the hell is normal??

I’m angry that my relationship with Arabella is not what I want it to be. I’m angry she wants me to stop telling people she is delusional when she accuses me of starving, abusing, and torturing her. I’m angry that people feel they need to choose sides. I’m angry people question whether or not I’ve been abusive. I’m angry that I have to worry whether or not she will be alive tomorrow.

I’m angry my mom favors my brother Matt over everyone. I’m angry that he abused me as a child and I was never protected. I’m angry that my dad never taught me I was worthy of love and instead told me how stupid I was. I’m angry that I have to live with the aftermath trauma created in my life. I’m angry that I live in fear and am unable to trust.

All these things have been very painful for me. I’m this close to telling people off. I’m not sure what I need to do to get over this new bout of anger. I feel triggered thinking about family. I’m not sure what is wrong. Tis the season I suppose. I did say this time of year is hard for me.

Tonight my husband and I are meeting with a new pastor. We are thinking of leaving our church. My faith has been horrible the last two years since I found out about my dad and with my daughter’s mental health struggles. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten much support from the church. I acknowledge they are not responsible for my faith but at least offer me some guidance besides forgiveness of those who have hurt me.

If you can’t help me because you never experienced any struggles in life I can understand that as I am not an idiot. But don’t make me feel bad for something I didn’t do. I have yet to pray away my PTSD. Don’t say I don’t have enough faith to overcome my anxiety. Maybe, just maybe, I had to be this way to survive and now I’m trapped in it. I don’t know how to be any other way because I don’t remember life before the trauma started. I don’t have fond childhood memories with my parents and siblings. I wish I did.

I like the person I am but I am getting tired of the bullshit.

Gratitude week 93

  1. It’s been an unseasonably warm week. I love this weather, too warm to turn on the heat but not too hot to need the A/C. Plus the trees changing colors has been at its peak.
  2. Taking care of myself by going to my therapist and cranio-sacral massage therapist. I even fell asleep on the table for awhile which is unheard of for me in the morning.
  3. Supper with my best friend.
  4. When I got home after meeting with my best friend, I got a text from Arabella saying she left home for good. She wouldn’t tell me where she is staying. Although I will talk about this in another post, I do feel a lot of relief that she is not living here anymore.
  5. Even though she left, Arabella attended her appointments with the psychiatrist this week. They are switching up her medication from the phone conversations I’ve had with them regarding her mental health.
  6. Arabella is coming home to talk to us tonight.
  7. After Arabella left, Angel and I went thrifting. She wanted me to have a nice time and not talk about anything stressful. Angel has been very supportive.
  8. The following night Alex and his girlfriend came over for supper and games. I know Alex knew I was hurt by Arabella as well so he came over to visit Paul and I on a Friday night when he usually hangs out with friends.
  9. Yesterday I went wedding dress shopping with Angel. She found her dress. It was a very special time with her.
  10. Last night my best friend came over with her family for supper and games.
  11. I am grateful for Angel and Alex and our best friends to help Paul and I through this difficult time with Arabella. We have a small support group but they are wonderful and we love and appreciate them.
  12. Also this week, too close to home, there was a woman who was assaulted by a stranger on a trail while carrying her newborn. The baby was left near the trail and the woman was found nearby thankfully alive. No woman is safe until this man is caught. The following morning I went for a run. There was a man in a truck that pulled over as I was approaching him. He got out of his truck to adjust something hanging out of the back while I was walking on the other side of his truck. He scared the living crap out of me. I didn’t know why he got out of his truck and was approaching me at first. I started to panic. Even though I was on high alert to danger, I didn’t stand a chance against this guy in a relatively remote area of my run. I’m grateful for my safety as a runner as I’ve faced various dangers. Before the attack, I was even thinking about going trail running by myself. It’s just not safe anymore. I’m really sad that the world has to be this way. It’s horrible what happened to that woman. Anyone capable of attacking a woman with a baby in her arms is pure evil. I’m grateful she is alive and her baby wasn’t hurt.

Free choice

I always assumed one basic premise about myself. Happiness to me is being calm and peaceful. But calm and peace usually ends up making me feel antsy, bored, and depressed. So is it really my key to happiness?

I told you how I was feeling depressed last week. To be honest, a lot of the reason besides the end of summer was because I felt hurt that I was no longer invited to the family reunion next month. Our household, which is pretty reflective of our state and country, has a 50% vaccination rate. All unvaccinated family members are no longer welcome to be a part of the family. I confronted my mom about this. I asked her why she didn’t say something as none of her children besides Matt (who isn’t even going) will be able to participate in the family event. I suggested an alternative of getting tested and wearing masks, the response was vaccinated only. I am no longer upset with my mom as she did try.

You see, I would’ve brought 6 people to the family reunion. Now my mom doesn’t want to go either. So 7 people aren’t going that would’ve been going. That means the cost per person is going to go up significantly for the people still choosing to go. Now another aunt and uncle may not be able to afford to go because he has to pay a crap ton of money every month for insulin. He told me that he doesn’t even care if I go because he is trusting his shot will protect him which actually kind of scares me.

When I went up north with my mom last week, she was invited to her sister’s cabin nearby for cards. My mom told me that some family members were even wary around her because of our family’s vaccination status. I talked to my aunt and she said that she had her grandbabies to worry about. Seriously!! As if I was going to sneak into her kid’s house (which I have never been to) and cough on some innocent sleeping babies (one of whom I’ve only seen once) which will end up killing them (which I’ve never heard of a baby dying from COVID). As if I’m a filthy leper out to kill babies and infect grannies. But hey Alissa, no hard feelings. Yeah that makes me really want to get vaccinated. NOT! Why bother getting vaccinated anyway if you are going to push away your family and live the rest of your life in fear? That’s not living.

Now before I go any further I want to say that I am happy my mom got vaccinated. She is living in a lot less fear than before. But I strongly believe that getting vaccinated should be a CHOICE. If you don’t believe that than this post is not for you. Don’t even tell me how pro-choice you are if you feel people shouldn’t have control over their own bodies. As you probably now realize by the tone of this post, I am not the calm and peaceful person that I say I want to be. I am not going immediately to get a shot to keep the peace to belong to a group that really never helped me through any hard times in my life anyway. To put it very mildly compared to the thoughts in my head, screw them. Bub-bye!

I feel bad for my kids because they really don’t have any family. My mom is the only person I consider family now. I had to really examine my relationships with others in this process. I don’t even consider my brothers close family anymore. They are Easter and Christmas brothers. I only see or talk to them a couple of times a year. Besides his step-dad, my husband doesn’t have any family either. My kids don’t even know any family members with our same last name besides my husband and I. It’s sad.

Through this experience, I learned I am not calm and peaceful. I can’t just let it go like my kids said I should. I still have a lot of fight in me. It gives my life purpose and strangely I don’t feel all that depressed anymore. Everyone should have free choice. They should even have the freedom to make the wrong choices. If I am wrong, I am willing to live (or die) with my choice.

YOU should make choices for YOU. Not me, not your family if you are an adult, not your employer, certainly not your government, and not even your church.

YOU.

Feeling tested

The last time we talked I told you that my daughter Arabella was admitted into a residential mental health treatment facility. What I didn’t tell you was that at the same time my other daughter Angel most likely had COVID.

Last weekend I briefly saw Angel’s boyfriend Dan. We were close to each other for a few minutes while I opened the sliding door we all walked out of. I was in close contact with my daughter Angel who was in close contact with her boyfriend Dan. Are you following me yet?

The next day Angel goes to Dan’s house. While she is there he develops a fever. She decides not to come home. The next day Dan has an instant test and tests positive for COVID.

To make matters more complicated, my mom stopped by with my brother Matt on Saturday. My mom and Matt both received all of their COVID vaccinations. Because of COVID, I have not seen my brother Matt since last June when my mom had a medical emergency and I needed to take him back to his group home. Once he returned to his group home, he couldn’t go back home until fully vaccinated. My brother Matt has not seen my daughter Angel or her boyfriend since Christmas of 2019 again thanks to COVID. After the visit, before we found out Dan was sick, my mom took Matt back to his group home. My mom and brother were not in close contact with us but they did give everyone hugs including Dan.

Monday morning Dan has an instant COVID test and tests positive. He gets really sick. His mother gets sick. My daughter Angel gets sick. So far his father is fine.

What am I to do? My daughter was scheduled to be admitted into residential care. This was her last chance to get into a great adolescent program. She will be an adult in 2 months and they said if she didn’t fill the bed she would lose the opportunity. She had to wait 3 months to get in.

I decided to call the COVID hotline. Not only was it a bad connection, but it was useless conversation. She told me that my situation was really unusual and complicated and that I would be better off calling my doctor or going on the CDC website. My husband and I fought over what to do next. We don’t see eye to eye on COVID. Words were said that weren’t meant.

Meanwhile, my mom’s COVID anxiety ramped up again. She called the group home, program, and case managers. Two of the people told her that Matt should be okay since he had both shots. What more could she do beyond that? Is he never allowed to see family again after everything was done in her power to prevent him from getting sick? Two of the people my mom contacted chewed her out. They said how irresponsible she was. One of them even told Matt he wasn’t going to be allowed home again which caused him distress. My mom was beside herself with worry about Matt. I tried to calm her down but I was worried myself about the ones who were already sick and what would happen next.

I was worried that my brief exposure to Dan would be enough to get me sick and then I would get Arabella sick and then she wouldn’t be able to go into residential. Or Arabella would get sick alone and spread it on to others in a hospital setting. A few days after Dan got sick, Angel got sick too. She got sick several days after I saw her last. I felt pretty confident that I didn’t get exposed from her. I felt iffy about Dan though. I did see him although we weren’t in close contact for very long at all. According to the CDC website I don’t think what we had was considered close contact but I still wasn’t sure because I saw him right before he got sick. But who knows? It’s not like I was keeping track of how far apart we were or how long he was in the room.

Thankfully I had Arabella tested for COVID right before she was admitted and it came back negative. Now it has been several days since I saw her and I still feel fine. I take my temperature everyday and I have been laying low. Everyone has been telling me I have to stop worrying about it and trust God. I’m trying but this has been really stressful. To be honest, trust wasn’t my first instinct. I felt angry. Of all times, why does this have to happen right now??

The first time my mom takes Matt out of the group home he gets exposed. Why God? Why? I sometimes wonder if my family is cursed. Arabella is healthy and everything ended up being alright. But still??!? It was horrible timing to go through a COVID scare. Plus I’ve been worried sick about Angel and Dan and his family. It’s hard knowing my daughter is sick and there is nothing I can do to help her. I’m feeling that way about both my daughters right now.

I ran over to Dan’s parents house today and dropped off some medicine, vitamins, and Gatorade. Angel is feeling a lot better already, but Dan is still pretty sick.

What a week! What a wreck it has made of me! I feel so tested.

Taking a break down instead

Maybe she just needed a break. That always makes me feel better.

We had a trip planned. Paul and I were renting a van to drive down to Florida. We were taking Arabella and our two foreign exchange students with us.

I imagined how perfect spring break was going to be. Sunshine and shorts after another long winter. Estelle and Arabella together on a long road trip becoming best friends once again. My daughter becoming a functional depressed person like I am. She said it was a mistake and wouldn’t happen again.

But our magical trip wasn’t meant to be. The week we were scheduled to leave Disney World closed. A new virus was sweeping through the nation. In my lifetime I’ve seen many viruses come and go, but this was different. People were panicking. We didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know what to believe. It reminded me of when HIV first came out and people were afraid to use public bathrooms. With a world of information at our fingertips, we still didn’t know what we were dealing with.

We debated whether or not to take the trip after Disney closed. Since we were driving, would we be able to stop to have sit down meals after a long drive? Some states were closing. Would gas station bathrooms and rest stops even be open? Was that the America we wanted our foreign visitors to see? What happens if someone gets sick? Could we get trapped somewhere? What if our decisions caused sickness and/or death in the children who weren’t ours that we were responsible for? The beaches in Florida started to close. We decided to stay home.

The high school closed and schooling went to online. The spring play, going to state, track, and prom all were cancelled yet the school work remained. Everyone felt the loss of what was planned that could no longer be. The beautiful prom dresses hung in the closets unworn. Time lost that could never be recaptured. Our German foreign exchange student Clara went home a couple months early whereas Estelle stayed an extra month.

I thought that Arabella and Estelle would be forced to work out their differences because they would have to be together all the time without much outside contact. It didn’t work out that way. Arabella withdrew into herself and snarled at me to leave her alone when I reached out. She would take long walks or drive to the park to sit by herself for hours sometimes after dark or in the rain. Estelle grew very close to me. She would fight with Arabella if she felt like Arabella was being mean to me.

Florida was gone. Arabella’s opportunity to be a foreign exchange student was gone. It was all she ever talked about for over a year. She was already signed up and the paperwork completed. Thankfully I could say that she wasn’t going because of COVID versus a suicide attempt. We were going to tour Europe in the summer, but that was gone too.

With everything that was lost, I’m grateful that we didn’t lose Arabella too.

Late night decisions

Dan and Angel started going through the pictures on my parent’s computer. It started innocently enough as things often do. My daughter sent me an old picture of myself with long hair. It reminded me of why I kept my hair short.

Paul took a call later that evening. I really didn’t pay much attention until he pulled me into our bedroom. He told me to sit down as Angel was going to share some really bad news. Angel was just home for Thanksgiving. How bad could the news really be? Was she pregnant and dropping out of college with only a semester left? Did she get bad test results from the physical she had at the doctor’s office the day after Thanksgiving? Why would they call her on a Sunday night? Maybe she had a really bad type of cancer and was dying.

My daughter was sobbing. She told me she was really sorry. I honestly didn’t know what for. Angel wasn’t the type to get into trouble. She told me that they found porn on my parent’s computer. Still not very surprising. My dad was a porn addict since I could remember. I relaxed a little. I’m sure it was shocking to see porn on your grandparents computer. But then my daughter threw a punch. But mom, there were images of children.

I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t imagine what my daughter had to see. I was in a state of shock. Time moved slowly. It was hard to decide what to tell them to do. I called my brother Luke. He fell to the floor and sobbed in front of his children. What were we going to do? What a mess!

It wasn’t like I had it in my repertoire of traumatic experiences yet. What to do when your child finds child porn on your parents computer. I couldn’t really ask anyone because I never knew of anyone it happened to. I certainly did not want to google it. Frankly, I am a little frightened to even talk about it now a year later.

We could all pretend it never happened. We could protect my dad. We could destroy the computer and never talk about it again. They could return the computer and tell my mom to never show it to anyone again. But then we would be criminals, just as bad.

My daughter decided that after she was finished with school on Monday and Dan was done with work, they would go to the police department. Angel was going to file a police report against her grandpa, my dad. I knew it was the right thing to do, yet no one was comforted by the fact and slept well that night.

I was devastated. I thought my life was over from his mistake. I thought I would never feel joy again. My demons rejoiced in my suffering. I couldn’t even comfort my daughter because she was attending school 4 hours away. She was hurt. She would never be the same. My heart burned with hatred toward my dad.

I thought because I was no longer a child that my parents could no longer hurt me. Boy was I wrong. Childhood ended before it even really began, but the trauma didn’t. Now it was spilling down the generations onto my children. I could no longer protect them from how things really are. It almost destroyed me. But I am stronger now, strong enough to tell my story. I know it won’t be easy. I’m afraid. I feel sick to death about it. I mourn the hurt and crying children who deserve so much more…

Dangerous addresses, part 2

I worked two 10 hour days the weekend after the Kenosha shooting. I’d assume most of you heard of the Kenosha shooting even if you don’t live in the United States. But just in case, it involved a police shooting where a white officer shot a black man. After the shooting terrible violence ensued with protests, looting, rioting, and more shootings. It was bad enough to put my state of Wisconsin on the map.

Now I don’t live near Kenosha but we could feel the after shock throughout the state and most of the country. Racial tension was high. Were you with the police or black lives? Incidentally, not too long after they were looking for census employees in Kenosha. Yeah……NO!

The weekend after the shooting I was assigned to work in a rough neighborhood also known for its shootings. Since I was working 10 hours, I started my shift pretty early on a Sunday morning. But we never started working before 9 AM. I don’t think I have been able to sleep until 9 anytime in this century but I do realize other people do. After all I do have teenagers. One of the first places I stopped at the guy said he partied too hard the night before and was too hungover to answer any questions.

The streets were virtually empty on that beautiful Sunday morning. Just me with my census bag and badge waking up the whole neighborhood pestering people with my personal questions. What is your race? As you can see, I am white. But I am not racist, although how do you know that by looking at me.

I felt looked down upon that weekend. I was a parasite asking too many personal questions too early in the morning. I was a white person working with the government, a maggot, one rung above the police but not as welcome as a postal worker. Maybe not true, but this is how I felt.

I knocked at another door. The house went from absolute silence to full on violent rage yelling once I knocked. What the hell is going on?? I distinctly heard the word ‘police’. I heard things inside being thrown around. I knew I had to get the hell out of there and quick. I didn’t even leave a missed census visit notice.

I walked to the end of the block around the corner. I had more houses on that street to visit. My plan was to swing back after a few minutes and pretend that nothing happened. I was going to pick up where I left off at the next house. When I came back I saw this huge black man raging around the house of the door I knocked on like a bull looking for whomever was waving the red flag. Me.

I was terrified. I was going to die. Time slowed down. I saw a car nearby with a woman in it. A census worker. A beacon of safety. I ran to her. She asked if I was okay, if I needed a ride somewhere, if I needed help. Perhaps a drink of water. She said she wasn’t with the census so I wandered away.

I think the man hopped in a car with his buddies. They were looking for me. I was the only person on the streets. Everyone that drove by was looking at me. He was going to find me and kill me. I was completely in a daze and out of it as I tried to find my way back to my car a couple blocks away. Time slowed down as my heart raced.

I left my cell phone in my car. I couldn’t call for help. My husband wasn’t home anyway. I called my supervisor and told him what happened. He told me to take a little break. I needed gas anyway so I went to the gas station. I couldn’t figure out how to get gas. I was convinced I was getting the wrong gas, like putting diesel into a gas tank. I panicked that my car wouldn’t work and I would get stuck there. I stopped filling my car with one type of gas and switched to another.

I couldn’t make my mind work. It was still stuck in panic mode. There was a disconnect like hearing buzzing instead of talking when the volume is on mute. Things weren’t right in my mind. It took another half an hour to reboot. Then I went back to work as if nothing had happened.

My supervisor added the address to the list of dangerous addresses. When census employees were on the job, they had a list of addresses that were dangerous. Yellow addresses were to proceed with caution. Red addresses were to cease the interview immediately. Red addresses were addresses where a person threatened a census worker. By the time I neared the end of my employment, there were 100 dangerous addresses in that neighborhood.

I never would’ve guessed everything that was going to happen in the world when I applied with the census a year ago.

Dangerous addresses, part 1

It didn’t take long to get assignments in the roughest neighborhoods. If the children were outside playing, I felt like it was safe for almost anyone to walk the streets. That usually wasn’t the case on a late Friday or Saturday afternoon.

I learned really quick that I needed to strategically park my car. I couldn’t leave my car running in the driveway in that neighborhood. I would park my car and walk. If the weather was beautiful, and one address lead to another address a few houses away, at times I found myself a couple of blocks away from my car. If I needed somewhere safe to go this was problematic because my car was a couple blocks away.

I worked 10 hours that Saturday. I knocked on a door and a man answered in a wheelchair in his underwear upset because I woke him up in the middle of the day. Not a lot of people answered although a lot were nicer than that man.

Many of the houses had half addresses such as 123 1/2 Main St. I had to search in the back of people’s houses for rentals. I climbed up rickety outer staircases and at times was told to go into the middle door in the back of the house up the stairs. I always felt uncomfortable, especially when the back door was by a dark alley.

Many times I felt like I was poking around where I didn’t belong. On that particular evening, I saw four older teenage youth strutting the streets. They all wore red clothing. Were they gang members? Or did they all work at McDonald’s? I looked down at the red shirt I was wearing which gave me a little consolation that I was safe. I tried to avoid them.

There was a man on the street corner outside of his apartment yelling the lyrics of an explicit song that was playing. I tried ignoring him too. I was afraid but tried to appear calm. Thankfully I was a lot older than the man so maybe I wouldn’t catch his eye.

As I was heading towards a house on my case list, I saw a car with a bunch of teen males in it pull up to the curb. A teenage girl came out of the house. One of the guys got out of the car and started quarreling loudly with the girl. I could hear the obscenities half a block away. It was time to skip that house and turn down another street the whole time acting like I belonged there instead of being shocked by everything.

In the meantime, I interviewed people with young children huddled inside their house. It was hot and they had no A/C, but I couldn’t blame them for wanting to stay inside.

By the time I made it back to the street of the altercation, no one answered the door at that house or the houses nearby. I walked back towards my car to call it a night.

On my way I saw another census employee. We talked briefly and she wondered if we were sent to similar places around the same time to ensure the safety of other census employees in rough neighborhoods. I wondered that as well. I always felt more confident when there were others like me in neighborhoods I didn’t feel safe in.

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.