The downside of working

Working for the census was downright difficult at times. It wasn’t just the cases themselves. Although I will not downplay the fear of dealing with my anxiety. I did find myself in some really dangerous situations at times. Just doing the job during COVID was scary enough. I had to face the fear of things I could and couldn’t see such as the risk of getting sick. The uncertainty was difficult. I never knew what I was going to be dealing with on a day to day basis.

While I was working, my mom didn’t really want anything to do with me. She viewed me as high risk to getting her sick. My mom is a hypochondriac. Not that I didn’t understand her concerns. But it was still difficult and painful. She is living her last years in utter terror of leaving her house. She will stop by with her mask and sunglasses on wearing gloves or with hands full of handwipes. She won’t even pet my dog because someone infected might have touched him. She is battling crippling anxiety and insomnia. It is difficult.

The night before I had my census training, my husband and I admitted our daughter to the psychiatric hospital for the first time. It was stressful because I knew I couldn’t be there when she got home because I had to work. That is really when I let things start to slide. I allowed Arabella to stay at her friend’s house more than I would’ve liked because I felt she was safer there than home alone.

My husband was working his seasonal business that he started. At times he was gone for several days in a row. We couldn’t deal with a suicidal child at home when we were both working. Then later we struggled to get her back home.

I felt like I needed to work because the investments we were banking on to start our new business didn’t come through with COVID. We were planning on taking a small trip for our anniversary in the middle of summer, but I had to choose between the trip or doing the training for the job. Plus with our daughter, a week of sailing turned to a day or two on the boat. It was just another thing cancelled because of COVID.

I had to deal with a lot of things I was afraid of. I had to interview people in dangerous neighborhoods. Then there were dogs. Some days I had to drive for several hours. I’ve always been a nervous driver and had to face that fear. Again, not to mention COVID when I could hear people coughing. At times I felt like I was putting my life on the line.

As a census worker dealing with colitis, I was fearful when I couldn’t find a bathroom. When I was out in the middle of nowhere a lot of park or public restrooms were closed due to COVID. It was a real nightmare at times.

I had to get over the anxiety of talking to people I didn’t know. I had to overcome this fear of being out of my comfort zone by myself. It was also very intimidating doing things I’ve never done before such as purchasing a ticket for the car ferry. With every adventure comes a little apprehension.

In all of that, I still had to find the energy to go to the grocery store, cook, clean the house, and get the laundry done. It’s a big adjustment to go from not working to working 40+ hours a week.

I have to say though that it was a wonderful experience. I did earn a fair wage for the work I did. My supervisor was awesome along with all the other census workers I ran into along the way. I’m sad I didn’t have the time to write about this while it was happening, but I knew there would be later. Now.

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.

A weak start of the week

Is this week over yet??

It’s not just waiting impatiently for the election results.

On Monday after I picked up my daughter from the psychiatric hospital we got in a car accident that totaled my car. How crazy is that? Not only that, but my daughter’s pet frog died the day she got home.

Thankfully we didn’t get hurt in the car accident. I got rear ended and it totaled my car. I can’t believe it. My first car accident. The other person’s car was totally fine. I liked my car. Now I have to find another one. This certainly wasn’t in the plan for this year. As if any of this was in my plans for this year.

Is this month over yet?

I started my 30 day detox diet on November 1st. It’s been going a lot better than I planned. But I can only practically eat vegetables. I can’t make big scrumptious meals for my family that I cannot eat. That is something I can’t seem to do which is making everyone around here irritated with me.

I don’t think we will even be celebrating Thanksgiving this year with everything going on with COVID.

Is this year almost over because I am done with it.

Gratitude week 44

  1. It’s been a stressful week. My daughter Arabella is currently in the hospital for depression. I’m grateful that as of right now, she is safe. I’m grateful that the doctor listened to the concerns I have and is willing to do extra testing.
  2. I’m grateful for a warm fire in the fireplace on a blustery November day. BTW, how did it get to be November already???
  3. I’m grateful that we have two more days left until election day. I am literally going insane with all the texts and phone calls from both parties. If anything, I am so annoyed I don’t even want to vote. I’m sick of the ads. I’m sick of fights and people unfriending other people because of politics. Enough already! I think most of us will be grateful when this is over.
  4. My daughter Angel’s boyfriend Dan is learning to be an electrician. I’m grateful that he was able to fix the doorbell that has been broken since we moved in a couple years back.
  5. I met with my therapist this week. She jokingly said on the way out that my life certainly wasn’t boring. I’m not sure if I should be grateful for that or not, but I am.
  6. I decided to start the 30 day detox diet today as planned. My wellness nurse wanted me to start it when I am not under a lot of stress. The way things are going that probably won’t happen until I’m 6 feet under. I’ve been waiting to start this diet since January. So far I’m grateful I feel just fine. The hardest part is drinking half my weight in ounces of water. If it weren’t for all the damn pills I take I’d be totally dehydrated as it is on a normal day. I also gave up coffee and switched to green tea. I hope I continue to feel good.
  7. I decided to stay home and have a pajama day today. The pastor is having a sermon series on a blessed family. It was painful for my husband and I to go to church last weekend. Our kids are grown up now and have no interest in going to church with us anymore. Plus with all the struggles we are having with Arabella I felt upset. We tried to do the right things yet why is this happening? Honestly, I also thought I’d be feeling worse with the diet than I actually do.
  8. I’m grateful we bought a self-cleaning vacuum for our pool for both the bottom and the sides. It will save us a lot of time and work. It’s kind of cool to watch like when they came out with washers and dryers you could see work.
  9. Last night Paul and I finally were able to get together with our friends for supper. They are kind of mentors to us. It’s hard to find healthy older couples out there. I’m grateful for them and the other people who stepped into our lives and in return others we have helped.
  10. Today I finally opened my own YouTube account. Yeah, I know, I’m old. I’m grateful that I found another avenue to explore.

Gratitude week 42

  1. I got my haircut and I really like how it turned out even though my daughter said I have the same haircut as my son.
  2. My husband motored our sailboat to its winter home. I’m grateful for his safety. The weather turned and he had no choice but to bring it back in strong winds, waves, and icy temperatures.
  3. I’m also grateful he has some pretty wonderful friends to take the boat back with him. Although they wore their winter gear, they got wet and were absolutely freezing.
  4. My best friend’s husband had surgery and is doing well.
  5. My husband planned a surprise date, something he has never done before. It was something simple, a trip to the local museum. But I haven’t been there since the kids were little. We are starting to get used to being able to do things without the kids. It is lonely, but in some ways it is nice. Now we started to plan a monthly surprise date night.
  6. I am in the beginning process of planning a trip this winter. Everything I had planned this year got cancelled or put off so it is nice to switch into planning gear again.
  7. We have been having problems with our 17 year old daughter. She wants to move out and live with a friend. It’s a long story that I will probably tell someday. This weekend we talked to her and set boundaries we are comfortable with. Her behavior has been causing us all a lot of stress, but I’m grateful we won’t continue to let her treat us poorly.
  8. I’m grateful for a supportive best friend.
  9. I’m grateful to have more time to blog.
  10. I’m grateful to feel like I am healthy and strong to be able to handle the dark days ahead.

Gratitude week 40

  1. The fall colors are almost at its peak. Despite cold and rainy weather yesterday (not to mention not knowing the status of the rest of the school year) we were able to get some nice outdoor shots of Arabella for her senior pictures. She took a few pictures with her mask on too. One can always hope this will be unique in the years to come and not viewed at as normal.
  2. WP is working. For some reason the last time I was on to write/edit a post I wasn’t able to load this page. There was nothing but a blank page so thankfully it worked (and really fast to boot) today.
  3. We were able to have a nice campfire with our previous employee. It was really wonderful to be able to see him again.
  4. For clean sheets and pulling out the electric blanket.
  5. Crisp clean air and preparing for winter. Washing windows. Getting things done because there really isn’t too much left to prepare for. We don’t have any big plans. No winter vacations or even talk about getting together for the holidays. It now seems like the simple things are big. I am almost ready for big parties and family gatherings again. I can’t believe I am actually saying that.
  6. There were a couple of shootings this past weekend in neighborhoods I worked in this past week with the census job. I am grateful that although at times I was afraid I was able to stay safe.
  7. My son surprised us by getting a hair cut. I guess it is the little things. He had long curly locks which I liked and now his hair is shorter than mine.
  8. It’s been wonderful having Angel home again. She even made supper a couple of nights.
  9. We are supposed to get some warmer weather in the next couple days and I am always grateful for that.
  10. I’m grateful that my son was able to get away for a few days with his friends in WI Dells. I’m surprised the waterparks are even open. I’m grateful he asked me for trip planning advice. It’s kind of cool to have your child do something for the first time and ask for advice. I’ve been waiting for this day for quite a long time. My youngest child still thinks I don’t know anything.

The ultimatum, part 8

Paul struggled with what it meant to be a husband and a dad. He never had a dad and barely remembered his mother’s brief marriage when he was 4 to a man that was supposedly abusive towards him.

His only parent was very childlike herself. They were dirt poor. He spent the first half of his childhood in low income housing in the inner city of Chicago. His mother was slow and uneducated. She also struggled with mental health issues that I would guess were trauma related.

Martha’s dad died when she was 12, so Paul didn’t have a grandpa either. He wouldn’t have made a good grandpa anyway. He was known to abuse his children and cheat on his wife. He wouldn’t be my chosen father figure for a future husband.

Martha didn’t always make the best decisions but she was a good mother. She always told Paul he could do anything he put his mind to. She did the best she could with the hand she was given.

Sometimes I feel like Paul was more of a parent to Martha than she was to him. But that could be because I saw him give her advice as an adult. She would argue that credit cards were money. She wasn’t a drinker but I think she was addicted to gambling. I’m sure that is why Paul is obsessed with keeping our finances in order.

Martha also had a really bad temper. She was very reactive and emotional. She often was angry and thought people were out to get her. Or you could be the best thing that ever happened to her. In those times you could do nothing wrong. She was crazy fun, exciting, and impulsive.

After her brief marriage, Martha didn’t have a lot of boyfriends. She worked a lot. Sometimes she lost her jobs due to her chronic tardiness. She married for the 2nd time right before I met Paul. Her husband Darryl is only 15 years older than Paul. He had kids but his ex took off with them and they spent most of their adult life in and out of prison. Maybe if Paul was still a child he would’ve been a good father.

I wish I could say that my own dad was able to take him under his wing. If anything, my dad taught him what not to do as a husband and a father. It seems like we both had to parent our parents more than they parented us. It caused a lot of stress shouldering all of that responsibility.

There was no one, just a big empty void of abandonment. He was expected to be good at something he never learned how to do. He didn’t have a dad to play ball with. No one taught him how to fix things or work on cars. He was never disciplined. He didn’t have a dad to embarrass him or give him advice on girls. Like most things, he just had to figure it out himself.

I tried to gloss it over and glamorize it by saying that at least he could develop his own style. But it wasn’t easy. I think he is a wonderful father and husband despite his insecurities. When he screws up he apologizes and tries harder to be a better person. He is doing a wonderful job and I appreciate his commitment.

He could’ve walked away like his own father did. Instead he was willing to roll up his sleeves and work on himself and our relationship.

Gratitude week 27

  1. Summer!! We’ve had a bit of a heat wave here in Wisconsin. It’s been in the 90’s for over a week. Typically we are lucky (if you like it hot like I do) to have one or two days a year that hot. I finally broke down and turned on the A/C.
  2. I have one less teenager in the house. I went from 4 teenagers this year down to one. Our exchange student from France, Estelle, went back home this last week. Now I am not grateful or happy about this, BUT Estelle and my daughter Arabella started out as best friends and left not even speaking to each other. It was difficult because Estelle wanted to do everything with me and Arabella wants nothing to do with me. So I am hoping for less stress now that she is gone.
  3. I am grateful to keep busy so I am not depressed about Estelle leaving. My birthday is next week and I have some fun things planned that I enjoy.
  4. My daughter came home this past weekend. Paul and I had a great time with our son Alex and our daughter Angel and her boyfriend Dan sailing and swimming.
  5. I feel grateful I am able to get away more now that the responsibility of having foreign exchange students is over.
  6. Paul taught me almost everything I needed to know about sailing over this weekend. This is wonderful because I need to know how to run the boat if something happens to him.
  7. After being gone the last four days I am grateful to be back home.
  8. I am grateful for my faithful followers and I can’t wait to share more of my story.
  9. I am grateful we didn’t run into any storms while we were out sailing. With the heat and humidity the weather has been volatile.
  10. I am grateful to have a supportive husband even if it means writing about him.

Gratitude week 26

  1. After doing an iPhone update my phone started glitching out. I thought I was going to have to break the bank and buy a new phone. My daughter suggested turning the phone off and on again. I’m grateful it worked and I don’t have to get a new phone for awhile.
  2. Summer!!
  3. My mom ended up in the hospital this past week. I’m grateful that routine bloodwork for her physical caught a problem before it became a bigger problem. Because of her health concerns, I took my brother back to his group home for the first time since the pandemic. I’m grateful because that means a little less stress for her.
  4. My daughter didn’t come home for Father’s Day weekend because she was concerned she may have been exposed to coronavirus. Thankfully the COVID test came back negative and she was able to come home this past weekend.
  5. We took a ride around town in my daughter’s new Jeep with the top and doors off. It was a lot of fun. I’m grateful that I can still have fun even during hard times.
  6. We had a bon voyage party for our foreign exchange student Estelle who will be going back home the end of this week. All she wanted to do was light off fireworks for her birthday but we couldn’t because of the weird tropical storm that hit Wisconsin. We were supposed to get severe weather on the night of her going away party but just got a few sprinkles so we were able to light off fireworks.
  7. I’m grateful that I was able to spend time with all my kids this weekend laughing and talking.
  8. I’m grateful we were able to take a young lady with cancer sailing. She had two wishes, one was to go horseback riding and the other was to sail. It was a perfect night to make her wish come true. She was so happy that it felt nice to do something to make someone else happy.
  9. I’m grateful for a long conversation with my brother Luke. It really is nice to have someone to relate to.
  10. I’m grateful that our new business is doing well.

Caring for Matt

It’s been at least a decade since I took care of my autistic brother Matt in my house. A few things precipitated this change. Initially I stopped providing weekend respite care for my parents after Matt was violent towards my daughter.

There may have been a few times I took care of Matt and my mom took my kids although it wasn’t much of a break. It was difficult raising 3 little kids without having much for family support. My mom had to take care of Matt. My brothers didn’t live close. My mother-in-law could barely handle raising the one child she did have, my husband. I found myself bitter towards parents that could dump their kids off and get away every now and then.

But the biggest change for me as a care provider for Matt was when my parents placed him in a group home. I was no longer needed to help out, until now that is. Matt’s group home was closed since the virus started. It is now open but if he goes back this month, he is not allowed to leave.

Originally my mom wanted me to stop by the house every night to make sure Matt was okay under my dad’s care. I told her it would be easier for me to have him stay with us for almost a week which is longer than he has ever stayed with me before.

I told my kids that Matt was coming to stay here for awhile but they wouldn’t have to adjust their lives around him. If it didn’t work out, Matt could always go home and I could check in on him everyday. One of my kids called me selfish for saying that our world didn’t revolve around Matt.

As a child my whole life revolved around Matt and if I had to tiptoe around him in my own house it wasn’t going to work. No other family member is willing to step up and offer to take him in for almost a week. That should count for something.

The whole experience went better than I expected. Although Matt is no longer violent, caring for him is not easy. He is on a special diet. I needed to make separate meals for him. At certain times of the day his medicine needs to be ground up and put into applesauce. He doesn’t have table manners. He farts and belches at the table. Sometimes he gags on his food especially if you bring a napkin near him.

He has poor hygiene. He is a messy eater and soils his clothes. He often wears his clothes inside out and/or backwards. He doesn’t change his clothes often. He refused to shower which he would need assistance doing. He wouldn’t ask for help after using the bathroom and made a mess on the floor. I had to floss his teeth and big clumps of food came out of his mouth which made me feel nauseous. He made a total mess out of the bathroom he used. In all honesty, it did trigger feelings of hopelessness in me.

Not only are my parents hoarders, but they rarely cleaned the house. Cleaning up after Matt would be like fixing up a house before you knew a tornado was going to hit. I didn’t even feel completely relieved that everything was clean after I cleaned once he left. I can’t always clean up messy feelings inside by cleaning the filth in my house.

I felt guilty when I wasn’t spending every minute taking care of him. Most of the time he would sit on the couch and stare off into space when I wasn’t interacting with him. I felt the ingrained need to please him because his life is so sad.

I found his favorite movies and put them on for him to watch. We went on walks together. I talked to him about the shared good memories from childhood. I talked about places and loved ones that long since passed. I talked to him about the things only a sibling would know. All these things helped ease his separation anxiety from my mom. I think things went really well, as good as I could have hoped for.

As a sibling, I worry a lot about what life will be like for Matt when my mom is no longer here. My parents are getting old. It is comforting to know that maybe he will adjust with my help. Matt will probably never be easy to care for but I think he would do well with me. I was impressed with how well he adapted to his new environment. It felt good to be able to help my mom out. In some ways it was nostalgic and strangely comforting for me as well.