- I finished writing the census series. I did forget a couple of stories. I was required to wear a mask, but one day I forgot. I had to cross a busy street in a downpour to go to an apartment complex that was always locked. But that one time the door was open. I went upstairs and knocked on the door. It sounded like someone was home. I was mortified because after I knocked I realized I had forgotten my mask in the car. That was a time I was thankful no one answered. I’m grateful to be able to share my stories with you.
- I’m grateful that I was able to enjoy Thanksgiving this week with my best friend and her family. Apparently she called her parents to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and found out that her siblings were invited over for the holiday but she was not. She works at the hospital and her parents consider her high risk for COVID so she is not welcome for the holidays this year but her siblings are. They didn’t even tell her. I’m grateful that we could get together to celebrate. I feel hurt by my mom as well. She considers us high risk but she still gets together with other people. We could really use her support right now. I wonder how many other families are dealing with this.
- I am glad that I have 2 days left on my detox diet. I am saving the pumpkin pie my friend made for the morning I am done. I told my daughter Angel to please not make deviled eggs otherwise I would crack. We’ll save the devil for Christmas.
- Yesterday my husband and I found the perfect Christmas tree. Every year I try to pick a theme. It has been difficult this year because we aren’t in any shows. Sorry, but quarantine is a sucky theme. In a couple weeks, it will be the 20th anniversary of my grandpa’s passing. This year I decided to dedicate our tree in tribute to him. If it wasn’t for my grandparents there is a good chance I wouldn’t be telling you my story today. I put 20 candy canes on the tree and decorated it with the pine cones my grandfather made many years ago. I feel like I was directed to the perfect tree in remembrance of him. I’m grateful I have some good memories to pass on to my kids.
- My daughter Arabella is in the hospital again. This is the third time in the last four months. She has been diagnosed with Major Depression with Borderline traits. The suicide rate for Borderline is 10%. I can’t imagine what it is combined with depression. I’m grateful that for now she is safe. This year has been hell for a lot more than COVID. I am going to start a new series tomorrow that will explore this past year.
- As I was decorating my tree yesterday I was very dismayed by the selection of Christmas music, so I made my own Christmas playlist. It includes both sacred and secular songs. I have over 8 hours of playtime and have hit every single genre from opera, traditional, rap, reggae, polka, pop, rock, metal, instrumental, funny….
- We have entered the season of light. This has been such a horrific year that I decided to decorate my house with every single strand of Christmas lights I own. I am going to be grateful for Christmas this year even if I can’t leave the house.
- I am grateful I was able to see my craniosacral massage therapist this week.
- I’m grateful for the classic Christmas movies. Last night we watched It’s a Wonderful Life. It makes me wonder how I have impacted other peoples lives. What would the life of others be like if we were never born? Wow, that is deep. I really should watch a comedy or something.
- Yesterday I cleaned out Arabella’s frog cage. I’m not sure how it even happened but her frogs escaped in her room. I asked Angel to help me catch them but she is afraid of frogs. She just ran around the room screaming. I’m grateful I caught them. The cage is clean and everything turned out alright.
- My son and I ran into his old piano teacher at the grocery store. She was a very instrumental person in his life throughout his difficult teen years. It was wonderful to see her again and find her well.
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.
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.
- Just 8 more days to go on the detox diet. Yeah!
- 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.
- 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.
- I’m grateful for a pajama day yesterday.
- 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.
- 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…
- Although they drive me a bit crazy at times, I’m grateful to have all my children living with us under the same roof.
- 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.
- In some ways I am grateful for a low key Thanksgiving. I think it will be a lot less stressful.
- 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.
I found myself asking how much my life was worth.
Sometimes when feeling down I found myself teetering on the fence between life and death. Will I choose hope or despair? There is a reckless courage when you find yourself in that place.
But when pressed, when my life was in danger, it showed me how much I wanted to live. I had to continue on the path to hope, healing, and growth even during the moments I wanted to say screw it all.
As my time with the census came to an end, they were looking for people willing to travel. I said I would be willing to go to the furthest north woods of Wisconsin. Yes, it could be very dangerous. It was very remote with limited cell phone coverage. Heroin is a big problem in some dead end towns. Wandering into a property illegally growing marijuana. Dangerous. Wild animals. Finding bathrooms. It was an adventure I was up for.
I awaited my instructions to travel, but they never came. Instead, I got a call about travelling to Milwaukee. Now that is a different kind of dangerous. This year alone Milwaukee surpassed the highest annual homicide rate ever recorded. Unfortunately, this year isn’t even over yet.
I turned it down.
My supervisor said that another employee went, an African American woman. She was sent to such a horrible neighborhood that she was utterly terrified and asked if she could come back home. I think I made the right call.
They were looking for census employees to go to Detroit, Kenosha, and Atlanta as well. It takes a special (or should I say crazy) person to do the census especially in dangerous unfamiliar places.
If I had the chance, would I choose to do it all over again? Absolutely! Will I work the 2030 census? Probably not.
I was walking through a bad neighborhood once again. My car was parked a block away. The road was closed and virtually impassable with huge potholes. It wasn’t like I could easily sneak around the signs although no one was currently working on the street. I knew the limitations of my car.
I passed between a port-a-pot and some teenage girls. My mumbled ‘hi’ was met with disdainful snide sneers. I went to the house on my case list. A woman answered stating that she already completed the census and would not be completing it again.
It happened, sometimes we were sent to the same houses over and over where the respondents said they already completed the questionnaire. There was even one whole new subdivision that got multiple census questionnaires due to a duplicate address error. It was sent twice, once to circ and the other time to cir for a road called Something Circle. After awhile people got angry. They filled out one and still got another. I understood. I listened, figured out the problem, and tried to resolve it for them. But these residents had a valid reason for being upset.
But some people were angry and aggressive for no apparent reason at all. I found I had the most problems with men right around 35 years of age. I couldn’t figure it out. Were they afraid I would ask information about their income?
I had several doors slammed in my face by all men. It was upsetting, but I tried not to take it personally. I even had a guy say ‘don’t know’ with a smirk to every single question to try to get a rise out of me. Later I thought I should’ve asked him if his parents were home. (He was obviously a grown man).
That day after I made my house call on the torn up street I walked past a man standing on his deck. He yelled an aggressive ‘GO!’ as I walked past him. I was instantly in fight mode. I pivoted my body around and glared at him. I gave him a dirty look that said grow up and shut up. He yelled ‘DAMN!’ as I turned and walked away.
After I walked a couple houses, I turned and glanced back to see if I had to make a run for it. But the man was gone. Later I saw that the approximate location where the man yelled at me was listed as a dangerous address. I had to keep that in mind when walking through neighborhoods not just when I visited specific houses.
Later that evening my husband applauded me for standing my ground. He said it was good to show him I wasn’t afraid. My son asked if I wanted to get shot. He thought I was being foolish. I wouldn’t have stood a chance against the man or his gun, but it felt good to do something.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Clean sheets.
- Quality time with the family swimming and playing games.
- Having pajama day on a lazy Saturday since my plans were cancelled due to COVID.
- I’m grateful this week for our veterans and the sacrifices they made to serve our country.
- 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.
- I’m grateful to be able to learn new things by reading books and watching intelligent shows.
- 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.
- I’m grateful for friends who stepped up and supported us through these trying times.
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.