The Perspective of a US Census Taker

usa flag waving on white metal pole
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Last fall I filled out an application to be a U.S Census taker. I was newly retired and had the time. But mainly, I felt it was my civic duty. In prior decades, I had been a Vietnam protester, a women’s lib advocate, an outspoken New Yorker born in the shadow of Columbia University and fully identifying with the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) of the 1970s.

Now I saw a country more divided than ever, with racial tensions heightening, and unemployment surging. Could I actually make a difference  for those whom the Census affected – the underrepresented, the marginalized, the uncounted? My 1970s self applauded!

But I soon discovered that becoming a Census taker was more than hopping in my car with a clipboard in hand and patriotic zeal in my heart. 

I had to attend a training class followed by a comprehensive nine-hour module on how to be an exemplary “enumerator”. This is the first time that technology has been used in the Census. The interview process would be prompted by questions on a government issued phone with software prompting you from one screen to the next based on answers to questions. You are capturing data that will be submitted for analysis by our government. And with over 170,000 Covid related deaths, the demographic changes in our country have been profound and dollars need to be allocated in the best way possible – for senior centers, hospitals, and schools.

After completing the module and taking a quiz covering the basic material, I was deemed ready to hit the road and be in the field. And my particular field turned out to be mostly just that. I was assigned the rural countryside of Columbia County in upstate New York.

My first case on my first day showed exactly how rural my territory was. My GPS led me to a corn field where it announced with great satisfaction that I had arrived. I stared at the wide open space, my patriotic zeal a bit dampened. I soon discovered that addresses were often incorrect, that many houses had no numbers, and that there were residents of trailer parks and RVs who wanted to remain off the grid.

But I also learned that whether rural or urban, people are more alike than they are different. And everyone has a story. I am a definitive type A personality, and I relished the opportunity to learn these stories – people’s names, their ages and origin, who they live with, and how many were under the same roof. It was like being an investigator without having the background for it.

Some of the kindest, sweetest people I met were missing teeth and eating cheese doodles for dinner. In this socially distanced, Covid world, most people seemed to want to connect, to interact with another human being. I saw how many lonely people there were out there, pandemic or no pandemic.

One woman I met was just pulling  into her dusty, dirt driveway. After I identified myself, she asked if I could wait a moment while she checked on her three kids and her mom. I discovered she was in her 40s, single, and had just moved back into her childhood home. At the end of the interview, I thought she would have asked me to stay for dinner if not for Covid.  We were probably on complete opposite sides politically, but we had connected – and all while filling out Census forms!

Then there have been times when I realized I was enumerating an actual celebrity. Once I spoke to a famous movie director/producer and did not let on that I knew who he was. It was an experience I will treasure and it never would have happened had I not been wearing my U.S Census badge!

I have also encountered those who did not take kindly to a stranger approaching their home, regardless of the clearly visible credentials. Once a hostile property owner appeared out of nowhere at a multi unit complex, telling me I was soliciting and that he was going to call the police. I calmly told him I was with the U.S Census Bureau, doing my job, and to please go ahead and call them. I stood my ground. I then heard him mutter under his breath, “f ing bitch” followed by a louder pronouncement that I had three minutes to leave the property. (I took my sweet time!)

As a 2020 Census Taker, I never know what to expect when I get into my car. But that’s the joy of it!  Everyone has a story and the hours fly by. Before I know it, I have gone through 25-30 cases and completed my required interviews. I have driven past corn fields and have heard cases that would break your heart. But I have also witnessed our nation’s diversity and resiliency, as well as our need to connect, and yes, even unite.

This is my small part in being an American and, whatever good comes from getting this Census right, I know I have contributed.

The Case of the Fatigued Engagement Ring

About a month ago, I (Joy) was looking down at my hand.  This is the hand I have worn my engagement ring on for the last four decades. I did a double take.  One of the shanks holding a diamond baguette had separated from the main stone.  The ring is made of platinum, a very hard substance, atomic number 78, unreactive,  not inclined to break or crack.  I took the ring off for fear of losing the stone and put it away until it could be looked at by a jeweler. My hand felt naked.  I felt as though maybe this signified something.  Was my marriage broken?  Was this an omen?  I had worn this ring for 44 years, 42 being married and two during our engagement. This ring had seen much, felt much, and been with me on my hand reminding me of my vows, a token of affection and love, and several months of my fiancee’s salary at that time.  Who knew rings could break? If my ring could talk, what would it say?

I discovered that jewelers in my area were closed during the pandemic.  This was not a do it yourself project.  I didn’t know any gemologists, so my beautiful engagement ring had to be put away for safe keeping.

Finally, we entered into Phase 2 in the Capital Region of New York.  I found a jeweler in our little hamlet who was incredibly talented.  I walked in with my broken engagement ring and it was diagnosed as ‘fatigue.”  I had never heard this term before in relation to jewelry and I found it rather incredulous!  How could my ring be tired? All it did for 44 years was  sit on my finger. I asked nothing of it!

Apparently, rare as it  might be, especially for platinum silverish white in color, it can happen.  One of the shanks was indeed cracked and so, after an estimate of $550, I left my ring to be repaired and made new again. (The jeweler said he had never seen this happen before!)

Two weeks later and I received a call from the jeweler that my ring was repaired and looked brand new.  He told me that when he removed the shank holding one of the diamond baguettes, the other shanks disintegrated.  Perhaps, out of solidarity! Thank God it could be saved and there is a happy ending to my tale of woe. My beautiful engagement ring is now back on the finger it has always been on, shiny and new, no longer fatigued!

Today’s Takeaway

-Keep your eye on your jewelry at all times.  You never know when a piece that is dear to you is going to get “fatigued”!

-If my ring could talk, it might remind me that relationships too can become fatigued; they too may need to be polished, attended to with love, and valued beyond measure.

As always, enjoy the ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

The Great Pandemic of 2020

Much has been written about this unprecedented time we are living through – scientific reports, daily briefings by governors, mayors, the President, as well as jokes and quips to make us smile.

I (Joy) can only liken this to a period in history that I never lived through. That of World War II. My parents spoke of rations, silk stocking shortages, cigarettes being hard to come by, bread lines, feelings of worthlessness, depression, real estate values plummeting. This will be our World War II, our defining moment that we will take to our graves. Our children and their children won’t forget, but at least, God willing, they will have many more years to replace this horrific time with happy memories and prosperous times. Those of us in our senior years have less time to make up our lost investments and to process our feelings of isolation, disconnection, and separation from our loved ones.

What I will take away from this is that I was fortunate to have great friends, close family members, access to the internet with Zoom, FaceTime, What’s App, Instagram, and especially a husband who has been my friend and partner through good times and bad. I will remember that as long as I have food to put on my table, good health, sufficient money in the bank, and love in my heart for God and others, I will be fine. I will do my best to hold on to these thoughts and feelings so that I never take anything for granted again and realize I can do without if I have to.

In the words of Fred Rogers, “Often when you think you’e at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” Perhaps, our new beginning will be an era of less pollution, less greed, less materialism, less hatred, less “me”.

I hope so.

 

Today’s Takeaway

-What can we do to brighten someone’s day? A card in the mail, as old school as that is, could bring a smile to the face of a nursing home resident or a widow next door.

-Turn your eyes away from cable news long enough to marvel at that robin contemplating where to nest, that perennial flower annoyed by recent April snow and insisting on bursting forth, that squirrel scurrying up the tree oblivious to a flattening curve and daily statistics. You have the time!

Stay safe!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

health workers wearing face mask
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a Shortage of Dogs!!!! Surprising outcomes of a global pandemic

We are living in a world that is more akin to an episode from “The Twilight Zone” than anything in my (Joy’s) previous umpty-ump years of life!! (Just in case anyone reading this is thinking of hiring me, I’ll continue to keep my age private!)

We have wanted to write, to speak out to you, our subscribers, but we didn’t want to  wring our hands, despair, panic, add more to your anxiety.  So here’s a good news story, courtesy of COVID-19.

An oddity of this pandemic has been a shortage of adoptable dogs! (Cats too!!)  Really!  What a wonderful problem for a shelter to experience!  You might scratch your head and say, so? What it says to me is how important socialization is to all of us.  We need to be comforted, we need to nurture, we need to love and be loved.

Bloomberg and Crain’s New York Business reported on this very curious phenomenon the last week of March. A surge of applications, as reported by “Muddy Paws Rescue” and ‘Best Friends Animal Society, as much as 10 fold the normal amount, has the shelters scrambling for adoptable and/or fosterable pets in the New York City area. It’s extended to other disease epicenters such as L.A as well.

A pet fills in the gaps when we can’t be close to other humans.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore my dog all the time.  But in times of stress, sadness, confusion, anxiety, when your furry friend looks up at you with those big eyes, be happy he or she can’t get Covid-19.  Where would you be without your furries?  In the words of James Taylor, “You’ve Got a Friend.”

Other Takeaways (so far) of a Global Pandemic

-Little Adventures Everywhere – Who knew taking a walk around the block could be so vital?  And during these walks, we find ourselves waving to perfect strangers across the street – a wave that says, “I know what you’re going through.” We are bringing jigsaw puzzles out of closets; we are resurrecting family game nights, or days; we are appreciative of hair-washing, Netflix, and video connecting.

I’ve just been invited to a cocktail party! My (Barclay’s) sister, age 80, living in rural Vermont, exclaimed.  She and her husband were going to Zoom with friends that evening at 5pm.  We are craving human contact.  And Zoom is easy enough for even Grandmas to navigate.  Our calendars are filling up with dates for online get-togethers where PJs are just fine.

When I pray, I kick worry and anxiety out of my head – Many of us  have been spending more time on our knees.  We have been rereading Psalm 91.  Hey, we have time!  And there is a TON to pray about! Praying and worry cannot coexist. So get kneeling!

We are learning to wait better and reflect more.  Amazon is no longer a few hours away.  If we want such and such, we can’t hop in the car and treat ourselves.  Life is slower. Days are seeming like weeks.  Patience and deep breathing are keys to survival. Whenever we feel sorry for ourselves, we reflect on those heroes who are driving ambulances, caring for the sick, patrolling our streets, manning our check-out lines, taking our garbage.

Churches are going beyond their four walls.  We can listen to online sermons live or at our leisure.  Those who wouldn’t think of attending an actual service, now have the means (and the time) to sit in the back pew and take it in (virtually, that is.)

The biggest takeaway sounds trite, but is true —

We ARE in this together and We Will Get Through It.

                                                                Hold On

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

Barbarella, say it ain’t so! Women Embracing the Gray

Joy here –   I was aghast when I saw Jane Fonda present best picture of the year at the 2020 Academy Awards.  Sexy, bombshell, toned, Fonda, who had inspired millions to exercise to her 1982 Jane Fonda’s Workout, walked out and showed herself to millions of viewers with gray hair!!!

I think this trend of going gray might have started with Helen Mirren (elegance personified), culminating with Sharon Osborne, who had dyed her hair flaming red every week for 18 years!  What gives?  Are women of a certain age feeling more confident in their aging hair and skin?

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Not only did the fabulous Jane Fonda go gray, but she vowed that she was done with surgery to make her look younger.  At 82, she is remarkable by anyone’s standards.  I give her credit for speaking her mind and standing up for what she believes, still an activist in her 8th decade of life!

The guy who is responsible for both Jane and Sharon’s tresses is a top colorist by the name of Jack Martin.  Lady Clairol this is not!  The shades they both chose are truly beautiful grays, not your dingy dish  water gray that creeps up on you and says “time to go to the beauty parlor!”

I admit that I am not ready to go this route.  When I’m 80, (G-D willing) I might go gracefully into the white space. It will highlight my blue eyes, which will be cataract free by then!

 

Barclay here – I’m with Joy!

In fact, I never want to catch sight of what lies beneath!    When I sense its wire-like, springy presence, it is time to call Colette, my miracle working colorist and stylist who has become a good friend, given all the time we spend together!!

The truth is not many of us can afford the likes of Jane’s and Sharon’s colorist, who has deftly overseen their transition to the gray side.  OUR transition would likely be raccoon like, and reveal texture about as smooth as steel wool.

But I DO applaud Jane Fonda for boldly embracing the gray (smooth and perfect as it is) and encouraging us all to age with grace and gratitude.

Personally, I am grateful for her example, but I am equally grateful for Colette, whom I should probably call now.

 

Today’s Takeaway…

-You can spot them on the Red Carpet and on the streets of Naples, Florida, where I am presently.  The big lips, the pained smile, the too-arched eyebrows.  I have heard it said that, “The gods we worship write their names on our faces.”  May our faces radiate contentment and gratitude with normal sized lips and the inner beauty that comes with generosity of spirit.

-That said, let’s give thanks for make-up and hair products!

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

Little Children,little problems, big children, big problems

cartoon.jpgI’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “your’e only as happy as your least happy child! I have to admit I, Joy De Santo , am a controlling person, a “helicopter mom’.  I mean well, always have, but after many many years, I’m finally beginning to get it that adult children are different.  I can’t call the guidance counselor anymore and discuss the crappy teacher my child has or complain about a bullying kid that is rude or pushy. I can’t call the mom of a child who isn’t being nice to my daughter or hasn’t invited her to their birthday party.  My ability to help is limited and most of the time, they want to work things out for themselves (as they should) Nevertheless, when it comes to boyfriends and career decisions, every once in a while mom is the only person who can help.

My younger daughter, wise beyond her years and truly an old soul in a young person’s body, gave me an admonishment the other day.  She said, “Mom, you are there to be a sounding board, nothing more.  When a daughter calls, she wants to vent, I am told.  It’s .  a knee jerk reaction-I’m upset, the world sucks, and I want to talk to my mom! Why don’t they call with good news?!!!  They call to complain, kvetch, cry, sob, lash out, and be comforted.  I listen now and try not to interrupt (a very bad life long habit!) If I am asked for an opinion or guidance (not usually the objective of the call), I’ll give it.

Little children are easy.  Their issues, while important to them, are minor in comparison to the adult child. Trying to find your life’s passion, who am I, what do I want to do with myself, how do I afford an apt on my own, convince a hiring manager to give you a chance, live with another person and come to the conclusion that this person is “the one” or not “the one” are big issues, not to be dealt with lightly.

I may be slow in coming round, but I think I get it now.  I need to listen more, speak less, and comfort with a hug, a kiss, or from a distance a note letting that person know that they are loved at all costs. Nothing that is bothering them is bothersome to me as the recipient. That’s what I am there for.

When you are a fixer, a problem solver, this new role is hard.  I can’t stop them from falling down or making mistakes, but I can be there to pick them up and wrap my arms around them (no swaddling!  Requires too much material for a grown child!)

Today’s Takeaway…

.Accept this role of mother to adult children with patience, wisdom, and love

. I will always remember  the first time I had words with my husband or got fired from a job, or thought I had some dreaded disease, who did I call?-my daddy!

Even at 30 or 40 (if your’e lucky to have your parents around) there are times when the only call, text, messenger, FaceTime, you want is your mom (or dad)

As always, enjoy the ride

Barclay & Joy

x0x

When death hits close to home

About a month ago a friend of mine from my former company, one in which I worked for 19 years, texted me. He apologized for contacting me in this way, rather than a phone call. A colleague from work had died suddenly.  She had been in my age group, and though she had some health issues, her dying was totally unexpected and truly overnight.  She had been in the office the day before selling sponsorships to an event, something she had done for years and done it better than anyone could.

She was filled with joy (no pun intended!), a zeal for life, dedication to hard work, specifically selling, and she was quirky.  There is no other P  (name omitted in deference and with respect). She loved good gossip (and there’s always plenty of it in an office environment), purses (she had a house in Spain and couldn’t resist buying beautiful leather bags of every shape and color when she vacationed), shoes (Imelda had nothing on P!), pasta, good coffee, her partner of 25 years, and her family. Dedicated daughter to a very sick mother, kind sister, and loyal friend to all.

I sat next to her when I went back to my former place of employment for 7 months.  In the morning, she’d make me a cup of Nescafe, the European kind, not the crappy American one from the grocery store. If you were working on something and didn’t have time for lunch, she’d make sure you had something from the vending machine!  Selfless, sweet, thoughtful, all would describe P.  One of my friends at work told me he had a drawer full of Kind bars that P brought him every day, even though he disliked them. She wanted to make sure he ate, since he had a reputation for skipping meals! She would never know he stored them away in his drawer for over a year!

When someone dies who is a contemporary, it is a shock, it hits home.  You may love someone in their 80’s or 90’s, but know that their time is nearing and if they pass, it’s not shocking.  It is part of life.  A person in their 50’s or 60’s is still young (at least, they are to me!) and they have so much more to accomplish.  P never did get to retire, have that last goodbye lunch, make that last sale, see one more client, or make one more call to convince a prospect sitting on the fence about attending an awards dinner.

Death doesn’t announce itself.  It can come suddenly and unexpectedly, without warning, without an invite.  P worked for the same company for almost 32 years, truly a part of the fabric of the firm.  She was part of the old culture that had existed, like  your work family. Several of my best friends in life, I made through my time there.

P will be sorely missed by so many, but she leaves those whose lives she touched all the better for having known her.

I know that there will be other calls, texts, emails, to tell me of someone who is near and dear to me dying or being very ill.  I cannot bear the thought.  It saddens me so.  I remember being in Florida with my mother when she got the call that her childhood friend, a woman she had known

selective focus photography of tombstone
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

all her life, had passed away.  She sat down and wept.  She hadn’t seen her for many years, but death wakes us up to our own mortality and pinches us to let us know we are alive.  We know not for how long.

Today’s Takeaway:

Death is not somewhere in the far off future. It can come at anytime.  We must take the best care of ourselves, but understand our fate in someone’s else’s hands.

Live life to the fullest and let those who are close to you know how much they mean to you.

As always, enjoy the ride.

xox Barclay & Joy

 

 

 

 

 

Happy 2nd Anniversary, Revisionist Retirement!

Joy here…

So hard to believe that Barclay and I started this blog-www.revisionistretirement.com two years ago this month!  Happy Anniversary to us, and to you, our subscribers!

Who knew how difficult and bumpy this retirement ride would actually be!  Shouldn’t retiring be the finish line of the race you have been running for 30-40 years?  It always seemed so far away, somebody else’s life, not mine!  I was young and would stay forever the girl I saw in the mirror.

It has been a 3-year ride now for Barclay and me.  During that time I have been emotional, depressed, ecstatic, moody, petulant, frustrated, disappointed, and confused (at times, all of these rolled into one!) Now, I think I am in a good place, in my head, in my mind, and in my heart.

What is certain is that reflecting on the process through this blog has been cathartic for us both.  But more importantly, if we have helped ONE person have a smoother ride, then we have accomplished something wonderful!

Soooooo,

We now have a favor to ask you…

 

First a question for those who are retired.

What has been the BEST part about retirement?

What has been the WORST part about retirement?

 

And one more thing…

 

Which of the following topics do you want to hear more about?  

 

___ Aging Well: How to keep your body and brain moving?

____Finding Purpose in Retirement?

____Mental Health?

____A walk down memory lane with Muriel, Ben, Peggy, and Champe?

____Book Reviews?

____Spirituality?

____Parenting and Letting Go?

 

—–Other??


 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

THANK YOU for following this blog!!!

May we continue to enjoy the ride together!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

Image courtesy of https://clipartix.com/retirement-clip-art/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Skin We’re In – Part 2: Self-Tanners Revisited

“What’s that smell?”  Tracie grimaced.   We were sitting at a table of teachers waiting for the building meeting to begin.

“Ew….what could that be?!”  I responded looking around the conference room with quizzical and slightly accusing eyes.

Truth was I knew EXACTLY what the smell was.  I just had no idea it was emitting from my skin so enthusiastically.

It was the early days of self-tanners and that morning I had lathered some on my winter white legs.  Apparently I needed to be less aggressive with the application.

By the time I got to my tennis group that evening, the smell was less pungent.  However, when I took off my warm up pants, my legs were not golden tan as I envisioned – they were orangey yellow – a color not found in nature.

Another lesson I learned in my self tanning journey is to go easy on knees and elbows, while avoiding the underside of your forearm.  It takes a few days for wayward streaks and blotches to fade and in the meantime people think you have an unsightly skin disease.

Also, don’t ignore the tops of your feet.  Your tan ankles should NOT come face to face with white, veiny feet!

And need I remind you to wash your hands after applying?  And to exfoliate your skin with a washcloth before?

So how do self-tanners work?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “The active ingredient in most sunless tanning products is the color additive, dihydroxyacetone (DHA). When applied, dihydroxyacetone reacts with dead cells in the skin’s surface to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan.” The FDA has approved the external use of DHA and Mayo Clinic assures us that self tanners are safe.

But that DHA smell!  Most self tanners cause neighborhood dogs to sniff the air, confused yet intrigued.

But wait…

Last winter I discovered a self-tanner that I absolutely LOVE!  And it smells GREAT!  The price is $26 – $27 but it’s worth it!

Naturally there’s a website devoted  to self tanners – with the ingenious name of selftanning.com.  That’s where I found Tanceuticals Self Tanning Body Lotion.

The golden tanned gals at this site give it high praise –

“The tan it gave us was truly gorgeous– a smooth and natural, darker shade of bronze. It’s easy to apply, dries quickly and feels great on the skin. We also  love that this self tanner has cosmeceuticals in it (instead of just a bunch of chemicals).  It lasts nearly 7 days, which is longer than just about any self tanner we’ve ever tried.   Tanceuticals smells absolutely wonderful!  We love the smell of coconut! We had a hard time finding anything we didn’t like about Tanceutcials.”

They had me at “cosmeceuticals”!  An under-used word if I ever heard one.

So, fellow Baby Boomers, our moms were right about applying 50 SPF sunblock.  But that doesn’t mean we have to be pasty white!  Or turn orange.  Or have dogs follow us.

I buy my Tanceuticals from Amazon.  Click the picture below if you want to do the same.  (This particular link is for the dark shade.)

The only one who does not give this product 5 stars is Codie, my beloved Golden, who misses that odd smell of days gone by.

Today’s Takeaway –

-In the words of L’Oreal, we’re worth it!  Looking at my tanned legs and smelling the coconut is one of my YIPPEE moments today!  (See previous post!)

-Happiness does not lie in the perfect self-tanner, but hey, God is the ultimate gift-giver and maybe this is a small token of his love.  Or maybe he just got tired of that weird smell!

What’s your YIPPEE skin product?

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy