On Monday, March 22, 2021, I received a text from Stacey asking me if I’d be interested in working with her and her family for the upcoming summer.
Now, if you know me at all – you know that I like to think about things. I like to weigh the pros and cons. I like to know what’s next and make sure I choose what’s best.
But, within minutes I responded to this text with a definite YES.
Before this, my plan was to stay in London for the summer and continue working at my group home job. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE my job there. But it didn’t feel right to stay for the summer. I would be graduated and my roommates wouldn’t be around. I was already feeling lonely before it had even happened. I had lived alone in London the summer prior, in the beginning of the pandemic, and I just wasn’t feeling like I was ready to do that again.
When I received this text from Stacey I was on the phone with my sister, telling her how worried I was about the upcoming summer. I was telling her that while I love all my people at my job, coming home to an empty house every night and having all my friends moving back home just didn’t feel like a happy summer. And after my lonely summer of 2020, I needed a happier summer.
So this text was like my answered prayer. I sent back an enthusiastic ‘yes!’ and by May first I had moved back into my childhood bedroom and by 10 am on May 3rd I was at Stacey’s house ready to start my four months of summer with their family.
This summer has been the fastest summer of my life. I have never really worked a full-time job with pretty consistent hours like this one, so part of me thought that this summer would go by pretty slowly. I was so wrong.
It went by SO fast and I feel like there is so much more I want to do. I want more time. But instead of focussing on what didn’t get done, I thought I would list all the things we did do this summer. Hang tight. It’s a lot.
- Farm Visit to see piglets
- 10,000 trips to Value Villages and Thrift Stores (exaggeration but pretty close)
- Toronto Zoo
- Pingle’s Sunflower Fest
- Built a new Willowjak website
- Built a Willowjak email list
- Started a Willowjak Podcast
- Put up a backyard pool
- Took down a backyard pool
- 1000 trips to Staples (another exaggeration but not too far off)
- Sauble Falls
- Retro candy store
- Dinner @ 50s diner
- Tobermory boat cruise
- Surfing in Owen Sound
- Sauble Beach
- Dunks Bay
- Road trip around Rice Lake
- Road trip to Peterborough
- Another road trip to Peterborough
- Got two iPads fixed
- 2 trips to Ennismore Conservation area to swim
- A fast boat ride on Chemong Lake
- Lift Lock Cruise in Peterborough
- Another day trip to Sauble Beach
- 2 trips to Cobourg beach
- Lots of trips to splash pads
- Lots of walks
- Tons of trips to Richardson’s Lookout
- Weekly trips to Chalk Lake Natural Spring
- Trip to Ottawa to see family & stay in a hotel
- Visit to see cousins in Peel
- Went to the drop in at Autism Home Base
- Made two episodes of Willowjak news
- Made 300 animals out of clay (exaggeration #3)
- And probably so much more that I’m forgetting
It feels like a dream that this was my job. It didn’t feel like a job. It just felt like I was going to hang out with my friends everyday. It was a happy, happy summer.
I love this family with all my heart. They’ve taken a chance on Shy Liza in these last few years and for that I will be forever grateful.
Will has a contagious laugh, a goofy personality, and a sense of determination like no other. He can be stubborn (like us all), but man is he fun.
Owen in the kindest human I have ever met. If you put your hand out he will look around for something of his he can give to you. He smiles when he takes out the garbage or unloads the dishwasher because he is proud he’s helping.
And Stacey. Lord, I love this woman. She rarely ever gives herself credit, but, she is the best ever. She has so much in her own life that she should be focused on, but she’s still giving herself to everyone around her. She donates to almost every online fundraiser. She spends so much time picking out the perfect presents for people. She surprises people with coffee, cider, and treats all the time. She knows her sons so well and is determined to make the world a better place for them. Stacey goes out of her way every day to make life fun and interesting for these boys.
To top it all off – she’s really nice to Shy Liza. She dreams big for me when I’m too scared to and always checks in to make sure I’m comfortable in every situation. I really feel like she believes I can do anything, and she tells me this very often. (I know she will hate that I’m saying all this but it’s my last day so I figure she can’t fire me).
As a shy girl, I sometimes don’t say what I’m thinking because that gushy-sad stuff makes me nervous. But sometimes, when you really, really feel the love and find your people, something needs to be said for that.
That being said, wherever we took the boys this summer if someone made us feel comfortable and welcome we would ask the boys to say a big thank-you to show our appreciation.
So, I think I should do the same. Thank you, Stacey, Owen, and Will. I will miss hearing Will’s tired and almost robotic “Good-mo-ning” and Owen’s outrageous giggle and I’ll miss our chats and dream sessions, Stacey. Thank you all for welcoming me into your home this summer.
Most of the time when I leave jobs like this, people will tell me that I am such a good sport or have a strong work ethic. But the truth is I just really, really love my job because it’s family.
Follow along to hear all about the ups and downs in direct support work, young adult life, and allyship – it sure has given me lots to write about! Enjoy some casual, light-hearted tales about all my adventures along the way.
You are so special. I am glad you all found each other. Everyone is so much better for spending time together. Good luck in your next adventure. You deserve wonderful things in your future.