Wisconsin Couple an Example of Americans' Anxieties, Hopes

Wisconsin Couple an Example of Americans Anxieties, HopesABC
In some ways, Kelly and Mike Schmitt's Waukesha, Wisc., neighborhood is a cross-section of America. The area is home to a mix of Caucasian, African American and Hispanic residents across the socio-economic spectrum. The mix may be a reflection of the town's history as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

In some ways, Kelly and Mike Schmitt's Waukesha, Wis., neighborhood is a cross-section of America.

The area is home to a mix of white, African-American and Hispanic residents across the socio-economic spectrum. The mix may reflect the town's history as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

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VIDEO: Couple with a baby on the way relies on a double income to make ends meet.Play

This diversity is one of the things Kelly Schmitt said she loves most about her home in an e-mail to "Good Morning America" explaining why the show should visit Waukesha, Wis., as part of its "At Your House" series.

"Our community is special because we come from diverse backgrounds. We are like a small picture of America, some college professors, blue collar workers, industrial workers, single mothers, small families, some are on disability; we are all Americans trying each day to make a good living and a good community," she wrote.

Kelly, who teaches music to elementary school students and gives private piano lessons at her home, hoped a visit from "GMA" would improve neighborhood relations by getting residents to cross the street and become closer.

"What is unique is the street that divides us, on our side, mostly Caucasian families and homeowners, and on the other side a very large mix of Hispanic, African-American and Caucasian families — some who rent HUD housing and some who own. Everyone seems to get along, but since we moved here three years ago, we have wanted to do something that would help integrate the street and break down some language and cultural barriers that seem to stop us from comfortably communicating and really learning about each other," Kelly Schmitt wrote.

Meet the Schmitts

The Schmitts moved to their neighborhood three years ago, right after college, but the city isn't new to them. Mike Schmitt grew up in the town and today works as a machinist and welder at Metal Tech. To make extra money, Mike and a neighbor started selling items at a local antiques mall.

The Schmitts plan to welcome their first child -- a baby girl -- at the end of June.

Like the average middle-class couple in America, they live in a 2,000-square-foot house and earn about $50,000 a year.

And like the country's average family, they are anxious about the future.

Kelly realizes that her job as an elementary school music teacher is one of the expendable ones. The Schmitts need two incomes to survive; they have student loans and a mortgage to pay off, along with other expenses.

"I do worry. I worry about that very much," she told Diane Sawyer. "It's the thought that it could happen at any time at any day."

One in four Americans have someone in their family who has lost a job, a 5 percent increase in two months, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll .

The poll also found that 56 percent of Americans say the recession has now forced a significant change in their lifestyle. One-third of those polled say they have experienced a cut in pay.

But people are also beginning to feel more optimistic. Two-thirds of people believe their personal financial situation will get better in the year ahead. That hardship and that hope were what we talked about in this living room last night.

Like many Americans, Kelly and Mike are cutting corners. They have no cell phones or cable TV, but they savor the small pleasures in their lives, like the photos and cafe au lait that reminds them of their honeymoon in Paris.

"I think you have to be optimistic. And there's, there's, so much darkness in the world. And if you can't be optimistic, you have to hold on to what you've got," Kelly said.

The couple also says they've learned some important lessons to help navigate the new economy.

Mike sometimes barters his services for things like furniture, and they are not ashamed to shop at Goodwill for clothing or books.

"We feel like we're winning," Mike said. "It's hard to explain, but you feel like you're doing better now."

And they are still confident that their baby daughter will inherit all the possibilities that they have been afforded.

"I want her to be able to have lots of choices," Kelly said. "I just want her to be what she's going to be and to also be able to have, to have compassion for other people. I think that would make me very proud."