Archive for February, 2012

Lenten Ramblings

February 26, 2012

People who know me … and have known me for more than 4 years, probably know the issues I’ve had around going to church. There is enough fodder there for a good-bad reality television show. Seminary, for many reasons, lead me away from the church. And by away, I mean only-when-visiting-my-sister-and-can’t-fake-food-posioning-again away. There are many complex layers that really are not fit for a public discussion (read, I’m not the only one involved and part of it, I flat out don’t want flying about the interwebs). There has always been a sense of missing the collective gathering (probably more of a Jungian archetype than I’d care to admit) for ritual.

I am sure that part of the need for ritual for me has been how ingrained church has been in my life for many years. My grandmother’s memorial service was held at the church my parents were married in. People at my sister’s church still tell the story of when my sister conned me into dressing up as an angel to hold the baby Jesus (that would have been a now 13 year old niece) while trying to keep a 2 year old from removing all the ornaments off the tree. Her wise words to a friend “my sister is going to kill me.”

Somewhere, I think, in this blog is about how most of that was taken away: not the memories. But the sense of belonging. The sense of being able to sit in community. Part of the training in seminary is a collection of mostly unpaid internships. One place noted that they would have not offered me the position had they known I was gay. Because the church is exempt from most hiring practices, this is not an uncommon stance. Hearing that comment, as part of a performance review, in an exceptionally liberal Christian denomination to this day remains one of the more painful aspects of my journey. In the span of 2 weeks, I went from a contract renewal to a concern of “deceptive” behavior because I did not tell somebody I was gay. During my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Experience) (read, unsupervised chaplain), during the discussion on human sexuality, I wound up being prayed over by 4 very conservative students from a different seminary that I might find “God’s grace and forgiveness”. When I tried to discuss this during supervision (the time when you met with the people who “supervise” (word used very casually) you), I was told I needed to bring it up with the entire group: that it was my job to educate them on equality. Huh?

After I graduated, the last place I wanted to see, be seen, hear, think, ever go to again was a church. Despite trying to bring attention to what happened to me, I received a clear message from the seminary, the CPE program and others: being gay was an issue.

And yet, the yearning for collective ritual remained. Some times, the pull was stronger than others. The Lenten pool is always the strongest. For me, Lent is a period of reflection: individual, collective over who we are as people. It’s that selfish period for me where I can reflect on where do I need to be. Where I can struggle with the questions of meaning in my life, where I can find a pause to think, reflect and try to find the balance.

I made a promise to somebody that I would attempt to attend church during Lent. I *like* Lent. I went today. A straight male minister criticizing one of the denominations in the federated church for upholding the excommunication of a minister for performing legal same sex unions (tied back to the promise of the rainbow). a congregant voicing concern over the burning of Koran in Afghanistan by members of the US military and stating that all religions have sacred texts and none is more sacred than another (and for the record, no, I was not in a UUA church!) and a singing bowl.

Healing words. It’s ok to be who you are here. We recognize different traditions or no tradition. We stand together in trying to make this crazy backwards world a better place.

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If only there were fairy tale endings

February 12, 2012

I love March Madness.  For most of the month, I’m transported into a land where David’s beat Goliath, where crazy shots win the games and, where, at the end, many players will have played a game competitively for the last time and the tears you see are real tears of realizing that this was the last time you would get to do something you would love.  This year, I have a hunch it will be the last time we see Pat Summit prowl the lines as the legendary coach of the Lady Volunteers.  If there is a fairy tale ending, for Pat, UT would cut down the nets in Denver.  The reality is that it won’t happen: and oh, I wish I was wrong.  I was in the stands in Kansas City (I can still see that in-freaking-sane 3 point shot by Kellie Jolly).  I was there in Knoxville, Boston, Philly, Palo Alto, New Orleans when they didn’t cut down the nets.  I court side in Tampa and grabbed my ACL repaired knee when Vikki Baugh hurt hers.

It doesn’t matter where you in the stadium, when the Lady Vols play, you can hear Pat’s voice.  I’ve heard that distinticve Middle Tennessee twang all over the country as I’ve caught games when I could.  This year I saw the Lady Vols play at Madison Square Garden.

Maggie Dixon Classic

All season, long time assistant Holly Warlick has been running the huddles.  In an exceptionally perceptive, well written article, Dan Flesser examines the role that Warlick has tried to balance this year.  At the University of Tennessee, there is a saying “Vol For Life”: it comes out of the saying on the locker rooms that states “Today, I will give my all for Tennessee.”  Warlick was the first athlete – male or female – to have her jersey retired.  She was one of the first basketball All-Americans at UT, while attending on a track scholarship because basketball did not have enough.  Working without a contract, she is trying to balance something most of us cannot fathom.  Summitt isn’t just her boss, but a life long mentor and friend.  Warlick’s words were telling: she doesn’t know if Pat will be back next year.

These are the ways I want to remember Pat (bad fashion and all):

Leading Rocky Top at UT Men's Game

8th National Title

That is 3 in row!

Not always a fashion plate: always coaching

 (Even the serious fashion faux pas outfits!)

Coaching in the huddle

There will be some hard decisions to be made in Knoxville at the end of the season.  Sadly, I think it is time for Pat to step aside at the end of the season.  She’s given her all for Tennessee. She is a VFL.  And my fairy tale ending is this ending in number nine.  I know that won’t happen (Stanford!).  My only hope is that this can happen with grace and dignity for all parties involved.  This doesn’t have a happy ending.  One of the greatest coaches, one of the greatest women pioneers in athletics doesn’t get to ride off into the sunset.  May her legacy be the generations of women who embody Title IX and having the courage to publicly battle Alzheimer’s.

The Angry Moderate Rant from Tax Time

February 8, 2012

I’m angry.  And by angry, I mean ready to hop-up-and-down-throw-a-temper-tantrum-mad.  Like this:

Wicked mad.

Wicked mad.

 

I filed my taxes I was smacked again by the inequity of the system.  The NY Times had an article confirming that 47% of American households do not pay Federal income taxes.  Given the fact I’m in the lower 53% for income in tax year 2011, I more than fumed.   I am not going to get into property taxes (paid), gas tax (paid), state income tax (paid, higher rate too).  I’m hoping mad over the federal tax code.  In the past two weeks, I have heard four people state they received more back from the Federal government than they paid into the system.  Say what?  Yup. Paid for not having enough income.  I’m so doing something wrong.

The Federal tax code simply has to be one of the most privileged pieces of stuff created by the Federal government.  Married? Tax break.  Home owner? Tax break (I enjoy this one: however, it is beyond elitist).  Have kids? At least one tax break.  Investment income? Tax break.  And on and on.

I would get over all of this if when I opened my state return and it didn’t say “are you legally considered married by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts but unable to claim so on your Federal return?”.  Flat out: are you gay? Yes.  Why yes, I am.  Thanks for reminding me of all the tax breaks I lose because the Federal government considers me less of a citizen than the person who sits next to me on a subway.  Let me try to figure out with my partner who can claim the kid(s), who can claim the house just so we can bring down our tax burden to that of our heterosexually married peers.  While I’m on this lament also send me such a partner to share these issues.

While those in Washington talk about the small businesses that are the little engine that could of the American economy, where are the tax breaks for small business owners? The real tax breaks that prevent double taxation on the same dollar?  The ones that actually give credit for building a successful business?

Sigh. The tax code drives me nuts.

Can I blame the people who receive more than they pay in back? Meh. It’s the code.  I do believe that everybody should pay Federal income tax.  I also am intrigued by the idea of a flat tax without deductions and single filing only.  I haven’t done enough nerd number crunching to see how it would actually work.

My mood was bad enough and then it was Rick’s night.  Dear Republicans in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and (sadly) Colorado: have you guys lost your collective minds?  Or better yet to any woman who voted for Santorum, have you lost your ever lasting mind? More than Newt, more than Mitt and far and away more than Ron Paul, Rick Santorum has all but declared an open war on women and our rights to make decisions on our own health.  And this man has won more states than anybody else in the GOP primary.  Rick Santorum lost re-election to the US Senate by more than double digits.  Do you know how hard that is? And he is now the person who has the most victories.

I despise the primary system (don’t get me started on how I feel the caucuses are completely slanted against shift workers).  I have an issue with the amount of money wasted, the mindless bickering and the general anger.  For me to vote for the GOP, it takes a lot: like not having sex with an intern. I’ve never voted in a primary.  This year, I will do both.  I will vote in the GOP primary. Why? The simple thought of President Gingrich or President Santorum keeps me up at night.

In most states, you can still switch your party affiliation if you have a closed primary in your state.  I urge you to look at the Republican slate and ask the simple question: if one of them was to become POTUS would you pick.  And vote for that person.  You don’t have to vote for them in the general election: but it’s time the moderates take back control.

The Road to Employment: Part III

February 7, 2012

This should really be titled Part II(b). I decided to google the individual for whom I made the database.

Big mistake.

I sorta had a tea party.

No silly. Not the Alice type. The Sarah Palin type.

Whoops. The only good part? The database was never updated.  If you subscribe to the service, you too can think that Anthony Weiner is a member of the US House of Representatives from NY.

The Employment Road: Part II

February 5, 2012

At some point in my life, I realized I picked up the mantra, if it’s an honest job, there is nothing wrong with the work.  I still believe that statement.  I have learned, however, there are lunatics out there for bosses and that when given the chance, run.  I obtained a position with an individual who “sold ideas” (note, I’m still not clear what this means, what idea he sold, or really if we were on the same planet).  His great idea (at the time) was to make a database of all elected officials in the United States listing contact information, term and key issues.  I though the idea was flaky: he was basically making a PAC database and there are only several hundred, if not thousands out there based on a host of criteria.

I never thought I would need to clarify the world all.  I mean, it’s a pretty one-dimensional word:

1 a: the whole amount, quantity, or extent of <needed all the courage they had> <sat up all night> b: as much as possible <spoke in all seriousness>
2 a: every member or individual component of <all men will go> <all five children were present>
When I accepted the position, I roughly calculated the number of political offices nationwide and figured this was 6-8 months of solid work which would give the economy time to right itself.  This guy thought it could be done in a month.  After a week of work (during which we had 3 meetings to discuss the project – he was horrified that I expected to be paid for this since “I bought you coffee”), he didn’t understand why I wasn’t done with Alabama.  Our conversation went something like this:
Employer: I only have so much money budgeted for this project.  How long do you think this is going to take.
Me: 6-8 months depending on how accessible some of the local information is.
Employer:  I don’t have that funding! You need to go faster.  (so typical in project management)
Me: Uh, ok.  But you realize not everybody has a website?
Employer: Who doesn’t have a website?
At this point, I realize Mr.-I-Sell-Ideas is not the most astute person in the world.  After some back and forth, he decided that “all” meant all state houses, governors, and federal office holders and cities.  All cities.  I asked for his definition of the word city (I caught on):
Employer: You know, any town that is called a city.
Me: Do you have a population criteria?
Employer: Look, if it’s called a city I want it listed.
Me: Even the ones of 4,000 people or so?
Employer: There is no city with 4,000 people.
Me: Uh, yes, there are.  All over.
Employer: Not in Massachusetts.

School time

Yes, that is true.  Massachusetts does have population requirements for cities, town, village notations.  Most states do not.  Then we moved onto counties: how some states do not have counties, some states call the counties parishes (like churches? uh, yeah, same word but no, they are not churches. good, I thought that was against the law).  Once I went through about 15 hours of basic government principles including the election/retention/appointment of judges, I thought I could finally start.

I tackled the US House of Representatives first.

I had the list sorted by leadership then alphabetical order.

Employer: Why does it say she (Nancy Pelosi) is from California?

Me: She’s from the 8th District of California.

Employer:  You mean I didn’t vote against her?

Me: No, the Speaker is elected by the majority party in the house.

Employer: Do you think that is fair? I mean, I didn’t get to pick her!

I never tried to explain the President of the Senate concept. I think I’d still be at a Dunkin’ Donuts.  There were more bumps and bruises along the way: Nebraska’s unicarmate no political party legislature, Massachusetts senate seats being designed by parts of counties (Like Suffolk 3,4,5 and not MA Senate 1), Nevada legislature meeting every other year and the damn independents.  He didn’t like independents.  How did we know if they were Republicans or Democrats? And why did Tennessee have the Democrat-Repubican party? Pick one.

And on. And on.

I did get paid, he did go over budget.

A few months ago, he called me back.  I was working a contract and took a pass.  He tried to persuade me.  I gave him an outrageous hourly rate, demanded he withhold taxes, and a list of other insane things.  He wanted me to tell him how long it would take somebody else to do the job.  I said I had no idea.  Not even a clue? Nope.  Well, could I research it?  I figure if you can’t take the information I gave you, do a data/sort/header row/end of term in Excel, well, even my teach people about government streak had been tested.  I saw his position posted again on Cragislist.  I only hope the person who took the job had a lot of free time for sitting at Dunkin’ Donuts teaching somebody about government.

The Employment Road: Part I

February 4, 2012

I’ve spent most of the past two years looking for a job, working as a temp. During the process, and it really was more of an ordeal than a process, I learned a ton and had my typical wacky adventures.  I promised myself once I had an honest-to-God offer letter, I’d write about some of the more interesting tales.  None, zero, nada, zilch of what I’m writing about happened at the company that now employs me.  All of these are my (probably) distorted perceptions of some of the truly insane things that happen when you start to look for a job with a bit of I applied for a position of “event planner” (I loved, loved, loved that aspect of a former job).  The company screened through a placement agency (common) and passed me on to the company.  I didn’t think that the employment questions from the placement agency matched the job description I had been given but I know enough to know that there are a lot of let’s-see-how-you-can-handle-this type questions.  At the time, I was grateful that nobody asked me about flowers because the only thing I know about flowers is that white flowers are culturally inappropriate or appropriate and they all make me sneeze.

I drove over to the corporate headquarters located on a nondescript office campus.  Yes, it was lovely like the recruiter told me (note, these are things I don’t care about).  Yes, it was right off of a main route (right after a left merge which means it was really off one of the prime Boston bottlenecks!), and yes, they had a cafeteria (see things I don’t care about).  Little did I know these observations were the only “normal” experiences of the day.

Do you remember these guys? I interviewed with them.

They exist!

They exist!

 

In what can only be described as one of the most surreal interviews of my life, I was transported to the world of the Spartan cheerleaders.  Ok, I am the first to admit, I am not exactly the most overtly bubbly person in the world.  I tend to arch an eyebrow and have beyond a sarcastic/sardonic sense of humor that if you don’t get, well, there is a reason I adore the I-95 section from Philly to Maine.

They flapped. They clapped. They showed me a rah-rah video.  I’m thinking ok, this is event planning: when are they going to ask me about my budgeting skills, my favorite places in some major convention cities, great ‘escape’ places for reward trips.  You know: drilling me on the industry.  The Will Ferrell interviewer told me about his team.  Apparently, somebody was able to book 4 Broadway tickets and the customer was so grateful, his employee was sent a box of Godiva chocolates! (each word emphasized, each word said with great enthusasim…each word made I’m-really-interested-in-what-you-are-saying-face smile while my brain was churning, um Godiva? Dude. 12 pieces is like $15 bucks. And the chocolate isn’t that great.)  The Cheri Oteri interviewer asked me what my favorite travel experience was: I honestly had to pause and think.  I said it was either watching the whales dance across the ocean in South Africa or being in Paris (anywhere. It never gets old for me).  I get I’ve been all over the world and back again.  I’m lucky.  The Spartans looked at each other and said, almost in scary unison, you’ve been to Paris with an inflection of “you had dinner with the Dali Lama?” Cheri continued to explain the services offered and about how the customers were the “elite” of American society.  I really struggled not to laugh.  I suddenly connected the dots: this is the place you call when you want to redeem your credit card rewards points from American Express for something other than movie tickets or Starbucks cards!  My first thought?

There were some actual issues with the job itself and the company after I did some research (I never would have interviewed with them had I known who they were at the time).  In the middle of the recession they had 20 openings. The reason? After six months, they offer benefits and a set schedule.  The average length of employment in this position is just under six months.  It’s a burn and churn that is open 6a – midnight with no fixed days off, no set schedule, and no request for time off for the first year.  I’ve kept my eye on the company.  Every six months, they have about 20 or so openings.  They are not growing: they are burning and churning people.  It is a port in the storm economy: but having worked retail and in call centers, I know they can make a fixed schedule with a need for variation.  There (should) be statistical data that shows call volume, work loads, and other metrics.

After doing a bit of research (and getting a short-term temp job), I withdrew my name from consideration.  I knew it wasn’t a good fit: I’m not peppy.  I knew I’d run into problems with their lack of a schedule and my inability not to get sick, winter traffic (remember the Winter of 2010?) and a 40 minute commute.  It took me 3 attempts to withdraw my name: they kept calling telling me how happy I’d be to work for their organization: how they always had fun.

We Want You

We Want You!