Thursday, January 24, 2008

Counting Dimes

I hate dimes.
More to the point, I hate counting dimes.
Part of my responsibilities as a keyholder at the bookstore involves counting the money in the cash registers whenever I open or close the store. It’s a tedious job and it’s a particular pain at closing when I have to balance what is in the drawers with what the daily total says we’re supposed to have. It’s usually the dimes that trip me up. They’re small and don’t take up much space which usually leads to our cashiers thinking they have fewer in the drawer than they actually do, which in turn causes them to open and dump more rolls of dimes into the register. They don’t care. I’m the one who has to count them all at the end of the day. And in my haste to get it done I inevitably end up flinging them into the drawer at too fast a rate and thus miscounting them. Unfortunately I never realize this until my numbers are out of balance and I have to go back and count the drawers all over again.
I hate dimes.

As I was mindlessly counting the change in the register drawers last night I realized that I have been doing this particular task since I was 18-years-old. Apart from a two-year period where I had a corporate job, and the year and a half I took off to finish school, I have been counting cash drawers in one retail establishment or another for almost 24 years. That’s a lot of dimes.

There are things that I like about retail – organizing the inventory, creating displays, meeting different people every day – and there are things that I hate about retail – working weekends and holidays, the low pay, dealing with irrational customers – but I’ve been doing it for so long I know that as bad it can get sometimes, I can handle it - I know the good outweighs the bad. For every bad day I have where I’m the only employee in the store with the phone ringing off the hook, deliveries coming in the back door, the registers breaking down, and a line of impatient customers stretching to the back of the store, I know I’ll have good days when I get to spend hours in the back room by myself opening new shipments and sorting books onto the shelves (yes, that it is a GOOD day in my view…I’m a freak, what can I say).

Retail can be hell at times but it’s a known hell.
I can’t say the same about the career I keep telling myself I’ve been ‘called’ to go into.
The ministry right now is a few knowns and a whole bunch of unknowns, and thinking about those unknowns is what causes me to wonder if I’m making the right move.

When I’m stocking shelves and organizing books I realize how much I love these orderly, solitary tasks and I fear that the ministry may be too messy and people oriented for my introverted self.
But then I start counting dimes.
And I feel stuck in a rut, doing the same thing over and over again because it’s easy and ‘comfortable’…..allowing fear to keep me from stretching beyond my current capabilities, denying the God-given talent that everyone keeps telling me I have and holding onto the things that keep me small.

There’s a constant struggle going on in my head between who I am and who I think I’m supposed to be. A battle between my desire for comfort and my desire for change.

In change I find challenge. The desire to challenge myself led me into bike racing, back to church, through college, into the pulpit.
But the ‘challenges’ I take on usually involve setting a goal, designing a plan to reach that goal and taking the necessary steps to accomplish it.
I had a training plan, a racing schedule, a curriculum to follow, a GPA to maintain, an order of service to design, a sermon to craft.
The challenges I seek out rarely require seat-of-the-pants decision making or unpredictable circumstances. What they do require is a huge amount of self-discipline and adherence to a rigid routine.
Some people jump out of airplanes or hitch-hike around the world because they enjoy the spontaneity of these challenges, they like to leave order behind and revel in chaos for awhile. I am the opposite.
I like to take chaos and put it into order.
Which is probably why I love doing puzzles – word jumbles, number puzzles, logic problems, and good old-fashioned jigsaw. Give me a box of pieces and I’ll happily spend hours trying to assemble it into something that makes sense, something that can be identified and labeled.

Even at work I seek out challenges as a means of implementing order.
I’m happiest when I’m squirreled away in a back room somewhere putting piles of random items into organized categories, taking a cluttered and chaotic environment and putting everything in its place.

But what does this say about how I can expect to perform as a minister?
As a minister I will encounter messes that I can’t put into order.
I will encounter situations and problems that are much more complex then fixing a broken cash register or appeasing an unhappy customer.
I will encounter people who will demand much more of my time than the five-minute interactions I have working retail.

Am I going against my personality type and forcing myself into a career for which I am ill-suited just because everyone else believes that I can do it?
Or am I holding onto what I am, who I am, because I lack the confidence and the vision to see that I can be so much more if I let go of the attitude that keeps me small and comfortable, and instead heed the persistent sense of dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment that makes me long for change.
I’ve spent my life trying to reconcile these conflicting inner desires.
My need for comfort and routine constantly butts up against my craving for new challenges, new routines, and change.

Change is growth inspiring.
Change is inevitable.
Change is God’s way of showing us that despite our feeble attempts to create order out of chaos the pieces don’t always fit where we expect them to.

Change is good.

Except for dimes...
I hate dimes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blogger down

Fellow blogger Eileen the Episcopalifem is in a funk and requested that we send some good humor her way, so I'm sending the following blasphemous video out in her honor.
Those with more sensitive dispositions are cautioned to avert their eyes towards the end....and for the middle bit....ok well, for pretty much the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Well, our first ‘significant snow’ of the season never materialized.
The weather guys were yapping about us receiving up to foot of snow yesterday and we barely got enough to make shoveling worthwhile.
Of course all the schools chose not to open based on the forecast so my SO had a freebie day off while I had to trudge into work.
Surprisingly, the mall wasn’t as busy as I expected it to be with all the kids off from school and the roads clear. I guess everybody was home eating all the food they stocked up on the day before….. "oh my God, we may be trapped in our houses for a half a day before they plow, quick, let’s go buy a week’s worth of bread and milk!”

What a disappointment.
We even got a phone call from the town’s mayor telling us not to park on the street due the ‘Snow Emergency’....
He promised us 8 inches and we only got 2.
Typical man.

But what we got sure does look purty!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy New Year! (10 days late...)

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!
For how long, I don’t know. I’ve just been sooo busy…working, writing my seminary essay, leading yet another worship service, playing Mario Carts on my Nintendo DS, eating the head off my Lindt chocolate Santa, doing, you know, important stuff…

The main distraction I’ve had is work. It’s been many years since I worked retail during the Christmas season, and this was my first time experiencing Holiday Hell in a mall. Let’s put it this way, at 10:30 a.m. on January 1st I let out a huge sigh of relief…that’s when the mall stopped playing Christmas music and started playing plain old mall music (which in this case was Sarah McLachlan, which was kind of cool).
By the end of the day Santa’s house and picture station was dismantled and rolled away in crates, the garland strings were gone from the ceiling, and I could actually walk through the mall without crashing into the holiday masses. And masses are what they were…..women pushing huge car shaped carts overloaded with kids and shopping bags, men wearing football jerseys and construction boots clustered around the directories with baffled looks on their faces because they only set foot inside a mall once a year and have no idea what to buy or where to buy it, packs of middle schoolers swarming like schools of fish with giggling girls and self-conscious looking boys, all completely clueless to the fact that there are other people in the mall who may need to actually get somewhere…….and of course when I say “other people” I mean me…..

Our bookstore is at one end of the mall (in the side corridor leading to Lord & Taylor where our only passersby are mall walkers and the elderly) and our seasonal Calendar kiosk is all the way at the other end of the mall. As a keyholder I had to leave the store to pull money out of the kiosk cash drawer on an almost hourly basis and respond to the frequent calls for change, bags, and 10 minute breaks. In addition to this, I had to make numerous trips to the mall’s bank deposit/change machine located down a long dark hallway in the bowels of the mall underground.
If you’re looking to stave off putting on the holiday pounds next year I suggest pouring all the change you have in your house into a plastic bag, tucking it under your arm like a football, and dashing from one end of the mall to the other while trying to avoid crashing into the aforementioned holiday masses…and then repeat this exercise every 20 minutes for 8 hours. I’ve gotten so good at ducking and diving and finding the holes in the crowd that I’m thinking of trying out for the Patriots next year.

Of course I may whine about it about it now, but this is the first year in a long time that my New Year’s resolution hasn’t been to “work out and lose weight”… is enough of a workout and despite all the crap I’ve been eating since Thanksgiving I haven’t gained an ounce (send all hate email to
I will now go consume the rest of my chocolate Santa and pray that my post-holiday work hours don’t get cut leading to a deflation of my bank account and an inflation of my waistline.

Who says size doesn't matter? Give me the big one baby...