Friday, May 23, 2008

Warning: Lesbian Ranting Ahead - Reduce Speed

John McCain appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show yesterday and IMHO she missed a golden opportunity to nail this guy on his views about gay marriage.
Sure, they politely "agreed to disagree" and Ellen trotted out the hard-to-resist "we're all just people" argument, but she didn't ask the question that really needed answering:

How, in a country that claims to have a separation between church and state, is the legality of a civil contract stipulated by religious beliefs?

In this country marriage is a legal contract recognized by the government, and there is no requirement that this contract have a religious basis or influence of any kind.
Yet most people who object to the legalization of gay marriage do so because of a moral belief based on the Judaeo/Christian Bible (an erroneous moral belief, I would add, but that's a whole other story!).

If some want to cling to the idea that 'marriage' is meant to be between a man a woman because their religious beliefs don't allow them to think otherwise, then fine; don't sanction or allow gay marriages in your church, but your personal belief should not dictate what goes on in other churches, and it certainly shouldn't dictate what goes on in the county courthouse.

Some 'small-government' Republicans, John McCain included, will side-step the issue by claiming that the Federal government shouldn't have a say in this issue to begin with, it's up to the states to decide. Unfortunately the state's "decision" usually comes in the form of a voter's proposal or constitutional amendment that outright bans gay from marrying.
Now, I know we live in a democracy, but I get nervous whenever we let 'the people' decide whether a minority group should should share the same pie that the majority enjoys.
If the residents of West Virginia were allowed to vote on a proposal to limit the rights of African Americans in their state (and judging by the slew of racist comments that came out of the exit polls after the recent Democratic primary, they'd probably jump at the chance), would we stand by and allow legalized discrimination under the guise of 'state's rights'? I think not.

Ellen DeGeneres should have called on John McCain to explain the basis of his belief, and not just allow him to brush it aside with the 'different strokes for different folks' defense. If she were interviewing Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney then we'd know their religious beliefs dictate their moral beliefs, but it's known that John McCain is not an overtly religious man, and has never claimed to be.

I suspect that his anti-gay marriage stance is based on a vague "its-just-not-right" feeling of discomfort that many (especially from his generation) experience when confronted with difference, especially if that difference disturbs their image of what a 'moral, god-fearing, apple-pie loving' America should look like.

It's the same feeling of discomfort and underlying anger/fear that some experience when they encounter immigrants (legal or not). "They" dress funny, eat bizarre foods, have strange customs, are pushy/lazy/untrustworthy and speak in a language that we can't understand. We can take them as individuals (as in "I work with a ________, and he's a good guy, but the rest of them are just looking for a handout") but when we encounter them in packs we feel threatened because now we are outnumbered, we are the 'other' and we don't like that feeling at all.

I have hope that the kids growing up today surrounded by difference will have no difficulty recognizing legalized discrimination for what it is - just plain wrong.
Kids today see gays on TV, have Gay-Straight Alliances at school, have gay friends, and have no need to concoct moral beliefs based on a homogenized view of a world that no longer exists, and most likely never did.
(Just because difference was once forced to hide in the shadows, doesn't mean it didn't exist).

On an interesting side note, a recent study showed that 70 percent of Americans no longer consider GAMBLING to be immoral. Of course not, anyone who has ever bought a lottery or raffle ticket would be guilty of it. What I found interesting was the reason given for the collapse of the anti-gambling opposition (by I.Nelson Rose, Professor of gambling law):

"It's not acceptable in today's society to present arguments based solely on religion or morals."

Oh yeah? Then why are religious beliefs the sole reason why I can't get married in today's society?
I'm still waiting for John McCain (or Hillary, or Obama) to answer that one.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

St. Martin's taught me well....

You Are 86% Pure

You're so pure ... you make a nun look like a whore!

There's a lot of life's dark side left for you to experience... if you want to.

Of course, I'd like to know why answering 'YES' to the question "Do you have gay friends?" makes me unpure.

G-d Damn, F%#@ing heterosexist blog quiz!

...ooops, deduct 2 more points for using the F word, and cursing in bad!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Perhaps my blood sugar is low...

To the kind folks at Stop & Shop,

Your cereal aisle is lame.
I'm tired of the same old flakes and puffs.
And while I fell for the "NEW with STRAWBERRIES!" gimmick for awhile, it's getting kind of old.

These were my favorite cereals when I was a kid:

Please buy them and put them on your shelves so I can buy them from you.
And make sure they come with the free plastic dinosaurs inside.

Ahhhh...the plastic dinosaurs.
The source of many a fight between my younger brother and I as we consumed entire boxes in one sitting to see who would get to the prized toy first; the center of many a science fair diorama where one only needed a shoe box, some glue, and a few tufts of grass to accurately represent the Mesozoic era; and the inadvertent cause of death for an unsuspecting gold fish who leaped out of his bowl and into my father's empty shoe when said younger brother thrust a plastic dinosaur into their previously tranquil aquatic world.
But I digress....

I'm tired of bran, boring brown bits, and nuts and berries.
I want sugar.
Crunchy yellow lumps of corn, oats, and sugar that stay crunchy even when left sitting in the milk.
Dammit, I want Quisp.

Make it so.

A Cereal Connoisseur


I have a lot of writing to do.
The Children's Sunday service, 1 complete service and 3 sermons for pulpit fill-ins, a tribute piece for a scrapbook that my former church is putting together for their retiring minister (one of my dearest mentors), and pages and pages of self-analytical questions to answer in preparation for the 2-day psychological evaluation I have to endure before entering the UCC's "In Care" process.

So what am I doing to prep myself for this creative/inspirational onslaught?
I'm blogging about cereal.
Procrastination, thou ist thy middle name.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I just got home from the sadist...errr...I mean dentist.
I had a tiny cavity, just needed a small filling, so why does the whole side of my face hurt?

I started going to a new dentist 6 months ago because the one I had was too far away and while he was a great dentist and a friendly guy, his Hygienist and Receptionist reminded me of the nuns I had in Catholic school - frowny/nasty with the potential to snap at any moment.
I was a-scared of them.

So I found a new dentist, five minutes away with a friendly it's the dentist I'm afraid of.
Her finished work is acceptable (1 crown and 2 fillings so far) but I always come out of there feeling as if I was in a prize fight. On my first visit 6 months ago she nicked my tongue with the drill, her hygienist accidentally scraped the inside of my cheek with some pointy sharp instrument thing, and she hit the wrong spot in my gums with the Novocaine needle and had to do it twice, all of which had my mouth hurting for 3 days after my visit.

....and the Hygienist, like all hygienists, sharply admonished me for not flossing between every tooth every night, and for waiting too long between cleanings.
Let's cleanings are barbarically painful, I had to take time off work to be there, and I have no dental insurance...why, I can't for the life of me understand why I waited so long!

This past Friday, back to the dentist I went for a filling in a back tooth and the painfest began once again. The dental assistant used that little hooked air sucky thing to yank my mouth wide open for easy access and it felt like she had an anvil attached to it with all the force she was using, and it was relentless - even when the doctor pulled the drill out to tend to something else Miss Assistant kept pulling the corner of my mouth with a jerking force as if she was trying to reel in a big mouth bass.

When the filling was finally in place the doctor had me bite down about 25 times before she got the hight right, and in the process I managed to bite my tongue without even realizing it. She told me to be more if I could, my mouth was so numb I couldn't tell whether I was biting down on the cotton swabbing or my own flesh.

(oh, and while this was going on the dentist's conversation with the assistant went something like this:
A: How was your day yesterday?
D: Not good, I wound up in the emergency room.
A: Oh dear, what for?
D: My back went out.
A: How do you feel now?
D: Ok I guess, I'm on muscle relaxants.

Just what I wanted to hear as she waved a high-powered drill in my face.)

When I got home it took 4 1/2 hours for the Novocain to wear off, so when I went back this morning for a second much smaller filling she told me she'd give me a different type of shot that wouldn't have me talking like Elmer Fudd for most of the day.

Now, I remember getting Novocain shots in the past where the doctor would leave the room for 15 minutes until I was sufficiently numb to begin the procedure.
This doctor waited all of 30 seconds after the shot before asking "how numb are you?"
She then proceeded to ask the same question every 2 minutes until I finally relented under the guilt of holding her up, and told her I thought I was ready.
I wasn't.

She hit me with the drill and I levitated 3" out of the chair.
With my eyes still watering, she made the decision to give me a second shot (rather than just wait for the first shot to fully take effect, as it occurred to me afterward was the more logical thing to do.)

So here I sit 5 hours after leaving the doctor's office, the Novocaine has finally worn off and my jaw is killing me from that second jab she gave me.

I just tried to eat a mini muffin and I couldn't open my mouth wide enough to accommodate it without screaming "OW!"

Perhaps the next time I go to the dentist I'll wear something more appropriate for the experience...something made out of latex rubber or leather with lots of zippers and tiny padlocks.
...and my 'safe word' will be "Sister Mary Magdala."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Free in a Fortnight

Well I did it….I marched into work on Saturday and gave my two weeks notice.
Not quite as dramatic as outright quitting, but just as effective in the long run.
I only have to work one day this week and my manager-from-hell is on vacation next week (at least that’s still her plan) so my contact with her will be limited.

I told her that I’m going to spend the summer doing pulpit fill-ins (which is true) and I want to take some time off before I start school in the fall. She gave me the “you’re-such-a-wonderful-worker- I’m-sorry-to-see-you-go” speech and surprisingly didn’t try and talk me into staying until the end of the month, when her vacation and Steve’s potential transfer would all be settled. I did tell her a few weeks ago that I may be leaving as early as the end of May (instead of the end of July, as I told her when I was hired) and thankfully she’s such a poor listener all she heard was ‘I’m leaving in May’ so my two-weeks notice didn’t come completely out of left field.

So, in two weeks I will be free!

I already have two pulpit-fill in dates lined up for June, and there may be more to follow.
A member of my church has a friend who belongs to a Disciples of Christ congregation in town that’s losing its minister at the end of May. She recommended me (thanks E.!), gave them a sample sermon and they asked me to preach two Sundays in June and possibly more in July/August.
It’s a small congregation with mostly older members, its not a denomination that I’m overly familiar with, they tend to prefer a ‘more literal’ reading of the bible, and this particular congregation has never had a woman in the pulpit before.
Sign me up!

They also asked me if I wouldn’t mind sitting in on a couple of board meetings as a ‘ministerial presence.’ I reminded them that I’m not ordained and technically I won’t even be a ‘seminary student’ until September, but that didn’t seem to matter.
Apparently their members need an outside influence to keep them in line during board meetings, especially now that they have to deal with the search for a new pastor…because “you know how older people can get set in their ways and be resistant to change.”
Gulp….isn’t that what an interim pastor is for?
Apparently, I’d be the one of the interim-interims brought in to fill the gaps while they decide on an official-interim.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire…
At least I won’t have to ask them “will you be using your B*orders Rewards card today?”

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Camel + Straw = One Hell of a Backache

I went into work yesterday and was greeted by the following sign hanging by the employee time sheet:

Here are the current sales totals for our Charity Book Drive:

Jackie – 73
Steve – 64

Trent – 7

Mocat – 6

From now on ALL employees working more than 4 Hours will be required to sell 3 books per shift for the Book Drive.
Employees working 7+ hours are required to sell 5 books or more.

Employees falling below these standards WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

My immediate response to this sign?
I am soooooooo quitting this job!

As you can see above, our little bookstore currently has FOUR employees (we also have 3 addtional part-timers but none of them works more than 4 hours per week so they were spared the humiliation of making the list).

Jackie (the manager) and Steve and Trent (Assistant Managers) are full-time employees (and of course, their names have been changed to protect the innocent), but with Corporate cutting our allotted weekly store hours back to the bare minimum I’m lucky if I get more than 8 hours per week…and it’s usually the late shift when very few customers come into the store. Trent also works most of the late shifts.
Can you see a pattern emerging here?

I worked 4 hours yesterday.
I had six customers.
So, to fill my quota I needed to get 3 of those 6 customers to buy a book for the charity drive.
Needless to say, it didn’t happen.
I go six “no, not today, thank you”s
So now, when I go into work on Saturday I will have the pleasure of finding out exactly what “WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE” means.

I am not one who is quick to anger, but I literally punched the sign when I saw it.

It’s bad enough that our job performance is based on getting people to sign up for a free Rewards card, now we’re being judged on our ability to persuade people to spend an additional $4-10 for a charitable donation.
My manager has no problem with this. I’ve heard her sales pitch and she pushes it to a level that actually shames the customer into saying ‘yes’ – especially if there is a line of people watching – otherwise it’s like they’re willingly withholding money ‘from the needy children.’

I like the idea of a book drive.
I like the fact that the books are going to the local Women’s Center.
I am vehemently opposed to the practice of soliciting every customer for a donation before we complete their transaction.

The elderly, mother’s with children, single women…
My manager hits them especially hard with the ‘pitch’ because she knows they’ll ‘sympathize’ with the cause.
But they all hesitate before they say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Sometimes the hesitation is painfully long.
I can see the conflicting emotions in their eyes.
They are giving people and they don’t want to say no, but they can’t afford it, or they’re paying in cash and they don’t have enough with them, or they’ve just been hit up with too many requests for money lately, whether from their kid’s school or their church.
They say ‘no’ and they feel bad about it.
Or they say ‘yes’ and feel taken advantage of.
I can hear it in their voices.
Is that our goal as a business?
To make people leave the store feeling bad about themselves, or us?

The straw/camel/back equation reared its head when I saw the aforementioned sign that my manager posted. Not only it is apparent that she sees nothing wrong with posting a sign that is both humiliating and threatening to her employees, but it was completely unnecessary to post a sign when a simple conversation would have sufficed.
We’re talking about TWO people she needed to talk to (Steve has copied her tactics and is hitting the sales numbers and didn’t need a quota or threat).

This is the result of the corporate mentality.
My manager’s superiors talk to her via email in impersonal nonsensical corporate language, so she regurgitates it out to her underlings in the same manner. There is no sense that she knows or cares about her employees as individuals. We’re just cogs in the machine, and if we’re not ‘performing within the specified parameters’ we will be discarded.

Before I moved to CT, I worked at a retail store on Long Island.
I had the same boss for 16 years. He owned the store and was in the office every day running the business. He had over 100 employees, and while he would occasionally post a catchy slogan by the time clock to motivate his workers, he never communicated store policies/procedures to us via signs. We had group meetings, he asked us for feedback, he was open to hearing our suggestions and complaints, and he would talk to us one-on-one if he sensed a problem that may be affecting our work.
He knew how to manage people, and despite the size of our group we felt like a family and treated each other accordingly.
Most importantly, I never felt like I had to compromise my values to make a sale.
There were no quotas, required percentages, or ‘up-sell’ items that every customer needed hear about. The result – the employees were happy, the customers enjoyed coming into the store, and they came back.

Meanwhile, back at the bookstore, our dismal sales, lack of repeat business and high rate of employee turnover are all testament to the fact that we’re failing miserably on all accounts.

Now for the hard part….
Steve may be leaving for another store as early as next week (he’s still waiting to hear).
So if I outright quit, or even give two-weeks notice, that leaves poor Trent as the only key-holder in the store…and my manager Jackie will be royally screwed.
She has a vacation planned for mid-May that’s not going to happen if either Steve or I leave….and if we both leave…..well, like I said, she’s royally screwed.

There's camels and straw flying everywhere, and I’m worried about how my leaving is going to affect those left behind.

Walking away, giving up, throwing up one’s hands in defeat, even if it’s over a job that’s sucking the life right out of you, is never as easy as it sounds.