Monday, September 14, 2009

Women and the priesthood

I recall distinctively the first church I attended with a woman minister - it was Reverend Raggs from an Episcopal church in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Almost two years ago, I met an amazing seminarian who is married to the Priest in Charge at the church where I worship sometimes with my mother - her name is Joanne. She is a former nurse and is my inspiration for returning to school - specifically, she graduated from Concordia College and is the reason I picked that school over Mercy College.

Joanne is soft spoken, with expressive brown eyes, an amazing smile, a wit that is quite sharp and a woman who has seen her share of loss and pain. Her first husband died, leaving her to tend to her small family.

Enter Father Joe, a close friend of the family who helped her through this most difficult of times - they became very close and ultimately fell in love - he eventually chose to leave the Catholic church and they married some 10 years ago.

I digress - the woman priest who is now Reverend Joanne is a remarkable woman - having served for years as the head nurse in a major hospital, she gets womens' issues, mens' issues and wants to truly make the world a more equitable place in which to live.

Having a former spouse who is openly gay and many gay friends and being a strong gay rights advocate, I was pleased to hear in Joanne's first sermon that "all are welcome" at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Hartsdale New York.

Some weeks ago, we learned that during a peer review, she had received some rather scathing feedback on her sermons. She lost sleep that week, and we in the parish were all surprised. We have heard her preach on numerous occasions and have found her to be intelligent, thoughtful, insightful and filled with wisdom and a great vision for our little parish.

As I walked in to the church yesterday and saw Joanne in her robes of the priesthood for the first time, I wept openly. She was a vision of grandeur and looked every bit the part of a priest. The service was lovely - officiating was her husband. Though I have seen the two work in tandem many times over this last year or so, yesterday was rather poignant.

Joanne is going to be a fine priest and for those in other churches - such as the Catholic Church and the Mormon Church - who do not think that women should have this sacred right are mistaken.

Yesterday, a friend asked whether women in the Catholic Church would be allowed into the priesthood before men are allowed to marry in that faith - it is a toss-up, but I think that women will be allowed into the priesthood first.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Old World Barber Shop in Hartsdale

I have spent many happy hours in barber shops. Being the mother of 4 boys, when we could afford haircuts, spending time hanging out with men was obligatory and a part of their upbringing.

My favorite barber shop was next to the shop where I got my hair done in Salt Lake City, Utah. Adjacent to TLC Elegante was the place where the Utah Jazz players got their hair cut regularly. I would sneak furtive glances at the hot guys while awaiting my boys as they got their hair "faded."

There is a new barber shop in the town in which I presently reside. The Old World Barber Shop is family owner and the owner is Michelle. She and her husband are 100% Italian, having immigrated to the States in 1971. The store opened in August and they have had around 30 customers to date.

The family went to San Diego for a while but didn't like it - they missed the seasons and returned to NY.

Their original shop was in Dobbs Ferry and they sold it when they moved to California.

Now they are hitching their star to Hartsdale in a spot that was previously a barber shop - a very successful one at that. They hope to make it and I hope that they do to.

Do me a favor - skip Fantastic Sam's and try Old World - you will be pleasantly surprised. One is always surprised at locally owned businesses, after all.

The recession's racial divide

Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad have done an amazing job of elucidating the issues faced by African American families in the past few years. Theirs is a story of being classless, of being middle class and falling into a black hole. Unemployed and underemployed, in strong jobs earning substantially one day and unemployed the next.

I can relate to this story on many levels. I was working as a political appointee to the mayor of a major US Capital city for over 5 years. During that time, I developed a disability - bipolar disorder. In the beginning, it was a relatively easy transition - my boss, the chief of staff, was accomodating, as the ADA required him to be - the subsequent chief of staff was equally accomodating - I shall never forget his kindness as I wrestled with mood swings, exacerbated by stress and numerous changes in medication. Unfortunately for me, the last chief of staff had a sister who was bipolar. She was always "on and off her meds" and " in and out of jail" - how do I know that? Because he told me so in a closed meeting in his office. I filed a grievance against him and did not prevail - I naively thought that the system would work in my favor.

I subsequently became unemployed when I could no longer work in such a stressful environment with an overbearing and discriminatory boss - I resigned under great duress. I loved my job and made an above average salary for a woman.

I am now homeless, living doubled up with my mum - it is a wonderful place to live, please don't misunderstand me - I just want to make it very clear that I am homeless, statistically speaking, nonetheless. I am moving out to my own place in December and shall miss my mum - she has been my friend, roomate, confidante and rock.

Some of my black brothers and sisters are not as lucky - indeed a classmate is a former employee of UBS - she is living in a hotel with her family after having lost her home as well after becoming unemployed.

That story we hear about - 1 paycheck away from the streets - as a former volunteer at the homeless shelter, and as a person who was forced from her home as she could not commit to a one year lease - I can testify to that.

If you have the means, please donate to your local shelters and foodbanks - if you have family in transition and have the space, please, please, please, take them in.

Just more food for thought and one person's opinion.

Drama at the US Open

The Williams sisters have dominated womens' tennis for the last several years.

Last evening, Serena had a meltdown. Frustrated and upset, she threatened one of the linesmen after a call was made out of her favor. It was not just that the call was against her - it cost her the match point.

Serena has been playing tennis since she was a tot. I recall reading about her and Venus in Time magazine and other prriodicals. Their Father insisted that they not participate in professional tennis until they were of an appropriate age - would that more sporting parents felt that way.

I digress. I did not see the match last evening - I was out shopping with my mom and best friend. Indeed, given the recent rain and my school schedule, I have not seen much of the US Open this year at all.

Last evening, we surfed back and forth between channels and could not find the game. In the wee hours of the morning, I got the news on my mobile device: Serena had lost the match after having "threatened" a referee.

In the light of morning, I discussed this rationally with my mother. Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and others have been the proverbial "bad boys" of tennis. Women tend to be more ladylike.

Let us not forget that it is due to the Williams sisters that women earn the same amount of monies for grand slam tournaments as men do. Let us not forget that they are amazing players who have given the US and indeed the world, some remarkable playing time. They are human with weaknesses and foibles.

I say let's give her a break and cut her some slack.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Customer service and a pair of Dutch clogs

I went to my local Best Buy recently. I was having a problem with my mobile phone that I purchased recently. It is a cute phone - cute and practical. Not as great as the IPhone, but it works for me - it is the Sanyo SCP 2700 and it is pink with flowers adorning it. I know, I know - but I can't help it - I am a girl.

Prior to going to the phone area, I went to the return counter where I returned a memory card that would not fit my phone - I had, unfortunately received bad information from another Best Buy store. The line was not particularly long, but the customers ahead of me had seemingly complex returns. I went to another associate to ask if we could possibly open up another register. They could not accomodate my request, but when I explained that I have a disability and cannot stand for prolonged periods of time due to the two herniated disks in my back, he immediately set about getting me a chair to rest my weary bones. Talk about customer service.

The person in line behind me was frustrated - she needed to be at the train station to pick up her sister - her name was Annette - named after Annette Funicello - her father had actually named her. It occurred to me that I did not know after whom I was named. I do know that my father had wanted me to be "Sandy" were I a boy, but I was his second daughter as fate would have it.

I felt so badly for the person in line, Annette - she was clearly not having a good day - we chatted briefly and her son sat in my now vacated chair - I reached into my bag after having asked her if she had ever been to Holland - she said she had, albeit only at the airport - but there nonetheless. I handed her a tiny pair of Delft clogs that I had purchased only that day at the tag sale at the Church in the Highlands.

We hugged and I felt good about myself - it was a small thing, but I would like to think that I made her day in a miniscule way.

Great customer service from Best Buy as usual - no wonder they are top in their field - and a new friend - not bad for a few minutes online.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

White House advisor Van Jones resigns

This is most unfortunate news to receive in the middle of the night.

Van Jones has been a pivotal voice in green policies for years. He has been extolled from Valerie Jarrett to President Obama and everyone else inbetween.

Republicans, frustrated and still not quite getting the fact that they LOST the election - are acting out with sour grapes. They dug deep and found a signature of Van Jones on a petition regarding the previous administration's dealings and possible collusion with 9-11. Additionally, they found a clip of him "talking trash" about President Bush and using unflattering profanities to describe both him and the Republican party.

It is unfortunate that this amazing individual has been so villified, and even polarized and used as a catalyst to deflect the nation's attention from the pressing issue of healthcare to his poor choice of words - frankly, I have used profanities when referring to the Bush-Cheney administration and their poor choices.

Farewell Van - you will be missed.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Flying the friendly skies

Yesterday, I flew from the White Plains New York Regional Airport to West Palm Beach, Florida. In typical fashion, I flew Jet Blue. Their fares are simply unbeatable - add to that a buddy pass now and again, and one has a winning combination.

I was at a social gathering recently and heard a pilot speak disparagingly of Jet Blue. His father was a union man and the fact that Jet Blue can offer such low fares really gripes him. I told him that given my present budget, while I would love to support an “American and union” company, with all the safety nets in place, but I have to fly with the airline that best suits my needs. Given the extra leg room (I have a disability and need the extra space), and my own personal flat screen TV (where I watched the US Open yesterday), I am not sure that even if I wanted to pay more money to fly with a “union” airline, I would. In other words, Jet Blue’s success does not hinge upon money alone.

Jet Blue has minimal overhead. Their call center is small. Their agents operate out of their homes in the great Salt Lake Valley of Utah. I know this because I was almost offered a job with them after leaving the Mayor’s office of Salt Lake City. The reason for applying for a job with an airline was quite simple: Miles, baby, buddy passes. I love to travel and don’t get to do so near as much as I would like to. Their staffers are mainly stay at home moms - by and large from the Utah Valley and needing a little extra income to augment their family’s monthly budget. Utah is the state in the nation with the largest number of personal bankruptcy filings. I know this because I lived there for over 7 years and the leaders of the predominant faith (LDS Church) took great pains to try to educate their members not to incur unnecessary debt. Small wonder that many mums with larger families, a la Utah Mormon style, are flocking to a company that allows them to fly to Disney land and NYC and Buffalo and the West Indies and Puerto Rico. If Jet Blue ever flies to Hawaii, I am sunk - I have a dear friend there who is expecting me next year - if I get a decent flight from Jet Blue, I will be likely to visit her annually. I am not sure if she is up for a visit from me every year - but I guess if I keep to the fish and company rule, I should be fine.

The founder of Jet Blue is LDS or Mormon and a shrewd businessman, hence the purchase of used planes, no large call center - though Utah is home to the likes of 1-800-CONTACTS. He is committed to paying average Utah wages and basing his operation in a right to work state. All these are keys to success. He is likely going to be the Donald Trump of the airline business if he keeps this up.

Today, I interviewed his spokesperson, Alison Croyle, and learned that he has since moved on. A new face is at the helm of this flagship of airlines: Dave Barger. Every month, Dave flies the friendly skies, working alongside crewmembers, taking out trash, recycling and bidding flyers adieu. He is a hands on kind of man - he wants to see the flying experience first hand and takes his job very seriously as he interacts with customers.

He lives the 5 "Jet Blue Commandments" shall we call them:
1. Safety
2. Caring
3. Integrity
4. Fun
5. Passion

On my flight yesterday, I noted the amazing difference between the Jet Blue crew members and those of say Northwest and Delta they are not angry because of union negotiations gone bad. They are happy to do their respective jobs - they seem to find pleasure in ensuring that the customer is number one and do not mutter under their breaths, even when I asked for an extra snack (I am borderline type II diabetic) of Animal Crackers, my flight attendant was most gracious and accommodating. Fortunately for me, I have maintained a negative type II status since having lost some 50 lbs and can now fit more comfortably in a plane seat. The crew is made up of mostly “family” members . This is no surprise, as it is a service-based industry and works very well with the personalities of “family” members. Indeed, my interaction with staffers indicated that the company was “extremely gay friendly.” I am going to see about having Jet Blue sponsor an event I am putting together at the Metropolitan Museum in the very near future.

I interacted with two business persons on the plane -a power couple - she an IBM staffer, he a consultant, doing the same as I - carving out a niche for himself after having been laid off. Natasha is a mother of two small children. We both bemoaned the fact that there is no place on a plane to take care of small children, be that nursing them, or getting them to calm down. I know how stressful flying can be - I have anxiety and am generally the last one on the plane and the last one off.

Now that my consulting business is taking off and my writing is becoming more popular, I might be able to choose another airline, but I think I will stick with Blue - Jet Blue that is.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Obama Aides Aim to Simplify and Scale Back Health Bills

This is the news I had been waiting for.

For almost two years, I have been sans insurance. I am one of 46 million Americans without same. Given that I have a few serious health concerns, including Bi-Polar disorder, my quandary about getting insurance becomes a larger dilemma with each passing day.

Next year, I will have exhausted my option to receive "charity care" through the amazing Westchester County Medical Center. This program allows me to see a doctor and get medicines filled once a month - all at no cost. The program has been scaled back significantly given the economy and I barely qualified for it this year, which is interesting, given that I work part time at a non profit, hence my salary could not possibly be that huge. I have just received word that my income is going to increase significantly and therefore will not be eligible for the "charity care" safety net next year. I am worried - very worried indeed.

If worse comes to worse and this healthcare bill does not pass (though after today's revelations, I suspect it will), I will be forced to quit school and go back to England or move to Canada where I can avail myself of their services as a British subject. What a sad state of affairs.

Obama has clearly seen the writing on the wall - he cannot trust congress and those who receive kickbacks from the drug manufacturers to have the best interests of the American public at heart. He is taking a personal role in this debate, when he wanted to stay above the proverbial fray.

I can't wait to see what he has to say. It will be 16 years since Bill Clinton gave his famous speech on healthcare, according to the NY Times article that I am referencing.

Change is coming to America - I welcome it!

Cafe Angelique in the village and a day in Manhattan

I love the village. It is quirky, funky, quintessentially New York and hip with great coffee places, boutiques et al. It is my favorite place to hang out in the city after the museums, that is.

Yesterday, I was there with my sweetie after a quick trip to the Metropolitan. It was a busy day - I had business to attend to and my consulting firm is finally picking up steam. I just added a new partner who is based in California - her name is Andrea Moore Emmett, author of the amazing God's Brothel - a story about polygamy, published in Ms. Magazine, participant in Bridging the Religious Divide - former NOW President - her bio is amazing and I can't believe we are friends. She is remarkable.

I met a phenomenal woman. She was in Cafe Angelique and is expecting her second baby boy - she looked absolutely radiant! I told her so as I noted the beautiful flowing orange shirt she wore over her beautiful bulging tummy. She has just one month left until her delivery and is in her 40's. Her name is Jennifer. She is married 11 years to her soul mate and her face lights up when she speaks of him - I am not generally cynical, but can be about love. Now that I have found my life partner and soul mate, I am less cynical.

Kevin gets me in a way no other man has before him - he is there for me through it all - ups and downs, a cheerleader, someone who wants to see me succeed and who gives me space, time and room to breathe. He is a breath of fresh air and I thank God I found him. After all I have gone through in life, even my horrible divorce and the coming out of my former husband that precipitated it, after my highs and lows, unemployment and underemployment, he continues to be there for me. He is absolutely not like my former husband in any way, except for the Irish roots. When Kevin is gone from me for more than a few days, I can't breathe - that's how much I love him.

Jennifer would like me to meet her soul mate and husband and I hope I do. I also want to go on a double date to the Met some Friday night to listen to the concerts - our first date almost two years ago. We have built a strong foundation for this relationship and no matter what, I promise to love him forever......come what may.