Sunday, September 02, 2018

Please help my friend Mark

Dear friends, you came to my need back in February, when I broke my arm, could not work, and needed financial assistance.  I remain deeply grateful for that. I could not have made it without your help.  Now I bid your fervent prayers and ask you to help my friend Mark Freeman by contributing to his page.

I live in a house that was built in 1922 by two sisters. It is a beautiful home inside and out. They designed the house so that one flat was upstairs and one downstairs. I moved into the upstairs flat about 13 years ago.  About 7 years ago, two brothers (Mark and Ronnie) moved into the downstairs flat. Over the years, we have become very good friends.  We often while away hours on their big front porch. Sundays are especially fun, as their parents also visit.  They say I have become family, and that’s how I feel. They were a huge help during my Big Trials, always ready to help me with small or large needs.

When I found employment a couple of years ago at the local Schnucks grocery store, I encouraged Mark to apply there, too. He got the job, and quickly became respected and liked for his hard work ethic and his willingness to help everyone.

Early this spring, Mark began to experience some pain as his neck swelled and swallowing became difficult.  But, like so many Americans, he did not go to the doctor. Why? Because he didn’t have health insurance. The swelling and other problems grew worse and worse, but he wouldn’t to the doctor. He didn’t have a “primary care doctor.” He didn’t want “charity.” He was holding out for this October, when he would become eligible for health insurance coverage from his job. I am tempted to digress here to talk about what the lack of affordable health coverage is doing to hard working Americans, but I will forbear.

Mark didn’t make it to October. Late in June, on an ordinary Sunday when his parents came to visit Mark and Ronnie, Mark’s problems had become too severe to wait.  They took him to the Emergency Room. As you will read on Mark’s page, things quickly escalated. First the doctors diagnosed a massive infection. Soon after, they diagnosed cancer.  Less than 4 weeks after his ER visit, they performed a massive surgery that lasted over 10 hours and have changed his body and his life forever.  The thing that most strikes me is that Mark can no longer speak in the voice we have known. They cut his head open from ear to ear to ear in order to remove the cancerous cells. In the process, they forever changed his vocal chords and more.

I can't begin to express how sad I am at what Mark has had to confront in the past several weeks.  He is showing more courage than I believe I could muster. He never complains, but continues to exhibit his wry humor.

Frankly, his brother and I wonder whether Mark can survive this.

So why should you contribute to his page? Because Mark and his brother Ronnie are poor. Although  they have worked hard, neither of them has ever held a job that provides health insurance or any other benefits. They are facing eviction soon if they cannot pay their rent.  They are facing trouble if they cannot pay their utility bills. They struggle to buy groceries. I do what I can to help them, but I can’t do enough. I am asking you friends to help them with me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

This Ain’t Right

This week I was pleased to buy a beautiful, silky tshirt for a mere $8.00. What a deal!
Then I got to thinking.  How in the world could a tshirt cost a mere $8? The tag in the shirt didn’t reveal where the cotton was grown or where it was made.  What pittance could the laborers have made, so that I could get this great bargain?
This much I know: If I can get a marvelous silky tshirt for merely $8, some workers in some far away land are being abused.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Employment Situation

Some of you have seen some of this in a note I posted on Facebook on June 28, and I was able to tell a few of you personally over the past month. But I want to share it with all of you, now that there seems to be a good outcome.

On June 8, I let my employer know I must be off July 1-15 for General Convention. But there are rules. I lacked seniority. I was offered the "choice" of resigning or being fired because of my insistence on serving at General Convention. I was told that if I didn't show up for work on July 1st, I would be a "noshow/nocall," which would mean termination. With the advice of family and friends, I opted not to resign, but to let the chips fall where they might. I served as a Deputy at General Convention, assuming it would cost me my job.

To me, this seemed a bit short sighted on their part. I found it difficult to believe they can hire and train someone to be as effective as I had become over the course of 10 months. But it is what is. I assumed I would return from General Convention unemployed again.

But I did not merely sit around eating the bread of anxiety. I also went online and looked for local jobs. Among them, I applied for a cashier position at the local Target store. [Never mind the ego impact of going in one year from manager of a statewide preservation program to "unskilled labor." Income is income.]

I had an interview at Target on June 29th. It went well. As it turns out, the interview was with a HR person, and I think it was merely meant to weed out those who couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. She told me I would have a 2nd interview with Chris, who was manager. I thought she meant he was manager of the cashiers and front end staff. Unfortunately, he was on vacation and wouldn't be back until I had already left for Austin. She told me call when I get back and schedule an interview with him. So I went to Austin with no idea of what the future might hold in the employment department.

I spent the entire time at General Convention assuming I was unemployed, but hoping for the best. As you may imagine, it wasn't a pleasant situation.

I got home in the wee hours of Sunday, July 15. On Monday, I called Target. I had my interview with Chris Tuesday at 5pm. He offered me the job. There was a bit of a surprise in this. I thought I was being interviewed for a cashier position. But his first questions were about my experience in sales. I thought that was a little odd. It turns out he is manager of the "soft lines," all the clothing and accessories. That's where I'll be starting. He talked about cross training, one thing led to another, and I said I had first looked to see if they had an opening in the Starbucks when I applied online. He said they never start people in that department, because it is so busy and there is so much to learn and remember, but that it's a possibility.

As Chris said they would, the HR people called me today. I went in this morning, they made the
formal offer, and we talked about a start date. Alas, I probably won't start until about August 1st, for various logistical reasons. It's going to difficult to manage a whole month without income, but I think I can eke it out.

Here are some things that make me very happy.

1st and foremost, I'll remain employed.
2. The starting pay at Target is 37% higher than I had at Schnucks. It sounds like Target might
not give me as many hours to work as I had at Schnucks.  But I think I will come out ok.
3. The Schnucks deli work was killing my shoulder, which is still painful after my broken arm in February. I had begun to wonder how much longer I could physically manage that job. I think
the Target work will be less physically demanding.
4. I will no longer have to show up for 6:30am shifts. (That was especially grim in winter, when it was dark.) The Target store opens at 8am and closes at 10pm.
5. Like Schnucks, Target honors my stipulation that I will not work on Sundays before 1pm, so
the job won't interfere with my church attendance.
6. The Deli Manager at Schnucks was [ahem] a bit challenging. In the 11 months I worked there,
he only said one positive thing to me about my work. Chris at Target seems like he will be a
better manager.

Let me add this. I know that many of you have been praying for me, as I was terrified at the prospect of being unemployed again. I thank you deeply for your prayers. I know that many prayers seem to unanswered ... or at least not in the ways we hope. I don't know why I got this
blessing, but I am deeply grateful for it and for your support.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Speaking of Sudan

A few days before I left for General Convention, I came down with a sore throat and went to the doctor. When I explained I was to be gone for two weeks, she gave me the full arsenal: antibiotic, steroid, and the "good" cough syrup (with codeine). Alas, it didn't help.I left home with a sore throat. By the time I arrived in Austin, I also had laryngitis. This is a horrible affliction for someone like me, who tends to be fairly verbose.
Oh well.
Somewhere in the midst of Convention, Lauren Stanley alerted me that a couple of resolutions were coming to the floor regarding the Episcopal Church in Sudan and she asked me to speak in favor of them. Of course I would!
I am grateful to Mark Sluss for capturing these pics of me speaking to the more than 800 Deputies.

What a Difference a Few Years Makes

Turn on your virtual “way back machine.”  Way back in 2012, The Episcopal Church’s General Convention authorized a liturgy for same sex blessings. The move was pretty radical back then.  Now the U.S. has authorized same sex marriage, and The Episcopal Church has moved along. In fact, our Church has moved along so far that all but 8 of our 110 dioceses now offer marriages for all persons in our congregations.

But back in 2012, we couldn’t know all this was coming. Only blessings, not marriage, were available.  Our Bishop offered a way for parishes to offer same sex blessings in our churches. But with a caveat: The vestry and parish had to be supportive. I wrote in anger back then, that my parish was going to talk about whether even to talk about such rites. We held those listening sessions back in May 2013. They broke my heart. I should not have been surprised that the opponents of same sex blessings were the most vocal.  I remember sitting in our church, listening to the old “Adam and Steve” arguments, the Leviticus arguments, the “traditional understanding of marriage” arguments, and I wept quietly and alone in my pew. My parish leadership decided not to pursue the issue. Why would they? I was the only active, gay parishioner in the parish. But I was angry and deeply sad.
Now fast forward to this month’s General Convention. The committee charged to consider same sex marriage [SSM] held hearings, as all committees must. The room was crowded. A parish in Houston had chartered a bus to bring opponents of same sex marriage to speak to the committee.  They and others dug up all those hackneyed arguments.   And you know what?  I didn’t cry. Not a single tear.  I just felt sorry for them. Because I knew we had moved well beyond their arguments. 
And indeed we did.  The House of Bishops and the House Deputies both passed resolutions A086 and B012 . Both make clear that every priest in The Episcopal Church can officiate in their own congregations at same sex marriages, as they do for all other marriages. In the 8 of our 110 dioceses whose bishops are opposed to SSMs, those bishops have agreed to “provide generous pastoral response” to let local congregations celebrate these rites.
As blessed Martin Luther King wrote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
And God has wiped away my tears.
The Episcopal News Service article on the hearings included this photo.  In the standing room only crowd, I was on the floor. Not crying. Not even worried about the outcome.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Blogging the General Convention

I served as a Deputy at the General Convention of The Episcopal Church for the first two weeks of this month. I and other Deputies posted news at  That site was set up to offer public updates to others in the Diocese of Missouri.
I returned home on July 15, two weeks after I left for Austin. I am weary. Although I slept and ate too little, I loved serving as a Deputy, loved reconnecting with friends whom I so seldom see, and – most of all – loved being part of the conversations about the actions and stances of my beloved church. Just today, I have literally finished unpacking my bags and boxes after #GC79. But I am still “unpacking” and reflecting on what happened.
There are some things I will post on the diocesan blog. But there are a few things that I would prefer to share in this smaller circle of my friends. I’ll switch back and forth between the two blogs, depending on the content.  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Prayer Book Revision: Not Now. Maybe Never.

If you serve as a Deputy to General Convention, be prepared to have your heart broken open. Sometimes in joy. Sometimes not.

For me, today was a heartbreak of the sad variety. I recognize that others may rejoice.

There will be no revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which I dearly love despite its limitations. Certainly not in the coming three years, and perhaps never. Yes, I mean that literally: perhaps never.

The House of Bishops took the resolution we passed in the House of Deputies, threw it in the trash can, and wrote their own resolution, completely ignoring the supposed dialogue they had with the Deputies. As you may know, no resolution can come out of General Convention unless both Houses pass it in identical form. So this afternoon, on a voice vote, the Deputies concurred with the Bishops' sparkly new resolution, which they had shared with no one before its adoption. So much for collegiality. Our vote to concur with the Bishops on a voice vote was by a substantial margin, but few of us were happy in casting that vote. I certain tasted gall in casting my vote.

You can read the final resolution here:

As part of their resolution, the Bishops "memorialized" the 1979 BCP. Our canonical experts and
church history buffs don't seem to know what "memorialize" means in the Bishops' resolution. It
isn't a parliamentary term. Even the Bishops who passed the shiny new A068, when asked,
couldn't or wouldn't offer a definition.

Folks around GC seem to think it means the 1979 Prayer Book is being declared The Once and
Forever Prayer Book of The Episcopal Church, never again to be amended or revised. It can, however, be ossified.

The good news: Our beloved Church will be spared the anxiety of BCP revision.

Further (but  mixed) good news: The Bishops' resolution creates a new task force that is authorized to create new liturgies such as we have in Enriching Our Worship and the Book of Occasional Services.

But here's what I see as the very bad news: The traditionalists in our Church [and that is a term they prefer; it is not disparaging] have long complained that we no longer have "common prayer," but have a variety of authorized rites, ranging from parishes that only use the 1928 BCP, to ones like mine that use the '79 BCP, to ones that only use Enriching Our Worship.  The traditionalists here in Austin fought hard against the resolution to revise the BCP. Well, they have their wish. We won't have common prayer. We will have increasingly diffuse prayer and liturgies, thanks to the Bishops who decided to enact their will unilaterally, with no consultation with the Deputies.

The Bishops in their sparkly new resolution created a new task force that can create as many new liturgies and rites as they want, so long as those are published apart from the Prayer Book.  What will be the result? A multiplicity of liturgies and even less "common prayer." This worked really well in the Church of England, which is saddled with the 1662 version as its official prayer book. I'm sure we can learn from their example, since they are over 350 years ahead of us.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Ah, for a uniform

For a few brief seconds in my last year of high school, I thought of joining the military. This was when the Vietnam War was raging. 
I quickly realized I didn't want to join the armed forces.  I just wanted to be spared the decision of what to wear every day. Wearing a uniform would be so very simple. 
And now I have a job like that at Schnucks.  All I have to decide is whether to wear the black or tan khakis.  The rest is set.  Black Schnucks polo shirt. Shoes and socks prescribed. Apron provided. Cap provided.  
This is so much easier than dressing for work used to be. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Employment Update

A few of you have asked me for an update on my job/life situation since being terminated from job at the Missouri State Archives on June 30.  I very much appreciate your concern. Not many people are asking. I understand that folks are being very kind and not pressuring me with questions.
Things are pretty much status quo

I got hired at the Schnucks grocery store in early August.  I’ve now been working in the Schnucks Deli Dept. for about 3 weeks. They're working my butt off about 38 hours/week.  I like the work, but it sure is physically exhausting.  I'm getting a bit better and a bit faster.  I wish the managers could see how well I work with our customers.  I'm making about $250/week, compared to the $2800/month I used to make.  Obviously, finances are a big concern. 

Here’s a bit of good news about the Schnucks job: I generally work 7am to about 3pm.  It forces me to get up, shower, and go out into the world 5 days a week.  (Church takes Sunday.)  So I’m too busy and too exhausted to drop back into that Slough of Despond that took over my life in April and again in July.  I think it’s pretty funny that I’m too tired to be depressed.  LOL!

I filed my application with Central MO Community Action last week to be a Community Organizer. (More about that at  I don’t know how long they'll take to begin the interview process, but they invited me to apply, I think my application is strong, and I'm optimistic. I think this is the job I really want. 

I also applied for the City Clerk position here in Jefferson City a while back.  They told me to report for a written exam last Friday.  When I got into the room, there were 41 people.  I thought surely they must be applying for various city jobs.  But, no.  I learned from the HR woman in charge that these were the 41 people culled from over 100 applicants for the Clerk's job.  I got my test results a couple of days ago.  I scored 94% and am now moving into the next round.  It will probably be a couple of weeks before the “hiring committee” begins to schedule interviews.

I've applied for a lot of other menial full-time jobs, but haven't  heard back from any of them. 

My state retirement income won't kick in until the end of September, since I had no notice that the SOS was going to fire me.  That will give me a little more income each month. I am learning to make each penny scream before I spend it.  :-) 

I filed for unemployment, but the Secretary of State office protested it, so I haven't gotten a penny there.  I have filed an appeal, and will have a hearing at some point, probably within the next month.  The State Unemployment process/bureaucracy is a nightmare. I hope you never have to go through it. 

I think that's all I have to report. 

Many thanks to all of you who are sending me prayers and good wishes,

After the Firing: The Unemployment Shag

After I was fired on June 30, I licked my wounds for a few days.  Then I went to State Retirement System.  I had been eligible for full retirement for a couple of years, but I had no desire to retire.  I had a marvelous meeting with the MOSERS retirement counselor which went for a couple of hours.  She was marvelous  She told me that I then needed to go to the state health insurance people (MCHCP).  I went there, and again had a marvelous counselor who walked me through the options.

They told me that I then needed to go to the State Unemployment Office.  I went there.  I presented myself to the person at the reception desk.  I was curtly informed that one cannot meet with a person.  He gave me a brochure and told me I had to file my unemployment claim online.  There is no way to sit down with a human being and figure out how to work one’s way through the system.

I went home and logged onto the online Unemployment system.  It is a user–vicious system.  I have everything short of a PhD.  But I couldn’t get past the fifth screen.  No matter what I entered, it gave me error messages.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t enter the correct data to get past those error messages.  Fortunately, my sister was here, and she didn’t feel the stress I felt.  She was able to help me navigate the Unemployment enrollment.

But what would you do if you didn’t have access to a computer?  Or if you didn’t have a calm sister to help you navigate that system?

What would you do if you had to find your way to someplace like our public library but didn’t know how to navigate that system?

What if you had to rely on public transportation and couldn’t get to the public library when it is open?

I have become convinced that the Unemployment System is designed to keep people from getting their Unemployment benefits.

And, by the way, if you manage to sign up for Unemployment, you must sign in again every week to prove you have been searching for a job.  So you have to get yourself to a computer every week, navigate the user–vicious system, and make your claim.  Good luck with that, if you don’t have computer skills and reliable transportation.

I haven’t been able to do it.  Once I started working part –time, the system has rejected my claims. 

If I can’t navigate this system, how in the world will others do it???