Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tough Day At Work

Have you ever had one of those days when you go in to work and it seems that everyone is mad at you? In case I've never mentioned, I hate it when people are mad at me. My conflict style is turtle: yell at me, and I tend to draw away inward, then slowly withdraw when I think your attention is distracted by someone else. I've never liked direct conflict, so having to work through direct conflict is just torture for me. It ranks right up there with getting cavities filled.

So over the past week, there was a bit of upheaval in the parish. A few individuals (stalwart, solid souls) decided their level of burnout was affecting their ability to be joyful in community. They decided to allow their positions to expire, and to take a break from further work for a while.

It's sad to lose them as leaders for a season, but I have seen far too many times before what burnout can do to people. I've seen too many people leave the church entirely because we allowed them to burn themselves out to the point they couldn't even experience the saving grace of God. And what purpose do you get involved in a church for, anyway, if not to try and become closer to the Almighty? I'd far, far rather face the task of waiting for new leaders to raise their hands than to face the pain of having two great people leave the church entirely and never return.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure the entire exchange went down well. I fear that there is the sentiment that I somehow forced good people out of their work by being a bad priest. So I felt in the services as though a number of people were just glaring at me. I felt like the bug under the microscope- and a bad bug, at that. I felt like the deer tick must feel after you pluck it off and send it in to be analyzed. And let me tell you, that's a lousy way to feel when you are doing services and presenting your week's worth of work in the sermon and liturgy!

And since I'm still recovering from the Bug, I'm exhausted. I drove home feeling dizzy and queasy. Hours later, after a long rest on the couch, I'm feeling like I can stand upright again. I hate being sick. I hate having people mad at me. And I hate it when these things happen in such stupid ways.

There was a point in the book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when the Magician reflects on his caretaking of the Dufflepuds. He declares his fondness for his wayward charges, saying that at times, they act as if he sees all and knows all, and at others, they behave as if he could be taken in by tricks a baby would see through.

I suppose I feel like the Magician in charge of the Dufflepuds, at the moment. I wonder if the Magician ever got the flu?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sick Priest

The 24-stomach-bug has been running through our house. I'll spare you the details, but it started with M. I went to have my picture taken by the State Police (who've asked me to do some chaplaincy for them), and then I went to the retirement of our awesome assistant, Marty D. (Can I just say that I realized on that day that I have TOTALLY under-appreciated Marty? The lady is bedrock. I was stunned to realize that I have just taken for granted her supreme helpfulness and intelligence. She's so mild-mannered, you don't even realize how essential she is, or how much guidance she gave so many of us.)

As I came home, suddenly, the door opened and M lurched in. He proceeded to spend the evening in misery.

I woke up yesterday feeling, if possible, more tired than I was went I went to bed. By the time my hospital shift started, everything hurt. I gave up with an hour and a half to go. By the time I got home, I had chills and a legit fever. I proceeded to spend the night shaking on the couch wrapped up in two blankets, flannel jammies, and a heating pad. I woke up this morning with residual soreness. I think it would be a good idea to cancel the newborn-nephew visit and... well... pretty much anything else I was going to do today.

Maybe if I'm really good M will make soup.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Light Verse

After a particularly grueling Vestry meeting last night, I was overheard to say "I think I will go home and have a nice junkyard martini" (the dirtiest of all dirty martinis). A gracious vestry member offered the following:

A Drink With Something In It

There is something about a Martini,

A tingle remarkably pleasant;

A yellow, a mellow Martini;

I wish I had one at present.

There is something about a Martini,

Ere the dining and dancing begin,

And to tell you the truth,

It is not the vermouth--

I think that perhaps it's the gin.

Ogden Nash

Of course, I don't drink the gin. All my martinis are vodka martinis, due to my unfortunate prior run-ins with juniper (and the serious allergy that followed). But still. I love me a good martini... clean, dirty, junkyard (with olives, capers, and pimentos with the brine), pumpkin...

As the story goes, in WWII, as England fell into ruins and the atomic bomb was built and the question before the world was whether or not we'd have a future to look forward to at all, the Brits published a small book. It was printed up to the very margins as paper was so precious. It was a volume of light, airy verse, such as the ode to Martinis printed above.

Even in the worst of times, England found time to celebrate with a small bit of something completely frivolous.

I think we call that hope.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Priest's Cats

So... I was down at **name withheld** church in a very, very wealthy town in the westernmost section of CT. And they have a bookstore. I stopped by, I found a cool wood dice-shaped block with different table graces printed on it. (Great way to impress the in-laws... roll the dice and pray the prayer. No having to think up your own prayer on spur of the moment!)

I also found "An Advent Calendar For Your Cats", complete with a fuzzy Christmas-card style picture of kittens. It contains the appropriate number of little kitty treats.

Thank you, **name withheld**, for helping my cats become closer to Jesus. I have indeed been sorely neglecting their spiritual welfare and development, except for the one animal blessing thing I dragged them to. But now, for thirty whole days, I can give them cat treats, and on Christmas, let them bask in the warm, glowing Christmas tree and try to rip up ribbons and wrapping paper, knowing that Jesus came to save them from their... er... sins?

That's what church is all about, people...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Making priests happy...

It's tough sometimes to be joyful. In one job, I deal with tragedy and death and life-altering injury all day. In the other job, we navigate the murky waters of a church struggling for survival. I haven't done a wedding in over a year, but I have had plenty of funeral requests. It's tough sometimes to find the joy in your job when it seems all the celebrations are had by other priests.

We gathered the clergy for Safe Church recertification. Can I even say how much I love Safe Church? I was expecting a boring day of dull videos, a re-hash of the same stuff I'd gotten the last two times around. Whoa, can I even tell you how much the Diocese rocked it?

They had large plenary workshops and then small breakout sessions dealing with all sorts of issues from porn to difficult parishioners. I found the sessions to be well-thought-out and actually interesting. Of course, perhaps my extroverted side went nuts and was so excited to see so many people that I lived off the endorphins of seeing so many people, but still.

I found a cool Christmas present for my maid-of-honor (that's right, Jen, I got your present right here!), and I found an awesome new item for my Tacky Jesus Collection. Sorry, Christ Church Bookstore.

I'm really excited and heartened by so many clergy getting so revved-up about keeping our churches safe. I'm pepped up by other clergy affirming certain difficult decisions I've made. I'm relieved to have the Diocesean staff supporting us that we do. Hey, you guys in Hartford, I really appreciate what all-y'all do for us. We're a tough crowd. BUT it was a GOOD DAY!

Here's wishing the folks in the house on Asylum a relaxing week. (Really!) Good job on Saturday. You made me happy to be an Episcopal priest.

Amen to that!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wedding Rings

I finally broke down and gave in.

We had known from the start of our marriage that our wedding rings were one-of-a-kind art pieces. They are custom designs in solid gold. They were featured in a bridal magazine and are on the front page of our designer's Torpedo Factory webpage. Ours are done by Cynthia Corio-Poli.

She carefully designed low, simple rings for me because I do so much "hands on" and emergency type work, and I was concerned about the rings getting damaged. She did such a great job.

Recently, I had been noticing several larger scratches on my rings. Martin gave in a few months ago and ordered a tungsten carbide faceted ring. It looks like a little disco ball. He wears it to work, when we go out hiking, and when we do 'hard stuff". He saves his fancy rings for hanging out and going out.

I'm a difficult-to-find size, but I finally found one that I can live with. I struggled mightily, feeling that any replacement ring would just be ugly, being very cheap and not wanting to spend lots of money on a fake ring, and finally feeling that any replacement just wouldn't be THE SAME. In the end, I ordered the tungsten-gold ring to serve as my 'work ring'. Apparently, this is much more common than I had realized. Many of my co-workers and nurses have "fake rings" they wear to work. Plenty of police officers have simple "scratch-and-dent" rings that are totally cheap, so it doesn't matter if it gets scratched, damaged, or cut. There's plenty of us in the hard-scrabble world who seem to choose to preserve our "real rings" for our "off-duty" life.

I wonder what that says about our priorities, our separation of work life and non-work life, and our view of our relationships.

Of course, there's always guys like my brother, who took a file to his wedding ring... the night before his wedding! He got some super-duper strong metal (he's the paramedic/firefighter) and I guess he wanted to be sure it was REALLY strong enough. He ruined the file. Lucky for him, the ring was without a scratch. I don't recommend that for the general public to try, though.

I'll just wait for my "working" ring to come in in a few days, and then I'll be able to send my "real rings" off for a cleaning and polishing. They are just too special to risk damage to. So much for the girl who thought she didn't get emotionally attached to jewelry!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

How to It's a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day...

I totally shoulda worn the railroad train pajamas and taken my picture of the Invisible Castle. Instead, I went to the party as Max, the King of the Wild Things. You'd be amazed at how many people DIDN'T get it. The literary crowd did. Adults should be required to read children's books. Really. But the most awesome costume was easily the person who came in a business suit, with a golden parachute, monopoly money spilling out of all the pockets, and a sign saying "Out of work Wall Street CEO. Help save my yacht: can you spare 700 Billion?" She rocked!

Anyway. It's a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day when...

The social worker doesn't answer her phone. Sure, she says it's ringing. Four hours later when you corner her.

There are four major cases upstairs on your floor...

And about 6 cases in the ED.

And did I mention the social worker was AWOL, so I'm catching ALL this one my own? And the kicker...

When an overloaded electrical outlet shorts out and starts a fire...

in YOUR office...

while you are on the phone with a trauma victim's freaking out husband...

after the fire department comes and saves you...

It's probably a bad day. Just leave it at that.