Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Random Musings Regarding Toilet Seats

Today, I came across a picture on Facebook regarding the toilet seat up vs. toilet seat down debate.

I'm not sure why, but every time this topic comes up, I get wound up. Personally, I would rather walk into a bathroom and find the toilet seat up than down. That way, I know that I'm not sitting on a seat that's been peed on. Spotting a seat that needs to be put down is a lot easier than locating random droplets on a seat that's been left down while in use by a certain husband who will remain unnamed... If I fall into the toilet because I didn't look, that's my fault. If I sit on a seat assuming that I'm safe from getting pee on my butt, well, let's just say someone's in trouble.

I'm always hearing people talking about equal rights for women, and while this issue is a mere drop in the bucket (pun totally intended) compared to the big picture, think of it this way: If men have to lift the seat, shouldn't we have to put it down? How's that for equal?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Everything Happens for a Reason

Editor's note: I wrote this post last week and had intended for it to be published last Friday. For some reason or another, I messed up the settings so it didn't post as scheduled. I only say this because later in the post I talk about something that happened on a Sunday, quoting it as something that happened "today." So, as you read this, please bare in mind that although the things I say happened "today" did not happen today, they did still happen and still ring true. 

Also, I am a little nervous as to how some of my friends and family will receive this post. It's all about a change in my life that makes my life quite different from the way that those who know me are used to. The only thing that I can say to the people who might view this powt negatively is this: I have always loved and respected you and I've done my best to show you that no matter what is going on. I can only hope that, no matter what you may think of this post, you will show me the same respect.

People say that things happen for a reason. I've always believed this to be true. It seems that no matter how bad things get, something good has almost always come from my struggles.

Obviously both Jason and I getting fired from Chili's was a big struggle for us. Honestly, even after almost a year, we're still struggling from it, but a lot of good has come from it. However, as it usually goes, in the wake of a struggle it's really hard to see a silver lining. At the time, I couldn't possibly conceive of any kind of prosperity to be gained from my husband and I losing employment. 

We worked our way into and out of a lot of different plans for how our life would progress. One plan was to take our income tax money and move to Tulsa in June. We had been planning to move there anyway, although it would have been a lot easier if I had gone into management with Chili's. For several reasons, that plan didn't work out. 

I ended up working as a server at Pizza Hut, but that too didn't work out. What did work out, however, was  and old friend coming in to Pizza Hut and telling me about a job at her family's Mexican restaurant. I began working there in April, and since then a lot of things have fallen into place in my life that I haven't had in a very long time. 

From the moment I heard about the job, something felt right for the first time since I worked at Chili's. My boss was going to be an old friend and a close friend of mine is part of the family that owns the restaurant and she also works there. When I started working there, I found out that there were several other people there that I know. 

One of those people is a woman named Rosie. I met Rosie in the 7th grade in our geography class. She was moderately popular - not one of the socially elite, but definitely not a social misfit like me. One of the things I remember most about Rosie from school is that she was always really nice to me, while most of the other kids in school were not. I didn't see a lot of her after 7th grade, but that was mostly because we ran with different crowds (obviously) and we didn't have any more classes together. It was really nice to get to see her again and get to work with her. 

At this time, it was the spring semester and I had a sociology class with another classmate of ours. She and I  had been tentatively planning a girls' night out that started with a Scentsy party and ended at the karaoke bar near my house, and I thought I would invite Rosie along. Rosie smiled at the invitation and told me that it sounded like fun. She said that she'd try to come to the Scentsy party if she wasn't working, but she wasn't too sure about going to the karaoke bar because she doesn't drink. I didn't think too much of it at the time, other than wondering why. I didn't think that she'd had an alcohol problem, and the only people that I really know who don't drink at all are recovering alcoholics.

As I continued working with Rosie, it became abundantly clear that she is a devout Christian. Now, I don't say this with any kind of judgment or negative connotation. At night when we were doing our closing duties cleaning the restaurant, a lot of times the hostess or other servers would stick around to talk to Rosie about their faith. They came to her for advice or a shoulder to cry on and she never once judged them. She spoke about her own faith with the kind of grace that I've only seen a few times in my life.

Seeing this made me more aware of what was going on around me. It seemed like everyone I worked with at one time or another was having a conversation about God and faith. These conversations weren't the kinds of religious conversations I was used to. It seemed like religious conversations where I was concerned were one of two kinds: condemnation or hypocrisy. These people were simply sharing their excitement for something they'd learned in church and their love of God.

It was around this same time that Gracie had begun to act out a little more than usual. As most of my friends know, Gracie has always been a pretty well behaved and mild mannered little girl, so when she started to have the attitude of a 13 year old girl, Jason and I became concerned. We'd never really had to deal with these kinds of problems, but one of Jason's suggestions, and I can't begin to tell you how surprised by this I was, was that we try taking Gracie to church. For those of you who don't know, Jason is an atheist - or an agnostic on the best of days. But he was raised in church and gained a lot of his moral center from his Sunday school lessons as a boy and he thought that maybe Gracie could gain something from attending church too.

After a few weeks of trying to take him up on his offer and being met with Jason not wanting to wake up to go, I finally concluded that if anyone was going to take Gracie to church it was going to be me.

Now, I guess I should give a little bit of a religious background where I'm concerned before moving on, so bear with me. Growing up, I went to a small variety of different churches, but never any place really regularly. I went to pre-school and kindergarten at First Assembly of God, and I rode the bus there for Sunday school from time to time in my first few years of grade school. My mother grew up in the Methodist church, so when she wanted to go to church, that's where we went. My dad grew up in the Baptist church, and although we never went as a family to a Baptist church, I had a lot of friends who went to Baptist churches in town and that seemed like a nice fit for a while. I'm even still relatively close friends with a girl that I met at Baptist church camp the summer before 5th grade.

The summer before 8th grade, my grandmother invited my friend Natalie and I to start attending the Wednesday night youth group at her church. Most of the other kids in the group were preppy, upper-middle to upper class, and definitely not of the same crowd that Natalie and I belonged to. The group was poorly managed and we spent the better part of 4 Wednesday nights being ridiculed rather than learning about God. Natalie and I decided that if that's what it looked like to be a Christian, we didn't want any part of it.

My entire 8th grade year and into the beginning of my 9th grade year, I was an "atheist." Knowing what I do now, I realize that I would probably have been better defined as an agnostic, but what good is rebellion if you're not completely against something? In that time, I ended up doing some research on Wicca (if you can consider buying some Wicca for teenagers-type book research) but didn't really find anything in it for me.

In 9th grade, a couple of girls in my creative writing class invited me to their youth group. I told them I didn't believe in God and they said (paraphrased), "That's cool. We didn't either, but this is the kind of place that welcomes that. You don't have to come, but the invitation stands." After a couple of weeks of invitations, I finally gave in and went. I never REALLY renounced my faith in God and was kind of curious to see if I could find the piece I felt like I was missing in my life.

When I walked in, there was worship music being played. I'd never heard music like this before; it wasn't the gospel music I was used to hearing at church, and it wasn't like the contemporary Christian music I'd heard in my friend's mom's cars. It was more like rock and the things they were singing were things I could relate to. Then the pastor started talking. (I don't think I've ever referred to Cass as a pastor until this point, and although that has no bearing on the story, it's totally something that I'm for some reason only just now noticing. Not to discredit him in any way - he was amazing. But I'll get there.) I don't remember anything about what was said other than the way it made me feel. I felt like Cass was talking directly to me about my own life. I heard a passion for God that I'd never known could exist and I wanted that. I wanted to learn how to achieve that. So I kept going. And I did find it.

...But, it got lost somewhere along the way. Admittedly, I think I know where bits and pieces of it have gone. It's mostly due to my own arrogance and concern for what other people would think of me. Jason and I got together when I was 17. I'd only been going to the youth group for about 18 months, and although I continued going after we started dating, I eventually wanted to spend that time with him instead. Even though I know now that Jason would have respected me and wouldn't have thought any less of me for going to church, the fact that he was an atheist was an issue for me because I just didn't know better. I still believed, but I kept it to myself.

Like every other human, I'm adaptable. If I'm forced to listen to a certain kind of music for so long, eventually I'm going to start tapping my toes or humming along. In that same way, after hiding my faith for so long, it was like it wasn't there. In times of trouble, I've found myself starting to pray ("I don't know if you're out there God, but if you are...") and then stopping midway through ("...whatever. Like this is going to matter anyway.") But there's been a void, and I've felt it this whole time. When I would get sad, I would find myself asking God if He was there. I'm sure there have been signs here and there, but even though I was asking for them, I wasn't ever really looking. The thought was fleeting and since the answer was never immediate, I just figured it wasn't there.

So. I had decided that I was going to take Gracie to church with me. A couple of years ago, I was working with a guy named Tim at Chili's. It seemed like every day we worked together, we'd end up rolling silverware at the same time, so we'd end up talking. Tim is a pretty religious guy, but like the girls in my creative writing class, he never forced his religion on me. He'd ask me questions about why I didn't really believe or what I thought about this belief or that, and he'd give his input, but it was never anything judgmental. He invited me to church and wasn't offended when I had declined.

One of the really cool things about working at this new job was that Tim was also working there. The morning that I had decided to take Gracie to church, we were actually intending to go with my friends Kenny and Julie (Julie being the friend I work with who is also in the family that owns the restaurant). But I was running late. I called Kenny to let him know and he informed me that Julie wasn't feeling well and they hadn't gotten the boys up, so they weren't going. Had I called when I had first woken up like I intended and then found out that they weren't going, I would have crawled back in bed and said, "Screw it." But I was already almost ready. I didn't really want to go to this new church by myself though, but then I remembered Tim's open invitation, and how convenient it was that the service at his church started 30 minutes later than the one I was intending to go to!

As soon as Gracie and I walked into the First Assembly of God Church, we were greeted by an elderly man. He said he'd never seen us there before and wondered if we were visiting. I told him that it was my first time coming in a very long time and he handed me a welcome bag and helped me find the children's church. When I walked into the main church I was greeted by a few other people. They knew by the bag that it was my first time coming and were very welcoming. Among these people was a woman named April, who is the older sister of one of my best friends from 8th grade. She invited me to sit with her, which was really nice, because as it turned out, Tim was in the worship band, so I'd have been sitting alone anyway.

The worship music was great. It was just like the music I'd heard at the youth group years before and each one of the songs touched me. The only song I remember today was Amazing Grace - which is a song I've always loved, even when I was an "atheist." During the service, again, it felt like the pastor was talking directly to me. During one part of the service, he talked about a passage that states that you should seek the prayers of wise men because they are powerful. He then asked if anyone in the congregation needed agreement in prayer about something. Reluctantly, I raised my hand. I guess I assumed that he would scan the room, take note of those holding their hands up, and pray for them later but instead he called to the rest of the congregation to pray right then for those people. I felt a hand lightly placed on my shoulder, then one on my arm. April stood in front of me, and although there were several people around me praying, she was the only one praying out loud - and only loud enough that I could hear her. In her prayer, she asked God for all of the things I had been asking, and spoke the answers I had been seeking. Word for word, she answered the exact questions I had in my heart and that I've silently and secretly been asking for years. I felt a kind of wholeness that I'd been missing for a long time and wound up crying and silently thanking God for showing Himself to me.

At the end of the service, several people I knew came to talk to me. They all asked how I enjoyed the service and I told them that I had loved it. They all said, "Wait until next week! This week's service was different than it usually is. It was really good, but you're going to love it when you come back and see what it's like normally." It felt like God had specifically designed that week's service just for me.

Since then, I've begun going to a Sunday night Bible study at my friend and co-worker Nancy's house. We watch a television evangelist named Joseph Prince, and I have learned so much about the Bible that I never would have picked up in reading it on my own. He talks a lot about how the Old Testament is full of prophesies of Jesus, and the coincidences that are there are just so uncanny that I can't help but feel my faith reaffirmed when I watch.

I'm seeing little coincidences everywhere and feeling things fall into place more than I ever have. I feel more healthy and alive, and although I know a lot of my friends will think I'm crazy for saying this, I am absolutely in love with God and Jesus Christ!

I realize that there is a lot of hypocrisy in my life and I am working to address the issues that I can. I went to Tulsa over the weekend to visit my mom and this morning attended GUTS church. The message there today was that we should be aggressive about accelerating the correction of problems in our lives, in forgiveness, in attitude change, in raising the bar in our life, and in achieving God's prosperity and peace. I learned that 82% of people who don't go to church said they'd go if they were just invited, but that only 2% of people who go to church actually extend invitations.

Today, I am raising the bar and being relentless in my walk with God. I invite anyone and everyone who is local to join me this Sunday at 10:30 am at the First Assembly of God Church, and to everyone else I say this: If you feel a void in your life and you can't explain, don't wait for an invitation. Go check out a church, any church, and hopefully we can all begin to raise the bar in our lives. I feel like everything that has happened in the past year has happened for a reason, that I have been lead to a place where I could find God and His place in my life. If you are reading this, maybe there's a reason. Don't wait for it to come to you - go find it!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It's Been a While

I know it's been a while since I've posted, and I wish I had an excuse better than I just didn't, but... well, I just don't. I know in the past I've made promises of upcoming, regular posts that never came and for that I am sorry. I won't be making any such promises here and now because I really can't say that I will find the time or the motivation to write regularly. I know that's not so great for a blogger, but it is what it is and at least I'm being honest.

However, what I can do is give you an update on what's been going on in my life lately. I believe I last left off in the end of October when Jason and I got fired from Chili's. I know I've posted since then, but with no real indication of what's been going on in my life, so I'll just start there. (Don't worry - I'm just giving a brief recap.)

So. Jason and I got fired from Chili's. Well, that was fun. At the time I posted about it, I was pursuing some sort of legal action so I didn't want to go into too many details regarding the exact event. That didn't pan out so well (not that it couldn't have - I just didn't really have the time or energy to put the work into it, seeing as how I was trying to find work, still going to school, and - oh yeah, I have two kids). Although the summary of the event is kind of lengthy due to explaining a couple of things for those who haven't worked at Chili's, I'm still not going into all of the details. Believe me - if you think the summary is long, the whole story written out takes up about 6 pages.

It was a Saturday night. I had originally been scheduled to work a key shift in which I appear to the customers as a manager and have some management capabilities on the computer such as comping and discounting food. The position is basically there to give the managers some help without actually having to pay an additional manager to work the mid-shift that covers the busiest times of day. However, the restaurant had just hired a new manager and she was going to be working the mid-shift for that day, so I wasn't needed. I was talking to a friend from work about it and about how I really needed to work that night, and she was scheduled to work but wanted off, so I picked up her shift as a front of house expediter. For those who don't work in the restaurant business, the basic job there is that I stand at the line where the food comes out from the kitchen and match up all the different plates to the right tables, and make sure the food gets sent out. It's not hard, but it does get hectic.

Jason was working in the kitchen that night as well. For the purposes of covering my own ass (more so than the actual privacy of the other people involved), the rest of the people involved in the story will only be referred to by their job title.

Right as the dinner rush was picking up, a table of 30 people placed their order. In the heat of things, somehow a sandwich belonging to that table got lost. I asked the cook in charge of making sandwiches about it and he said he had remembered making it and that if it didn't make it to the right table then I wasn't doing my job right and it wasn't his problem. (I would like to note in my own defense that although the servers were not supposed to be taking food that I specifically gave to them, they still were doing so and I'm pretty sure that's how the sandwich got lost.) I told him that regardless of where the sandwich ended up, the person who ordered it did not receive it and it needed to be remade. Over the next 30 minutes or so, the table's server would come back and ask for the sandwich, and I would relay to the cook that it was still needed, and he would yell belligerently about how I was apparently incapable of doing my job and that someone else should come do it for me, as well as a great number of very colorful names and adjectives about what kind of person he really thought me to be. About 10 minutes into the ordeal, the new manager came to help me expedite the other orders that were going out and was at my side for the entire time all of this was going on. She neither said nor did anything to stop this cook from yelling obscenities at me or calling me names.

Finally, at the end of the 30 minutes, the to-go cook came to me and said that he'd seen the sandwich come up (behind a number of other dishes that I was trying to get sent out) and had taken it to the table. Upon hearing this, the cook began to yell at me. (Please forgive the obscenities, folks - I usually try to maintain a mostly clean atmosphere here.)

"See? I fucking told you I sent that shit out! Don't you EVER do that shit to me AGAIN!"

Throughout this whole ordeal, my husband had been working next to this cook and had been telling him that he needed to quit talking to me that way. At this point he raised his voice.

"You REALLY need to stop talking to my wife that way."

The cook turned to him, raised his arms defiantly (think: "Come at me, bro!") and yelled, "She's a fucking idiot!"

Jason told him again that he needed to quit talking to me that way and the cook responded by telling Jason that he was going to slap the piss out of him, and then got in his face.

At this point in time, I'm still trying to do my job. I'm listening and doing my best to watch, but I'm on the clock and would like to remain employed, so I'm also doing my best to remain professional and still work. It's claimed that Jason headbutted the cook. Jason says he didn't and I believe my husband. (Plus the lack of any red marks on his forehead immediately afterward kind of speak in his favor.) All I know is that directly after the other cook getting in his face, Jason turned around and walked to the back of the kitchen. It was right as they were face to face that the new manager got on her radio and told our general manager, who was in the restaurant checking tables, that two cooks were about to get into a fight.

The general manager met both my husband and the other cook in the back of the kitchen. She told them both that she didn't want to hear about what had happened, she just wanted both of them to leave and we would all sort it out in the morning. Jason came to me and told he he'd been kicked out and the general manager approached him and told him again that he needed to leave. He said that he was asking me for the keys because it was raining and she told him that she didn't care, he just needed to leave. So he set out walking home in the pouring rain. A minute later, I saw the other cook leaving and heard the general manager saying to him, "Call me later."

This was not an instruction from an angry boss to an employee who had just been kicked out, but more like a friend calling out to another friend because they'd like to chat later.

I continued to try to do my job to the best of my ability, but after an hour of crying through my work (I was fairly certain that Jason had just lost the most reliable source of income we've ever had) the new manager assured me that she would be able to handle it and that she'd asked the general manager if I could leave early if I wanted to.

After I knew the dinner rush would be over, I returned to the restaurant to give the general manager my account of the event in the hope that I might be able to talk her into letting Jason keep his job. The new manager was asked to join us in the office so she could hear my account as well as give any differing views of what happened. So I told my story and at the end, the general manager asked the new manager if it happened the way I said it did. Her only response was that she didn't hear the cook say, "fucking."

I was then told that as a leader in the restaurant (a title I never knew I had, nor was I being paid for) that I had behaved inappropriately, but it was not disclosed to me at that time exactly how I had done so. The general manager told me that she had planned on firing me, but was unaware of the to-go person's part in the event and would have to get his side of the story before she could say whether or not I still had my job. I was told to come back on Monday with Jason. Upon leaving, I heard the cook who had caused all the problems back in the kitchen laughing about the whole thing. Not even two hours had passed and he was already back at work.

When Jason and I met with the general manager the following Monday, we were told that we were both being let go; Jason for fighting and me for my supposed inappropriate behavior. I asked for clarification and was told that the new manager said she overheard me telling a co-worker that "Jason should have just kicked his ass." I told her that I never said that, but she questioned why the new manager would say that I did. She was a manager, after all, and apparently managers never lie.

I still don't understand why a woman that I had worked somewhat closely with over the past several months all of a sudden trusted a woman she'd known for hardly a week over me, and I don't think I ever will. I have my own theories as to why this new manager had lied - the main one being that she had witnessed the whole thing and never did anything to stop it from escalating to supposed physical violence, which could have cost her own job. Another is that she's just a bitch, but I've heard from people who worked with her afterward that she's actually a really nice person and was a good manager. (She no longer works there either - I heard she, too, was fired. Funny how that works out.)

That was in the end of October. Jason and I started looking for work immediately, but couldn't find a job anywhere. I was told by a friend of mine who works in another restaurant that her boss approached her and told her that the general manager had been in and told her all about my inappropriate behavior and my husband's nasty violent streak, so we shouldn't even bother applying there. From the information and reception we'd received from most of the restaurants we'd applied to, I was fairly certain that we'd been blackballed.

I did finally find a job in December at Pizza Hut. I was originally told that it would be a management position, but I ended up waiting tables instead. I was really excited at first. I'd worked there years ago, so I knew a lot of the job already, I had several friends who worked there, and I was told the money was good. That last part was wrong. The money sucked. Horribly. I was told that I was still in the running for the management position, but after being strung along for months for a position I was told I'd be hired into, I couldn't justify holding out any longer.

One Sunday in March, an old friend of mine from high school came in to eat with her family and asked me how things were going there. I told her that I was getting ready to start looking for a new job and she told me that a couple server positions had opened up at her family's Mexican restaurant and that I should come in and apply.

I was hired on in April and have been working there since. The hours and money are great and the people are AMAZING. Although I am there to work, it's really awesome that I've been able to make so many new friends and reconnect with so many old friends.

Jason is still looking for work, but there is hope on the horizon. I don't want to count our eggs before they've hatched though, so I'm going to leave it at that.

The girls are doing well. Gracie started second grade last month and is doing wonderfully. Kairi is potty trained. She still needs a diaper at night, but we're working on that.

There's not really a lot more to report on at the moment. There are a few details that I have left out because they deserve a post within themselves. I'm not sure when I'll get there, but I'm excited for it.