Tuesday, October 27, 2009

6 degrees? I'm done with this tragedy business, thank you.

Six weeks ago I wrote a note about Annie Le, the Yale grad student who was murdered, stuffed into a wall and discovered on the day she was to be married. My little sister went to high school with her and ate lunch with her frequently.

A week or so ago, I learned of a murder at Sacramento State whereby a student battered his roommate to death with a baseball bat. Coincidentally, the murderer was a former student of a friend of mine, and the victim was a friend of a friend of mine, a quiet young man with Asperger's.

And now, yesterday, our ASU campus was rocked by the suicide of a graduate student INSIDE his professor's office. Thankfully, the gentleman only used the gun on himself, but still. Such a sad, traumatic and difficult situation to process, especially for those of us who are both grad students and instructors. I cannot fathom the depths of despair that poor man was facing or that the poor professor will face now.

With all of the scenarios there are so many questions and they all seem to start with WHY???

Why murder a coworker? Why engage in a rage that kills a man and attempts to wound police officers? Why was suicide the only option this person had left?

I don't know the answers and I'm not sure that any of us can determine the "real" answers anyway. I do know that I am sad and grieving for people I don't really even know, for families I've never met, for students and professors and families and friends.

I would love to turn off these feelings and concentrate on the many terms papers and articles and tests I have coming up, but I just can't. And so I write to you. For those family and friends of mine reading this, and maybe even for the friends I haven't met yet, I love you. These instances of tragedy never cease to remind me that family and friends are the most important concepts in life. Not school, not work, not the lofty goals I set for myself. If you read this, please take a moment to touch base with your loved ones too...


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

And we wonder why people hate church.

Preface: The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are mine alone and do not reflect the views and beliefs of any agency or person that might be listed below.

In addition to being a student and instructor, I find myself still employed in the corporate communication department at Adventist Health, a large, not-for-profit health care organization. As a faith-based institution, Adventist Health is tied to the Seventh-day Adventist Church whose rules inform the health system's value structure, culture and decision-making processes among other things.

As a professional writer, one of my more irritating tasks is to write for the church's magazines on behalf of the Adventist Health. I pen monthly feature stories extolling the virtues of the hospital system using employee features, health vignettes, patient stories and many mission-in-action type of narratives. The task is arduous in that I am constantly trying to find new ways to keep the material fresh month after month. One way I do that is to feature real people doing real jobs that really matter. Case in point: stories of everyday employees going the extra mile for patients.

This year for our annual "special edition" of one church publication (where I provide 8 long pages of copy), I decided to write stories about "Sacred Work," a new perspective in Adventist Health that frames employees and their jobs as sacred. According to this line of thought, each one of us is sacred and every job is sacred because we are children of God doing our work to honor God as well as each other. It doesn't matter if I'm a housekeeper or the CEO, I am sacred and so is my work. While I could spend a blog or a book on this concept of Sacred Work, I will just say I was intrigued by the prospect and sought to tell the real stories from the system.

My favorite piece was about three housekeepers from one of the Central Valley hospitals. These three women, despite the many rooms to clean and long list of tasks to complete, went out of their way to comfort a patient. He was in the hospital for an extended period of time without family or many visitors. These ladies took turns visiting him everyday, gave him a rosary and prayed with him. I thought it was an extremely touching example of Sacred Work and so I sent a photographer down to capture images for my story.

Fast forward several months and I'm knee-deep in the editorial process of the special edition. I will leave the best bitching out but suffice to say, the editor of the publication does not want to use my photo of the housekeepers for the cover shot because it might offend the conservative church audience. Her concern was that Adventist Health might not seem "really" Adventist because one housekeeper wore make up and gold hoop earrings (horrors!). Instead, she chose a sanitized photo of two smiling happy white nurses and I want to scream.

SERIOUSLY?! I can't believe we're really having this discussion. I didn't even notice the fact that there was jewelry or makeup and I have to ask: WHO CARES?! The point is not about what these women look like but rather, what wonderful work they did for GOD that day, right? Furthermore, these women are Latina housekeepers who NEVER see the spotlight. They were so excited to have their picture taken that they dressed up special for it. I am so disappointed that now, thanks to the "editorial decisions" of certain people, they will not get the attention they deserve.

What really bugs me is that this is yet another example of why people don't trust organized religion. Who are we to say what is "Adventist enough" or "Christian enough"?? We have these club rules that have NOTHING to do with faith or church or God. Does anyone really think that God cares if I wear earrings or eye shadow? I certainly hope not because those are the LEAST of my offenses, I promise you. I just wish we could be less judgmental and more open-minded and accepting. Think of what "church" could be then...

It occurs to me that I could probably get in trouble for this rant, and I usually take a more diplomatic approach especially in public prose, but I just can't stand it right now. For the sake of Adventist Health, Adventism and any other church organization, I hope we can get our priorities straight one of these days and focus on the good work that people do and the good lives they lead, versus what they happen to be wearing from one day to the next.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An open letter to my upstairs neighbors

Dear upstairs neighbors,

Thus fair, I have refrained from complaining about you publicly but please be on notice, I am friends with the management. I have tolerated your 10 showers a day (yay cleanliness, but it sounds like the Flood is starting every time you turn the faucet) and I put up with your screeching, I mean adorable, children. I even keep myself from creating effigies of you when your TV blares at 5:30 a.m. or you insist on moving furniture at midnight.
However, this roller derby business you have going on is driving me to the brink of insanity. I have my first doctoral discussion to lead in 3 hours and I can't concentrate on my questions. Please do shut up, at least until 5:45 when I leave. As a compromise, you can move furniture all night long if you want.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

A twit who tries to tweet on Twitter who seriously needs a Twittertorial stat!

So, I'm running a social experiment. I joined Twitter a couple days ago, mostly to figure out the ropes for my work. (Thanks social media presenter lady for adding yet another component to my day job!) I have no idea what I'm doing, but I will be interested to see whether the hype pans out. If the presenter lady is right, I should be able to increase blog traffic exponentially by doing virtually nothing. We shall see! As I'm still not convinced that anyone really reads this drivel besides me, I'm skeptical but willing to be proven wrong.


Wedding dresses, free giveaways, futons, photos and more!

1. If you've been anywhere near my exclamation point-ridden Facebook page, you'll know that my ebay dress arrived yesterday and it is now THE dress, versus A dress. I am so freaking excited, I can't stand myself. For $178, I have a gorgeous, full-on princess dress that needs no alterations. Maybe I WILL actually stick to my wedding budget. Hooray!

2. Also exclamation point worthy, I won a prize from the Broke-Ass Bride's "Wedding in a Week" giveaway contest. (Big thanks to Mrs. Spurgison for turning me on to that blog and giving me yet another tool of procrastination, as if I needed more.) Mr. T and I are now the proud recipients of a custom made map from Pantomime Papers. Not something I would have paid for myself what with my budget constraints, but SUPER fun!

3. My dearest Shannon and her photography business Mille Feuille Photography were featured in the Examiner after her appearance at the Sacramento Art Festival. WOOHOO!!! If you want Christmas presents, I'd highly suggest her cards and calendars.

4. I got a futon in the mail yesterday. I found it on my apartment patio, all rolled up and weighing a zillion pounds. Me thinks the UPS guy might not like me anymore.

5. My small group communication students have once again reminded me why I want to be a teacher. I built in some time for them to work on their group projects today and I got to overhear what the various groups were planning. My new favorite group (shh, don't tell) is doing a "cooking show" for the class where they will demonstrate making a cake. The best part is that the ingredients in the cake will be metaphors for small group communication elements, e.g., the eggs will represent the cohesive element because they bind everything together, the baking soda is like leadership because it helps the cake (and the group) to rise. I LOVE the creativity!! Even though I'm exhausted, stressed and behind on life, I had a glimmer today of why I'm working on this doctorate business in the first place. This type of learning and application is so freaking cool!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Shawna's Wedding Manifesto, aka the guide to anti-bridezilla-ness

I wrote this shortly after getting engaged in June...

It is “our” wedding. Not “my” wedding (Shawna) or “your” wedding (Tim).

The purpose of our wedding is to celebrate our relationship with family and friends, and to kick off our new life together. It is NOT:
  • To spend a ton of money on ONE day or many trivial details.
  • To impress people.
  • To make anyone else’s dreams come true.

The most important parts of our wedding should be:
  • Celebrating our relationship and commitment to each other in front of God and everyone!
  • Making memories that will last a lifetime.
  • Having a damn fun time doing i. and ii.

The things I care most about in terms of the actual wedding are:
  • A meaningful location that doesn’t cost a lot
  • Having the people I care about there
  • EXCELLENT photogs
  • Damn good food
  • Everyone having a good time

The things I care about less include:
  • A freaking expensive dress
  • Music
  • A full dinner that would preclude inviting everyone I love and care about
  • Decorations, etc.
  • Cake

6. We will NOT:
  • Overextend ourselves financially to pay for the wedding
  • Compromise our relationship or our values to satisfy the desires of others
  • Let family strife, if any, interfere with our big day

I will NOT:

  • Talk about weddings non-stop until T’s head pops off
  • Get so stressed out that our relationship is adversely affected

We will:
  • Feel special (Shawna)
  • Feel proud (T)

Things I do not want to see at the wedding (a slight bridezilla deviation):

  • Tulle
  • Any form of bunting
  • Fake flowers

Hell yes, I can have BBQ at my wedding. What do you think the 6-ft train is for?

So it occurred to me the other day that we're getting married in less than a year and have hardly anything planned. To remedy this (and procrastinate on a paper I was writing), I tried to get our caterer nailed down. Prior to moving to Cactus Land, I found this company in Sacramento (Hannibal's) that offered reasonable prices on pretty good food. The representative was a delight to work with and they offered many unusual wedding amenities such as no corkage fees and free cake-serving. (Yes, in case you were wondering, if you don't buy the caterer's dessert, they can charge you up to $1-2/slice to serve your already over-priced wedding cake). Because I was in a hurry, I told T I wanted to hire them ASAP. Thank goodness I dusted off my calculator.

While they bid $14.93/head for the Asian-fusion dinner, a price I found completely reasonable, I noticed additional fees that made my blood boil. In addition to 8.75% tax (ugh), they tacked on a labor fee of $30/hour for 4 people for 4-5 hours, PLUS an 18% service fee. The per person cost went from $15 to $28... BEFORE liquor, cake and cutlery. Excuse me? I can understand the service fee to a point... insurance, time, liability, use of equipment. I get that. But an additional labor fee? Seriously? And don't try to convince me that that 16-year-old you've hired is getting an actual $30/hour. I wasn't born yesterday and in case you forgot, bride doesn't equal idiot last I checked.

After trying unsuccessfully to negotiate (shocking in this economy if you ask me), I started working on plan B with my mom. Perhaps we'd start the shindig later and just offer snacks and dessert. Or maybe institute a cover charge? While mulling it over, I had an epiphany: Barbecue!

The original aviation museum idea popped into my head during a fundraiser last summer where they served a beyond-tasty BBQ dinner. I googled and up came JR's Texas Barbecue. A quick call and convo with JR himself later, I found a caterer who offered DELICIOUS food for EXCELLENT prices and NO labor charges. To quote JR himself, "Why do you think I've been in business for 22 years now? It's not by overcharging my customers."

After getting tacit approval from T, my mom and most of the bridesmaids, I'm pretty darn excited about the menu. What could be better than brisket, chicken, grillers for my veggie friends, cole slaw, baked beans, tater salad and corn bread, really? And for $12/head? How can I resist?!

Now that I'm hungry again, I must bust back to my homework.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Another reason why I have to believe in karma

At the end of another endless Thursday--a day when I'm on campus for 14 hours or more--I found myself finally free. I was headed to my apartment to pack for another trip home! Talking to T, we recounted some of the day's events. I think I was telling him how good my classes were for the first time this semester when BAM!


[Cue tears]

T's response: "Are you okay?"

Me: [More tears.]

Just then, a police man drives up on the sidewalk. Apparently an officer in the ASU PD witnessed the whole thing and then sped off after the brand-new blue sedan with California plates.

What felt like an eternity but was probably only 10 minutes passed and the police man came back. The Blue Bastard got away! Since my accident happened on a surface street and not on the campus proper, I was in Tempe jurisdiction and thus had to wait.

Twenty minutes or so pass and in inspecting the damage, I realize I'm quite lucky. I was stopped when the Blue Bastard hit me and since he/she wasn't going very fast, I wasn't hurt. And my car seemed okay... some scratches, but definitely driveable. I got a police report but have no recourse since neither the policeman or I caught the license plate. That jerk got off scott free.

[Cue anger.]

SERIOUSLY? This is the longest day ever. Why did this have to happen to me? What a freaking hassle! Do I have to call insurance? Why is this taking so long? Why did that jerk drive away? Why can't people take responsibility for their actions? THANK TODD I don't have to reschedule my flight tomorrow. DAMN, I'm glad it wasn't my fault! SERIOUSLY!

[Cue guilt.]

SERIOUSLY? You are so lucky, chill the hell out. You were JUST talking to someone whose dear friend's husband is dying from colon cancer, just lost his job and doesn't know how to support his family. A fender bender is something to be thankful for by comparison.

[Cue acceptance.]

Yes, this isn't that bad. No pity parties. Be thankful for being alive. Go home and get some sleep!

So here I am, all packed, thankful not to be hurt, excited to go to sleep and happy that I believe in karma. Dear Blue Bastard, what goes around comes around!


P/S A note to the officers in the ASU and Tempe police departments respectively: If you are going to chew tobacco, perhaps find a place to spit your goo somewhere else than the sidewalk where your accident victim is standing. Having to dodge puddles after a Blue Bastard hits you is less than pleasant. Thanks!