September 24, 2009


Loss, bitterness and renewal

Last Friday toward the end of my shift the owner flagged me down and told me that my wife had called. She wanted me to call back before I left work, he said. "I'm not real good at discerning these things, but I think she had been crying."

Of course I was worried right off the bat, but I knew if it had been an emergency that obviously Jen would have asked to speak with me right away. I only had a few more things to finish up until I was done for the night so I made haste with that and called home. She was upset because she got the news that a former co-worker of mine, not a very close friend but much more than an aquaintance, had just lost her husband, her 10-year-old daughter and her brother in an auto accident. "I just wanted to hear your voice and to tell you that I love you and to be careful on your way home," she said.

After clocking out I numbly walked to the car and broke down. I was stunned by the news that the lives of two people that I knew (I had never met her brother) had been instantly and violently ended and by how her life is now so painfully fragmented by the loss of not just one or two but three loved ones.

The typical "public" events that follow death were in this unusual case augmented by a candlelight vigil two nights after the accident. Despite this area experiencing some of the heaviest rain seen in years, 300 people attended the ceremony. Forces beyond our control (lack of babysitter) had Jen and I decide that only one of us could go, but then forces of nature (flash flooding) caused us to opt out altogether. All things considered it was a wise decision, as a mutual friend posted Facebook updates on being stuck at the church until 2 a.m. due to the high water. I heard another former co-worker's account of attempting to navigate a flooded road on the route home and nearly losing his vehicle in the current.

A funeral home visitation took place two nights later, but as I was scheduled for work Jen decided she would make an appearance, if only a brief one because of the necessity to have child in tow. I am grateful that she was able to talk with our friend briefly to express sympathy and say simply that when the storm abates a little in a few weeks or even months (I envision at least partly cloudy skies for the rest of her life) to give us a call and we'll get together.

I was only able to attend the funeral service at the church today. This is the one event I would have chosen last, for the selfish reason that I am not comfortable among those trappings. I had to breathe deep often to counteract the swelling grief in me for this wife and mother and her remaining 6-year-old daughter (an anchor that is surely keeping her sane). There were such unfathomable sights today - of a little sister too young to fully grieve, of the slightly older friends and school mates, faces red and streaked wet, who have little to no context in which to frame their intense feelings of loss. I was heartbroken by the thought of them having to deal with something so incomprehensible, by a "why?" so far beyond a relatively normal death like that of a grandparent.

This all has left me in a tough place because, although my life experience has caused me to eschew religion, I am still a "want to" believer in the grand purpose of our race and our space. I consider myself basically an agnostic deist - I have zero need for dogma yet I am hopeful that a benevolent, laissez-faire higher power has something else in store for us beyond what we perceive in this life (and that "beyond" should not be obsessed upon). The funeral left me struggling with bitterness at the raspy-voiced old fire and brimstone preacher who turned from that tack and proclaimed that "this is the day that the Lord has made - let us rejoice and be glad in it." It's bitterness toward what BS I think that is but also somewhat toward having lost the faith of those who can comfortably lean on that B(lis)S. Actually, I am glad to have been released from what I see as ignorance in many instances, but I think I need to allow others their faith, free from my prejudice, so they can do the good they are capable of and I can release the bitterness that only hinders me from doing the same.

I haven't found the perfect happy medium where I can just let go of my anger toward religion and pursue that peace that passes all understanding, to paraphrase Paul née Saul of Tarsus. I know that internally I've got work to do. Being a father is beyond a doubt aiding this work very positively. As for externally, well it'd be a tough row for Jesus to hoe, since he (and/or his representatives) have burned me no less than twice. But I feel like there is a corner to be turned up ahead, and it's like Jen told me, "don't begrudge anyone praying for you - it can't hurt."

Ask for a burning bush or a Virgin Mary waffle.

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September 10, 2009


The Latest Max

One of our favorite spots

First pro shot (copyright protected - SHHH!).
Cute, except it makes him look like he has a real shiner on that left eye.

D-I-R-T ! !

Chillaxin' at the creek

Loves daddy's stuff

Obligatory spaghetti mess photo

Obligatory finger paint mess photo

One from April (courtesy of Fuller Image)

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September 05, 2009


Not a city in China*

Federal minimum wage for most workers went up to $7.25 per hour on July 24 (the last of a series of increases over the past three years). But workers who receive more than $30 per month in tips have a different minimum - just $2.13 per hour, a wage that hasn’t been increased in EIGHTEEN YEARS ! !

Tipped workers did have their minimum wage linked to the standard minimum until Congress axed that requirement in 1996. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) has now introduced H.R. 2570, the Working for Adequate Gains for Employment in Services (WAGES - gotta love those congressional acronyms) Act, which would set the minimum wage for tipped workers at 70% of the standard minimum wage (or $5.08 per hour). This would end the absurd situation tipped workers are in today where an increase in the minimum wage doesn’t result in an increase in their minimum wage. Many servers must also tip share with bartenders and table bussers, so when they don't get a good tip (or on occasion none at all) it ends up costing them money to work because they are required by the IRS to claim 11 percent of their sales as tipped income.

Friendly reminder: if you can't afford to tip your server at least 15-20 percent (for good service, of course), then you can't afford to eat out.

* Tipping

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