Thursday, March 25, 2010

Up In Smoke

Some days, hearing the latest news just angers me. Today is one of those days.

A Florida jury awarded $26.6 million to a smoker's widow. The widow's husband died of lung cancer.

I am outraged that she was awarded this money. She knew the hazards of marrying someone with a smoking habit. Plus, he was a grown-up and made his own choices - he chose to smoke, knowing there could be consequences. So, why should R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris have to pay?

The truth is, they shouldn't.

I am not a smoker, nor do I think smoking is a smart choice for anyone. But the fact remains: one of the industries that helped America flourish is the tobacco industry. Years ago, we were all over smoking like white on rice. Then it was identified as having certain health risks, and slowly but surely tobacco became the scourge of the nation.

I'm not sure why we, as a nation, have come to vilify tobacco use while we stand up and cheer for legalized marijuana usage. We also stand idly by while our children are over diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and filled with Ritilin. We tout the wonders of alcohol. We ruin our hearing with loud music through our ear buds. We drink water filled with plasticized toxins from clear plastic bottles. We push to get drugs passed quickly through the FDA, apparently not learning anything from drugs like Fen-Fen and Thalidomide.

Believe me, I'm not condoning tobacco use. In fact, my mom died from emphysema. However, I do believe in her right to choose. She chose to smoke. She enjoyed it. She decided to quit a few years ago, and still got sick. Her last months were not fun for her. This I know. But, it was her right to choose how to live, even if it contributed to how she died.

What I do condone, promote and celebrate is our right as a nation to choose. My "drug" of choice is alcohol. I am not a lush or an alcoholic. But when I want to unwind, I turn to a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. Sometimes I choose a a healthier option: walking. Yoga. Reading. A bath. But yes sometimes I do the easy thing and pour a glass of wine.

Smokers' rights are pretty much non-existent at this point in time. As a nation, we have hammered down one of the industries that provided a lot of jobs to our country. A smoker should have rights. They should be able to smoke if they want to. The thing is, it is getting harder and harder for smokers to smoke - even in their very own homes.

I find this fact abhorrent.

We silently cheer the fact that they can't smoke. Yay! we say, as we enjoy our smokeless environment. But what many people don't realize is that by allowing the government to dictate what smokers are able, or rather not able, to do, we are giving them permission to take away more of our rights.

We say "Yay" now, but how will we react when rights that hit closer to home are taken away? Or will we even notice? I'm afraid by the time rights that are near and dear to our hearts are taken away, we'll be so used to the government taking things away that we'll be numb to it.

So to all you sheeple out there who think this broad deserved 26.6 million dollars, I tell you this: you just opened up another door to frivolous action suits and your idle apathy is slowly erasing our right to choose. To that I say, you are all a bunch of robotic morons and are screwing it up for those of us who fought hard to keep America an independent nation.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Although I was keeping it on the down low, for the last month I have been dating someone. Only a few friends knew, because this guy is someone who was liked, or should I say “like liked,” by some women in my circle. So, instead of rousing jealousy without need, I didn’t mention it – figuring that if the relationship fizzled, no harm done and no feelings were hurt (except maybe mine).

I’m not going to sit here and say the guy was everything I wanted and more. He wasn’t. But, I saw potential. Just because he didn’t meet all my parameters (age, height, number of past marriages), that didn’t mean he was out of the running. He treated me well. He was complimentary. And he seemed communicative.

Turns out “seemed” is the operative word.

We had dinner plans for Tuesday – he was going to come over for corned beef and cabbage. I was excited to be having him over for the first time. And then it happened – the dreaded dump email. Yes, email.

“Peej, let’s hold off on dinner…” was how he started, and went on to find all kinds of reasons that, while he could see himself falling in love with me, he could no longer date me. The main reason he stated was my “busy-ness.” I was always doing something, and he didn’t have confidence that I could live a quiet lifestyle. I explained to him that I often filled my time with extracurricular activities because I was single – but if in an exclusive relationship, of course my priorities would change.

Turns out, it’s not the busy-ness. It’s the whole witch “thing” as he put it.

I find this irritating and annoying and maddening. Why? Because 1) he knew I was a witch going into this. 2) We have never discussed it. He hasn’t asked me any questions about it, and I don’t bring it up. I wasn’t going to try to convert him or anything. And, if he would have ever bothered to ask me, he would have discovered that spiritually, we have a lot of the same beliefs, including the big one: God.

I am also irritated because while he says he’s a Christian and therefore cannot be cavorting with a witch, he doesn’t go to church (as least as far as I’ve been able to determine from how he spends his Sundays). He doesn’t pray before eating. He doesn’t tote around a bible. In fact, he’s never mentioned his faith, his beliefs, or his spirituality.

That aside, as I mentioned before, he never discussed these issues with me. My lifestyle. What I do. According to him, I’m gentle. Tender. Nice. “The perfect woman.” (His words – not mine.)

I have determined the real issue here is that he’s not ready for a relationship. These excuses are – well – excuses. They would hold weight if he had discussed them with me. Explored them with me. Found me to be unwilling to make allowances for him in my life. But no, he just made a blanket assumption, and that angers me. Because in every other way, he did everything he could to express his interest in pushing us further. He told me he hoped we would become exclusive. He bought me presents. Contacted me several times a day. Complimented me almost to the point of overkill.

So, if I’m all that and a bag of chips – the woman he could see himself falling in love with – why the sudden exit?

I know the answer and it angers me. But, I’m not one to hold a grudge – instead, I’m just moving on. Got any single guy friends you wanna fix me up with?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Funky Town

Today's horoscope: Peej, there are some really funky energies in your love life right now. If you don't get yourself into a secret passionate affair, you may still be surrounded with interesting, unusual suitors. One word of warning, remember that hot passion sometimes burns out quickly.

There aren't just funky energies in my love life, there have been funky energies in my life all freakin' week. When I talked to one of my best friends today, she said it was the same with her. The energy this week has been draining and erratic and full of barbed wire.

I really hope this next week will be better.

As for the romance part of the horoscope, I have had some unusual suitors. One guy hit on me at the grocery store. Another guy who recognized me from an online dating site creeped me out by trying to find out when the last time was I "made love." First, anyone who knows me knows I hate the term "make love." Ugh. Secondly, really? Do I look like the kind of girl who is going to spill all my sexual secrets to a stranger? Ugh.

As for the secret passionate affair, I'm working on it.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Cloudy Day

Today's Tarot:
The Sun Reversed
The Sun Reversed Clouds may be obscuring truth. Not as bright as things could be, but not dark either. A mitigating of circumstances. Possible sadness. Burn out from a job or relationship. Time to sit this one out until bright sun returns. Positive energies dampened, but not completely gone. Focus on good still at hand until time passes. Confusion and concealment. Truth is still there, but may be hidden.


Yesterday was a horrible day at work. It should have been a good day - it was my first early day, my first chance to get off at 4 p.m. I knew I only had one thing on my plate - a request that I should have come in to find in the status of "Pending Closure." Instead, I found a note from the auditor - the whole request had been done incorrectly, and the ensuing steps to correct it took all day - and most of the night.

The problem? The first validator didn't quite know what to look for, and therefore okayed the import template. Once the data was imported, it of course generated incorrect data. To the untrained eye, the data looked correct. However, to the more experienced auditor, it was wrong and had to be redone.

And of course, these things never go smoothly. The tools wouldn't work. Canceling the parts became a nightmare as the import tools kept generating errors. I ended up crying out of frustration - thankfully not at my desk and not in the bathroom - I was lucky enough to find an empty office, closed the door, and stayed in there until I could compose myself.

In the light of a new day, I hate myself a little for getting that frustrated. But I did, and now I just need to move on.

The day was probably a little more tension filled than normal anyway because another new person on my team was let go. I have a feeling it wasn't due to performance - he kept taking days off to go to other interviews. Still, it's always unnerving to have someone fired, especially on a day when nothing is going right and I couldn't look at myself and say, "At least my performance is good." Yesterday, it wasn't.

Again, I know the fault wasn't entirely mine. The import never should have passed validation in the first place. But it did, and the time it took to fix the request meant it wasn't finished on time, which will cause another slight in metrics.

I'll take my cue from the card: the sun is gone for now, but it'll be back. I'll hold on the the promise that positive energies are not completely gone and wait for the clouds to part. Until then, I may just need to be patient and realize that not every day can be a winner.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Bad Guy

Two years ago, I had this little nugget of an idea for a group of women. I knew I wanted to call it The Black Hat Society. I also knew I would prefer it to be a women-only group. And… I knew I wanted the group to be mostly for older women who practiced magic. And to me, that was the key: I wanted real practitioners – not dabblers or wannabes or those with only a passing interest.

A close friend of mine hashed out details with me. She had a few ideas, and added to my own the “Black Hat Society – Reno” was born. I put a lot of time into organizing that first meeting. I advertised everywhere I could think of. When it finally came time for the first meeting, I was nervous – would anyone besides my friend show up?

We were pleasantly surprised – we had a modest attendance at that very first meeting. And with the exception of one woman who moved away, and another who just never came again, the women have stayed. And we grew – we’re not big, but we’ve managed to keep our numbers about the same month after month after month.

I feel as if I’ve been lucky in that the woman who have become members are women I adore. They’re nice. They contribute, both their time and sometimes their homes. But as with any fringe group, there are bound to be a few infiltrators that come in that don’t fit in.

A few months ago, we had a monthly open meeting and not one, not two, but three women came who had never been before. And I can honestly say I didn’t want any of them there. Ever. Again.

One woman was actually a man, I think. Well, that’s the general consensus, anyway. And he/she spoke a lot about sex – about wanting it, about getting it, about missing it. Another was new to the Craft – and it was doubtful she even practiced. She just decided one day that she wanted to be a witch, and boom, showed up at our meeting. The third, well, I’ve come in contact with her at other meetings around town – she’s a dabbler. She might actually practice magic, but she doesn’t really stick to any one group. She flits around and while nice, is kind of flaky.

The list for the group is private. I don’t invite people to join unless they are actual members. So, I made up my mind that night that I was not going to invite these women to join. While they all gave me their email addresses, in fact, pressed me to take them, I didn’t invite them to join. Thankfully, they’ve never returned to an open meeting.

Around the same time, another woman came to try us out. She moved here from Oregon and practices green magic. She’s into herbs and global warming and cleaning the house with herbal concoctions instead of store bought substances. In Oregon, she was in charge of several groups. So while I found her to be nice, I also watched as she subtly took over the meeting with her own agenda.

She came to a few meetings, and I was never quite happy with having her as part of the group. She could monopolize the conversation. She ws so used to being in charge that it was difficult for her to let someone else facilitate. Still, the other women seemed to like her so I made sure to include her. At some point she dropped out, and after several unanswered emails from me asking her if she was going to return, I took her off the list and breathed a sigh of relief. I had done my due diligence – she didn’t respond, and I felt my obligation was over with.

Flash forward a few more months. She started her own group and her own herbal institute. But now that she’s trying to get members, who does she come back to? That’s right: BHS. She first found out she was no longer a member when she tried to post an advertisement for her own group to our list and wasn’t able to. That’s when she contacted me and asked me to advertise for her.

I did not. But because I felt a little bad for her, (after all, I remembered what it is like to start a group from scratch) I did announce her new group at our next monthly meeting, just in case someone was interested. They all said they weren’t, and so that was that.

Kind of.

Her group is slow growing, so she is reaching out to me again. She came to our open meeting last night, and has been hounding me since to join our mailing group. Last night she asked if she could post her own stuff to our group. I hesitated. It felt like everyone turned to me, and not knowing how to say “no” nicely in such a public forum, I said, “sshhhhhure.”

I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept tossing and turning because I absolutely do not want her pushing her green agenda in my group. It’s great that she believes. It’s great that she has her own thing. But that’s not our thing. And my group is not an advertising venue. So I know I’ve got to regroup and say “no.”

I’ve also got another member I’ve got to deal with as well. It’s been on my mind for a long time, but the time has come for me to take a stand. I hate being the bad guy. However, I guess part of being a leader is making those hard decisions. No one really likes to do it – I found this out the hard way when I thought I’d have to leave Reno and I asked the group if anyone would like to step up and take over. No one did. You see, most people just like to follow. I can’t fault ‘em for that – it’s easy to follow. To have the schedule made out for you. To have someone else worry about scheduling and coming up with topics and teaching classes and dealing with the occasional oddball who crosses our paths.

And so here I am, filled with the knowledge that I have to do the hard thing. It’s the right thing in the long run, but hard to do. As my instructor would say, everything has a price. The price for keeping the integrity of the group is being the bad guy, and like it or not, I know I am willing to pay the price.

Monday, March 01, 2010


Actually, I think the jury's still out - not on the date, per se, but on how many dates will follow.

Don't get me wrong - the date was nice. He was gentlemanly and paid a lot of attention to me. He said a lot of the right things. But, he also said a lot of the wrong things. He's kind of crude. Has an odd sense of humor. On top of that, he tells the corniest jokes I ever heard outside of the Merv Griffin show.

But he brought me flowers. And he said things like "You're the prettiest woman in this restaurant," and "I like that you're smart." He told me I could have anything I wanted - even the most expensive thing on the menu (but homey don't roll that way). We shared our food. We talked about a lot of different things. He didn't talk over me like my last date constantly did.

When he asked me if I'd like to do it again, I said yes. Why not? I had no real reason to say no.

And that's not to sound callous - I felt the same after my first date with Todd, and look, we lasted almost eleven full years. So I guess you could say that this bodes well.

In some ways, he's a lot of things I don't want in a partner: he's a full foot taller than me. He's ten years older than me. He used to be a pothead. He's been married THREE times before. He doesn't really like alcohol. He likes to take life slow.

I prefer guys around my height. I tend to like 'em younger, or right around my age. I've never done drugs in my life. I've never been married before. And while I wouldn't say I take life "fast," I do live a fairly active lifestyle - classes, outings with friends, activities, BHS, Hot Stix - I'm always doing something. Unless I'm not. But most of the time I am.

Then again, focusing on our differences might be a moot point. After all, opposites attract. I know that too well - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Not at all.