Always such a pleasure having Anna here!
Hi, I’m Anna Taylor Sweringen, a retired United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church USA minister. Anna M. Taylor is my women’s fiction and gothic romance penname. I’ve been writing seriously since joining Romance Writers of America in 2003. I also write inspirational romance as Anna Taylor and erotic romance as Michal Scott.
The Worst Job I’ve Ever Had
Talk about a title to grab you by the throat. The minute I saw it I knew it was the one for me. I’ve worked since I was sixteen years old and only just retired two years ago at the ripe young age of sixty-two. Hmmm. That’s forty-six years of work experience to choose from. Of all the jobs I’ve had, which was the worst? Definitely not my first real FICA-and-union-dues-being-withheld job. Me and my high school friends cashiered at S. Klein’s on the Square in Union Square in New York. Every Friday we took our dough and splurged it in the store because we got an employee discount. Every day we enjoyed the raunchy camaraderie of the older women cashiers. One cooed in her best Elvis impersonation at the security guards, “Are you lonely tonight?” When the Blue Laws were lifted, management politely asked for volunteers to work on Sundays. Nope. S. Klein’s on the Square was a fantastic first job.
Perhaps Deutsches Haus at NYU when I was in college. Working in the coat closet turned into a ground floor office where we greeted visitors, did endless snail-mailings (no email back in 1975) and made mimeograph copies of the teachers’ handouts. Or doing secretarial work in the advertising firm of Ted Bates & Company’s research department. Typing on correcting IBM Selectrics, sending faxes on cylinders that spun. When done you picked up a phone receiver and asked the person on the other end if they got it. Taking notes in the conference room on the twentieth floor during focus group sessions wasn’t much fun. I always averted my eyes from the rope tied between the light fixtures to minimize their swaying because the building did. Hairy, but not horrible.
Proofreader. Local newspaper stringer. Self-employed seamstress (alterations a specialty). Secretary at a medical journal (TRS-80s replaced the Selectrics). At a law firm working with Word Perfect. Guest preaching while in seminary. Consultant at an ecumenical resource center. None of these sprang to my mind. In fact recalling these jobs has brought back fond memories of co-workers I hadn’t thought of in years. No, sadly enough the worst job I ever had was my first job with the Church.
I’d become the part-time associate for church growth and evangelism for a regional body of my denomination. Don’t get me wrong. I loved traveling the state and meeting with church folk who wanted to make a difference in their neighborhoods. Doing workshops, participating in annual conferences, having one-on-one meetings with pastors and committees where I shed light so they could shed light was a dream job. It was our regional exec who made the job a nightmare. I naively assumed I wouldn’t encounter some of the crap I’d seen in my secular jobs (although, in hindsight I had some pretty cool bosses). Instead this guy (I’ll call him Head Cleric) regularly sabotaged my clergy colleagues who had authority in their own right as heads of their smaller regions. This was a decentralized judicatory and Head Cleric wanted everything centralized under him.
One of my colleagues bemoaned how she wished she could work without having to watch her back all the time. I’ll never forget how sad she looked and sounded. I anticipated monthly staff or quarterly state-wide council meetings with dread. What would Head cleric try to pull now? It’s twenty years later and my neck muscles still tense up as I recall those days. At one of those council meetings Head Cleric came over to me. He’d gathered some stats that made two of my colleagues look bad, assuming I would be outraged and demand an explanation. I recognized what he was doing and calmly as I could said, “Well, why don’t you point that out?” He walked away from me but succeeded in getting another council person to dish the dirt. Today that work environment would be described as toxic. I didn’t realize how toxic until a state trooper pulled me over for speeding. I’d been so focused on what fresh hell Head Cleric had in store, I didn’t realize I’d been traveling twenty miles over the speed limit. The cop was an angel in disguise. He listened to my explanation of why I had been driving so recklessly, admonished me that no job was worth dying for and gave me a ticket one level below the one I should have gotten. Alone in my car I agreed. Why was I carrying the angst created by these staff meetings? When I got home I pulled together my clergy resumé and started looking for another job.
There’s a scripture that says all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose. When I look back on my time working on the regional level I see that even the worst job I ever had did me some good. I’d learned self-care has to be uppermost in my mind. Like that cop said, no job is worth dying for. When a job situation became toxic, I named it and stated what I would and would not take. If things didn’t change, I thought of my health and resigned. So maybe the worst job I ever had turned out to be one of the best.
And check out Anna’s story!
Haunted Serenade (Haunted Harlem series Book One) by Anna Taylor released in June in the gothic romance genre.
All the women in Anora Madison’s family have lived haunted by the curse of Poor Butterfly: women still longing for but deserted by the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, she fled Harlem for Brooklyn, not only severing her ties with her mother Angela, but also ending her relationship with Winston Emerson, her lover and the father of her child. Six years later, she comes home to make peace. When an unseen evil manifests itself during the homecoming, Anora must turn to her ex-lover for help. But if she allows Winston back in her life, who will help protect her heart?
Cammie’s cries drew me to the third floor with siren-like urgency. I took the last flight two steps at a time.
She ran toward me, her arms outstretched, her face tear-streaked and strained.
“Cammie,” I yelled, drawing her into my arms. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”
Behind me the voices of my mother and my aunt accompanied their hurried footsteps.
“You shouldn’t have encouraged her,” my aunt shouted. Anxiety mixed with anger in her words.
“Stop your nonsense,” my mother snapped. “It’s time all this foolishness ended.”
Cammie yanked away from me and rushed to my mother when she reached the landing.
“The puppy, Grammie.” She pointed toward the room she’d just exited. “He ran up here into the lady’s room and she won’t let me get him.”
My mother looked in the direction Cammie pointed.
“What lady, darling?” Her face remained impassive, but unease murmured in her voice.
“The lady singing the butterfly song, Grammie.”
From the recesses of the room, I recognized the Lawrence Sisters’ recording of Poor Butterfly. The glow Cammie and I had witnessed from the street pulsed along the edges of the open door.
A chill shivered up my neck.
My mother took Cammie’s hand and smiled. “No one is going to keep my Cammie from her puppy.”
Elizabeth hunched against the wall and clutched her stomach.
“For God’s sake, Angela,” she moaned. “Don’t take her in there.”
My mother sucked her teeth. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
I frowned, puzzled. Then I remembered.
That was Diana’s room.
“She’s right.” Uneasiness vibrated along my nerves. I blocked the way. “Don’t take Cammie in there. I’ll get the puppy for her.”
“Oh, for pity’s sake. Not you too?” My mother pushed past me, taking my
daughter with her. “It’s just a room.”
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