Monday, January 22, 2018

Coping during a shutdown

The children -- er, Congress -- can't play nicely with each other, a lesson they should have learned back in preschool.  So us Americans have to suffer the consequences.

As of midnight on Saturday, the federal government is in a partial shutdown.  One of the casualties is my husband, who works for the IRS.

At the moment, we have money in the bank and plenty of food.  I've applied for a forebearance on my student loans and I'm looking to see what other expenses I can cut. 

I've also been sick with the flu.  I emailed the woman I proof for and said that as of tomorrow, I can finally proof again.  I also told her that I need all the work I can get. 

Frank and I will take a look at our assets and liabilities, and between us, we'll figure out a way to get through this.  We went through something similar back in 2013, and we made it through.  I believe we'll make it through again.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Too high a price

Nearly 150 women have asked to speak at the sentencing hearing of Dr. Larry Nassar, a former Olympic team doctor who pled guilty to a number of counts of sexual assault. 

Over 20 years as a team doctor at Michigan State University and also as a doctor to the United States women's gymnastics team, he sexually assaulted women under the guise of medical treatment.

(Warning:  The following sentences contain descriptions of sexual assault.)

When female athletes would visit Larry Nassar for treatment, he would often digitally penetrate them with ungloved fingers. 

Translation:  He stuck his ungloved fingers into a girl's vagina for the sole purpose of his own sexual gratification, and he did it while explaining that it was a type of medical procedure.

He did it when he was alone with them in his office.  He did it even when others were present.  He even did it in the presence of SOME PARENTS. 

(End of description)

 (This particular procedure is sometimes used with women experiencing pelvic pain.  I've had it done.  However, the person doing it was a woman, she used gloves, and explained what it was she was doing while she was doing it.)

When the girls complained, they were either told to be quiet, or they weren't taken seriously.  One victim, Kyle Stephens, even shared how, when she told her parents, they didn't believe her, and even took her back to Nassar to make her apologize to him.  It took years before her parents finally believed her.

The message they got was very clear:  Larry Nassar's reputation was more important than their well-being. 

This week, Larry Nassar's victims are finally getting a sliver of justice. 

They are coming forward, one by one, and they are detailing exactly what happened to them.

When Larry Nassar complained that listening to his victims was a form of mental cruelty, the judge listened, and then responded that he might find it harsh, but nothing was as harsh as what his victims had endured at his hands.

Not only has Kyle Stephens spoken, so has Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman.  She gave a scathing rebuke to Nassar which was reprinted the next day in the New York Times.

Raisman is not the only Olympic gymnast stating she was abused by Nassar.  Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, and others have all stated they were abused.  And serious questions about the role of the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics have arisen.  Apparently, carting home Olympic gold was more important to both organizations than the sexual abuse of their athletes.

I'm tired.  I'm tired of seeing the same song, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth verses:  Men using their power to sexually abuse women, and people stand around and do nothing.  Women aren't believed, they're told to shut up, and the culture around them stacks the deck against them. 

The United States Olympic Committee should refuse to field an Olympic women's gymnastics team until and unless USA Gymnastics cleans house, now, and puts policies in place where the number one priority is protection of the athlete.  If it means that there will be no women's gymnastics team at the next Olympics, well . . . so be it. 

When you are an athlete who has been abused, and the message given you is that you have to put up with it in the name of trophies, ribbons, and Olympic gold medals . . . that is too high a price to pay.

Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber paid too high a price for Olympic glory.  The gold medals that hung around their necks are not worth the physical and emotional suffering that they have had to endure. 

The other 100+ women who have spoken against Nassar have also paid too high a price for any athletic accomplishment that they may have achieved. 

It needs to stop.

I don't know how, but this abuse needs to stop.

The price is just too high.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Impossible . . .

I have come to the conclusion that it's impossible to figure out anymore who's lying and who's telling the truth. 

President Trump's last comments, about "poophole" countries, just takes the cake.

He denies he said it.

Others say he did.

Others don't remember it.

They can't all be right.

So who is?

And don't get me started on the Bible . . . I can pick it up and do a straight reading, but then you have original Greek, original Aramaic, original Hebrew, cultural context, textual context, possible translator bias . . .

Everyone believes they are right and they "have a verse" to prove it.

There is no such thing as "objective news" anymore.  People take facts, twist them to prove their point, and then present them as truth. 

I wrote in my journal the other day, I don't know what to believe anymore. 

And I don't think it's possible to know, either.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

No, I don't trust them . . .

I no longer trust male leaders in either the evangelical church or conservative politics.  If they don't abuse people, they support those who do.

When I put that statement out on Facebook a while back, I was told that I was "painting with a broad brush".  But it's very hard not to paint with a broad brush when you see the same story over and over and over, with variations on the same theme of sexual sin. 

The Roy Moore story is self-explanatory, and I won't go any further into its sordid details. 

In the evangelical church, you have several prominent leaders who have fallen prey to sexual sin.  I refer you to this link from an excellent blog which covers issues of abuse in the church.

The latest in the bunch?  Andy Savage, a pastor in Memphis, Tennessee, whose sexual assault of a 17-year-old member of his youth group just went public. 

Bloggers Dee Parsons and Wanda (Deb) Martin published this story last week on their blog, The Wartburg Watch.  (Warning:  There is graphic, possible triggering content in this story and a graphic description of sexual activity in my paragraphs below.)

In the early spring of 1998, when Jules Woodson was 17, she was a member of the youth group at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church (now known as StoneBridge Church) in The Woodlands, Texas (a suburb of Houston).  Andy Savage was 23 and her youth minister.

One evening, he offered to drive her home from youth group.  But when he drove past the turnoff he was supposed to take to bring her home, she asked what he was doing and he said something like, "you'll see".

She thought he was taking her for ice cream.

Instead, he drove her to a deserted, heavily wooded area, unzipped his pants, pulled out his penis, and told her to perform oral sex on him.  She was scared and embarrassed, but she did as she was told.  He then asked her to unbutton her shirt.  She did.  He touched her breasts both over and under her bra.

And then he jumped out of the truck, raced over to her side, and started saying, "What I have done?  I'm so sorry.  Jules, you can't tell anyone.  You have to take this to the grave with you."

He took her home after that.

She ended up telling her senior pastor, Larry Cotton. 

The first question he asked was, "So you're telling me you participated?"

Her heart sank to the floor, and she felt a wave of shame and guilt.

Except for confiding in members of her female discipleship group, she told no one until recently, when a friend asked her what had happened back then. 

Andy Savage is now a pastor at Highpoint Church Memphis.  This past Sunday, he publicly admitted to a "sexual incident" that happened 20 years ago. 

The result?

His congregation gave him a standing ovation.

Andy Savage committed a crime.  Because the statute of limitations has run out, he will never be held legally accountable for what he did to Jules Woodson.  This was not a "sexual incident" where both parties were willing participants.  This was a crime, sexual assault, that was committed against a teenage girl.  This was not a "mistake" or just simply a "sin" that deserved a standing ovation for Savages' "repentance".  This was a crime.

For anyone who asks, why didn't she report it?  She did.  She told her senior pastor. 

Why didn't she go to the police?  Well, in many churches, people are encouraged--read "told"--to handle such problems in-house and NOT go to the police.  In fact, several years ago, when a Church of Christ minister and his wife discovered that their son had been raped by a church member, they did go to the police--and some members of their congregation wanted to know why they couldn't "work it out" with a fellow brother in Christ.  (That "fellow brother in Christ" ended up murdering the minister's wife and child.)

Since this story broke, reaction has been swift.  Bethany House Publishers canceled a book that Savage wrote on marriage.  KLOVE, the Christian broadcasting group, dropped him from a cruise he was scheduled to participate in.  And the national news has picked up Jules Woodson's story. 

If this were just an isolated incident of one minister, I wouldn't be so angry.  But this story comes in the midst of #metoo allegations from Hollywood and from politics.  It also comes after reading "same song, second, third, fourth, etc." verse from so many who are considered leaders in evangelical culture. 

So, to those who say that I paint with a broad brush, I'll just give you the same answer I gave at the beginning of this article:

No, I don't trust them.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Maybe funny someday, but not now . . .

The events of Friday may be funny someday, but at the moment, they are not funny at all.

It all started when our washer went on the fritz a few days ago.  I was taking clothes out of the washer that were still sopping wet. 

I booked an appointment with a repair person who came out this past Thursday and told me that the gear case/clutch wasn't working, and so the washer wasn't going into the spin cycle.  Estimated cost of repair:  $464. 

Of course, if I wanted to take 50% off of the repair bill, I could sign up for a Sears warranty.

I gave my stock reply to the repair person:  I want to talk to my husband first.

The guy asked if I'd be willing to answer a survey about how well he'd done his job.  I said, sure; not realizing that he was going to call his supervisor right then and there and put me on the phone.  (I understand that he did have to call and say that he was done at my house.) 

The supervisor asked, did so-and-so tell you about the warranty?  Yes, he had.

I got the impression that they didn't want to fix my machine as much as they wanted to sell the warranty. 

When Frank came home, I gave him the bad news, and he responded the way I thought he would:  "We could buy a new machine for that much." 

I agreed. 

In the meantime, we still had a LARGE amount of laundry to do. 

Which leads to the events of Friday.

I had an appointment at 10 a.m., which meant that I couldn't attend Weight Watchers; I could, however, weigh in.  (And bear in mind, this has been during a week of intense cold across the nation.  Winter weather warning for Florida, anyone?) 

So I drove down to Weight Watchers, weighed in, then turned back around and drove to my appointment.  I got there just in time for the person to weigh me in. 

After the appointment, I drove home, stopped for a red light . . . and for some weird reason, I decided that it was perfectly okay to try and make a left turn on a red arrow.  Fortunately, I realized in the middle of the turn what I was doing, and I backed up and waited until the light turned green. 

I got home, had lunch, then loaded up the car to take my LARGE load of laundry to the laundromat six blocks away.  When I got there, I hauled that LARGE load of laundry to the doors of the laundromat . . . only to find out that the change machine was NOT WORKING.  

So once again, I hauled that LARGE load of laundry back to my car.  Fortunately, there was another laundry two miles in the opposite direction, so I drove there, took out my LARGE load of laundry, and hauled it into the laundromat . . . after first checking to see if the change machine was working.  It was.

I ended up using at least five, maybe six, machines to do that LARGE load of laundry.  There is a reason I keep emphasizing the word LARGE. 

When I started emptying out the dryers and folding up the laundry, I had a nagging feeling that I might be overlooking some of the clothes I'd brought. 

Because I was worn out and I knew I wouldn't have time to cook a decent dinner, I ordered dinner at Chick-Fil-A and took it home. 

Matthew wanted to know where his laundry was, and I told him I still needed to sort it.

It was while I was sorting it that I started asking myself, did I leave a load of laundry behind with Matthew's clothes in it?

So I asked Matthew . . . and he really couldn't answer me . . . so I finally told him and Frank to come with me and we drove back to the laundromat.

It turned out that no, I hadn't left a load of laundry behind.

I'd left TWO loads of laundry behind. 

One of them, I found in a dryer (which was mostly Frank's clothes); the other, I found in a washer.  Those were Matthew's missing clothes.

We took the clothes home, and Matthew ran his through the dryer.

Well, as of this coming Thursday, God willing, we won't have to do that again for a while; because we ordered a new machine at Home Depot and Thursday is the day it's supposed to come.

This whole story will probably be funny someday.

Just not right now!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Following hard after God . . .

The other day on Facebook, I saw a posting from someone who said that their New Year's goal was to "follow hard after God".

While I appreciate their desire to pursue a relationship with God, the thought that came to my mind was, "What does that even MEAN?"

Well, I did a Google search of "follow hard after God", and it turns out that that phrase actually does exist in the King James Version of the Bible, in Psalm 63:8--"My soul followeth hard after thee, thy right hand upholdeth me."

Other versions translate the verse as follows:

New International Version:  "I cling to you, your right hand upholds me."
New Living Translation:  "I cling to you, your strong right hand holds me securely."
English Standard Version:  "My soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me."
New American Standard Bible:  "My soul clings to you, Your right hand upholds me."

So it turns out that "following hard after God" isn't necessarily the Christianese phrase I may have thought.  I'm not as familiar with the King James as I am with other versions of the Bible; that's why I didn't recognize the term. 

"Following hard after God," sounds like it means, "I cling to you, I hold on to you."  I get the picture of a child holding tight to a parent's hand or a parent making sure that their child's hand is in theirs before crossing the street or climbing stairs or doing anything that requires caution.

I'm very, very sensitive to anything that sounds like "Christianese", and especially sensitive to something that sounds spiritual but may not have any deep or practical meaning.  This week, for whatever reason, I've been especially fed up with ritualistic prayers and ritualistic religion--not that ritual is bad, necessarily, but "ritualistic" in the sense that you go through the motions but never stop to examine what those motions are or why you are doing those motions in the first place. 

My original post was going to be a diatribe against yet more Christianese from Christians.  I'm glad I decided to do a Google search on the phrase before I wrote this entry.  Because "following hard after God" in the sense of, "I need to cling to God with all I have," is something good. 

Now, how you do it or what it looks like?

That, I'm not sure how much of a clue I have.

Somehow, though, I get the impression that, if I do follow hard after God, He'll show me.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Rawness, passion, and terror

This man is your man
This man is our man
From California
To the New York island

From the redwood forests
To the Gulf Stream waters
This man is Robert Kennedy.

You can hear the raw passion in their voices on this audio, recorded on the night of June 5, 1968.  (The audio is from the Pacifica Radio Archives and is posted on David Von Pein's YouTube channel.  DVP has hundreds of hours of JFK and RFK-era video and audio posted; I recommend him highly.)

They are exuberant and idealistic.

Their man, Robert Kennedy, is ahead in the California primary, a "winner-take-all" state as far as delegates are concerned. 

The audio goes from singing to the chant of, "Sock it to 'em, Bobby!" 

Eight minutes and thirty-one seconds into the audio, their hero enters to an ovation of shouting and the rousing cheers of, "We want Kennedy!  We want Kennedy!"

The first person he mentions is Don Drysdale, the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who'd pitched his sixth straight shutout that evening; Kennedy hoped they'd have as good fortune in their campaign.

At 21:00, he ends the speech with, "and now it's on to Chicago and let's win there."

The screaming starts less than a minute later. 

It's not the ovation the crowd gave a victorious candidate.  Rather, it's the screams of terror, panic, and confusion. 

A second audio recording, of Andrew West from the Mutual Broadcasting System, also captures the moment:  "Senator Kennedy has been shot, is that possible?" "He still has the gun, the gun is pointed at me right at this moment," "Get the gun, Rafer . . . get his thumb, break it if you have to!" 

And of the video coverage from the three major networks, perhaps two clips best illustrate the raw confusion:  1.  A bewildered Terry Drinkwater, CBS reporter, trying to figure out what had just happened (around 15:31 on the clip), and 2. the NBC coverage, about 40 seconds into the tape, showing one of Sirhan Sirhan's shooting victims being carried out of the Ambassador Hotel kitchen.  The NBC reporter speaking insists -- incorrectly -- that Stephen Smith, Robert Kennedy's brother-in-law, had also been shot.

In the first 24 minutes of the CBS video, there were no fewer than 28 pleas for a doctor and no fewer than 36 pleas, requests, and orders to "please clear the room", leave the room, or variations thereof. 

These were the moments when panic took over, when terror took over and the raw jubilation of only a few minutes ago turned with fierce suddenness to raw fear. 

John Kennedy's assassination also showed how quickly events can turn.  He'd received a warm welcome in Dallas, Texas only to be gunned down by an assassin who took six seconds to fire three shots.  (Oswald acted alone.  Deal with it.)  We saw the panic and terror of the crowds only after the film was developed; we heard the confusion as technicians in master control frantically flipped switches and yelled instructions into headsets offstage.

Five years later, broadcast technology developed to the point where we could see the raw panic, terror and confusion the moment it started happening. 

This is life, at it rawest, unedited and unscripted, but captured on film and on audio. 

Perhaps this was the moment that hope in our political system really began to fray, wither, and die. 

Jack Newfield, in his 1969 book Robert Kennedy: A Memoir, ends his book with these words:

Now I realized what makes our generation unique, what defines us apart from those who came before the hopeful winter of 1961, and those who came after the murderous spring of 1968.  We are the first generation that learned from experience, in our innocent twenties, that things were not really getting better, that we shall not overcome.  We felt, by the time we reached thirty, that we had already glimpsed the most compassionate leaders our nation could produce, and they had all been assassinated.  And from this time forward, things would get worse:  our best political leaders were part of memory now, not hope.  

The stone was at the bottom of the hill and we were alone.

Fifty years later, how much has really changed?  Has the raw passion and terror heard and seen that night in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles morphed into a fatalistic depression about the future?

I fear so.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.