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The Franken Factor

November 17, 2017

Let’s be clear. I have endured — survived — my share of harassment and abuse, from the very first fifth grade boy who found it funny to tease mortified girls about their changing bodies (and nothing was done to him despite complaints), to the department store manager who liked to have his young, female employees come into his office and “try on clothes” (and nothing was done to him despite complaints) to the office jerk who couldn’t resist swatting a female backside at every opportunity (who, thankfully, was chastised and threatened with his job when he failed to stop the swat), to the telling of tasteless sex jokes in mixed company at clergy gatherings by my male clergy colleagues. These are minor compared to what is being reported these days.

I think it is marvelous that after all these years, women are finally feeling empowered enough to speak up about what they have survived over the years and, in fact, are still experiencing in the workplace on a regular basis. We can’t change it if we can’t talk about it, so it is great, however painful it might be, to hear so many women finally coming forward with their stories.

The reaction from the accused is telling. The typical posture of the guilty is to deny everything, admit to nothing, and demand proof, followed by a swift round of denigrating the victim. Recently, a clever few have talked about “taking a step back” to examine events, or life, or, perhaps, an exit strategy that allows them to keep their jobs and their money. And now we have an example of what most survivors of sexual harassment and abuse really want: a true apology. I’ll call it “The Franken Factor.”

Senator Franken has not denied anything, really. He, of course, has a different memory of what happened during a rehearsal between him and his accuser, Leeann Tweeden because, at the time, he probably didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. It was a different time back then. It doesn’t make his actions acceptable, but it does explain why taking a picture of Franken preparing to grope a sleeping Tweeden would seem like a big joke to Franken. And the photographer! Let’s remember that these accused men are not operating in a vacuum.

The Franken Factor, however, includes an apology. The Senator spoke swiftly and openly about his deplorable actions and said he was sorry. Hallelujah! We finally have a man confessing to his actions, calling it wrong, apologizing for it, and decrying similar actions by other men. Is he really the man we want to crucify? He even reached out to the victim with a personal apology, but all the media wants to talk about is whether or not Senator Franken should be fired from the Senate for something he did before he was a Senator.

Now consider the victim’s response. Leeann Tweeden herself said, “I didn’t do this to have him step down. I think Al Franken does a lot of good things in the Senate. You know, I think that’s for the people of Minnesota to decide. I’m not calling for him to step down. That was never my intention.”

Tweeden spoke up for the same reason most of the other women are speaking up, in the hopes that talking about the abuse will finally change the business climate to one where no one has to make the choice between their dignity and their job. But fire Franken? Let’s face it, friends, if we fired every man who has ever committed a crime against a woman or a child, we would decimate the political scene, professional sports, Hollywood and most of the business places in the country.

So what’s the answer? Inaction is unacceptable, but over-reaction could be worse. As politicians choose corners and points fingers, the real issue is getting lost amid political posturing. What are we doing to encourage victims to come forward when an illegal, immoral, or unethical act is committed against them? What are we doing to create a society that rallies around the victim instead of demanding silence to protect the perpetrators? What are we doing to raise our boys into men who do not abuse?

It is important that the conversation has been started and we need to keep the conversation going. Let’s not villainize the victims for taking so long to come forward. Let’s be grateful that they are coming forward so we can decide how we will respond next time, and the time after that, and the time after that. I promise you, the next time a clergy colleague behaves inappropriately, I will not remain silent. God’s blessings on all you brave women out there who are speaking up and empowering others to do the same.

Fruitful Gardens

August 27, 2017

On our way home yesterday, we drove through the old neighborhood. Some things have changed, like the stores in the mall, and some remain the same, like the Bridge to Nowhere and our quiet old cul-de-sac. Then there was the “spooky” house not far from where we lived, an abandoned home that, even before we moved, was already serving as a trellis for the ivy creeping up its walls.

Now, the ivy has consumed the house. It grows inside the windows and up into the roof. Each overgrown foundation bush has lost its shape — if it ever had one — and all now stand united in one wild amorphous silhouette. What we couldn’t take our eyes off of was the inevitable result of neglect and desertion, the epitome of a forsaken land.

As my beloved and I studied the disturbing image before us, I could not help thinking theologically, pondering the things that consume my heart and mind. What have I let in? What have I allowed to run wild? What have I nurtured and shaped into something beautiful and useful?

May each of us tend well the gardens that are our hearts and minds, so that everything planted and grown therein glorifies God.

“With my whole heart, I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments.”  Psalm 119:10




July 20, 2017

Horrors! I found two gray hairs. In my eyebrows! Maybe that’s why my stylist was suggesting I dye my brows in addition to my hair.

There’s also a new mole on my face, an increasing number of age spots on my hands and arms, and a variety of wrinkles, bags and sags that spring up from their hiding places daily.

I am not as fast as I used to be. It takes me longer to get ready in the morning. My muscles don’t respond like they used to. I shudder to think what it would feel like to swing a golf club again, and even worse, what I would feel like the day after golfing. Yoga poses are more difficult these days. Reading fine print now requires a magnifying glass, which I keep next to the sofa at all times. It’s a good thing I know how to shampoo my hair, or I’d have to keep a magnifying glass in the shower, as well, just to read those teeny tiny instructions on the shampoo bottle.

All that to say, I’ve changed. And the question is, why is that a bad thing?

We spend the first half of our lives achieving, and celebrating our achievements. Walking, talking, running, learning, winning, earning… this is all achievement-based activity. So what happens when we are not only NOT achieving and reaching new goals, but we can’t even do what we used to be able to do? Isn’t that why gray hair and slowness and sensory impairment are feared rather than prized? In lives that are focused on achieving goals, having those goals snatched from us feels like failure.

But what if we shift our thinking outside social convention and decide to celebrate each gray hair and spot as achievements of age? What if, instead of saying, “Horrors,” we cheer as we work toward achieving a whole head of gray hair? Maybe we could champion new slogans, like “Embrace The Pace” that would celebrate a slower and more meaningful management of time.

I don’t expect society as a whole to jump on this bandwagon; however, I do intend to be gentler with myself during the aging process. Maybe, just maybe, I can achieve total acceptance of my older self, age spots and all.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Psalm 46:3-4


Those “Girls”

January 27, 2017

With all due respect to Mary Tyler Moore — God rest her soul — I just need to say that Mary Richards was not the first independent, professional working woman on television. While I loved Mary in both of her early TV shows and enjoyed watching her awkward grace and unique comedic timing, my favorite female lead was Marlo Thomas in That Girl. She lived alone, had a boyfriend and a respectable job, stood up to her manipulative but lovable father, and navigated the working world with style.

There was also Julia, played with quiet dignity by Diahann Carroll. She was a professional nurse and single parent — not because her husband was a deadbeat dad, but because he had died a war hero. While neither of these shows pushed the envelope as far as feminists and womanists wanted, they both still provided strong female leads who were making it on their own. In my mind, they probably paved the way for Mary.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was groundbreaking in its own right, with female writers and subject matter that made the network censors nervous. Without taking anything away from MTM, I would like to suggest that without Thomas and Carroll, Moore might have had a harder time getting the show she wanted on the air. And perhaps Moore kicked the door open wider for Mariska Hargitay and Viola Davis, and so on and so on.

While it is usually the younger generation that explores different gender roles and new ways to push the envelope, none of us should forget the work of the previous generations and how dependent we are on the accomplishments of those who came before us.

Mary Tyler Moore is one of those trail blazers. Tonight I celebrate her and all those women who dared to be different — and who succeeded.


December 27, 2016

I haven’t posted in a few months because of a bum shoulder. It has been a year-long degeneration that in the last few months has left me sore and frustrated. I have an automatic, so I can still drive, but lifting communion trays, moving tables and chairs at church, scooping ice cream, playing the piano or guitar, and sometimes even talking (since my hands seem to enter the conversation of their own accord) all put a strain on my right shoulder and arm.

Worst of all, it hurts to type, because, like the character Natalie Keener in Up in the Air, “I type with purpose.”

I’ve been to the chiropractor, the physical therapist, and my general practitioner. The chiropractor got me almost healed, but then the shoulder popped out again and was worse than ever. He insisted I get an MRI, which was a two-month-long process that eventually revealed no tears and no tumors. Good news, right? But if there is nothing obvious to fix, how does my shoulder get better?

The orthopedic doctor told me to take it easy. Evidently, I don’t know how to do that, although I have tried. The pastoral intern helps quite a bit during worship service, especially during communion (God bless Lauretta). The congregation is marvelous at taking things out of my hands when I try to fetch and carry (God bless the church). And my beloved is the best at taking care of me without complaint (God bless Brian).

Best of all, after my first cortisone shot, my range of motion is beginning to improve. Maybe, one day, it won’t hurt so much to type, with or without purpose. So, forgive me for being a little lax in my posts until I heal. Or, until I figure out how to use the voice activated feature on my computer. This is, after all, the season of miracles.

A Cuppa With Honey

October 8, 2016

I now face a dilemma. I must decide whether to order a cup of hot tea with honey while dining out or take pity on the wait staff and simply drink water.

You see, I just read an article at that listed “14 Things You Should Never, Ever Say To Your Server.” Number 3 on the list was asking for hot tea. Here’s the exact quote:

“It sounds simple but really it takes forever to pull together. Especially when there’s a basket of brews to choose from, a mug and saucer to balance, and a piping hot mini kettle to juggle along with it. Worst yet is when you honey *and* lemon with it.”

I had no idea that ordering something on the menu was a dining “faux pas.” I was also surprised that, although suggested I should never call my server sweetie, honey, baby or sugar, they didn’t offer suggestions on what to do when my server addresses me by any of those endearments.

Some of their imperatives are no-brainers. Don’t whistle at the servers. Don’t be rude about the cost of the food. Don’t ask to be seated for dinner 10 minutes before the restaurant closes. But when they suggest that you shouldn’t request a particular seat or ask for any substitutions, I begin to wonder if they want us to enjoy our dining experience at all.

Oh well, it’s probably just another sign of the times. The customer is no longer right, service is not the first priority of business, and guarantees are a thing of the past. The treasured customer has turned into the “entitled” consumer, rude, demanding, and needing to be schooled.

Okay. I give. I’d rather get along than fight. From now on, I’ll order for the grandkids so as not to waste the server’s time. I’ll sit where they tell me to sit unless offered an option. And I will forgo my cuppa to save the server the hassle of pulling it all together.

Unless they call me honey, in which case honey is exactly what I will request with my tea. Sorry,, but I don’t think I’d be able to resist the power of suggestion!

The End of an Era

October 3, 2016

It’s over. It’s hard to believe, but true. The silky smooth voice that I cherished for so many summer days and nights has called its last game.

Vin Scully has retired.

Vin Scully, the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers since 1950, has received many honors and awards in his career, including having a Dodger Stadium street named after him, so that the address of the LA Dodgers is now 1000 Vin Scully Avenue. Fitting tributes have been raining down upon this hero of the broadcast booth, especially in this his last year, and he has remained as modest as ever.

His closing address is classic Vinnie. No words I could write would eclipse his own, as humble and heartfelt as the man himself:

“You know friends, so many people have wished me congratulations on a 67-year career in baseball and they wished me a wonderful retirement with my family and now, all I can do is tell you what I wish for you.

“May God give you…                                                                                                                                        For every storm, a rainbow, for every tear, a smile,                                                                                For every care, a promise, and a blessing in each trial.                                                                          For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share,                                                                        For every sigh, a sweet song,                                                                                                                        And an answer for each prayer.

“You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know in my heart I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me. And I’ll miss our time together more than I can say. But you know what? There will be a new day and, eventually, a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, oh, rest assured, once again, it will be time for Dodger baseball.

“So this is Vin Scully, wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon – wherever you may be.” 

Vinnie, thanks for your work. Thanks for being there when we needed you. Thanks for carrying on when others might have faltered. Thanks for being a class act. Thanks for everything. And a very pleasant good evening to you, too.