Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holy Submission

(This entry is prompted by a discussion at "Complegalitarian" called "Biblical Submission Illustrated.")

One of my earliest memories is of bathtime with my Grama. It is a happy one.

Grama was the mother figure in my life; I went to live with her from the time I was about 15 months old until I was nine. She remains the only family member who mothered me, despite there being a mother and two step-mothers in my family. Grama, quite simply, loved me. It was mutual.

The last time I was able to visit my grandmother, who lived half-way across the country from me, she was in her late eighties and well into the Alzheimer's disease process. She was in "assisted living," but no one got close enough to really notice that Grama wasn't bathing. (My uncle visited her each month to take care of her business affairs, but just didn't notice the gradual decline). I met her at breakfast time and once she figured out who I was (between the dementia, legal blindness, and significant deafness, it took a while), I went back to her little apartment and spent the rest of the day and the next several with her.

One task that first afternoon was to get her bathed. I had to soak her feet in warm epsom salt water in order to get the shredded nylon knee-highs off her edemic feet and ankles. She had to have been wearing them, day and night, for at least a week. At first, I was afraid it would take a trip to the doctor because they strands were so embedded and causing sores, but after a while, it worked. Her foot bath took over an hour. Later, I ended up having to get into the shower with her, bathing her very much as she bathed me as a little child. We even shared her "pet names" for various body parts, to her delight that I even remembered. My childhood bathtimes were in that long-term memory that still functioned.

The "hired hands" at Grama's facility, in all fairness, weren't expected to bathe or perform other hygiene tasks for their residents. Grama had slipped past the point where her independence was too limited to belong in that level of care. But the needs were real and someone needed to meet them.

To me, submission is about meeting others' needs (which are quite different than wants). Grama, for example, wanted to go back to living in her house (it was being sold to finance her end-of-life care). She didn't especially want me to wash her feet or dry her hair. I couldn't accede to many of her wants, but I could meet several of her immediate needs. As a person who loved her, I saw it as both my responsibility and my privilege to do that. Just as she submitted to me in my early childhood by caring intimately for my body, I did so for her (for far too brief a time) in her old age. I've never done anything holier than bathing and tending my grandmother for those precious days.

The more I consider the relationship teachings of Scripture, the more I see them rooted in the submission we all owe to one another. I had never, before that visit to Grama, thought about the fifth commandment's connection to submission. I had known for many years by that time, that honoring one's parents was not simply a matter of a minor child's obedience to them. We submit to our parents as they age, in a manner similar to how they submitted to us in our childhood: We are to care for them when they cannot care for themselves. Our aged relatives are not to be cast out and allowed to die, as is the way of things in most of the rest of the animal kingdom.

Just as biblical submission is not about wives being subordinate to their husbands, it is also not about obeying or placating our parents. It's not about bowing down to authority figures. It's all about taking up the authority we have as Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to serve one another according to the other's needs. Husbands and wives are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, according to the apostle Paul. Parents quite obviously submit to their children during their childhood. The fifth commandment makes it clear that children also ought to meet their parents' needs, particularly as this commandment was given to the adults of the community, consequently referring to elder parents. If children are brought up to obey this commandment, it truly WILL go well for them and they will live long in the land: They'll teach it to their own children, who will honor them in their old age . . . and on and on, down the generations. As I think about it, this submission to one's elder parents is just as mutual as marital submission is; it's merely delayed a generation to allow for the children to mature into adults equipped to do for their parents what their parents once did for them.

I love you and I miss you, Grama. Perpetual light shine upon you.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Guest Bloggers: Rosie & Jenny, Thankful Singing Cats

We composed a Thanksgiving hymn for our human's blogfriends last year at this time. It seemed good to us that we should do so again this year. We remain grateful cats, regularly praising our Creator by living exemplary feline lives. We hope our musical efforts spur you good humans on to gratitude of your own.

Rosie & Jenny
Thankful singing cats

Come, ye thankful felines, come,
Raise the song of "Human's home!"
All our food is gathered in,
E'er our human's work begins.
God our Maker doth provide
For our wants to be supplied.
Come to our apartment, come,
Raise the song of "Human's home!"

All the house is God's own field,
Food unto our dish to yield.
Food and Greenies are our own;
"Human, NOW!" we now intone
When she tarries slow. We fear
Breakfast may never appear!
But our purrs and chirps of glee
Greet a full bowl happily.

Even so, now quickly come,
Psalmist! Hear our "Human, HOME!"
Gather thou our goodies in,
Free from hunger, free from thin.
Here, forever satisfied,
Human will with us abide.
Lord, with thankful voice we come,
Raising now our "Human's home!"

P.S. Our lazy human STILL has not photographed us so that you may be blessed by our beauty here on her blog. These two cats, however, look a bit like us and appear to enjoy one of the same hang-outs as we do.




Saturday, November 17, 2007

Another fell-apart suit, and job hopes

OK, at the outset, let me say that I do not normally have this problem with clothes. Normally, I keep garments long past their usefulness, either in fit, fashionability, or serviceability.

Nevertheless, I'm having to return my second suit in one month. Both were made of the same type of fabric, by the same manufacturer, with the same label.

Yes, the red-and-black tweed suit I found at Ross to replace the original black-and-white fell-apart suit from Jacques Pennee, also started to fall apart after only one wearing last Sunday. I can only hope that Ross accepts the return as easily as Penney's did.

I have not yet returned the lovely blouse to Talbot's, and have reluctantly decided to keep it and use it for the still-awaited interview. (It looks a bit like the blouse pictured here. Again, this is most decidely NOT me in the picture!) I'm simply not willing to do any more shopping; it's all I can do to keep up with two jobs and squeeze in the returns from previous shopping! (I won't even get into the impulse purchase of a beautiful skirt on clearance sale at Chico's, when I already have a perfectly good skirt in the same colors...)

Speaking of the interview, I'm getting a little antsy. The position announcement closed on Monday and I have not heard anything from the non-profit agency yet. I still think I will, but knowing that the position has been vacant since before it was advertised, I'm a little surprised to hear nothing yet. I want to be very careful, since a member of my church is one of the agency's VPs and is the boss of this position's boss. She's a woman of great integrity and I don't want to give even the appearance of asking her to pull strings on my behalf. So I'll probably send an e-mail follow-up to the agency contact (her subordinate) on Monday evening if I haven't heard anything on Monday.

Anyway, beware of Donny & Nicole tweed suits, ladies. Even if it fits you loosely, the seams are likely to disintegrate on the first wearing. It's happened to me twice now. I always have been a somewhat slow learner.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Retail Therapy, or "Shopping as It Should Be"

Warning: This is a totally fluffy entry! (But there IS a theological observation about half-way into it.)

For the one or two of you who read my rant about the fell-apart suit, here is the "rest of the story."

My current day job assignment is just a few blocks from a fun shopping venue that includes a Talbot's store. Now that Talbot's has for a few years recognized that there are short women who wear sizes larger than 14, I can find things that fit me there (though not usually any that I can afford except on their clearance racks).

Well, I still had no replacement for my fell-apart suit come 5:00 on Friday. So rather than just go home, I decided to head on over to Talbot's and see what they might have on sale.

When I got there, I was greeted warmly by a saleswoman worthy of the title. She asked intelligent questions concerning what I was looking for (replacement for my interview outfit) and accepted on face-value my condition that, though I love the "look" of their full-priced suiting separates, I could not afford them.

Jill noticed that I was wearing a black travel knit outfit (3/4 sleeve longish jacket worn open, swingy mid-length skirt, with a deep purple shell) and asked if I had considered wearing the jacket and skirt for an interview. I told her that I had it as my "stand-by," but thought travel knit was too casual a fabric. Jill disagreed, especially since it was a solid black and a classic pattern. She showed me a gorgeous white blouse, asked me to try it on just to humor her, and she'd fix it up with my skirt and jacket.

Did she ever! She pulled the cuffs back over the jacket sleeves and dressed it up with a long black, gray, and white scarf worn straight down the jacket facings. The blouse is the most unusual weskit style I've ever seen and if Talbot's had it available online, I'd post the picture. It is straight across the bottom, not "pointy." It has mitered-style pleating trim down the sides of the button placket and a horizontal panel of matching pleats at the bottom hem. The two-button cuffs can be worn as-is or with cuff links. The collar is what I think of as a modified portrait collar; it's a fairly long single point on each side (not notched) and is designed to stand up in the back and fall to the sides in front. The collar has a lacy white-on-white embroidered pattern to it. Since it was a petite length, both the sleeves and the overall length fit me perfectly.

I was already wearing a silver pearl-style bead necklace and silver hoop earrings. She said the jewelry was even ideal and invited me to look at myself as though I were an interviewer meeting me for the first time.

I have to admit, Jill was right. I looked SHARP.

I passed on that specific scarf, since it was over $70 with tax, but bought the blouse, which was significantly more than that. In fact, it was significantly more than the cost of the fell-apart suit that I returned. I've never spent so much money on a blouse in my life!

When checking out, I told Jill how much I appreciated her respectful, creative approach to selling flattering clothing. She said she just couldn't approach her job any other way, since she's been on the receiving end of awful service so often herself. She says she puts herself in her customers' figurative shoes and helps them as she'd like to be helped. (I've always thought that there aren't many jobs that the Golden Rule wouldn't apply to, but it's nice to hear it expressed that way.)

Now, all that said, I'm going to return the blouse. Here's why: After attending the birthday party of one of my preschool choir children this afternoon, I had some discretionary time and decided to check out a couple of stores in a town I almost never get to (it's close to the church but not close to where I live). I was actually looking for a scarf to go with the new Talbot's-enhanced outfit. What should I find at Ross, but the exact same suit in a different color, for $30?! But believe me; I checked every blessed seam in the suit with minute scrutiny. They're OK. It's a red-and-black tweed instead of black-and-white. Still looks good on me, though. And if the unthinkable does happen, I'll return it, too. Meanwhile, I'm going to wear it just once--to church tomorrow, to "test drive" it--and then hang it back up and hope for an interview.

What I intend to do is treat myself to that beautiful blouse as a Christmas gift, once I've re-built my financial situation a bit after spending so much of October out of work. When I CAN afford it. And when I do, it will look smashing with the travel knit combo and the wonderful red-white-and-black Oscar de la Renta silk scarf I just remembered I have in my closet, bought almost a year ago for $10 at Steinmart on a whim. I have to talk my anti-dry cleaning, anti-ironing self into the fact that since it's 100% cotton, it WILL require one or the other. My willingness to do these things should be taken as an indicator of how gorgeous the blouse is. (Please don't misunderstand me: If a garment requires ironing, I buckle down and do it. More than I hate ironing, I hate rumpled, wrinkled clothing. But whenever possible, I purchase clothing that doesn't require more than a little steaming, so my closet is mainly no-iron stuff. I actually cried a couple of months ago when I discovered I'd ripped my only white blouse, a truly no-iron gem ordered from Eddie Bauer. How DOES a grown woman tear clothes? I truly don't know how I did it! I've been MISSING that blouse. What a staple it was! Now if I could just get that Talbot's blouse in no-iron, I think I'd die of happiness.)

Oh, a note for anyone within a reasonable driving distance of a Liz Claiborne shoe store: Check them out! Just down the walk from Talbot's is our local LC store. I found that they were selling absolutely classic, impeccably styled square-toe high-heel pumps in black, navy, and pearlized taupe, at $29.99 per pair, with the second pair 50% off! And they're also having a very good sale on boots and handbags right now. Most are classic and all are at rip-off prices. But I'm content with my black and navy pumps for a total of $45. When I find well-made, classic pumps in basic colors at an excellent price, I make it a point to buy them if at all possible. I'm glad I found these; now I won't have to wear sling-backs in November for an interview.

Yes, I admit it...I have my moments of extreme shallowness. I call it "retail therapy."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Our Church's Newest Banners

We displayed these wonderful new banners, commissioned from Jenny Gallo at Carrot Top Studios, throughout September and October. Aren't they gorgeous?!

Back again

Hello. It's the amazing disappearing Psalmist, re-emerging from blog silence.

I thought about concocting a story about a top-secret mission to eradicate some evil or other, but then realized I wouldn't be able to say anything about it if it were so, so that's out.

I thought about being humorous, but I'm not especially funny these days.

I thought about just yanking down the blog altogether because I obviously am not spending any time with it. But I don't really want to do that, either.

The truth is, a lot of "stuff," some of it good, has been happening, and I'm simply overwhelmed.

I've added an additional ensemble with rehearsal on another weeknight. This means I have three weeknight rehearsals, with a fourth ensemble/rehearsal once per month. My official lineup is:

Early service with ensemble warm-up prior
Warm-up rehearsal between services when "extra" group(s) sing/ring
Late service with choir warm-up prior
(Give a private voice lesson right after lunch; GOOD student)
Evening service - no music responsibilities except putting out books
(Half-hour for community supper)
Pre-school choir rehearsal
School-age choir rehearsal
Lock-up/close-up facilities

Day job (more about that below)
Adult handbell rehearsal

Day job
Youth handbell rehearsal

Day job
Adult choir rehearsal
(Private voice lesson -- for a flaky student)

Day job
Monthly early service ensemble rehearsal
Semi-monthly administrative council meeting

Day job
OFF! in the evening

OFF! (Except when something's going on at church)

There is a lot going on. Sometimes it helps to see it in a list like that.

As for the day job, it's really in flux. I was out of day-job work for most of the month of October. I applied for unemployment benefits, but though my church income doesn't "count" toward qualifying for benefits, I'm still required to report it so that the state can pay me less. I am getting a little bit -- I say am getting because I haven't got it all yet. I've applied for a position at a local non-profit agency and I'm rather excited about it. One of the members of my church, whose daughter's wedding I coordinated this summer, suggested I apply. She's a VP of the agency. There is hope...

Meanwhile, I reluctantly accepted a receptionist position through an agency at the company where, the first of the year, I fully expected to temp into a dream job. That ended when my boss there was suddenly and unexpectedly fired. Anyway, the regular receptionist, who's been there over 15 years, had major surgery. I could have turned down the assignment, as it pays less than the minimum the state said I had to accept, but the receptionist was extraordinarily kind to me on a number of occasions and it's a way to both work and do something good for her. I don't like the work -- busy telephones take way too much out of me and make me super-nervous -- but it IS work. Bummer, though...the agency originally called me frantic for a same-day beginning to the assignment and said it was for just a few cents per hour lower than I made there the last time, which was fine. So I accepted and was getting dressed to go in, then I got a call and they were reducing the rate to more than $1.50 an hour less. That's where I got reluctant. Unprofessional, on both the agency's and the company's part. I let stuff like that get to me.

During my unemployment, I had several interviews. One was for a hospital system and I decided I needed to splurge on a suit, because all of my suits are many years old and/or don't fit me very well. Found one on sale and snapped it up; I've gotten a lot of compliments on it. (A classic look with some updated details. See photo image. And no, it is NOT a photo of me. It's the model in the online catalog of a store that begins with the same initials as Jesus Christ's, and ends with a homophone of the smallest denomination of American coin.)
Anyway, I've worn it exactly three times, and was going to take it to be cleaned, only to discover that the side seams of the skirt are disintegrating. That is, the fabric is fraying out into the body of the skirt from both sides of the seam. It is beyond repair. This was a well-fitting suit. In fact, it was slightly on the loose side; not tight in any way. I did nothing to cause this problem. But now I have to go back to the store to do battle and see if I can return it after three wearings...then wonder if there's ANYTHING that will not fall apart that fits me for anywhere near the same price...since I have very little money at this point to spend on something more expensive. And I do want to dress impeccably for the non-profit agency interview. I'm a class act and I want to dress that way, too.

(Warning to the women out there, considering buying garments made of the new synthetic loose-weave tweed stuff: DON'T BUY IT, at least not until you've checked the construction very carefully and tested the durability of the seam areas.)

Meanwhile, back at the interviews: I didn't get the new suit hospital position. I also didn't get one I applied for on my own, at a WordPerfect law office. I let the person who gave me their proof-reading test take it from me before I was finished and therefore I missed too much on it -- duh! It was not a good experience and showed me that the attorney, who wasn't even there that day, let someone totally inept screen his applicants in a very unprofessional way. Probably just as well, but that second "wearing of the suit" went the way of the first. (Another agency underbid mine on the hospital job, and my agency didn't even bother to call me to tell me. It took me three calls to them to find out.)

And on top of everything else, there have been trials here at my apartment complex. It's an older complex and getting less and less safe. With no warning, the management changed the first of September and it wasn't until this past Thursday that I found out the municipal housing authority had purchased the property. With being out of work, the money I'd been hoping to accumulate so I could afford to move the end of this month (when my lease was up) got spent to pay bills instead. I lost the $50-off any month's rent voucher that was part of my last renewal incentive because there was no notice of the pending sale. They were going to renege on my reserved parking place that it took me 4 1/2 years to qualify for and which is a safety issue for me. But finally, because my options were limited, I met with the new manager Thursday right after work and she discussed the issues. She decided she would keep the existing reserved spaces and was negotiating with the towing company on authorizing towing when others park in the spaces (an ongoing problem, especially since the office personnel were telling new residents they COULD park in them). But my rent went up significantly, though it's still very reasonable for the size of my unit in this market. The handwriting's on the wall, though. I need to move next year, before I'm forced to because of income restrictions they're almost certainly going to impose in 1-2 years. But I signed a new lease. There's something oddly reassuring about that. (In my first phone conversation with the manager, after I learned about the pending elimination of reserved parking, I said I'd have to re-think living someplace where a valuable "perk" of being a long-term resident was not going to be honored, she said she'd be glad to let me out of my lease with no penalty so I could move immediately. That did NOT leave me feeling like she valued long-term tenants on the property. Fortunately, she had a very different attitude when I visited in person.)

Well, that's WAY more than I planned to blog about. But it's the stuff that's been distracting and troubling me.

What I do want to be sure to include is this: Tomorrow we celebrate All Saints' Sunday. In addition to Holy Communion and remembering our departed saints, we're also celebrating the baptism of our newest child, the little sister of one of my favorite children, a four-year-old boy who makes me smile every time we meet. (He's also the boy who ran to his Nana and mom very upset last Saturday night at Trunk or Treat, because he'd seen me fall on the parking lot and hurt myself, saying "Miss [Psalmist] is hurt! Mom, is she going to be OK? I'll miss her if she can't come to choir." --How sweet is that?!) I love the reminder that all of life is a cycle of birth and death, that we're surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses as we run our race to obtain the prize.

Our God is VERY good!