Thursday, May 31, 2007

WATERPROOF: women of late

Women in our world have been busy lately. How have you been using your time? After you're done taking in the activities of our sisters, share what shapes your days and drives your goals.

A record-setting three women drove in the recent Indianapolis 500 - Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick and newcomer Milka Duno. Patrick consistently finishes well but not first - like most of her male counterparts, some of whom race for years without a win. Despite the amount of press given to the novelty of having three women behind the forty thousand dollar high-tech steering wheels, one commentator still managed to put his microphoned foot in it when, describing Duno's crash, he announced that, "he [Duno] had been running 22nd" when the car veered into the marbles, skidding against the wall. Although having almost thirty names to keep on the tip of one's tongue during an event that stretches through several hours must be a challenge, the attention given to gender should have made it easy to remember that Duno is, in fact, a woman. Although the commentator did not draw attention to his (the commentator's) mistake, one of his (the commentator's) colleagues soon chimed in that, "SHE [Duno] had been running 22nd" when the crash occurred. I hope that Duno got a big fruitbasket of apology out of that. Also notable was the stream of discussion about the rain delay: an obviously sensitive enboothed "expert" noted that usually at this time of Indy500 Sunday, the winner would be "making victory laps, he would be drinking milk, he would be celebrating his triumph, he would have his name on the trophy, he would be driving into winner's circle." Despite my disdain for Danica Patrick's decision to exploit her femininity to ensure sponsorship, she nonetheless has led laps at the 500 - something many drivers would love to do and never have. She actually makes it plausible that for the first time, lipstick could be left on the rim of the traditional bottle of victory milk. Given that three women participated, the odds of long-lasting ruby red marks lingering on the glass go up even more. The thoughtless adherence to the assumption that normally "he" would be basking in a win suggests that coverage of these events should include former female racers like Lynn St. James in the booth. If the gentlemen who cover the starting of the engines fail to remember the ladies, perhaps ladies would be best to share their birds-eye view of the race. Rain delays don't phase you when you're wearing waterproof mascara.

In other news, "air hostesses" for some Indian airlines have been told to lose weight or lose employment. In a legal battle contesting this demand, the air hostesses lost, due to a ruling by a
(shortsighted) female judge. The ridiculous reasons given by the airline included "safety." Because high altitudes were flown, air hostesses must be in peak condition to assist passengers. Interestingly, these air hostesses are often uniformed in short skirts and heels. How easy is it to respond to emergencies in stilettos? Connected to the case was age - one air hostess two kilos over the limit had worked for this company for over twenty five years, and pointed out that they were looking for young women. Although this seems incredible to the contemporary American mind, the airlines won, but women all over India lost. In light of the continual battle against sex trafficking in India, this latest story of women being treated as sex symbols inherently sanctions the attitudes which continue to enslave women throughout southeast Asia. See for the story. Next time you're weary of your employment, be thankful it doesn't depend on your water weight.

There's currently an interesting interview with Condi Rice on iVillage. This woman travels across the water to speak with world leaders but has also had procedures done for fibroid tumors. Having a national leader who can sympathize with your trips to the gyno: priceless.,,bns2q6f0,00.html

Speaking of women, apparently no one wants to be one: there's a scuffle on the sidelines of a mainline. A "transgender" pastor is drawing attention in the United Methodist church, with conservative renewal groups outraged and the minority activist segment proud. Should credence even be given to this Jerry Springer scenario? One hardly knows whether to treat it with serious discipline or laugh it out of the arena. What's next, "Baby's real father to be revealed next Sunday after the offering"? The "pastor" started out as female and pursued surgical alteration to match, his...body with his True Self. Another attempt to centralize the margin and make the the fringe the norm. A news article noted that the UM Book of Discipline does not have any statements on transgender clergy. This pundit would like to note that it most certainly does not have any statements on sex with elephants on circus trains, either, or how to serve laity with a phobia of white vestments, or how to ordain aliens. Circus trains, no; but a circus? let's hope not. How freeing it would be for the United Methodist church to be able to take resources spent on ridiculously self-centered individuals and instead put those resources towards ministering to AIDS orphans or liberating women from sex slavery. Let's not water down the gift it is to be a woman by making ourselves men, and making everyone acknowledge us as such. Ever been around a kid who insists you call him by another name? "Don't call me Timothy. I want to be called Hugo. Today, I am Hugo." I refuse to be bullied into calling another person Hugo until they change their mind again and want to be Timothy. The church must not be hijacked by spoiled kids.

Here's to women who don't pigeonhole easily yet remain women: women who crash at 220 mph, apply lipstick and international policy, fight for dignity at 30,000 feet, and remain content in their well-moisturized skin. To the women who learn Latin and Lamaze in the same week, who exercise humility and foster family, who drop off food to a funeral dinner and present reports to the board...Thanks, ladies, for all that you do, for who you are and how you share it as you grow. When the mudpuddles come, women are indestructably waterproof.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Summer Fashion Preview

NOTE: One must read Summer Fashion Theology in order to preface the following Summer Fashion Preview.
So one of the things I love about being a girl is fashion. I guess it's my sports, although I enjoy some sports too and find it strategic to be able to discuss them in ever present attempts to shatter glass ceilings.
Anyway, summer sometimes brings about fashion dilemmas and faux paus that I'd like to address before we get into the full swing of "how many weddings are booking up my weekends this summer?" season. Remember, ladies, if you have several local weddings to attend, you need more than one dress to wear to them all. Also, keep in mind if they are indoor or outdoor, because air conditioning will make you want a wrap or cardigan, and humidity will make you desire as much coolness as possible, especially where slips are concerned. I hate slips, but it is often NOT modest to go without.
Without further ado, Bitty's Summer Fashion Pointers:
1. Pantyhose: pantyhose are no longer considered a must for formal occasions. Business attire, perhaps, but not formal attire, which means, NO pantyhose with open toed shoes. Seriously, if it's warm enough to wear open toed shoes, it's warm enough that nylons are very uncomfortable anyway. And yes, if you're wondering whether people can tell that you're wearing toeless nylons with open toed shoes...yes, we can.
2. Tanorexic: everyone has a tan level they're comfortable with. My skin is comfortable staying "albino monk from DaVinci Code" white. That's fine. My best bet for adding a little color is a gradual tint adding lotion, but buyer beware: lotion lines are as tacky as a thong sticking out above your pant line, and those of us with sensitive skin may have difficulty finding a color adding lotion that doesn't make us itch. As biased as I am, I don't think that lack of tan is unfashionable (see Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger as examples), but I do know this: wrinkled cleavage is never fashionable, and the more you tan now, the wrinklier it is going to get, and soon. Give your skin a break and don't become a tanorexic who looks 65 at the age of 35.
3.Clubbing: disturbing is the trend that young women go to weddings looking like they're going clubbing. Ladies, we know you have cleavage. We don't need to see it in all it's padded, pushed up, tanned lack of glory. We know you have legs. See above. Weddings vary in level of formality, that's understandable - it can be difficult choosing how dressed up to be, given whether it's afternoon/evening, indoor/outdoor, etc. But dressing as a Hollister model from the mall is not attractive or a wise fashion decision. Know why? You look like ALL THE OTHERS.
4.Gentlemen: jeans to a wedding is not okay. enough said. don't be lazy. shave. put on a tie, a button up shirt at the least, and khakis, for crying out loud. No Hawaiian prints allowed unless it's a beach wedding and the invitation said so. And guys, realize that pleated front pants are rarely flattering on any man. They accentuate guts, they don't hide them. Especially when the pleats are accordian-ing out. Also, pants pockets should not be gaping open when standing still. If they are, go up a size or go running. Belt and shoes should match color. Avoid tasseled shoes unless you're one of the FEW people who can pull them off, which most can't.
5. Wear sunscreen: one of you will either be one of these people or see one of these people, please let me save you some pain: swimsuit tan lines on your back when you have to wear a sleeveless dress. Sometimes it's unavoidable, but think about it now, at the beginning of wedding promenade season. If worse comes to worst, try painting on color adding tanning lotion into the lines to blend, but beware: it's still visible, so in some ways don't waste your time. If you're a bridesmaid, there's nothing you can do about the sleeveless necessity, but if you have a choice in your closet and you've got swimsuit tan lines, wear something that'll cover them up.
6. Drips of sweat: hair is done, makeup is done, and then you step outside and feel like screaming "I'm melting...meellttiingg!!!" Save frustration and work with nature: if your hair curls in humidity, don't waste time trying to straighten it unless you're going to a salon with uberhot straightners. Makeup: try blotting tissues (least favorite option), Mary Kay oil mattifier (works wonders - blocks shine for up to eight hours), and loose powder. If you sweat a lot in the summer and your pores tend to clog, try Mary Kay blemish control toner in addition to the normal-to-oily cleanser and moisturizer. CONTRARY to popular belief, oily skin DOES need moisturized - in fact, it's oily because it's trying so hard! MK oil-free moisturizing gel can help with this process.While we're on summer skin, you may enjoy bronzing powder for a "sunkissed" look that contours your face, but the must-have for every woman I know this summer is CELLUSHAPE. Ladies, hold your hats: it smooths cellulite, and it works. The biggest worry on the beach can now be what to drink out of the cooler. Eighty percent of women - including athletes and models- have cellulite. There are three theories as to why, and MK CelluShape addresses all three. It firms, smooths, and stimulates cellular activity.
7. Shorts: Thank goodness long shorts are back in. 15 year olds flashing the world makes me feel irritable and old. Best piece of advice on shorts I've heard was from a British woman on Oprah: American women, don't think you have to wear shorts in summer. They're RARELY flattering on most women. Capris and skirts are cute alternatives. Also, as a side note, ladies: beware Madras. It's cute, yes, but plaid? Plaid is stripes going both ways! Yikes! Be...lissome, if you're going to try it.
8. Favorites: Favorite fashion items include espadrilles, retro prints, internationally inspired styles, especially the shimmers and beads of India, and dresses. I love that dresses, long flowy cotton dresses are in. They're cool, flattering, and feminine. They can be dressed up or down.
Have a cool summer, and ponder this statement about Nicole Kidman's style: She has wonderful fashion sense shown by the fact that she wears the clothes, the clothes do not wear her. Ladies, that's the difference between garnering compliments and being fashion roadkill. Not everything in style is right for you. See what you like, see how it looks on you, and pick and choose. Don't assume that because it's on the rack, it's the right choice. Balloon skirts are rarely the right choice. Leggings are rarely the right choice. Philosophy put it best: know thyself. Know who you are, develop your own likes and dislikes, taste and preferences, and in this process, develop a blend of creativity and wisdom. I am a mood dresser, which is why I have to pack so much. If I throw on an outfit because I'm in a hurry, I get disgruntled for no reason because all day I feel uncomfortable. Know yourself. Watch "What Not to Wear". Update your makeup colors. And at the end of the day, you are wearing the clothes, the clothes are not wearing you.

Summer Fashion Theology

Well kids, it's that time of year.

The leaves have matured from prepubescent spring green to a fully ripened summer foliage, and I slept last night to the hum of an oscillating fan.

Hot tea is giving way to iced tea down here in Dixie Land, and women everywhere are going through the ritual of Goodwilling clothes from closets that are housing more short sleeves and less wool.
It's time for summer fashion.

I've always had mixed feelings about summer. I love to garden, I love the changing menu of melon and green leafies and grilling, I love the clothes.
I love some of the clothes. But I hate being hot, I hate needing to keep long sleeves available for rainy days in the sixties - although I love summer thunderstorms - and I hate being sweaty when exercise is not being pursued.

All that said, some of you are raising an eyebrow at Bitty. "Fashion?" you murmur, knowing that I have evolving style. Everyone has a style, even if it's a bad one or a generic one. Perhaps it is the frequent exposure to Karin from Over the Rhine in small venues, perhaps it is going swing dancing with large groups of seminary students, perhaps it's the gradual settling into my own skin.

I love shoes. Purses. I love them even more on sale. I have finally reconciled myself to the fact that I like pretty things, quirky things, bright things, unique things, and that it is....
O.K. to want them.

Now, that may sound silly, but it's an important reflection for a couple of reasons: one, parsonage life does not often render luxury as something to be desired or attainable; two, taking mission trips rocks your theology enough that anything more than a toothbrush seems frivolous. Waste and excess become heightened in your sight, your vision, and it makes you nauseous to see the bloated consumption that is laissez-faire USA.

Now, Wesley had an important point in arguing that we should not have luxuries when our neighbors have not the necessities. Social ethics are an important part of the Wesleyan tradition, and social holiness was not divorced from personal holiness. If one truly experiences the work of the Holy Spirit, one's treatment of others and ones belongings must change.

That being said: a robust theology of creation assumes that beauty has value. It's the old, "should we spend large amounts of money constructing a soaring cathedral, or should we feed the poor?"question. I hate that dichotomy. As if beauty and love are pitted against each other in a limited-goods pragmatism. Our stomachs need fed, but our souls do, too. It's one thing I admire about the Eastern Orthodox church: they always have time and money for beauty, espousing a "holy materialism" that appreciates the goodness of creation and accepts God's goodness through it.

Now there is freedom in not being enslaved to goods. I attend a church that has no indoor plumbing, but where eighty percent of the budget goes to missions. A fasting from luxury is appropriate in kingdom economics. I am moved, though, by the simple fact of extravagance that God has shown us - that God would not only be, in nature, extravagantly beautiful, but would display that and share that with creatures. "Consider the lilies...they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned as one of these." This passage usually pops up in anti-worry sermons, but note the presence of beauty alluded to by Christ. If God "wasted" beauty on lilies that are here today but tomorrow thrown into the fire, how much more valuable is beauty in human beings? True beauty is always bedfellows with virtue, but this passage seems to imply that beauty is God's gift to all creatures, enjoyed by sinner and saint alike in nature, and displayed morally by the saint - moral actions are beautiful behavior, sinful actions are the height of ugliness and decay.

Here we go, now I've done it: I've just accidentally expounded a theology of lipstick. Or maybe it's not lipstick. Maybe it's a theology of valuing the creation around oneself, and oneself as a beautiful part of that creation, shown in behaviors that proclaim with joy, "I am special! God created me (only one of me, so take care of my body), created the world (so take care of it, celebrate it), all in....extravagance. Because fundamentally,
God is not a pragmatist. God is Reason so fully that our reason cannot completely capture it, God is Order in the fellowship of the Trinity beyond our expectation of design, but the thread of Scripture never suggests that couture perfume being dumped on Christ's feet was inappropriate. Beauty resounds in Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and offering beauty in worship delights the heart of Jesus. Note the beauty in the attitude of the worshiper and the abandon of pouring luxurious fragrance on a man's feet (like eight gallons of Chanel No. 5), in comparison with the withered ugliness of Judas' desire to gain (shouldn't that Chanel have been auctioned off for the poor, so that I could embezzle from the profit?).

I think I should say that it's because I have moderate feminist tendencies that I am free to celebrate the fact that there is nothing wrong with enjoying beauty. As a woman, I am fully woman - not just my mind, as many feminists would argue. No. I am embodied. (As they like to point out when arguing for abortion.) I can eschew shallow stereotypes on both sides: the model of June Cleaver as ideal woman, and the model of Janet Reno as the ideal woman. (That's part of what I like about Condoleezza Rice - she's intelligent, successful, a mature leader, beautiful, a sports fan, and a classic pianist - refusing to fit into anybody's picture of ideal womanhood because she is busy...being herself, and serving others through that.) Now that is a Proverbs 31 woman. 

Classiness is always fashionable, and virtue is the best beautifier. But the Incarnation urges us to take seriously our state of being human, not only in our fallenness, but because God created nature as a good, and gave us a model of its beauty in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Auntie Em! Auntie Em!

There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.
But I love to travel.
I do. I get a silly grin on my face when my plane picks up speed while heading down the runway, like some absurd people get when a roller coaster is about to plummet over the tip of the arch.
I love airports. They fascinate me, especially larger ones. Currency exchange, restaurants named for city celebrities, moving walkways, and standing in your socks while someone xrays your toothpaste. I always expect to see someone I haven't seen in years in airports. I never do. I also always expect to see someone famous. I never do. But it's the thought that counts, and somehow I always feel inspired when I travel through an airport. Maybe it's the buzz from extra expensive Starbucks that I can't pass up while waiting for a flight, or maybe it's the feeling that I am One of the Lucky Ones who gets to browse novelty spoons in the gift shop while other people drive their daily commute.
I've known people who have never traveled outside their county. How well one must know a county having spent a lifetime in it - a whole theology of place opens up when one realizes that mass travel is a relatively recent phenomenon. It used to take months - and a lot of money - to travel, instead of a whim, a website and a photo id. One made plans, packed steamer trunks, gave significant good-byes, boarded a ship and spent months sailing around continents. No "wish you were here" postcards in those days. And money - the only way a "commoner" could travel was as a) indentured servant b) servant c) slave dragged from home to faraway place (both from Africa and from Genesis...remember Joseph?) There was no Discovery channel specials on native rituals in Ghana or tribal practices in the Amazon. There were only vague stories from British troops having globetrotted the Empire, or books written by Rudyard Kiplings. Reading old British novels, one notices that characters are always detected as well-traveled by their tans.
Even now, in slightly more controversial territory, travel is difficult for the disenfranchised. If one wishes to move to the United States in search of work to support his family, he must pay expensive bribes to bureaucratic officials, wait long periods of time, or pay someone to smuggle him over the border. We in the United States forget that you don't have to bribe every government official of every office for every stamp and signature. Most the world over, that is not the case. It gets very expensive, and time consuming.
In North America, we have the freedom to travel about our own country, and others, without filling out extensive paperwork detailing our every movement as Communist regimes have demanded in other places, in other times. I may drive to Indiana if I wish without filling out a travel visa. I may fly to Ireland with a passport but no other questions asked.
Freedom, and disposable income, and Howard Hughes' OCD improvement of flight have opened new gateways to the heavens so that we may come back to earth again in a different place, a different time zone.
Last week I worked at a nursing home in Activities - last week, by the way, was National Nursing Home Week, replete with events daunting even for the seasoned recreational professional. Last week, our little facility was turned into a cruise ship, complete with stop in Italy (read constructed two Italian restaurants, art galleries and a first century chapel in Rome), Captain's Gala (read ballroom with full working fountain and disco ball in center, residents bedecked in formal evening attire in their wheelchairs, dressed to The Nines), Mexican Market (straw on the floor, burlap covered stalls, quesadillas and, as my boss put it...."authentic Mexicans." No, she does not win the Politically Correct Award of the Year.)
In the midst of last week - last week at the nursing home - I was sick. As in, this is the biggest week of our year and I am sicker than a dog. As in, hook me up to the IV and cart me away, please. Round three of antibiotics, prednisone, nasal sprays, sinus medication and finally prescription cough medicine to boot. It was Not Pretty. I finally smeared Mary Kay Satin Lips lip balm on my nose to heal its chapped condition. Note: Satin Lips lip balm is a wonderful, wonderful nose balm. So I missed the Mexican Market because I was at home wishing I was at the hospital. (boss read this as lack of commitment. on the other hand, she also had to reconcile herself to the fact that her dream of bringing in a live burro and chickens to the market was not feasible.note: Mexican market was in the dining room, in the presence of food preparation, in addition to the fact that many of our residents have experience in wringing chickens necks and sometimes get confused about where they are.)
In the midst of traveling through the week medicated out the hoohaw and working a twelve hour day on Tuesday to let the residents "travel" to Italy and the Captain's Gala, I had a problem.
I was sick. It was cruise week at the nursing home. And I was scheduled to fly to Chicago to see dear, dear friends Thursday night.
I spent all day Wednesday and Thursday blowing my nose and wishing I was in the hospital and sounding like I had emphysema. Thursday my doctor looked more worried than ever, shone light in my face and ears and felt my glands and continued more gladiator antibiotics and warrior prednisone and repeated slowly and carefully instructions about air travel in this condition. Frankly, at that point the only thing that made me go was my nonrefundable ticket and the assurance that if I was going to be miserable on the couch, it may as well be friends' couch in Chicago.
I flew. I traveled. I slept Friday. I rested and blew my nose some more. I slept. Saturday we walked around the city and I remembered what it was to feel human. I slept some more. Sunday I flew home. I slept fifteen hours Sunday night. I rested Monday and let the good guys in my system duke it out with the bad guys.
And Tuesday, Tuesday, I got the good news.
I have a new job.
The cyclone of last week picked me up off a cruise ship, flew me through Chicago and landed me in a completely different place. I will miss my nursing home residents. I will go back and visit Oz, where there are strange smells and sounds and disoriented people wanting to know how they will get home. I wish I could offer them a pair of ruby slippers. I wish it were that easy. Instead, I smile, I offer comfort, I let them know they're not alone. Comforting the aging is a lot like being a tin man or a scarecrow or even a lion - most of the good is done simply by traveling with someone, letting one know that she is not alone, and that kindness is meant towards her.
I am in a different place now - I still live in the same house, but I find my mind, my soul in a different place, and I find myself uncomfortable with my freedom. I can leave. My elderly friends cannot. And yet I think many of them would say that to have the freedom to travel and move on is precisely what I must not waste. I will correspond with Oz, I will return from time to time.
But for now -
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

sniffle sniffle achoooo....

It's that time of year.
The time of year when work is busy because it's national nursing home week next week and I have to stay home because I'm sick.
Not just a little.
The kind that makes you commandeer kleenex boxes from other parts of the house, leaving you
stuffed up and croaking on the couch. Eight gazillion milligrams of Amoxicillin notwithstanding,
I am pathology's toy.
It's nice outside. Everyone is cheerful - students' finals are over.
I scowl. My throat, as I told my doctor, feels like Olympic figure skaters have been practicing figure eight's on it. My nose is so runny it should try for the Boston Marathon. I've been sneezing gale force winds that my account for the early hurricane scare this season, and my chest feels like someone heated up a scratchy doormat and placed it gently on my bronchial tubes.
Blogging - another way to whine about being sick.
In the midst of this, I've been reading (hard to concentrate), pushing the fluids (why is it so hot in here?) and throwing away large mounds of kleenex that I think European backpackers are trying, at this moment, to scale. Nyquil helped me finally sleep last night, but now it is day, and I am still sick.
With tissue paper stained glass windows to make for our "church at Rome" segment on our "stop in Italy" for our weeklong "cruise" which is the theme of our national nursing home week celebration. With blue posterboard souvenir passport covers to craft in preparation for tomorrow's passport activity in readiness for National Nursing Home Week. With thoughts of wondering when we're going to get the lifejackets and anchors up to decorate the halls, and yes,
with lots of Mary Kay on my brain (more on that later),
I am sick.
Oh, by the way, I am now an Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay. More later, except to say that I shall publish a manifesto entitled "Why I'm joining Mary Kay" because when you're a woman studying theology people tell you you shouldn't, and when you're a theologian who enjoys trying new eyeshadow, people tell you you've sold out. I should reply, soon, yes, but I'll get you some as soon as it comes in. Luckily I am comfortable enough in my own skin to, as I've had to defend several times, enjoy both Luther's theology of death and dying, and different shades of lip liner.
More on that later.
Must go blow nose.