27 April, 2008

Words are really ... good

When I was in the MTC (the training center where Mormon missionaries are prepared to be representatives of the Church before they go out to their assignment ... also, where foreign missionaries attempt to learn the language they will be speaking) I felt bored and unappreciated most of the time. I wanted some intellectual stimulation. That kind of stuff makes me feel happy. That my life is worthwhile. So I started the Old Testament at the beginning. It felt like an indulgence to me at the time because much content of the Old Testament is far removed from my life, as well as the basic things I was preparing to teach in the mission field. Perhaps because it felt like an intellectual break instead of a chore, I enjoyed it immensely. I love the Old Testament. I still do. I love how ugly and realistic so many of the characters are: afflicted by lust, jealousy, carelessness, and general human stupidity. There were some parts that left me completely in the dark as to the point, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

So while I was reading, I came across lots of words I didn't know. The scriptures the LDS church uses has a dictionary in the back with common words contained therein, but it is by no means all-inclusive. I came across many words I wanted to know the definition of, but since I was a missionary, I had no access to the Oxford English Dictionary.

But now I do. Here are some of those words, and what I have learned now that
I know their definitions. I'll try to make it interesting.

BUCKLER. A small round shield, "used not so much for a shield as for a warder to catch the blow of an adversary." (Fairholt) It's figurative definition is also "a means of defense." or "a protector."

"The word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him." Psalms 18: 30

"His (God's) truth shall be thy shield and buckler." Psalms 91:4

Per my limited understanding of weaponry, a shield is meant to protect someone from receiving hits from an enemy. You hold it up in front of you so the other guy won't be able to get to you. God can be like that in our lives. When we trust in Him and lives our lives in harmony with His will, sometimes He protects us from danger or hardship. Sometimes. But not always.

In Sunday School today we re-visited the concept of why bad things happen to good people. We reached the conclusion so often reached before, that we have to have hardships in our lives to appreciate how good the good things are. To quote Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember, without suffering there would be no compassion.

So to say that God is not just our shield but our buckler: a buckler is meant not to protect yourself from contact with your enemy, but to lessen the negative effects of being hit. So you still get hit, but the buckler keeps it from chopping your arm off. You aren't shielded completely, but you survive. I fell like God has really been a buckler for me lately.

PYGARG. From the Latin meaning "white-rump," a word applied to both of kind of antelope and an eagle-like bird of prey. It's listed in Jewish dietary law as a beast OK to eat, along with the hart, roebuck, and fallow deer, leading me to believe it's probably being used as the first definition in the Old Testament.

CHAMOIS. A capriform antelope, the only wild antelope in Europe. And if you catch one, hey, go ahead and eat it. Deuteronomy says it's OK.

HOAR. Your mom. Or rather, what she was yelling all last night.

Just kidding! It's an adjective meaning "grey with age" or "white from frost." Usually refers to someone with grey hair, who is old and thus venerable.

DISCOMFIT. Either to throw down in battle, or to to throw into complete confusion or sadness. Like ten hundred times worse than discomfort.

CLEAVE. To cling or hold fast to, to remain attached, devoted or faithful to. In the scriptures, we are told to cleave unto God, to cleave to our spouse, and to cleave to every good thing. We are also warned that if we cleave to false Gods, we will be in a really bad spot.

To me, the word cleave is inseparably connected with loyalty, which is what God expects from us and what we should expect from our spouses, if we are smart. Obeying the commandments isn't enough if we aren't willing to defend the truth when its appropriate. Even loving God, although that is very, very important, doesn't mean anything if we turn on Him when things go wrong. Same thing in a marriage. What I want more than anything in the world is a husband who respects me, is completely loyal to me and honorable in everything else he does. But especially with me. I want to be cleaved to. Not just loved. Love can turn on you in a moment's notice. Loyalty, that's the real stuff.

FIREBRAND. Someone or something who kindles strife or mischief, inflames the passions, etc. Also, one who deserves to burn in hell.

I used to think this word was a compliment. Nope.

GUILE. Stratagem, deceit, or treachery. So when someone is said to be "without guile" as often used in the scriptures, that sounds to me like someone without ulterior motives. Who just says what they say and should be taken at face value.

21 April, 2008

Nathan vs. Personal Alarm System vs. Sink

I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about those personal alarm systems like the one you see to your left. I think they're a great idea for autistic people or Alzheimer's patients. I personally believe that every woman's keychain should be fitted with a rape whistle, just in case. Mine actually has two. Which really is in a different category anyway.

But my employer is the owner of a local security systems company. You know what I'm talking about. The ones who send Mormon kids all over the country to sell their products door to door. Because after selling people on a religious lifestyle change, selling security systems ought to be easy, right?

So thankfully my employer has never tried to sell me on any of his products. I'm glad he hasn't because that would be awkward, but he knows I'm not in his demographic anyway. I don't have a significant say over anything worth protecting except my body, I guess. Hence the rape whistle. But anyway ... The house they live in really is quite nice, and has a very modern fancy shmancy alarm system. Of course it does. But today an aspect of it almost killed me. Before I killed it. Dun dun dun.

Nathan, age 6, was rummaging around the junk drawer looking for Heaven knows what this afternoon, and came across an unlabeled keychain with a button. I'm going to honest here, while this was happening this baby was asleep and I may or may not have been lying down with him trying to sneak in some sleep as well. I've been sick this week. So sue me.

I aroused from half-sleep to the most horrible noise in the world. At first I thought it was one of their dumb battery-operated toys gone insane, or maybe even the TV. But it was so loud it hurt my ears, and made the baby wake up crying.

Imagine the most irritating high-pitched but POWERFUL whine in existence. The kind a helicopter-sized mosquito would make. The kind of sound they might play to really stubborn prisoners in Guantanamo Bay until they screamed.


Maybe those prisoners are made of stronger stuff than I am, but I would have talked.

So Nathan had innocently pushed the button on the unlabeled keychain, and activated some sort of personal alarm system. I examined the stupid thing and found, that, of course, there isn't an off switch. For good reason. If all the bad guy had to do was wrestle away the personal alarm system from the victim and flip the off switch, APEX couldn't get away with charging so much for these things.

My addled, recently-from-sleep brain pondered the possibilities. No off switch. I checked the main reactor (or whatever you call it) of the home alarm system, and the two were obviously not connected in any way. I did figure out during this process that if I held the whole thing very tightly in my hand, that muffled the noise a little. Doing just that, I called my boss.

She didn't know how to disable it. She didn't even know she HAD a personal alarm system. So I called the Big Boss, you know, the one you're not supposed to bother.

You know what he told me? There IS no way to disable those stupid things. In a grave voice, he said to me, "You're going to have to destroy it."

Yes, Master. My life is a science fiction movie, I see. Or a futuristic remake of Old Yeller.

He also pointed out, logically, that Abbie doesn't use it anyway, since she didn't know it was there.

Nathan and I took sadistic glee in filling the sink with water and dropping the Banshee thingy in. It kept going for at least a minute, muffled by the water, and then reduced to a insect-like clicking noise. But every time we drained the water, it would resume screeching, although a littler fainter each time.

Ask me how many times we had to refill the sink. Go on. Ask me.


Buy one of those suckers, and NOBODY will mess with your sh*t. Not without wishing they never been born. Tap that.

14 April, 2008


There's no way to ease into these topic so I might as well just say it: my parents are getting a divorce. I have read extensively about the concept of divorce, and its adverse effects on even grown children, but now I am living it, and it's much more and much worse than I ever could have imagined.

I have read (and even experienced) that the end of a significant relationship carries one through the same grieving process as death, and I have also read about the five stage of grief:
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

At approximately 10 PM tonight I was lying in bed trying to sleep, and I felt myself smoothly transition from denial into anger. My mindset changed from attempting to to get my mind around the very concept of having two people to coordinate Christmas schedules with, to fantasizing about yelling obscenities at my dad in front of the rest of the family, so everyone would finally know what a lousy husband he was.

I can't take sides here, but most of my anger is directed towards the party who served the divorce papers without the other party's knowledge or consent. I won't say which party that was, but know that since I'm speaking English, I will of necessity be using the male pronoun. If only I could be writing this in Hungarian.

He has treated me mom like shit for as long as I can remember. I don't like to use that word, but there is no other word for it. He treated her like shit. He made her cry, embarrassed her in public, undermined her in front of us and everyone, disregarded or ignored her opinions, mocked everything she believed in, and told her, verbally and non-verbally, that she was worthless: physically and in every other way.

The really disgusting thing is that he doesn't treat all women like that. Misogyny is an ugly thing, and my heart goes out to those who are married to men who treat all women like chattel. I wonder what thought process led those women to marry their spouses. But to treat all women with respect and courtesy, except for your wife ... that is the most repulsive thing I can think of. That is the ultimate betrayal.

I am just now coming to terms to what this means for me. All I have observed my entire life is this marriage, and now that it's over, I can know with even greater assurance that it's nothing to build on. Nothing to admire. Nothing to emulate.

The married couples I really admire have one thing in common: they are all best friends. They have no need to go on fancy dates because because they have just as much fun going grocery shopping together. They don't need to plan time to talk because they just do, naturally. They face problems as a team instead of blaming the other for what could have been done to prevent it. They face the world together. Their relationship is built on respect, which stems from friendship; instead of romance, which, let's face it, stems from penises and vaginae.

Yes, that is an accepted plural of vagina. I looked it up.

Anyway, I used to think that I didn't want to grow up to be my mother, nor did I want to marry my father. The problem, I am just now realizing, is that my thinking was off. Both of my parents are fabulous, intelligent, fun, kind individuals. Unequivocally people to emulate. Individually. But them together is peanut butter and soy sauce. Chocolate and asparagus. Raisins and gravy. Any other disgusting combination you can think of.

They should never have gotten married. They were older and lonely and hadn't dated for very long. And unlike me, they were older in the real world too, not just according to the Mormon timeline. They never became friends. Never developed mutual respect. Never looked at each other objectively and decided that they would still love each other even after they got fat and gray and faced unemployment and childbirth and every kind of misery together.

A mentor of mine told me a few months ago: marry someone who will cherish the promises he makes to you. Who would never dream of hurting you. Don't just marry any guy that wants to marry you. Sound advice from a sane man. And a happily married one to boot.

I would add to that promise I make to myself: I will marry a friend, who loves me because I am fun to be with, not because I have huge breasts. Guilty as charged, but someday those same breasts will be hanging around my knees and hell if I'm getting plastic surgery to keep a husband around. That's not what women are made for, and I'm not going to do it.

I am going to marry someone who has all the qualities I want (a surprisingly short list) and who will listen to me cry on the phone for an hour even if all he can think of to say is: I'm sorry.

And the fabulous thing is, I might have already found him. Stay tuned.

12 April, 2008

Proportions of the human body (possible tmi warning here)

So tonight I rented and watched the 1990 film "Pretty Woman," a movie I have always wanted to see, have now seen, and will most likely never see again. I found it formulaic yet interesting enough, but certainly not the romantic classic I've heard it lauded as. Maybe I just couldn't get over the prostitute thing. I don't know.

But the point here is that Julia Roberts' character, throughout the movie, spits out random facts about the proportion of the human body. Things like: the length of your foot is the same as the length from your wrist to your elbow. Stuff like that. But in one scene -- one of the few romantic scenes that I actually liked -- Julia and Richard Gere are in the bathtub together and she wraps her legs around him from behind. Then she says, "My leg is 44 inches from hip to toe. You now have 88 inches of therapy wrapped around you, all for the bargain price of three thousand dollars." If you've seen the movie that line will make sense. The point here is the numbers.

I started thinking, 44 inches huh? Julia Roberts, I think, is really tall. I wonder how long my leg is? So I rummaged around until I found my measuring tape and measured my leg from where my hip is (I estimated) to my toe (pointed). Assuming that is what the writer meant by hip to toe. Anyway, my leg measured 41 inches. Not bad, considering my height.

Then, as a lark, I measured my bust around my back to the front of my breasts. That was in fact 44 inches. Julia Roberts' Leg, if you will. I thought to myself, wait a second. Is it normal to have your bust circumference be a larger number than the length of your leg?

I immediately texted a friend of mine, who will remain anonymous just in case something like this would embarrass her. I made her get out of bed and measure herself. We are about the same height, but her measurement was 38 inches from hip to heel (adding a few inches for the foot would most likely make around 41 inches, same as me, possibly a bit longer) and her bust was 36. That sounds much more normal to me.

Making me, what, some sort of Amazon Hobbit?

Girls, measure yourselves. I need to know if I'm normal here.

03 April, 2008

I think too much.

Sometimes I start thinking about something so long that I come to a conclusion I wish I had never reached in the first place. At that point I wish I had never started down the road of thinking about said subject, because once I've reached a solid conclusion about something, I can't pretend I never reached it. Even I have more integrity than that.

Example of the day: I love Diet Coke. Oh how I love Diet Coke. I come from a long line of alcoholics, and I am proud to say I am not one, nor was I ever. With my limited understand of my personality, I know that were I not a practicing member of the Mormon Church, I would be a straight-up raging lush of an alcoholic. It's all there. I'm Irish-Catholic by blood. I come from a long line of heavy drinkers. I have an obsessive, routine-driven personality. I'm also a poet. All the makings of a classic dipsomaniac.

So the good news is, I don't drink alcohol. The bad news is, the role that alcohol would play in my life if I weren't so straight-laced and puritan is played by Diet Coke. I get a Homer Simpson-esque orgasmic expression on my face when I even think about Diet Coke. This is only sometimes accompanied by drooling.

I drink Diet Coke socially, at restaurants with my friends or when someone brings a case to a get-together. I drink it on dates, especially when I'm nervous. I crave it when I'm sad or angry. When I'm upset and feel like doing something self-destructive, I buy a 2-liter bottle and down the whole thing while walking haphazardly down the street and crying. No lie. Happened a few weeks ago.

See? I'm a cokeaholic. I've spent most of my life so proud of myself for not being addicted to booze that I haven't given much thought to any other addictions I might have. About a year before my mission I noticed that I sometimes got the shakes when I needed a Diet Coke, or after drinking too much, so I cut down. But since returning from my mission I've pretty much fallen back into old habits.

Here's where the part of my thinking too much comes in. Tonight I was sitting my with roommate after a long day, taking swigs from a 2-liter Diet Coke and talking. I mentioned to her that I like the bitter taste of Coke, and she picked up on the "progeny of alcoholics" thing right there. Then I started telling her about how I will, naturally, stop drinking Diet Coke when I am pregnant. You know, I can quit any time I want. We googled "Caffeine and fetal health" and found evidence that Caffeine can lead to low-birthweight babies. Well duh. If something isn't good for people it can't possibly be good for tiny people growing inside you.

Here's the rub. I don't care enough about myself to give up Diet Coke for me. I would give it up for my future unborn child, because I would swim through a sea of thumbtacks for any of the kids I nanny for and they aren't even mine. But this raises a few questions:

1. What does it mean that I won't give up a destructive habit that I enjoy? OK, obviously Diet Coke is different from alcohol because it won't significantly shorten my life. Nor does it impair judgment or tear apart families. To my knowledge. But it's not good for my body. Unlike chocolate or ice cream, it's apparently not even good for you in reasonable doses. Does my Diet Coke addiction indicate a lack of self-love? Not that I care. Here's the question I really care about:
2. Does my Diet Coke addiction bother God? Allow me to show you a chart I found on the internet. I'm actually going to just copy down the numbers that interest me.

Column A is a certain beverage. Column B is the milligrams of caffeine in 8 liquid ounces.

Red Bull 80.00
Diet Coke 45.6
Dr Pepper 41.0
Nestea Iced 26.5
Drip Coffee 115-175
Brewed Coffee 80-135
Espresso 100
Black Tea 40
Green Tea 15
Hot Cocoa 14

For those unfamiliar, the LDS health code forbids coffee in all forms (including decaf), black tea, green tea, and white tea. Neither God Himself nor any of His representative have ever offered definitive word on the subject, but many speculate that those items are forbidden because addiction is evil, caffeine is addictive, and the aforementioned items contain caffeine. It's a simple syllogism. However: we have been counseled that whether or not to consume caffeinated soft drinks is an individual decision. Note that Diet Coke has more caffeine than all forms of tea. Even hot cocoa, the Mormon hot drink mainstay, has almost the same amount of caffeine as the forbidden green tea.

God is omniscient. He knows exactly how many freaking milligrams of caffeine is in every beverage in the universe. If His real concern were caffeine, he would have gotten with the times and forbidden caffeinated soft drinks, and possibly Swiss Miss decades ago. But that's not the issue, apparently. What is it? I don't know.

I could easily use these findings to justify my continued consumption of Diet Coke. But that's not where my thoughts are leading me at all. It's leading me to wonder, is there another reason why Diet Coke is bad for me that I don't see? It makes me think I should give it up just in case caffeine is the real issue, or because there might be some other poison in it that could kill me. or that would disappoint my Heavenly Father.

That's not even the conclusion I was leading myself to when I started this entry. My head is spinning.

01 April, 2008


It would make sense, before I do anything else, to explain how I chose the name. I am named after Saint Elisa, a saint so minor even most Catholics haven't heard of her. Miracles performed in her name are so few and so sketchy many of those upstairs in the Church don't even consider her a real saint. She does have a feast day, at least, on December 2nd. Which I have yet to celebrate. But I digress.

If I remember correctly from the one questionable website about St. Elisa I found on the internet several years ago, she was an Italian chick who became a nun and moved to Africa, possibly Ethiopia, to serve the poor and whatnot. She baptized many a dying child, eventually caught whatever disease the dying children were dying of, and succumbed to it. In her saint painting, she was pictured holding a coconut, which to my knowledge are not native to either Italy or Africa. I swear I am not making any of this up ... although the bozo that put together the website very well may have.

St. Elisa raises a few interesting questions for me about the Catholic Church. First of all, why did anyone remember her at all? Part of me wonders if all the Catholics who wanted to name their daughters Elisa (because let's face it, it's a great name) went looking for a suitable righteous person to canonize to justify the name. All good Catholic name their babies after Saints, which might explain why their seems to be a Saint for every ethnic form of every biblical or semi-biblical person you can think of. Not just Mary, but Maria, Marta, Marie ad infinita. So perhaps St. Elisa was the supply for the demand. Is there a word for scapegoating in name form? Namegoating? Scapesainting? Most likely not.

Additionally, according to my understanding of God's workings--and this will sound harsh--St. Elisa's life work was a waste of time. Certainly most of the children Elisa spent her time baptizing were under the age of eight, and Latter-day Saints believe that all children who die before the age of eight get a free ticket to Heaven. No baptism or works necessary. In the grand scheme of things, did she accomplish anything? I like to think that God rewards everyone for their works under the consideration of their understanding of truth and what truths were available to them at the time. So certainly St. Elisa is in Heaven, or will be someday. But was her work really worth anything?

And if it wasn't, what does it mean that I was named for her?

When I introduce myself to people who are not Latin, I have to walk the person through the pronunciation of my name as if they were clinically retarded or extremely hard of hearing. I am also in the habit of spelling my name whenever I say it even the person has no reason or desire to write my name down. For some reason, Mormons seem to have a particularly hard time with my name, and it can drive me a little crazy. Sometimes, to play a trick on those that don't know anything about Catholicism (aka most people in Utah), I will say, "Elisa, ya know, like the Saint." As if St. Elisa were such a common entity that most people would have heard of her. I feel obnoxiously superior, and the person feels silly for not knowing my name. As well they should. Everybody wins.

I don't deserve to live, really. But that's how my blog got its name.