Monday, February 22, 2010

Maybe success!

I think I got a fundable score on the grant my last grant application. The scores came in today. I am not going to go through the lengthy explanation of the strange, recently reworked and somewhat confusing scoring system, but I do know the good side from the bad side and I am close to the end that is good. I have to wait for the council review which will be a couple more months, but I think I might get funded this time. Hooray!

Miriam meets...well... Miriam

Style set in this weekend. It has trouble written all over it as I seem to have expensive taste. I went to the mall. I haven't been clothes shopping since last spring and the situation was getting dire. My six Threadless shirts could be better described as threadbare shirts (well almost). I was shocked to find that for the first time in my life, I had concrete ideas about what I was looking for rather than just trying on zillions of things until I found something, anything that looked good. I found that I have a set of rules for clothes. Well cut sleeves are a necessity as are clean lines. Ruffles equal automatic disqualification. Sashes and bows aren't quite that bad, but come close. Gathered fabric is okay if it is done in a way that doesn't interrupt the lines of the clothes. None of this was too surprising because those rules match my taste in architecture. What was a surprise is that sequins, sparkles and studs!? are okay (I am almost embarrassed to say so, but I have confidence in my stylish sensibilities, so I'm saying it.) The other surprise was that I look better flat chested than wearing a push-up bra. There are a few outfits that are exceptions, but in general, I think that subtle (in my case very subtle) curviness is best.

I also got my hair cut. I have generally liked expensive haircuts when the price includes the hairdressers sense of style. Not this time. I walked into Aveda at the mall and asked if I could get my hair done. I have often been told that if a stylist is available for a walk-in, it is best to pass on the cut. That was the attitude at Aveda and they assigned me to Tiffany. She was perfect looking. A model of classical beauty. Perfect skin, perfect facial structure, perfect body, and perfect hair. High heeled shoes. She was also washing the towels that the other stylists had used. I could tell she was young, but I also didn't get the Acck-this-will-be-a-bad-haircut sense that always precedes a bad haircut. She gave me scalp massage with scented oil. I had never had one of those before and it was great. She made washing my hair into some sort of relaxing spa therapy and then we proceeded to the haircut. I asked about her age. 18. I asked about her experience. She had been cutting hair for "a while". We discussed what to do with my hair. Neither of us had any idea. At least, not at first. She started cutting my hair and I could tell that the technical skills were all there. Then she dropped her scissors and the comb and the other stylists reassured her that she was doing okay and it hit me that hist was her first day on the job and that she was giving me her first haircut since graduating from beauty school. She was terrified but keeping it together pretty well. So I started directing her on the exact angles and lengths that I wanted my hair. I was surprised that I was able to do that. We both played with my hair and figured out that it needed a lot of texturing and a lot of layers. I made her do my bangs twice and we took them one lock at a time getting them to the exactly right length and the right contours. I was surprised that I had concrete opinions about that. In the end, it was a good haircut. Okay, better than that. It is the best haircut I have had in California. The other stylists were tremendously impressed and Tiffany was beaming. Absolutely glorious triumph written all over her face. I left her a big tip because the haircut cost very little and I have paid a lot more for haircuts nowhere near that good.

Today after our morning walk when I took my hat off, Jenny Vezzani tousled my hair a little and it was as good as when I had started the day. She told me it was the best haircut I have ever had (Even better than Pat's) and I think Tiffany may have her first regular customer.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A day to love

I like Valentine's Day. It is usually pretty fun. My own personal way of keeping it usually involves pretending that Halloween arrives in February as well as October. In high school, this involved chopping raw meat with my cousin, Eileen while watching the X-files and then making stir-fry. In college, I killed rats in the lab (though that wasn't really in honor of Valentine's day since I killed rats most days), and in grad school, I either hosted parties where we pulverized piƱatas of chubby cupids, or went on strange Valentine's day dates that seemed like something from the X-files. In Merced, my approach to Valentine's day hasn't changed much. I get to scare kids when they try to interrupt my lectures to deliver musical Valentine's day telegrams (It is fun to sort of show off that I can be really cranky). And I have also been set up on some strange Halloweenish sorts of dates. At one we ate take-out in the park. There were lighted candles and used condoms (not by us) in the grass. The candles looked more like a seance than romantic, and I could have forgiven that, but when I was told that I didn't even get to keep my own box of take-out leftovers, I knew it wasn't meant to be. On the years when there wasn't a Valentine's Day set-up, I have had some quiet dinners with good friends. This year, I will be in Lake Havasu City watching a fireworks display that includes loads of gas-bombs and other explosions, so I guess that's more like pretending that the 4th of July arrives in February, but it'll do.

Morbidity aside, I really do like Valentine's Day. It represents hope. I joke about wanting to get married so that someone can load the dishwasher while I am getting ready for a trip, or so that I can get a toaster oven (or ten) as wedding gifts. But I have hope that there is more out there than that. I don't think that there would be a national holiday to celebrate toaster ovens. (I could be wrong however.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Star of David

I was studying the Sunday School lesson for next week about the Abrahamic covenant. I wrote down some thoughts about the Star of David that relate and decided to post them.

In Abraham 3:12-14, God put his hands over Abraham’s eyes and showed him everything that his hands had made and there were so many that Abraham could not see the end of them. Then God showed him the stars in the night sky and said to Abraham “I will multiply thee and thy seed after the like unto these…”

The number of the stars was an important part of this comparison, but I think the most important part was the actual stars themselves. In Abraham 2:11, God told Abraham “…in thy seed after thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed…” This has absolutely happened as the descendents of Abraham, particularly the Jews, have spread throughout the earth and have brought with them stability and progress simultaneously. Their influence has been felt directly as they have built strong families and communities, and as they have developed medicine, arts, sciences, technology, and business. The seed of Abraham has also strongly influenced the inhabitants of the Earth in less direst ways. For example, the Constitution of the US was initially modeled after the laws of the Israelites. There were adaptations to make the laws relevant to the US, but the overall concept of the purpose of government came from Israel. Like it or not, that concept of government has become a standard for all other nations on Earth as well. With so much influence (for good in my opinion) coming from the descendants of Abraham, it seems appropriate to me that the Star of David has become a symbol of the Jews. They are a bright and shining people.

The Star has meaning beyond that though. Walter Wright of American Fork, UT pointed out that there are only two places in the scriptures where blood and wood appear together. The first is during the Passover, when the children of Israel put lamb’s blood on the posts and lintel of each door. (He started wondering why that specifically was the sign that would cause the destroying angel to pass and began looking for anything like that symbol in the scriptures.) The other place he found it was during the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ where Christ’s blood spilled from his hands and feet onto the wooden cross. He then observed that if one were to connect the dots, the blood of the Passover would make a right side up triangle, and the blood of the Crucifixion would make an upside down triangle. Placed together, the visual outcome of those two events is the Star of David. From that perspective, the Star becomes a symbol of freedom. The sacrifices of Israel during the Passover brought them political and physical freedom; the Crucifixion brought them freedom from sin, guilt, and death.

To me, the appearance of the Star of David is also an important part of its meaning. One triangle points up, the other points down. The one that points up is the symbol of the offerings made to God by Israel during the Passover. Prayers and sacrifices were given up to God. The triangle that points down is a symbol of the Crucifixion. The Son of God came down to live with the children of Israel and became a sacrifice given to them. The most beautiful part of the symbol to me is that the two triangles are overlaid in perfect symmetry. Placed like that, they symbolize the covenants binding God and Israel.

The Abrahamic covenant is one of the most important made in the scriptures and God gives tokens with His covenants. For example, the rainbow is a token of the covenant that God would never flood the earth again. I think that The Star of David is the token of the Abrahamic covenant. There are three things promised to Israel: 1. Land (Abraham 2:6, 19; Genesis 12:7;17:8), 2. Posterity (Abraham 2:9-10; Genesis 12:2-3;17:2, 4-6), 3. The Priesthood (Abraham 2:9-11;Genesis 17;7). There are three things required of Israel: 1. To bear the priesthood unto all nations (Abraham 2:9, 11), 2. To rise up and bless Abraham as their father (Abraham 2:10), 3. Obey God’s commandments (Genesis 18:19). Three promises in each direction and three points on each triangle. The outcome of that covenant is made clear in Revelation 22:19 when Christ says “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” Going back to the beginning where God showed Abraham the stars and promised that his seed would become as they were, it is clear that the purpose of the Abrahamic covenant is to make the children of Israel like Christ.

The Star of David, as a symbol of the Jews, is the symbol of a chosen people, but as a token of a covenant, it shows that all people can become chosen by entering into the Abrahamic covenant. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we believe that when people are baptized with appropriate priesthood authority, they become children of Israel. If they do not already have the blood of Israel in them, they are adopted into Israel. It is why baptisms for the dead are done in a font placed on the hinder parts of twelve oxen. The oxen are a symbol of Israel and baptism is a symbol of burial and rebirth. Through baptism, people are reborn into Israel.

I have thought a lot about the Holocaust as I have considered the Star of David. There is such cruel irony that a symbol of freedom and of a chosen people was used as a mark to captivate and to kill those very people who were chosen and meant to be free. There are many times in the scriptures when it is stated that the blood of the Saints cries up unto God when they are murdered (particularly when they are killed because of their religious affiliation). A Saint is someone who has entered into the Abrahamic covenant and who keeps it. The Abrahamic covenant was sealed with blood at the Passover and again at the Crucifixion. I haven’t quite grasped the significance of it yet, but I think that it is not a coincidence that the spilled blood of Saints cries unto God when they were killed for a covenant sealed with blood.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

February resolutions

1. No more angsty blog posts. (probably) ALmost absolutely. Okay, okay. That's the point of resolutions....they are hard. I can do it! I woke up with the realization that I was venting angst all over my collaborators (all five of them) in addition to my family and friends. I posted to the wrong blog. I deleted that post. I also realize that I should feel just as bad about getting angsty to friends and family as collaborators. (except that y'all are nice to me)

2. Beyond that though. I think I am through with angst (for now). My tantrum broke two nights ago. I realized at 3:00 AM what all the fuss was about. My brain was protesting injury and trauma. It's been through a lot and I guess I needed one final reminder about how bad it has been so that I wouldn't forget and take my brain for granted. I finally got the point and giggled as I thought..."Okay, okay, no more trauma. I promise." Tantrum was done. (It wasn't even the dermatologists fault really but I still don't feel very bad about insulting him. He had it coming!) Reading is better. Frustration is at normal levels. My brain is a happy place. I think it's done getting better. Really this time. If there are other things that have to get better, I think my brain can handle them quietly now.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pop quiz

Megan called me today. She pesters Marie to answer questions about the body. Marie does really well, but Meg always follows up with the question "Why?". I told Marie she could call me anytime she wants and I will answer those questions. She finally took me up on the offer.

Today it went like this:
"Mom, why do we need to breathe?"
"Because we need oxygen in our blood.
"It carries the oxygen to our cells and they need it."
"I don't know. Your aunt Miriam would."
"Let's call her."
"She might be teaching right now."
"Let's call her and see."

So she called.

On the phone:

"Aunt Miriam, why do we need to breathe?"
(My heart melted right then.)
"Welllll, when our cells are making energy that they can use, they make a lot of electrons and we need oxygen to accept those electrons and then the oxygen gets turned into water and it makes us have to go potty. And the other reason is that when our cells are making energy that they can use, they produce carbon dioxide and we have to breathe that out."
"And that's why we have to breathe?"
"Okay, bye!"

Now I am all worried that I told her something wrong and I think I had better freshen up on glycolysis and electron transport because it has been 13 years since I have studied it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Soulless no more

I have been throwing a tantrum for two weeks. I am not proud of this. I am trying to stop, but I haven't yet. I know when the tantrum started. I was visiting with a dermatologist. I was trying to get him to give me acutaine. He wouldn't. He wants me to use some expensive cream that has 26% efficacy and 46% adverse events until I am forty. The tantrum began at that moment. I argued the best ways that I could. I pointed out that there are basically no acne treatments that can be taken by pregnant women so why not take care of the problem before pregnancy occurs. This argument didn't work especially since we had just discussed birth control which had turned into a discussion of the immaculate conception during which I made a sarcastic comment which seemed rather offensive to the doctor. (Note to self, no immaculate conception comments in a predominantly Catholic community.) I still do not understand the full impact of my comment (like swearing in a foreign language probably) but I ran it by an ex-Catholic friend who said "You got mad and just went for the throat huh?"

The tantrum continues to be fueled by a consistently imperfect complexion, lost earrings, lost phone charger, faulty memory, exhaustion, bad tech support, and a million other little things. I am probably the most easily frustrated person who exists right now. It's like I have non-stop PMS raised by an order of magnitude. I am aware that the problem is me and not everyone else. That is frustrating too, but I am trying to not take it out on everyone. Marie says that there are just frustrating times in life, but I attribute this (as most things) to brain recovery. I'll take it though. The other night, I felt my brain (I think my thalamus) connect with the left side of my body. Weird, but all the muscles on that side relaxed and I am almost pain free now(Happy day!).

Matt Meyer says I am soulless because I never get frustrated. If his office were next to mine these days, he would probably change his mind.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Heaven and Earth

Everything I needed to put my purse back together was in my mail basket when I got home last night. A new drivers license and checkbooks were there along with a few bonuses like compensation for some of the odd jobs I have taken reviewing books. All the credit cards had come a couple of weeks before going back to Utah and I was able to get my new Temple recommend the night before I left. I have been pulled over twice (It was okay because I wasn't doing anything wrong. I guess the cops just thought I was hot and wanted to chat or something.) and I went a long time without shopping after the borrowed cash to get me back to Merced had run out, and it has been over a month since I have gone to the temple. All said, I have missed the temple recommend the most.

Temples started making sense to me when I learned the symbol for them. It is a circle inside of a square. The circle represents heaven or the eternities and the square represents the earth. The two shapes meet up at four points, which means that a temple is a place where heaven and earth meet. Our bodies are temples because they are from the earth and house our spirits which are from heaven. Our homes are temples because the most sacred things, like birth, death, and life take place in them. And of course there are temples which prepare us to go back to God someday, where the living do work for the dead to prepare them to meet God as well. I think that temples are also a bit like heaven and earth meeting up because people are on their best behavior there and so kind.

When I volunteered in the Atlanta temple, I felt a little bit like I had the responsibilities of an angel. It was honestly a bit weird to feel so much love for absolute strangers. I kind of felt protective and like I wanted to help them however I could. I haven't felt exactly that way at any other time. I don't have the time to volunteer at the Fresno temple right now, but I love to go as a patron. I see the same sort of caring and intensity on the faces of the volunteers who are there. When I leave, I feel like I take a bit of heaven with me.

I am so eager to go again now that I have a new recommend. I have thought of the first two men in England who were baptized and how they raced to the water to decide who would get to be the very first. I have also thought of our Canadian ancestors who believed that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not on the earth and waited intently for it to be restored. They were finally convinced that it had been by Parley Pratt. I don't think I can really understand their excitement as they received the gospel, but as I anticipate the temple, I think perhaps a bit of their influence may escape the heavens, find its way to earth and give me a little sense of the gratitude and excitement they felt.