Bits & Pieces 3-28-08

Days Until I Get Married: 15
Days Until My 22nd Birthday: 31

On Sunday, Christian and I started counting down the days until our wedding on my fingers and toes because we had twenty days left. I started on my left foot. Today is the last day of my left foot -- let me tell you what, that is exciting. I thought about doing something like painting each of my nails a different color as I counted down, but then I realized that I would be left with all kinds of funky nails on my wedding day, so I didn't. Speaking of funky nails, click here.

I didn't post anything yesterday. I was too busy playing Mah Jong. It makes me feel smart, even though I'm not very good. I haven't been able to beat the third layout yet. If anyone can do it on their first try, tell me and I'll give you a prize. Cookies or a dollar or something. And no hitting the Undo button -- that's cheating.

Chikezie was voted off American Idol on Wednesday. I told you he was boring. Also, it appears that not very many people watch American Idol. I'm not surprised. That Ryan Seacrest is sometimes too much to take.

We're going with the black vest and tie for Christian's tux. I decided to put my foot down and go with what I wanted, and not listen to what everyone else had to say. So I didn't listen when half of everyone said to go with what I wanted, and the other half said to go with the black vest. ;)

Christian and I have started re-watching Season One of Lost. We have a goal of re-watching all of Seasons One, Two and Three before we get married. We got through most of one episode yesterday before we went to the temple. We still have a ways to go.


Important Thoughts 4.0

My important thought for today is: be careful when shopping on eBay. Now I'm not saying that you should need to worry about getting scammed out of your money -- that's impossible on eBay; their security is too good. You do need to worry about spending too much money while shopping on eBay. The creators of eBay were very wise when they made shopping into a game. I like to win games. Winning games is fun and harmless. I also like to win auctions. The difference between games and auctions on eBay is that when you win an auction, you have to pay money. It's like winning and losing at the same time. To save innocent eBayers from the pitfalls of auction shopping, I came up with this list of Five Safe Shopping Practices:
  1. Don't keep bidding on an item until you're the highest bidder if you're just curious to see how much money the person before you bid. This is dangerous; you might end up having to pay that much money.
  2. Don't bid on an item just to get it onto your "My eBay" page. Choose "Watch this Item" instead.
  3. Don't bid on a lot of items just to see if there's a limit to how many items you can bid on at one time, because I can tell you right now that there isn't.
  4. Don't look for Back to the Future action figures -- you'll just be wasting your time because there aren't any Back to the Future action figures on eBay.
  5. Don't go onto eBay with the purpose of getting one item (for example, one white leather purse) and then bid on more than one (for example, seven white leather purses), thinking that at least you'll get one of them -- you might end up getting all of them (for example, seven white leather purses).


Great Easter Weekend, Huge Dilemma

Note: Be happy, all of you boring-life-update nuts.

Christian and I went out to Charlotte this weekend to visit his friends, Matt and Melissa Morrow. Matt is Christian's best friend and is going to be his best man when we get married in 19 days. He was in town two weeks ago on a business trip and the three of us got to go to dinner, but Melissa wanted to meet me before the wedding also, so we went down to see them Saturday morning and came back Sunday evening. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. We went bowling and Christian bowled the game of his life (scoring a 204), Matt made chicken on his smoker and showed us all the improvements he's made on the house since the last time Christian was there. We also went to the Men's Wearhouse so that Matt and Christian could get fitted for their tuxes. Which brings me to the Huge Dilemma.

While were at the Men's Wearhouse, the guy helping us, who Christian tells me was named Jeremy, asked us what color vest and tie Christian wanted to wear for the wedding, and Christian, repeating what I had told him earlier, said black. Jeremy looked at him like he was crazy and said, "Don't you want to match your bride?" And then Christian looked at me, and I looked back at him with a look that I thought said, "I don't know" and he thought said, "Well, don't you?" And, really, neither of us knew what we wanted, so we went with white because that's what Jeremy said was best. But I've been looking at pictures of white vests and pictures of black vests and I think that I like black best. A white vest from far away looks like no vest. I think Christian would look better in a black vest. So, here's my question: black vest or white vest? You can vote in the poll on the right-hand sidebar.

*image via Men's Wearhouse

Important Thoughts 3.0

Here's my important thought for today: I've been listening to talks that people give about the Atonement, and I've noticed a trend. The trend: people speaking about the Atonement always include an explanation about how the word "atonement" literally means at-one-ment, that is, the state of being at one, or in harmony, reconciled. And I've been thinking that these people are crazy. Okay, so not crazy. Just not well-informed. "Haven't they ever heard of word roots?" I would ask myself. "Trying to make sense of atonement by breaking it up is like trying to make sense of butterfly by breaking it up. Butterflies have nothing to do with butter or flies, and the connnection between atonement and at-one-ment is just a coincidence." A cute and insignificant coincidence -- that's what I thought.

But I was wrong. I first began to doubt my conviction that the concept of at-one-ment was a hoax when I recently heard a quote from President James E. Faust's talk, The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope. In it, he states, "Understanding what we can of the Atonement and the Resurrection of Christ helps us to obtain a knowledge of Him and of His mission. Any increase in our understanding of His atoning sacrifice draws us closer to Him. Literally, the Atonement means to be at one with Him." When I heard this, I was stumped. It was easy for me to believe that the speakers in Sacrament Meeting were fooled, but much harder to believe that a General Authority got it wrong.

I decided to put the issue to rest. I went the source of all wisdom, and looked up "atonement" on Wikipedia. (You can read the full article here; it actually includes a detailed description of how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints differs from mainstream Christianity on the issue of Christ's Atonement, which I found very interesting.) Wikipedia told me that the word atonement was created by a man named William Tyndale, a 16th-century Protestant reformer who translated the Bible into the Early Modern English of his day -- most of his translation eventually made its way into the King James Version of the Bible, which was published in 1611 and which we use today. Tyndale wanted a word to explain the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice, which accomplished both the remission of sin and reconciliation of man to God, so he created the word "atonement." His word comprises two parts -- "at" and "onement," meaning a reconcilliation and also a covering, as in a covering of sin. While grateful for William Tyndale's work in bringing the word of God to the people of 16th-century England, I feel like he could have made better use of his knowledge of Latin word roots. He would have saved me a lot of embarrassment.

Thanks a lot, William Tyndale.


Three Engagement Pictures

Important Thoughts 2.0

My first thought: Everyone in the world should read Schrute Space. Rainn Wilson makes me forget The Office's abysmal fourth season and reminds me why I fell in love with this show in the first place. Reason: it's hilarious. Dwight is a genius. Behold, his thoughts on Interpersonal Communication and the Introduction of Schrutanese (for the full entry, click here):
We, as a society, have gone backwards when it comes to interpersonal communication. Neanderthals communicated using only grunts and gestures. As time passed on, humans began to overcomplicate language to the point where it is now difficult to accomplish anything because there are too many stupid people and they use too many stupid words. This is why I am proposing the use of a basic universal language for all human beings regardless of race, culture, or physical location.

This language will not take the place of conversation between people you know and trust. It will merely be used for the casual daily interactions with strangers that can become so difficult when words are introduced. If I sneeze, I don’t need to have a conversation about it. Thank you for your blessings, but please stop wasting my time. Also, it’s more polite to say gesundheit. My new language will take the place of these time-wasters and bring interpersonal communication back to its purest form.

My second thought: Dwight is wrong. Now, I know most people think that Dwight is paranoid and has a distorted sense of reality, but I find that I agree with him on most issues. Issues such as: in the wild, there is no health care. Women are terrible drivers. Coffins need thick walls so you don't hear the other dead people. And, most importantly, blood alone moves the wheels of history. However, with regard to the issue of interpersonal communication, I find that the only point on which I agree is that there are too many stupid people. I enjoy conversations that result from sneezing. Also, it's my opinion that the English language needs more words. Case in point: I use the same word to describe my feelings toward peanut butter as I do my feelings toward my fiancé. That shouldn't happen.

My third thought: You know what else shouldn't happen? This.


Books Marked "To Read"

I mentioned before that I'm in search of more good books to read. I just finished Catch-22 and right now I'm reading The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. I actually have a long-ish list of books marked "to read," most of which were taken from friends' recommendations, but I'm still looking for more. Here's my current list -- feel free to comment, ask questions, and suggest others!

  1. The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler
  2. The Once and Future King, by T.H. White
  3. Sabine's Notebook, by Nick Bantock
  4. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
  5. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
  6. Why Do Men Have Nipples?, by Mark Leyner
  7. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  8. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
  9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  10. Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens
  11. The Ministry of Special Cases, by Nathan Englander
  12. 1776, by David McCullough
  13. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis
  14. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
  15. Love Is Eternal, by Irving Stone

Sweet Victory

This is a post of victories. Sweet victories. Thinking about "sweet victories" reminds me of Michelle Branch's song "Sweet Misery," just because the two phrases sound alike. So I think "sweet victory" in my head, and then I hear "Sweet misery you cause me... That's what you called me..." But my appreciation for old Michelle Branch music is not important. The following announcements are important.

Announcement: Jock Jams played its third game of the Spring '08 season last night against The Farce (better known by returning members of the Jock Jams team as "The Todd's Team") and won. Yeah, we won. I like to say it, and I like to hear myself say it. We won. Which makes our record so far this season 2-1. It felt so good to win last night. So good. Losing to them last season was not fun, and in their faces! Because we won this time! Quick recap: they scored in the first half. Then we scored -- the half ended with a tie. In the second half, tensions were high and people got snappy, but we kept our collective head together and scored again before the end of the game. And we won. We won. I can't say it enough. It feels so good.

Announcement: Christian and I only have 24 days left until we get married. That feels good, too. Better than winning last night.


Important Thoughts 1.0

My first thought for today: remember geometry? Geometry was awesome. I didn't do very well in my high school geometry class. I think I made a C, mostly because I didn't consider turning in my homework a priority. I remember once when I fell asleep in class and I had a dream that a dinosaur came into the room and introduced himself. Unfortunately, I sat on the second row and no one sat in front of me, so my teacher noticed that my head was on my desk and I was twitching in that way that people who know that they aren't supposed to be asleep twitch. Also unfortunately, the side of my mouth was glued to a page of my geometry textbook with drool when she woke me up.

But here's what's great about geometry: it's awesome. Geometry starts out good and ends up great. Let me explain. The first thing you learn about in geometry is the line. I know what you're thinking -- Mary, I already know about lines. Yes, you do, which is exactly my point. Question: What's easier than learning information you already know? Answer: nothing. And that's why geometry starts out good. But easy definitions are just the beginning. Soon you move on to proofs. I love proofs for two reasons. First, they give you the answer. Seriously. And it's not considered cheating. Second, a proof is all about showing everyone else how right you are. I love that.

My second thought for today: I just finished Catch-22 about an hour and a half ago. Holy cannoli, that is one good book. I found the first nine-tenths intriguing and entertaining and amazing; I also found it challenging, and reading it was like running uphill. I've let myself become a lazy reader, and reading real books is more exercise than I'm used to. I need to work on that. Note to self: read more good books. Note to readers: recommend more good books. The last tenth of Catch-22 was perfection. There are no other words. It was perfect. It's like Joseph Heller punched me in the face with his writing and I've only just come to. If I could read one book again for the first time, it would be this book.

My final thought for today: this website is hilarious. If you find the anthropomorphization of animals tiresome and juvenile, then you won't be amused.


Spare Time

Two words about wedding plans: Don't ask. Seriously, talking about wedding plans is the worst. Ask me how I'm doing, and I'll be glad to answer. I'm excited to be getting married. I'm counting down the days until April 12th. I'm so happy to be with Christian. I'm a little stressed right now, and work is definitely not fun, but these small negatives are swallowed up in the overwhelming positive. The thing is, hardly anyone asks me how I'm doing anymore. They ask me about wedding plans. And the truth is, I hate talking about plans. I don't like planning. I'm not even doing most of the planning, and I'm not sure what's going on. I know that some people think that if I'm excited about the wedding, I'll be happily involved in the plans -- one naturally leads to the other. Call me unnatural, but I don't work that way. As much as I look forward to the wedding, I keep away from plans as much as possible. Plans are a necessary evil. I have a lot of empty time at work, and I fill my time with other activities. Not plans. Other activities, like reading articles on Wikipedia. Specifically, I've been reading about the American Revolution. It's very interesting. I like reading about the women, like Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren. Women are awesome. I've also been responding to e-mails, reading about people on Facebook and making up ridiculous stories about them, and looking at Paris Daily Photo. The title "Paris Daily Photo" is kind of misleading, but let me explain it this way: every day, Eric the friendly Parisian posts a new photo that he's taken while out and about in Paris. Does it make sense now? The pictures are beautiful, despite the confusing name.


Quick Explanation

If I were a betting woman (which I am), I would bet that at least half of the people who read this entry will remember a previous blog that I have had and will think to themselves, "This one won't last long, either." And those people would be justified in this thought. My beloved first blog, which I updated frequently, was created on a site that eventually began to ask me for money. I maintain a strict policy of never paying money over the internet for anything intangible, so I abandoned that blog and moved on. Since then, I have had a series of blogs, on a variety of sites, none of which I used for more than a few months together. I could never feel comfortable with another blog, which has lead me to become a virtual rolling stone, of sorts. And you know what they say about rolling stones -- their friends eventually become distrustful of them and stop reading their blogs. So I've brought all of your negative thoughts upon myself, and I understand. I sympathize. I comprehend. I perceive. And so, my friends, family, and other random people who are reading this for who-knows-what reason, I have created this blog with a purpose in mind. This will be my last blog ever. I, Mary Ellen Cunningham,* promise** that I will never again create another blog. This is it for me -- this blog may triumph, or it may fail, but I will do my best to make sure it triumphs, because I won't allow myself another chance. This is my online resting place. One day, I hope to have your trust again. Until then, I will try to remember to use paragraph breaks. I always have trouble with that.

*I will continue to stand by this promise even after my name changes in April, and I become a Plautz.

**If anyone knows my thing with "I promise," then you know this is a big deal for me. I never say "I promise" unless I mean it. Seriously -- I've never broken a promise I've made when I've said "I promise." So, really, be impressed. I mean it.