Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Old Love, New Challenges

Next month, Dean and I will celebrate nine years together. I know to some of you marathon-marrieds it seems like the blink of an eye, but by modern relationship standards it's pretty respectable. I just can't believe it's been that long - sometimes it feels like we're still dating. In these nine years, our love has survived two cross-country moves, grad school, four cats (and countless rescued transients), seven Christmases apart, and three apartments.

But here's the true test: Can our relationship withstand our very first joint bank account? Even after marriage we never saw a need to combine finances since both of us were making decent money and we knew we'd have to close our account anyway once the inevitable exodus from Florida occurred. He looked the other way on my mean feral cat habit and I did the same for his baseball junk collectibles. The cats are mostly out of the picture (except for a small stipend towards the new feeder as a gesture of appreciation and support) and I don't think his baseball spending will put us out on the streets. But I am already feeling much more accountable for my expenses and let's face it, women do most of the spending between groceries, odds and ends (what I call "Target stuff"), and our personal upkeep does tend to require a little more. Maybe in these tough economic times it's good to be occasionally questioned about the massive amounts of money being spent on Pretzel Chips and Skinny Cow Sundae Cones. I'm clearly not the only one eating it (the last bag of Pretzel Chips disappeared before I ate a single chip!). Perhaps we will both evaluate our habits for awhile until we decide that accountability about our eating habits is like lifting up a rock and watching all your nasty vices scurry away to find more darkness and we'll go back to the original plan of looking the other way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A President Like Me?

No, I don't mean a woman. I mean an agnostic. During all the arguing over whether the country was ready for a female president or a black president, I was arguing that we would elect both before we would knowingly elect an atheist* or agnostic president. My point was made nauseatingly clear during the spectacle of the Faith Forum at Saddleback Church.

After reading The Audacity of Hope close to two years ago now, I formulated a hypothesis that President-Elect Obama (then barely Senator Obama) isn't technically a Christian but an agnostic. I have kept this theory a secret because I really wanted him to get elected, and apparently even the whisper of someone not being a Christian can be the end-all of a campaign. But now that he's elected and it's too late for all of those who really care about what religion your president is, I'm going to tell you why he is agnostic.

In his earlier writing, he uses words that are very ambivalent about Christianity. He freely admits his parents were agnostics and while knowledgeable about world religions did not subscribe to any organized religion. He talks about the importance of the teachings of Jesus (the golden rule, the whole "what you do unto the lesser of these, you do unto me" bit) which I - and most freethinkers - have always argued are simply ethical codes that do not require the existence of a higher being to be true or important. He never coughs up the big Christian tenet that Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins and was resurrected.

Also in his earlier days he discussed the importance of Church and his decision to join one for the important role it plays in community and that he felt his neighbors were almost suspicious of him unless he joined "the church". That a lot of important business as a community organizer is done on Sunday mornings when everyone gathers to worship in one place.

It wasn't until he made a serious run at the White House that all of a sudden his identity as a well-defined practicing Christian took hold. But us doubters could still see the signs. He still seemed very uncomfortable discussing his faith. I hadn't yet vocalized my hypothesis to Deano, but during the Faith Forum he turned to me and said, "He doesn't believe any of this. He's just paying lip service." Immediately I agreed, "Yup."

I've always thought that this hypothesized core disbelief in the more supernatural aspects of Christianity explained well his bewilderment at the public's opinion of Jeremiah Wright. Not only do I believe this issue exposed the disconnect between white and black Christians and how they perceived the role of the Sunday sermon, but the whole time the Rev. Wright controversy was raging, Senator Obama had this attitude as if he didn't understand the depth of offensiveness to true believers. His deer-in-the-headlights look betrayed the fact that he never took the sermons seriously to begin with. And I think he was caught off guard in is ignorance at the fact that yes, people do take their preachers very seriously. I've experienced this confusion many a times when attempting to empathize with my more Christian-leaning friends and family.

After getting to know the subtly free-thinking Senator Obama from his books and interviews, I was a little disappointed when he all of a sudden he decided faith played such a big role in his life. I can't really blame him, I stand by my assertion that the average voter wouldn't vote for someone who questions the existence of God. But I think most of you know my opinion that such a candidate would make an inherently more qualified leader. But a God-questioning, half-black "elite" named Barack Hussein Obama wouldn't have a metaphorical snowball's chance in hell of getting elected UNLESS he was clearly and undeniably a practicing, worshipping card-carrying Christian. I think even if you do believe him to be so, you would not argue that above all the man is an incredibly shrewd and talented politician.

I don't know if I'm right. Like any scientist I formulated a hypothesis based on the evidence presented, though perhaps the human side of me was internally rooting for an outcome. But the other day while surfing the nets, I came across a just-released interview with then State Senator Obama from 2004. Granted, he still asserts himself a Christian (he was a politician in 2004 afterall), but the language was even more nebulous than in The Audacity of Hope. This passgage is a perfect illustration:

...I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others. I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it's best comes with a big dose of doubt.

Read the interview in its entirety here.

*A couple quick definitions for those of you less familiar with the language of doubters.

Atheist: Someone who does not believe in the existence of a God(s).
Agnostic: Someone who is undecided about the existence of God. They generally come in two flavors - (1) Those who think God's existence is unprovable and therefor do not feel a conclusion can ever be drawn or (2) Those who are simply unconvinced by any theological argument of which they are aware but reserve the right the be persuaded either way.
Freethinker: Someone with defined spiritual beliefs that do not fit within the framework of an existing organized religion.

Interesting tidbit: 93% of scientists can be classified into one of these three categories. On the continuum of doubt, I fall in between agnostic and freethinking.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Because I Haven't Blogged About Cats for Awhile

In the hubbub of moving, starting a new job, and electing an (awesome) new president, I realized it’s been awhile since I wrote about the kitties. They did great with the move and seem to be adjusting to the new apartment. They love love love the ungodly amount of windows we have. I think the verdict is still out about the hardwood floors, but Dean and I find great amusement watching them tear around corners kicking out their back legs like the road runner.

Our apartment is very old with a layout I still find unusual. I’m pretty sure it’s common for the style of house we live in, but we’re definitely still getting used to it. There are no hallways whatsoever. The living room and dining room are connected though separated by wood columns. From the dining room on the right side there is a door to the front bedroom. Straight ahead is the kitchen. If you go into the front bedroom, there is a door to the back bedroom. The back bedroom is connected on the other side to the kitchen. There are two additional small rooms (the pantry and the bathroom) both coming off our gi-normous kitchen. So if you’re picturing this correctly, you’ve realized that it is possible for one kitty to chase another kitty in a complete circle through the dining room, kitchen, both bedrooms, and back into the dining room. And any combination of kitties is doing this at any given time. It’s like an in-home race track.

As a side note, this unusual layout has presented some difficulties with home d├ęcor. Whereas we used to have book shelves lining almost every wall, so much wall space in this new place is just unavailable. I love all the windows almost as much as the kitties do, but that’s a lot of wall space where not much can go. Similarly, with both bedrooms having two doors, plus closet doors, there just isn’t a lot of room for bookshelves and dressers. This problem seems to be worst in the back bedroom since both open doors are along the same wall. Since this is our bedroom, there aren’t a lot of options. But we picked the back room because in the front bedroom the streetlight and the window are at a conspiratorial angle so that the first night we slept in the apartment (in the front bedroom) we were nearly blinded every time the streetlight came on. Plus with no hallways, we feel like the bedroom would be too exposed coming right off the dining room. Strange indeed.

Anyway, as multiple cat owners can guess, the instigator for the majority of the circular chasing is the baby. Well, McLovin isn’t as much of a baby as he was when we first got him in July, but technically he is still a kitten. A kitten who spent the first part of his life in more pain and discomfort than most kittens and is making up for it now. He is completely nuts. And the funniest thing about watching him chase the big kitties is the way he runs. He kind of hops like a rabbit - first jutting out his front leg and then pulling in his back two together.

The best part about a new pet is watching the type of personality they develop. I know that we humans tend to anthropomorphize our pets a little too much and that most cats don’t have any recollection of last week let alone their beginnings. But McLovin’s personality has emerged as a kitty who is truly grateful for where he is and seems aware that he could have just as easily met a horrific end on the streets. Despite being hyper and attacking anything that crosses his path, he can also be extremely docile and purrs immediately on contact with Dean or me. Putting out my hand to try to pet him, he always meets me halfway with his head. At mealtimes, he is the first in line, weaving through my legs purring loudly. He doesn’t turn his nose up at anything, as if remembering that everything I serve to my house cats is a giant step up from what I used to serve out by the dumpster. Except on soup days when I’d bring out bones or trimmings. He seemed to remember that too as he was the only one begging Sunday night when I trimmed the fat from the roast. He’s generally pretty quiet except for right before dinner when anticipation gets the best of him and he lets out a couple pathetic squeaks.

Anyway, since he was a little scary the last time you saw him, here is a recent picture of McLovin the Three-Legged Wonderkitty. He is sitting in the most coveted spot in the house – the kitchen window right above the radiator with the wood board across it. Oh, yeah.

For all the other cat lovers, I came across this great post about adopting tripod kitties. Get your hankies ready.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dear Evan,

Welcome to the world! I won't get to meet you for a little while, which makes me very sad. Your mom and I have been friends for over 10 years. We've been through a lot together, along with our other girlfriends, and maybe sometime I can tell you about the crazier stuff we've done. But that's still many years away. Frankly, I'm still a little shell shocked that one of us actually managed to procreate, but for now I'm still thankful it was your mommy and not me. Hopefully someday your auntie magnetbabe and uncle Deano will give you a cousin, but for now you'll have to make due with your very excited immediate family.

We've all been on pins and needles waiting for you, Evan. You were, um, a little past due. It's okay, I don't think poor punctuality right out of the gates will be a trait that sticks. You did, however, miss a very important event. Two days before you were born, everyone in the world was watching America to see if we could make history. And we did. So it turns out you weren't quite born yet when President Obama was elected. November 4th was an awesome day to be an American. We were all laughing and crying and amazed at what we were able to accomplish. But you chose to come into a world that was very different than it was two days ago. A better, more hopeful world that has already shown it can leave its own past behind and do what was once considered impossible. And it was because we care so much about who was yet to be born that we did it. Your grandma and grandpa (who already love you so much!) weren't born in America. Neither was your mommy. But you were, and from your very first day you can be truly proud. No matter what your world view turns out to be, you were born after Americans showed the world that collectively, our better angels win out over the dark demons of our past.

I'm so exited to see who you turn out to be. With your mom and dad and big brother and grandparents there to raise you, I'm certain you'll be a smart, funny, caring, wonderful person. Not to mention if you were lucky to get some of your daddy and grandpa's genes, you'll be easy on the eyes as well. And if you spend enough time with your new aunties, you'll be just wild enough to have fun yet stay irresistibly endearing.

auntie magnetbabe