Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ten Thankfuls

1. My little family. It's just Ammon, Geneva, and I. I know what you're thinking: I've become one of those people that believes their dog is their child. And you're right, I do feel that way. She has a Christmas stocking - you wanna fight about it. As for Ammon, you need only to read last week's post to see how well he treats me and how much I appreciate him in my life.

2. My original family. I have nine of the most uniquely weird and wonderful siblings I know.
  • We have Jean, the artsy troubled one. She could make art out of human feces and it's possible that actual scenario has actually played out at some point.
  • There's Sandy, the sweet one. If there is a heaven, Sandy will be there, probably in charge of us that were lesser mortals. She would give you the shirt off her back and then apologize for wearing perfume.
  • Next we have Jason, the funny one. Jason has the ability to light up the darkest of situations, including funerals (he pretended to be a traffic director at a family funeral - it lightened the mood without offending anyone).
  • Jake; the stalwart family man. He dedicates every moment of his life to his family and works harder than anyone I know.
  • Desiree, the example. Desi isn't perfect, but she tries so hard every day that it's sometimes annoying. Quit trying, it makes the rest of us look stupid.
  • Anna Jo; the peacemaker. She tries so hard to keep things positive among everyone, she brings up negative no one thought about just so we can fix it.
  • Next we have Dani, disagreement personified. Danielle is extremely opinionated and no matter what the topic or the voicer, she will disagree if she feels it necessary. It could be Jesus saying the end is near, and Dani would point out some evidence that we are no where near Armageddon. Every conversation with Dani is interesting.
  • Then there's me. You've read enough of my blogs by this point that explaining myself further would just be boring.
  • Soleil; the social butterfly. She has never been afraid of any social situation which at times made me jealous. Theatre? Sure, why not. Approaching some hot guy for a makeout? Been there, done that. She approaches everything as an exciting challenge and people love to be around her for it.
  • Sierra is the best of us. She takes our positive personality traits and amplifies them, leaving all the bad parts behind. She is social like Soleil, smart, unafraid of disagreement like Dani, peacemaking like Anna, has Desi's drive for perfection, Jake's hardworking attitude, humor to rival Jason's, loving like Sandy, and creative like Jean. The best part? She refuses to see any of this. She's humble to a fault.
  • My parents. They have been married for almost 40 years and, although even they admit they should have been divorced at times, they stuck it out. They can be crazier than a shithouse rat (a phrase I heard my dad say often) but they support each other in their crazy and we should all be so lucky.
3. My extended family. I spent Thanksgiving with some of my in-laws, missing the other in-laws that couldn't be there. Through Ammon, I've gained six other siblings and another gaggle of nieces and one nephew. I wonder how common it is to be so welcomed into a family, and because Ammon received the exact opposite from most of my family, I have to assume it's rare and I'm thankful for it.

4. Friends. I have many great friends and some great acquaintances. I've said a lot about family but as an adult living life without children (yet), friends are family. They are there when I need them and I hope they can say the same of me. Friends all have their own lives but I'm glad that, when we find the time, we get to share part of it. Certainly in no particular order, here are just some of the people I have that I share part of my current life with:
  • Dani and Andy: Dani is much with child and that kid is going to have an amazing life with them as parents.
  • Tabby, Leah & Josh, Jamie, Adrianna, and Matt. You make life in Bangor interesting and I feel cooler for being around you. Thanks for being so hip and funky fresh. Now come over and let's drink some wine.
  • Cami, Kikki, Sarah D. and Bethany. I don't get to see you because you are Utards, but I think of you every day and wish you were in the previous bullet point along with the other Bangorians.
  • Grad school friends. Sarah S., Lindsay, Zay, Ashley, Mandy. I love you all and you remain one of the only things I miss about grad school. You, and Christmas vacastions. One deserves honorable mention. Hollie is one of the only friends I have that knew me from my previous life, and seemlessly adjusted to the fact I'm gay. I'll always love her for that and I'm grateful she came to Maine.
  • The others. I know this sounds rude, to group every other friend into an "other" category. But there are so many to name here from Utah, Germany, Indiana, Maine and elsewhere. I love knowing you all are there and I wish you all lived closer but I'm grateful we got the time together that we did.
5. Peanut butter. It's effing delicious and if I wouldn't die from the attempt, I would have it pumped into my viens with an IV. I have two giant Sam's Club tubs of it in my cupboard.

6. Books on CD. Without them, my daily commute would lead me to make art with human feces. I just finished one (Tiger Tiger) that I highly recommend if you are in the mood for an extremely disturbing memoir. I wasn't, I had just picked it out of the library because it was new. It was hard to listen to, but taught me that we make it out of trials that seem irreparable.

7. The home. Within three weeks we will have finished the hallway and that week's blog entry will just be a video showing off all the work. I've become such a weirdo about how much I love the place, that I'll randomly go and check on all my plants, make sure none of the new paint is chipped, and plan out the next projects. I'm already tweaking out thinking about our gardens come spring time.

8. My job. Every single day is different and, as the nervous nerd I am, it suites me perfectly. I work with funny, competant people. I'm grateful that in this economy, I found a job that uses my talents and pays well enough that I can have my home.

9. The occupation. I agree with many that the Occupy (Anywhere) movement often appears disorganized and ineffective. I dislike the general protesting - if you are against everything, eventually people just stop taking you seriously. Pick one thing at a time, educate your masses on what that actually means and why they should want it. However, I love that it is making people think. I personally think they should demand taxing the rich and corporations first. It's offensive what these groups get away with and raising their taxes is a specific, reachable goal. I'm grateful that these protests are forcing people to take notice of the widening wealth gap, the obscene use of money by a few, and the lack of jobs these problems help influence.

10. Trials. It's no secret, I have bad days occasionally. Sometimes I apologize for them, but many times I feel no need to apologize. Life sucks sometimes, and refusing to admit that doesn't make someone an optimist, it makes them a fool. I have had moments where I wondered why I keep on going, and it is those moments that really make me appreciate what I have. This list would not be possible without all the shit involved with it. So, I'm grateful for the crap because without it, life would be like eating tapioca pudding for the rest of my life. Sure, I would know what to expect all the time, but I'd never really be wowed by the occasional prime rib that could have come my way.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fate's Dead Kitten

This song is playing in the background as I write this. Hopefully it's playing in the background as you read it and that you love it as much as I do. I love the whole album. Go out and get it, mmmmkay.

This week was one for the books. It started as one of the most bizarrely bad weeks I've had in months and ended unexpectedly happy. First, let's delve into the crap. Monday: I find out some bad news at work and what's worse is that part of it was my fault. Tuesday: I start teaching and for some reason am strangely nervous. I struggled through the entire 8-hour class and by the end of it I was exhausted. I had never been this nervous teaching at the University. Wednesday: as I'm driving down to work I think to myself, "self, it was just a bad couple of days and you can finish out the week strong." At this moment, fate (a demon bitch) crossed the paths of my car and a kitty. When I realized I ran over a kitten, I looked for the nearest house and knocked on the door, crying. The gentleman informed me that there were about a hundred ferral cats in the area, and that it was not anyone's pet. Relieved that I had at least not killed a seven-year-old girls cherished pet, I got in my car and laughed hysterically for about 30 minutes. I think sometimes fate reminds us to keep a sense of humor. Things can always get worse and the moment you think otherwise fate throws you a dead kitten and all you can do is laugh because there's nothing else to do. The rest of my week went up from there.

We had our first poker night and it was intense. I was expecting between 8-10 and instead 20 people showed up. I met a lot of really nice people and one complete ass hat; again fate reminding me to keep a sense of humor. I met a British man named Ben (not the ass hat) and we had some interesting conversation (we discussed the British equivalent of Ebonics and I have decided to call this dialect "wanker"). Ashley spent the night in the guest bedroom and we got to enjoy a long overdue Saturday morning breakfast routine. Every day I remember how lucky I am to be in the place I am. I love my home, the people who visit, and the one I share it with. Speaking of which, Ammon and I both had two HUGE projects this weekend.

I had Friday off due to Veteran's Day so we decided to build the bench in the hallway. We started the hallway about a month ago (pictures to follow in next week's blog about the finished product) and as part of that we needed to cover the ugly radiator. One of the many awesome things I learned living in the last house is that you can build something to cover them up. This actually utilizes the space that would otherwise be wasted. So, I dove headfirst into the first woodworking project of my life. I thought, it can't the THAT hard to build something like that. Just think about it mathematically and you should be able to figure it out. Mathematics are great but they do not operate a drill and they certainly don't touch a table saw. It turns out woodworking is much more difficult than I thought. But, we worked together and came up with this finished product.

I effing love this bench. Were it legal, I would marry it. Ammon would not object because he loves it equally so. We left big open holes that we covered with grating so the heat can still escape the radiator. We did the top a dark stained wood so it would match the banister. You should also note that the pattern on the front mimics the stained glass window in the hallway which you will see next week. All in all, it looks great and really makes the room stand out.

Finally, to wrap up this week, Ammon and I took the day and decorated for Christmas. Don't judge me, it's my first one and I am going to celebrate this holiday season so hard there will only be a nub left come New Year's Day. I convinced Ammon to get a fake tree (not a big fan of real trees - again, don't rain on my Holiday Spirit Parade) and we bought all the decorations we wanted. This year we decided to just purchase the bare essentials; a tree, stockings, and one wreath. Start with the fundamentals and future Christmases will get a little more of the fluff.

We set it up out on our covered porch, in front of the giant living room window. That way we can see it from the living room but don't have to rearrange furniture and we can see it from outside all the time too. All our neighbors watched the whole time (and I'm sure thought: those bastards are putting up Christmas WAY too early). Geneva watched outside, guarding us the whole time, confused as hell to what we were doing out on the porch anyway. We left the lights to the tree on all evening and Hollie came over to say hi.

We all just laughed and talked about the significance of these moments. Fate had given me an awful week just to top it off with one of life's exciting firsts: the first family Christmas. Yes, I had a rough work week and ran over a homeless kitty, but I hung my husband's stocking for the first time next to mine in a house that's ours, in a city we both love, at a time in our lives that is filled with firsts. I'm loving it and I need to remember that the next time life throws a proverbial (or literal) dead kitty my way. Oh and Fate, sorry for calling you a demon bitch earlier. I know you're just doing your job.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Idiot's Guide to the Arbitrary Levels of Sin

"People take different roads to fulfillment and happiness, just because they are not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost."

A friend from high school, Lacy, posted this as a comment on one of my previous blog entries. I thought it would be appropriate to start this week's entry with it.

Last night I got in an argument for an hour and a half with my mom. I usually call my mom once a week to see how she is doing, tell her about my life, and get any updates on my siblings or their children. These conversations usually last a while as my family is big enough to justify a reality TV show. You know those conversations you have where you make it to the end and think: "how in the flying hell did we get on that topic?" This was most certainly one of those conversations. I called to chit chat and ended in a philosophical debate about my life. In talking with my mom about how I'm not going to heaven because I'm gay, I started to really analyze the concept of sin.

My mother (and I think we all know she is not alone in this) believes in a hierarchy of sin. Most of us do this. Even if you don't believe in sin, everyone has a belief that some things are worse than others. Robbing a convenience store at gunpoint is worse than stealing a pack of gum from the newwstand. This is, in part, a self-comforting tactic we develop: "at least I'm not as bad as that guy."

The problem with sin though is that it is not criminal activities being scaled. Robbing a store at gunpoint is worse than stealing a pack of gum because the gun could potentially kill people and the gum lost $.75 in revenue for that newsstand owner. Sin scaling often involves choices that do not affect other people, least of all those trying to mark our actions on the evil scale. These markings are completely arbitrary in my mind and stem from the need to comfort ourselves in our own actions. "Yeah well, I may drink coffee but you drink alcohol which is worse." Arguments can be made for alcohol being worse than coffee on many grounds (health, mental state, etc.), but if someone has a glass of red wine a day and someone has a cup of coffee a day, there is no real reason for one to be further down the evil scale than the other. We just want to feel better about the coffee, so we demonize something else to redeem our vice by negative comparison.

In speaking with my mother and others, as best as I can surmise, here is the scale of evil (starting at the top with innocent white lies and getting progressively worse):
1. White lies
2. Serious lies
3. Substance abuse
4. Theft
5. Premarital sex
6. Adultery
7. Rape
8. Murder
9. Molestation
10. Gayness/Serial murder (the two can often be used interchangeably, just in case you were wondering).
**I am starting to hear, "well I mean I'm not saying you're a child molester." So 9 and 10 can swap.

Now the reason I call this scaling of sin arbitrary is because, to me anyway, some of these make no sense. Why is it that being in a consensual gay relationship is more evil than harming a child? It could be that I'm so far down the evil scale my brain has ceased functioning, but I doubt it. Another reason for calling sin scaling arbitrary is that all of these can be altered to suite the comfort of the scaler. Being gay is the worst thing possible (obviously since in my mother's mind it is compared with serial murder) but being gay is not the worst thing as long as I keep it hidden, marry a woman, have children, and do my little thing in secret on the side.This moves gay up to the same level as adultery (whew, that was a close one. At least now I'm above a serial killer and a child molester). By lying and cheating on a wife and raising children in a loveless home, I would have successfully jumped three full redemption points.

This brings me back to my opening quote. "People take different roads to fulfillment and happiness, just because they are not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost." I'm not saying sin does not exist and that there are not spiritual consequences to some of our actions. I DO believe that having an absolute good to aspire to (Jesus, Buddha, etc.) and an absolute evil to avoid (Hitler, Satan, etc.) can help people move forward in their pursuit of perfection. A moral compass is good. Just, please people, stop using your own arbitrary compass to tell others they are off the map. Jesus Christ taught to first look at ourselves before we place another on our own evil/good scale. Before nailing down someone else on our own number line of sin, maybe we should look at our own placement. Better yet, maybe we should ask what purpose placing them on our scale serves. In the end, most of us are somewhere in the middle and arguing otherwise and that your particular number line is the most accurate does no one any good.

So, in closing, I guess I have this to say. Mom, I know you want the best for me. I know as a mother it must be hard to watch your children deviate from what made you happy. I am happy though. It may not be the way you found happiness, but it is happiness. You need to know that I am not going to change things just to help you feel that I'm increasing in value on your arbitrary scale. I'm glad where you are at on yours, please leave me alone on mine and let's just talk about something else the next time I call, mmmmmmkay.