Hi lovely blog readers! I know it has been awhile since I've posted, but exciting things have been going on behind the scenes. I'll be posting some updates soon - but not before this blog goes through an overhaul over the next week. Soon, you'll see a new and improved Ramblings, as I get ready to begin hosting ads for Blogher! I'm very excited, and want to make sure things are perfect.

Here's me with Chip! I got to hang out with him on Friday night here in Oakland. Great times!

Me -n- Chip



Atheism Doesn't Mean Anarchy

What do you do, when you're faced with someone who you don't know, and will likely never see again, who attacks your way of living and forces you to engage in apologetics? While fixing your kitchen sink?

I'm never one to miss a political debate. Hell, I'll usually even throw my two sense in on religion. I've never believed that it's important to keep politics and religion out of the public forum (why, on earth would you do that!). After today, however, I've been silenced.

The plumber hired to fix our kitchen sink decided after a bit of listening to my landlord and I's conversation about the state's budget and Proposition 8 to throw in his two cents about constitutional freedoms, our lying government, the misinformed public and - - wait for it -- choice.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love arguing over these things. Love it. I love it so much, in fact, that my first career goal back in high school was to be a political lawyer. I enjoy hearing other points of view on subjects that I feel strongly about, in order to evolve my opinion. I can be stubborn, but I really, really try to be open minded and allow others to enjoy their freedoms.

What I don't like? Listening to someone who has absolutely no room for another opinion. A guy who has argued, obviously, with so many people before me that he knows exactly what to say and how loud to say it. This person who created an anxious room rather than an open forum.

There's tons of political banter I do not engage in. Economics, for one - is not something I know anything about. Do I want my taxes used efficiently and for things I agree with? Yes. Do I know how to make that happen? Hell no. Does that mean I don't care? Of course not! I just simply cannot comment on things that I don't feel confident in discussing.

However, if you come in to my space to attack social, constitutional and ethical issues with a blind eye and your fists balled - I'll usually take that battle. I'll do it 'till I'm blue in the face.

Today, however, this guy caught me off guard with something I've heard others relay but never been faced with myself. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who is Atheist has no gauge for good and bad; no way to know how to treat others how they'd like to be treated. He said that because Jesus had taught to love others and turn the other cheek, an Atheist couldn't possibly subscribe to that ideology without believing. And when he said it, I dropped. I had nothing. I realized that he'd opened a whole new door for me - one I hadn't entered myself, where extremism has no ability to see the other side.

So I stopped. It was hard, but I stopped. And I thought, for the rest of the day. Why would someone believe that an Atheist doesn't believe in good and bad? Doesn't understand humanity? This guy kept going, after I stopped, once he knew that my landlord and I were both Atheists. He wasn't mean, but simply stuck. An Atheist would have no reason to try and make a marriage work before divorce. An Atheist would have no problem having an abortion or allowing one. An Atheist wouldn't see the problem with Gay marriage and the degradation of the American family.

Punch, kick, slap. Extremist 1, Nissa, 0.

In hindsight, I'm glad I shut up. This guy wasn't going to listen, even if I had something to say. Yet for the remainder of the day, I've been deep in thought over this, my first contact with an extremist. How do I react to this?

And now I understand what it is like.

Atheist doesn't mean anarchy. We believe in humanity, because we're neighbors, common citizens of this planet. We believe in the equal treatment of all - to treat others as we want to be treated.

Are those the teachings of Jesus? Yes. And if I knew you better, I'd explain that Jesus was a great man, who taught great things. However, those things were being taught long before Jesus, in civilizations that the original Christians destroyed.

We also believe that our hands move because we make them; our minds create because we learn, work, and imagine. We believe life should be lived here, on earth, to its fullest - with love and peace. Like Christianity, there are extremists - who want to deny the beliefs of others until they are unable to practice their faith - but like Christianity, those are the minority.

Undoubtedly, I'll meet "this person" again, some day in the future. Will I be better prepared to handle the discussion? Or, will this issue be something that, after this, I lay to rest? I can't - and don't want to - change the mind of even the most extreme on the other side. It makes me horribly sad to think that people would have those ideas of Atheists -but I can't explain it to them in a way they'll understand. Is that why I talk about it? I'm actually not sure. Was I trying to convince others that I was right? Or was I trying to convince myself?

Someone once said to me, "if I have to explain it, you won't understand." Right, right, not for everything.

But? Yes.



Top Ten

Ya'll know I'm a giant The Office fan, and well, I'm also a huge geek for the fan site Office Tally.
I love reading Office spoilers and getting the scoop on what's happening in Office world. Give me a break. It's the only TV show I get all kinds of crazy over.

Anyway, over at Office Tally, they've posted Greg Daniel's list of his Top Ten Favorite Office Episodes. I decided to follow suit with my list as shown below.

Nissa's Top Ten Favorite Episodes of The Office

1o. Broke
9. Take your Daughter to Work Day
8. Business School
7. The Injury
6. Dinner Party
5. The Job
4. Booze Cruise
3. Casino Night
2. The Dundees
1. Traveling Salesmen/The Return

(Wanna play? Add yours in the comments!)




Tonight, our plane was involved in a traffic jam of other planes trying to land in San Francisco. Since we weren't cleared to land, our pilot did some time-wasting in the fashion of circles around the Bay Area as we waited to decent.

I was in the window seat, and I watched us turn from the upper East Bay toward the ocean. From above, the moment where the ocean stopped and the peninsula began was drawn by a line of clouds so fluffy they appeared as thick, gray cotton. I imagined myself jumping in to them, sinking in deep and holding fistfuls in my hands. As we rounded the city, we came in over the ocean, and at a certain point we were just above the middle of the peninsula where if you stare and imagine, you can see the thumb of California reaching around the Bay, and draw out the rest of the state slowly stretching from either side. Below, the interstates look like long lines of light. You can't make out exactly what each light is, but if you know this place, you know where you are.

Home is such a conditional word. When I leave California, I say I'm going home. When I leave Wisconsin, I say I'm going home. This apartment is my home - where I live, with my husband, our rats, our things - but, really, I have no idea where home is. Some people go home, to their parent's house, where their rooms are still their rooms, and their things from school still adorn walls and line closets. Some people go home to their husbands/wives/children, or their roomates, and sometimes, any of those people feel like their home.

When I was in high school, I didn't live with my Mom or Dad. I lived in between. I moved out of my Mom's house, where I'd lived forever, when I was 15 because of an abusive situation that I needed to be away from. My Dad lived 10 minutes away, in Elroy, where I always had a room. I had a 1992 Ford Escort, in teal, that held most of my important stuff, and from there, I conducted my life. I stayed at one parent's or the other, or with friends. My car was mine, and it was home. It wasn't that I didn't feel comfortable with my Dad, but his life wasn't built with a kid around all the time, especially a teenager. I always felt as though I was staying with them - biding time.

I used to think, man, it would be great to have a home. Where I felt comfortable to be, where I wanted to return to, and where I had all of my stuff organized and optimized for life. Right now, after being in Wisconsin for a week, I wonder if I'll ever know what home means, or be able to define it for myself.

When we moved to this apartment, I spent a lot of time and money making it ours. We painted, bought new (used) furniture and covered the walls and shelves in our little things. This is something I'd never done before. I wanted to feel like it was mine, like I built it. But sometimes, it feels like another place I'm just waiting in. Waiting for a home that will be mine.

On our first day in Minnesota, we traveled a few miles down the road from Dave's parents to a graduation party at his aunt's house. It was beautiful most of the day, but as we were about to leave, a thunderstorm blew in. I sat on the steps of their house, feeling the goosebumps rise on my skin as the cold front met us. I closed my eyes and remembered the smell of rain in the distance. And on the way home, there was this.

That, above, does not happen here in California, here in the Bay Area.

In Wisconsin, there are no mountains, and you can watch the storms roll in. The green tree groves that shine in glittering bold colors in the sunshine deepen and brood in under gray blue skies. Native Californians and even some transplants tell me, "I hate when it rains. I love the constant 70 degree days". But, I don't. When I'm here, and not there, I pine for the tension between the blue and red on the weather map. The suspense of weather. The stories told in fields of flat tree, tree, nothing.

Time stands still when we spend more than a weekend back home. This apartment in California sits vacant, collecting mail, paid for on its little slab of cement with no trees. My job, my education, my desires - all live here, in a swirling mass of responsibility that like anyone else, I love one day and regret the next. There, I am consumed by tree, tree, nothing. The comfort of a midwestern accent. The familiar smell of my Mom's living room. I am surrounded by family, both of blood and of marriage, who know me and respect me for the person I am. I am reunited with friends, most of which I have known since childhood, who could point me out in the darkness by the sound of my footsteps. I laugh, I remember, and I breathe deeply without worrying about what kind of facade I have to wear. I feel love.

Here, I rush, work and bleed all over the things to which I aspire; but love is lost between skyscrapers and murky bay water. I should feel lucky - my best friend and another very close friend are here, transplanted, and make my life better in so many ways. But in return, I have met tons of people, girls, boys, old, young, who see me as just another tadpole in the sea. We don't connect on true things - deep things, that come naturally to those who know me. I'm always holding my breath. Maybe everyone else is, too.

I love getting a phone call or an email just to say hello. Or maybe, "how are you?". But here, in a metro of over three million people, all I've mostly found people who just don't click with this Aries.

The days following a visit to Wisconsin are lonely, by default. I say goodbye, and my younger brothers go to first grade. My Dad turns 50. My sister becomes a woman.

As I watched the scenery unfold below me from the plane tonight, I thought about home. My affection for the splendor I was watching, the things waiting for me down there, but my sadness for the things I'd left behind. I thought about all the changes on the horizon for so many people I love. I know its likely that I wasn't the only person on that Northwest flight over San Francisco doing the same thing. I thought about the life I've chosen - and am just defining - and what inevitably I have to pay.

I thought about long nights at Country Kitchen and the dreams that were more than dreams. And, I tried to imagine what home should be - what I want it to be. Behind closed eyes, I saw me, my suitcase and my camera underneath a thunderstorm. And David, even though sometimes not physically.



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