Speaker Series: My adventure fostering kittens

Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

By Stentor Danielson

One of the things that have taught me the most about adventure is fostering kittens. When an animal shelter (such as Humane Animal Rescue here in Pittsburgh) takes in kittens or other young animals, they get in contact with a network of foster families around the area. Fostering allows the kittens to get close attention and learn to socialize with humans, something that would be hard to do at the shelter. Once a kitten weighs at least two pounds, it is big enough to get all of its shots and other medical care before being put up for adoption by its “forever home.” (Of course, sometimes a foster family can’t bear to give up a kitten and decides to adopt it — we call those “foster fails.” My own Monks is a foster fail from a litter we fostered several years ago.)

When kittens come to a foster home, they may be just a few weeks old, and incredibly tiny. Sometimes they still need to be hand-fed with a bottle because they’re not weaned yet but mama cat is out of the picture. They start to learn to walk, bumbling around on their tiny legs. In Austria, these little kittens are called ” Autodromkatzerl” meaning “bumper car kittens” because their tails stick straight up like the pole on the back of a bumper car, and they bump into things — furniture, their siblings, people — when they run. It takes a while for them to learn to use their claws as well. They may climb up things and not be able to get down.

For a tiny kitten, everything in their world is an adventure. What’s on top of the bed? A mysterious land that has never been visited before! What’s under the couch? Untold mysteries to explore! Is this new thing food? Only one way to find out! Our foster kittens stay in a room on the upper floor of our house, and it is always a major milestone when they first manage to come down the stairs on their own. And sometimes, kittens can find adventures that we didn’t expect. We were confused as to why leaves kept appearing in the kitten room, until we discovered that one of our foster kittens had managed to pry out the corner of the screen window, get out onto the roof, and bring some leaves back into the house.

Seeing the adventures in the world from a kitten’s point of view is what inspired me and my co-foster-parent Cheyenne Grimes to write Laser Kittens, a tabletop roleplaying game about foster kittens learning to grow up to be awesome cats. Right now we’re running a Kickstarter for a set of beautiful Kitten Cards illustrated by Dominique Ramsey, and a book of new scenarios and adventures for your kittens — from a farm to a spaceship to a movie set. When you back the Kickstarter you can also get the rules for the original Laser Kittens game as well. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1321036815/more-kittens


My adventure exploring the ‘Big Bounce’ theory

big bounce
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash
By: Brandon Tucker – Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh Marketing Coordinator

Full disclosure: I am not an astrophysicist, which is probably why I’m just discovering a decades-old theory in 2019. The theme for the next Assembly is, ‘Adventure’ so I figured I’d go on an adventure through the ‘Big Bounce’ theory. Like most people, I was mainly familiar with the Big Bang before I started my journey.

What exactly is the Big Bounce? Simply put, the Big Bounce is the theory the beginning of our university is the result of another universe before us “contracting”, and then “bouncing” into expansion. Based on the Big Bounce, the universe goes through constant phases of expansion and contraction.

A significant difference between the Big Bounce and the Big Bang is there is no singularity in the Big Bounce theory.  Singularity is a point in space that is infinitely hot, infinitely dense, and has no mass.  The Big Bang theory states the universe expanded rapidly from a point of singularity.

The Big Bounce is based on the theory our universe was so small in the beginning, the laws of physics were based on quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics that describes the motion and interactions of subatomic particles (photons, atoms etc.). Based on quantum mechanics, it would be impossible for the universe to condense into a point of singularity (the Big Bang). However, the point would still be very hot and dense. This theory leads to the conclusion there had to be a universe before ours that compressed into the extremely dense point, and then expanded to create our universe (the Big Bounce).

The Big Bang and the Big Bounce theories both explain the expansion of the universe. However, based on the Big Bounce the universe is in an expansion period and is constantly cooling (losing energy). When the universe runs out of energy (heat), it will contract again until it reaches a point where it has enough energy to expand, starting the process over and creating another universe.

There is still much evidence that needs to be gathered to the support the Big Bounce theory. However, I once heard the purpose of knowledge is to discover more questions.

The Next Assembly is Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 10 AM – 11:30 AM at
Community Forge, 1256 Franklin Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15221

For more info visit: sapgh.org/events

‘Secular community’ looks to give the gift of community in 2019

Yule Rock 2018

The year 2018 is behind us and Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh is looking to expand its community to anyone seeking one. After breaking our attendance record in December, we are looking to carry that momentum into the new year.

I attended my first Assembly in 2014. At the time I was a lonely new agnostic that once had a sense of community through the church. I wasn’t sure how many people shared my views. I found Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh by searching, ‘atheist community’, and it happened to be around the time they were preparing for their first Assembly. When I attended my first Assembly I felt an instant sense of community and belonging. I have since become the Outreach Coordinator with the goal of giving as many people that same feeling as possible.

We are looking forward to the new year, and hope to expand the number of charitable acts in the community by growing our numbers. Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh also has new board members with fresh ideas who will help improve the organization. It’s going to be an amazing year!

The next Assembly is Sunday, January 20, 2018, at 10 AM – 11:30 AM at Community Forge, located at 1256 Franklin Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15221.


Sunday Assembly breaks attendance record with ‘Secular festive singalong’


It was a morning of holiday cheer. Many people came dressed in their holiday sweaters and hats. The Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh community gathered for Yule Rock and filled Community Forge with a record 87 people.

Assemblers rocked out to songs like ‘Santa Clause is Coming to Town’ and ‘Let it Snow’. A highlight of the Assembly was attendees forming a conga line to ‘Run Rudolph Run’. Just about every face had a smile from ear-to-ear as adults and kids alike sang songs to embrace the joy and happiness of the season.

After Yule Rock, the community came together for a potluck. Assemblers brought a variety of dishes and enjoyed each others company.

Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh is looking to take the momentum of Yule Rock into 2019 to help grow its community. There were many new faces in December, but we want to reach out to every person who is looking for what we have to offer.

The next Assembly will be at Community Forge, located at 1256 Franklin Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15221 on  January 20, 2019th at 10:00AM. See you there!


Reclaiming the holidays on my terms


Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

I am anti-traditionalism.  When someone comments that “We do this because it’s tradition”, my gut reaction is to ask “Why?”

But I feel rather conflicted in giving up our particular family traditions.

In Polish culture, Christmas Eve takes precedence over Christmas Day because Jesus was born at night.  The feast that occurs is pescatarian:  We are not supposed to eat meat on the 24th but fish is fine.  There are also traditionally twelve courses (after the 12 faithful apostles, obviously), with opwatek in the beginning (basically a church wafer that you break with your family).

Several of these traditions are rooted in Catholicism, so when you take out the religion, the whole thing just falls apart.  But there are underlying ideas behind all these actions, and whether you are Christian, Atheist, Pagan, or just human, you need to feed your soul.  In his book Religion for Atheists, Alain De Botton says “Differ though we might with Christianity’s view of what precisely our souls need, it is hard to discredit the provocative underlying thesis, which seems no less relevant in the secular realm than in the religious one–that we have within us a precious, childlike, vulnerable core which we should nourish and nurture on its turbulent journey through life.” (By the way, this is a great book that explores how we can deepen our secular lives through the concepts in religion).

So maybe we don’t need twelve courses.  The number doesn’t need to be specific, but it’s nice to have a big feast and you can definitely just celebrate family and friends.  We definitely don’t need to break church wafers, but maybe we can make our own sharing ritual, like baking cookies together and offering our creation with a wish of luck.  Maybe we were onto something when one of the most sacred nights of the year should be free of animal slaughter (well, except the fish), plus pretty much every other holiday involves some meat centerpiece.  Maybe doing a vegetarian (or vegan) celebration is appropriate for the theme of compassion.

In a way, these thoughts are still irrelevant in this point in my life because I will be spending the holiday with my partner’s family, and they have veal for Christmas Eve dinner (while Italian, they don’t like the seven fishes and I’m honestly a bit bummed about it).  But these things have been a part of my life, something unique that I’m not sure I want to part with, and I’d like to reclaim it on my terms.

Dominika Oliver, Fundraising Chairperson & Board Member

‘The Ultimate Secular Festive Singalong’ for the nonreligious of Pittsburgh


The holiday season has a variety of meanings to people. For many religions, it’s the time of the year to observe different aspects of what they believe in. At this time, for many, the air is full of joy and happiness. It is indisputable the holiday season is dominated by religious observances. However, should people not have the joy of the season because they don’t have religion? Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh says, no.

This holiday season there will be something called Yule Rock.  The word ‘Yule’ originated as a festival observed by early Germanic peoples and the concept has been adopted by many religions and has influenced modern-day Christmas.  Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh describes its version of Yule Rock as ‘the ultimate secular festive singalong’. This will be an opportunity to bring people together and share a morning of happiness, joy and cheer together. The event will consist of popular festive songs to sing along to, an indoor snowball fight, food, festive costumes and more.

Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh has been around since 2014 and has been fostering community amongst the nonreligious. We gather every third Sunday of the month to sing, dance, learn and build relationships within our community. I have been involved in some way with the nonprofit since its beginnings and it has been invaluable to my life.

Join Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh for a morning of memories and togetherness through song. We open our arms to the religious and nonreligious alike – it’s for anyone who needs a place to be. You don’t want to miss this epic morning.

Yule Rock: The Ultimate Secular Festive Singalong

When: Sunday, December 16, 2018 at 10 AM – 11:30 AM

Where: Community Forge
1256 Franklin Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15221