Posted in Being human, cats, joy, Uncategorized

Friendship and Love and Resonance and CATS! A closer look at that picture.

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Anne, Mel, and Igor, all with the same expression somehow a bit and looking kinda cattish.

It’s good to see friends.

I remember what’s underneath the visit.

I remember pain and stuff.

I remember emergency speech.

I remember what’s underneath though.

And that’s what matters.

Underneath there’s me and Anne and everyone.

I love Anne.

I love Cal.

I love Joelle.

I love Ruti.

I love Laura.

I love lots of people I haven’t named.

I rarely get to talk to my friends. Even online. We rarely keep in touch. We all have huge trouble doing that. It’s the worst part of inertia.

I hate the myth that we don’t or shouldn’t need friends. It’s fine not to. But it’s totally okay to want and need people in your life and most people do, even most loners.

I hate the community norms in some places where it becomes almost a macho one-upmanship thing to show how unsocial you are. Like… I once described it as “A whole bunch of people socializing by competing about how much they claim to not need to socialize.”

It’s okay to want to socialize.

It’s okay to socialize.

Never let a label determine what you think you should want.

Not even a label you like or that is useful to you. If it starts ruling you instead of you using it something’s wrong.

Someone once told me “You’re allowed to want people in your life, you’re just not allowed to need them.”

I knew where she got that. And it was not from someone who said “allowed”. It was from someone describing their own experience only. But somehow other people turned it into “allowed”. And that’s bad.

Anyway.

It’s okay to want people in your life.

It’s okay to need people in your life.

Both of these things are equally okay.

It’s okay to like people.

It’s okay to love people.

It’s okay to socialize however you want to as long as everyone involved is really okay with it.

There’s a terrible kind of isolation very few people admit exists.

In systems like the developmental disability system sometimes all the people you ever see are staff.

For those unaware staff doesn’t mean what it seems to mean to most people. For DD people having staff means having people with lots of power over you, it’s the people who are supposed to be taking care of you. But they may or may not be. And whether they’re amazing or terrible and helping or hurting or whatever — they have power over you that you don’t have over them. Nobody can wish that away or make it go away just by wanting it to or trying. The power is built in to the job.

And sometimes every single person I interact with for months is staff.

I actually usually like staff.

But.

They’re not the same as friends.

Not the same as strangers either. It’s a personal relationship and pretending it’s not doesn’t work any more than pretending it’s a friendship works.

But it encloses you in the agency.

It wraps around you.

If all you see is staff.

All you see reflected back at you has an agency distortion.

Even if every single person individually sees you as a person.

This still happens.

It’s just not the same as having friends.

And.

I started having friends again.

Ruti. Joelle. Cal. Anne.Paragraph

And.

I was a person again.

And.

I realized I wasn’t anywhere near a horrible a person as I thought I was.

Lots of other things too.

I realized my love meant something to other people and that other people loved me.

Both of those things are important.

So many things about myself and my friends and friendship and being human.

And I started to feel human.

A little bit.

I felt like I’d woken up from a weird sleep.

It’s how I feel around people who just want to be around me and I want to be around them.

That’s why Anne and Igor and everyone are so important. Even when we don’t see each other online or off for years. We want to but we can’t always and sometimes it hurts. But knowing each other at all counts for something. And I wish we could all communicate with as many others as we want to as much as we want to in the ways we want to. Because I’ve missed years of contact and I’m sure the others can say the same or more.

This picture isn’t just about pain, it’s why I wanted to post it again.

It’s about love.

It’s about being human.

I have a different kind of relationship with each of my friends.

With Anne it’s partly built on so much of our lives and brains working the same way.

If you ever read the book Loud Hands I have an untitled chapter. It’s about Anne. I can’t do us justice here but that’s the closest I’ve come to doing our friendship justice anywhere.

Anyway we read each other underneath everything. The words almost don’t matter. We exist and resonate.

And for that friendship that’s how it works.

So the picture is about resonating and friendship and love and humanity and all kinds of wonderful things.

And CATS.

Those are all in there too just as much as pain is.

I want to post that picture to celebrate knowing Anne and friendship and love in general and the amazing luck of finding those things at all, for a lot of us who never expected it or even really knew what a friend was. And the importance of all this when you have it.

And so many more things I can’t name.

There’s a lot in this picture that’s really beautiful about friendship if you know what you’re looking at.

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Anne and Mel and Igor in Mel’s apartment.

The pain isn’t separate from it either. It’s not some extra thing. If it’s part of my body right then it’s part of the picture too. But so is the love and the resonance and the catness and all the other things. They’re all wrapped in together because that’s how life works. It’s all there underneath if you know how to look for it.

I love all my friends whether I named you or not and you’re all important to me and I care about you and wish we could interact more in whatever way worked best for us.

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Posted in Being human, cats, language

Eighties computer memories: PAWS

People often ask me how I learned to type so fast.  I don’t think they’re prepared for how normal my answer is (nor do I  think they’re always intending to ask me the same question I think they’re asking when they say it).  Because I tell them, and then I later hear it getting repeated in forms so garbled I can’t figure out how they came up with it.

It really goes like this:

I was in mainstream school for grade school (went to a public school up to fourth grade, private school repeating fourth grade then after).

I learned to touch-type the exact same way every other kid in my class at my second school learned to touch-type.  I just happened to do it more often and more persistently than most, for lots of reasons.  We had little patches we could get for learning and passing tests for different keyboarding speeds.  I practiced at the same computer program everyone else did (except much more constantly than anyone I met), until by the time I left that particular school I had a patch for 120 words a minute.  (They started at 20 or 30 and you worked your way up by 10s, if I recall correctly.)

Screenshot from Microtype Paws, with a picture of a keyboard, a cat with a smiling face, the practice line “He had cake and cola near the lake,” and a speed score of 140 words a minute.

There were probably a lot of reasons I did this more often than most kids.  But the main one was that I really liked cats.  And the computer program  (called Paws) that taught us typing was cat-themed.  That’s really all.  That and I enjoy things other people often find tedious or repetitive, and I have the potential for really good muscle memory.

But seriously?

It’s not complicated.

I just used a computer program I happened to be really drawn to.

Over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over.

For years.

And I had the right combination of skills, interests, and opportunity to benefit from that constant repetitive practice.

Also, I didn’t have an Apple at home, so I couldn’t use the computer program at home.  And, as I said, I loved the part about there being a cat.  So I played it like it was a game, and I worked my way up the speeds until I hit 120 words a minute.

I wasn’t the fastest kid in school by any means, either.  I was up near the top but there were a couple kids who got up to 130 or 140.  Which are speeds I can do now, but not then.

People seem to expect me to have been in some kind of 100% disability-segregated environment my entire life (no) and to have always had the exact same combination of abilities and difficulties they see at whatever point in time thy met me (no, no matter what those abilities are).  So somehow I tell people I learned to type using a computer program with a cat in it, and it morphs in their head into some weird story about a program (as in “special disability program” — no) that taught me to communicate (no) using an extra-special keyboard (no) that was decorated with cats (no).  Or things along those lines.

No.  I went to a grade school/middle school for a few years, that had a very nice computer lab full of Apple IIe and IIGS computers (I loved the IIGS keyboards, they had relatively thin flat keys that were much easier on my fingers than the big clunky IIe keyboards).  We didn’t have Apples at home so that in itself was a novelty.  I spent a lot of time in there playing the same keyboarding game that all the other kids learned to type on.  I just spent more time doing it than most kids did.  And, as I said, had the skills and opportunities to make use of that practice in a way where my performance improved with time.  And that’s really all there is to it.

Oh also, Paws had a combination of different typing games.  There was usually a tutorial, some stuff typing the specific letters you were learning, some stuff using those letters in words and sentences, and a few different games involving the cat himself.  We also had to, at more advanced stages, do typing tests using a part of the program that timed your typing on a full screen for a certain period of time, typing entire paragraphs.  That part annoyed me a bit because it was one of the few parts of the program where the cat wasn’t pictured.

I suspect Paws is far too slow and retro and uncomplicated for most modern kids when it comes to computer games in general, but I really don’t think it’s in any way lost its capacity to teach touch-typing.  And I think I’d still enjoy it if I was trying to learn.

Also here is an emulated version of Paws 1.1 on archive.org if you want to try it out.

And just a reminder; Being disabled doesn’t mean your life fits into some kind of Template For Disabled People Only.  In fact, it never does, although some of us hide that fact better than others (and some have it forcibly hidden for us), and some of us appear to resemble the existing templates more than others.  But nobody actually fits the Official Disability Templates 100%, and most of us don’t even come close.  When most disabled people say computer program we mean the same thing everyone else means by it, we don’t mean special disability programming ™ that happens to be related to computers (although there’s plenty of those in the world too).  And unless we have some particular reason that touch-typing isn’t something we can learn, and unless our disability involves our hands in certain particular ways, then if we can touch-type, we’re likely to have learned touch-typing in any of the huge number of ways that everyone else learns it.  Which in my case was Paws.

Posted in Being human, Problems and solutions

Dreams of Robot Kittens

I’m watching a documentary about robots.

And it reminded me of a dream I had a long time ago.

Not a particularly important dream, just a cool dream.

In the dream, I was in a city.  Not sure what city, but a large city.  Kind of sprawling like San Jose, California, where I grew up.  But definitely not San Jose or any other city I’ve been to in real life.

Anyway, in this city, there were robot kittens.

They did not look like this robot cat, which I had as a kid:

petstercat
This is nothing at all like the robot kittens in the dream.  This is an eighties toy that moved, purred, or meowed if you clapped in different patterns.  One of the motors on mine didn’t work so it mostly went around in circles.  I guess I had a disabled robot cat.  I was quite fond of it.

Anyway, the kittens in the dream:  They were tiny.  They were clearly robots, they made no attempt at being realistic.  So they were usually shiny, plastic, and a combination of white and some other color.  (Sometimes a color a cat would be, sometimes something like blue or purple.)  They were also completely adorable.

They didn’t look quite like this, but these modern toys are much closer to what was in the dream than my Petster:

A pink and white plastic robot kitten.
Pink and white plastic robot kitten. Doesn’t look quite like what was in the dream, but much closer tan my old Petster.

Anyway, these robot kittens made their way around the city without really being noticed by a lot of people.  People expected them and got out of their way, but they did a pretty good job of staying out of poeple’s way.

Except the person they were going to.

Because these were delivery kittens.

And each kitten delivered a small amount of food to someone who needed food right then.

And it could be that you had no other source of food.

But it could also just be that you wanted convenient food delivered to you quickly.

Or that you couldn’t be bothered to cook right then.

Or that you were disabled and found cooking and meal planning and all that too difficult.

The kitten delivery service didn’t care why you needed food, they’d just give you food.

The kitten would find you, open up a hatch on its side, and there would be your food.

And then once the kitten was assured you’d gotten your food, it would go on its way back to wherever the delivery kittens go when they’re not out delivering food.

See, in this city, and presumably in the surrounding culture, food was considered a human right.  Everyone took this as a given.  That’s one reason they didn’t differentiate between why a person wanted the kitten delivery service.  The kitten delivery service was completely subsidized and it was anyone’s right to use it for any reason at any time.

Imagine that.  Food being considered a human right.  And being delivered discreetly to anyone who wants it for any reason, by a small army of robotic delivery-kittens.

Holy crap, the world we live in…

 

 

Posted in Being human, cats, language

I used to volunteer to socialize with the cats at the local shelter.

I loved just sitting in a room with them.

We didn’t need to play.

We sat.

Little messages passed between us barely seen by most people.

The flick of an ear.  A tail.  An eye.  Just for a second.  The posture we sat in.  The direction we were pointed.  It all meant something.

I don’t pretend to have grasped all the communication going on in that room.  Some was by smell, or otherwise inaccessible to the average human, or any human.  Some was cat things only cats know.

But you could get a feel for things.

Sometimes.  Like right now.  Right exactly now.  I wish that I could show things indirectly, with ear and tail and whisker and eye movements, and be understood.

Sometimes.  Like right now.  I know where my ears would be if I was a cat.  (Cat ear muscles and human ear muscles — same muscles, very different ear positions.  :-/   Doesn’t translate well across species lines.)

But as much as I know I am not a cat, I sometimes feel a lot like a cat, sitting in a room with cats, my best communication being in Cat, and feeling helpless to do it in Human.   😦

This applies right now.  This also applies a hell of a lot of the time.

Photo on 8-27-18 at 12.36 AM
No ears, no whiskers, no tail, limits communication greatly.

Posted in cats, death

Death can’t erase Nikki from the world.

Nikki in a kittyloaf position staring straight at the camera.
Nikki in a kittyloaf position staring straight at the camera.

Once you have existed, nothing can erase you from existence.

I’ve been thinking about Nikki.  Nikki is always in existence because she can’t be removed once she is there.  She may not be here, in this place, this time, where we can see her.

But she is here when she was kitty larva.

And she is here when she was a kitten exploring the world and forming her personality.

And she is here as she went into that gangly-legged elongated kitten phase.

And she is here as she became an adult cat, just barely.

And she is here as she matured into a real adult cat, and then matured further.

And she is here as she became middle–aged, for a cat.

And she is here as she got old.

And every single one of those things is part of her existence.

She is there sick and she is there healthy.

She is there in every mood she’s ever been in, everything she’s ever done.

It’s all indelibly marked onto the pieces of existence she was around for.

And somewhere in some other time those things always exist.

They can’t unexist.

And that’s besides all the people who cared about her, the people she cared about, the dog she fought with even over Skype, the trio of formerly-feral-kittens she grudgingly accepted and then loved and protected, the houses she protected, the Cat Things she got up to on her own that humans can’t possibly know about that had immense value to the world.

All of these things still exist because things don’t unexist just because time rolls on.

And now, she is buried just under the roots of a tree, and will physically go on to nourish all the things underground that will decompose her, and I think that’s beautiful.

And the less tangible aspects of who she was, that fiercely independent, stubborn, protective, dutiful on  her own terms, hard-to-sum-up personality she had, will go on in other ways just like she’s nourishing the plants and bacteria and fungus in the ground.  All those things get distilled into a particular expression of love that goes on to affect the world.  (This is not as separate from decomposition as it seems.  I’m working with the English language here.)

don’t just want to remember her when she was ‘in the prime of her life’ or something.  Everyone always wants to do that for some reason.  I want to remember her at every phase of her life.  I want to remember her when she was dying just as much as I want to remember her before that.  And I want to remember her during the long phase of chronic health problems that went on years before her death.  Like most people, she wasn’t always healthy, and pretending that part of her life didn’t happen doesn’t work for me.  She’s everything she ever was at every stage of her life, not just one piece of it.

I have my own ideas about what goes on (or not) after death, but they’re only ideas, and that’s all any of us can have.  I think people can forget how individual and powerful and not-to-be-fucked-with-sacred and important each person’s death is.  Death makes life possible, is impossible to separate from life, and is not the enemy.  But life matters.

And… most of what I’m talking about here, doesn’t require any particular set of beliefs about what happens after death.  Just that if you take time a certain way, the way we exist now is marked upon existence forever, both in right now and in the ripple effects we cause, which never go away.

So Nikki is gone, to us, right now, and that is cause for grief at the separation.

But all through her life, every moment of her life, is still there in the time Nikki was in when she was alive.  And everything and everyone she affected is still being affected.  And in those ways she can’t be un-existed just because she’s dead.

I’ve been meaning to write a series of posts about how I think about death.  Which is extremely complicated in some ways.  But this is how I feel when someone I know dies.  And this is how I feel about Nikki right now.

Posted in cats, death, poetry

R.I.P. Nikki

Nikki, a Siamese cat, looking watchful from a tree branch.
Nikki, a Siamese cat, looking watchful from a tree branch.

My best friend’s cat Nikki just died.  Nikki was an amazing cat, and very complicated and hard to sum up easily.  She was a lot like Fey in parts of her personality and body language, but Fey was a Gryffindor and Nikki was a Slytherin, for whatever reason.  She was, to my knowledge, 17, the same age as Fey when she died.

My favorite thing Anne ever wrote about her was Nikki the Guarding Cat.  There’s also Meet the Cats: Nikki.

She always lived her own way, and died her own way, fortunately peacefully while unconscious, despite it being bowel cancer.  She seemed to be in less and less pain towards the end, which is oddly how my father experienced his death from cancer.  (Not what you’d expect, but it happens.  He had no pain the last two weeks of his life, he said it just vanished and never came back.)

She was in many YouTube videos like these, with Brodie (who is Hufflepuff to the core):

He was the first of the younger cats (a trio of formerly feral littermates) to be able to approach her because his social skills are amazing and he gave her the respect she commanded.  (She always acted a little like royalty and expected to be treated as such.)

Brodie and Nikki touching foreheads with love and respect.
Brodie and Nikki touching foreheads with love and respect.

Brodie actually, while she was dying, mirrored her movements for 20 minutes one night, almost as if to show her that he’d be able to take over guard duty when she was gone and she didn’t have to worry about that.

All the other three cats (Coraline, Brodie, and Shadow) clustered around her and kept watch while she was dying.

Nikki on the couch she spent most of her time on while dying, with Brodie, Coraline, and Shadow all lying down nearby keeping an eye on her.
Nikki on the couch she spent most of her time on while dying, with Brodie, Coraline, and Shadow all lying down nearby keeping an eye on her and keeping her company.

Anyway, the only poem I can offer in tribute to her is by Longfellow, “The Light of Stars”:

The night is come, but not too soon;
  And sinking silently,
All silently, the little moon
  Drops down behind the sky.

There is no light in earth or heaven
  But the cold light of stars;
And the first watch of night is given
  To the red planet Mars.

Is it the tender star of love?
  The star of love and dreams?
O no! from that blue tent above,
  A hero’s armor gleams.

And earnest thoughts within me rise,
  When I behold afar,
Suspended in the evening skies,
  The shield of that red star.

O star of strength! I see thee stand
  And smile upon my pain;
Thou beckonest with thy mailèd hand,
  And I am strong again.

Within my breast there is no light
  But the cold light of stars;
I give the first watch of the night
  To the red planet Mars.

The star of the unconquered will,
  He rises in my breast,
Serene, and resolute, and still,
  And calm, and self-possessed.

And thou, too, whosoe’er thou art,
  That readest this brief psalm,
As one by one thy hopes depart,
  Be resolute and calm.

O fear not in a world like this,
  And thou shalt know erelong,
Know how sublime a thing it is
  To suffer and be strong.

 

Nikki, an elderly Siamese cat, on the couch.
Nikki on the couch.

Nikki standing on a fence watchfully, underneath her there is a red “BEWARE OF DOG” Sign that has been altered with yellow paper to read “BEWARE OF CAT“.

I would indeed beware of Nikki.  A cat who can never be summed up no matter what you do.  May she rest in peace.