juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Went to my first Pride on Sunday, with Dee. I only had the energy for the parade, so we left after that and didn't go to the gathering; I'm not sure how that would have changed my opinion of the event.

It was remarkably more corporate/sponsored that I was expecting, and I was expecting plenty—although I do feel like the front-loaded that stuff, which we appreciated & which made for a better final impression. I am of mixed feelings re: some police marching in uniform, the number of companies on display, about acceptable/sanctioned activism vs. what's valuable to the community & in current political climate—the same conflicted feelings everyone's having lately, I'm sure. There were little things, like the company members with aggressively doctored signs, which helped me find a middle place between fears and ideals.

When I was trying to talk myself into going (leaving the house is hard!), Teja and I made a list of What Would Make Pride Worth It: 1) to belong to a community, 2) to support that community, 3) to actually be a present roommate who goes-with, and/or (in any combination), 4) that feeling I got from the recent St. Johns parade: that Portland itself is tolerably unshitty, as things go, and I am grateful for unshitty things especially now and can stand to be reminded they exist.

(The local Montessori school marched in rainbow flag colors at the St Johns parade and I had a moment of realization that, when I attended Montessori, that's not something my school would have done; we were weird hippy liberals but essentially white liberals, who recycled and biked and misgendered trans* people. But the intent to do better was there; it helped to make me who I am. Times have changed. Portland is not Corvallis. And, in the least, the local Montessori school is doing better.)

2) was distantly, approximately achieved; 3) was bare-minimum achieved, but I guess that's the best we can expect of me; 4) occurred, however complicated by thoughts re: the commercialism of Pride, as above.

1) was difficult, is difficult.

At the MAX station on our trip into town, we talked briefly with a woman going to Pride, a woman that had been active within the community for some 40 years, who told us briefly about her work in the community, and about GLAPN; who asked if this was our first Pride, and welcomed us, and told us we would meet friends there. It was a lovely interaction.

We did not make any friends. Did you know that if you don't talk to people and skip the actual gathering part, you don't make friends? A lot of my pre-event angst came from just being a crazy person, but part of it was that I do want 1) to belong to a community—and I don't. Community means interaction, and I'm barred from that, predominately by the crazy (also by the way I conduct my relationships ... which is influenced by the crazy). It would be easy to tell someone else in my position—and believe it!—that their identity isn't defined by the fact that they appear straight or monogamous or cis, but when all of that is rendered moot (albeit in it a frustrating, unfulfilling way) by circumstance then ... it's hard to feel that, to be convinced by it. (Especially relevant given recent conversations online re: identity politics, queer as a slur, LGBTQIA+/MOGAI acronyms and definitions; consider intersectionality while policing identity, and that mental illness can complicate everything from gender expression to romantic/sexual relationships.) Portland would be a great place to make friends, to socialize literally at all, to engage in this community and in other communities which are important to me. And in six years, I've done none of that.

But at the same time, there were fat shirtless people, hairy people, sagging-bare-breast people, and that outreach—the visual but also unexpectedly literal outreach of it, of bodies I don't normally see, obviously non-conforming people, people in triads, queer couples, was viscerally effective. A lot of the world doesn't feel allowed to me—and maybe that's something I still need to work on, or maybe it'll always be a barrier, I don't know. But the world was there, and it still feels present within me. A sum positive experience, I suppose? I feel fragile in the wake of it, and exhausted (my back absolutely gave up the ghost even on pain killers, and it was 80° and the sun came out halfway through—thank goodness for parasols—so a significant portion of the exhaustion is physical), and despondent; and hopeful.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I went down to Corvallis for my mother's 65th birthday almost-surprise party—not a surprise that there would be a party, but a surprise that out-of-towners, including her sisters, would be there; they also gave me my ride down from Portland. I am very bad at social events, even casual ones; I went and I didn't fail miserably (just moderately), so that's something, I suppose.

And I talked with people, uh oh. )

Then I spent ~10 days closed in Devon's bedroom, speaking to no one except a very good dog and occasional cat (and also Devon), lying in bed and reading, and playing the occasional video game; and it was approximately enough recovery.

- - - - -

I came back to PDX because I wanted to see my cat, and we made the mistake of driving up on a weekday afternoon because it fit every schedule except traffic and the first heat wave of the season. The car began to overheat once we hit the Portland traffic, so we ended up pulling off to the dead end of a residential street—a vacant lot and a half, tucked under an overpass and against a power station, nothing there but the shade of trees with their sudden vibrant green and the quiet backs to apartment complexes. We hung out for an hour, to let the car cool and traffic pass; I read 1984 for the millionth time. Then we drove home through back ways we know from when I lived in SE. It was, bizarrely—the unexpected 4-hour car trip, unseasonably hot, broken radio, rush hour traffic, and yet—a lovely, long goodbye, relaxing despite the stressful circumstances.

I hate summer, don't get me wrong. But summer is such an intense experience, so physically present, that the first signs of it conjure something akin to nostalgia: memories of spending all day in bed with all the electronics off, reading, reading, coaxing a crossbreeze out of my opened windows, and the anticipation of sunset and the full-body relief of tired eyes and tired skin. I saw that in the haven we found in that dead end.

- - - - -

These things are over a week old, now, but I've been been so tired lately; I've been having back issues for the last three or four weeks, the "wake up already in pain" variety, which is part of it. All I want to do is lay down and read, but the more time I spend reading, the longer the omnipresent backlog of book reviews becomes, fie. (It is so long.) But there've so many great books lately! Almost everything hovers at that 4-, 4.5-stars level, not quite flawless, but that can't really be a complaint.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Title: Bryony and Roses
Author: T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon)
Narrator: Justine Eyre
Published: Tantor Audio, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 215
Total Page Count: 203,120
Text Number: 623
Read Because: personal enjoyment, audiobook borrowed via Hoopla from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A Beauty and the Beast retelling, with a particularly sardonic cast and unusually haunted mansion. At onset, this feels a lot like Robin McKinley's Retellings, the result both of inspiration and parallel evolution; they have the same premise, same setting, similar magic and humor. Bryony and Roses distinguishes itself in its later half, as more of the house's magic is revealed and the tone becomes more diverse, haunting and even morbid, in successful contrast to the banter and irreverence. This isn't a revelatory retelling: it tweaks things and fleshes them out, but doesn't offer much commentary on the source material. But it's absolutely charming, and Justine Eyre's narration is lovely. This was the right book at the right time for me, escapism without being hollow or frivolous, and while hardly my favorite new fairy tale retelling, I'm grateful for it.

re: audiobooks, mental illness, politics obliquely )
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
There have been a number of interim posts since my last post that have not been written outside my head, because I am a perpetual bundle of busy and tired, consistently overstretching my limited capabilities to do politics and be scared about the state of the world.

One post: I did skip Thanksgiving, and my parents didn't come up after because inertia is a thing. But Dee went up to Washington for the holiday and Devon did drive up to see me for the day, just for a few hours. We made in-no-ways-traditional vegetarian hot dogs and mac & cheese (with hot dogs in it); it wasn't enough, but it was significantly better than nothing and I'm grateful.

Another post: practicing by doing the easy political phone calls on answering machines does (barely) make it easier to call real alive people. Somehow, that doesn't make it any less terrifying to forget about time zones and call places which are still open and unexpectedly staffed by alive people.

Another post: I have managed to leave the house, once or thrice. Snow helped (as sidenote: cats staring at snowland), because I missed the end of autumn and refuse to miss winter, too. We had snow + freezing rain, but then snow that stuck around, approximately pristine, for a few days. The latter was lovely.

* * *

Today my parents came through Portland and had lunch with me; they're headed northbound to spend the holidays traveling, including a trip to see my sister in Seattle. It was exhausting but in productive ways, almost entirely my fault—because over coffee I nonchalantly asked why I had which aspects of Jewish upbringing and how my extended family/various cultural aspects affected it, as one does.

I have, for obvious reasons, but especially as Hanukkah approaches, been thinking a lot about what it means to be Jewish and particularly to be Jewish in the face of forced assimilation and, you know, facism (how are these are sentences I'm writing and why is this the real world and can it stop), and also of the narrative of "Hanukkah isn't our most important holiday, and its cultural importance is actually a symptom of forced assimilation, but this year it certainly has extra thematic relevance"—because I was raised with Hanukkah and Passover and not much else, although my parents say there was an occasional Rosh Hashanah, which I think I remember; for me, there was no "more important holiday." It seems like some of that was because of how things lined up with Christmas/Easter and thus with school schedules, but it's also because that's what my father grew up with; his experience was inconsistent (Sabbat sometimes, but not always; Hebrew school and a bar mitzvah for him but not his brother; Hanukkah/Passover/Rosh Hashanah was all he celebrated, too) which has passed through the generations (Allie and I never had any formal religious education; our cousin did).

I grew up on the opposite side of the country from my Jewish grandparents, who always wished they could see us more often, who tried to cram a lot of Jewish Things into the whatever contact they had; they sent me Jewish novels and celebrated holidays with us less, I think, because those specific things were important—they weren't religious, their own practice was inconsistent—but because the identity was important.

White-passing half-Jewish cultural Jew is approximately as distant from the thing as one can be, and I understand the factors, the time, the literal distance, the way that assimilation works and why I have the background that I do. But I also have that identity, and its ... cultural expectation, I suppose, of persecution and persistence. My ancestors came from Russia, and immigrated before the Holocaust; that was not their personal story but it was their cultural story, and they taught me that, too.

I suppose I wanted an easy answer, an, "ah yes, your grandparents always wanted to practice these aspects of the faith with you, and you can now cling to them at least for their cultural significance even if you don't believe." But I didn't get that, I didn't get a "more important holiday" that can enable to me a real Jew. And I don't know where that leaves me, except that this diaspora experience is as real for me as it has been for my father and for his parents, and they are real Jews, so, maybe, I am too.

We also talked about how, for me, politics et al. isn't something to be countered by optimism or hope; that I live within communities where everyone will not (and has not) survived difficult times, and that but for the grace of Devon and August and my parent's financial support that could include me; and I think it's the first time I've ever mentioned suicidal ideation to my parents. My sister's cancer changed things for my family; we've learned to proactively accept and value of each other as we are, and the way that's effected how my parents view me—that they take me at my word when I talk about my experiences and health—as been huge. These are not things I would have felt comfortable sharing, years ago. I'm glad I can now, and the conversation wasn't all politics and Judaism and fascism, I also told them about Dare's antics and Dad showed me this video of him falling off his bike on the way to work. It was a worthwhile afternoon. But I am now very tired, and nothing really feels better.

I'm headed down to Corvallis soon, but we put it off a day and Devon is coming to get me, at some crazy early/late hour when we can skip holiday traffic, so that I can still see him and get my gifts without trying to navigate Amtrak/exhaustion/crazy.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
A few days ago I put something moderately fragile down on a semi-unstable surface for 2.5 minutes, said to myself, "self, be careful not to let this drop!" and then promptly dropped it and injured the fragile thing, about which I care a lot in a stunning display of this is your spacial reasoning with dyscalculia/this is your memory with brainfog/these are your fine motor skills with anemia and anxiety disorders. I'm pretty clumsy, but this was particularly timed: breaking (not beyond repair, but it's the principle of the thing) a discretionary purchase and treasured object, while anxious about another potential discretionary purchase—a sort of universal sign that probably can I not only afford to buy things, I don't deserve to have them. It sent me into a massive anxiety spiral; three days later, I'm still recovering.

I'm absolutely aware that was a ridiculous overreaction. I'm not surprised that it happened, either, because my financial anxieties have easy triggers and I drop things so often that this particular sequence of events was inevitable. But I don't appreciate the obnoxiously obvious parallel: the things I love are fragile, my mental health is fragile, and I'm fragile, one tiny accident (that someone neurotypical could brush off) away from a meltdown.

That's it, the whole thing; no counter-lesson and only time and patience and Devon being exhaustively over-conscientious have helped; nor am I recording for any particular purpose (to record every time Dumb Thing Happened and I had a breakdown as result would be both exhausting and embarrassing) except that the moral of the story, however obvious it is, was so spot-on that it's been stuck in my head as some sort of life lesson. Perhaps writing it down will make it known and done, and I can be free of it.

Mid-80s warm weather yesterday, and Dee and I went out to dinner and coffee (and then I such headache, very sun, I was probably too strung out for it but I can't turn down Thai and Starbucks); it should be, loosely, the last warm day of the year. Gray and steady rain, today; red leaves on the horizon out my left hand window. I'm transitioning into my autumn media, especially visual media; I'm prepping my winter to read list. Dee made pumpkin muffins which were a little dry for me, but I found that soaked if a 2:1 water:maple syrup for a few minutes and then microwaved in a ramekin for 30secs they become individual dense pumpkin bread puddings, best if topped with cream cheese. There are small blessings.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Vet visit for Dare yesterday. She had a worm a few months ago, probably the result of a flea tracked in by Odi (although there were no other signs of fleas in the house). She was dewormed and everyone was flea treated. But the hair loss on her spine persisted, and then she developed bald patches on the back of her legs. Because the hair loss is the result of barbering, she's overgrooming in easy to reach places and the skin itself is healthy (all signs that the trigger isn't physiological), and she's a high-strung, high energy cat, the vet suspects what we suspected: she began over-grooming when she had the worm, but now it's just a habit and preoccupation.

We're putting her on Zylkene, a bovine-sourced hydrolyzed milk protein which treats anxiety, isn't prescription, and doesn't interact with any food or medication. Prescription mood medication is always a possibility, but the vet wanted to start with the safest, easiest option, especially since she doesn't have any signs of stress. She's just a tightly-wound cat keeping herself occupied in her downtime. The vet was appropriately skeptical of magic milk protein, but gave us some studies as well as anecdotal evidence to back it up.

Bad habits aside, Dare is in perfect health and behaved great in a "blind cat, vaguely terrified" way. Because she has a possibly-congenital defect, it's particularly comforting to know she's in good health and this issue is probably unrelated.

This being vet visit approx. 23482942 for our menagerie, we continue to have superb experiences with North Portland Veterinary Hospital. I love them so much.

Vet visits with a blind cat are can be hit-and-miss on an interpersonal level, as some vets are prone to inspiration porn; this one, refreshingly, wasn't. She took us at our word when we talked about Dare's abilities and limitations, and never ever used the word inspiring. (Dare has developed a lot of skills to help her work around her disability! There's some surprising things she can do, and some things she does better than other cats, because she has to. It's really neat to see. There's also some things she can't do. And she's not a human being, and her disability and coping mechanisms aren't equivalent to human experience. Those things are obvious to me, but we still get vets who tell us about how animals are so much more adaptable than people and are such inspirations etc. and it's gross.)

This vet was also lovely in an ego-patting way—so relieved to learn that not just the blind cat but all the cats are indoor-only, complimenting us for intentionally taking in "lemon"/defective cats, pleasantly surprised when I asked for a spare soft e-collar (to use if Dare's over-grooming becomes skin-damaging) because no one had ever asked for one in advance before, impressed by preventative measures we take re: her open eye socket, generally telling us that this particular special-needs cat had the perfect care and home. We put effort into being good pet owners, and it's just about my only productive contribution to the universe, so an authority confirming that we're doing good is flattering and rewarding. There were just good feels all around; now we wait and see how the magic cow powder works.

When we came home, everyone sniffed the carrier a lot and August sat in it for a while because of course.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I made an unusually long visit to Corvallis, because I hadn't seen Devon for a while and because I was making a trip with my parents to go to Ashland and see some Shakespeare (!! !). I usually travel by train, but Devon and I drove back up today because he had to pick up a friend from the local airport.

This is the sort of thing that only I could do:

As we approached the airport, Devon called his friend to let him know we were running 20mins late on account of traffic. I was unsure if this was traffic-traffic or "traffic"-traffic, as we had stopped for dinner along the way and I legitimately did not remember any traffic congestion. It occurred to me that if it were white lie-traffic, I was complicit in a white lie! so I queried Devon. Devon recounted for me the three (3) episodes of stop and go traffic that resulted from some broken-down cars, which occurred approximately when I was talking in depth about 1) the abuse of Malvolio and its end-game resolution as appeared in this production of Twelfth Night,* 2) the way the B-plot was weighted against the A-plot in Twelfth Night, the ways they were knit together, the depth given to the B-plot, 3) the overlap of an actor in Twelfth Night and Hamlet, and as natural segue, 4) which was the more successful production of the two (spoiler: Twelfth Night), especially in conceit, but 5) that this was one of my very favorite Hamlets.**

Which makes these things the take-away:

My memory is so spotty that I can entirely forget not one, not two, but three separate repetitions of the same event.

I am so engrossed in media criticism that I can carry on a one-sided outpouring of Shakespeare Thoughts that lasts through at least 20-mins-late worth of traffic.

My compulsive honesty is so intense and deeply ingrained that even being adjacent to the possibility of a small lie will cause me anxiety and require immediate clarification/resolution.

* As a type-A fellow antisocial uptight often-socially-corrected personality, Malvolio is one of my favorite Shakespeare characters and I am incredibly sensitive to how productions depict his abuse and its aftermath—whether it's played for fun, whether the audience is complicit, whether his "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you" does or doesn't diffuse the anxiety of the realization that things have, indeed, gone too far. This one was handled so well! so explicit, so cruel, so unforgiven; he internalizes his enforced socialization, his "smile," but reclaims it, develops it into a tool to use against those that hurt him. It threatens to diffuse and then refuses to, so pointedly. It was all I ever wanted.

** I feel that too much Hamlet discussion and production is given to issues of is he mad or faking (& is he flippant or bereaved); in this production he was all, he was driven to an extremity of emotion and he was numb, impassioned but indecisive, feigning and sincere, sarcastic and authentic. He was complete. That is the Hamlet which makes the play endure, who engages our ambivalence and writes it vast yet sympathetic, and we see ourselves in him, and we fear him, and fear ourselves
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
What is it about the holidays that inspires an intense heartsickness? Hanukkah is arguably more important to me than Christmas—it feels more intimate and profound—and yet I take some issue with how my family's come to handle it, growing lazier, we don't even make our own latka anymore; and whenever I go home, I realize how distant from my family I've become. My sister's been living there since her diagnosis, and she's always been more comfortable in that social setting. They're noisy and casual and gossip about people I don't know or care to; I go home to feel like an outsider, and to half-ass something important to me.

It makes me want to reclaim the holiday, to learn to make my own latka, to replace what's gone missing—but the very nature of the holiday season means I'm spoon-bereft. I put the average introvert to shame: I rarely socialize, but I rarely feel like I lack anything for it. Except now. This is the only time when I feel like I am actually missing something, that I'm denied something by my sheer inability to ~people~.

On Thanksgiving, Dee's immediate family came into town; they made stuffing and gravy the day before, then left on Thanksgiving itself to visit relatives. I was alone overnight, watching two dogs and four cats; I pulled out the couch and made a big nest of animals, and we watched TV and I ate stuffing and gravy. (Pics or it didn't happen.) It was perfect—enough socialization on either side, but the day itself was stress-devoid and I could actually enjoy my comfort foods.

And between the two, the quiet frustration of Hanukkah and the perfect day that was Thanksgiving, I'm tempted to spend Christmas at the house alone, watching the cats in quiet while Dee goes up to Seattle; but I worry that that tends to far towards not celebrating the holiday at all, and because I can't reclaim it and engaging with it as-is seems unpleasant I'll just ... let it pass me by, which is almost worse.

There are other, personal frustrations which are piggybacking on to this sense of heartsickness, homesickness, longing. I don't have a resolution for any of it.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Most nights, I keep the blanket that August sleeps on right beside my pillow at the head of the bed. In the morning when I wake up, she's right there: her fur looks like crushed velvet, all mussy and soft and every which way; she's quiet, dazed with sleep. She doesn't look like that, act like that, after her long daytime nap—only in the mornings.

Today when I got up, Dee was about to take Odi out for a walk; I went with her and we made a trip out to the nearby farm stand/food cart pod. As we walked down, there was a light rain; as soon as we got there and got under cover, it started pouring. We got drinks—I can't drink Starbucks mochas anymore, they're too sweet for my tastes, but this had less sugar and it was lovely. We had them by the covered fire pit that made our clothes smell of smoke. When he gets wet, Odi's fur makes little raven-feather clumps; when the rain broke and sunlight hit him, by the heat of the fire, his fur let off gentle steam. The food cart next to us was one we'd never noticed before, Greek; we ordered from there and while we were waiting on it we bought fruit, including this-season Braeburn apples. When we walked back with our food, the sun lit fiery autumn foliage against a slate sky.

As Tumblr threatens but fails to make an exodus to anywhere-but-here/maybe DW and LJ, I think about how I still have a journal, still use it—but when I think of recording my daily life, I don't see a point: not for lack of audience, but because not much has happened in the last [period of time] that I'd want to remember. That's not entirely negative—my sister is doing well, and over most of her hurdles; my mental health is better than it was this time last year; things right now are a monotonous not-awful. But in my media blogging over on Tumblr, I notice how much I prioritize fictional stories—even when mine isn't awful, it's richer and easier to live elsewhere.

But today was different. Today seems worth recording. It's autumn, and comfortably cool, and beautiful, and this was a lovely day spent in it.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
I was lying down and petting Gillian, curled up by the window at the foot of my bed, and there was this lovely, spicy scent. Then I realized that we were right by my bookself, which is where I put the last BPAL scent I wore, a month or two ago: Inez (golden amber, vanilla musk, myrrh, cedar, carnation, and red sandalwood). Needless to say, I now have a spicy, honeyed scent. I haven't worn many scents lately; I go through phases with it, as all things. But the time away makes me more receptive when I return; I'm not tuning out the tendrils of scent, but rather keep catching them, that sweetness, that resinous base and dryness. I usually wear Morocco when it's warm and Inez when it's cold, as both are resinous carnations but Morocco is a lighter, thinner scent and Inez has a marshmallow thickness, more bodied and palpable, which can be cloying. But today, unseasonably warm but still spring, it suits.

I hate summer, I hate sun and heat, but I also try to live in each season as it comes—I like to be cold in the winter rather than blasting the heat, I consume media during the seasons in which they're set; as a result, the seasons develop atmospheres, associations, identities. I've gotten good at summer: fostering crossbreezes, turning off my computer tower, savoring the brief dark respite of night; summer and I have grown intimate. I don't look forward to it coming, but I'm so keenly aware of what it is that these warm days have a strange since of nostalgia. I can't convince my brain that knowing and not-quite-having something isn't necessarily the same as missing it!
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
The very great catch-up post.

March, 7: Saw the Twilight Sad in concert
at the Doug Fir. Most of the bands I see with Dee are ones I don't much listen to or only listen to live; I have never yet been disappointed by a performance. This is in part because Dee has great taste, and in part because live music is its own energy and sound—and this show was a great example. The energy flow between musicians and audience was joyful and near palpable; the band was so obviously happy to be there, with us, and I felt somewhat responsible for that—a phenomenal experience.

March 8: Made trip to Corvallis
A brief one, as it was right before finals week for Devon. The very first thing that happened as I walked in the door: Devon's mom asked, "oh, how is Mamakitty doing?" and Devon went "WELP it seems I forgot to tell you something." A weird trip, not entirely in a bad way; I missed seeing my sister but did see my parents.

Family Stuff under the cut. )

March 13: Traveled back to Portland, got sick
Started with a tolerable cough; remained a tolerable cough until directly after:

March 21: Saw The Decemberists in concert
I can't remember how many times I've seen them, now. Many! At least four, if you count Meloy's solo show. I occasionally listen to them, but not often; Meloy's twang sounds raw on record. But I adore them live, and this concert was no exception. It was in the Keller Auditorium, which is quite stately, but they still got everyone on their feet. Their concerts are performance art, despite the minimal performance (whale excepted): presence, energy, vivid dark humor, self-awareness, an appetite for the absurd, a proactive engagement with content and audience.

Then was really sick
Polite of it to wait until I had free time to be miserable. Complaining about a cold feels trite, because no one enjoys them. But post-Mama, still unsure how I've recovered; post-travel, which is exhausting even if positive; post-two big, beautiful, but energetic concerts: I'm already bereft of energy and cluttered with unexamined feelings, and being ill and nigh unable to sleep didn't help.

My saving grace is that I've been consuming a lot of engaging, enjoyable media—and while I don't have the energy to spend time in my own life, escaping into another is welcome. The problem is that I should be reviewing, or at least making note of, all I've consumed, but I feel disorganized and feeble, and can't set my thoughts to order. So, I thought, writing some of that down may help, and I wrote.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Dee and I have a tradition when a pet dies—we go to the humane society. We do it because we have the bodies cremated there, and/or because we have their materials to donate, which helps clear out bad memories and supports a good cause, but we stay to look at the animals.

I don't want to hear other people's pet stories when I've just lost my own, but I want to know that there are pets out there, cared for, loved, and soon to find the perfect home. Oregon Humane Society's save rate is 98% (and both Odi and Loki came from OHS), so it has a sense of willful goodness.

This time, we met Bartholomeow Winchester, a big old mancat—literally: 10 pounds, 13 years, a longhaired tuxedo with the yellow chin and no-fucks-given attitude of old age who was aggressively affectionate. Someone adopted him that day.

We saw Ash, who was already on hold: an 8 month medium-hair blue of this most distinctive color: not a velvety frosted blue, but a silky coat like August's in a remarkable shade of deep, saturated gray. I've made it my life's goal to only have black cats, but I think I've decided that certain varieties of black and white count—like Gilly's white flecks, like handsome tuxedo mancats, and like breathtaking deep blues. I discovered that Ash looks precisely like (although is probably not) a Nebelung—a cat breed "best defined as semi-long haired Russian Blue." I want one keenly.

The last weeks have been devastating. Mama was a remarkable cat, and Dee and I very much shared her—all we've ever wanted for her was the absolute best that we could give, and coming to terms with what that meant has been heartbreaking. But there's no regret. No regret in knowing her, or caring for her; browsing futurepets is a reminder of that: that all they really are is wonderful.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Warning for discussion of pet health issues.

Mamakitty's always had a complex relationship with food, but her eating slowed to a near stop a few days ago, so we took her into the vet; she has a pretty sick liver. We had to make some weighty choices (between euthanasia, attempting at-home care with little probable success, and opting for expensive, effortful longterm care), and decided to pursue treatment, which meant an overnight vet stay for fluids followed by anesthesia & feeding tube insertion, and the beginning of a number of months of regular medication and feeding times.

She did totally fine at the vet, came home groggy, is still very tired, but is doing fine with the tube and feeding. Her chance for recovery goes up every day we get food into her, and without treatment she probably would have died.

I'm not taking pictures of the bandaged, exhausted kitty, because she has enough stressors right now. This is healthy, gorgeous Mama:

This comes on the heels of—god, I can't even say; I've been in a depressive episode for 6+ months, my sister is very ill, my extended family is fairly ill; I am so far beyond exhaustion that I can no longer describe it. But this is a miracle cat and we are doing right by her, with no regrets. I figure we changed her life once already, when we took her in. We can try our damnedest to do it again.

Good thoughts are welcome. Advice is 10000% absolutely not welcome unless you have dealt with this exact thing (liver issues in cats and/or cats with feeding tubes) before.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
My grandfather's funeral was a few weeks ago. Everyone in my nuclear family went but me; I went to Corvallis to watch my parent's house and the family dog while they were away. My impression is that this is the best decision I could've made; it sounds like the funeral was a minor nightmare, too much alcohol and grief and drama in one place; I would have found it extremely stressful, and that's not how I want to remember my grandfather. Jamie and I meanwhile had a fine few days of watching bad TV and walking in autumn weather.

Hanukkah began the night before Thanksgiving this year—very early! I was down in Corvallis Wednesday/Thursday/Friday last week, and then came back up so that I could watch the house and approximately one thousand cats (kittens, man, they're like a dozen cats in one small cat body) while Dee went up to visit her family over the weekend and Devon did Thanksgiving with his extended family on Saturday. My family and I had latka for the first night of Hanukkah, traditional French Toast on Thanksgiving morning, and a very relaxed Thanksgiving dinner that night. The weather has been starkly cold, dry and bright and on the edge of freezing, just what I needed to clear my mind in between too much socialization. The menorah has been burning each night both at my parent's house and at Dee's house here in Portland.

Hanukkah's early date has made me extremely sensitive to how easily it (the holiday, Judaism, take your pick) is overlooked—that sense that with Thanksgiving passed we're all now preparing for the "holiday season," but half of mine is nearly over, and so "holiday" obviously reads as "somewhat secular Christmas." I celebrate secular Christmas, too! with enthusiasm. But the erasure is needling me, this time around.

I think it's reasonably safe to say I've been in another depressive episode these last few months. Given the accommodations in the rest of my life, these episodes are mild now—pedestrian, even: something between ennui and anxiety, a suffused discontent and sadness with the catharsis of a breakdown. The best recourse is just to try to stay out of my own head, thus the constant reading and TV watching and gaming. I got worse and better—see: the catharsis of a breakdown—while in Corvallis, which was expected because even family stuff stresses me out. Been listening to Kelli Schaefer's Black Dog when I'm hopeful; Nick Drake's Black Eyed Dog the rest of the time.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Things what happened recently:

August went in for her dental surgery, had four top molars removed, and recovered with no issues. She went back to eating just fine. I still need to tackle the issue of how to brush a cat's teeth, but the immediate problem was resolved.

Dee and I went to see The National on a rainy evening in September. It bucketed rain during most of the opening band Frightened Rabbit but the temperature was fairly mild, so we just got soaked and dealt with it, and were mostly dry by the end of the show. Neither is a band I listen to on my own, but the live show atmosphere (and the other attendants determined to enjoy themselves despite the weather) was phenomenal; a very Oregon evening.

My mother's father died on September 29th; I opted not to attend the service in mid-November. I'm okay! Death doesn't have a profound impact on me; I'm mostly concerned for my mother and sister, but my grandfather was able to talk with my mother while still lucid the day before he passed; he'd been having health issues for some time, so this was not unexpected and did bring him peace. I know that traveling down for the service would make me miserable, and that's not how I want to remember him. This feels like one of the first times that someone asked me what I wanted to do, and I responded with my own desires and best interest, not with the answer that was expected of me; as such, I'm entirely content in my decision not to go.

Dee got a kitten! Here be the beastie; I will start taking more pictures of her probably when she moves into Dee's room (she's currently living in the downstairs bathroom, which is a bit small and lonely). Her name is Loki, she's tiny and young, purrs super loud and is full of energy. I'm not actually much of a kitten person which is why I only ever wanted to adopt grown cats, but a kitten to which I have frequent access is a fantastic pleasure.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Busy weekend!

The 31st was Devon's and my 10th anniversary, which, yes, is impressive. Unfortunately a coworker quit a few days before, and it's the middle of a lot going on at work, so he only came up for two and a half days during which a lot else went on. We hope to have a longer time together next week or around Valentine's Day, and maybe actually do something to celebrate ten years. (I say this glibly, but the truth is I'm upset about the uncelebrated anniversary. I hadn't seen Devon since Christmas and would appreciate doing something a bit more concrete for these celebrations, especially such a big one—I just don't have the spoons to orchestrate anything myself.)

More to the point, Devon came up and three of Dee's Washington friends came down for the weekend because we all went to see Emilie Autumn on Sunday. The concert will be in a subsequent post, because I have Thoughts. But it was a good visit.

In part because of anniversary-related anxiety/depression, in part because my back has been pretty awful lately, I was chronically low on spoons over the weekend. I would honestly be surprised if this were ever not the case. It still managed to be the time with this group that I was most myself (quiet girl with sudden complex opinions! instead of just quiet girl), which helps; it helped also to load up on pain meds pre-concert. I now have plenty of quiet time to recharge, although the fact that Devon is also gone sours that.

It was a bit hard on Mamakitty: the first time she got shut in a bathroom with Devon alone she panicked, scrambled up to the windowsill leaving clawmarks on the wall behind her, and tried to escape out the bathroom window. When I went in there to calm her down she meowed emphatically in a way that can directly be translated to "PLEASE OPEN THIS WINDOW THAT I MAY ESCAPE." Dee and I forget, because we got to know her when she was outside and unconstrained, but she is still fairly skittish. We ended up putting her in Dee's room (with Spike, who was near-insensible to her presence) for a chunk of time so everyone could use the shower, etc., without traumatizing the cat. She was a little on edge on Monday, but she's back in the bathroom now and asking for cuddles.

Odi was surprisingly good, despite disrupted schedules and many visitors. Gillian slept with the guests downstairs. I let August sleep on my special Juu-only no-cats-allowed blanket because I am a pushover and always need to apologize for inviting guests into her home.

Washington folks got in Saturday early afternoon; that evening we took public transport into downtown and went to Powell's and dinner. It was my first time taking the MAX, and minus the drunken post-Blazers crowd I loved it and would be happy to use it again—it may run less frequently, but it's such a lovely quick shot across town, especially compared to the roundabout route of the bus. I found two books at Powell's, both new to me and neither of which are in the local library system. (These days I prefer to buy books in three categories: authors I know and love and want to own everything by forever; books I've read before and love enough to reread a dozen times; books I suspect I will like enough to own, which are not in the Portland or Corvallis library systems. Inter-library loan exists but lacks the convenience of local lending, so buying some not-at-library books without reading them is a justifiable risk. These books were category 1 and 3, and totaled $7.) As usual after Powell's, we went to Deschutes Brewery for dinner—busy on a Saturday night, but as good as always. The only real hangup of the evening was the learning curve for the MAX, which mostly went waiting twenty-five minutes for our ride home to show up.

The concert was Sunday. All the women save me wore fantastic corseted outfits; I wore one of my best dresses, a long black sleeveless thing with a square neckline and corset lacing in the back, and for once actually felt ... content with my self-presentation. The only major problem with the concert was transportation: We intended to take a cab for convenience sake. Doors opened at 7:30; when we called to schedule they said the cab may be up to half an hour late, so we scheduled a 6:00 pickup. At 6:30 they weren't there; at 6:40 we called, and they said it could be another half hour; at 7:10 we called and they said they still hadn't even located a driver. We took two cars out there ourselves with minimal fuss and no problems finding parking, and got there well before the show started, so nothing was lost, but here is your announcement: WARNING WARNING boycott Broadway Cab at all costs, they are so unwilling to lose your business that they will not even tell you they are an hour and a half late locating a cab, good grief.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)

Dee and I took Odi into St. Johns today, to stop by Starbucks and drop books by the library; it hovered and then dropped below freezing, and my fingers are still just cold enough that it's hard to type. Here at the house, the upstairs bathroom is toasty warm and Mama is surprisingly calm for a cat in a new situation; I lifted her onto Gillian's microfleece blanket and she kneeded it, pressed her cheek onto it, stretched out on it all comfortable and warm. We wanted to bring her this winter in part because Dee wanted to adopt her (of course) and in part to spare her another year of cold and rain, and while Gillian and financials set that back a bit this is all very right. We bring light into the winter so early, and then January and February stretch cold and dark before us—but in the midst of freezing temperatures, we brought a fluffy sweet kitty into the house.

When I sing aloud to Florence + the Machine, Odi (in his crate downstairs) hears me and whines.

I should charge my camera battery and then CAT PICTURES.

But yep. Mamakitty in the bathroom. (She'll be Dee's, not mine, but I'm giving her her own tag [rather than putting her on the pets: not mine tag] because she'll be an about-the-house cat and I imagine will show up in a number of posts and pictures.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Devon came up a few days before Christmas. Dee and Odi were out of town, with her family up in Washington (honestly an awesome mini-gift to an incredible introvert like me); Devon brought with him a van full of things: 1) A TV to replace the living room TV; it's bigger and has a better screen, and Halo 4 thanks me. Devon just replaced his TV with one that's better suited to function as a monitor, so his castoff is my gain. 2) A new harddrive for the PS3, which had a near-unusable 40 gig drive; it's now 120, so there's breathing room for games. This one is explicitly a gift for Dee, because the PS3 is her primary console; now every install won't require an equal and opposite uninstall. 3) One of the big black bookshelves which was in his room, so the books that were in the corner of my room piled to near my height (the last of my books in storage in Devon's parents's garage) are now instead crowding a bookshelf. I also sorted more of my boxes-that-needed-sorting while he was here, and my room—while not perfect—now feels remarkably less crowded and much more me, bless.

Awaiting Devon when he got here was 4) My new computer case, a SilverStone Fortress in titanium. I've had my old case for about a decade, and while the guts are up to date the case was old and dented and ugly and had small and exceedingly noisy fans; this one is tall and clean and quiet. Also 5) A new keyboard to (finally) replace the one that August broke.

August used to love to sit on my old computer tower; the new one has vertical ventilation, so the entire top is a vent and can't have a cat butt upon it. Because she is my cat, August has shown zero interest in sitting on the new tower; I have, instead, found her on the new bookcase at two in the morning, walking on top of a row of mass-market paperbacks and occasionally, intentionally, knocking one of them to the ground.

These were a lot of big things, not surprises (I need some of my gifts to be surprises in order for me to get into a holiday spirit, but my Hanukkah gift was so that was sorted), but sorely needed. Everything they replace met a bare minimum of functionality, but the bare minimum was not horribly satisfying.

Also awaiting Devon was his Christmas gift, Beats Pro in black. Not a surprise (his gifts rarely are, as it's his money that buys them p.s. wouldn't you love to have me as a partner), but he likes them. They sound awesome.

Dee came back early on the 26th; my family came up for an early dinner and more gifts that evening; Devon left that night. My sister gave me a beautiful burnt orange knit throw which I am pleased to claim as For Personal Use Only (No Cats Allowed), which is nice because August has coopted every other soft thing in the entire house); my parents gave me a number of indulgent consumables and some baking supplies and significant monies. My mother's parents sent me The Dark Wife and Moonwise, both of which I'm happy to have but never expected to get—normally people read the blurbs of my wishlist books and go nope, too weird, not buying; one of these is a lesbian Greek myth retelling so guesses are Grandpa didn't read any blurbs at all but you know, I will take it. And from Dee, alongside the fingerless gloves for Hannukah: my favorite socks in three new colors yaaaay, a copy of The Night Circus which I shall immediately lend to her, and a number of new cat toys, immediately coopted by Gillian.

A good holiday all in all—busier than I like, but a quiet New Year's will balance it out. I know all of this is about material goods, but that's partially for my records and also because I am deeply material in the sense that I love stuff, I love stuff I want and love, which makes my living space usable and comfortable; I rarely if ever buy stuff, so gifts are why I have socks I want to wear and a computer I want to use. Devon likes to give gifts, not receive them, and that's a totally valid approach; I had a fantastic run of gifts-given this year, but at my heart I am a recipient, and gifts to me mean love and holidays and family. And this year, I had all of that.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I just returned from Corvallis today; came back to Portland to a very excited dog and two! cats, which I don't yet take for granted. August was not her usual snuggleself on my return home; she was preoccupied by Gillian, by how his presence changed our interactions. (She is still, always, my favorite; she knows that.) But five minutes before I sat down to type all this, they were playing with the same piece of ribbon.

I went down to Corvallis for the start of Hanukkah. My sister was working late on the first night, so I just lit candles for the family. She was home all day on the second, so we did latkas and a family candle lighting and half of the holiday gifts and then I decorated the Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music, as one is wont to do during Hanukkah. They bought new lights this year, LEDs in a crystalline white, so I went out of my comfort zone for a light, white-toned tree (I tend towards red and brass, with a preference towards a wooden cranberry garland and wooden amanita decorations). I don't have pictures—my sister took some, but hell if I know where they got posted—but consensus is it turned out well.

Devon rearranged his work schedule during my visit so that he was home by sundown, bless. I also had some simple, precious downtime with him. For Hanukkah he gave me a Kobo Mini, which is my first e-reader—I still prefer traditional books, but this opens up giveaways and more library lending and lots of free classic literature, on a display I like and without any icky Amazon ties. My parents gave me a remote for my camera, which lets me add myself to the pictures of my cats if for some reason I'd want to do so.

(Devon is also giving me a Christmas gift—the way he's distinguishing and celebrating each holiday this year means a lot to me. I'll probably see my parents around the week of Christmas, when they make a day-trip up to Portland.)

(I gave my sister Beats earbuds, which turned out to be quite timely as her earbuds had just been damaged. I gave my mother The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I've wanted to give her since its release; I gave my parents a pair of ceramic bird garden sculptures by a local artist. Devon's gift is his when he comes for Christmas; Dee's will be here when she gets back from visiting her family at the same time. I'm rarely a good giftgiver, because I am chronically low on spoons and have no money to my name; sometimes it just doesn't happen. This year it's all working out beautifully, everyone is getting the perfect things, and I'm so glad.)

It was bitterly cold last night, and after some back-unrelated (the worst canker sore I've ever had—my pain tolerance is exceptional but this was one of the worst things I've lived through) reliance on pain medication I'm back to being med-free and I spent last night with the sort of stabbing back pain that can only be brought on by insomnia and shivering, and I still don't mind. It's cold and crisp followed by bouts of slate-blue rain; it's coffee-drinking weather, and in the dark nights we raise shining lights. I took the train at 6a, which is my favorite time to ride it (until 7a, when the loud gentlemen got on and seriously, dudes, shut up), I took a nap with my cats, I lit candles and Dee gave me a fantastic and immensely useful pair of fingerless gloves. Winter has always been a strange time for me—through my childhood my extended family wintered in Texas and Florida, which are decidedly non-wintery places; as a young adult I've spent years bouncing between locations and living arrangements and multi-family gatherings of mixed success; always as a cultural Jew who celebrates Christmas it just becomes a bit ... strange. I hate Christmas as a multi-month institution, and would never want to do something extravagant for any of the winter holidays. But while autumn is my season, there is something so powerful to me about the symbol of a light in the dark, of lit trees and menorahs. I don't begrudge winter and I don't fight the night; I like the contrast, and what it means to flock to the comfort of that light.

So, yeah. It's a good time of year.

(Many thanks for all of the Kuzco-related condolences. I've had some good time to reflect, if not overtly grieve, and am gaining some distance from it; I'm really doing fine.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Last Sunday Devon made a daytrip up to Portland so we could all carve pumpkins, as we did last year. We went to the local Kruger farm stand about five blocks away and picked out locally-grown pumpkins, then ordered food from the Che Cafe food cart; we waited for our food in a covered dining area while rain fell and the blue breeze blew in woodfire smoke from the firepit. It was a distinctly Portland weekend before Halloween, wet but mild, rich with the scent of rain and smoke and leaves.

We ate our food at home—mac 'n cheese and sandwich and fries and a thick quasadilla—and carved pumpkins while I blasted The Nightmare Before Christmas from another room (I don't listen to the soundtrack, I just put the film on and ignore the visuals).

From left to right: Devon's, mine, Dee's.

Pumpkins, 2012: On the porch

Daylight closeup. )

Pumpkins, 2012: Nighttime

Mine this year was inspired by the scarecrow in Sleepy Hollow—I made the face too small, but when lit up it really didn't matter.

Today I pulled on a long black skirt in satin and velvet and a purple half-sweater with flowy sleeves, and was something witchy or at least dressed up. I played Animal Crossing and answered the door to a dozen or so trick or treaters while Dee baked pumpkin cookies. Odi barked at every single visitor, but did just fine. I will love you and shower candy upon you if you are wearing a costume—I don't care if it's super fancy, I don't care if you're "too old," if you embrace the spirit of the holiday then my candy is yours. If you are seventeen and wearing the clothes you wore to school that day, I judge you. If you fourteen and smoking a cigar while trick or fucking treating I will not give a shit about candy but I will feel deeply unclean. (The polite adorably-costumed group of six that came near the end of the night erased lingering ick, but really? I mean really?)

Quiet little day. I never do as much with Halloween as I wish, yet did enjoy this one—and in a way, this day only begins the haunting season, for me. November all is death and decay—it's the beginning of the year, but the year begins with death, quietude, the rotting and waiting that lasts through winter. This is only the start.


juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)

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