juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
August recently recovered from a five-day stint with the cat flu. It conformed exactly to expectations re: symptoms and recovery (she had a clear runny eye and nostril, just on her right side; some sneezing and squinting, but no breathing problems; mild decrease in activity but no decrease in appetite); it was still unenjoyable. I made a successful effort not to provide any contagious anxiety, because something like stress/going off her food could've lead to legitimately dangerous complications. And her vague self-pity and head-shake sprinkles of tears and snot were cute, in a gross way. But she's my baby and my lifeline, and I live in terror of anything bad happening to her ever. I'm glad it's behind us.

(Dee and I have no idea how she got sick! All the cats are indoor-only; August has limited physical contact with the other cats and zero contact with the dog (who obviously does go outside). None of the other cats have gotten sick. The windows have been open and we've had visiting porch cats, and that seems like the only possible vector: virus via early-summer open windows.)

* * *

My last set of overlapping books included a Le Guin (and is there anything more satisfying than Le Guin, than the strength of her language, the plot-wide influence of her worldbuilding elements); a revisit of my favorite short story of all time, Kelley Eskridge's "Eye of the Storm;" and Anne of Green Gables, a childhood favorite that I haven't reread in at least 15 years and which is remains just so delightful. It's been a decided upswing after a brief series of mediocre books.

I spent this afternoon in bed, just having finished the first and a story adjacent to the second, reading the third. August climbed under the blankets with me and lay down on my chest, and we took a nap together in an idyllic setting which echoes Green Gables: my computer was turned off, my blinds down; the room lit by diffused white light and the day cool for June; sleeping atop freshly-laundered sheets. Echoes Green Gables in specific not at all, but in that atmosphere, of finding the best of a thing; of making space and time to daydream. August's whiskers on my face brought me in and out of sleep for an hour until I finally got up to make dinner.

I have a lot of sleep issues, split equally between anxiety and back pain, which means I effectively never nap—it happens about three or four times a year, generally on accident. Pleasant when it occurs (if it doesn't fuck up my back), but not something I can do on purpose, because sleep is a carefully coordinated effort that I only have the energy for once a day.

It's one of the things I envy most in my cats, but sometimes, just sometimes, August shares it with me.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)


I just got back from a week visiting Devon in Corvallis, and the return journey was lovely. Mist over the fields and river out the train window; dense fog as we reached Portland, with the city and its bridges shadows in the gray. The 6am train trips in autumn are consistently my favorite of all things: the clear dark cold at the train station, the slow sunrises, the mist and the changing leaves.

August was ridiculously clingy when I was preparing to leave (she even followed me and my luggage downstairs to hang out by the door and look concerned) and she's been inseparable since I got back, because she loves me and also because it's autumn and she wants to sit on me and be warm. I held her on my tummy and sang Can't Take My Eyes Off You to her, my wonder keeping the stars apart.

It was a fantastic trip, and I appreciate the reminder that I have those—and that last month's misery visit was a birthday-related anomaly rather than a trend. I timed my visit for the Fall Festival; I accidentally slept through most of Saturday, but we stopped by on Sunday. It was too sunny and I am pale and pathetic, so we made but a brief circuit. My favorite of what I saw was Fantasy Figurative Art dolls by MARCA—I like my art dolls creepy/cute rather than Froud-esque, but there were blue goblin children and humaniod bird monsters and of that I approve. We also went to the library's book sale, and by the time we got there they had entered the $5/bag "please, take them away" final phase; slim pickings but a joy to comb through, in no small part because it was indoors this time. I picked up paperback copies of books I own in hardback (hardback is a pain to read, and I'm a big rereader), some new-to-me books by authors I'm familiar with, and a few random picks—because at a flat rate, mistakes are free.



The Cherryh I picked up on another night out. After dinner and dark, we got Starbucks and walked across to the Book Bin—bless their late hours. The checkers were looking at pictures of baby goats, there were no other customers, and because I'd already made a book run I wasn't working off my to-buy list: the laid-back book browsing I've always wanted. Having credit there allows me to make impulse purchases without stress.

One final highlight: a moment when Devon and I both walked down the hallway and Gigi the puppy, the best baby dog with the most love, came in from the kitchen, saw us both, and barreled past Devon to get to me because Dev is everyday and known and boring where I am Important Dog Auntie, and also the only one that will hold her paws.

I didn't see my family and other than the Fall Festival had no to-do list, which I think contributed to the successful visit; it was the private, quiet time that we needed.
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: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
So tired.

August has gone from: rejecting bland wet food and reluctantly eating increasing quantities of bland dry food > rejecting bland dry food and eating increasing quantities of normal dry food > rejecting bland dry food, also rejecting normal dry food, and eating increasing quantities of bland wet food. She's still not up to normal intake even with these aspects combined, but is no longer having issues vomit or diarrhea problems. She will sometimes eat more if I sit with her or hold her in my lap. Otherwise, she looks and acts entirely normal. The dry/wet preference seems indicative of recurring periodontal disease, but the vet checked for that and ruled it ongoing, tooth cleaning sometime, but shouldn't be causing issues now, and her blood tests/symptoms did indicate some sort of minor gut upset. Maybe teeth coincided with gut upset, and the vet underestimated how bad they were? The vet said things would be fine if they continued to improve/didn't get worse; they're not getting worse, they're technically slowly improving, but in weird and out of character ways that seem to indicate ongoing problems.

The labor that is feeding August is complicated by the fact that Gillian is a problem eater (needs to be locked in with his food to keep from wandering off and forgetting to eat it, but hates being locked away; yells until I come sit with him while he eats dinner, which is spoons I just don't have) and that Dare is so far the opposite as to become a problem (eats fast enough to make herself vomit, so I have to take her food away 2-3 times per meal to make her slow down) and also needs her open eye socket cleaned around food-time because that's when it gets goopy. So I spend two 1.5h blocks/day hopping between cats to multitask their food intake—

—while trying to figure out, always in the background, what to do about August. (switch to other wet food semi-permanently? revisit vet? can either/both be budgeted? I am intentionally uninvolved with finances and money is my foremost anxiety trigger, so I find it difficult to account for that aspect of these decisions).

Cat management is my only responsibility and real contribution to the universe and it's comparably limited in scope, but I am nonetheless not coping well and perpetually exhausted and prone to taking long walks, which is an outlet, which gets me away from here; right now, away is all I want.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I am sitting here after very little sleep, waiting for August's bloodwork to come in—

—thinking about affect, and the fact that, whenever a bad thing is happening, one part of me is having an emotional reaction and another part of me is judging my emotional reaction: is this appropriate? is this authentic? am I performing "sad" or "scared"? When my outward expressions are insufficient, I'm never sure if it's because I'm still processing or because my reluctance to express creates an inability to experience. And always is the certainty that all of it is pretense, even when there's a concrete, external cause. This complicates the experience of bad things, becomes a sort of meta-anxiety.

I know where that self-doubt comes from. It's the natural result of an adolescence and young adulthood being told that all my negative feelings and expressions were drama-mongering, and an adulthood with an invisible condition that likes to go stealth, leaving me with comorbid tremors and depression but unable to feel the underlying pain. But I wonder when that sort of armchair self-psychoanalysis has run its course; at what point does knowing the root of a problem fail to excuse or alleviate it?

—eating chocolate: Madécasse: Sea Salt & Nibs, 63% cocoa. Picked this up because it was on clearance, and to my surprise the company seems sincerely mindful. But the chocolate itself is only so-so. I'm a percentage snob and this is way below my grade; regardless, the soft, sweet, fruity chocolate doesn't work well with the crunchy, strong, salty inclusions. The inclusions are sprinkled on the back of the bar, which looks nice but makes for irregular flavor and texture. This isn't awful and I want to like it very much, but I wouldn't get it again.

—and getting August's results! All is well: her bloodwork is normal, other than indications that she may have been fighting something off, which is consistent with her stomach issues and is already being treated with medication (metronidazole). She's still on bland food and still not eating her normal amount, but her food intake is slowly increasing, all her other symptoms have cleared up, her water intake is fine, and she's had little behavioral change. Unless things get worse/fail to get better, she should be fine. We still don't know what caused this; probably an undefined stomach bug or indigestion.

Now I can sleep mindlessly watch Star Trek for a week.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
When I woke up today (Saturday), as the weekend had rolled around and Devon had a break from homework and we could finally do anniversary-celebratory-things, I checked my email to find a message from Dee that began, "So I don't want to alarm you, and so far she seems to be okay, but I had to take August in to the vet this morning." Cut for some discussion of pet health and digestive issues: Read more... ) The vet thinks this is probably something that resolve itself, although the battery of tests can only help.

Obviously, Devon drove me back up this afternoon. My being here isn't essential but it is productive, if only because August is a one-person cat; having me back and restoring her status quo may help normalize her diet, and it will be less stressful if I'm the one pilling her. When I got back I lay down and pulled her to my chest and she pressed me back into the world and purred with me until we were both calm.

It's all terrifying, especially after losing Mamakitty last year (her decline began with eating issues, and we've been hypersensitive to our cat's food intake since then) and with the recent unexpected death of Casey, which is in all ways entirely unrelated but still has me paranoid. (Further bad timing: I was going to stop by and see my family and our old dog Jamie this weekend, and tell her I loved her and not to die; I should email them and ask them to pass on my message in my stead.)

But terrifying mostly because August is my heart and life and soul, and her wellbeing is the only thing in this universe in which I am truly invested and for which I feel responsible. I'm thankful beyond words that Dee was there, to deal with the pet-sitter's nightmare and make all the right decisions, and know me and my daughtersistercat so intimately that she could do exactly what I would have done.

I am okay because I have to be, because my anxiety can only disrupt August and contribute to her health issues; and because I have her with me. This is the only realm of my life in which I can do this: experience stress without falling to pieces, because someone else depends on my being whole. My heart my life my soul; the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
A week ago: While sitting up in bed, I threw out my upper back. How? with magic? a perverse force of will?? My trapezius on both sides were just gone, goodbye; everything hurt, but the worst offenders were sleep and the computer. I have a huge pain tolerance and endless experience with back pain, but it resisted every one of my treatments. (In retrospect, I should have iced it—the one thing I never do for my lower back, because it causes cramping.) What is it about a different pain that's somehow worse than chronic pain, not so much because it is worse or even more debilitating, but because these carefully honed coping mechanisms are now inapplicable. I've been dealing with my lower back for 15 years; I should either be exempt from other pain, or equipped to deal with anything. I was not. It went about 4 days without improvement, but is now back to normal anxious-person's-muscles level of ow.

A few days ago: Dee's mother's dog, Casey, died suddenly. Cut for brief discussion of pet death: Read more... ) This is not my immediate pain, but I still care immensely. All dogs are good dogs, but he was such a good dog, surfeit with love, content if he could just lean on you or lay against you and be touched. And so obedient, especially when I knew him and his puppyhood awful (of which I've heard horror stories!) was gone. And so engaged with his people. The loss hasn't quite registered for me, yet; but I've never been so glad that I had Thanksgiving with him and Odi. This was Casey: one, two, three, four.

Last night: Dreamed the mother of all anxiety dreams: I was back in school, living simultaneously-via-dream-logic at Devon's parents's house and in a boarding environment, and became convinced that the environment was so unhealthy and I was so stressed that I shouldn't have pets anymore, so I drowned August by luring her into a swiftly-flowing river with treats. Cut for suicidal ideation: Read more... ) I know what factors underlay all aspects of this dream; it was still singularly awful.

Tomorrow: Taking the train down to see Devon, to celebrate our 13th anniversary. (See: dreaming about his parents's house.) This is absolutely a good thing! It also bring with it "I have to leave the house" anxiety and "why do I have to travel to see him after thirteen years?" anxiety. It has been a long and strange week, an unearthly haze of blurred vision and intense pain and abstracted loss and anxiety. It will be good to make a clean break with it by traveling.
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. (I should have been born a cat)
It's fairly common to see Flight Rising users put name/timezone/preferred pronouns on their profiles, which I adore. But it meant I had the opportunity to just state my preferences, and thus I discovered that wiggly hand gestures and "it's complex" are not a statement.

The reason I prefer FR's habits—compared to LJ/Tumblr/journal spaces, where it's more common to use labels like cis/trans in combination with preferred pronouns—is because I'm adverse to discussing my gender identity; I don't know how to do it without co-opting those labels. I don't talk about therianthopy much these days because my intense period of self-discovery has passed. I don't have much more exploring to do or a lot to express; it's simply an aspect of my identity, definitive but known and, frankly, no big deal.* But I really do identify as cat, and for me that also defines my gender—and cat gender is complex. Domestic cats have some gender dimorphism, but it's effected by their neuter status and life history (namely, when they were neutered)—and none of it has corollaries to human concepts of gender. To me, the defining aspect of a neutered domestic cat's sex and gender is their neutering—they have a third non-sex identity and social role.

Yet I call Gillian my little man, and I call August my pretty princess, and that's simultaneously accurate and irrelevant. Gillian has a developed face structure, and so looks like a male cat; he also has a bossiness and noisiness that we associate with masculinity. August is a very pretty cat with silky fur, and is spoiled and demanding, which fits a feminine princess archetype.

I identify with both halves of that. My gender identity is "domestic neutered cat," which means a near absence of any aspect of sex or gender, physiological or social, human or feline. But I appear as feminine, and so I'm assigned feminine pronouns. Those pronouns aren't accurate, but they're functional. To call a pet "it" is (for lack of a better word) dehumanizing; gendering pets is a way of fitting them into our worldview, of interpreting/projecting/interacting with them as individuals. I'm especially aware of this with Devon—the parallels between Devon's relationship with me and my relationship with August are startling; he's my person, and I'm his girl in the way that August is my girl: the gendered identity is a useful tool, a way of interpreting and defining my identity and our relationship.

In some ways, the gender projected and assigned to me is important because it puts me under the "female" umbrella and that's not unburdened; it effects how I interact, as a human, with humans. But it does not make me a woman, any more than what I call Gillian turns him into a man.

The hand-waving complexity nudges up on the territory of agender and genderqueer, but I'm not comfortable with those labels because they indicate an experience that I respect and don't share. There's a massive cultural difference between the experience of gender identity and species identity—in short, my circumstances are meaningful to me but make nary a blip on anyone's social radar; agender and genderqueer identities do, in loaded and painful ways, it would be disrespectful as fuck to co-opt that experience.

Given the freedom to identify myself as I see fit, without needing to justify it, I freeze up. I presume that everyone intuits the unstated complexity and silently demands that I explain myself, which is classic social anxiety: the belief that everyone cares a lot about everything I do, and they're all judging me for it. I want to footnote in some handwaving and, I don't know, an apology. But when I'm able to step away from the paranoia, it's liberating. All those wiggly hand gestures are important to me, occasionally important to those close to me, and in adjunct ways important to society at large. But they're not always relevant, they don't always need to be expressed and defended.

My FR profile says "she/her or they/them." What that means is "female pronouns are convenient and acceptable; widely-recognized non-gendered pronouns are equally accurate" with subtitle "because I'm a cat and cats don't have genders, and using these words isn't the same as embracing their connotations." I care a lot about that!

The people glancing at my FR profile don't, and that's lovely.

* The primary exception: I feel like domestic therian species are underexplored, and yet domestication is the defining aspect of my therianthropy. As example: the effect of neutering, discussed here; also neoteny and its effect on my relative immaturity/continued dependence on caretakers. Gimme discussions about domestic therians pls.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I have this anti-anxiety "visualization" that I use to compartmentalize my obsessive thinking. Visualization is an approximation because I don't have visual images, so instead I focus on detailed imaginings of physical actions.

I imagine the negative thought as a physical object directly in front of me, and then imagine confining that object—sometimes I kneed it into a small ball, sometimes I put it in a box with a lid, sometimes I tie it up with string. Then I take the small, contained object and I put it way, way behind/beside me, somewhere over my right shoulder, too far back to see in my peripheral vision. If the thought reoccurs—which happens—I revisit the new location to remind myself that thought has been set aside.

I have many (albeit justified) hangups about the idea of being rid of my obsessive thinking—that it is pervasive and unremitting is core to my anxiety, and I won't let that be denied. This doesn't deny it: it recognizes it, and then sets it aside. It's one of the only ways I find relief.

I've been all over the place since Mama died, predictably. I miss her frequently, in a way I don't often experience loss, simply because she was so present and now she's not: not when I feed cats, not when I count heads dozing on beds, not there to visit me when I wake up in the morning. And I keep catching myself wanting to take those thoughts, bundle them up, and set them aside.

I have no idea if I should. Almost everything I ever feel is awful—illogical, constant, pointless awful, like being trapped forever in that 3am feeling of failing to sleep while successfully reliving that humiliating thing you did in tenth grade that everyone has forgotten but you. Those aren't thought process I've ever been able to work through and put to rest, so I know that putting them aside is healthy—it's sure healthier than endlessly experiencing them. I don't know what healthy mental processes feel like. I don't know what healthy grief feels like. Would compartmentalizing these feelings prevent me from working through them? I don't want to treat Mama's memory like the other stupid stuff I obsess about; I want to keep her alive in me and to remember, and fondly, all the things that I miss right now. But my brain is fragile—how much backlash do I risk if I let myself spiral into grief?

I end up vaguely paralyzed, holding that thought, that constant missing, as a solid object in front of me, unsure where to put it, where it should go. I miss her.
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)
Tomorrow morning, August goes in to the vet for dental surgery. She started having mouth pain a few weeks ago, and was diagnosed with moderate periodontal disease: her body is trying to reject (bacteria at the root of) her molars, causing inflammation and pain; they'll probably remove at least her top molars tomorrow, and maybe more. She'll just be there for the day, not overnight. She's been eating fine since we got her on wet food and pain medication, and her health is otherwise superb, and she'll come out of all of this okay—and having a concrete, if frightening, solution to her problem has helped me a lot. But on the eve of taking her to the vet, I'm pretty shaken up. I've left August before—I leave Portland all the time—but this is the first time that she's been taken from me, and it has an inherent wrongness and makes me feel as if I've lost control of the only thing that matters. I have full confidence that she'll get through the surgery just fine, and it's absolutely necessary and will help her a lot—but confronting the situation makes it seem more real. She is my heart and soul, and I've never more wished that I could push her into my ribcage and keep her within me, that close and that safe. I want to tell these vets to be careful, and help her, and that they're not allowed to touch her.

I just thought I should write this down. Keep her in her thoughts. Hug your pets.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I am rereading the His Dark Materials trilogy (and not reviewing them separately—because I dun wanna, that's why.) It's an extraordinarily intense experience.

Intense in part because a character walks into the book and something in my chest clenches hard because I know them, I know their entire story. When the film of The Golden Compass came out I found it watchable but redundant because in all but a few details (the ending, Mrs. Coulter's appearance) it was almost too like the book: so exactly the characters, so precisely imagined, adding nothing. But even that says something, because normally characters are hard for me. Because I don't visualize, I don't give faces to names; I find it difficult to distinguish individuals, and tend only to bond to characters in visual media.

Here, I knew them the second they walked on screen and they seemed right, not random (my problem with every other book to film adaptation, ever). Here, I know everyone. I hear about a rogue armored bear, and I know his rescued armor and fencing Lyra and fighting Iofur, and the name Silvertongue. An aeronaut, and suddenly I'm in Alamo Gulch and Hester has her face pressed to his. Each character is powerfully individual, a combination of caricaturization and the intense spirit that lights each of them from within. The power of their motivation exaggerates without simplifying their character; sometimes it defines their character, as in the intensity of Coulter and Asriel. It means I remember them all, and in each event I see their entire character arc—and in this series that's a vast and painful and beautiful thing.

And intense in part because my heart aches for a dæmon. Where Valdemar-style Companions never captured my imagination as a child, dæmons did. Perhaps it's because they are integral to the self: the bond with them is not acquired but rather both innate and universal, and even Tony has his Ratter. Perhaps it's that they can take any form, and that their form is also representative of self.

I am so introverted that I make most introverts look like uncommitted poseurs, and the only relationship I've ever had I don't find severely taxing is the one I have with Devon. As a result I idealize relationships of similar intimacy, ones so innate and complete that they can be socially fulfilling without drawing from my shallow pool of social resources (see: my interest in romantic friendships). That's what draws me to the companion animal trope, and most of all to dæmons. They are perfect companionship. They're more intimate than any relationship with an outsider, because they are ultimately a relationship with yourself; they are an end to loneliness; they are so meaningful that they are literally a conversation with your soul.

Like Will watching Lyra, I feel an intense sense of loneliness—as though without my dæmon, I am bereft of the companion I was always meant to have.

I know what she looks like, is the thing. I know that she's a she. I know that she's a feline beast, about fifteen pounds, markings that could be tabby in what may be brown or may be gray, fur long and wild and wispy so that she looks both larger and smaller than she is; she's scruffy and unremarkable and beautiful. You wouldn't call her a hous cat, but she's not any wild species either. I know how it feels to press her against my belly. I wish I knew her name. There are people that believe in the existence of dæmons, and that makes perfect sense to me—like any meditative technique or religious belief, it's just another way of conceptualizing self and defining interactions with one's environment. But I'm not that type of person, despite desires to the contrary—I've never been able to visualize, I've never had faith; she is so close and I almost know her so well, and yet she is so far away.

But in one of the first moments when Lyra could truly conceptualize what it would mean to lose Pantalaimon, "She swept him up and hugged him as if she meant to press him right into her heart"—and I know that feeling. It's the feeling I have every time that I hold August to me—the desire to press her right into the heart of me, so that nothing in the universe can ever come between us. August is not my dæmon—she's a stupid willful independent pooping cat. I don't expect her to talk to me, or solve my problems, or even remotely privilege my wellbeing over the existence of treats. But in a way, the love I have for her fulfills some of the need I have to see my soul made flesh, personified in the form of a beast which purrs.

And August is much prettier than my dæmon would ever be, anyhow.
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: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I now have two cats sleeping on my bed at night.

Gillian came from his second viral test (FIV/FeLV) with a clean bill of health, so after Thanksgiving's busyness I began integrating Gillian and August. They've seen and smelled much of one another in passing; I started by letting them both out only at feeding time, because it's hugely distracted for both of them (August is food-anxious, Gillian is food-happy) thus they could share space without direct interaction. Then I started letting them out together in the body of the house for a couple minutes at a time, after which August would come decompress with me in my room.

August isn't fearful, but she's cautious in a way that Gillian is not: he has some cat sensibilities and will jump at loud noises, but he's a confident, pushy beast. That means that all of this has been a little hard on me, despite the fact that integration is going smoothly: August is my baby and my first priority, and seeing her a little wary in the face of Gillian's intense nonchalance upset me; when they had exactly the sort of scuffles I expected they would have, August was the one being chased. It did her no harm, and after a few minutes she was ready to try again; I've also been careful not to show any of my resentment to Gillian. But acknowledged and containing my feelings in the wake of Thanksgiving ... I dunno, I've just been wiped out lately,

After a day of fifteen minute interactions, I started leaving my door open and interviening less. Gillian spent most of his time downstairs, as usual (I imagine upstairs still has some "locked in the bathroom" connotations); August spent most of her time in my bedroom, as usual. At night they each slept likewise. But the night after, Gillian found August's blanket on my bed and made himself at home there, and after some coaxing (I found August asleep in the small laundry hamper in the bathroom, it was actually adorable) August also slept on the bed.

Last night they shared opposite ends of August's blanket.

August is still a bit wary and they're not snuggling or anything, but when Gillian plays August may feels the urge to play, and they can sniff each other without anyone bolting, and there are two cats on my bed: this was pretty much what I hoped for from my future, back when I first took Gillian inside.

He's a remarkably different cat that I thought he was—not just age and sex, but he's a ridiculous and feisty thing. He's still in his e-collar; I'll try removing it after the cats are completely settled, and see if a calm environment and behavioral therapy (read: distractions) can cure his overgrooming. If not, I'd rather keep him in an e-collar than put him on medication—call this a neurotic human's bias—although I may commission my mother (who sews and makes fabric arts) for a pair of cloth collars which look nice and would be easy to throw in the wash. It's a pity: he's adorable under there.

The bond I have with August is intense. She is my childsister cat and I love her beyond reason; I speak of my love for her the way that Devon speaks of his love for me. She is my heart. Gillian isn't that, and I don't mind. This is a relationship I was careful not to demand of August when I brought her home, but I found it and it filled the hole in me that was shaped like a cat. It's not something I need from Gillian, which may be good because he's so broad and greedy with affection—and because I can't expect two miracles. I'm content with our annoying demanding ridiculous meowing heat-seeking cat missile in a dumb collar, and August is figuring him out, too.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Real autumn broke a few weeks back, and was a long time coming—so many sunny days—but we have rain now, and deep blue skies behind the yellow foliage. Gillian has been out and about for an hour or three every day, while August is busy with her daytime sleep and locked safe in my room. I have played American McGee's Alice: Madness Returns while sipping hot apple cider and buried under a blanket, with an open window (letting in wind and the sound of rain) at my back and a cat in my lap.

Indeed it feels as if lately the only thing I've not done sans lapcat is breathe. Cool weather brings August to me; at night she curls up between my legs while I read or watch TV before bed, finding the most awkward possible spot on the bed (hogging as many blankets as she can) so that when I finally turn off the lights I must twist myself around her into whatever space and bedding is left. When they're not cuddling, they're yowling: Gillian mostly, who—now that he has discovered the world outside the bathroom—complains mightily whenever he's trapped in that stifling prison. He has another month of quarantine, and so he shall just be forced to cope.

Odi is afraid of Gillian, who weighs eight pounds and is front declawed. We're not sure if this is because Gillian has the scary confusing soft e-collar of doom, or because Gillian has a few times actually gone after Odi when Odi gets too close. (Mind, August has swatted at him with actual, albeit blunted, claws, and he's not the least bit scared of her).

Autumn is for walking dogs. Dee's been walking Odi in the rain since the first day of it; I finally went with them a few days back, on a day when threatening rained turned into sprinkles turned into a jean-soaking downpour, and I would not live in any other climate in the world than this. Yesterday we walked down to St. Johns proper, went to Starbucks and took our drinks and the dog to the Willamette waterfront, blue and cool; we went to the library where we each had a book on hold, because autumn is for reading.

It's not all beautiful: my wrist issues have been flaring and thus I have a lot piling up that I want to do and can't—and moreover the fact that my body's throwing up yet another chronic issue just frustrates me—and the needy cats are lovely but also draining my energy. But: autumn. I can't argue with that, wouldn't want to; it is so beautiful, here.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Gillian is exceedingly frustrated. He's probably been an over-groomer for some time, which is precisely why he's wearing an e-collar now—so he can't groom his irritated skin and so make it more irritated and so make him want to groom it. The first few days of the e-collar were awkward, because he wasn't quite sure how to function with this odd addition to his body; now he's just a tail-lashing beast of frustration and misery, because the raw sections are scabbed and the scabbed sections are flaking and hair is growing back everywhere and I imagine it all itches like mad.

I'm reading a particularly enjoyable book which is perfect for bite-sized consumption, so I often go into the bathroom—we've moved him to the second-floor bathroom, which is larger and has a window and gets more use, so he gets more company—and sit on the floor and read a chapter or two. He used to be content to fall asleep in my lap, e-collar and all; how he paces and tries to groom and ends up licking the collar or the two inches of tail he can reach. If I go to leave, though, he makes a dive for my ankles and meows plaintively.

When I'm in there, August sticks her paws under the door. Sometimes she bats at any of his toys which are in reach. Always she mewls most pathetically. They've met under the door and through an almost-closed door and once when August managed to dart into the bathroom. Who knows how they'll get along, but he is desperate now to get out into the land of free-roaming cuddles, and she's desperate to get in to the magical off-limits home to the second bowl of cat food.

He's already learned to clear his dish twice a day because if he doesn't, the rest of the food goes away. In the long run I'll probably still feed him in a closed bathroom, since he takes about ten minutes and August takes three, and she will eat his food too given half a chance.

August has kept her cute level set on high for days now—maybe a bit of anxiety or jealousy, or maybe just a steady reminder that "I am also a perfect cat and you love me too right." And I do. It's finally truly autumn here: the overcast cool weather has held for days, and any sun that breaks it from now on will be a lovely crisp and bright autumn day, not a return to summer. August wants nothing more in the world (excepting the hours leading up to each meal) to sit on a microfleece blanket that is next to or on top of me and kneed it and go to sleep, and for that matter I would rather nothing more than same with addition of a video game or book.

About this time last year we were thinking how lovely Halloween would be with a beautiful black cat in the window. This year there could easily be two, and while August is certainly the more regal—she sits with her back arched and her tail wrapped neatly around her front paws—it does seem like particular happenstance to have a matching set. They're mirror-cats to one another: black and green but midsized fluffy bright-eyed; black and green but small short-haired pale-eyed. She meows in consonants and he in vowels.

This is not how I expected things to end up, and I spent a few days in a haze of disbelief—cultured by stress and the numbness that follows it—where he wasn't really a pet, just a project: a creature to be rehabilitated and taken to expensive vet visits. But he is, you know—a pet, I mean; a family member—and before long we'll be worrying about things like cat pheromones and peaceful first meetings and group socialization, and who knows how many black cats will be keeping watch come All Hallows' Eve.

And a black dog, too.

I noticed today, sitting on the front porch with Mamakitty, that the dark fur in her calico motley will make her look quite lovely against black.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
This is your Gillian update post:

He's a he, and he's seven years old (who knew?), and he's had at least two previous owners, and he's ours now. The name isn't changing, since Gillian is unisex—the pronunciation, however, which was wavering between "Jillian" and "Gillian," is now firmly set on "Gill."

He was mircochipped, and they were able to contact the registered owners (which is moderately rare). Gillian was their son's cat, adopted six years ago at about one year old in Hillsboro, Oregon, which is about twenty miles and one river away from here. It seems like the son wasn't a permanent resident with his parents, who ended up as de facto caretakers; the cat was indoor-outdoor and reportedly quite sweet, but went walkabout; we don't know how long they had him. They were NOT the people that declawed him; there's no record of those owners.

The registered owners don't want the cat and are happy to transfer legal ownership, which is a blessing: the best of a possibly tricky situation. Gillian has some sort of skin issue—they didn't find fleas but he did get a flea treatment; his constant grooming may be fleas or allergies or a nervous habit. He'll have to wear an e-collar while things heal, and we're taking a basic approach: treatment and improved living conditions, and we'll wait and see how the condition develops; it seems equally likely that it will improve when he can't bother it, or that it may need further treatment. He tested negative for FIV/FeVL, and got basic vaccinations. Tonight he'll begin a basic antibiotic course, because who knows what he was exposed to outside. Because of his age, we will eventually want to get complete bloodwork done just to have an general measure of his health.

So: fairly healthy adult male cat, ready now to spend a few weeks in the bathroom, and then we'll start introducing him to the rest of the house. And then as soon as we're done with Gillian and ready to start anew, we get to go through the same process with Mamakitty. (Send help.)

Right now I think that Gillian just wants to spend a few hours curled up beside the toilet, not being molested. I'm exhausted myself, underslept and nauseous. August is curled in my lap, and she loves me. (She's been fine with all these changes, so far—curious, but fine. I expect she'll be fine with Gillian actual, too—she's lived with cats before, and so has he.) But as though she knows she has competition, and because I was out of town for a few days, she has been the cutest and most cuddly of cute and cuddly beasts, let me tell you. And she's so soft, like a bunny. And full of sleep.

So. Food and mediocre TV time, to settle my stomach and my spirits. But hey, guys. We have another cat.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I was playing Animal Crossing and thinking late-summer thoughts this evening, about to wrap up, when I glanced out the front window and saw Mamakitty's tail whisking by the corner. (Should you need a refresher: this is Mamakitty.)

Here's an open secret (secret insofar as I'm afraid that if I say it will happen, something will go horribly wrong; but if I keep a veil of "probably not definitely," then I cannot be disappointed): Dee and I are planning to adopt Mama when the weather gets cold this year. We felt awful for her in the chilly, raining winter last year—and in the intervening months, Odi will have more time to grow up and learn to be not quite so OMG A CAT A CAT. But this is an idea we've been flirting with for some time, and all my caution aside it will most likely happen, and I can't wait. In preparation for adopting her, Dee's begun feeding her—taking over the duty from our next door neighbor. It's heartbreaking, the number of cats we're now feeding on the front porch: fascinating to watch while eating breakfast, but you just don't know how many neighborhood strays/outdoor cats there are until you're providing food.

After the tail sighting, I grabbed a few treats and went outside. One of the cats that eats the food is a skinny almost all-black shorthaired beast that I'd thought was skittish—but after I sat on the porch for a few minutes that kitty just came over to me and demanded in-depth scritches. So many scritches, in fact, that when Mamakitty came out from under the porch the black kitty batted at her with a territorial NO MY PEOPLE HANDS MY TOUCHIES. I did some wide-armed dual-cat scratching to pacify everyone until black kitty got bored, and then it was just me and Mama.

When I tried to go back inside she stared at me through the window screen and made me feel sad, so I ended up spending quite some time with her and she got oh so many treats.

You can sense the death of summer, now. The hundred degree days have passed (fingers crossed and fate willing); apples are falling from the tree out front, startling Mama with each thick thump. I found an over-eager red maple leaf on a tree when I walked the dog today. It's not imminent autumn, but it's the inkling of it: end-summer dry deadness promising a blaze of color; early harvest promising abundance.

The gray wood and white rails of the porch, those dead dry leaves, our seedy and still beautiful front garden all flatter Mama, bringing out the calico in her coat and the contrasting white blaze. She's a beauty, this cat, and absolutely ridiculous. She's fluffy and stout, a round thing; she gets awful mats, but our neighbor has been brushing them out of her and that means, one day, I'll be able to do the same (I love grooming animals way more than a simple "love" would imply). She's skittish, but loves treats and cuddles; she'll reach her paws towards you if you try to walk away, and when she's happy she drools so much that she leaves polkadots on the floor. All cats are perfect, but this one is especially magical and she'll fit right in to our house of strange people and weirder beasts.

But today she was right at home on our porch in the cool breezes at the dying end of summer.

That's nice, Juu, you say; how about some pictures? Well, okay.

Mamakitty through the window. )

On the porch with Mamakitty, 1

Hanging with Mamakitty on the porch, +2. )

With bonus:

August drinking from a water glass
Oh where, oh where has my cat's dignity gone
Oh where, oh where can it be...

For the record, this was a whole lot funnier before August knocked over a glass, spilling water onto my keyboard and causing apparently permanent damage: the "p" has been broken for a week, and the primary enter button seems to come and go. How many words really do use p, you ask? SO MANY WORDS and I have to use the onscreen keyboard to complete all of them.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
August's one-year-here anniversary passed without fuss—as it's the day before the 4th of July it was difficult to forget, but arbitrary dates still are arbitrary so I didn't pay it much mind. But in its way, it's a fantastical, gigantic thing that I have this cat; that I've had her for over a year, now. I feel like I've already said everything I can about the ways in which she's changed me. When I got a cat I knew it would be a change, and that's what I was there for: one life-changing experience, sign me up. A dog, we've found, is a large change, a day-to-day behavioral change (especially for Dee, goodness knows); a cat is smaller. They don't require daily walks or need to learn commands; they become a presence in the house, your life, and your bed. But that, still, is huge—especially for me.

So it's too much and too little, when I write about her—about how I love her every time my heart beats, about how she's filled a void in my soul, about how this cat is my favorite, my favorite thing ever, favorite being ever, my dearest love. It's melodramatic (as I tend to be), and gracefully overlooks the fact that she poops in a litterbox and breaks into any plastic-wrapped ANYTHING left ANYWHERE and annoys the everloving shit out of me for a minimum hour before each of her meals, and it's accurate—as accurate as I ever could be in telling you about my cat.

It's 90 degrees here today. I hate summer, we know, but this one hasn't been nearly as soul-destroying as last year—it's been more mild more often, and we better know how to cope with heat in this house (for my room, that means: crossbreeze. crossbreeze. no really: open the damn windows, all of them, yes.), and in a way I'm embracing this summer—reading summer books, tolerating with the warm weather—not for the sake of summer itself but so that when autumn and the rains come they will seem all the more glorious.

90 degrees, and August is stretched on my bed as drowsy and pliant as any cat could be, and I love her. I would rather love her than do or be or have almost anything. I would rather have her in my life than likewise. There's a steady breeze, and we've passed the magical time of day—5p—when the temperature goes from rising to falling. She'll curl up more as the temperature drops, she'll move from lying flat on my bed to sitting on her microfleece blanket, and she will always be perfect.

One year, guys.

Have some pictures.

August, a year later

+3 )

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