A call for writers and some moments of Cats and Awesome

I feel like a character in a musical this morning, my mood is so good. I was actually cranky for the last few days and couldn’t figure out why. I finally had alone time (something I miss with caregivers, alone time to me means days of solitude) but I just hurt and hurt. Sprite and her magic paws of awesomeness found the source of the epic pain. That isn’t the source of my good mood however.

Here is a science fiction writing contest with a theme on disability, the rules stipulate the disabled character cannot be disabled to mark their evil. This is the main reason that I have not read any sci fi in the last year, as I have grown tired of the same tropes, it wounds me. I’ve instead begun to write scripts and dramas that focus on this very thing. I am going to enter (will start that story once I finish my show pitch and between composing for the composition gig). If you are a writer, want to try your hand at it, or know someone who may be interested pass it along. This entire paragraph is a link that is screaming CLICK ME.

Ria, an ally and a friend on Facebook also shared this link with me today. It’s a call for papers about the same topic, disability and literature. I think addressing the treatment of those of us with disabilities in writing is a huge step towards being enabled by our communities. Not tolerated, not accepted, not just respected but enabled and embraced. So this paragraph is also a link that is screaming CLICK ME.

I know that on the competitive side of things some of you may be wondering why I would want competition but, I am the sort of person that likes it. I want to go against the best so that when I win there is no doubt in my mind that victory was deserving and if I lose then I can just try again and again. Sometimes of course I am disheartened but, I feel already a winner with this literary contest. Not because I will win, but because I feel my humanity is being embraced, my flag flown high, I feel enabled. I am enabled to find something to read that doesn’t have me rolling my eyes at the helplessness, evilness, or apparent horror that is NOT actually inherent with disability.

Now on to the crankiness. It’s another Sprite Tale. I have lived with her for five or six years now, can’t peg it today which is fine with me. Each day she amazes me with her intuitive nature. Florence Nightengale wishes she had my cat for her nursing aide. From the waist down for the last few days my pain level has been slowly increasing. I couldn’t peg it and was going to call the doctor this morning although I just saw her. This started the day after my last appointment.

The ache in my knees was bigger than anything the arthritis causes, and since it was rainy I was certain that was the culprit. I did my normal rub downs to check for dislocations and there wasn’t any sign of one. Everything felt normal if a bit squishy. I chalked it up to a few days of a flair up and tried to go with it. Yesterday the pain got worse, and worse, and worse. By the time it was 11 pm I had to throw in the towel and went to try and sleep. As I laid down Sprite did her evening body check.

She started with my head and worked her way down tucking my blanket in around me. This limits how much I can move without waking up, but since I have to wake up anyway and it’s very comforting I don’t mind. It’s one of the very human things Sprite does that amuses me and makes me wonder why people think that the cat has to be the baby. Nymph was helping and worked her way down after, which tickled considerably. I managed to not laugh too much and after Sprite was done she curled up to purr on my knees.

Sprite proved to me long ago that her purring can ease my pain. I am sure there is a psychological component but she usually warms and massages the muscles and there is some mention in a national geographic that I can’t find (or I’d give you the source) that the cats purr can increase bone density. It’s being studied. Cats do purr more when they are wounded and Sprite purrs more and closer to my body’s aches and pains.

I felt it then, I really had dislocated my knee. It wasn’t something I had felt because the bone had tried to go back into place and was pinching the tissues. I could feel the exact spot that was out, it wasn’t my knee cap which is the usual suspect but instead my stretchy tissues had let my knee snap down when I’d stumbled in the bathroom, the one place I have to walk.

With a different type of dislocation I had to figure out how to fix it, but with Sprite’s help that didn’t actually take much. I just dangled my leg over the end of the bed, she went on the floor and pushed up. It hurt, but I could feel gravity pull things apart and with her pushing up, not a lot of force needed, everything snapped into place. It made me feel like I am a giant Lego. The sound was similar.

She tucked me in again and resumed purring on my knees. I slept for four hours uninterrupted, which is twice as much as normal. Nymph and Sprite took turns being closest to my legs when I would shift or roll over. This morning my legs still ache but the pain is almost subtle, almost normal, and it is decreasing rapidly. My muscles are tired from over compensating so it will be a few days but once again Sprite has amazed me with her grasp of how to make her human better.

If I had a million cat dollars (mouse tails perhaps?) I’d give them to her just for her awesomeness.

Updates and a Contest

I updated the Catnips page. I finally found some people who merit the Accessibility Awareness Award! This award has been gathering dust for over a year. I hadn’t given up on it but I had stopped actively hunting. I found both places in one day, and there is a third that is pending processing. (This just means I am making certain the company approves of their being posted online with a write up, to respect their image.)

Each business gets a subpage in the Catnips section, linking on both the side page or you can find them via the Catnips Page.

This brings us to the second order of business, the contest.

First, what I offer you. A page about you on the side bar, permanently. Linking to your website if you have one, or when you get one, and finally spreading access and awareness of you. If you win, I will also post an interview on this blog about you.

Here is what I ask in turn, I am asking for artists to draw, paint, photomanip, and create one of two images, you can enter with both. Either draw Super Cripple, defending justice and advocating for equal rights or the Cork Screw of Justice! If you want specifics from me, ask, and I will post them here for all to see to keep the contest fair.

If you aren’t an artist feel free to pass this around to someone who is. If you are, I am not worried about skill level, just do your best and have some fun!

Now, the first person to draw Super Cripple did so on request, so, I present access to the art page of a friend of mine. Rich also known as Realmis also known as Soulstarisborn draws some really unique work. I hope someday to buy his comic books. In honor of the Watchmen Movie he offered free Super Hero drawings so I dropped him a line and he drew Super Cripple for me. He renamed her Libra, partly because he understands the concept of isms, and how some words can only be used by people they were once used to Oppress.

Super Cripple as drawn by Rich

Super Cripple as drawn by Rich

Edit: I forgot to put the deadline in. You have until May 1st at Midnight to enter, and, to submit either post a link to a DeviantArt Page or email the images and your personal details to Textual Fury and include the words Art Contest in the Subject!

When the Fantasy is Reality

I had to just sleep after the Toastmasters contest today. My chair, not working with my body since the chairfall, caused seizures. Again. I felt frustration and kept bouncing between one of the conference chairs and my scooter, pretty much between every speech. I felt paranoid about that but decided in order to judge and properly evaluate I had to try for the comfort level that was necessary. It did work, it was just obnoxious.

After the contest I had people asking me if I was me. I haven’t seen some of these men and women in seven years. Not since I was the one up on the stage giving a speech. I think it was about the importance of feet. I had to explain the chair to these people, but, instead of revulsion there was only acceptance. My brain rejected this.

Most people with disabilities, upon their disability becoming apparent face a world so full of revulsion that it is impossible to find a place with acceptance as the norm at first. It is common for persons with disabilities to face stereotyping, because of course if we want access we are just angry disabled people. If this isn’t what is thrown at us like daggers, then it is that we are stupid, or just not worth the time.

Today there was no question of my intellect, acceptance, and indeed I looked around the room and felt that sense of family again. For me feeling love and contentment with people is very rare. Today was the reminder I needed to reground me, not every place or every person is full of disablism. There will be people in Toastmasters who are, and perhaps places that are in accessible but in this case the majority is acceptance.

It does help too, that I am far from the only person with a disability in Toastmasters. There are a lot of people with hidden and not so hidden disabilities in this organization, some of the more prominent are those with disabilities. Some might argue this is because we have more time, which of course is scoffed at. A portion of disabled people still hold down traditional jobs. The rest of us do not work either because employment is difficult to find or our bodies do not work well enough for employment in a traditional field.

I myself fall into that last category. I do not work at a traditional job because I couldn’t function with in the first two days. My body requires more rest, and does not recoup energy as quickly or consistently. This could be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, though my doctor and I agree it is merely a reflection of the energy it takes for me to balance, hold my body in place, and to work past the pain.

I am on rationed pain meds, saving them for when I cannot breathe or think until April unless I run into more disablism. Still, the realization of what I have merits trumpets and shouting from accessible rooftops. Toastmasters is my place, I can network there and I can help others. They help me too. I am going to compete in the Fall, during the next round of contests. Not just for the glory of competition, but, for the joy of being involved and active.

Toasting the Masters…

Today I found my Toastmaster’s group. First try too! That part was utterly unexpected. Usually it takes a few trips around the group sets to find where I belong. Not today. I am still planning to go to the Albuquerque Toastmaster’s meeting tonight, but only to reconnect with oldfriends and really, only if I have the energy. I am kind of beat. The good kind of exhaustion come from energy well spent.

First, we had to find the place, and via Rand Mcnally’s better than Mapquest map maker (you can get turn by turn maps!) we had success. Walking in, there was a lovely security guard. She not only opened the doors for me but cheerfully gave me instructions on how to find the group and didn’t hesitate to allow Sprite the Service Cat into the building. The meeting was on the second floor of the building, and we entered it… the most awesome elevator I have ever seen. It was awesome despite my fear of heights. The back half was clear so you could see exactly where you are. If you fall you can see you are falling! The ride was smooth, and it was roomy.

Backing out I took note of the hall of doors and entered the first room, after seeing the Toastmaster’s TVC banner. I had a second to breathe and then the greetings started. Every person there had such genuine kindness and they were all excited at the prospect of meeting someone new. I transfered from the Scooter into one of the rolling chairs, because they looked really comfortable. They were sweeeeet. I volunteered myself to work if they needed anyone, and it turned out they did.

Today was their Club Level contests for the Annual International and Table Topics speech competitions. I was secondary timer, one of the required and more relaxing jobs. I had little to do but relax and enjoy myself. I did have bouts of nostalgia with the memories of Toastmasters Once Was, but, the toastmasters group I was in snapped me back fast, with their own brand of awesomeness. First and foremost the concept of a service cat was greeted with , “She’s adorable, and what a neat idea. You’ll have to give a speech about that sometime.” My brain almost broke with the acceptance.

It turns out that there is at least one, but I think two, service animal users. They often have a dog there, though the dog doesn’t react well to cats, so there is some coordinating to be done. I introduced myself, and went ahead and mentioned that Toastmasters is going to help me achieve my goal of Miss Wheelchair USA. This was met with excitement. I forgot most of the TM Groups names, but, they are so wonderful, I am going to join.

The speeches were all top bar, as a contest requires. One of the speeches was about the Superhero Inside, and almost made me squee out of habit at the words Batman, Superman, and of course Wonder Woman. This speech had appeal for any age group, and was so well delivered. I laughed, internally I cried just a little, and I laughed again. This speech will go far. The sec9nd place speech was just as fabulous, and it was about the discovery of Service Animals. The speaker talked about the joy and sorrow in sharing your life with an animal and encouraged the audience to get a pet of their own. The third speech was also good, though, it needed more polish and talked about the challenges of industrial labour. Each speech taught something, and each speech had a unique element. It was a hard contest for the judges. I got to count their sheets with the other Timer (Head Timer) and the Head Judge.

I came full circle. I left Toastmasters long ago (Six year!) just after the first round of contests, and I am returning just as it begins. I only felt welcome, even when Sprite spooked a member. She went under the table and rubbed against her legs, the poor woman (in a really snazzy outfit) was startled but again, so very gracious. I did not feel anything but that warmth of belonging.

I am going to start my speaking path over, as I am relearning about delivery from a wheelchair. it will be a challenge, but, how can I live without the joy of Toastmasters? Especially when the people are not discriminatory but accepting, the space is beyond ADA compliant, and, they will support my dreams? Just before I left a suggestion was made about having a Service Animal and Companion Pet gathering, that is a great idea with planning, though it must be done carefully to prevent fights.

I came away feeling energized, and only  grew tired when my wheelchair broke, though that is a post for another time.

Links:

Toastmasters International: Find a club near you, find information, or even renew your membership!

Toasmasters District 23: My home District

Toastmasters at TVC: My Group

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