Monday, July 28, 2008

My Fatifesto

I strive toward a world in which:

- People are treated respectfully, regardless of their body shape or size,

- Medical personnel treat a person's actual medical problems and behave as professionals who set aside personal aesthetics when treating and diagnosing a patient,

- The answer to every problem does not involve weight loss,

- A person's body size or shape does not reflect their morality,

- Fat people are not scapegoated for all the world's ills,

- Fat is not an epithet,

- My body's shape or size is regarded as my business and no one else's,

- The life-giving act of eating is not regarded as shameful, weak, or dangerous,

- A fat person can be in public without fearing they will be abused in some way,

- The abuse--physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, or other--of fat people is regarded as morally wrong, with no exceptions or excuses,

- It is acknowledged that no one needs to "do something" about their body's shape or size,

- It is acknowledged that most fat people cannot significantly change their body size or shape, even if it were beneficial to do so,

- Fat people are not subjected to hard-sell, dishonest marketing tactics that shame and scare them into purchasing products and services they do not need, and which do not work,

- A food's merits are based on its nourishing qualities and good flavor, not on how few calories it has,

- Fat people are not discriminated against in the job market.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

And now, the hard part, part II

We are currently fostering some mothers with nursing kittens. One of the kittens, a tiny orange tabby named Holly, was rejected by the mothers, and by the time she came to us, she was skeletal. Brian and I did what we could, giving her formula with a syringe, which she lapped up eagerly. Within a day, she recognized us as food-bringers, and would run to us when we came in the room. If we didn't feed her right away, and had to leave the room (such as, refilling the water dish in the room), she would sit at the door and give a tiny mew.

Mother cats often reject a kitten because they know something is wrong, even if we can't tell. When Brian and I went in for her 6pm feeding, she was on her side, listless, with agonal breathing. Not long after, she passed, cradled in his hands. She was such a tiny baby, weighing only half a pound, and adorably sweet. Lots of "ifs" go through my mind, including wondering if we'd have been able to do better if she'd come to us sooner, but I don't think so. I am reflecting on her short life, and thinking of the good we did for her, while she was with us.

If we'd never fostered Holly at all...

...she would never have known a moment's peace from the fleas that covered her body in angry, red bites. She instead had nearly a week of flea-free living, enough for her skin to heal, and for the painful bites to cease.

...her last days would have been with an empty belly. Instead, she was fed to satiation by humans to whom she was so grateful, she came running to them whenever they came into the room.

...she wouldn't have been cuddled and stroked in her last days, because her mother didn't want her. Instead, she was held and cuddled by the humans who filled her belly.

...she would likely have died alone. Instead, she passed in the gentle hands of a human man who loved her dearly.

...she would have died nameless. Instead, she was carefully named with great love and consideration, and there are stories to be told of her short life with us.

...there would have been no one to remember her with love, and give her a shady resting place after her body failed her. Instead, she is immortalized in my foster diary, and she has a grave which will have a namesake bush planted in her honor. She is also near another kitty's resting place, so she is not alone (Teya, we miss you).

Friday, July 25, 2008

God hates McDonald's

So, the religious right is boycotting McDonald's because they are supportive of gay rights.

Not only do I have a problem with people who fight tooth and nail for their "right" to treat an entire demographic as subhuman, I also have a problem with hypocrisy. The catalyst for the current whine-fest is McDonald's being listed as a "Corporate Partner" on the webpage of the NGLCC. You can see this list here:

They are targeting McDonald's, yet there are quite a few other partners listed that are not getting so much attention. One major example that stands out in my mind includes a few pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Merck, and Johnson & Johnson. I don't see these bigots going without their Viagra, Zithromax, or Zocor. Or, in the case of Johnson & Johnson, their band-aids, baby shampoo, or Tylenol.

Other companies include airlines (Southwest and American), hotels (Hyatt, Hilton, and Wyndham), credit card companies (American Express, Capital One, and quite a few others), quite a few grocery chains (including Acme, Shop n Save, and Albertson's), realtor Century 21, and that obscure little shipping company, UPS. In fact, it seems that quite a few of the corporate partners are providers of services that most people would be hard pressed to do without.

McDonald's has taken a beating for years over many things, including environmental issues, health concerns, and not disclosing that their fries are not vegetarian. Now that they've done something right, something that promotes justice, I really hope they stand their ground against the bigots. It might even convince me to occasionally patronize them, even if it's just for a pie and iced tea once in a while, and I am going to roll my eyes at the hypocrite fundies who think that boycotting one corporate sponsor of a civil rights group is going to help them in their fight to keep gay people from being treated as human beings.

I watch these people freaking out, as if they are terrified that gay people are going to...what, exactly? Break into their houses and make them engage in gay sex? Wave a rainbow flag in their faces?

No, really, I want to know why people are so terrified. If gay people are allowed to live their lives without being harrassed, discriminated against, or otherwise treated like crap, what are the consequences homophobes are so afraid of? Gays currently are able to do many of those things in certain parts of the US, and it is very clear that they aren't out raping heterosexuals en masse.

Why are they so concerned with something that is none of their business, that doesn't affect them?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Educating with Animals

My favorite assistant (Brian) and I did a reptile show for a daycare's summer camp today. The kids were mostly between 5 and 7 years of age, and there were very few who were afraid of any of the animals. I tell the audience before we begin that, if they don't feel comfortable touching an animal, they may tell us, "No, thank you," and hold up their hands, palms forward, to make sure we understand. I tell them that it isn't fair to them for anyone to make them touch an animal they are afraid of, and that we will not tease them, pester them, or otherwise give them a hard time over it.

Once they realize they have a choice in the matter, the majority of initially fearful children will ask to touch the animal once they have seen some of their peers doing so. It's absolutely rewarding to see a terrified kid become brave and curious, especially when dealing with a snake--an animal that they have been conditioned to fear by their culture. I make sure that all the snakes we use are very even-tempered so they don't make sudden moves to frighten people. I also tend to choose some of our more "cuddly" snakes that enjoy being held--Tez, my Honduran milk snake, will often slide himself into the pocket of his handler and contentedly rest in there for as long as we'll let him.

The most fearful people we encounter are adults. They have had a long time to build their phobia, and, unfortunately, when their phobia is revealed to certain types of people, those types will worsen the phobia by tormenting the fearful person with it. Whether it's attacking them with rubber snakes, making hissing sounds, or just describing unpleasant encounters with snakes, the tormentor delights in freaking out the phobic, so that by the time I get to them, they are desperately afraid that I am going to shove a snake in their faces, chase them around with it, or make them hold it against their will.

We will do none of those things--my preferred method for dealing with phobic people is to allow them to watch me handling the snake, talking to the snake, and demonstrating that it is harmless to me. I tell them the snake's name, since names tend to make them more personable and less scary. I talk about how long the snake has been in captivity, and where it came from. I also explain that almost every one of my ill-tempered snakes (which never go to shows) was abused by a human, and they learned that our species can't be trusted to do anything except cause them suffering. Most people don't even think about a snake being abused, but when they are faced with that notion, are better able to relate to them.

So today's show involved two snakes, two lizards (including Spinner, the legless lizard), Blinky the frog, and our redfoot tortoise. There were two fearful teachers, one of whom was so afraid that he couldn't even look at snakes on television. We had a handful of kids that were initially afraid, but once they saw their classmates touching the animals without fear, they mostly came around and wanted to have that experience too.

I feel it's important in what I do to give young people a familiarity with these animals so that they don't get saddled with an irrational phobia. It's absolutely delightful when they overcome their initial anxiety to reach out to one of these creatures. If what I do in these shows prevents at least one young person from killing snakes on sight out of fear later, I will have done good to the future snakes of the world.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cat rescue and low income families

Our newest foster kitty is a six-month-old white short-haired kitty named Sunshine. She came from a home where her mom and another female cat are now raising fresh litters of kittens. The family is very poor, and they were not able to purchase cat food for the past few days, so they'd been feeding Sunshine and the rest fish sticks* up until today.

The family had agreed to give up the kittens so they could be fostered, altered, and rehomed, but they don't want to give up their adult momma cats because they are their beloved pets. The solution we are trying to come up with is to have me or someone else foster the moms and kittens until the babies are weaned, then get the moms spayed and returned to their family, along with some education and access to resources in case of future crises. The purpose of fostering them is to keep the moms confined so that they don't get pregnant again, and to make sure everybody is safe and fed for that time period.

Someone in a livejournal community had commented that they didn't understand why the rescue would get the momma cats at Sunshine's former home spayed, then return them to that situation afterwards. I gave her a very long answer, and thought I would share it here.


The goal is to try to find solutions that are agreeable to the family. Otherwise, if their animals are simply taken away, they'll just go and pick up a "free kitten" elsewhere and start the cycle all over again.

Ptera's mom and dad were in a similar home. She and her sisters were removed for fostering (by me--they were my first fosters, and I kept two of them, haha), and L, the coordinator dealing with that neighborhood's poverty-level families with cats, got the parents spayed and neutered so that the family wouldn't end up having more kittens. They received some education and advice, and now they have two loving feline companions that aren't going to increase the unwanted kitten population any more. They also now have access to resources if things get tough again.

The rescue also has a low-cost spay/neuter program for people to get their cats fixed even if they don't have a lot of money. Those who are on public assistance of some kind (medicaid, welfare, food stamps, social security) can get theirs done for free if they provide us with proof of their being on programs or low income. The cost is covered through the rescue by donations and grants. For $70, they get a spay/neuter, a rabies shot, a flea treatment, and a vet exam (where the doc can find other problems that need addressing and make them aware of it). For another $4, they can get the cat wormed. Again, low income families can get it done for free; we do a maximum of four free procedures each clinic, out of a total of 25 cats done that day--and the clinics are done every Sunday. It's a great program.

Even though the situations are not ideal for the animals, we have to acknowledge the reality that people are going to make the decision to acquire the pets anyway, and so we come up with realistic solutions, whether it's getting the animals spayed or neutered, removing kittens for fostering and rehoming, or helping them to budget for food and medical care, or find resources like food banks that carry pet foods.

I'll be very honest and say that, if I were in their situation, I would not want to live a catless life. When you're already down and out, the comfort an animal companion can bring is invaluable. The elderly are especially helped by their feline companions, but I also believe that it's valuable for children to be able to grow up with animal companionship, and it's rewarding to be able to give them that opportunity when they wouldn't otherwise have it.

Now, because I know you want to see them, here are some photos of Sunshine, some of them with her near-twin Ptera!
n my lap:
Sunshine on my lap

Getting sniffed by Ptera:
Ptera (standing) and Sunshine

Ptera (standing) and Sunshine

Ptera: This better not be my replacement!
Ptera (left) and Sunshine

* Yes, fish sticks may be pricier than cheap cat food, but you can't buy cat food with food stamps.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


So it's that time of year where I'd love to tell the trees and other plants to go **** themselves, but that's exactly what the problem is. All these plant gametes floating around in the air, stirring my immune system into a frenzy. I am grateful that Benadryl does NOT make me drowsy, because it keeps me somewhat functional--it just quiets down my overexcited immune system so I can go about my day. I need to be able to answer my phone without sounding like Alex Olsen (google it :P) because I've had a LOT of calls for my business lately (go me!).

This is what it's like, sort of:

Me: Excuse me, but this itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing thing is really annoying. Is this really necessary?

My immune system: OH MY GOD yes, there are all these INVADERS and they have to be DEALT WITH!

Me: Yeah, um, about that...seems most OTHER people are able to get along with the same "invaders" without all that nonsense.

MIS: Maybe THEIR immune systems don't know the TRUTH!!!!!!!

Me: Riiiight. Just like the "truth" about peanuts, and how they must be fought to the (as in, my) death?

MIS: You mock me, but if you knew what I knew about peanuts... *looks shifty-eyed*

Me: That's what you said about my thyroid. And my joints.


Me: Okay, okay, chill the **** out already. Here, have a Benadryl.

MIS: Ohhhh *nom nom nom* My favorite! Sleepy now, will be taking a break.

Me: Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for small miracles. Now if I could only train it to react with as much gusto to ACTUAL diseases, like the flu...

MIS: I HEARD THAT! *gets red and angry*

Me: Here, have another Benadryl, and STFU already.

MIS: Ooooh....ZzzzZZzzzZzZZ

Mart Cart, Revisited

There is SO much vitriol directed toward "Mart Carts" (motorized scooters in stores) and their users, especially if those users happen to be fat. I wrote about it here, back in April 2007, but I wanted to revisit the subject, especially now that I have more experience with them, and because I have seen more and more nasty things being said on that topic.

The usual hate-speak is to complain that if the person would "get off their ass and walk", they wouldn't be so fat. That, and referring to the carts as "fat carts", accompanied by outrage at the very existence of those carts. Many of these people seem to think that the carts are an accommodation just for fat people, and complain that fat people are being mollycoddled because stores have them.

First of all, those carts aren't for "fat people", they are for disabled people. And while complainers frequently whine that they "only see fat people" using them, I have to wonder how they got their marvelous psychic skills to determine that those people aren't disabled. Yes, it IS possible for a fat person to be disabled. A fat disabled person can be (and usually is) disabled by conditions that are not caused by their fat--and, in fact, the reduced activity levels caused by the condition may result in weight gain.

Disabled people DO need accommodation, if we are going to allow them some dignity and independence. When they are accommodated, they are able to go out in public and do some things, such as shopping, that they would never be able to do otherwise. This makes those people more visible in the public eye, of course, when they would otherwise be stuck at home doing nothing. Most of our public non-work activities include shopping and dining, so yes, you're going to see a fat disabled person using a cart in a store to do those activities.

Now, the major point I want to make here is that, even though the carts are a benefit to disabled people, and they DO offer a greater level of freedom for disabled people, no one who's used them more than a couple of times would, in their right mind, choose those damn things over walking with a regular shopping cart anyway. They aren't a fun toy; they are a pain in the neck. Those who use them are doing so because, while it is not an ideal way to shop for an abled person, it may be the best available option for a disabled person.

The carts are slow and bulky. When using them, a person's reach is VERY limited--it's hard to get stuff off of top and bottom shelves, it's hard to open freezer cases, and it's hard to put things on the belt at the checkout stand--and god forbid the person should stand up for a second to do ANY of those things, because that's the moment where people will say, "LOOK! She can stand up, she has NO right to use a cart!" The carts are also often dirty and/or smelly, they run out of electricity, and they don't hold very much compared to a regular cart.

Additionally, they can be a challenge to maneuver if the user isn't feeling great. Those are the days when, if the disabled person has a partner to help, a wheelchair can be really helpful. Unfortunately, most store wheelchairs seem to be in disrepair, they're uncomfortable, and they're usually filthy as well.

So if you think that someone is using the cart because they are lazy, I challenge you to give the cart a try yourself. Go through the store without an assistant. Remember that you are NOT permitted to stand up for any reason. You want something off a top shelf? Too bad; you have to ask a store employee for help, or a fellow customer (and hope that neither of those folks sneer at you or makes a snide remark). You aren't allowed to stand up to get something out of a freezer, no matter how damned frustrating it is to have to reach and maneuver the cart so you can open the door, then try to get the door to stay open while you maneuver close enough to get the item you want. If the cart smells, too bad; use it anyway, because it might be the last one left for someone who doesn't have a choice. Give it a try, and then get back to me on how much "fun" it is, how much "easier" it is. We aren't using them because it is easier, we are using them because our bodies don't work right. If you have a problem with that, why don't you get over yourselves and be glad that you have the ability to shop normally, in a store that is clearly designed for able people?

Edited to add: This is not the place for you to post hate-speech, especially personal attacks on people in the FA movement. Also, just because someone can go into a store under their own power does not mean that they can comfortably do all of their shopping that way; the fact is, you don't know ANYTHING about that person's situation, and it's none of your business. If they feel that they are better able to do their business using a mobility aid, then that is entirely their decision. Using a cane, wheelchair, or motorized scooter is not some "fun" thing people do because they are lazy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dealing with fatophobe trolls is like this

I have come up with the following to demonstrate what it is often like for me when people "challenge" the things I say in my blog.

Me: I have discovered that 2+2=4

Them: Wow, you're ignorant. Everybody knows that 3+8=11.

Me: I'm not denying that 3+8=11, but that does not have anything to do with 2+2=4.

Them: Oh my god, you are SO stupid for saying that 6+1=12!

Me: I never said that! All I said was 2+2=4!

Them: There you go again, trying to say that 7+6=147.39!

Me: What the hell are you talking about?! All I said was 2+2=4!

Them: Don't try and change the subject--why don't you just admit that you were wrong when you said that Hawaii was in France?

Me: What?! Are you on crack?!

Them: Oh there you go with ad hominem attacks, the last resort of an ignorant fool who thinks that horses are reptiles!

Me: OMGWTF?!?!?!

Them: Why are you getting so emotional? Maybe if you calmed down, you could think more clearly, and then you'd see that I'm right.

Me: Why don't you fuck off and die so I can have some peace?

Them: What are you doing? Help! This woman is crazy and should be locked up, she's trying to kill me for no reason!

Later, Them: You know, you should have been more polite and tried to educate me about 2+2=4 instead of flying off the handle. You win more flies with honey than vinegar.

Me: *banging head against wall until it mercifully explodes*

Them, smugly: See, she was obviously unstable. I knew it from the beginning.