Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Birthday (ongoing!)! Plus four 'must have' Manga reviews

It was my birthday yesterday, or the day before - they became one long day (shudder!). I did not know until a few days before that I HAD a birthday until people started talking about it. And I still don’t know my age, Linda isn’t telling. Oh, also, Cheryl wrote a brilliant and insightful post on Girls' Gotta Fly about Constants, Changes and Boundries, which turned out to be SO applicable.

The thing is, that due to the exhaustion and the long hours of work I do, we have taken to assuming a sort of 10 year old to 12 year old default (going down to eight depending on how many hours awake and working). So the young me was excited about a birthday because I never had them when I was young and wanted to know what would happen; and Linda kept giving hints and the older me couldn’t remember exactly a good birthday celebration.

It turns out that my birthday is also my Friday the 13 sqaured. It was a disaster; like one of those days when you say at 3:00 pm after crying for an hour and all the other stuff that ‘thank goodness this day will be over soon.’ At 9:00 pm after 2 more hours of counseling people when Linda drops by to tell you that she and Cheryl talked and couldn't decide so, sorry no present, then I concluded that we will spread out the birthday as no day THIS bad and exhausting can be my birthday. While at 4:00 am after you are so exhausted you think there are rakes stuck in your eyes and so emotionally drained that you think it can’t get worse you whisper hoarsely, “At least it is over!” So when at 7:30 a.m., you are still working after you still have only gotten a total of ONE present it is the Hell Day which does NOT END!

The present, well due to my code, I kind of gave it my nephew because my 12 year old person realized that your nephew must have had a birthday too (this was confirmed) and the adult Elizabeth didn’t know that, didn’t remember, and so I needed to be better late than never. 12 year old Elizabeth wasn’t that happy with giving up only present (gift cert.) but understood that Family Comes First and If There are Only a Few Pieces of Cake you pass it around and If There is Cake Left, THEN you Can have some (proper manners and all).

After Hell Day I am literally rolled into bed. I wake up and get an email from Sis to say that I DID have a present sent, an gift card at Akadot from the day before which….disappeared. So many emails about that between naps today. Because when I get that bad, not only do I regress but Linda has to pick up the pieces (and the manga books), which, with little sleep she had, she did, having everything I needed to survive, including cuddles.

Akadot is a good place for me as right now (if the present gift cert arrives....oh, it just did!) as they are doing the ordering for the LA Anime Expo and want to make a good impression so taking LOTS of out of stock items which the manager has been ordering in long lists in hopes of finding them in some warehouse. She doesn’t know what is going to arrive until it does, so she has been finding books I asked for weeks and weeks later, usually 2 weeks AFTER I ordered or got it elsewhere (frustration!). But I did, after such a horrid day, with Linda’s permission make a order of a few books. I searched for slightly older art books (as in Japan, art books are not reprinted, even if they go out of print in hours, as often happens making a book printed 11 months ago, a RARE and old book!), I found some and got them, and now, four out of the five that I ordered were the LAST copy (so they are listed for others as ‘Special Orders’). As more stock of single books of older stock comes in, I will use the gift card to try and get one or two before others realize what is happening (also that they are hidden amongst over 1500 import books helps!).

I have found out that in a lot of ways people want the OLD Elizabeth, the one who can disassociate herself to help others, the counselor, the friend who listens. The problem is that has a huge cost because that really isn’t ME anymore. For example, how do I disassociate in order to comfort someone who is upset because their career seems stalled when I am talking to them on the phone in bed? Or feels like they aren’t getting out enough, getting enough exercise or interaction when I can only leave the apartment once a week with assistance? I can still do it, it just costs a LOT on me emotionally and physically (sometimes, I just have to wheel into a room after a session, close the door and just sob and sob over what I have lost: what they are so passionate about, and I am there to hear and help with).

So when, on my birthday I did that kind of hard core 'super couselor Beth' for five to six hours, along with a few extra disasters, it literally put me in bed, where I am and will be for another day. I am trying to set a boundary that says, “I might not like it, you might not like it, but this is ME now. And if you force ME to be crushed down in order to channel my energy to be the brainy helpful Elizabeth because you NEED me, I will still answer that call, but it is shortening my life, and reducing my quality of life."

I am not sure yet how to say NO, but I am learning that there is a very literal and physical cost to giving what for me is as much support as possible; it is literally my life for theirs; in many different ways. Part of that quality of life was that today was to be my first 'cat visit' for those who are unable due to medical conditions to go out to see cats, they bring cats to you. It was my first chance to hold a cat in I can't remember how long and I had to cancel that because I was just too ill today. I don't know when they come around again.

So I am trying to get more people to want to get to know ME, the ME of now (the me who is a little cautious, a little lonely, a little bookish), and so SHE has friends and people who want to get to know her, and then maybe there will be more of a balance in my life and less days of disaster and weeks of recovery.

But, with the time in bed over the last um, time of Deer, Sheep and Wolverine and beyond (see post on Brain Board for reference), I wanted to recommend some of the manga which I have bought myself or has been gifted to me by some really kind people. And to get a gift that I can read in recovery which makes me feel that good is a great gift indeed, so thanks to all those who get me manga, it actually does make a difference in helping me heal. There is no book or path to follow on my disease and we just go day and week at a time, try not to do stupid that often and work slowly toward treatment in hopes that works for a time. Whether it is my last week, which I spend in bed or just one week in my last year, I still appreciate the kindness and the joy someone who never met me brought to me. Thank you. Because I not only get to read the manga, I get to share them with others! So, here they are, for teens, straight people, girls into a bit of boy/boy love (or boys), literature, feminist and gender study majors, cat lovers, and everyone else. In brief.

Top recommendation for everyone is: Maid Sama!which despite the cover, is about a STRONG and independent woman, Misaki is the coolest toughest girl in manga; top grades, student body president in a boys school where girls are a minority and she is trying to stop the boys from doing the usual antics (streaking, being rude, violent) in order to attract a more 50/50 percentage to the school. Plus trying to keep it all together, she needs to help her single mother with expenses including school tuition while dealing with the day to day hassles of boys who bully, etc. So she has a job where she doesn’t need to think (tired after studying) and gets good money: but it is at a maid café where the males come and are told, “Welcome Home Master” – she does it at a town over from her school in hopes it is never found out. Of course the ‘cool’ guy who seems disinterested in everything but gets good grades DOES find out (because she is literally working herself to passing out exhaustion). He doesn’t tell anyone, but he comes every day. At work she must be oh SO nice to him and can’t find out WHY is he doing this? Not only that, now he is interested at school at when the class gets rowdy at a school festival he dresses up as an officer and does a theme café, saying, “Oh my mistress, what can I do for you.” (essentially what she does), showing that who you are, and what you have to do to survive, or what you might wear is not the same. And while some students get suspicious of her always leaving with him (to go to her job), he tells them, “She is MINE!” and they envision her as his bodyguard! It is funny, it is a turnabout (like when he watches the café because she doesn’t understand that she is a GIRL and needs to be careful at night – only SHE catches two guys who want to ‘play’ with her and turn them over to the police while he is left slack jawed). This is not your damsel in distress, but he isn’t giving up on being her equal or more. It is a great read and as the second book comes out in a month I recommend buying it now!

Second would have to be the new release from DMP, Utahime the Songstress. I would say this is one of the top 10 manga of the couple hundred I have read this year!

A delightful book that is a long one shot (complete in one book) 200 pages, with another one shot after it (30 pages). It has our beautiful lad, Kain who has to face not only that he is the first male songstress (literally Song Princess), but that no one can know, as the village only prospers if the female songstress sings to protect the land. The villagers virtually lock the family (he and his twin sister) in a tower, fawn over the sister while they ignore him; after all – he is a boy and cannot be born with the gift of the songstress (ah ha!). Meanwhile, Thomas, a local cute lad with glasses who is the son of the chief finds out the truth that if the songstress does not sing, the law is that the village is killed, and that the village is in fact keeping the mother and children prisoners. Meanwhile, the King of this kingdom ONLY have males….except now there is a female born and after checking back and forth, yes, this is the offspring of the king. So as the book jumps forward and back with ease of story telling we have a female monarch and a male songstress; it seems the times are a changing, slowly. When seeing how happy his sister is with Thomas, Kain, the male songstress runs off at 12, leaving Thomas to protect sister. He returns when he realizes she is only imitating the sound of a songstress, which is damaging her. There are questions about love, about dependence and the capital T: Traditions, that any culture follows. It is a super read and I recommend it to anyone who likes excellent reading, which transcends simple story telling into literature without you even noticing. It is great as a gift and a way to get people into manga who might not otherwise, and would interest anyone in feminism, gender roles, the SCA, as well as romance, and a hint of beautiful boys. Seriously, grab it!

9 Lives, I mention this because this book may be going out of print and ANYONE with a cat or loves cats and the way they think should get a copy. In the future aliens who are cat-boys and girls and call themselves 9 lives come to earth for reasons no one knows but are soon collared pets because having a 9 life means if you die, the ‘pet’ can give you one of theirs. Except what do the cat boys think of this, living as slaves and giving their lives away? We meet a feral young 9-life, Conri, who has run away and lives with a ‘fake collar’. He is helped by a human named Adrian: who gets him food better ID and a better fake collar. Conri is SURE that no human would help a 9-life (after all, anyone who catches him has extra lives!) simply because and follows him. Conri wants to be free, but he also wants to be loved, and he can’t admit even to himself that Adrian could just CARE about him. Conri follows Adrian, steals his food, makes a mess, is essentially a feral cat. He agrees to stay until he pays off the food, but he is NOT a pet. Fine, Adrian tells him, I don’t want a pet. Conri can’t believe a 9-life would ever love a human or vice versa as all he has know are people exploiting those he knows. But staying (not LIVING since he so NOT a pet, and stop calling him ‘kid!’ he is a um…teenager!) with Adrian, Conri starts to see things a little differently in himself and with is 9-life friends. And while he will never have a ‘master’ but maybe, just maybe, he will admit there can be love between a 9-life pet and the owner. A great book for those who have a cat, or have owned a feral cat in particular, as if cats could talk and walk around, I am sure Conri would be there. Rated ages 13 and up, it is a great book for teens who love cats as well. This HINTS at boy/boy love but for those who don’t read between the lines, and see the attraction that is unmentioned, they won’t see it at all. Highly rated by me, Cheryl and one of our cat and pet experts.

I want to do three more but I will stop with the next one as I am exhausted, sorry. This is a hetero romance across time which has two lesbians (Cheryl and I) giving it top thumbs up: Shinobi Life 1 which was written as a one shot (complete in itself) until it was turned into a series by popular demand. It also seems to be going out of print so grab it while you CAN (seriously – you can get it for under $10 but used prices are already going up to $40). In the Japanese historical past Kagetora, a ninja, has sworn to protect Beni Hime (Princess Beni). In an attack on the castle, he is thrown into a lake and through time to wake up to OUR Beni, who is a tough, take no nonsense, girl whose mother died early and whose father seems only interested in the money of the family house and estate. Kagetora, confused by the difference of things, vows to protect Beni Hime now that he has found her, and Beni, unsure what to do, accepts (OH NO!). She thinks he is a guy who is a little strange and bumped his head, but he gives her an ivory comb that the family has had for generations. Wha? Could he be telling the truth, and meanwhile, Kagetora sees through the oily boyfriends who try to engage themselves to Beni to get the money. These are two tough and independant individuals. It is a story we have all heard one way or another but this somehow makes it fresh and exciting, particular when Beni and Kagetora accidentally enter the portal and end up BACK in time, where Kagetora finds the real Hime, who has hidden herself and her past…for love. Can this Ninja give up his vow and be with this odd girl from the future? Or will he keep to tradition and send her back to the portal alone. Will he accept the position of ‘bodyguard’ (no wink-wink there!)? Read it and see! It has continued on to book 2 and soon book 3 but if you want just book 1 it is a great teen romance (or 20’s romance, or for those older, hey, whatever!), and rated 13+ (for violence I think).

As for me, if you have any ideas of how to save my birthday then both the adult Beth and the 12 year old (and the 6 to 8 year old) Beth would love to know too (I have a lot of different emotions when I am younger it turns out!).

I have learned that a year is not just words but rather a string of events, of things done with friends, of lessons learned, of good and bad but of growth so that one returns to the same day or dates the same but a different person. I accept that birthday’s are important, as I never though I would see this one, and yet, I have learned so much in this last year. What I need to learn now is how to manage my limitations and yet still love openly and care for those who ask or need caring. Yet I need some limit so that I can survive more than one or two days a week doing that and then spending the rest in bed. I apologize if I have not emailed you back, I am trying to but find that my pain and my condition which if purple is a good color for a human then I would be well, but it seems I am not. I considered going to ER this morning due to my heart and I think I will soon, as I need to assess whether it is electrical or structural failure which is causing me to wake, which makes a –bump-bump-bump-gurgle/splot sound. Taking chances of, “I’ll get to it later, if I am still alive” because so much of your body is in partial or mixed system failure is not really the right way to live. Um, happy birthday!


FridaWrites said...

It's a really good idea to set boundaries, letting people know you love them but you only have a certain amount of time you can talk/respond to an email (5 minutes? 2 minutes?) because of your health. I know it can take far longer than this for you to type and would personally feel horrible if emailing you led to your demise. I.e., don't feel you have to respond to everything or to everything fully--it may be difficult for people to know if you've received one email or call that day, in which you might not mind a little more length and some company, or whether it's been 50, in which short is very good!

I do see this happen with other people with severe disabilities too--that people come to them with their problems and seek their wisdom. You are a wise person and your disability confers an additionally unique perspective. Whether we want it or not, the world forces on us through discrimination and unfairness experiences that others don't have--and you're able to see the larger picture more. You are also a good friend and a kind person. But, as you point out, that gift of your time can come at an immense cost--even with much less disability or none, it would be truly exhausting to give to that extent. Especially if there's not acknowledgment for your losses, which are very great, or an equal exchange in friendship (I hope people recognize this, even if it's unsaid). This is a good reminder to all of us that with all of our friends we should never assume and ask questions about how someone's doing and give them room to talk about it, to listen.

Wishing you a kitty day soon. I think you or Linda should call and see if you can get bumped up on the schedule--if I were running a volunteer organization, I'd certainly do it!

I don't think your birthday's beyond rescue yet. I had to ignore/ask others to ignore my birthday several years in a row because they were right when I was writing final papers (we started early and finished early). So I'm all for celebrating birthdays late--this year we still had to celebrate a few weeks late because of all the rain since we wanted to go somewhere.

Thank you for the great manga reviews--when I read more, I'm going to use your reviews and your wish list to help select. I have a gift certificate I received for my birthday and I'm torn between manga and a particular novel! I do need to buy a neoprene case for my Kindle with part of it because I'm afraid disaster will strike if I don't--plus I can get lots of free classic books on it.

Lene Andersen said...

Happy birthday!

I'd suggest you do what I instituted around here quite a while ago after my friends jokingly named me The Birthday Slut (as in it's an All About You Day and you get to decide what happens, from choice of food to activities, etc). I re-named that state of being Birthday Goddess, as it seems more positive. And omnipotent. Have a Birthday Week. Celebrations can be ongoing, little special things every day and that way, if one day isn't terrific, it doesn't matter. There's time to make up for it. And you get to be the Birthday Goddess for days. This can be very good.

Abi said...

I'm so sorry you missed out on the cat petting. :-( I am also sorry that your birthday was crap and disappointing.

I can't deny that I love to receive e-mails from you, nor that they have helped me a lot, but I do understand that you can't send them all the time. I would prefer that you looked after yourself rather than me. I am certainly not going to stop e-mailing you if you don't respond (ha! you're stuck with me now! I have your e-mail address!).

Thank you for all of the support that you have given to me, though. I shall endeavour to be happy and content from now on - that will be useful for both of us. And yes, I am being serious rather than sarcastic. Giving you less reason to have to help me is an excellent reason to work on my life/mental health. I won't lie to you about how I am feeling, and so I shall just have to be happier! Thanks for the push!

Sorry - I'm going a bit off-topic and possibly weird here. You are appreciated for the good you do, and I have breathing top of the list of good things that you do! Keep doing that one, and don't worry too much about the rest.

I enjoyed your manga reviews, and the pictures to go with them - thank you!

rachelcreative said...

A belated happy birthday Beth! Sorry to hear the day didn't go to plan. I'm sure Linda will help you celebrate tomorrow and/or the next day and/or the next.

The cat visiting sounds brilliant. I hope they can come soon.

cheryl g said...

I am sorry for my part in hurting you and using your energy. I will do better and be a better friend.

I say we stretch this birthday out for as long as possible. Hmmm, if you are up to it maybe we could go to the pub for a birthday drink or go to the drive-in for birthday ice cream treats.

I hope the kitty visit can be rescheduled soon. I am really sorry that my actions made you too sick for the kitty visit.

I have got to read Utahime the Songstress. It sounds really good.

So in getting to know the YOU know I think I need to learn what fun stuff we can do together as if I was getting to know you for the first time. Maybe that will keep me from falling into old behavior patterns and causing you more pain and costing you more energy.

JaneB said...

Happy Birthday, and here's to boundaries! And to better health, rest, and pretty pictures.

I often missed my birthday when I was young due to things like chicken pox - we would pick a better day and declare it 'unbirthday day', and they were much better than normal birthdays!

I put a small parcel in the post for you last Friday (one week ago) so maybe it will arrive soon - you can think of it as a birthday present, because if I had known it was to be your birthday I WOULD have sent you one!

Sorry, tired, not writing anything clever or funny here today.

wendryn said...

Boundaries are good. I don't think anyone will have a problem with you saying, "Taking time off now!" - while I, for one, love hearing from you, I don't want it to be at your expense. If not answering an email or reading a postcard means that you can go see squirrels or get ice cream or just watch a movie, don't write. I'm not going anywhere.

My family almost always forgets birthdays, so they get spread out over several weeks - random things show up in the mail. Perhaps I'll send you a random thing. :) I would like your birthday to have some good memories attached.

I hope the kitty visit happens soon! I think it would do you good. Some days just having a cat in my lap, purring, makes life a lot better.

Xander had me make a list of priorities and then he put me at the top of it. I think it may be time for you to do the same - you need to take care of yourself.


Neil said...

A very merry unbirthday to you! To YOU!

Boundaries are good, dear. It's hard to say no, but when it helps save you from days of misery, then you are simply going to have to learn to say NO. As in, "No, I'm sorry that you feel bad, but even though I care about you, I can't help you feel better today, because helping you will take more energy (spoons?) than I have available."

This also should work with postcards, Beth. If you're not up to doing them, they should wait, no matter how important they are to you. Please remember that you are more important than the post cards, for without you, there will be NO post cards.

Having said that, thank you for the recommendation of Utahime. (both the public and the private one!) Unfortunately, our public library doesn't have it, and I'm not sure I can get it locally. If not, I may break down and order it online.

Love and zen hugs,

Baba Yaga said...

Well, following Humpty-Dumpty's example: I hope you have a happy unbirthday. & that cat-day comes round again soon. Missing that would hurt.

The best birthdays I ever had were the ones no-one knew about. (One was at university, and one in the loony-bin - well, the staff knew about that one, but were forbidden to say a word. & bless them, they didn't.) I suspect your 12-year-old won't want to hear that the best way (that *I* know) to salvage something from a birthday is not to have it.

But maybe you and your 12-year-old could plan that the next good day shall be your official birthday? And have presents (if Linda and Cheryl make their minds up, tsk!) and balloons and cake (if you can digest it) then?

"a little cautious, a little lonely, a little bookish" - sounds like a friend to me.

Saying no is difficult. I don't really know any solution to that, except to do it! But perhaps you could begin by setting a timer, and at least limiting the length of conversations? I know, conversation doesn't flow that way, but a timer can be a useful reminder...

Not apologising for e-mails (or postcards) unsent would be a good limit, too: why not treat them as bonuses, instead of obligations? I receive them as such, anyway. But I'd receive your setting a limit and looking after yourself properly as an even bigger bonus.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Frida: Yeah, I am trying boundries but the problem is that the more this world seems to NOT care, the more I want to show that I do. That I need to.

I can understand not responding to everything but I do want to respond to everyone. And right now I can't even do that.

Yeah, no one really gets the loses until they are taken away - if you had them taken from you all in one day, you were stripped of them, employment, activities, everything, you would likely self destruct which is why it seems to be a slow and self eating process.

Lene: I have no hope, I have no future, I have no care, I feel alone. I am afraid. I am always afraid.

Abi: I don't think being or 'forcing' and attitude out of guilt is a good idea personally, I would rather you be yourself which is the person I like and like to correspond with. I have bad days, I have good days and I expect other people to have the same - don't you think that someone to whom only sunshine and joy and great things happening every minute might also be a wee bit depressing to me in my room locked in my summer heat?

Thanks, I worked really hard to get the pictures right.

Rachel: I think they come next week - Linda got me a stuffed bunny called Eiki Eiki (my name for her). She is perfect. That was a good moment, a good five minutes. I want those kind of five minutes so badly now.

Cheryl: You are a good friend because you face things that others do not and deal with them - that is the type of person I want to trust my life to.

It was a combo of things, certainly not just one hour - it was many, many, many, many people, just as today has been already many, many, many things - not just the Doctor's Visit.

Jane B: It is okay not to be clever, or rather, in many ways the people who seem the most ordinary are often the most clever. Errr.? Anyway, a parcel, a parcel! I want to send parcels, I want to send parcels and postcards! But they won't let me, the body and the time and stuff like that.

Wendryn: the whole forgetting of the passage of a year and the meaning and learning that occurs in it seems sad; that people could forget that - maybe because I only just learned it, or learned it again. I do that a lot now, learn things over and over.

I like that he made a list and you were the top Priority, I wish that Doctors and care agencies much less all the people I REALLY want to be with; I can't balance that. How hard is it to get a blood transfusion and IVIG once a month - apparently about 3-6 months of trying hard. So how do I send postcards, and show the love that matters when all I think about is ME - that is not what I want to make top priority, I want to think of YOU, of others.

Neil: Practical but MAYBE it just means that you know the cost and make the choice anyway?

I must do postcards, I must do emails I must for if I have no purpose but to make others know that there is something beyond simply eat/sleep/work - that there is joy and anticipation. I need to create this, I need to do this - or I have no reason for living. And lately, I don't know if I do anymore. I am failing very badly at the joy and the sending love out.

Baba Yaga - I think the ones I don't know about or didn't have which was all of them but three I think - were all pretty awful.

Perhaps the best way is to make it everyone's birthday and to send presents to every single person I know. That would be lovely indeed. And then I really would be finished, and I could do it somewhere else.

But since Linda wants me here and now, I cannot do that but I will try the timer and putting myself first and looking yes, and talking about YES, the postcards AS gifts, AS bonuses - not as something that if I don't give it all the time, every minute it is that I am a BAD PERSON. I like your suggestions, they are practical and useful.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Thanks for the birthday suggestions and I am kind of in shock due to coming back from an unconditioned GP's office which was SUPPOSED to be MY GP to find out 1. they don't know what the word 'pallative' means; 2. they have NO air conditioning and require no appointment walk in visits only 3. They aren't ready to start IVIG treatment without reading the file, they have had the file for 2 months, they have not read the file, they will not commit to when they will read it. 4. They don't have any other terminal patients and 5. My asking if they would ask a end stage lupus patient to come down, hang out for several hours for EVERY prescription refill when the spouse has medical power of attorney they onsidered 'Baiting' - when I said, No, that's actually a few friends.


yanub said...

That's right--tell those bastard GPs where they get off and what they can do with themselves when they get there. It's disgusting and maddening how you have been treated.

I am sorry your birthday was crap. I think you need to have it all over again, but without the crap part. We can play a birthday party game. When I was a kid, a popular party game was for all the girls to sit in a circle and participate in making up a story. Sort of like RPG or choose-your-own-adventure, but with ice cream. The birthday girl starts and ends the story. If you'd like, we can play that. We also played musical chairs, but I don't know how to make that work online.

Baba Yaga said...

Oh, dear lord. Once again, I'm boggled. They do make you fight for everything, don't they?

Anonymous said...

Beth, what happend? I thought you found a doctor that understood you and that you liked....didn't you? It sounds like your medical system is all screwed up...I am so afraid that that is the way the states are going to end up with the way this administration is taking us. God help us all! Hang in there.

Diane J Standiford said...

I wish with you that those Drs meet their own MADE hell. Happy birthday, and you don't EVER need to respond to ME, NEVER EVER. You have said it all already.

Stephanie said...

Happy birthday, Beth! Usually I would say "Happy belated birthday", but I think you deserve a birthday that's as ongoing as we can make it! Can we turn it into a birthweek?! Let's find out!

Thanks for the manga reviews! I'm really interested in that Maid Sama! I wonder how I can figure out how to remember to check it out...