Friday, May 29, 2009

Cat visit plus my body loses function. Linda and I face the unspeakable D. word in our own ways.

Tuesday or Wednesday I had my visit from the cat group. They have gone into children’s hospitals, and they go to nursing homes, I am their first personal visit for I guess people who can’t get out much. The cats have all the shots and a ‘passport’ (I assume that is for health?), and then have to pass a series of personality and how they interact in groups and loud noises. The cat which came with her owner was some long name but we just called her Hooch.

Hooch was very interested in exploring (and shedding, NOW our place feels like we have a cat!), it really did like to see everything. I liked the cat just being around, I didn’t need to have it bond with me. Because it didn’t. It would rub up against Linda or the owner’s legs but whenever I picked it up it never even looked at me. It never even checked out my socks or my legs which the owner said it ALWAYS does. The owner was somewhat mortified and wanted to bring another cat next time. I told her I liked Hooch, I could tell what she was thinking very quickly. But she could SEE me far away but not close up. It was very strange. Linda was telling her about how animals and kids like me. I think Linda was a bit embarrassed too that she had set this up and this cat didn’t want me, one point it hissed. I was fine with it, as I know that the first rule of cats is, they don’t do what you want them to, they want to do what they want to do. I moved the wheelchair to see if Hooch was frightened by the wheelchair and then I dangled my hand, and it would see it and come, but then as it got close it would walk right by.

Finally, I figured out what the problem was: I have no scent. I do not sweat, not in my hands, not in my fingers: nowhere. So what I eat doesn’t come out in my sweat, I have no scent whatsoever. I am like a tree. Poor Hooch could FEEL the fingers but it was like being picked up by a ghost. It didn’t rub against my legs because it couldn’t tell the difference between them and the furniture, they had no scent. So I went and got some of my older wheeling gloves, the ones I would wear for badminton and I had her sniff those and suddenly it was like she should see me. She came to me, she let me scratch behind her ears because she had a scent. I told the owner next time I would wear the gloves the whole time. Hooch, now that I was around, didn’t want to go, also wanted to see more stuff. So the front body carrier she was pushed into, she kept figuring out ways to stick her head out. And the owner kept stuffing the head back down. I know, cats doing something unpredicable...who would have imagined? I felt bad for Hooch – find a place that has lots of little spaces to explore and you get your head stuffed down. Linda on the other hand thought it was like watching pop-goes the weasel. Linda doesn’t identify with the cat, that’s just her way, growing up on the farm. For me, I like to know what makes each individual animal scared or happy and try to have a positive interaction.

The pictures above are NOT good pictures of me, or rather they ARE, they are pictures of how I used to look before I got a lot sicker than I was then, a lot thinner. After two nights of no sleep and a bowel evacuation which INCLUDED food eaten but not yet processed I was, and am now looking at coming off a week where I was lucky to have a meal a day, missed two days entirely and now have not processed any food since Sunday. It is not pleasant having the cramps but less pleasant watching bite size portions of meals you just ate hours ago, or half a day go coming out of you. And having a fever while you watch, and moan. You don’t need to have someone tell you that something is very wrong.

I thought, the next day, after the fever finally broke that it was okay, but last night, with a night nurse here, it started again and I lost all food I had eaten that day. I was eating and yet starving to death while working hours on the toilet and though I look thin with cheekbones and collarbones in the pictures, it is nothing like now. I had a high fever, my autonomic system unable to regulate many systems at a time. I slept, and slept. And drank gatorade to get some electrolites in me. The first few days I had been dizzy all the time and that came and went sometimes when the fever was bad. But it wasn’t an ear infection, just a loss of ability of my body to send blood to all the portions of me. This day it was smoothies and soap, anything to keep nutrients down and better yet, have them maybe stay long enough to give me strength. The night nurse told Linda she was shocked at how weak and thin I was in just three days (when she last saw me).

Too late for a hospice, I was fearing, and each day another blaster of a hot cloudless sky. The heat made my arm expand SO FAST it burned the metal clasp of the watch into my arm, just like a brand. And I keep it loose for when the heat makes it expand. I was scared, because it seemed like the wheels were stopping, and things were shutting down and I wasn’t ready for that. I wanted to go back to living on the border; I mean, yeah, I stopped breathing for two hours on the weekend, which is never really a good sign, when people have to breath for you, or devices have to, or when you can’t become conscious. Linda was so angry at me, when I finally could sit up. And I told myself never again, never would I make her watch me lying on the floor for over two hours, cold, pasty. Except now...

We each have, in our own ways, been saying our good-byes. I thank Linda, she thanks me, she touches me/she doesn’t, she cleans for no reason. She is scared, she had thought we had a year, a year is a lot of days only now I get worse each day, dramatically worse. I am scared; once I go to hospital, I believe I will not leave, my body will not rejuvenate itself anymore, if it does not do it tonight how many days do I have?

My urine has no color, it is transparent, this is a sign of kidney failure. Linda checks my eyes for rings, though I still have a fever, and am rather loopy; yellow rings will tell if there is toxin build up, then the jaundice. We watch the pee, debating if this one has a slight tinge of yellow.

Autonomic Failure attacks the basis of all medication. Medication is based on the idea that through an accident or experimentation, if you give the body X, the brain will tell the heart or some other part to do Y. Except that is the part which is liquefying, and a jumble. I take a dose they give ‘grandmothers’ for beta blockers and it makes me comatose. I am supposed to take 1, then 2, then 3 of stool softeners. It will do nothing to my bowels, I am told. Cheryl gives me .25 of ONE pill and three days later the cramps after 12 hours of taking dumps are still going, even with nothing left to go. I go into the hospital and they will find many, many things wrong and unless they have a doctor on hand who understands exactly what that means, any medication they give me in a normal dose is as likely to kill me, or cause a cascade reaction as help. A blood transfusion would, as it is not anything which requires the brain to intervene.

We hope the second night was due to an inflamed intestine and raw vegetables from a salad irritating it. We hope. I hope. This is nothing about fighting against the dying of the light. This is biological, exhausting, passing out, in one case I shat myself, literally (a horrid experience) and knowing each day that knocks me down farther will take 2-3 more to get back up. We have been using up a lot of Florastor in hopes it can help me absorb SOMETHING. If you want to help, it is toward the bottom of the wish list page.

I had wanted to go to a different farmers market this Saturday and take pictures for you all. I will be in bed. We are going up away, while they do construction and demolition here, and it was to be a time of together. Right now I am still going in an out of fever. Will I still have it when we go up island? I just want to go back to having no energy and fighting with it all, fighting with trying to get help. I want to go back to being able to push back my nap an hour and get a lecture. That’s is now the good life. I dreamed I was sword fencing. It was a dream; that is not the good life for me anymore. ANY life where I can be with my online friends, where I can have enough energy to write them, and to read what they write me. ANY life that has Linda in it and Cheryl (even if that is me hiding, too tired to fight). That is the good life. Please, please let me not crash tonight but sleep in a bed for the first time since Sunday/Monday.

This is what good-bye and being terminal or having these episodes is about – it is just hundreds and hundreds of minutes of wondering and fear. Hundreds and hundreds of minutes of trying to do what you can and hoping that is the right thing.

I want to be here, where I am. And this week, if I can stay at home, I guess less postcards will get done. Maybe they will bring the stuff to my bed? But I had wanted to send out lots of presents. I like sending out stuff. Children like presents; they like to get them yes but they like to GIVE them too, from objects to hugs.Little notes of ‘I love you.’

That is what all those things I send mean, they mean, ‘I love you, I care about you.’

I don't have big dreams, but they are dreams. I realized there are shows I want to watch with Linda. Plans I had made for both of us and not told her. But each day, as I get worse, and weaker, they crumble; maybe not a year but a few months, then maybe just a month. Oh God, let me read the manga I ordered; watch the DVD set I got? Let me make it Luminara.

Finally, 'let me make it to the weekend, when Cheryl can be here.' So many people left to send cards and gift to. I never wrote that letter to Cheryl and Linda. Oh shoot where did I hide that present for Linda? The realization this IS a body that is breaking apart, and I don't get to determine how fast. Yeah, so now I will sleep, hoping that tomorrow takes me one inch closer to the ‘normal’ of being terminally ill. Only now do I realize how much I depended on that slow decline, that almost static state.

I do not know what lies ahead but as long as I am here, I write. I pass through each day, each benchmark, each Torii, looking ahead to know that there is another. Hoping and believing there is another. Linda talks about making sure I get my food by time X….once I get better, because spending too long looking at now hurts too much. She moved furniture today, redid the whole living room.

I guess I cover myself with plushies and hope for the best. The soup is staying down (knock wood). I wish I could wake like this, covered in a litter of exploring kittens and mother trying to get them back and keep them from crawling away and all over (good luck!). That would be my dream. It isn’t big things when your don’t know if your organs are shutting down for good, it is the small ones that matter so much.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sick, Eiki Eiki, alone and yet trying to reach out, to get help: the better world

I am very sick, which is probably a combination of fatigue/exhaustion and some sort of opportunistic infection or spinal lock which makes the world go funny and me fall over a lot. I can’t quite understand how I could be exhausted, not when I didn’t eat until 7:00 pm today and I am tilting back and forth like on a ship focusing on the screen to make a blog (hey, I made a commitment).

The short version is that Beth is very, very sick. Really sick this time. I will have to accept bed, rest, and being taken care of.

I have spent days trying to connect to family, to anyone, as I am tired of being me, the only person I know with this particular condition. I feel a freak. I don’t want to be alone anymore. This lead to an amazingly horrific day today where I spent so much time on the phone and got, nowhere. The Canadian organization or Rare Disorders (I wanted a support group) is away, leave a message.

At A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) I got a rather hostile reception (though I did say I didn't want to drink when they asked!), as I was asking for support groups for self harm, and no, they don’t DO that, and gave a list of groups which included Overeaters Anonymous. I asked since I was struggling with Anorexia and both are about control, loss of control, fear of loss of control, and eating would THAT be a place for me. Absolutely not, that would be cruel to have an anorexic go to an OA meeting. They don't DO anorexia: I needed to call the mental health department.

I refrained from pointing out that ALL A.A. and groups from them like N.A. are based on a form of self harm: yet I feel that if I suggested the woman I was talking to should call a mental health ward because she goes to A.A., she would be upset (yet that is what she did to me). I openly starve and self harm and there is no where for me to try and live a better way day to day with support? I DID go to the mental health section and found that there is a program which does offer support groups....for the parents, siblings and those who live with anorexics. haha. For struggling anorexics themselves....nada. I WAS trying to not cut, or stop eating becuase I felt the loss of control (dying makes you feel a lot of loss of control). I was TRYING to be better.

Then I called the abuse line regarding abuse from caregivers (which is epidemic, two government investigations in this town alone). They had no idea, since I wasn’t a senior. We talked about my background; they were amazed at the level of abuse that was taken as ordinary. I called there because they were wheelchair accessible. No, the support groups they had wouldn't be right for me. And the person talking to me didn’t understand how it was I ended up caring instead of abusing. Or caring at all.

Then I went on to call grief centers for which there were ones for people who do care giving for a loved one who is dying, ones for people whose children were dying, one for those who spouses were dying, but none for those who were actually dying. I was trying to get better. I kept trying.

I called the BC Bereavement Helpline (toll free) for listening and resource listings of support for grief and loss, and found another recording as they are only open Monday to Friday 9:30-3:00 pm. Sigh. Linda later said, "Gee, what if you feel grief on the weekend?" Since I have ‘sundowners’ – which means I feel even more isolated as the sun goes down, to call at 4:00 pm was pretty brave of me. But no people. Lots of machines.

It was now hours later (as I was calling Akadot which had an error in my order but the system had crashed and after 6 tries or so over several hours I gave up), so I decided I just needed a HUMAN VOICE and called the Needs Hotline, the 24 hotline for those who needed listening, suicide prevention, abuse and anything else.

I got a phone message which told me that all volunteers were either busy or away and if I was being attack or abused right now please call 911, if I was committing suicide call this number and then at the end of the message it hung up. Wow, no 'wait for someone', I can’t even talk to a human on a 24 hour hotline? Harsh.

I likely have with days or weeks of reduced sleep and eating, not enough rest; driven myself into an exhausted physical breakdown of an already attacked system. Probably is it because of my disease as I can’t feel total exhaustion until it is too late, like I can’t feel temperature, I can’t feel hungry, I can feel thirsty, I can feel the need to pee, I can’t taste what I eat, I can’t feel bruising, I can’t feel muscles rip until it is too late, I can’t feel my hands or arms, I can’t feel my feet, even when they are bruised or crushed, I can’t feel my legs, I am a human zombie and I am alone. I can only feel emotional pain, like when another Anonymous wrote TODAY that my post ‘Sexual Abuse story: finally told’ to free myself of my demons was ‘this is really HOT!” piece of writing. Multiple sustained rape, abuse and torture of a prepubescent child: “Hot!”

So yes, I push myself because even as much as I push myself, I cannot seem to break through this invisable wall. Is there a person out there behind those phones, or does caring stop at 3:00 pm. Because I assure you when your nightmares are "hot" the terror and grief do not!

This is my plushie given to me ‘soon’ ago by Linda, her name is Eiki Eiki. She has a heart inside, and Linda said they told her to make a wish. What was the wish? She wanted me to live a long time.

Here is Eiki Eiki reading a manga (Uta-hime, the songstress), to one of my other plushies named...Bear. Some plushies CAN read, some plushies cannot, I can’t explain it, I try not to think to hard about it.

I did 39 postcards with Cheryl and Linda and had them sent off on Monday night, to be sorted at midnight (due to the holiday); there were many new stamps to play with, like the knight and the forest of adventure and dreams. I like those ones. And the lilies.

The woman on the abuse line couldn’t understand why I didn’t drink, why I wasn’t more..incredibly screwed up.

This weekend my parents came over, they could not remember the last time they invited me over, or when they had last been over. I asked them over to find out if we could be a family? I was turned down. Linda was told, by my father, during the discussion that she was ‘allowed’ to speak now. In the same way I was ‘allowed’ to have emotions...and sometimes not allowed. It was all somehow my fault. Their silence was the love of not wanting to disturb me. It was a farce and I was desperate. I screamed.

I was on the floor begging them to blame me for everything. PLEASE, no more fighting over who was at fault, it was ALL ME. Could they forgive me? Could he, would he, forgive me and let us be a family?

No.

The one word I needed so badly he never used: love. Today I told the woman on the abuse line that I believe that this world is going to get better and I work toward that. That cat girls and dog girls will learn to get along, as it were, and that they will find that their differences are not that much (maybe there will even be attraction?).

I know that I live a fool, I die a fool, but I continue to believe that just because I have not yet seen something does not mean it can not happen or exist. Like looking for the beauty of the moon rainbow, it seems that loving, caring, compassion to others as a norm is something to make people think there is something DIFFERENT (like wrong in the brain) about you. I believe that there is a world where the beauty of these things WILL BE SEEN; just because it hasn’t yet, and just because I will die before seeing it does not mean it is not worth believing.

One of my favorite passages of the bible, though Christians would call me an atheist, and I don’t think in this passage it matters your faith is Hebrews 11. It was about those people who believed in more: that there was a better country, a better city, a better world and though they lived and worked for it, and never saw it, they believed. “They were weak, and yet made strong.” “they were stoned, they were cut in two, they were killed...they were destitute, afflicted mistreated…” I ask the question of Linda and others, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather care about the other person?” For Linda and I, it reminds us what really matters. For others, they would rather be right.

Anyway, I will be back with something light and I hope another visit to different markets (the joy of Victoria is MANY farmers markets). I think in a world where even a 24 hour help line has a recorded message which then hangs up on you, yes, I probably have driven myself to exhaustion and beyond, over and over again in trying to make people believe that THIS corner of the world does care. Except now I must rest. Don’t worry, I will spend the time doing something constructed...oops I means doing something constructive, or maybe Eiki Eiki can help ME read a little manga.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Camera Whore at Moss St. Market: Ashfords', Skeins & Silk/Wool Blends, Totem poles and carved soap.

It was early morn, and two Camera Whores (Linda and I) were on the prowl. The day was one of perfect sun and the question wasn’t IF we would be taking pictures but WHERE. As it happened Linda forgot her camera (two point deduction), AND she got distracted by the donuts!

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention the fresh donuts where the dough had been freshly kneaded before covered with cinnamon? Yeah they were pretty rockin.

So yes, we got up and out early and at the bright DAWN of 11:00 am we dragged ourselves to the farmers market which is also a craft market at Moss street. One of the places we went to see what can be seen, and while Cheryl got cheese curds, Linda and I picked up some fresh Cilantro and Chives (with blooms still atop) for our mexican chicken and veg for that nights dinner. Here is a fraction of the market with Linda holding her jade plant. She has been given a new desk at work, so here she is holding the start of her usual urban jungle desk, which will begin with a humble jade plant.

Due to my unique view (I call it the seven year old seeing the gum under the table view) from the wheelchair, it gives me a chance to both take pictures from interesting perspectives (click on any pictures to make them full screen). I can get down low and take the close in shots without straining, like these blue glaze mugs from a potter who had not only cool hand made skull mugs but a wonderful skull topped Urn we thought would work well for…um….ME (with a name like Goat Dragon Studio, you know they must carry Hello Kitty too!). So we have his card for when times comes.

Instead of covering all the people I talked to at the market I am going to just give a taster for today, three artists: a native sculpture/painter, a spinner and skein wool maker (for those ADDICTS: the knitters!), and a soap creator/sculptor. I also picked up on the gossip: who had retired, who was a famous Japanese potter and ignored here, and talked to a seller from India who had the greatest ivory card case from Shanghai and gave me tips on sending postcards to India. And of course, checking out the local artist: painters, wood carvers, gourd carvers, and cloth makers. This picture is $150 and both Cheryl and I like it, very much the feel of the sea and the Island. But onward…

The woman spinning unfelted wool on a hand spindle is Claudia Lorenz of Island Spindle Co. before she continues on that Ashford spinning wheel from the 80’s you can see behind her (contact me to get her email!). She advertises handspun yarns and spinning wheel repairs but who needs to advertise when you have a basket of skeins that looks like this (click on pic!). This picture has the skein with the longest name of all, it is the one with the white mixed in upper left and is called: “Core Spun Silk Blend Plied with Unspun Corriedale Roving.” I hope the knitters and spinning people know what that means.

She not only makes long skeins, like you can see here in yum-yum colours decorating her booth but she has a delicious selection of wool and silk mixed skeins which made several women passing by salivate. I tried to get a picture that did the skeins justice through the plastic bags.

From there I met Laura-Victoria Soaps, Laura advertises soaps (click on picture!) (yes, that is right, there isn't any fruit or veg, those are ALL soaps!) with no dyes, perfumes, coconut or palm oils AND she hand crafts each one, having everything from Cauliflower (back right) to Rhubarb. She sells her mushrooms at $3 each (about 2 pounds or $3-4 australian dollars). Did I mention she HAND carves each one - (uh huh Abi, EACH ONE! Every single mushroom!). The Mushrooms are a mixture of coca butter base, oatmeal, blackberry with a hand rub of light cocoa power to give the mushrooms the ‘just off the field look.’ The quail eggs which smell divine and come in a little holder like you just took them from your little quail house, use cocoa butter and cinnamon with a darker cocoa rub. Meanwhile these little bags of baby potatoes (11 per sack – I want to put a bit of butter on them and eat them. DO NOT eat the soaps!) The potatoes are cocoa butter and oatmeal, blackberry and olive oil. She loves her craft and has over a dozen different fruits and veg at any time. It is always changing.

I finish with Jason Hunt who is from Fort Rupert near Alert Bay, works only on commission now at his Gallery here (Check on the 'Galleries' button on his site for some amazing art pictures: I love the 'Woodwork Archives' section). His father and grandfather taught John sculpture and painting. His father and his grandfather were taught by his great grandfather; a lineage of West Coast Native Art. His Grandfather was the famous Native sculpture Henry Hunt and with his father they made two totem poles on commission. One of them went to parliament and the second was shipped to the UK and is now sitting outside Buckingham Palace in London (take a look). So, he just comes to Moss Street Market to meet people and to show off some of his prints. He is a traditional artist and knew some of the types of carvers who made the rings Linda and I have (he had an AWESOME ring of gold, with carved white gold overlay on 80% of it!). He has a great sense of humor and specializes in traditional masks but does other traditional carving and is JUST the type of person I would want to have me make me some art (as if I could afford that!). But it was great to talk to someone who does this for a living, and is HAVING FUN doing it.

By this time I was out of oxygen, my hands were funny colours and with the sun high above I beat a hasty retreat. But I vow that this Camera whore will appear where pictures are to found! I hope you had a great long weekend (US and UK readers). And if you come to Victoria, I’ll take you around, for some reason, they seem to remember me…

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!