Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Favorite TV Shows Reviewed in 2018

It was another AMAZING year for TV shows! There is just SO much available now, between streaming services, cable channels, and networks, that it's impossible to keep up with all the amazing shows - but we gave it our best! In fact, our movie viewing has fallen off in recent years because we are watching so much more TV.

The full list of TV reviews I wrote this year (22 in all) is included below, and these have all been added to my TV Reviews tab (along with the ones previously reviewed). They are sorted by genre. Making this list reminded me of some great shows that I had forgotten about!

As usual, we watched a mix of genres and on a wide variety of platforms. We still watch most of our shows On Demand through our cable service (though all are available elsewhere), but many of them are continued from previous seasons (so you can find their reviews in the TV Reviews tab).

Here are a few superlatives from my 2018 reviews to whet your appetite (click the links to see the reviews) - these were painful choices to make in some cases because there were so many excellent shows (so I sometimes cheated a bit and declared a tie). Just to be clear, I only write reviews of shows that I enjoy, so everything on the list at the end is worth trying!

Best Comedy
The Letdown (N) - Netflix
(a hilarious Australian show about being a new parent)

Best Drama
For the People (A, C, I, H?) - ABC
(a new legal drama by Shonda Rhimes)

Best Dramedy
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (A) - Amazon Original
(tough call but it has everything & even my husband is watching it now)

Best Crime/Mystery/Thriller  
 American Gothic (A, CBS) - CBS (thriller with dark humor)
Killing Eve (A, C, I) - BBC America (straight-up thriller - outstanding)

 Best Sci Fi
 11/22/63 (A, H) - Hulu 
(it's also a Drama & Historical, so also Best Sci Fi for Those Who Don't Watch Sci Fi!)

All TV Shows Reviewed in 2018
In addition to the reviews listed below, also check out my post, When Good Shows Get Cancelled, a round-up of One-Season Wonders still worth watching!

KEY: Available on:
A = Amazon
C = Cable and/or Cable On Demand
CBS = CBS All Access 
H = Hulu
I = On network’s own website
N = Netflix
Note that Amazon Prime original shows are available free only to Amazon Prime members (just like Netflix or Hulu), but some shows are available on Amazon (A) to anyone for a fee.
Most TV shows are also available on DVD (to buy or borrow from your library), which works well if you want to see a show in a streaming service that you don't subscribe to. That's how we watched 11/22/63.

The Letdown (N) - Netflix
Splitting Up Together (C, I) - ABC

Alias Grace (N) - Netflix
Breaking Bad (N) - AMC
For the People (A, C, I, H?) - ABC
The Resident (A, C, I) - FOX
Rise (A, C, I) - NBC

Dramedy (both Comedy & Drama)
Forever (A) - Amazon Original
Glow (N) - Netflix
Good Girls (A, C, I) - NBC
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (A) - Amazon Original

The Alienist (A, C, I) - TNT
American Gothic (A, CBS) - CBS
Goliath (A) - Amazon Original
Instinct (A, C, I) - CBS (also Dramedy)
Jack Ryan (A) - Amazon Original
Killing Eve (A, C, I) - BBC America
Safe (N) - Netflix
You (A, C, I) - Lifetime

Sci Fi
11/22/63 (A, H) - Hulu (also Drama & Historical)
The Crossing (A, C, I) - ABC
The X-Files (A, C, I) - FOX

Monday, January 21, 2019

Favorite Movies Watched in 2018

And....drumroll! Time for my annual recap of all the movies I watched this year, plus my picks for favorites. Note that not all of these movies were released in 2018; these are just the ones I watched last year.

I reviewed 22 movies last year, compared to 25 movies in 2017 (though I didn't have time to review every movie I saw). You can see the full list and genres below, with my favorites marked with *, but I only review movies that I like, so all of the movies listed below are worth watching. The only genre I didn't cover was documentaries, and I'd like to change that this year. I think 6 of the 22 movies were book adaptations. This was the Year of the Musical, with 3 excellent musicals (all of which I saw on the big screen!). In fact, I saw a lot more movies in theaters this year, so more of these are 2018 releases than usual for me.

You can see my full list of movie reviews, covering several years at the Movie Reviews tab.

And now, for my top picks - do I have to choose? Some of these are touch choices, so I'm going to make up some categories.

Best Suspense\Thriller

We saw several excellent thrillers and suspense movies, but this one takes the prize for originality, acting, and searing tension - never has chewing popcorn sounded so loud!

Best Drama

Easy choice, with this original film that was tender, real, and funny with an outstanding cast.

Tough choice in this category, but Sally Fields is outstanding in this quirky, warm comedy about an older woman who gets a crush on a younger man - my friends and I all loved it.

Best Sci Fi/Fantasy
Ready Player One

My son, husband, and I all LOVED the book, and it was wonderful to see this unique, fun story come to life on screen - a visual treat!

Best Musical
Bohemian Rhapsody

 An almost-too-close-to-call tie with A Star Is Born, but I had a grin on my face the entire time I watched this one (except when I was crying and singing) - it helps that I am a huge Queen fan. Both movies are outstanding.

This is the original, not the sequel that came out this year, and my son, husband, and I really enjoyed the colorful, entertaining Harry Potter-related fantasy.

Best Thriller Comedies - a tie!
A Simple Favor

These two genre-bending movies combined plenty of suspense and thrills with lots of humor and were among my favorite movies watched in 2018, so I made up a new category for them!

What were your favorite movies watched in 2018?

All Movies Watched in 2018:
My favorites are marked with *, but I only review movies I enjoy, so all of these are worth a try:

How It Ends - suspenseful, action-packed, thoughtful apocalypse movie  
Ocean's 8 - all-female crew caper film
* A Quiet Place - captivating family drama plus super suspense and 100% quiet
Red Sparrow - twisty Russian spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence
* A Simple Favor - fun, twisty thriller with a great sense of humor
* Taking Lives - dark, twisty thriller about killer who takes on victims' identities

Every Day - unique teen love story
* Lady Bird - tender, realistic, funny coming-of-age story
Ricki and the Flash - fun, warm, musical, funny family drama

* The Big Sick - warm, funny romcom based on a true story
* Game Night - unique thriller comedy with suspense and lots of laughs
* Hello, My Name is Doris - warm, funny movie starring Sally Fields
Trainwreck - light, funny, raunchy romcom
Sci Fi/Fantasy
Blade Runner - dark, classic sci fi thriller set in the future world of 2019!
* Extinction - sci fi action-packed thriller with family drama
Jurassic World - Jurassic Park sequel from 2015 - action, suspense, and thrills
* Ready Player One - exciting, fast-paced virtual adventure with loads of 80's pop culture

* Bohemian Rhapsody - moving, powerful, joyful story of Queen
The Greatest Showman - entertaining musical about P.T. Barnum
* A Star Is Born - powerful musical with emotional depth and outstanding performances

* Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (1st movie) -  unique, fun, creative fantasy

The Incredibles 2 - clever, funny, action-packed, and lots of fun


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Weekly Inspiration: You're Right Where You Need To Be

This week's inspiration comes from a wonderful memoir I read in November, Seven: In the Lane of Hope by Michael Marini. Michael happens to be a friend of mine, but I would have enjoyed his
memoir even if I didn't know him - it's a warm, funny, and inspiring story about growing up in a family of 13, and his dad's recovery after a medical problem that almost killed him. You can read my full review of the memoir on my book blog at the link above.

Michael has a great sense of humor that comes out in his book, and there are plenty of laughs in a busy family with 11 kids. But the memoir is also about his dad's recovery, after doctors told the family he was dying. His dad sounds like an amazing character; he has all kinds of sayings that he frequently repeats. He had been a runner and later, a running coach, and each of the kids was on the track and/or cross-country teams in school, so many of his inspiring sayings have their roots in running, but when he was incapacitated and later, recovering, he found that they applied equally well. While reading the memoir, I also found that his sayings often applied to my life with chronic illness.

One of my favorites:

"You're right where you need to be."

He used to say this to encourage his kids while running a race, but later, he reassured himself with this line while in the hospital and recovering. I read this book during my 3-month long crash this fall, when I was feeling horribly discouraged and stuck on the couch. Reading this simple line helped me to relax and recognize that everything else could wait and my "job" right now was to rest and take care of myself. I repeated that line to myself frequently this fall.

Michael also included some great passages about happiness and contentment in the memoir. This one was on a plaque in his mom's kitchen that he'd seen hundreds of times but really struck him one day:

"Allow life's beauty to envelop you. Hold no guilt or worry about what should have been or what might be."

It's again about accepting where you are right now, living in the present, and letting go of past regrets and future concerns. Good advice for us all.

Another thing his dad said, in reference to his time in the hospital:

"Sometimes, it's really hard to slow down and appreciate what you got - even if that's exactly what you need."

This also hit home for me while I was spending my fall on the couch resting. I realized my mind was still in "must be productive and get things done" mode, while I needed quiet recovery time and to live in the present.

Another thing his dad said:

"Live for today, dream for tomorrow, and learn from yesterday."

That seems like excellent advice, whether you are living with chronic illness or not!

Have you read any books lately that inspired you? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

You can purchase Seven: In the Lane of Hope on Amazon.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

My Progress in 2018 and My Goals for 2019

I wrote about my goal-setting process in an article for ProHealth: Setting Goals When You Are Chronically Ill (you can read the full article at the link). There, I explained that I don't set New Year's Resolutions that are unrealistic or soon forgotten. Instead, I have lifetime goals that rarely change, and then I set more specific objectives and targets for each of those goals at the start of every year and track my progress. It's a process that anyone can use - not to make unachievable resolutions  but to set reasonable step-by-step (baby steps!) targets to help you actually get what you want out of life...even in a life of limits, like ours.

You can also look back at my 2015 progress and 2016 goals (those related to health & wellness anyway) and also my update on 2016 progress and 2017 goals.

Lifetime Goals
I set these overall goals for my life many years ago - and then updated them a few years back to better reflect my "new normal" with chronic illness. It's funny how I never even mentioned my health in my original goals - we really do take our health for granted until it fails us!

My Lifetime Goals:

  1. To nurture and enjoy strong, fulfilling relationships with my husband, my sons, my family, and my friends.
  2. To be a writer, writing about topics I enjoy and am interested in and getting paid fairly for my work.
  3. To spend time outdoors and to travel, doing activities I enjoy and that rejuvenate me, and sharing those experiences with friends and family.
  4. To create and maintain a comfortable and happy home environment - both physically and financially - that contributes to happiness, comfort, and loving relationships.
  5. To be as healthy as I can be and to take care of myself so that I can do the things I want to do.
  6. To give back, help other people, and be part of a community.
SO THAT, I feel happy and content and can spend my time doing things I love.

2018 Progress
I'm a very data-driven person, so I won't bore you with the details of my progress in 2018, but here is a brief summary of my successes and areas that need further improvement. I'll mainly focus on the things that most of you can relate to, like relationships and health.

How I felt overall remained about the same as 2017 for the first three-quarters of 2018, and my level of exertion was about the same, too - so far, so good. Then, in October, I went into a severe crash that left me mostly couchbound for 3 months, due to a flare-up of my Lyme disease. So, if I include those last 3 months, this year was clearly much worse, but that crash was temporary, and I am now back to my normal baseline. 2016 and 2017 were my best years ever, so I hope to get back to that!

In 2017, I was crashed just 3% of the time (11 days all year!). In 2018, I was doing great up until October and was crashed just 2% of the days! Then, of course, the bottom fell out, so I ended the year with 12% crash days.

How do I know all this? Like I said, I like data! I keep track of how I feel each day on a 1 to 5 scale (1 being great & 5 being badly crashed/bedridden), as well as my exertion levels (also 1 to 5, with 5 being most active). I just jot those numbers on a calendar at the end of each day, along with any unusual symptoms, new treatments, etc. So, I've been tracking these numbers, with monthly and yearly averages, since I first got sick in 2002. I also look at % of time spent crashed (a 4 or 5 on my scale). This data also helps me to tell whether a new treatment is helping. My annual average for 2016 and 2017 was 2.2, a huge improvement over my early years of illness. In 2018, I was at about 2.3 up until that big crash at the end of the year, so I ended 2018 with an average of 2.5. If you're not as analytical as I am (I suspect few people are!), you can just jot down the numbers and notes at the end of each day and use it to see patterns in push-crash, whether a new treatment is helping or not, and other information to help manage your illness day-to-day.

2018 Successes:
These are the objectives where I came close to or exceeded my targets for this year.

My relationship with my husband & sons (note: our sons are grown and mostly out of the house now):
  • Had date nights 2-3 times a month
  • Took walks or other time spent outdoors with my husband 2-3 times a month
  • 6 overnight trips together
  • Spent time each week with our sons
  • 2 "trips" with our sons (our vacations didn't work out but we did have "staycations" and visit family together
My health:
  • Tried 5 new treatments for my son and I (related to MCAS and Lyme & other tick infections)
  • Walked 4 times a week about 80% of the time *
  • My longest walk was 1 hour and 50 min! *
  • 10-15 minutes of gentle yoga stretches on the floor every morning
  • Meditate 10 min every day
  • Muscle building 4 times a week about 80% of the time, with substantial increases in weights and reps *

* NOTE:  My exercise is NOT Graded Exercise Therapy (GET), and I am ONLY able to exercise because of several treatments for my ME/CFS that have eased the exercise intolerance somewhat, including treating Orthostatic Intolerance and treating immune dysfunction. I still definitely have limits and use a heart rate monitor to help stay within my limits and prevent post-exertional crashes. Other treatments have helped as well - you can read my full summary of treatments that have been most effective for my son and I, allowing us to live active lives again.

Areas That Need Improvement:

Other relationships:
  • I only got together with friends (my goal is once a week) about 80% of the time in 2018, way down from 2017.
  • I didn't stay in touch with my mom, my stepmom, and my father-in-law as much as I'd like to.
  • I didn't stay in touch with distant friends much in 2018 (other than Facebook - thank goodness for that!)
  • I had a target of doing a longer yoga session (I have a 30-min tape that works for me) once per month - I didn't do that even once all year! 
  • I need to do better about putting away my laptop by 7pm because I know it wears me out in the evening (I'm doing OK with that but there's room for improvement).
  • I still need a LOT of improvement on putting away my work and resting when I crash - I only listened to my body about two-thirds of the time.
  • I need more fun! I get caught up in writing, helping in support groups, my blogs, and other work and have trouble just relaxing.

2019 Objectives and Targets
I won't bore you with all my detailed targets for writing, family, home & finances, etc., but here are my health-related Objectives and Targets for 2019. Note that many of my targets from 2018 are just carried over to 2019. In many cases, I am making progress but need to keep working at it - remember, baby steps! I did change a few significant things in my Writing targets for 2019, related to my blogs, my freelance work, and the ME/CFS Effective Treatments book I am working on, to try to ease some of that pressure I feel. My biggest problem is trying to do everything at once!

Health-related objectives & targets: 

1. Try New Treatments (this is an objective every year - I never stop searching for things that will help my son and I to improve our health & our ability to function). We'll continue to work on tick infections in 2019, though our new protocol is working well so far, and I'd like to talk to my doctor about mestinon.

2. Take Care of Myself:

  • Rest when symptoms flare (3 or higher on my scale)
  • Do 2 quiet things just for myself each week (no multi-tasking!)
  • No computer after 7 pm
  • Do 2 fun things each week that are not TV
  • Take one "day off" each month
3. Improve Stamina (again, only possible because I first treated exercise intolerance)
  • I am continuing my goals of 10 min of yoga each morning, walk 4 times a week, and do some muscle work (usually lying on the ground to keep my HR down) 4 times a week - I lost some ground this fall, so I am working my way back to where I was.
  • And yes, I am going to try again at doing a longer yoga session (30 min) once a month.
  • Walk a 5k - yes, really! A friend with ME/CFS inspired me, and I was ready by October - and then that bad crash hit. So, I am going to try again this year.
The targets under Take Care of Myself may seem pretty basic, but I still struggle with taking care of myself, taking time out for fun, resting when I should, and relaxing. In fact, as I've improved, I've naturally wanted to do even more, so these kinds of simple self-care actions are even tougher now. My time and energy are still so limited that I want to be as productive as I can when I am up and feeling OK...so I need these reminders to take some time out for myself.

We are each at a very different place in our illness journeys, even when we have the same illness, so your goals, objectives, and targets will necessarily be different than mine, but I hope that sharing my goals and progress with you will inspire you to embark on a similar process for yourself. This helps me to actually achieve my goals, instead of looking back at the end of each year and realizing that nothing changed (which is what I used to do!)

Have you set any goals or objectives for yourself for 2019? How was 2018 for you? Please share in the comments below!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Weekly Inspiration: Forge Meaning and Build Identity

I was looking for an inspiring TED Talk today and came across an old favorite of mine, How the Worst Moments in Our Lives Make Us Who We Are by Andrew Solomon. He is an amazing speaker, and every time I hear him, in a TED Talk or on a podcast, I am moved and find myself trying to write down some of the bits of truth he says. In fact, I think I posted this same TED Talk on the blog before, but it was five years ago, and the link no longer works, so I thought it was worth revisiting.

In this moving, funny, inspirational talk, Solomon explains how we can find meaning in our lives through adversity. In the second half, he talks mainly about his own struggles as a gay man (and earlier, as a bullied child), but he also talks about people who've been imprisoned, parents with disabled children, and other types of adversity as well. His main message, which certainly applies to life with chronic illness, is that through the worst things we endure in life, we can forge meaning and build identity. I love that phrase and end up jotting it down every time I hear him speak! He also says, "You can forge meaning and build identity and still be mad as hell," and talks about how oppression builds the power to oppose it.

Listen for yourself - even though I have heard this exact talk at least twice before, the ending still brings (happy) tears to my eyes:

I hope you find Solomon as inspiring as I always do.

He has also written several books (which I want to read!), including The Noonday Demon, on depression (which won the National Book Award); Far From the Tree, on parenting; and Far and Away, about how travel can change the world.

Have a wonderful week!


Sunday, January 06, 2019

Weekly Inspiration: Plan for a Wonderful New Year!

Happy New Year!! I had good intentions of posting more often this week (and intend to get back to a regular routine in January), but one of my sons was very, very sick and at home with a high fever and terrible sore throat - turned out to be strep throat that wasn't responding well to antibiotics, tonsillitis, an abscess on one tonsil, and maybe mono (though we're not sure of that last one). So, I spent much of my week making him soothing foods that he could swallow (lots of soups, smoothies, and shakes!) and taking care of him. He is now on antibiotic #3 and a short burst of steroids for the tonsils and feeling much, much better - now I'm having trouble keeping him home! lol This coming week, we'll have both sons home part-time plus a birthday plus two family members heading off on trips...so I will probably (realistically) be posting more starting next week!

When I did have time to work this week, I was immersed in my annual process of reviewing the past year and setting goals for the new year. I'm not quite finished reviewing 2018 - the last part left is illness-related - so I will share that with you when I finish and have a chance to set goals for the new year.

You may be thinking that it's impossible for someone with ME/CFS to set goals (or resolutions, though I prefer goals), especially when this past week, all we've heard online and in the media has been about exercising more and resolving to get fit in 2019! But, we can set our own goals, based on our own limitations. For instance, one of my on-going targets is to rest when I don't feel well - listening to my body has always been a challenge for me! Another target I set every year is to try new treatments. Even though my son and I function well most of the time and are in much better shape than we were 5 years ago, these illnesses still rule our lives, so I am always on the lookout for new treatment approaches that might bring another small step of improvement. For some ideas of treatments that you can try, check out my page on Effective Treatments for ME/CFS.

Maybe you want to improve your diet or learn to knit or draw more or try audio books. Your goals will be based on what's important to you and what you want to accomplish.

But how do you actually set and meet your goals? I created my own system that includes measurable targets years ago before I got sick and adjusted that process for my life with chronic illness. This article I wrote for ProHealth, Setting Goals When You Are Chronically Ill, explains all the details with examples to get you started. This is something that anyone can do. You can also look at my post from 2017, My Progress in 2016 and Goals for 2017. I hope to post this year's goals in the next week or so.

Oh, and I forgot to share some VERY good news. My severe crash of the past three months is finally over! Christmas Day was the first day I truly felt good, with no aches or other crash symptoms, and that has continued. It was a matter of treating my Lyme recurrence (details here) and finding the right balance with a new Lyme treatment protocol, plus getting my immune system to settle down. So, I am starting the new year off right, back to my "normal" baseline and able to be a bit active again.

Have you set any goals for the new year? What would you like to accomplish in your own life?

Monday, December 31, 2018

Movie Monday: Bohemian Rhapsody

I was finally feeling well enough to go out in the evening this weekend, and we enjoyed a nice dinner with friends Friday. I was lamenting that we missed seeing Bohemian Rhapsody on the big screen (because I was badly crashed all fall) when they told me that it was still playing for two more nights in a small theater that usually only shows independent films. I was so excited! So, the next night, my husband and I went out (second night in a row!), grabbed some dinner, and finally got to see this movie about the band Queen that I have been dying to see for months. It lived up to all the hype and my very high expectations - a moving, powerful, joyful (and sometimes sad) story of the band, its unique songs, and its one-of-a-kind lead singer, Freddie Mercury.

Rami Malek (of Mr. Robot fame) takes on the role of flamboyant and larger-than-life Freddie, beginning with his humble beginnings, living with his parents who were Persian and had migrated from India to Zanzibar, where Freddie was born. Brought up in a very traditional household, Freddie - whose real name was Farrokh - wanted to be a musician, though his father wanted him to take a more traditional job, and his mother wanted him to bring home a "nice girl." Watching a local band perform in a pub one night, Freddie sees Mary (played by Lucy Boynton), who quickly becomes his girlfriend and the love of his life. After the show, he approaches the band members with a song he wrote. They laugh at first, but they've just lost their lead singer, and a short sample of Freddie's amazing singing voice convinces them to bring him in. The band soon reforms as Queen, and Freddie's stage presence, singing, and song-writing genius propel them to bigger and bigger venues and finally, an album. The rest is music history, of course. Meanwhile, in Freddie's private life, he marries Mary, but as most fans already know, he eventually realizes he's gay. They break up, and he begins to explore a very different life, though they remain devoted to each other throughout their lives. Freddie lives a hard partying life, like many a rock star, that eventually implodes. The movie ends with the band doing their part of the Live Aid concert, a stunning performance, especially since Freddie had AIDS by then.

I loved every moment of this movie. For much of it - especially the first half - I sat in the theater with a huge smile on my face, trying hard not to belt out each song and disturb my fellow theater-goers! It is pure, joyful fun watching this team of talented musicians come together and become what they were famous for, as they grow closer and also become a family. Some of my favorite parts were those showing behind-the-scenes how they came up with certain very creative songs, like Bohemian Rhapsody and We Will Rock You. Of course, it wasn't all fun and joy; Freddie went through some rough times, too. During those parts of the movie, I cried - and during some of the good parts, too! Any movie that can make you feel lboth joy and sorrow like that is incredible, in my book. Of course, it helps that I am a huge fan of Queen's music, so I thoroughly enjoyed all the music and concert scenes, too. It was an emotional rollercoaster ride that I never wanted to end.

Although it's the tail-end of its theatrical release, check your local listings to see if you can still catch Bohemian Rhapsody  on the big screen through Fandango:  


If you missed it in the theater, never fear! It is coming to both streaming and on DVD in January 2019 and can be pre-ordered now.

Just watching the trailer again sends shivers down my spine - check it out:

Friday, December 21, 2018

Lyme Update & Lyme Book Review

Hi, all! Sorry (again) for not being around much. I had a few good-ish days this weekend but then crashed again Tuesday. This major crash started back in mid-October, and I thought I was coming out of it finally, but you know what the chronic illness rollercoaster is like!

Since I believe a recurrence of my Lyme Disease triggered this particular crash (it was a mystery at first because I almost never crash for any reason anymore!), I have been focused on tick infections and recently read an excellent book on Lyme that I wanted to share with you. And if you think tick infections don't apply to you, then start with this blog post on why everyone with ME/CFS or FM should at least look into tick infections (and why testing is not reliable). First a quick family update.

Lyme Update - Our Story (Briefly)
So, for those of you new to my blog, here's a quick recap. I got ME/CFS almost 17 years ago, on March 2, 2002. Both of my sons also got ME/CFS about two years after that. We began the long process of trying treatments and found some that helped (see my Effective Treatments for ME/CFS post), but then I had sudden-onset knee pain and nausea. Since we live where tick infections are rampant (though that is almost everywhere now), I knew immediately I had Lyme disease. Long story short: I started on a 3+ year marathon of treatment. The immune dysfunction of my ME/CFS made it more difficult to get rid of, but I was finally Lyme symptom-free. A few years later, the knee pain started up again, and I thought I had a new Lyme infection, so treated it again. A few years later, it popped up again, and I finally realized it was never gone, just in remission. It recurred about every 3-4 years, including about mid-October this year, when this severe crash began. It took me a while to realize it was Lyme that triggered the crash because this time, the knee pain didn't start right away, though my right eyelid was twitching - weird, I know, but neurological symptoms are common with Lyme.

My older son's story is far more complex. He became ill with ME/CFS, with symptoms almost identical to my own, in summer 2004. Again, treatments (especially treating OI) were helping him & he was doing well, back to school, back in band, and even playing a little soccer again, when he suddenly got worse. Again, knee pain was a clue, and - luckily for him - he tested positive to Lyme (only about 65% who have it test positive). So, we treated his Lyme, but he never quite returned to that good baseline he'd been at before it. Over the next three years, he got worse and worse until he was almost completely incapacitated. We were chalking it up to "just" ME/CFS. At that point, some unique symptoms finally made us realize he had bartonella, another tick infection, so we took him to our Lyme doctor, who confirmed he had bartonella, Lyme, and babesia (another common infection carried by ticks) - he'd probably had all three infections for 3+ years, but our pediatrician only knew to test for Lyme. To make a very long and complicated story short, that was about 8 years ago, and our son has been undergoing treatment for the 3 tick infections since then, first with antibiotics and other meds (babesia isn't a bacteria) and later with an herbal protocol, as well as treating his ME/CFS. He has made very slow progress but has improved, bit by bit. He just graduated from college this summer!

New Lyme Book
So, fast-forward to this fall. I bought a new book on Lyme Disease, The Lyme Solution: A 5-Part Plan to Fight the Inflammatory Auto-Immune Response and Beat Lyme Disease by Darin Ingels, ND, FAAEM, and my long crash gave me plenty of time to read it. You can read my full and detailed review of the book on my book blog. Despite over 10+ years of experience with Lyme, I still learned some new things from this book. Most importantly, the author compares various herbal protocols and says that the one we have used for years is often too potent for many people and has the tendency to cause severe Herx reactions (a characteristic worsening that occurs when you treat tick infections or other underlying infections like viruses). That has been my son's experience exactly! A normal dose of the formula he takes is 30 drops a day. After 4 years on it, he can still only tolerate 1 drop a day. So, I was very interested to read that another protocol tends to be gentler and less likely to cause such a severe response.

As a result, we talked to our Lyme doctor (LLMD) and got the OK to try this other protocol, the Zhang protocol, which is based on Chinese herbs. It's only been 3-4 weeks so far for both of us, and we are still Herxing, so we are taking it much more slowly than the author of the book recommends, but I am hopeful. Our son was kind of "stuck" and seemed to not be improving as much anymore and couldn't seem to increase his tiny dose. As for me, well, my Lyme does go into remission, but then it keeps popping up again to wreak havoc every 3-4 years. So, I am hoping this new protocol will help to get rid of my Lyme and help our son to get to the next level of functioning so that he can manage a job and adult life. I'll let you know how it goes!

Bottom line is that this book, while not perfect, was informative, and I do recommend it for anyone dealing with tick infections (or who even thinks there is a possibility of tick infections - it covers the challenges of getting diagnosed, too).

And if you are thinking that none of this applies to you, then I urge you to at least read my blog post, Why Everyone with ME/CFS or FM Should Be Evaluated for Tick Infections. We knew all about Lyme disease, yet we still missed 3 tick infections in our son for more than 3 years. Testing is not reliable, and the urgency in at least ruling out tick infections is that they can cause permanent neurological damage when left untreated. This is serious stuff, and the consequences of missing it can be serious and permanent. And, if you, too - like us - are struggling with Herx reactions while treating tick infections or other underlying infections in ME/CFS, then check out my post on Managing Herx Reactions (more of our hard-won experience!).

So, that's us these days - trying something new for tick infections while keeping up all our usual treatments for ME/CFS. I am still nowhere close to my normal baseline for the past few years (which was pretty good!), but I am at least sitting up more now & getting out of the house a bit.

Here's to a healthier 2019 for all of us!

You can purchase The Lyme Solution from Amazon in print, e-book, or audio:

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Weekly Inspiration: Living in a World Apart

Just in time for the holiday season, my latest article on the ProHealth website, Living In a World Apart, is all about managing family gatherings (especially with loved ones you rarely see) when you have a chronic illness. You can read the full text of the article at the link.

Although I always try to incorporate my own experiences into the articles I write for ProHealth, this one in particular was deeply personal. In it, I share my own experiences - many of them painful - in gathering together with extended family. My own family tends to handle difficult circumstances like chronic illness with denial and avoidance, and at least one family member (perhaps others) firmly believes that I am either "making it up" or at the very least, exaggerating my illness. Of course, learning and living with this has been extremely painful for me and created rifts in some relationships that can never be healed.

Even without those toxic relationships, attending any kind of gathering can be challenging for those with chronic illness - the noise, the crowd, the exertion of socializing, the stress of trying to stick with a restricted diet. Add to all that the fact that the illness itself, with fatigue, brain fog, and pain, can make you feel as if you are in a separate world, even though you are surrounded by family or friends. It's a surreal feeling and impossible for anyone healthy to fully understand. That's what the title of the article means, and I love the photo the editors chose to accompany it:

BUT, it's the holiday season! There are plenty of family members that love me (even if they don't fully understand my situation), and I love them. I made a choice years ago - after much thought - to maintain relationships with my family because they are important to me (and also, the troublesome family members are inextricably mixed in with the kind and caring ones). In particular, I absolutely love spending time with the younger generation - my niece and nephew and my two cousins (my first cousins though they are close in age to my own sons). They are all delightful and fun (and far more understanding than their elders), and I look forward to the few times each year that I get to see them.

So, this article is all about how to navigate the pain and take care of your own needs at gatherings with family and friends - while actually enjoying the event!

I would love to hear about your experiences and especially, what has worked for you to manage - and enjoy! - these kinds of gatherings because as you'll see in the article, I certainly don't have all the answers and could still use some help!

Enjoy the holidays with friends and family!
1998: the last Christmas with the WHOLE family there! Happy memories.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

TV Tuesday: Killing Eve

With all the fall shows on cable going on hiatus after their "mid-season finale" (when did that become a thing?), my husband and I were hunting for something new to watch last week. I told him I'd been hearing rave reviews of Killing Eve, which was just nominated for Golden Globes for Best TV Drama and Best Actress, so we tried the first two episodes...and then ended up quickly binging the rest of the first season!

Sandra Oh (of Grey's Anatomy fame) stars as Eve, an American married to a Brit, living in London, and working for MI5 (the UK's version of the FBI) as an analyst in an office. It's clear from the first episode that Eve is eager to do more and has some amazing instincts, but her job definition is limiting. She is assigned to babysit a woman who witnessed a horrible assassination, but she goes above and beyond the call of duty. By the second episode, she is working for a small, secret sub-organization within MI6 (like the UK version of CIA) that is tasked with finding the mysterious assassin who is leaving dead bodies all over the world. The team knows - thanks to Eve - that this deadly killer is a woman. From the beginning, the audience sees this story play out from both Eve's perspective and that of the female assassin, Villanelle, who soon knows that the team (and specifically, Eve) is tracking her. From then on, it becomes a cat-and-mouse game, with Eve and her team chasing Villanelle around the globe, and the two women becoming more and more obsessed with each other.

This show is so unique and completely compelling! We finished the first season in just a few days and were disappointed to find it was over so soon. Sandra Oh, an acclaimed actress already, is excellent in this role, as Eve is first fixated on finding Villanelle and later, more personally fascinated with her, all while her marriage suffers. Jodie Comer, as her nemesis, Villanelle, is less well-known as an actress but is incredible in this role, playing the strangely appealing cold-hearted killer in a way that is utterly captivating. The rest of the cast is good, too, but these two women take front stage as they become locked in psychological warfare - and something like admiration? - with each other. In addition, the mystery and thriller elements of the show provide plenty of suspense. The short first season was over far too soon, and we can't wait for season 2 (due out in 2019)!

Killing Eve is produced by BBC America, and the first season with 8 episodes aired this spring. You can still find it On Demand through your cable company or on the BBC America website, though only episodes 1 & 2 are free in both places, so you can try it out. Spoiler alert: you will love it and want to watch more! You can purchase episodes on Amazon starting at $1.99 each or $13.99 for the entire season. We thought it was well worth the investment.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Movie Monday: Trainwreck

Having been homebound for most of the past two months, thanks to a severe crash, I haven't been able to go out with my friends or even make it to my book group meetings, so last week, my two closest friends brought Girls Night Out to me! They came over with take-out Thai food, and we watched a movie in our family room - complete with recliners for everyone. We were looking for a light, funny movie and ended up watching Trainwreck, which was definitely light and funny, though perhaps a bit raunchy for some tastes!

Amy Schumer stars as Amy, a writer working for a men's fluff magazine called S'nuff in New York City (with hilarious article titles). Besides being focused on her career, Amy was brought up to believe that monogamy is not possible, a view instilled in her by her carousing father, Gordon, played by Colin Quinn, to explain why he and her mother broke up. Now, her father is aging, but Amy has stuck with his dysfunctional life philosophy. As a result, she drinks a lot, smokes some weed, and sleeps with lots of guys. Officially, she has a boyfriend, Steve, a muscle-bound hunk played by John Cena, but Amy still has one-night stands with other guys. Her rule is to never spend the night. Then, her editor assigns Amy to write an article about the "sports doctor to the stars," Dr. Aaron Connors. Amy knows less than nothing about sports, but she wants a promotion, so she spends time with Aaron, interviewing him for the article and getting to know him. She's attracted to him - and vice-versa - but he doesn't fit her usual type. He's intelligent, sweet, and kind. Will Amy be able to break a lifetime of conditioning to commit to one man?

Oddly, I think this is the first time I've actually watched Amy Schumer in a movie, even though I know of her, have heard interviews with her, etc. Directed by Judd Apatow, Trainwreck features his signature fast-paced amusing banter throughout (think Knocked Up, 40-Year Old Virgin, Bridesmaids, etc.) and also that same kind of raunchy, silly humor. I think it might have been a bit too raunchy for my friends (especially the one-night stand montage!), though we all laughed. As for me, I tend to prefer a more clever, dry wit in my comedies than such obvious silliness, but I enjoyed it overall. The cast was good, the banter funny, and like all romcoms, it has a happy ending. The side plots about  Amy's relationship with her sister and how they are adjusting to their father's aging were even tender and moving (and still funny). It's a fun, mindless ride for when you are looking for escape (and aren't easily offended!). Sometimes, that's just what you need.

Trainwreck is available for streaming on Amazon, starting at $2.99, or on DVD.


Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Weekly Inspiration: Happiness Is a Choice

Last month, for Nonfiction November, one of the nonfiction books I listened to on audio was Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old by John Leland. You can read my full review of the book at the link to my book blog.

I really loved this unique, fascinating, and inspiring book. The author is a journalist who spent a full year interviewing and spending time with six elderly people in New York City (details at my review link), all over age 85. My father-in-law is 93 years old, so this book gave me some insights into his life...but I was surprised to find that many of the lessons from the elderly apply perfectly to a life of chronic illness. They are often living with all kinds of physical ailments, plus just age itself has forced them to slow down, and their lives are often defined now by limits. Sound familiar?

Even though I was listening on audio, I frequently hit pause to rewind and write passages in my Quote Journal. Here are a few of my favorites:
"Here was a lesson in acceptance and adaptation. In a culture that constantly tells us to overcome our limitations, sometimes it is more productive to find ways to live with them."

"Problems were only problems if you thought about them that way. Otherwise, they were life and yours for the living."

"Here was a lesson on the myth of control. If you believed you were in control of your life, steering it in the direction of your choosing, then old age was an affront because it was a destination you didn't choose. But if you think of life instead as an improvisation in response to the stream of events coming at you - that is, a response to the world as it is - then old age is another chapter in a long-running story."

          - from Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old by John Leland

See what I mean? Each of these applies to my father-in-law's experience but also to mine, just in my 50's, as someone with chronic illness (and really, everyone, whether ill or not, could benefit from giving up trying to control everything!). That last one is especially powerful - just substitute chronic illness for old age.

This book really spoke to me and made me think...but it was also entertaining and enjoyable. By the end of it, I felt as if I had spent time with these six elderly people myself. I definitely recommend it - either in print or on audio.

You can listen to a sample of the audio here.

Hope you are having a good weekend!