Tuesday, July 17, 2018

TV Tuesday: Alias Grace

My husband's been traveling a bit lately, so I've been on the lookout for some new shows I can watch on my own (he and I have a long list of shows that we watch together!). One that I am enjoying is Alias Grace, the Netflix mini-series based on the historical novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood (my review of the book is at the link). I enjoyed the intriguing and compelling novel, and so far, the TV series is just as good.

It is based on the true story of Grace Marks, a young woman in Ontario accused of murder in 1843 and sentenced to life in prison at the age of sixteen. As the show opens, we see Grace in prison twenty years later, going to the adjoining Governor's house each day as a servant and returning to the prison each night. Dr. Simon Jordan, an American doctor in the new field of psychiatry, has been brought in by a local group who want to free Grace to assess her mental condition and get behind her amnesia of the events on the day of the murders to find out what really happened. From then, much of the action takes place in flashbacks, as Grace describes for Dr. Jordan, in great detail, her early life, her family's emigration to Canada from Ireland, her first job as a house maid, and her later job at the home where the murders took place. The story emerges bit by bit, with glimpses of Grace both in the past and today in the prison and the Governor's house. It's clear that Dr. Jordan is fascinated by Grace, though her memories of that fateful day remain trapped inside so far.

I'm just a few episodes into the 6-episode series, but I am enjoying it very much. The story has so far stayed close to the book, and it is wonderful to see this intriguing novel brought to life on the screen. While the story is engrossing, part of the appeal of this show (and the book) are the details of life in the 1800's - seeing Toronto as a growing city with muddy roads or the way that poor people lived or the wealthy homes are run with the servants' lives behind the scenes. The settings and costumes are as fascinating as the story. As with the book, the question that runs through the entire story is whether Grace Marks actually committed the murders she is accused of or whether she was an innocent victim? You decide (our book group was split!). Either way, this suspenseful historical fiction will keep you riveted.

Alias Grace is a Netflix original program, so it is available for streaming only on Netflix or you can get the DVD (buy it or borrow from your library).

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I've Been Nominated for a Patient Leader Award!

I look forward to the WEGO Health Awards every year because it is a wonderful way to recognize some of the people who have done so much for our patient community! Last year, Jennie Spotila was nominated for a Best in Show Blog award for her excellent Occupy M.E. blog and Tom Kindlan was nominated for a Best in Show: Twitter award (and was a finalist). Both are tireless patient advocates for ME/CFS.

So, I am thrilled to be in such good company, with my nomination this year for a Patient Leader Hero Award!

This blog was nominated several years ago for a Best in Show Blog Award. This year's award nomination means a lot to me because I now spend so much of my time helping other patients, through this blog but also through both local and online support groups. I run groups for Delaware ME/CFS, Teens & Young People with ME/CFS and Related Illnesses, and Parents of Kids, Teens & Young Adults with ME/CFS and Related Illnesses (and participate in other groups). I also spend a lot of time helping patients through e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook and am working on a book on ME/CFS Treatments, based on our own experiences. Helping others has become a huge part of my life, so this award nomination means a lot to me - a big thanks to whoever nominated me!!

Now comes the fun part, where YOU can impact the outcome!
Just visit my WEGO profile and click on the "Endorse Sue Jackson" button to add your endorsement - you just have to enter your name and e-mail address, so it only takes a few seconds to complete. The nominees in each category with the most endorsements will be Finalists. Endorsements are only open until August 17, so click over now! While you're there, you can also stop by to endorse Tom Kindlan, who has again been nominated, this time for a Lifetime Achievement Award, which is well-deserved!
Good luck to all the award nominees in all the categories!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

TV Shows We Are Watching - Summer 2018

In looking for a TV show to review today, I realized that I have already reviewed many of the shows we are currently watching or looking forward to this summer. So, here is an overview of some of our favorite shows of summer, with links to prior reviews (including trailers).

My husband and I are currently watching two shows on cable that we were excited to see returning this summer, plus I am watching two network shows on my own:

Humans (BBC/AMC) is a unique sci fi drama set in the near future where there are lifelike androids that act like servants to humans and do menial work. Now, in the third season, many of the "synths" have become conscious (I'll save the surprise as to how and why for you to discover in prior seasons), leading to fear and violence among humans. This is an intense, exciting, and thought-provoking drama that we look forward to each week. Season 1 and season 2 are currently available for free on Amazon, with season 3 episodes starting at $1.99 or available for free On Demand or at the AMC website.

Salvation (CBS) is another sci fi show that started last summer and is back for a second season. The premise is that a giant meteor, large enough to cause a massive extinction event, is headed for Earth, and a small group of scientists and government officials are working hard to figure out how to stop it, with time running out. Of course, there are bad guys who want to take advantage of the impending disaster for their own gain. As the second season starts, word of the meteor has gotten out to the public, causing panic, and a terrorist group has taken control of the rescue efforts. As with many popular TV shows, the science is a bit iffy, but we enjoy this action-packed thriller. Season 1 is available free on Amazon or at CBS All Access. Season 2 is currently airing (3 episodes so far) and is available On Demand and on the CBS website (just those first 3).

Younger (TV Land) is one of my favorite shows, and I look forward to its return every summer! It's a dramedy about a 40-year old single mom who lies about her age to get back into the publishing world, after her 15-year hiatus for motherhood. I know, I know - that doesn't sound very believable that a 40-year old woman could pass as a 26-year old, but Sutton Foster is great in the lead role, with an excellent supporting cast, and the whole show is very well done. Now, in its 5th season, Younger just gets better and better as the lies pile up, and certain people in her life find out the truth. You can watch Younger on Amazon, with season 1 starting at $1.99 an episode or $7.99 a season. All 5 seasons are available for free On Demand (a rarity!) for cable subscribers.

The Bold Type (Freeform, formerly ABC Family) got me hooked last summer, with its first season. The show features three young women just starting out in the world of magazine publishing in NYC. The three millennials all work for a fashion magazine (clearly based on Cosmo) in the first season, though each has a different job and different career aspirations. The show follows their ups and downs with friendship, work, and relationships. It's a lot of fun and visually gorgeous, but it also digs into some serious issues like racism, immigration, and sexual harassment. Season 1 and Season 2 are both available on Amazon, starting at $1.99 an episode or $16.99 a season. A few episodes (including the first two of season 1 if you want to try it out) are available free at the Freeform website, and season 2 is currently available free On Demand for cable subscribers.

And on streaming:

Bosch (Amazon) is a favorite that is back for its 4th season. My husband and I are both big fans of the books, written by Michael Connelly, and love the TV series that brings the books to life, with Titus Welliver perfectly portraying LAPD Detective Harry Bosch. This is a straight-up detective series, with each season the adaptation of one of Connelly's best-selling novels. Season 4 is currently airing, based on the novel Angels Flight. Everything about this show is top-notch, from the cast to the writing to the carefully plotted mysteries. If you want to start back at season 1, all seasons are available free on Amazon Prime.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix) is coming back for its 6th and final season on July 27. I CAN'T WAIT!!! This is one of my all-time favorite shows, and my husband likes it, too. The trailer for season 6 looks amazing (but poor Suzanne!):

A few that I haven't reviewed yet (but hope to soon):

Goliath (Amazon) is back for its second season. We enjoyed the first season of this legal thriller starring Billy Bob Thornton.

Breaking Bad (originally AMC, now on Netflix and Amazon) - yes, finally! Are we the last people on Earth to discover this show? We spent our 4th of July binge-watching it. I know the plot summary doesn't sound interesting, but it is a great show. Review to come soon, in case there are other late adopters like us.

Alias Grace (Netflix) is adapted from the historical novel by Margaret Atwood, based on the true story of a woman accused of murder in the 1800's. I recently enjoyed the book, so I've started the TV mini-series (2 episodes in so far), and it is very good.

GLOW (Netflix) is another new one for me, though it just started its second season. Based in part on real life, it is about the start of GLOW, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, in the 1980's. I've watched a few episodes so far and am hooked!

There are more, but those are the main shows we are watching so far this summer!

What summer shows are you enjoying or looking forward to their return?

Monday, July 09, 2018

Movie Monday: Lady Bird

After hearing so many accolades (nominated for 199 awards, including 5 Oscars, including Best Picture) of this movie, I was eager to see it, so when my husband was away on business recently, I watched it...and loved it! Lady Bird is a tender, realistic, funny coming-of-age story that focuses on the relationship between a mother and her teen daughter, with top-notch writing and acting.

Saoirse Ronan plays 17-year old Christine, on the cusp of adulthood, unsure what her future holds, and wanting to be called Lady Bird. The acclaimed and award-winning Laurie Metcalf plays her mother, Marion, who wants what's best for her daughter but doesn't always understand her struggles or her dreams. The story follows the relationship between the two of them in Sacramento during Lady Bird's senior year of high school. In the course of the movie, Lady Bird has her first boyfriend, discovers drama club, ditches her best friend for someone cooler and more popular, and struggles with college applications and plans for her future. Through it all, she and her mom are in constant conflict, though she has a very sweet relationship with her dad.

All the rave reviews I heard about this movie were right on-target. It's a perfect combination of warmth, angst, and humor - pretty much the epitome of being a teenager. Metcalf and Ronan are both excellent in their roles as the often-fighting but still loving mother and daughter. Both bring out the complexities of their roles and relationships. While some scenes are sad or angry, humor is perfectly woven through the entire film, making it a joy to watch. By the end, I was rooting for Lady Bird's dreams to come true.

Lady Bird is now out on DVD and is available for streaming free on Amazon Prime.


Sunday, July 08, 2018

Weekly Inspiration: You Can Live a Great Life!

My editor at ProHealth, Julie Holliday (also known as the ME/CFS Self-Help Guru - check out her blog at the link) published a wonderful little booklet earlier this year called You Can Live a Great Life! Julie's blog and social media are always filled with positive encouragement for living your best life with chronic illness. In this case, the booklet features advice from 7 different women living with chronic illness...including me! (and also the wonderful author Toni Bernhard).

You can get a copy of the full document, with advice from all 7 writers by signing up for Julie's e-mail at this link.

For a sneak peek, here is the portion that I wrote - Julie sent us all questions and then included some of our answers in the final document. I always enjoy Julie's writing and love that she pulled together such inspiring advice from so many chronic illness writers - there is a wide-range of inspiration here from different perspectives. You can also follow the ME/CFS Self-Help Guru Facebook page - her focus is on self-care and inspiration.

Here's my section:

"In what ways do you consider yourself to be living a great/dream/successful life?
I have worked relentlessly to improve my condition and quality of life by seeking out treatments for ME/CFS. Some things don't help at all, but through trial and error, I have found lots of treatments that each help a little bit, and those bits have added up to signifi- cant improvement!
With that improvement, I have been able to get back to living my life and working toward my goals. Writing is a big part of my life, and I am living my dream of working as a free- lance writer, and gradually increasing my income to help with our family expenses (including medical expenses).
In addition to career, I make sure that my life includes things that bring me joy: spending time outdoors, traveling (with a camper at our own pace!), spending time with my family, and with my friends. All of these things enrich my life.
What is the most empowering thing you have learned whilst creating your dream life or what one piece of advice would you like to share to inspire oth- ers to create for themselves a great life despite chronic illness?
Never give up on improving your condition. Keep trying new treatments. It often takes a lot of trial and error to find the treatments that work best for each person, but it is well worth the time and effort. Since so few doctors understand how to properly treat ME/ CFS, this means that you have to educate yourself and become your own advocate...and often educate your doctor, too!"

Friday, July 06, 2018

"New" ME/CFS Treatments to Consider

This blog post is long overdue! I have been collecting open tabs in my browser with ME/CFS treatments I hadn't heard of before that we might consider trying - it's getting kind of cumbersome, so I figure it is time to summarize these here so I can save and close the tabs!

To be clear, the reason for the quotation marks in the post title is that only one of these treatments is actually something new - the rest are just new-to-me. But I have been studying (and trying!) ME/CFS treatments for 15+ years now and thought I'd heard about everything out there, so this is very exciting to me to have found a few potential new avenues of treatment. My son and I function quite well compared to most ME/CFS patients, thanks to a long list of treatments that have helped us, but we are both still very limited compared to normal, healthy people, so I am always on the look-out for anything else that might help.

I haven't tried any of these myself yet (well, I am just beginning to try the first on this list), so I'm not saying these have worked for us (yet), but I wanted to make you aware that these additional options are out there so that you can talk to your doctor. Don't have a doctor to help treat your ME/CFS yet? Check out these tips and doctor lists to help you find a doctor: both a local primary care doctor who can help with the easier stuff and - if you can manage it - an ME/CFS expert to help with the lesser-known or more complicated treatments. As for treatments, start with this summary of the treatments that have worked best for my son and I over the years - things that have definitely helped us improve, be more active, and live more normal-ish lives. Many of these you can either try on your own or with your primary care doctor.

Now, onto the new-to-me treatments:

Berberine for Yeast Overgrowth & Brain Fog:
Yeast overgrowth indicated by thrush
One of the other parents in our group for parents with sick kids/teens/young adults shared this study of berberine, showing it to be an effective antifungal, when we were discussing treating yeast overgrowth. This has been a chronic problem for both my son and I, due in part to the immune dysfunction inherent in ME/CFS. In fact, yeast overgrowth is very, very common in ME/CFS and can make all of your symptoms much worse. It often causes severe fatigue, flu-like aches, sore throat and mouth, and sometimes very severe brain fog (as do any underlying infections). My son and I already do all of the things listed in this post on Treating Yeast Overgrowth, and it has worked well for us - we are both in pretty good shape now. However, to keep the yeast under control, we have to stick to a strict diet (which my son never does), take loads of probiotics and supplements, and we both take prescription antifungals every day (for years now). I would love to be able to reduce the dose of prescription antifungals or maybe even get off them all together, and it would be amazing not to have to constantly be so careful about diet.

I asked our ME/CFS specialist, Dr. Levine, about berberine for its antifungal properties (as the study explains), and she told me that it's sold as a supplement, so I could try it on my own. She also surprised me by saying that she does sometimes recommend it to patients but for those with severe brain fog... which makes me wonder if those patients have brain fog due to yeast overgrowth! So, I just started taking it this week and will let you know how it goes. It's supposed to lower blood sugar, so I am a bit concerned about that since mine is already low (as is common in ME/CFS). It's also supposed to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, which would be a bonus!

This is actually a very old medication, and one doctor who specializes in exercise intolerance has been using it for years for his patients, but word is just beginning to spread to other ME/CFS specialists and patients. This excellent article about using mestinon to treat ME/CFS exercise intolerance explains how Dr. David Systrom, a pulmonologist at Brigham & Young Hospital in Massachusetts pioneered its use for this purpose. Though he is not an ME/CFS specialist, per se, and is not necessarily familiar with other aspects of the disease, his research and clinical practice has focused on exercise intolerance in all its forms, so he has seen a LOT of ME/CFS patients in his clinic. His work has focused primarily on two underlying reasons for exercise intolerance, both of which are highly relevant to ME/CFS patients: dysautonomia (aka Orthostatic Intolerance) and decreased oxygen uptake during exercise (i.e. our cells can't process oxygen properly).

I would love to backpack again!
Dr. Systrom found that an old drug called Mestinon (pyridostigmine bromide) is effective in treating exercise intolerance in many patients, and he has prescribed it for hundreds of ME/CFS patients over the past several years. This medication promotes better nerve firing, increases blood (and oxygen) flow to the mitochondria in muscles, and increases blood volume - all really great things for ME/CFS patients! Word of Dr. Systrom's work has just begun to spread to the top ME/CFS specialists in the U.S. (who all work cooperatively and share information on treatments). When I asked Dr. Levine about Mestinon, she said she is trying it out on a select few patients and will let me know if it is successful. Since in Dr. Systrom's work, this medication has dramatically improved exercise tolerance in hundreds of ME/CFS patients, this is one I am really excited about. Although I have already greatly improved my (and my son's) exercise tolerance and reduced post-exertional crashes through other treatments, further expanding those limits would definitely be life-changing for us. Stay tuned!

Cortene and CT38:
This is the one treatment on this list that is truly something new. CT38 is a brand-new medication, created by a group of scientists from the biotechnology and drug development fields. It was initially developed to prevent muscle wasting, and it worked well in animal studies but was dropped when the company developing it got out of the field. The scientists who developed it started their own company and named it Cortene. They wanted to find a use for their new drug and discovered ME/CFS in their research. It seems like a perfect fit. This medication targets the stress response and works against inflammation - two huge problems in ME/CFS. It looks like a match made in heaven! They are currently conducting clinical trials for CT38 with ME/CFS patients through Dr. Bateman's clinic - she's one of the top ME/CFS doctors. This could be a major move forward - to date, there is not a single FDA-approved treatment for ME/CFS (though there are plenty of effective off-label treatments in use). This blog post explains all about Cortene's development, history, and what it does. Part 2 explains more of the science behind how it works and why it might help ME/CFS patients. And Part 3 describes the clinical trial, with more details of why they think this drug might work for us.

All great news! I was feeling as if we were plateaued these past several years - we've improved a lot but are still quite restricted (I still can't get through the day without a nap), and I thought we'd tried everything available that isn't crazy expensive. So, having new treatment possibilities to explore is very exciting. I will let you know what we try and what works for us.

Have you tried any of these treatments yet? I would love to hear about your experiences in the Comments section below. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

TV Tuesday: The Letdown

Searching for a new show to try last week while my husband was out of town (we watch a lot of shows together), I stumbled onto The Letdown, an Australian comedy now on Netflix. Though I am well past the babies, breastfeeding, and diapers stage of life, I found this show about a struggling new mother both hilarious and heartwarming.

Alison Bell plays Audrey, a new mom taking a break from her career to stay home and care for her baby, while her husband Jeremy, played by Duncan Fellows, works hard to support their new family. Audrey wants to be a good mom (or mum, rather) but worries that she is failing miserably at it. Her daughter won't sleep through the night, Audrey and Jeremy can't bear to let her "cry it out," and Audrey is seriously sleep-deprived and misses her old life...but of course, feels guilty about that. She joins a new mother's group, where at first she feels like everyone else is doing a better job than she is at motherhood. Attempts to have a night out, meet up with old work friends, and even take on a temporary job all have disastrous - and hilarious - results.

I expected to find this half-hour comedy mildly amusing (perhaps because my own sons are in their 20's now, so I am well past Audrey's stage of life), but right from the start, it was very, very funny and had me laughing out loud. Any parent will be able to relate to Audrey and Jeremy's struggles to figure out how they fit into their new roles, though the show also deals with other issues as well, including marriage, aging parents, and work lives. The scenes with the new mother's group are especially good, as those characters gradually become a part of Audrey's life. The laughs were expected, but I also grew to really care about Audrey and found each new episode even more warm and engaging. I just finished season 1 today, and it looks like they are set up for a second season - I certainly hope so!

The Letdown is currently available on Netflix.

Not really a trailer, but here is a brief scene from the show, from one of the mother's group meetings, where they were asked to bring a parenting book they recommend, and Audrey misunderstood (sleep deprivation!) and brought Frankenstein:

Monday, July 02, 2018

Movie Monday: Game Night

As regular readers of my blog know, we've had a rough month or so around here. In the midst of a string of crises a few weeks ago, my husband and I were in desperate need of a light, funny movie to escape into, so we chose Game Night from Redbox. To be clear, when I first saw the previews and ads for this movie in the winter, I did not plan to see it - I thought it looked kind of stupid. Then, I heard a good review of it from my friends at Pop Culture Happy Hour, one of my favorite podcasts, so I decided to give it a try. This thriller comedy turned out to be a lot of fun, surprising, and very funny.

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, a married couple who are highly competitive and love to play games. They often host game nights for their friends. On this particular night, they've invited two other couples over for games and worked hard to hide their game night preparations from their creepy neighbor, Gary (played by Jesse Plemons). Max's super-successful brother, Brooks (played by Kyle Chandler) shows up. As usual, Brooks one-ups Max and hosts another game night at his expensive house the following weekend, and explains that he's booked a special surprise for the night - a murder mystery put on by a local company. Soon, a fake FBI agent shows up at the house to kick off the evening's fun - he explains that one of the guests will be kidnapped and the others have to follow the clues to find him or her. In the midst of his explanation, two thugs show up and violently take Brooks away. Max, Annie, and their friends assume this is the fake kidnapping and set off to follow the clues. What they don't know is that Brooks was really kidnapped by some serious criminals and is involved with some scary stuff.

What follows is a comedy of errors, as the couples set off to find Brooks, not realizing they are following real thugs carrying real guns. As you can imagine, this leads to plenty of suspense and lots of laughs. Though I expected the sort of slapstick, silly comedy I don't really enjoy, this movie turned out to be really, truly funny and quite clever in a unique blend of thriller and comedy. Bateman and McAdams are excellent in these roles and play off each other perfectly. Their acting and the writing are absolutely hilarious, but it is also a suspenseful thriller with plenty of surprising twists along the way to an ending we never saw coming. All in all, it was exactly what we needed that weekend: a lot of laughs and a lot of fun.

Game Night is currently out on DVD and available streaming on Amazon.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

TV Tuesday: For the People

One of the new shows that my husband and I enjoyed this spring was For the People, a new legal drama. I was particularly interested to see it since two Hollywood writers I follow, Liz Craft and Sarah Fain, had worked on the show's pilot (I enjoy their podcast Happier in Hollywood). Think of For the People as Grey's Anatomy for the legal profession (with good reason - it's another Shonda Rhimes show) - new lawyers learning how to do their jobs, facing off against each other, and hooking up together outside of court. We enjoyed season 1 and are looking forward to season 2.

The show takes place in the Southern District of New York Federal Court, apparently a big deal known as "The Mother Court." The cast is mostly broken up into two teams. Hope Davis stars as Jill Carlan, head of the Public Defenders' office, with her team of newbie lawyers including Jay, played by Wesam Keesh, and besties Allison and Sandra, played by Jasmine Savoy Brown and Britt Robertson, respectively. On the opposing side is Roger Gunn, played by Ben Shenkman, heading up the Prosecutor's office and overseeing new prosecuting attorneys, including the smart but arrogant Leonard, played by Rege-Jean Page; prickly and brilliant Kate Littejohn, played by Susannah Flood; and Allison's boyfriend Seth, played by Ben Rappaport. It sounds confusing with so many actors, but you quickly get to know them, just like the new raft of interns at the start of a Grey's Anatomy season. Vondis Curtis-Hall is excellent as Judge Byrne, and Rahvaunia also adds a spark as Court Clerk Theresa. Each episode focuses in on one case, from both the perspectives of the defense and the prosecution, plus new insights into the backgrounds and personal lives of the lawyers themselves.

We enjoyed the first season very much. We quickly got to know the characters and soon became invested in them. The acting and writing is all top-notch, and the cases themselves often touch on ripped-from-the-headlines issues, usually showing the shades of gray in what might seem like a straightforward case from the outside, like the kid being tried as a terrorist who basically got caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time by some bad people. The combination of the court cases and the personal lives of the lawyers and others involved in the legal system makes for some compelling TV, as it has in other legal dramas. We'll definitely be watching season 2.

There are 10 episodes in season 1 of For the People. All ten are still available for free On Demand if you subscribe to cable. Oddly, only episodes 1 and 7 - 10 are currently available for free on the ABC website (though you can unlock episode 6 with a cable subscription). You can watch episodes on Amazon streaming starting at $1.99 per episode or $14.99 for the whole season. I think the show might also be available on Hulu streaming (I'm not 100% sure since we don't get Hulu, but it looks like it).

Watch the Trailer:

Monday, June 25, 2018

Movie Monday: Every Day

For years, I have heard great things about David Levithan's YA novels, but I still haven't read one for myself. So, I was glad for the opportunity to see a movie adaptation of one of his recent books, Every Day. I enjoyed this unique but warm and sweet story.

To say that Every Day has an original plot is an understatement. Its main premise is that a young entity - nicknamed A for simplicity - has no body of its own but wakes up in a different teen body each morning, moving from one host body to another every 24 hours. On the first day that we are introduced to A, he wakes up in the body of Justin, played by Justice Smith, a wealthy star high school athlete who is dating a sweet girl named Rhiannon, played by Angourie Rice. Rhi notices that something is different about Justin on that day, but she likes it - he is kinder and more attentive, and the two of them enjoy a "perfect day" together. Except that the next day, Justin doesn't remember much about that day, while a new girl in school named Amy (who is A's next person to inhabit), seems weirdly attuned to Rhi. Each day, in his/her new body, A seeks out Rhi and eventually explains to her what is happening. Of course, she doesn't believe it at first (who would?), but after A comes to see her in the guise of several very different teens on consecutive days and shows Rhi how much he/she knows about her, Rhi finally believes. From then on, it becomes a very unusual kind of love story because the two of them did fall in love that very first day when A inhabited Justin's body, but how can this possibly end happily? Can they continue this way forever, with A in a different body each day?

It's a strange story, but I enjoyed the movie, just accepting its premise and going along for the ride. It's a sweet, if very unusual, love story, and the ending is satisfying, even though it obviously couldn't be a perfect happy ending for all. One minor thing bothered me a bit. Although the movie's creators did a good job of putting A into a diverse group of bodies each day of different races and genders, including a bit of gender fluidity and even one overweight teen, they were all mid- to upper-class kids who lived comfortable, often even pampered, lives with lovely homes, kind parents, and their own cars. Why didn't A ever wake up in the body of a homeless kid or a teen responsible for his younger siblings because his dad was in jail and his mom was an addict? I was a bit annoyed at the lack of diversity in terms of class and wealth. But, overall, that is a minor quibble. For the most part, this was a light, fun movie with plenty of warmth and even some insights about what's important in life and what life is all about. I enjoyed it. And now, I would really like to read the novel it was based on - and other Levithan novels as well - to see how that compares to the movie.

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below - have you read the book? Seen the movie? Let me know what you thought.

Every Day is currently available for streaming on Amazon, starting at $4.99, or on DVD, as well as through other venues (but not on Netflix).


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Weekly Inspiration: Resilience and Chronic Illness

I struggled to come up with a topic for today's Weekly Inspiration post. I haven't written one in a while because our family has been struggling with some huge setbacks and massive unexpected problems - some health-related, though not all directly related to ME/CFS. The past two months have been one never-ending emergency for us, with things happening to our grown sons that have left us all reeling each time. This weekend, as things finally began to settle down (I hope!), it all got me thinking about how our life with chronic illness (16 years and counting now) has given us an amazing resiliency. We have been through SO much, so many times, that we know now when bad things happen that we WILL get through it.

Just a quick recap to bring you up-to-date since I haven't much time for the blog with all that's been going on lately. About a month ago, our 23-yr old son (with ME/CFS and three tick infections) found out less than a week before graduating from college with an engineering degree, after six long years of hard work, that one philosophy professor had failed him for missing too many classes this last semester. Long story short, my son DID graduate and is now taking a different philosophy class this summer to make up for that missing elective, but that week before graduation was very high stress and filled with uncertainty, anger, and panic. That same son has been struggling for the past few months with a downturn in his health (the reason for so many absences from class) that we can't explain and can't seem to influence (though perhaps this week we began to close in on some answers). He rallied himself to go to a huge outdoor music festival last weekend with some friends, and his phone was stolen.

While my husband and I were back here at home making calls to the cell phone provider and bank to fend off additional problems due to the stolen phone, our 20-year old son called from Italy, where he'd been enjoying a study abroad program with his college. He'd been assaulted in Rome - punched and kicked in the head - and had been to the ER and gotten 8 stitches in his temple. He was horribly shook up and upset. We spent the next week on the phone with him and with his doctors, the school, and the student travel agency. He'd had a concussion back in high school and was showing fairly severe signs of another one. He spent last week in his dorm room in Italy, with his eyes closed in bed in the dark, while his classmates enjoyed the exciting program they'd all come for. When it was clear he wasn't improving and needed to come home early, we made arrangements - at great cost - to bring him home. Our family spent this weekend all together again, here at home, healing, with our son constantly thanking us and saying how glad he was to be home! Fortunately, he is already showing signs of improvement, and we are hopeful that this concussion is not quite as bad as his last - we'll see his concussion specialist tomorrow.

Like I said, through all of this, it occurred to me that our last 16 years of living with chronic illness have created a resiliency in all of us that comes in handy in chaotic, stressful times like this. Some of what we've learned to do when bad things happen:
  • Take Time to Grieve - It's OK (and necessary) to acknowledge your feelings - hurt, anger, worry - and it's healthy to express them and band together to support each other. Sometimes, the grieving has to wait until you get through the crisis, but it's important to take time to cry and hug each other and let it all out.
  • Start Moving Forward  - I think this is the part that chronic illness has helped us the most with. We have been through SO many crises together as a family that the grief phase doesn't last very long - we quickly begin to look at what we need to do. With my older son's graduation last month, that meant meeting with the school's Disability office, talking to the appropriate dean, etc. Last week, it meant immediately contacting our concussion specialist (who actually sent our son a link to take a concussion test online in Italy so he could assess from afar how severe he was), contacting the school, contacting the travel agency...and when the time came, making arrangements to get him home as soon as possible. Moving forward means taking action, being proactive, and taking steps toward a solution.
  • Seek Support - In addition to my immediate family, I turned to an online Parents' support group I run on Facebook last week. My son's concussion was not actually an ME/CFS problem, but I knew they would understand what we were going through and how helpless I was feeling. They responded as they always do - with compassion and support - and I immediately felt much better just for sharing mu burden. I also got together with my two closest local friends last week, and talking to them was also hugely comforting.
  • One Day at a Time - when crises occur, it is so easy to get wrapped up in worst-case, what-if scenarios, but that only raises your stress level. It helps to just stay focused on the here and now - what can we do TODAY to move forward? In the case of my son's concussion, he also has a vacation on his grandparents' sailboat planned for two weeks from now. Instead of worrying about what happens if he's not well enough yet to go, we are just doing what we can NOW (seeing the specialist, following his recommendations, resting, etc.) and not worrying about what comes next. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. We hope he will feel better and be able to go, but if not, we know we can get through it.
I know that our years with chronic illness help us when emergencies occur now. I've seen others around us make themselves crazy with worry - they ask how we can be so calm. Practice. We've been through so many other things and survived and came out the other side - we will get through this, too.

Remember this the next time you are blindsided by an unforeseen urgency. Take a deep breath and just take things one day - one moment - at a time and move forward, bit by bit.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

TV Tuesday: American Gothic

Our oldest son moved in back home after graduation and hasn't been feeling well (he has the same immune disorder I do plus some tick infections), so he, his Dad, and I have been binge-watching some TV shows together. Our obsession the past two weeks was American Gothic, a family-based murder mystery with a dark sense of humor and a great cast that we all instantly loved!

The Hawthorne family is one of Boston's most prestigious power families. Dad Mitch, played by Jamey Sheridan, made his fortune with a cement company, and mom Madeleine, played by Virginia Madsen, rules the family with an iron fist. Oldest daughter Alison, played by Juliet Rylance, is a city councilwoman and is running for mayor. Younger sister Tessa is married to a detective named Brady and trying to get pregnant. However, the youngest brother in the family, Cam (played by Justin Chatwin of Shameless fame), has his share of troubles, including drug addiction, an erratic ex-wife, and a very strange kid named Jack. When Mitch has a heart attack, the whole clan gathers at the family mansion, and even oldest brother Garrett, played by Antony Starr, returns home after a mysterious 14-year absence. Meanwhile, a bridge collapse reveals an old clue in the broken cement to an unsolved serial killer case: the Silver Bell Killer. This killer terrified the city years ago, leaving a silver bell at each murder scene. In the first episode, a couple of the Hawthorne kids, back home for their dad's crisis, find a shoebox full of silver bells out in the shed. And then the fun begins!

Clearly, from the evidence found in that box, someone in or near the Hawthorne family had something to do with the Silver Bell Killer...but who? As each tense episode unfolds, viewers will suspect first one and then another Hawthorne family member - no one seems to be immune from this roulette wheel of suspicions. At the same time, of course, the police, including Brady - unaware of the mysterious shoebox in the shed - are also trying to unravel the years-old case and are closing in on the truth. In addition to plenty of suspense and all kinds of unexpected plot twists, this gripping show has a thread of dark humor in it that often made us laugh out loud, despite its serious themes of murder and deception. This show keeps you guessing right up until the very last episode and is completely addictive, making it perfect for binging!

Originally a CBS show, American Gothic is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime or by subscribing to CBS All-Access.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

ME/CFS Research Update - Spring 2018

I have fallen behind these past couple of months on the blog, due to too much going on at home with my family - travel, graduation (yay!), family visits, and my sons moving back home from college. For several weeks now, I've only managed blog posts on TV reviews and Weekly Inspiration (and not even every week for those). During that time, the number of open tabs on my browser has grown steadily because I keep seeing news of new research or treatments for ME/CFS and thinking, "I need to mention this on my blog." So, I am finally getting to some of that, so I can close of a few of those browser tabs and catch up a bit.

This is by no means a comprehensive summary of all ME/CFS research reported this spring - thankfully, that keeps growing and is too much for me to include all in one post - but I've included a few choice studies that have been released recently that might change things for ME/CFS patients and/or lead to important breakthroughs.

Stay Informed
First, some great resources for keeping up-to-date on what's happening in the ME/CFS research world - this is where I usually get my information:
Top Research News
So, some of the latest big updates from the ME/CFS research world include:
  • Scientists Discover Promising "Off-Switch" for Inflammatory Diseases - Although ME/CFS is not specifically mentioned in this article, this joint study by American, Irish, and British scientists is important for ME/CFS patients. It is now well-understood that ME/CFS is a disease characterized by high levels of inflammation which contribute to many of our symptoms. So, this new research that found a potential "off-switch," a biochemical made by the body called itaconate, could lead to an important treatment approach for us.
  • Infection Elicited Autoimmunity and ME/CFS: An Explanatory Model - This study conducted by a team of Swedish and Libyan scientists proposes a model to explain the process that initiates and sustains ME/CFS, based on other recent studies of the disease that have been reported. Their theory involves an infectious trigger and a cascade of immune dysfunction effects, leading to problems with endocrine dysfunction, energy production, orthostatic intolerance, and more. We need this kind of scientific study that pulls together the wide variety of research occurring in different fields to propose models that explain the disease as a whole - only by understanding its genesis and how it is sustained can we hope to figure out how to stop the process. 
  • Exercise Elevates Blood Signature Difference Between People With and Without ME/CFS - Top ME/CFS researcher and clinician Dr. Jose Montoya at Stanford University found that taking blood samples after exercise better allowed doctors to identify the ME/CFS patients versus sedentary controls. This is very important because we desperately need a solid way to diagnose ME/CFS, and while many studies have found abnormal identifiers in the blood of some patients, it is not always a reliable indicator in all patients. This work could lead to a combined exercise-blood testing approach to help diagnose ME/CFS (obviously this would not work in those so severely affected that they can't exercise at all, even for a test).
Lots of good news and continuing research into all aspects of ME/CFS! The rate of new discoveries and study reports just keeps increasing, as funding grows and more scientists get involved. These are trends we need!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

TV Tuesday: Safe

Last week, my newly graduated son and I (who both have medical issues) were in rest & recovery mode after the long weekend with two graduation ceremonies, family visiting, and a big party on Monday. My husband was out of town on business, so the two of us needed to find a new show we could watch on our own (there are several the three of us watch together). We discovered Safe, a Netflix original thriller series and loved it so much that I called my husband in Michigan and told him he needed to watch it, too. After watching six episodes in two days, my son and I laughed and agreed this was the very definition of binge-watching!

Safe stars Michael C. Hall, of Dexter fame (another favorite show of ours), only with a British accent, which sounds really weird at first, but he pulls it off (I checked - he's originally from North Carolina). He plays Tom Delaney, the father of two daughters who recently lost his wife to cancer. The grieving family lives in a gated community in the UK, a place with extra security measures to make it "safe." When his 15-year old daughter, Jenny, played by Amy James-Kelly, doesn't come home one night, he's understandably worried, and as her disappearance continues over the next days, his concern turns to outright panic, as he tries to figure out where she went and what happened to her. The audience knows that Jenny went to a wild party the night before with her older (secret) boyfriend, Chris. When Chris shows up dead, Jenny's missing status takes on a whole new level of importance. Tom is aided in his search by Sophie (played by Amanda Abbington), a close friend - and maybe becoming something more - who is also a local police officer. In each episode, the mysteries pile up, with several more questions arising every time one is answered, and the audiences suspicions changing constantly.

As you can tell by the way my son and I gobbled up this fast-paced mystery/thriller (we finished all eight episodes in just three days!), it is gripping, suspenseful, and completely immersive. Its twists and turns kept us guessing right until the last episode (and my son almost always figures these kinds of things out early). We were completely addicted for those three days and couldn't wait to watch more each evening. My husband couldn't keep up with us, with his commitments on the business trip in the evenings, but he also finished the series after he got home. The TV series was created by Harlan Coben, the famous thriller author, though I don't see a book by the same name, so I think this may have been created directly for TV rather than adapted from a novel. In any case, its thriller-writer roots shine through.

Safe is a Netflix original, so it is available exclusively on Netflix, with a single 8-episode season - you can easily finish it in a week! And you will want to.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Weekly Inspiration: ME/CFS Patients & Awareness Day

As I mentioned last week, I haven't been here on the blog this past month much, due to a crazy schedule and a huge milestone: my son's college graduation last week (he's the one with ME/CFS plus 3 tick infections). I have been working this week to catch up on everything, so this post is a little late, but I didn't want to skip it entirely.

Today's Weekly Inspiration is focused on YOU, ME/CFS patients all over the world who made this year's ME/CFS Awareness Day (and month) the biggest and best ever! Some summaries (and ideas for next year!):

#MEAction again spearheaded the #MillionsMissing campaign, which just keeps growing. Patients and their friends and families and supporters gathered in over 100 countries (!) around the world for over 300 separate actions, focused on bringing attention to ME/CFS and how its sufferers are missing out on their lives. You can read more about the 2018 campaign here, and you can read a detailed summary and see some amazing photos of the worldwide protests here, including online actions. Check out those photos - it is truly remarkable to see patients and their loved ones mobilizing all over the world!

Another organization, Solve ME/CFS, made an impact with a different kind of approach - ME/CFS Advocacy Day (May 15) on Capitol Hill here in the US, visiting offices of members of Congress and talking to them and their staff about ME/CFS and the urgent need for funding. This year, the group of patients, loved ones, Solve ME/CFS staff, and advocates met with 122 Congressional offices! That's a big leap forward from last year. You can read the summary and watch a short video about Advocacy Day here. Note that the video is not 100% accurate, in that it says that 2017 was the first time something like this occurred - Solve ME/CFS's precurser, The CFIDS Association, also hosted Lobby Days each year during ME/CFS Awareness Week. It's great to see this very valuable event occurring again. My husband, sons, and I participated in a Lobby Day with the CFIDS Association many years ago, and it was an incredible experience. If you or your loved ones can go next year, I highly recommend you do. You can also do what I did this year and participate from home by sending messages to your Congressional representatives.

Also note that you don't have to wait until May 2019 to help raise awareness of ME/CFS! The #MEAction website has a Take Action page all year-round that lists actions you can take TODAY to make a difference, usually from your own home - petitions to sign, letters to send, surveys to participate in, and more.

Congratulations to ME/CFS patients all over the world who participated in 2018 Awareness Day/Month activities, whether in person or online - you are making a difference! And today, YOU are my inspiration.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

TV Tuesday: The Crossing

Way back in September, in my Fall TV Preview post, I mentioned that The Crossing was one of the new shows I was most excited to see. It was supposed to start in October, and I kept checking, but its start date kept getting pushed back. It finally started in March 2018, and my husband and I have been enjoying this intriguing sci fi thriller ever since!

Steve Zahn (one of our favorites from Treme) stars as Jude Ellis, the sheriff of a small seaside Oregon town, who moved to the area to escape his past and live a quiet life. That life is shattered one night when dozens of people wash ashore in his town, many of them dead but some still alive. There was no record of a shipwreck, and these unusual refugees claim to have come from 180 years in the future, where the world is war-torn and violent. Jude is intrigued, especially by a little girl named Leah, played by Bailey Skodje, who washed ashore without her mother, who is not among the dead, either. The refugees are cared for, while the dead bodies are catalogued, until Homeland Security suddenly arrives on the scene and takes over, shrouded in secrecy, and ferries the refugees off to a hidden spot. But Jude can't forget them - especially Leah - and can't shake the feeling that something is off in Homeland's response.

That's pretty much just a vague sketch of the plot of the first episode - to tell you any more would be giving away some of this show's many, layered secrets. It's a twisty, action-packed show with lots of suspense, but it has plenty of heart, too. Jude is estranged from his wife and eager to welcome his beloved son to his new home in Oregon, but it's a difficult time for some quiet father-son time with all that's going on. Jude is not the kind of guy to just forget about a group of people who seem to need his help. My husband and I are both loving this thriller with a time travel/sci fi twist and can't wait to see what happens next.

The Crossing airs on Mondays on ABC. Eight episodes have aired so far in the 11-episode first season. You can catch up On Demand or on the ABC website (where episodes 4 through 8 are currently available for free and you can unlock the first 3 episodes by logging in with your cable password). It is also available on Amazon with the TV Season Pass or for $1.99 an episode (or $19.99 for the entire season). So, you could buy the first 3 episodes on Amazon and then watch the rest for free at the ABC website.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Weekly Inspiration: My Son

You may have been wondering where I've been for the past couple of weeks, and why I haven't been posting much here (or on Twitter or Facebook)...we have been getting ready for a huge event and the subject of today's Weekly Inspiration...

Our son graduated yesterday from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering!! This would be a wonderful accomplishment for any young person, but he has had ME/CFS for almost 14 years (since age 10) and also has Lyme disease plus two other tick infections. He barely remembers a life before chronic illness, and the combination of these diseases has been devastating and, at times, incapacitating.

For the past six years, he has worked harder than anyone else had to in order to achieve this incredible milestone. He showed amazing persistence, taking 3 classes each semester (that's all he could manage), plus often taking a class during summer and winter sessions, so that some years, he had almost no time off all year. He remained committed and determined, even after most of his friends graduated two years ago. He hit some major roadblocks along the way: the year he caught the flu in November and was completely incapacitated for 3 months; the many times he crashed so badly that he had to come home for 2-4 weeks and then catch up on all the schoolwork he'd missed; and just last week, days before graduation, a professor told him he failed him for missing too many classes (despite his accommodation plan), which resulted in an incredibly stressful lead-up to graduation with visits to Disability and the Dean of Students (now you know why I've been too busy to blog!). The result of that fiasco was that he still needs to take one last elective this summer...but he did walk in the graduation ceremonies this weekend.

I am in awe of what he has done. I think back to my own college days - the most carefree days of my life! I was perfectly healthy (and took that for granted, of course), partied wildly on the weekends, and worked hard all week, graduating easily in four years, ready to start my adult life. I manage support groups, both online and locally, for families whose "kids" have ME/CFS and related conditions, so I personally know or know of thousands of young people struggling with these diseases, and I have huge admiration for all of them. I was 37 years old when I first got sick, and that was immensely challenging. I can't even imagine what's it like for all these young people, including my son, to grow up like this. Of course, some of them are too sick to even try school, but many of them, like my son, struggle every day, week, and month to do what other kids do effortlessly. It truly is awe-inspiring.

So, here's to my son, my inspiration, my heart, for this incredible accomplishment. His commencement speaker said something to the effect of "the important thing in life is not what you achieve but what obstacles you overcome to get there." Our son overcame one obstacle after another to achieve this goal that other young people might take for granted, and we are so proud of him!

I hope that you are inspired by his journey, too.

NOTE: If you are wondering how someone with all those diseases was able to manage college and graduate, check out my post on Effective Treatments for ME/CFS - it outlines the treatments that have worked the best for both of us over the years and those that have allowed us both to become more active and live semi-normal lives. If you have a teen yourself, you might also be interested in the post, How My Son Went from Couchbound to College, about the treatments that helped him that summer before college, when we were desperate to find what would work to allow him to start college on time with his friends (which he did), after he'd missed 90 days of high school his senior year.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

TV Tuesday: Splitting Up Together

My husband is not a huge fan of sitcoms, but there are a few that I enjoy watching on my own at lunchtime. One new one I am enjoying is Splitting Up Together, starring two favorite actors.

Jenna Fischer, who played the beloved role of Pam in The Office, stars as Lena, and Oliver Hudson, who played Adam on Rules of Engagement (a hilarious show), plays her husband, Martin. Well, technically he's her ex-husband because they split up in the very first episode. They tell their family and friends that they have the perfect solution to make sure their break-up doesn't affect their three kids. They remodel their garage into an apartment and trade off weeks - one lives in the house and handles all responsibilities while the other lives a single life in the garage, and then they swap. Sounds simple, right? Of course, it's not, and all sorts of problems crop up from Lena's inability to give up control to Martin's jealousy when Lena begins dating.

This is a typical family sitcom - light and funny - with an original concept. I adore both Jenna Fischer and Oliver Hudson, so I enjoy watching them both on-screen, and their three children are also played by able young actors. Diane Farr, another favorite of mine from Numb3rs, also co-stars as Lena's sister. There are plenty of unique twists in this strange situation to provide sitcom laughs, and even some warmth and heart as Martin realizes what he lost and Lena rediscovers herself as more than wife and mother. There are the usual stereotypes in the characters - the controlling mom and the hapless dad - but it's a fun show and a nice escape when I need a few laughs. Ellen Degeneres is an executive producer on the show. Check out the trailer below to sample the show's sense of humor.

Splitting Up Together airs on ABC Tuesdays at 9:30 pm Eastern time. I watch it On Demand, where most episodes are still available, and all of the episodes are available at the ABC website for free. Episode 7 airs tonight, with 8 episodes planned for season 1, and there is a season 2 planned.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What YOU Can Do for ME/CFS Awareness Day/Month

May 12 is International ME/CFS Awareness Day, which unfortunately falls on Mother's Day weekend again this year when we are always away visiting my mom, so I am posting this information today to help you prepare. The entire month of May is ME/CFS Awareness Month (and also Lyme Disease Awareness Month), so you can do a number of easy things to help raise awareness all month long.

There are lots of easy ways for you to help spread the word, including:
And I use this day/month to tell my friends and family about ME/CFS, too. I use my main Facebook account for just close friends and family (though you can follow my blog on Facebook), so I rarely mention my illness there, but May is the exception each year. Here is what I am posting on my Facebook wall for my friends and family:
"May is ME/CFS Awareness Month (and Lyme Disease Awareness Month). Most of you know that my son and I both have ME/CFS (and he has Lyme plus 2 other tick infections), but you may not know what that means, since the U.S. name, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is misleading. ME/CFS is a debilitating immune disorder that has dramatically changed our lives the past 16 years. If you see either of us out in the world or even just look at our photos on Facebook, you may think we live pretty normal lives...but that's why this is called an Invisible Illness. In reality, you only see us out and about when we are having a good day, and even then, we need a LOT of extra sleep, I can't get through the day without a nap after lunch, we almost always have symptoms, and we both have to carefully monitor and limit our activity levels. One of the main characteristics of ME/CFS is that exercise or exertion makes us sicker, so our lives are defined by limits and restrictions. Even with all that care and caution, we still sometimes overdo and "crash" and feel like we have the flu for days afterward. A simple infection like bronchitis can knock us out for weeks. But, we are the lucky ones. About 25% of those with ME/CFS are housebound or even bedridden. Worst of all, few people - and very few doctors - understand ME/CFS, so Awareness Month is really important to us. You can help to spread the word by sharing this post or clicking the link to learn more (you can also donate to ME/CFS research on that page). If you know a friend or family member who has or might have ME/CFS (or tick infections which have similar symptoms), I would be glad to help them find the right doctors, accurate diagnoses, and/or effective treatments. We are always glad to share our experiences and help others, and we are happy to answer questions. Thanks for reading this far."
Besides helping to educate your friends and family (most of whom probably want to know more but don't know how to ask), here are some other ways to help further ME/CFS education and research - share these resources widely!
  • Learn more about ME/CFS. Here are some sources of information you can share with others:
  1. What is ME/CFS? by Solve ME/CFS Initiative
  2. An Overview of ME/CFS by Phoenix Rising
  3. The CDC's information on ME/CFS
  4. Our public testimony on pediatric ME/CFS at the 2011 CFSAC meeting.
  • You and your friends and family can also donate money to help fund badly-needed ME/CFS research. I know the economy has been rough lately, but you could always do what we've done and just switch some of your charitable giving from other organizations to one or more of the following ME/CFS-related charities. I also set up a recurring donation for one of these of just $5 a month - easily affordable but not noticeable day by day!
  • You can also donate to ME/CFS research without spending any extra money by using a shopping donation site or links like:
  • You can even earn money for CFS research when you use a search engine:
Happy Awareness Day/Month!  Help to spread the word!

(feel free to link to this page or share its information)