Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Take Action NOW!

U.S. Patients:
 
Take a few minutes NOW to send an important message to your Senators, asking them to vote for a current action that would almost DOUBLE the money appropriated for ME/CFS - a much-needed increase of our meager funding. It only took me moments (and I added a brief personal statement, which is not required), so act now! The vote is later this week - let's all let our elected officials know how important this is.
 
Use this link for a simple form that will look up your Senators for you and quickly send them a message, with all the pertinent information included (and an option to add a personal message).

This is a chance for our voices to be heard, even from our beds and couches!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Weekly Inspirations: Nature Provides Peace and Healing

The blog has been quiet for awhile because I had a nasty bout of bronchitis that wiped me out and lasted four weeks, and...we spent last week on a camping vacation. It was the first full week of vacation we've had all year, due to illness, family crises, weather, and family funerals out of state, so we REALLY needed a break! Our camping vacations are more than just a break from normal routine, though. My husband and I both find that time spent in nature is rejuvenating and healing. It provides a sense of peace and tranquility we just can't find in the midst of our busy lives and the ever-connected modern world.

I've written here many times about the positive effects of spending time in nature - because it is a truth I keep rediscovering! I also wrote an article for ProHealth, The Restorative Power of Nature, that includes the research on the benefits (both physical and mental) of spending time in nature and how YOU can manage more time in nature, even if you are severely limited by your illness - even if you can't go outside! My article seems to have gotten missed when ProHealth redesigned their website recently, but you can read the full text at the link, in a previous blog post.

This past week, we spent almost all of our time outdoors, since we were camping, and both campgrounds we visited were mostly quiet (we did get some rowdy neighbors one night!). We stayed at Clarence Fahnestock State Park in New York's Hudson River Valley - a huge eye-opener for us! We'd never visited this beautiful region before, and we were stunned by how picturesque and undeveloped the Hudson River is (north of NYC). Our second stop was at North-South Lake in the Catskills, which is so far up into the mountains and remote that there was no cell service for miles!

Best part of camping - reading by the campfire
I find that there are two different ways to experience nature. One is in the larger sense, when you appreciate a stunning view of a natural landscape, and it stops you in your tracks. We experienced that this week both in the beauty of the Hudson River from overlooks and a pedestrian bridge and in the peace and tranquility of North-South Lake, especially at dusk and sunset, with almost perfect silence, other than sounds of nature, and heart-stopping natural beauty.

View of the Hudson River from Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY

View of the Hudson River from an overlook (West Point is downriver on the other side)

Breath-taking view of the surrounding landscape from an overlook in the Catskills (can see 4 states!)

North-South Lake at sunset - perfect peace

The other way to experience nature is in a smaller sense, up close and personal. Listening to bird song, crickets, and the wind in the trees brings instant calm and allows you to slow down and tune in to the natural world around you. When we are camping, we notice everything around us - wildlife, plants and trees, blue sky and clouds, and the star-filled sky at night. Although we notice a lot when hiking or even just sitting around our campfire, we both find that kayaking is one of the most peaceful, nature-soaked things to do. Floating out on a calm lake with nothing around but nature makes you notice the birds flying by, reflections in the water, cloud patterns above, and the flora and fauna both in the water and on the surrounding shores. It provides a perfect calm, especially at the end of the day. if you can't manage kayaking yourself (I can now, after treating OI), ask a friend or family member to take you out in a tandem (for 2) kayak, canoe, or other boat.

Floating on the lake at dusk, soaking in the peace & tranquility

First signs of fall color

Water lily and lily pads

A duck friend floating by

If you think you can't enjoy any of this...you can! First, check out my tips for Camping and Enjoying the Outdoors with ME/CFS, based on our almost two decades of continuing our outdoor time in spite of my illness (when our sons were younger, three of us had ME/CFS, but we never gave up our camping traditions). There are lots of ways to accommodate your limits so that you can enjoy time outdoors. And, you can also do what we did and work to improve your condition so that you can do even more outdoors. Here is a summary of the treatments that have been most effective for me and my sons over the years, allowing us to be more active and feel better, with fewer crashes.

And, as I explain in that ProHealth article above, even if you are so severely affected that you can not leave your home, you can still enjoy the benefits of nature. On my bad days, I lie in a zero-gravity chair out on my back deck or porch. Leave the electronics inside and just tune in to what you can see, hear, and smell around you. The physical and emotional benefits are real. Even if you can't go outdoors, studies show similar physiological benefits from looking out a window (open, if possible, so you can also listen, but through glass works, too), or...just looking at photos of nature on a screen has similar benefits! So, I hope you have enjoyed the photos I included here (click any of them to enlarge). You can also try this playlist from TED called Sounds of the Wild, a collection of talks filled with pictures and sounds of nature. This TED Talk, Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. includes gorgeous nature photography. And this TED playlist, Reconnect with Nature! provides lots of inspiration on ways to enjoy nature, along with more beautiful photographs.

We are back from our trip now, reconnected to the world (and with 500 unread e-mails waiting for me!), but this morning, I am writing this in my reclining chair out on our porch, listening to the sounds of the birds and the breeze through the surrounding trees. Give it a try - even just 10 minutes in nature (or looking at nature!) will make a difference in your life. I am newly committed to getting outdoors every day, even if it's just to my back deck.

My back deck provides close-by nature (but leave the laptop inside!)

Monday, September 02, 2019

Movie Monday: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Although I didn't remember all the details of the plot, I remembered reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein about ten years ago and loving the novel. In preparation for the movie adaptation, my husband read the novel last month, and we invited our good friends (who had not read the book) to come with us to see the movie version, The Art of Racing in the Rain, in the theater a couple of weeks ago. All four of us loved the movie, and - like the book - it made us both laugh and cry (yes, all of us!).

This unique story is narrated by a dog named Enzo. Now, stick with me here, because this isn't my usual kind of thing, but this is an extraordinary dog and an extraordinary story. As Enzo, voiced by Kevin Costner, explains early on, he believes that dogs that are ready and have learned enough will be reincarnated as humans (he saw this on a documentary about Mongolian beliefs), and so, his goal is to learn enough about being human to take this important next step. As a puppy, he was adopted by Denny, played by Milo Ventimiglio, and named Enzo (after the Italian racer and founder of Ferrari) because Denny is a racecar driver. The two immediately bond, and Enzo often comes to the track with him and watches racing on TV with Denny, both televised races and recordings of Denny's own races, as Denny imparts his wisdom about racing. Enzo's not too sure what to think when Eve, played by Amanda Seyfried, comes along, but soon they are a close-knit family of three - and eventually, four, when Zoe is born. Life is idyllic for all of them for a while, until tragedy strikes. Through it all, Enzo remains loyal and steadfast to Denny and the rest of his family. It's no spoiler to say that Enzo does die in the end because of course, dogs don't live as long as humans do and also the movie begins with Enzo's imminent demise, as Enzo looks back and tells the story of his life.

So, let's deal with that first. When I told our friends it was a movie about a dog, knowing they are dog lovers who own two dogs themselves, my friend asked, "Is it sad?" I explained that, yes, there are some sad parts in the movie but that it also has moments full of joy and plenty of laughs, too, so they agreed to come see it with us. As I said, all four of us loved the movie, and yes, all of us cried, but we all laughed a lot, too. It's a story about life, with all of its ups and downs, joys and sorrows, so it makes you feel, and what more can you ask from a story? My husband and I thought the movie adaptation was very well-done. He had read the book much more recently and pointed out a few minor changes from book to movie, but overall, the movie sticks pretty closely to not only the plot points of the book but also its emotional feel. The all-star cast did a great job, though, of course, Enzo is the real star of the show. This is a wonderful movie for most ages, though I would be cautious with younger kids who might not be comfortable being confronted with the realities of death. But for teens and adults, it's the perfect movie for different generations to enjoy together - or friends, as we did. Any movie that can make you soar with joy and sob with sorrow, all in less than two hours in a darkened theater, is a winner in my book.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is currently playing in theaters, though probably not for much longer. You can look up local theaters and times (go for recliner seats!) and/or buy tickets at Fandango:




It is tentatively scheduled for release on streaming through Amazon and on DVD in November 2019. It can be pre-ordered now.