Sunday, September 20, 2020

Weekly Inspiration: Chronic Illness Bloggers


Every once in a while, I like to share inspiration from other chronic illness bloggers around the world, and I am due for one of these round-ups. Anytime you are looking for your own inspiration, visit the Chronic Illness Bloggers page on Facebook and scroll through the latest posts from bloggers (including me).

Here are a few inspiring posts I've read this week and found helpful:

 

Amber of The World Sees Normal blog wrote a very thoughtful and supportive post this week: It's OK to Not Always Be OK. She writes in a very honest and straightforward way and addresses feelings we all have at one time or another, regardless of which diagnoses we are dealing with. Her post really spoke to me.

 


The Dreaming Panda: My Neuroimmune Journey also wrote a new post this week--Self-Sabotage: Peeling Back the Onion of Baggage from Being Sick. It's a very powerful and honest post, where she shares her journey to improve her mental well-being while fighting multiple illnesses.She also talks about a concept that I wrote about in my book--balancing acceptance and hope--and her own personal struggles with that.

 

Shelley of the Chronic Mom Blog has a guest post this week from Megan Clark Neville, a Texas librarian who has been chronically ill for the past 16 years. Megan's post, When You Have a Chronic Illness, You Are Enough, shares some of the same thoughtful, supportive tone and message as the first two blog posts listed here. She talks about feelings of shame, treating ourselves with kindness, and focusing on being rather than on doing. 

 

And for something a little different, check out Through the Fibro Fog blog by Claire, who writes about The Fear of Slowly Coming Out of Lockdown with Chronic Illness, an excellent and thoughtful post about our current situation, as it applies to those of us with chronic illness. She talks about her experiences throughout the pandemic, from the first inklings of what was happening to today, from the perspective of chronic illness. 

 

I hope you found these blog posts as interesting, inspiring, and relevant as I did--and maybe discovered some new blogs to follow!


Let me know your thoughts. Leave a comment below (most are coming through now), or you can also comment or chat with me on Twitter or at my Facebook page. I will post the link to this blog post in both places.

Friday, September 18, 2020

News from Our House - Sept 18, 2020 - Finally, a Good Day!


I haven't written an update post lately because I've been feeling seriously awful a lot of the time (and mildly awful the rest of the time), but today has been a good day--the first really good day in a long time. Here's the scoop from our house lately:

 

Up, Down, and All Around

My rollercoaster year continues! The past two weeks have been especially rough for me, with multiple days each week where I am completely crashed--what I call "flat days" (because I can barely get up off the couch). Even a single day this bad had become very rare for me in recent years, so this trend has been especially challenging for me. Even worse, it often feels like the worst days come with no rhyme or reason. I had gotten to a nice, steady dosing of a half pill a day with my antivirals and felt like I was doing better, so this was a nasty surprise.

I was flat on my back and achy all over this Wednesday, so I decided to skip my half-pill antiviral dose--maybe I needed a break because I was Herxing? But Thursday, I woke (barely, an hour later than usual) feeling even worse, with horrible aches and exhaustion all day. OK, that didn't work. So, yesterday, I went the other way and upped the dose to two half-pills a day (for a total of 1 pill a day, which is the intended dose). And guess what? I still slept an hour later this morning, but I woke up feeling good. In fact, I felt great most of today! Shocked but happy, I got on with my day, which included an out-of-state doctor's appointment with my son. 

Late summer bounty from the farmer's market
 

That trip--an hour's drive each way plus about two hours in the office sitting up in chairs--usually wipes me out, but I actually felt good throughout it today, even well enough for a stop at a lovely Amish Farmer's Market on the way home, for some last-of-summer fruits and veggies (and some goodies, too)! We got home about 2:30 pm (usually nap time for me) for our daily smoothie. Granted, when I finally did take my nap at 3:30, I was ready for it, but to feel that good for so long today after the week I've had felt like nothing short of a miracle!

I'm a bit achy now at 6 pm, so we'll see what tomorrow brings ...

 

My Son's Improvements

I am way overdue for a detailed update on my son's multiple health problems, but you can read about how he hit bottom last year in New Diagnoses and New Treatments - ME/CFS and Lyme

Fast-forward about 18 months, and I took a look at how he's doing compared to that time last year, in preparation for today's two appointments. We track how we feel each day on a 1 to 5 scale (1 = great and 5 = awful; you can see details of how we track here), and I graphed his monthly averages. In 2019, his "how he felt" number was dragging around 3 or even lower some months. That's not so good. So far, in 2020, he's been consistently up around 2.5 (some months even better), so that's clear improvement! 

To look at the data another way (sorry--used to be an engineer!), I also track and graph % of time crashed. On our scale "crashed" means days when he's only at a 4 or 5--those flat days when you can barely get up, let alone get anything done. In 2019, his % of time crashed each month ranged from about 5% to 50%, meaning that some months, he was incapacitated half the time. That's rough. So far in 2020, his % crashed has ranged from 0% to about 17%, a huge improvement! He's had two months this year without a single crash day. In addition, he's noticed that he's able to be much more active--without crashing--now, driving 3 hours back and forth to his girlfriend every other weekend, working one night a week, and seeing friends more. I do also track exertion level, but I haven't calculated averages or made graphs yet!

So, while it can often feel, day to day, like things are the same, he has definitely shown some great progress in the past year and a half, and his medical team is committed to continuing that trend.

 

Don't Miss:

Some good information in the larger ME/CFS world last week. Check these out:

  • Heart Rate Monitoring and Physical Therapy for ME/CFS - Physios for ME made a 2-video podcast about how to use heart rate monitoring and safely do physical therapy with ME/CFS patients. I appeared in both videos, and there is some excellent information here, for both physical therapists/physios and for patients, plus additional information from my blog posts and articles to help ME/CFS patients to better manage their conditions and prevent post-exertional crashes.
  • New Website from U.S. ME/CFS Clinician Coalition - This group of top U.S. ME/CFS experts who have worked together for many years to stay up-to-date and offer their patients the best treatments formed this ME/CFS Clinician Coalition in 2018 and put out a paper on Diagnosing and Treating ME/CFS, but this new website goes a big step further in providing doctors all over the world with a one-stop website with loads of great information on how to diagnose and treat ME/CFS, including links to additional information on diagnostic criteria, other treatment info, OI, EDS, MCAS, and even disability and school accommodations. It's an outstanding resource. Now, it's time for us to help get the word out! Share this excellent website with your doctors.

 

 What I'm Reading and Watching

As always, I ended my annual Big Book Summer Challenge on Labor Day (the first Monday of September). It was a record-breaking year for the challenge, with more than double the number of participants, and I enjoyed reading and listening to lots of Big Books (400 or more pages) this summer. You can read all about my books and the challenge itself here. If you missed out this summer, join the fun next May!

 

You might think I am sad that Big Book Summer is over, but September marks the start of another favorite reading challenge for me, the Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Challenge! It involves reading books in September and October with darker themes, like thrillers, mysteries, suspense, supernatural, and more (doesn't have to be horror or ghost stories, just anything darker). You can read about it--it's super-easy to join the fun this year--and see some of the books I'm choosing from at that link. I love everything about fall: the cooler weather, lower humidity, wearing jeans and sweatshirts, campfires, and ... the books!


We recently finished a new favorite TV show, Russian Doll. I've been hearing rave reviews of it since its release last year, and we finally got around to trying it. We both loved it and ended up binging its short season in a week! It's about a woman named Nadia who keeps reliving her birthday over and over, dying in different ways each time and restarting back at her birthday party. It's twisty, fun, dark, and hilarious with a great cast. Check out my full review and the awesome trailer at the link.


How are YOU doing this week?
And what are you reading, watching, and enjoying?

Leave a comment below (most are coming through now), or you can also comment or chat with me on Twitter or at my Facebook page. I will post the link to this blog post in both places.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

TV Tuesday: Russian Doll

I had planned to review a different TV show today, but we just finished Netflix's Russian Doll on Sunday, and I couldn't wait to tell you all about this outstanding, twisty show with a unique premise.

It's Nadia's birthday, and her best friend, Maxine (played by Greta Lee), is hosting a blow-out birthday party for her in her funky New York apartment. Nadia, played by Natasha Lyonne who played Nicky on Orange Is the New Black, drinks a lot, chain smokes, and takes home a stranger. Later in the night, though, out on the streets again, Nadia gets hit by a car and dies. The next moment, she is alive again, in her friend's wildly-lit bathroom, looking in the mirror. Confused, she walks out to find that she is back where she was hours ago, at the beginning of the party, with Maxine greeting her for the first time again. She keeps reliving that same birthday night (slightly different each time, since she is now freaking out), and she keeps dying in different ways and restarting back in the bathroom again. She is going crazy trying to figure out what's going on, why, and how to stop this unending loop. Then, in one of her re-lifes (when she actually makes it to the next morning), she meets someone else who is going through the same thing, a handsome guy named Alan, played by Charlie Barnett. Nadia and Alan team up to try to get to the bottom of this crazy cycle they are both stuck in.

Ever since its release last year, I've been hearing people rave about Russian Doll, so it's been on our (very long) list of shows to try. Why didn't anyone tell me it was about someone trapped in a time loop?? I love this kind of brain-twisting plot! Seriously, this is my favorite kind of fiction: time travel, time jumping, time loops, you name it, I'm there for it. Besides that, though, even if you're not into time-twisting like me, the show is just as good as everyone's been saying. It's smart, clever, intriguing, dark, and very funny. Natasha is outstanding in her bizarre lead role, and the supporting cast is a lot of fun, too. Each episode has new developments, as Nadia and Alan investigate this weird phenomenon and come up with new theories. We absolutely loved this show and blew through its eight short episodes in a week (which is rare for us--we're not usually bingers). And, though the ending was just about perfect, Russian Doll has just announced that it will be back for a second season. We can't wait to see what's in store next!

NOTE: As you will see in the trailer, there is ample foul language and some sexual content, just in case that's not your thing.

Russian Doll is a Netflix original program, so it is available exclusively on Netflix. Season one is available now and is just eight 30-minute episodes, so it is perfect for a quick binge!

Check out this awesome trailer that both shows the basic plot of the show and its dark but hilarious tone:

Monday, September 14, 2020

Heart Rate Monitoring for ME/CFS & Physical Therapy

My trusty heart rate monitor - 2015 and still working great!
I recently appeared as a guest on a two-part podcast hosted by Physios for ME (physio is the British term for a physical therapist), all about using a heart rate monitor for ME/CFS. The videos are perfect for both ME/CFS patients and for physical therapists who work with us. Before I include the two videos, first a bit of background to help you understand what this is all about.

I wrote an article for the ProHealth website, Using a Heart Rate Monitor to Prevent Post-Exertional Malaise in ME/CFS, that provides all the basics about why and how a heart rate monitor can help those of us with ME/CFS better manage our illness and prevent crashes caused by over-exertion. It explains about PEM (exercise intolerance), what causes it, how to estimate your heart rate limit, and even tips on choosing a heart rate monitor. The article is short and easy to read, written specifically for patients, so start there to understand what this topic is all about.

Then, watch the first video, Heart Rate Monitoring for Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome and ME, Part 1:



I have a brief part in this podcast, but mostly, I listened. They have three UK physios/physical therapists who work with patients with ME/CFS and are a part of the Physios for ME group. In this first part, they provide some of the technical details, with fascinating information from research into exercise intolerance in ME/CFS. This video also features a guest speaker, Todd Davenport of Workwell Foundation (part of the University of the Pacific). His organization has been researching exercise intolerance in ME/CFS for more than 20 years, and I have been following their fascinating studies since I first got sick in 2002. After all, PEM or exercise intolerance is the key defining characteristic of ME/CFS, and one of the biggest mysteries (beside immune dysfunction) at the heart of our disease. Todd's talk in this video provides some great information for both patients and PTs.

Next, Part 2 of the podcast is about Heart Rate Monitoring - Experiences of People with ME, and it include brief talks from four patients--including me--about our own personal experiences using a heart rate monitor. Some parts of this video have lower sound quality (mine is good), but it is well-worth a listen/watch to hear the wide variety of experiences:



Both my article linked above and the two videos reference orthostatic intolerance (OI), which is intrinsically linked with heart rate monitoring in ME/CFS. To learn more about OI, see my blog post Orthostatic Intolerance in ME/CFS.

Finally, the group that hosted these podcasts, Physios for ME, is focused on using physical therapy to help/treat ME patients. In the UK (and sometimes elsewhere), patients are often sent to PT for "exercise treatment" aka Graded Exercise Therapy (GET), which can, of course, be very harmful for ME/CFS patients. Physios for ME is doing something that is very much-needed--teaching physical therapists/physios how to work with ME patients safely, without causing post-exertional crashes.

If you are seeing a physical therapist for that reason OR because you have an injury or need to rehab after surgery (or if you are a physical therapist), I created a document, Guidelines for Physical Therapy for Patients with ME/CFS, when I needed PT. I shared it with multiple physical therapists during two different sets of PT for different injuries, and it was always well-received and helpful. It covers heart rate monitoring but also includes many other important facts and tips for PTs/physios working with ME/CFS patients. I also wrote this short article for ProHealth, The Dos and Don'ts of Physical Therapy When You Have ME/CFS, which links to the guidelines but also includes more information--for patients and PTs--including links to a specialized form of manual PT that has been found effective in treating ME/CFS, as well as EDS and fibromyalgia. This is not "exercise yourself well" PT, but a form of PT that begins with the patient lying down and entirely passive while the PT uses a technique called nerve-gliding to increase mobility and decrease pain. It's explained in that article.

So, I think that covers everything! I hope you enjoy the two videos and find them informative, along with the extra information I've provided here.

If you have any questions or want to share your own experiences with heart rate monitoring, please leave a comment. You can also comment or chat with me on Twitter or at my Facebook page. I will post the link to this blog post in both places.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Weekly Inspiration: Brené Brown and The Power of Vulnerability

I am quite possibly the last person on earth to finally discover Brené Brown, but just in case I'm not, I wanted to share her wonderful (and famous) TED Talk on vulnerability.

I saw Brené Brown on the Today show this week. They have been doing a series on inspiration (much like my weekly posts), featuring different experts, to help people deal with all that's going on in the world this year, and she was the featured guest one day. Of course, I have heard of her and know some people (including Oprah) love her, but I had no idea what her message was or what she was all about.

So, this morning, I joined the bandwagon and watched her TED talk that has almost 50 million views, The Power of Vulnerability. This is the video that kicked off her inspirational/self-help empire:



I can see why she's so popular! Besides being warm, engaging, and funny, her message really hit home for me. She talks about connections/relationships and how they give purpose and meaning to our lives--I agree completely!

She also talks about her research into what makes people feel worthy. Her results showed that people who feel worthy have:
  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Authenticity
  • Vulnerability 
... which led her to research vulnerability, which also means uncertainty. She showcases her own vulnerability by admitting that she has issues with control (which is the opposite of uncertainty). Her thoughts on the concept that life is messy were hilarious! I could definitely relate. Though chronic illness has forced me to give up some control, it's still a constant struggle for me.

So, check out her short video and see for yourself! Her ending message about what leads to vulnerability (and hence, to worthiness and happiness) is compassionate, kind, and supportive. It's a message we could all benefit from. I'm glad I finally found out who Brené Brown is and what she's all about. I look forward to hearing more from her!

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Weekly Inspiration: Laugh! Take 2


As I explained in this week's News from Our House post, I have been crashed a lot lately and spending far more time on the couch than usual.  I felt bad on Friday so did the right thing and tried to take it easy, but I woke up Saturday feeling even worse. Stuck on the couch again and feeling pretty depressed, I was scrolling through Facebook and found a video a friend posted. That started me down a rabbit-hole that kept me laughing most of the day!

My first Laugh! post listed all the positive emotional and physical effects of laughter--it's been studied and scientifically proven! It's even good for the immune system, which is great for us! That post also included a great (and funny) TED Talk about the benefits of laughter, so check that out. And now, onto some new laughs for today!

 

The Holderness Family

First up, the videos that kept me laughing ALL DAY yesterday! My friend shared one on Facebook, I laughed like crazy, my husband came over to see what was so funny, and we were both obsessed all day (and we haven't seen them all yet!). This is the Holderness Family's channel on Youtube. The parents have been making videos since the start of the pandemic, and they are hilarious! Here's one of our favorites of their regular vlogs, Marriage in Quarantine:


At bedtime, my husband was still quoting that opening scene with her in the closet! We could both relate to everything in here!

They also have a bunch of song parodies. The husband is the musician in the family, and his ability to mimic so many different singers and the cleverness of their replacement lyrics kept us laughing!

Here's one of over 50 song parody videos to make you laugh--they are all great, but we especially liked this one based on TV theme songs--setting "Costco" to the theme of "Love Boat" ("soon we'll be making another run...") was pure brilliance:



Gospel Song About the Fridge

Another YouTube gem (that I first saw on the Today Show) brought a huge smile to my face! This woman sings for her church choir and has a beautiful voice, here put to good use singing her original song "At the Fridge Again":

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Watch out: this one will stick in your head all day!


Movies

We've been watching mostly thrillers lately, but when we need a good laugh, our family goes back to some 80's and 90's movies that are guaranteed to keep us laughing! Our favorite funny movies include:


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
- a classic! John Candy and Steve Martin are hilarious in this movie about two men who meet while trying to get home for Thanksgiving. The challenges they face will make you glad you can't travel right now, and their acting and dialogue will keep you laughing from beginning to end. This one is exceptionally quotable and often quoted in our house ("it may not look like much, but it gets me where I want to go!"). Even though we can now pretty much recite every line, this movie still makes us laugh more than any other.

 


My Cousin Vinny
- This 1992 gem is another one with wall-to-wall laughs. If you've wondered what happened to Ralph Macchio after Karate Kid, here you go! He plays a a young man on a road trip with a friend. They get stopped by local police in a small Southern town, mistaken for the robbers who hit the same gas station where they stopped. Ralph's character calls his cousin Vinny Gambini, who just passed the bar exam, to defend them. Vinny comes down from New Jersey with his girlfriend Mona Lisa Vito, played amazingly by Marissa Tomei (nominated for best supporting actress for her role here). What follows is hilarious as Italian New Jersian Vinny, in the ultimate "fish out of water" story, goes up against Southern good ol' boy Judge Haller, played by Fred Gwynne, best known as Herman Munster. The actors are all outstanding, and the writing is sharp and funny. Guaranteed laughs!


The Birdcage
- Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a gay couple running a drag show in Miami Beach? Say no more. These two actors are absolutely hilarious in this movie based on the famous stage play, La Cage Aux Follies. The laughs grow as Armand's (Robin's) son asks his dad to pretend to be straight to meet his fiance's right-wing parents, played by Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest. Chaos ensues when Nathan Lane's character decides to attend the dinner in drag and pretend to be Armand's wife. Hank Azaria as their gay houseboy, Agador, steals the show during this crazy dinner party. Even after multiple viewings, this show keeps us in stitches!


Well, I am feeling better today--I guess all that laughter helped yesterday! We are going to visit my father-in-law, so I'll have to cap off the laughs there.

 

Please leave a comment (or a link) to tell me what makes YOU laugh!

You can also comment or chat with me on Twitter or at my Facebook page. I will post the link to this blog post in both places.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

News From Our House - Sept. 3, 2020 - Riding the Rollercoaster


Just a quick update today before I need to get out of the recliner and make dinner.

 

Riding the Chronic Illness Rollercoaster

That's the title of the first chapter of my book, Finding a New Normal, and I have been living on that rollercoaster lately: one bad day, one good day, one bad day, one good day, repeat. I can't seem to ever string two good days together. I've written several times here about my downturn this spring and summer (see Crashes, Infections, and Treatments ... Oh, My!) and my discovering that a reactivation of HHV-6 is the most likely culprit. I have been on antivirals since early June now but am still struggling with the dosing. Too little, and I feel worse; too much, and I feel worse. It's a difficult balancing act between treating the infection and Herxing. I still can't tolerate a full dose (one pill a day) so am going back and forth between a half pill a day and one pill a day. Maybe I need to try to just stabilize at a half pill a day again.


I actually felt much, much better for a few weeks in August, so perhaps it is just the dosing that I need to get to a steady level again. My biggest issue is that my stamina is so much lower than usual. Normally, with all of the treatments that work well for me, I can be pretty active and function pretty well and rarely crash from over-exertion. Now, though, activities that I could tolerate 6 months ago--going to the grocery store, doing 20 minutes of muscle-building exercises on the floor (mostly lying on my back)--now send me into a crash, with horrible aches, the next day. This is why I've been back to that familiar rollercoaster life: feel better one day, too do much and crash the next. I thought I was making progress with the antivirals, so I am feeling pretty discouraged. I know I need to be patient and listen to my body. I'm just out of practice!


The Joys of Community

Twice in the past week, I was reminded of how important it is to find your people, connect with others, and be part of a community. With feeling so much worse than usual (plus the pandemic), I have been spending a lot of time holed up at home, in the recliner or--on bad days--lying on the couch. But, on Sunday, I recorded a podcast with Physios for ME about using a heart rate monitor to help ME/CFS patients stay within our limits. They had three physios (physical therapists in U.S. parlance) from their organization, one ME/CFS exercise researcher from Workwell Foundation, and several patients, including me. This is one in a series of podcasts they are doing to educate physical therapists about how to work safely with ME/CFS patients. Isn't it great that an organization like this exists?? It was a wonderful experience, "meeting" all these amazing people via Zoom, but the session lasted a bit longer than planned due to technical issues. Given my low stamina right now, I was exhausted and achy afterward, but I also felt exhilarated from the interaction, socialization, and just plain using my brain to chat with interesting, intelligent people! I will share the link to the videos as soon as they are posted. 

Then, on Tuesday, I totally forgot about a planned Skype meeting with an ME/CFS friend, Rachel. We originally met on Twitter and got to know each other better when she interviewed me for my new book (video at the link). Tuesday was one of my down days, so I wasn't up to Skype anyway, but when she reminded me of our appointment, I just called her on the phone instead. She wasn't feeling well, either, so this worked out well for both of us! We just chatted for about an hour (lying on the couch), first about treatments for OI, as planned, but then about all sorts of things. Besides the fact that she's a wonderful person and very pleasant to talk to, it's always such a lift to chat with someone else who GETS IT, who is living your same life. I was wiped out and not feeling well that day, but I felt uplifted and cheered by our conversation. The Joys of Community is another topic I covered in my recent book. For a sneak peek, take a look at the article I wrote for ProHealth that formed the basis for that chapter. It includes tips on how to find others you can connect with.


What I'm Reading and Watching

As I'm sure you understand, with limited energy and stamina lately, books, TV, and movies have been my primary forms of entertainment! You can see what I and my whole family have been reading this past week on my book blog, but here's a quick recap. 


I am STILL reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, my final book for my annual Big Book Summer Challenge, and a whopper! I'm still enjoying the novel itself but am tired of holding up this giant every night in bed. I am trying to finish it by Monday, so it will count for my challenge.


On audio, I just finished listening to another Big Book, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, which was excellent. It is the gripping story of a Mexican mother and son who must go on the run after a drug cartel kills their entire family and threatens their lives, too. They are heading for the U.S., but it is a harrowing journey, with the cartel never far behind. Besides being fast-paced and suspenseful, it is also moving and powerful and very good on audio. I also listened to The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, a novel about a brother and sister which was outstanding on audio. It's read by Tom Hanks, who completely inhabits the main character/narrator. Want Tom Hanks to read you bedtime stories? This one is a great choice! My review at the link.


We're watching a lot of fun TV shows right now, but I've only added on new TV review to the blog recently: Sex Education. It's a warm and funny British show about a teen boy with a sex therapist mother (played by Gillian Anderson) who starts his own business at school giving sex advice to his classmates, despite his complete lack of experience. We enjoyed two seasons (a a third is coming in 2021!) and laughed like crazy! It's a good pick-me-up show. You can read all about it at the link and see a trailer.


Last weekend, we also enjoyed a movie, The Rainmaker. It's an older one, from 1997, but with its all-star cast, excellent source material (adapted from a John Grisham novel), and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, it was highly entertaining--just a good movie to escape into! Read my full review and watch the trailer at the link.

 
 
How are YOU doing this week?
And what are you reading, watching, and enjoying?

I am happy to report that my problems with comments not showing up on this blog are partially improved--many more are showing up now after a change to the settings. They are still not all coming through, but give it a try! You can also comment or chat with me on Twitter or at my Facebook page. I will post the link to this blog post in both places.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

TV Tuesday: Sex Education

I have mentioned before that my favorite kind of comfort TV is shows set in high schools or featuring young people. I have loved Freaks and Geeks, Glee (of course), and more recently, Never Have I Ever and Atypical. Usually, this is a solo obsession of mine (though my husband liked the earlier seasons of Glee), but he's actually the one who discovered our recent favorite, Sex Education. We just finished watching the first two seasons and loved every minute of this warm and often hilarious show set in a British high school.

Gillian Anderson (of X-Files fame) stars, as you've never seen her before, as Jean Milburn, an over-educated sex therapist and book author. Her unfortunate son, Otis (played by Asa Butterfield), is constantly embarrassed by his single mother, who is apt to say anything outrageous in any company, and is overly outspoken and involved in Otis' (so far non-existent) sex life. Otis' best friend is Eric, played by Ncuti Gatwa, who is gay and dresses very flamboyantly. Otis is geeky and awkward and the exact polar opposite of Maeve, played by Emma Mackey, who is super-cool in a kind of dark, punk way, though also something of a loner. When Jean's occupation becomes known at school, kids start coming to Otis for sex advice, which is ridiculous since he has zero experience in that field himself. But, it turns out that Otis has learned a few things after so many years of listening to his mother, and he's not half-bad at it. Maeve convinces Otis to turn it into a money-making venture, with him dispensing advice and her scheduling appointments and handling the money. Pretty much everyone at their high school has sex questions, so it ends up being a pretty profitable business, though Otis develops a crush on his business partner.

This unique premise, combined with an outstanding young cast, and fast-paced, hilarious dialogue makes for a whole lot of fun for viewers. Given Otis and Maeve's business venture, each student in the school gets a chance in the spotlight, including Adam, the principal's son who's a bully hiding a secret; Lily, the girl obsessed with sci/fantasy sex fantasies; and Jackson, the hunky swimmer with two moms who also likes Maeve and may not want to swim any more. The full gamut of sexual problems and predilections is covered in this show very openly, so there are graphic sex scenes and plenty of honest sex talk (so be forewarned if that's not your cup of tea). The show is very, very funny and the writing and acting are great, but it also has wonderful emotional depth and warmth. You really come to care for these kids (and adults) who are struggling so much to figure out their identities and their lives. We loved every episode of the first two seasons and are very excited that a third season has been announced!

Sex Education is a Netflix original show, so you can watch the first two seasons on Netflix. Season three arrives in 2021--we can't wait!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

COVID-19 Long-Haulers and ME/CFS

A new term has emerged in the medical community and the news media in the past few months: COVID-19 long-haulers. This refers to those patients who recover from COVID-19, their respiratory and other viral-specific symptoms clear up, but they continue to be severely ill, suffering from heavy fatigue, general pain, and a strange worsening after even mild exertion.

Sound familiar?


ME/CFS Known to Begin After Various Infectious Triggers
 
Many of us who've lived with ME/CFS for years expected this to happen almost as soon as the coronavirus pandemic began. After all, about 75-80% of ME/CFS patients begin their chronic illness after some sort of infectious trigger, so why wouldn't a novel coronavirus do the same?

One of the earliest scientific studies to confirm this suspected relationship between infectious triggers and lingering ME/CFS was the Dubbo study in Australia. They studied 253 people who contracted either Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV which causes mono aka glandular fever), Q fever, or Ross River virus and found that approximately 11% of them went on to develop ME/CFS. This basic concept (and percentage) has been proven in many more studies since: after certain infections, about 10-11% of the patients do not fully recover and instead develop ME/CFS. This relationship was further born out by the many "cluster outbreaks" that have occurred over the years (documented as early as 1955 in London), including the Incline Village, NV, and Lyndonville, NY, outbreaks in the 1980's that finally got the CDC involved. Over the years, Lyme disease, enteroviruses, and other infectious agents have been positively identified as triggers for ME/CFS, in addition to the three infections studied in Dubbo.

Given this well-documented history, it only makes sense that a coronavirus could be a trigger, too. In fact, my two sons first showed symptoms of ME/CFS at the same time in 2004, just after one son and their dad had a run-of-the-mill respiratory virus. The virus included a nasty cough that lasted for six weeks, making me wonder now whether it was also a coronavirus.

When headlines started to emerge all over mainstream media like this one, "No One Knows Why These COVID-19 Patients' Symptoms Keep Relapsing," I found it quite frustrating. I felt like shouting, "Yes, we DO know why! There's no mystery!"



ME/CFS in the News

Finally, the medical community and mainstream media began to catch on that this "mystery" of the so-called COVID-19 long-haulers might be ME/CFS. It's always a thrill when ME/CFS makes it into the mainstream news since we are so used to being ignored and invisible. Soon, it began to pop up in articles and news stories all over the world.

This article from venerated news magazine The Atlantic from June, "COVID-19 Can Last for Several Months," was one of the earliest to not only mention ME/CFS but include some solid scientific information about our illness, toward the bottom of the article. It mentions the Dubbo study, accurately describes ME/CFS, including the exertion intolerance, and provides the alarming news that the 2003 SARS epidemic in Hong Kong left 27% of its patients with ME/CFS. This is alarming because all other studies of other infectious agents have found that 10-11% go on to develop ME/CFS and because COVID-19 is related to SARS.

By July, the news was filled with articles about COVID-19 long-haulers, with many of them mentioning ME/CFS. The Scientist, another very well-respected journal, published "Could COVID-19 Trigger Chronic Disease in Some People?" This article includes detailed, accurate information about ME/CFS, including a cool infographic, and emphasizes the severity of the illness and the way that its patients have been ignored over the decades.

This news story from the UK includes an interview with a COVID-19 patient who seems to have developed ME/CFS and a doctor who describes ME/CFS in an accurate, detailed way:



Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, our national hero, mentioned ME/CFS several times in his press conferences, interviews, and other public appearances. Here, CNN reported that Fauci said those not recovering from COVID-19 were "highly suggestive" of ME/CFS. More recently, in August, CNN published a far more detailed article about ME/CFS and COVID-19, with quotes from Dr. Fauci - check out the 1-minute video at the top of that article.

This doctor describes his own experience as a COVID-19 "long-hauler" in this segment on the Today show (their "expert" mentions ME/CFS, though he's clearly not really an expert in it!):




More Research!

All of this unusual attention on ME/CFS is having two positive effects: research into whether COVID-19 long-haulers have ME/CFS and an increased interest in funding ME/CFS research in general. As usual, Cort Johnson at Health Rising has summed this up nicely. As Cort's article explains, the US's National Institutes of Health has already undertaken two studies on the long-term effects of COVID-19, including effects on the immune system.

The largest and most in-depth study on COVID-19 and ME/CFS has been initiated by one of the top ME/CFS research organizations, Open Medicine Foundation. This page describes the study they have undertaken to determine for certain whether COVID-19 long-haulers have developed ME/CFS and what percentage of patients fall into that category.

This study on Medscape, "Research Examines Link Between Long COVID and ME/CFS," provides an overview of the data already gathered, plus previous studies on infectious agents (including SARS) that have triggered ME/CFS.

Whether all of the studies on COVID-19 long-haulers underway--and those to come--mention ME/CFS by name or not, their research will help those of us with ME/CFS by investigating deeply the mechanisms by which inflammation and immune dysfunction keep people sick after the infections have cleared up.

Bottom line is that it's horrible that so many more people are being added to the ranks of those with ME/CFS because of COVID-19, but in the long run, the increased attention to our normally-ignored disease will hopefully lead to some answers and possibly treatments.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Movie Monday: The Rainmaker

As usual, I was searching for a free movie to watch on Saturday evening (while waiting for my husband to bring home our favorite burgers & fries take-out from a local restaurant). On a list of "best thrillers on Amazon Prime," I found The Rainmaker, a 1997 movie, adapted from a John Grisham novel. Featuring an all-star cast, it is more of a legal drama than a thriller. I don't know how we missed it when it first came out, since we are both Grisham fans, but we thoroughly enjoyed it this weekend on the small screen.

As with most Grisham stories, this one is set in the South, this time in Memphis. Matt Damon stars as Rudy Baylor, a brand-new lawyer just out of law school. In need of some income, he takes a job with Bruiser Stone, played by Mickey Rourke, a successful but crooked lawyer. Bruiser encourages Rudy to find his own clients (that's the only way he'll earn a living) and bring in his own business, but honest, humble Rudy balks at being an "ambulance chaser." He already has two cases, though: a will for an elderly woman (who agrees he can rent a room from her) and an insurance case concerning a young man dying of cancer whose parents' health insurance has refused to pay for his treatments. In hanging out at the hospital, per Bruiser's instructions, Rudy also meets Kelly, played by Claire Danes, who has been put in the hospital by her abusive husband, bringing back Rudy's memories of his alcoholic father who beat both his mother and him. Deck, played by Danny DeVito, is a smart and experienced lawyer-wanna-be who hasn't yet passed the bar exam and also works for Bruiser. When Bruiser's office is raided by the Feds, Rudy and Deck decide to hang their own shingle. Rudy's insurance case, which he feels strongly about to get justice for the family, turns out to be a much bigger case than expected, as the insurance company is a huge conglomerate that sends out a team of expensive-suited lawyers who expect to stomp on newbie Rudy and his poor clients. Tensions build as the case finally goes to court, and both sides try to convince the jury of their position. It's a classic David-and-Goliath story.

We both enjoyed this courtroom drama very much. It's a multi-faceted story, with Rudy juggling the multiple cases, Rudy and Deck trying to start their partnership, and the big trial. The cast is outstanding, and we were constantly and pleasantly surprised by the young actors who have gone on to achieve greatness (as well as the older ones we recognized from long careers). Rudy is the kind of character who is great fun to root for: the kind, honest underdog up against corporate greed. Combining excellent source material with that talented cast and direction from Francis Ford Coppola, it's classic Grisham and also classic movie magic.

The Rainmaker is currently available on Amazon Prime or on DVD.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Weekly Inspiration: Novel Insights

It's been a while since I've had the time, energy, and resources (electricity, WiFi, computer) to write a Weekly Inspiration post, so I am happy to be back at it on this quiet Sunday morning. I hope everyone sleeps a bit longer ...

It's been even longer since I shared favorite quotes from a book with you, something I very much enjoy, so this morning I turned to my Quote Journal (currently a red Moleskin). Looking back over quotes from books read this winter, I found many from Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, a slim and very entertaining novel translated from Polish. I read it in January for a readalong with the Book Cougars podcast, one of my favorites. This unusual book with the strange title (it's a line from a William Blake poem) was short-listed for the International Booker Prize, long-listed for the National Book Award for Translated Fiction, and won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature. It's a quirky, funny, thoughtful novel that deserved all those accolades, and I am glad to have read it. It often made me laugh out loud, I loved the clever way the author said things (and kudos to the English translator, Antonia Lloyd-Jones), and I filled my Quote Journal with examples.

You can read my full review at the link. Briefly, it's about Janina, an older woman in Poland who lives up in the mountains near the Czech border. She has some sort of unnamed chronic illness that sometimes flares up unexpectedly, and she is used to spending a lot of time alone, as her "neighborhood" is mostly summer homes that she cares for during the long, brutal winter. There is a twisty mystery in the book, about a string of murders in her area, but what delighted me most about the book were Janina's astute and often hilarious observations about life. Here are a few examples:

"Once we reach a certain age, it's hard to be reconciled to the fact that people are always going to be impatient with us."
As someone who is both chronically ill and aging, I could see the wisdom in this statement! My own illness is quite invisible to others, but I know that Janina's observation holds true for friends of mine whose disabilities are more obvious (though it might be more accurate to say "ignored" than "impatient" in that case). And I have certainly witnessed the impatience of younger people toward older people. I guess I have that to look forward to!


About her mysterious ailments and the role of doctors and medical testing:
"We have this body of ours, a troublesome piece of luggage, we don't really know anything about it and we need all sorts of Tools to find out about its most natural processes ... The only coarse and primitive Tool gifted us for consolation is pain. The angels, if they really do exist, must be splitting their sides laughing at us. Fancy being given a body and not knowing anything about it. There's no instruction manual."
I'm sure we can all relate that that passage! How many times have we each wished for an instruction manual or some sort of magic to tell us what is happening in our bodies? We learn (hopefully) to listen to the hints, like pain, that something is wrong and we need to care for ourselves, but we rarely understand why these symptoms occur.  I have spent the past 17 years (since I was first diagnosed, a year into my illness) studying and reading the research about ME/CFS (and later, Lyme), and I still have only a basic understanding of the inner workings of my body and how illness affects it. I also love that she calls her body "a troublesome piece of luggage"!


General wisdom for us all:
"Everything will pass.

A wise Man knows this from the start, and has no regrets."
When I was finally diagnosed about a year into my illness, I sent an e-mail to friends and family explaining what my disease was and how it affected me. I received many kind and supportive messages back, but the one that brought me to tears and made me feel better was a simple "This too shall pass," from a close friend and old office-mate. He told me he'd had ME/CFS back in grad school (referred to as the "yuppie flu" back then) and was horribly debilitated for over a year and then recovered. Now, of course, he was one of the lucky ones, and I have not recovered (18 years now), but his words were still comforting and are still true. While the disease is still with me, the intense pain and grief of those early years did pass, and I have been able to find treatments that have improved my condition. I am still chronically ill and limited, but those early days of acute grief and mystery and helplessness have passed. I think this is so important to remember when tragedy, pain, grief, and other challenges hit you.


How we each contribute to creating our own world:
"...sometimes it seems to me we're living in a world that we fabricate for ourselves. We decide what's good and what isn't, we draw maps of meanings for ourselves ... And then we spend our whole lives struggling with what we have invented for ourselves. The problem is that each of us has our own version of it, so people find it hard to understand each other."
This is so true, that we each make our own reality. And it provides some insight into why other people probably can't truly understand our world of chronic illness. This certainly gives me something to think about with respect to the challenges I have with my family understanding my life. I think this is a good way to remind ourselves to be kinder, more tolerant, and less judgemental when faced with other people's realities, too.


This quote I include simply for fun because it made me laugh out loud, as did many sentences and passages in this quirky novel! I also read it aloud to my husband, and he laughed, too, so I hope my older male readers won't take offense.
"It's hard work talking to some people, most often males. I have a Theory about it. With age, many men come down with testosterone autism, the symptoms of which are a gradual decline in social intelligence and capacity for interpersonal communication, as well as a reduced ability to formulate thoughts. The Person beset by this Ailment becomes taciturn and appears to be lost in contemplation. He develops an interest in various Tools and machinery, and he's drawn to the Second World War and the biographies of famous people, mainly politicians and villains."
Well, my husband still reads mostly thrillers, but otherwise, this sounds pretty accurate! He could laugh because he knows I complain about him not talking to me. Although, the pandemic has changed things a bit. Now that he is working from home and not in an office with co-workers, and we are together every day, all day, he can get a bit chatty in between work calls, usually just about the time I am sitting down to do some work or writing! Again, we can laugh about this.


So, I can't resist one final quote from the book that is particularly relevant to pandemic/quarantine life:

"Boris' presence reminded me what it's like to live with someone. And how very awkward it is. How much it diverts you from your own thoughts and distracts you. How another Person starts to irritate you without actually doing anything annoying, but simply by being there. Each morning, when he went off to the forest, I blessed my glorious solitude."
I'll just leave you with that thought!

I highly recommend this very entertaining novel, full of mystery, insight, and humor. Janina is quite a character, as you can tell. You can read my full review on my book blog, and you can find it on Amazon in paperback or audio (to buy from indies or other mail-order, see the bottom of my review).

Enjoy your Sunday and have a good week!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

News from Our House - August 20, 2020 - Another Crisis

We're experiencing another hectic, crisis-filled week here, but I wanted to take a few moments out for a quick update: I am still here and still interested in hearing how all of you are doing!

A New Crisis Pops Up

As I reported in my update two weeks ago, we lost power for two days when a tropical storm came through and then, last week, we lost power again for five days (while it got hotter and more humid!) and both of our laptops quit working on the same day, the day the electric was finally restored. I just got my laptop back this Sunday--almost six days and $280 to tighten up some cables! I was ready to finally catch up (I hadn't been able to get reliably online for two weeks at this point and had--still have--700 unread e-mails) and get some work done when another crisis hit.

Our son turned 26 this week. This is a big milestone in the U.S. because adult children are allowed to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26 (thank you, Affordable Care Act!). We knew this deadline was coming, and our son is unfortunately still not well enough to live independently, so we submitted the proper forms from us and his doctor to keep him on our insurance. Much to our surprise, our insurance company agreed that he's disabled but concluded he could support himself! With that conclusion, his health insurance expires on August 31, and we would be forced to purchase a separate policy for him in the open market. This is a big deal because the health insurance through my husband's job is excellent, partly subsidized, and we have had it for 30+ years.

So, this week had one goal and one job to get done: prepare and submit an appeal for the insurance company. I focused all of my writing time on a letter from us, his parents, describing his symptoms, level of daily functioning, etc. I also spent a lot of time e-mailing and working with four of his doctors to get supportive letters from them. In short, it's been an all-consuming and very stressful project.

Yesterday, I hit an unexpected issue. In trying to convince the insurance company how bad off my son really is and how incapable he is of supporting himself, I got really depressed. My husband and I were both in tears. We normally try to stay very optimistic. If you read this blog, you know I am always looking for new treatments and ways to help our son. I have a very can-do attitude. As for our son, all he wants in the world--like all of us--is simply to live a normal life: to be well enough to live independently, earn a living and support himself, and get on with his adult life. That's impossible right now, but we try to remain optimistic that we can further improve his condition, especially after a serious relapse last year. So, to have to focus on the negative side and prove to them that he can not support himself just really got to me. I turned, as I always do, to our wonderful group for Parents of sick kids, and, as always, they provided much needed compassion, understanding, support, and practical help. If you have a child, teen, or dependent adult child with ME/CFS and/or related conditions, check out our group at the link (if you want to join, be sure to answer the questions that pop up after clicking "join").


My Health Improves

Ironically, in the midst of all these crises and stresses, I am feeling better than I have for five months! You may recall from my previous two updates that I had relapsed back in March, without knowing why. My doctor found that HHV-6, a common virus, was again reactivated in my body (this is a very common occurrence in those with ME/CFS, that normally dormant viruses became reactivated). In response, she put me on an antiviral, Famvir, that has worked well in the past for me. For the first two months, though, I struggled with Herxing (a temporary worsening as the meds kill off the virus, flooding the bloodstream with it, and setting off an immune reaction). I finally got the dosing right and got past the Herxing stage, I guess, because I have actually felt good recently! In spite of all the stress, my energy has been good, and I feel back to my "normal" baseline (which means still needing a nap in the afternoon but functioning fairly well otherwise). I have even been able to get back to exercising, both my weight/muscle routines and now that the weather has cooled off a bit, walking more regularly. What a relief!

What I'm Reading and Watching
(links are to my own reviews, where available)

I am still reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and loving it! I read a lot of Dickens in high school and always enjoyed his novels. Last summer, I re-read Great Expectations (listening to it on audio) and really enjoyed it, often laughing out loud as I walked around my neighborhood with my earbuds in! David Copperfield  is similarly funny, warm, and touching. It's easy to see why Dickens is a classic--he has such a way with words! So many of his sentences just stop me in my tracks because they are so clever and such a perfect way to say something, often with humor. It's also a wonderful story, with so many unexpected twists. On audio, I am still listening to American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, a novel about a Mexican mother and son who must go on the run after a drug cartel kills their entire family. It's excellent so far, riveting and fast-paced.

On TV, we just finished what's available of two of our favorite shows, season 4 of Better Call Saul, and season 2 of Sex Education. Both have that perfect mix of warmth, humor, and compelling (though very different) plots. Fortunately, season five of Saul already finished airing on TV, so it should be coming to Netflix (soon, I hope), and Sex Ed just announced a third season. We are also watching the surprise second season of The Alienist (currently airing on TNT), Yellowstone (new to us but we are enjoying it), Lie to Me, a unique crime drama about lying, and the third season of In the Dark, an excellent suspense/crime show about a blind woman who witnesses a murder. Oh, and we just started Halt and Catch Fire, about the massive changes in the computer industry in the mid-80's--it's just as great as everyone has said! Review to come on that one.


How are YOU doing this week?
And what are you reading, watching, and enjoying?

I am happy to report that my problems with comments not showing up on this blog are partially improved--many more are showing up now after a change to the settings. They are still not all coming through, but give it a try! You can also comment or chat with me on Twitter or at my Facebook page. I will post the link to this blog post in both places.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

News From Our House - August 12, 2020 - Storms & More

As I wrote in last week's update, we got through Tropical Storm Isaias with a 2-day power outage and were happy to be back to "normal life." Little did I know ...

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

If I read about our life this past week in a novel, I would think, "Well, it's a good story, but it's not believable." Probably most of us with chronic illness have felt this way at one time or another!

After that 2-day power outage from the tropical storm, life did return to normal but not for long. I went grocery shopping Thursday and restocked our fridges and freezers (including more ice cream!). I was in the middle of writing a post for my book blog Friday afternoon, when a sudden, violent storm hit, and we lost power again. It seemed even worse than the tropical storm that came directly through, and we later found out that four inches of rain fell in less than 30 minutes, and a tornado with 105 mph winds came through very close to us!

We settled in for another day without power but hoping it would come back sooner. Nope. We were without power for five days! It got hotter and more humid with each passing day. We were drenched in sweat at all times, which was especially challenging for my son and I with ME/CFS, as we have both become very heat intolerant. As my son said, the best approach was to just move as little as possible! He read four books last week, my husband and I scrambled to try to save as much food as we could in coolers (with daily trips for more ice), and we all waited for the power to come back any minute ... We slept in the basement, but it was even warming up down there after several days.

Sleeping in the basement
Our cell service was also partially out, since the first storm, so we could sometimes get texts out but calls were almost impossible (including calls to the electric company!). Finally, my husband found a small generator on Monday (they had been all sold out since the tropical storm). It wasn't enough to run our fridge/freezer, but we could run fans--what a marvelous invention!--and my husband hooked up the server so we got WiFi back.

Tuesday morning, the power was still out, but at least we had WiFi, I thought ... until I tried to start up my laptop. Nothing--just a black screen. Bizarrely, my husband's laptop wouldn't start up, either! That's just crazy--they were not connected in any way and both died on the same day. I could hear mine running but couldn't see anything, so I drove to the nearest Apple store (ahhh ... air conditioning!). Sure enough, the display screen wasn't working. They tried some on-site adjustments but finally decided they had to send it out for repairs/replacement: 5-7 days! That same day, my cell phone (a very old talk-and-text-only cell phone) started malfunctioning, and I realized its on/off/home button wasn't working. But, by noon on Tuesday our power came back!

Hurray for our new generator ... and for fans!

Looking on the Bright Side

It's been quite an ordeal, but of course, we were fortunate that no one in our family was hurt, and our house and cars were not damaged. One evening as the four of us ate dinner (cooked on the grill) around the kitchen table in the dark, with a little camping lantern for light, I remarked to my family that if I had to be quarantined and stuck without power, I was glad it was with them! The days spent alone in the house together brought back memories of the early days of chronic illness here, when three of the four of us were sick, and we got used to enjoying each other's company almost exclusively. Those days were very, very rough, but they definitely brought us all closer together.

The four of us on vacation last year - luckily, we enjoy each other's company!
Also, with my laptop in the shop, my phone faltering, and our cell service shaky at best, I finally gave in and joined the modern world. I went to Verizon today and got my first smartphone! Since I use a MacBook, I got an iPhone SE. Of course, all my contacts are in my laptop somewhere in New Jersey right now, but I'll get it all set up when I get that back. My mother is the most excited because she loves to send emojis, GIFs, and bitmojis, and she couldn't send them to my old-school phone. My sons are also glad I joined the 21st century.


Feeling Fine

Ironically, with the massive stress and intense heat, I have actually been feeling better than I have in many months! I think I finally hit the sweet spot with my antivirals, knocked back the HHV-6 enough, and got past the Herx reaction to the feeling better part. I am still only taking a half dose (half a pill of Famvir a day), but my energy has been good--great today, in fact, with the a/c back on! I managed yet another restocking trip to the grocery store today, after throwing away three big garbage bags of food this morning.


What I'm Reading and Watching

Just in time for the power outage, I started my next book for my Big Book Summer Challenge, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Yes, it is a hefty one! I am absolutely loving it so far, as I always do with Dickens--both laughing out loud and exclaiming at the horrifying bits. On audio, I just started listening to American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, and it is wonderful already. Boy, was I glad I had moved a new audiobook from my laptop to my iPod just before my laptop gave out! You can see what all of my family has been reading during this crazy week at my book blog.

Since we had no TV, cable, or WiFi for most of the week, all of our usual shows that I mentioned last week were on hold. We're getting back to them now. During the power outage, we reverted to our camping habit: watching DVDs on my old laptop. Our favorite? Dexter! Yes, we are well aware of the irony of watching a show about a serial killer (though Dexter is a good serial killer) in dark campgrounds late at night! We are on season 6 and enjoying it very much. It definitely helped to provide a little treat at the end of each hot day for my husband and I.


So, that's been our mad, mad world here! 

How are YOU doing this week?

And what are you reading, watching, and enjoying?

I am happy to report that my problems with comments not showing up on this blog are partially improved--many more are showing up now after a change to the settings (I ran a bunch of tests last week). They are still not all coming through, but give it a try! You can also comment or chat with me on Twitter or at my Facebook page. I will post the link to this blog post in both places.