Saturday, January 30, 2010

Quote It Saturday 1/30

I'm still feeling sort of crummy (not horrible but not good either), but at least the boys are both doing well! That's always a relief. Ken is at the grocery store - something he absolutely hates! I really need to take the advice many of you gave me last week and order online next time I'm unable to go myself. It'd be worth the $10 delivery fee just to keep him from getting into such a bad mood.

I decided to go with a short quote today, another one from Dorothy Wall's amazing memoir of living with CFS, Encounters with the Invisible:

Ultimately, pain is deeply private. At the moment we most need connection, we are most enclosed in a personal world, scribbling out our fragmented notes like reports from somewhere far away.

- Dorothy Wall, Encounters with the Invisible

I thought this was appropriate for my weeks of being crashed. At times like this, CFS can be so isolating. At the same time, it makes me think about how much blogging has changed my life. Now when I'm this sick and "scribbling out [my] fragmented notes like reports from far away," there is a whole community of people (you!) out there reading my scribbled notes, understanding what I'm going through, and offering support and encouragement. It makes such a huge difference! I don't feel depressed or lonely, as I often did in my first years with CFS. Thanks!

Hope you're enjoying a good weekend.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Another Week Goes By...

I really don't have anything riveting to post, but I realized it's been a few days since I've posted anything at all.

Craig ended up being out sick all week - he went back into school at 11 am today (Friday), just in time to collect his make-up work from all of his teachers. It seems he caught a cold, which of course triggered a bad crash and then led to a sinus infection. He's on antibiotics now and feeling much better. He's even going to a friend's birthday party tonight, though he's not going to stay for the sleepover part. It's so good to see him back in his natural state - bouncy and enthusiastic and full of life! It's just awful when he crashes because it's so unlike him. Thank goodness for Florinef. Before Florinef, he missed 35 days of school in 3rd grade. Last year, in 5th grade, he missed only 12 days! Getting his adenoids out helped, too, to reduce his sinus infections.

As for me, I was crashed all week, too. Yesterday was the worst, though I brought it on myself by going to my book group Wednesday evening and out to dinner with a friend. It was worth it!! But when I woke up Thursday, I didn't know how I was going to drag myself out of bed. I checked on Craig, then went back to bed, got up to get him and I some breakfast, then went back to bed until 9 am, when I had to get up and call the pediatrician's office. Don't know how I managed the doctor's office and pharmacy, but I did.

And now, here it is Friday again. So soon? Another week slips by unnoticed. I did nothing at all but watch movies with Craig, read, and rest. Remember last Monday, I said I was starting my new year? Nope. Looks like my new year will start in February! I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend with everyone healthy. Hope you have a good weekend, too!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

XMRV Presentation by Dr. Mikovits

Last week, Dr. Mikovits, head researcher at Whittemore Peterson Institute working on the XMRV research, gave a talk on XMRV. Here's a video of her presentation. I haven't watched it myself yet, but I heard the talk was excellent.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stuck in Wet Cement

Having a rough day today. I'm getting my period which always makes all my CFS symptoms worse (that's why I take a 90-day birth control pill). Craig was home sick again, too, but he perked up a little this afternoon, so I'm hoping he's on the mend.

I was feeling so bad this afternoon that I went back to bed after I picked Jamie up. At one point, I had to even put my book down and just lie there with my eyes closed. I was trying to figure out how on earth I'd find the energy to get up and make dinner.

It's so hard to describe that feeling, when CFS is that bad. Fatigue (the f-word) is such a horribly inadequate word. It doesn't even come close. I feel like I'm stuck in wet cement, like I can barely move. And it's not just physical; it's mental, too. A complete lack of both physical and mental energy. A complete lack of motivation. I don't even care about all the things I meant to do today, all the things that need to be done, all the things I normally want to do. I don't care about anything except resting. I just want to curl up in a ball and never leave my warm bed.

I really hate feeling this way, and I'm starting to feel a creeping sense of despair, too (probably in part due to the hormonal fluctuations). Understanding it intellectually doesn't matter, either. Writing about it helps a little, though. Thanks for listening.

(And, obviously, I DID eventually get up, Ken came home and helped get dinner ready, and I just found out that the season premier of Lost is on tonight! It really helps to have something to look forward to, doesn't it?)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Movie Monday 1/25

The New Orleans Saints are going to the Superbowl! Woohoo! They had their first ever winning season in 1988 when Ken and I lived there, so we were excited last night to see them finally make it to the Superbowl for the first time. Unfortunately, the exciting game went into overtime, and we stayed up pretty late for it.

All in all, it was a good, quiet weekend of recovery - just what we all needed. We finally got all the Christmas decorations put away, and I did very little else, other than some cooking. I'm still sort of in limbo today, however, with both boys home from school. Jamie had a scheduled day off, but Craig crashed again yesterday afternoon - after a good weekend - with bad CFS symptoms plus nausea. There's a nasty stomach virus going around (one of the kids in our own neighborhood has it), so I'm thinking maybe that's what has triggered this unusual crash in Craig. I hope he rebounds quickly again.

But today is Monday and that means movies! We had a chance to watch several DVDs this weekend:
  • With the kids, we watched G-Force, a cute adventure with guinea pigs starring as special agents in the FBI. It was especially amusing for us, as pet owners of various rodents over the years (currently mice). Nothing super-special (it was no Up), but a fun way to spend Saturday evening together.
  • Ken and I watched No Country For Old Men. I knew it was very violent (not usually my kind of flick), but I wanted to see it because it was so highly acclaimed and had won so many awards. It was excellent, about a small town Texas sheriff searching for a psychopathic murderer on the loose before he finds his prey, an innocent guy who found his drug money after an earlier murder. There IS a lot of violence (guns and shooting), but the movie was very well-done and well-acted, though I was disappointed in the ending.
  • Saturday night, we watched Fracture, a murder mystery of an entirely different kind, starring Anthony Hopkins as a really creepy guy who kills his wife (does anyone do creepy as well as Anthony Hopkins? I don't think so). The lawyer trying to prosecute the case against the very smart and slippery Hopkins is played by Ryan Gosling. This is intellectual and moral suspense, not an action movie, and it was very good (and I loved this ending!).
Have you watched any good movies lately? Hope you had a good weekend!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quote It Saturday 1/23

Ah, Saturday. We're all alone at home (well-except for the four friends the boys have over!) with no major events. We finally managed to take down our Christmas lights, decorations, and tree today. Now all that's left are the pine needles - I don't think there was a single needle left on the tree!

Time for Quote It Saturday. Today, I chose a couple of old favorite quotes from Mr. Rogers. Yes, THAT Mr. Rogers, of the sneakers and zip-up cardigan. I loved his TV show when I was a kid, and so did Craig, but today's quotes are from a book he wrote for grown-ups, The World According to Mr. Rogers, which I read years ago and found surprisingly insightful. I thought these two quotes reflected the internal struggles I've been going through recently:

One of the strongest things we have to wrestle with in our lives is the significance of the longing for perfection in ourselves and in the people bound to us by friendship or parenthood or childhood.

That is certainly one of the things I struggle with daily! Perfection is particularly damaging when you're living with the limitations and confines of chronic illness.

How great it is when we come to know that times of disappointment can be followed by times of fulfillment; that sorrow can be followed by joy; that guilt over falling short of our ideals can be replaced by pride in doing all that we can; and that anger can be channeled into creative achievements...and into dreams that we can make come true!

- The World According to Mr. Rogers by Fred Rogers

Just what I needed to hear this week! Wasn't he a great guy?

Hope you're enjoying the weekend. I should probably go help with the needle clean-up...

Oh, and if you like to read, check out my list of Top Ten Books I Read in 2009.

"Tomorrow, tomorrow, we'll start the day tomorrow with a song or two. Till then I hope you're feeling happy. Till then I hope you're feeling snappy..." (too bad you can't hear me singing)

Friday, January 22, 2010

In Limbo

How did it get to be Friday already? This week wasn't the quiet, restful week I had imagined it would be, in spite of the fact that we had no major events, celebrations, or visitors. Jamie came home at 11:30 am each day (he had mid-term exams all week), and Craig was home sick Tuesday and I had to go pick him up this morning. So, not much quiet time.

Craig had a severe crash last night. He came home from school feeling terrible, said his OI was bad all day and that a friend told him he looked pale (12-year old boys don't normally notice things like that!). Instead of running outside to play like he usually does, he just crashed onto the couch until he went to bed at 7:30 pm. He had a sore throat, congestion, aches, 101 degree fever, and was totally wiped out. He slept for a solid 12 hours and woke up feeling pretty good, so I took him to school. The nurse called a few hours later, and I went back to pick him up. Now he's feeling good again and is outside playing (it's Friday - why reign him in?). Hard to tell what's going on - a brief crash triggered by a virus maybe or even the start of a cold (Craig's immune system is less abnormal than mine and Jamie's, so he does occasionally get a cold).

I've been sort of in limbo all week, in part because I haven't had much time to myself and in part because I haven't felt well. I haven't been severely crashed - not like last week when I had to spend a day in bed - but I haven't felt good either. I never had a day when I was well enough to get groceries, so I guess Ken will have to do that on Saturday morning (something he hates to do). I managed to cobble together another meal plan for tonight with whatever scraps are left in the house!

Mentally, I've felt in limbo, too. Despite my proclamation that this past Monday was my January 1, I still haven't finished my traditional year-end review and goals for the new year. I did think about it enough that I came to a conclusion: I have to give something up. I'm sick of feeling overwhelmed and not making any progress with work (freelance writing), and I know it's not good for my health. I have too many balls in the air. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and have decided what I need to do. This is very difficult for me because I tend to be overly ambitious and want to be involved in everything at once. With CFS now, I just can't. I'll tell you more about it next week - I need to get some things in place first. (don't worry - I'm not giving up my CFS blog - it's my lifeline!!)

So, while I'm glad it's the weekend, I'm feeling like this was sort of a lost week. I wasn't very productive. On the bright side, we have absolutely nothing planned for the weekend, so maybe we'll finally have a chance to take down our Christmas tree! Definitely a good weekend for some movies, too. Happy Friday!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The End of the Marathon

Sorry, no Movie Monday today - we didn't have any time for movies last week!

We have finally reached the end of our holiday/family marathon! We had two sets of grandparents visiting last week, Craig's 12th birthday, and last night, a sleep-over party with 8 wild boys! I made a quadruple batch of pancakes this morning (12-year old boys eat a LOT!) and by noon, all the boys had been picked up by their parents. Craig was up past 2 am and is exhausted, though he did manage a 2-hour nap, so I hope he recovers in time for school tomorrow. Jamie wisely left the sleep-over at 11 pm and went up to his own bed - he has mid-term exams all this week.

Now it's just the three of us, resting and watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (one of Craig's birthday presents). I know Ken will also feel hugely relieved when he gets home from work today.

Now we have weeks with nothing unusual on the calendar, and the four of us can return for awhile to our boring, wonderful routines. We really need this period of quiet recuperation. I hope to gradually - very gradually - regain some of the stamina I've lost. Today is my January 1, the start of my new year, though I'm not thinking yet about goals or anything like that. Just rest.

Oh, I also didn't have time to post a quote here on Saturday, though I did post a couple of quotes on my book blog that I think relate well to living with chronic illness, or any major life changes.

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Great Program on Time Management

I just listened to a great program on time management, procrastination, and over-committing on Radio Times on NPR. Oh, my gosh, this is so me! I've always had a problem with trying to do too much, but it's become even more frustrating now that my productive time is so limited. More on all of this next week, as I officially start my new year and attempt to set some REASONABLE goals, for a change. Meanwhile, if you're interested, you can listen to a podcast of the show at the link.

Our next set of house guests comes in tonight. I managed a short trip to the grocery store (buying groceries would be so much less exerting if I didn't need to get 20 bottles of Gatorade every week!), but I took my mom up on her offer to bring dinner tonight.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

XMRV Testing for CFS

More updates on XMRV and CFS:
  • WPI announced today that a new, better diagnostic test for XMRV is now available. Read the press release (it's a pdf file, so click on the link under Breaking News) or visit the VIP Diagnostics laboratory site that is administering the test (though the website was down today).
  • Newspaper article about WPI's response to the UK study.
  • An online discussion forum on XMRV testing in the UK. At least one person on the forum (in the UK) tested positive for XMRV; others are waiting for their test results.
  • Whittemore Peterson Institute Reseacrh Questionnaire. Fill this out if you're interested in possibly participating in future WPI research studies on CFS and XMRV. Right now, they're just collecting data, as I understand it. I believe that anyone, anywhere in the world, can fill out the form. I haven't gotten around to doing this yet for the boys and I, but I plan to.
I'm doing better today but tried hard to take it easy and slow. I had a quiet day (two in a row!). Thanks for all your support and encouragement!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Living on the Edge

I realized this morning that I've been living on the edge of a crash for weeks now, and it takes very little to push me over that edge. I've been going back and forth between OK-but-not-great and totally crashed with very few good days. Life has just been too hectic.

After my total wipe out on Monday, when I had to spend the whole day in bed, I had a much better day yesterday. I went out with my Dad and his wife to do a little shopping (Craig's birthday is today) and cooked dinner, and it seems that was enough to push me over the edge again. I'm not as bad as I was on Monday, but I am once again very achy, with my heart racing from OI. Our visitors left this morning, so I piled the coffee table with all that I need for the day and am camped out here on the couch with plans to do nothing but rest all day.

We're planning to go out for dinner tonight for Craig's birthday. I have a 2 1/2 day break, then my mom and her husband come in for the weekend! Ken will handle the first part of Craig's party on Sunday (he's taking our boys and Craig's friends to a local ski place for snow tubing), then we'll have 8 boys spending the night, and I'll be on my own Monday morning when Ken goes to work (no school Monday). THEN...there is nothing else major on the calendar until February.

I'm getting frustrated by my extremely low stamina right now, but I think it's just a matter of not allowing my body to fully recover from each crash. I guess I need more than a single day of rest to get back to "normal" for me. I had envisioned a nice fresh start to a new year, with a chance to clear off my desk, set some new goals, and dive back into some writing projects, but instead I've just been in survival mode, barely managing to tread water (I went under on Monday!), with everything piling up, both literally and figuratively.

Hopefully, things will improve and get back to normal next week, whatever normal means! In the meantime, I will try my best to rest as much as I can.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Movie Monday 1/11

Ugh...feeling really terrible today, a new low. I was a little better yesterday, but I guess I spent too much time on my feet cooking (though dinner and dessert were fantastic, if I do say so myself). My Dad and his wife are visiting, and I had to spend most of the day in bed. Fortunately, they're very easy-going and understanding and were content to spend the day reading.

Jamie is much better. All that rest this weekend paid off. He went to school today and is almost caught up on make-up work from last month. Craig did go snowboarding and had a blast! He was very sore this morning, but had no trouble getting up and going to school.

Anyway, it's Monday, so the topic is movies! Not a lot of time for movies this past week. We watched one over the course of two weeknights (can't stay up late enough to watch a complete movie on a school night!) and one on Saturday night. I was too sick to stay up Friday night. So, two enjoyable movies:
  • In the Valley of Elah. An excellent movie starring Tommy Lee Jones as the father of a young man who recently returned from Iraq. He gets a call when his son goes AWOL shortly after returning to the US. He heads to the base in North Carolina to look for him. It's a suspenseful mystery, but it's also about the horrors of war, this war in particular.
  • Bourne Ultimatum. This one was for pure entertainment. Ken and I both read all the Bourne books years ago and enjoy the movie adaptations. We - once again - started this movie and wondered if we'd already seen it. I think we can be forgiven for this one, though, since there've been three of these movies! We hadn't seen it before, and it was good, action-packed, high-suspense fun, just like the first two.
Have you seen any good movies lately?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Quote It Saturday 1/9

I've been severely crashed for the past two days, and it's getting me down. I knew I was overdoing it earlier this week, with driving Ken to Philly for his eye appointment, cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, and having friends over for dinner. Even so, I didn't expect to feel this bad. Will I ever learn? Poor Jamie is crashed, too, after his science fair yesterday. He and Craig are supposed to sleep over at a friend's house tonight, then go snowboarding all day tomorrow, but it looks like Jamie won't be able to go.

On a happier note, now that the holidays are over, I'm trying to get back into my normal routine, including Quote It Saturday, a weekly feature borrowed from my book blog.

Today, I have several quotes from a wonderful novel I listened to on audio this fall, The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells (author of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood books). It's the life story of Calla Lily Ponder, a girl growing up in rural Louisiana in the tiny town of La Luna. It's a warm, sweet novel that made me laugh and cry. If you're interested in hearing more about it, check out my review.

Here are a few quotes that really spoke to me:

Sadness can find you anywhere, anytime, so you better have fun when you can.

She'd [her mother] say, "Okay, Calla. When you are most afraid, find things to be grateful for."

...A husband is enough. This house is enough. This life is enough. I do not want what I do not have.

Well, pretend this is your to-do list for the afternoon: (1) Breathe in. (2) Breathe out. (1) Breathe in. (2) Breathe out. Count up to a hundred that way and see what happens.

- The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells

I tried that last one out this afternoon and had a good, solid nap! Hope you're all having a nice, restful weekend and staying warm!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

XMRV in CFS Update

Busy, busy day today - our cleaners came this morning (which means a frantic picking-up so they can find the floors to clean!), grocery shopping, and friends coming over for dinner. Whew. I'm lying down now, trying to rest up for dinner, but I just couldn't wait another day to post some XMRV updates because CFS is in the news headlines again, only this time, they're very misleading.

You may have already seen the headlines trumpeting, "XMRV virus not found in UK CFS patients." I've seen this splashed all over the internet the last few days. Fortunately, both the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) that did the original XMRV research and the CFIDS Association (CAA) and were quick to send out press releases explaining this new study for us lay-people.

What CAA and WPI both say is that the UK study is flawed, that it did not use the same selection criteria for patients as the WPI/Cleveland Clinic/National Cancer Institute study, that they did not use the same laboratory methods to test for XMRV, and that they rushed to publish their results without any review, so the results are basically meaningless.

One of the main researchers of the UK study was Simon Wesseley (plus two of his close colleagues) who is well-known for proclaiming that CFS is psychiatric, that it can be cured with Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Graded Exercise Therapy (GET), and for choosing study participants with revised CFS criteria in order to prove his own theories. 'Nuff said.

You can read for yourself the statements from the CFIDS Association and Whittemore Peterson Institute (this one is a pdf file, so click on the press release link in the right column under Breaking News). Both are very enlightening, though they can't stop the mainstream media from splashing the misleading headlines all over the place. One UK news organization posted their daily reader quiz today as "Do you think ME is a real illness?" I'm sure it's not the last time we'll see tabloid-like news on CFS. Fortunately, letters of protest are flooding out almost as quickly as the headlines, though certainly some damage has already been done, particularly in the UK.

On a brighter note, the XMRV study (the original one) made several best of 2010 lists:
Also, WPI says that several drug companies have already approached them regarding anti-retroviral drugs to use against XMRV in CFS (hopefully, there is something already on the market that will work).

It's easy to let this latest PR setback get you down, but I'm keeping faith that good science will prevail, and 2010 will bring more good news (maybe even treatments?) for CFS!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


I finally got through my hundreds of unread e-mails from the past few weeks and saw a notice that my blog won an award in the People's Health Blogger Awards at Wellsphere for Best Blog in the CFS category! A friend (thanks, Jo!) had mentioned it to me at Christmastime, but it completely slipped my mind during the hectic holidays.

I feel very honored that my blog was chosen for this award, and I'd like to thank all of you who voted for me in the competition. If you scroll down a bit, you'll see my new award badge in the left column.

When I started this blog 4
years ago, I didn't know what to expect. I wanted to write about our experiences with CFS (at the time, only Jamie and I were diagnosed), and I hoped that someone would read it. I very much wanted to connect with other people with CFS, as I didn't know anyone else locally with it, but I wasn't sure how to find other people. I was stunned - and pleased - when someone left a comment on my first blog entry!

Now, almost four years later, this blog has surpassed all of my expectations. I now get about 40-50 visitors a day and have made so many new friends! The community of CFS bloggers and visitors has become like a support group for me, and I have certainly gained as much (or more) than I've given here.

Thank you for your support, encouragement, and friendship. I no longer feel alone!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Movie Monday 1/4

I'm already feeling overwhelmed, and it's only January 4! So much to do and catch up on after a hectic holiday season and a crash-filled fall. At least I finally got my 2010 calendar set up tonight. Our holiday season actually extends well into January, with Craig's birthday on January 13 and several sets of houseguests in the coming weeks. Maybe in mid-January I can actually start working!

Despite the chaos of the past couple of weeks, we did squeeze in a few good movies:
  • It's a Wonderful Life. An annual tradition! We watched it Christmas Eve and Christmas night, and I cried my eyes out at the end, just like I do every year.
  • Come Early Morning. We enjoyed this drama starring Ashley Judd as a woman in rural Arkansas with a bad habit of waking up hung-over in strange beds. She has lots of issues but meets a new (much more worthy) man who helps her begin to change her life for the better.
  • Click. We watched this one with the kids on New Year's Eve in Oklahoma (it was their first year staying up until midnight - well, midnight Eastern time!). I expected typical Adam Sandler silliness - and there was some of that, including fart and boob jokes - but it was also surprisingly warm and touching. I actually cried at the end, and, instead of teasing me like they usually do, both Jamie and Craig admitted that they were close to tears, too! It's the story of a harried father who gets a universal remote control that actually works in real life to pause, fast-forward, mute, etc.
  • Changeling. A powerful movie based on an incredible true story. A single mother in 1928 Los Angeles comes home from work to find her son is missing. Months later, the LAPD return a boy to her, amid great media attention, but she insists he is not her son. This story and what follows are all the more horrifying because it really happened. A gripping story of a mother's love and determination.
  • Charlie Wilson's War. Another excellent movie based on a true story, starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Hanks plays the Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, who single-handedly launched a covert effort to help Afghanistan rebels fight against the Russian Army that invaded their country. It's an amazing story and very well-done - absolutely fascinating.
Have you seen any good movies lately?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Back Home

I hope everyone had a nice holiday season. Our holidays were good but filled with unexpected challenges. I'm very glad to be back home and am looking forward to getting back to my own routines (though the next couple of weeks will still be very un-routine).

We were enjoying a nice Christmas Eve - dinner out with the kids, candlelight church service, and a neighbor's open house - when my husband, Ken, mentioned that he was seeing spots in his left eye. I didn't think it was anything serious, but it got worse on Christmas Day (not an ideal time to seek medical assistance!). By the next morning, he was really scared, and, after looking up his symptoms online, I was, too. WebMD basically said, "Seek medical care immediately." We finally found an ophthalmologist who was open on the Saturday after Christmas, and I drove him over to the office.

The doctor examined Ken's eye and said he had a tear in his retina and that he needed surgery immediately. He made some calls for us, and at 7 am Sunday morning, I drove Ken to Philadelphia for emergency laser eye surgery. The eye institute was closed - the surgeon, a resident, and Ken and I were the only ones there! Fortunately, the doctor was able to repair the tear with a laser (conventional surgery would have been much more risky), and he gave us the OK to keep our travel reservations for the next morning. Besides being scared about Ken's eye, we were terrified that we'd have to cancel our trip and would lose the very large sum of money we'd paid for the tickets and couldn't really afford in the first place. I told Ken I never would have guessed that, of the four of us, he might be the reason we'd have to cancel a trip! Thankfully, it all worked out, though Ken's vision is still impaired because of blood in the eye; the doctor said it could take weeks to clear completely.

We left for Oklahoma the next morning to see Ken's parents, completely skipping the quiet, relaxing days we'd anticipated at home! Our flights went OK, but our bags didn't arrive until 24 hours later (by which time we were all desperate for our toothbrushes and clean clothes). Our visit was difficult. Ken's mom, who has advanced Parkinson's disease and is in a nursing home, was much worse than when we visited this summer. Her limbs are stiff and almost completely immobile now, and it's almost impossible to understand her when she talks (both common symptoms of Parkinson's). His dad has severe spinal stenosis and is having trouble even walking up the driveway, though he still spends every single day at the nursing home.

It's very difficult to live so far away and only be able to visit every six months. I keep feeling like we should DO something, but moving us out there or somehow moving them here both seem impossible. It was very hard to leave them.

Despite all these extra challenges, we did have a nice Christmas and New Year's. On New Year's Eve (a quiet tradition on our Oklahoma visits, where we celebrate the new year at 6 pm before Ken's mom goes back to the nursing home for the night), I was suddenly struck, as I often am, by just how wonderful our two sons are. They're both incredibly kind, caring, and lots of fun! I just feel so fortunate to have them in my life (and my husband, too!). People always say when things go wrong, "at least you have your health," but even without good health, we still have each other. There is nothing more important in life than good, loving relationships with people you care about.

Here's to a happy and healthy New Year with the people you love!