Sunday, November 30, 2014

Weekend Cooking 11/30: Turkey & Wild Rice Soup

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  I often participate on my book blog, with links to recipes we've enjoyed that week. Sometimes - like this week - I post my own recipes. Since this week's post was a recipe that is gluten-free, dairy-free, and Paleo, I thought I'd also post it here. If you are interested in my past Weekend Cooking posts, you can see them at the link. And if you have any interest in food, head over to the Beth Fish Reads blog, where you'll find lots of links to blog posts about food (not all are about cooking - some are book or movie reviews, etc.).

My college son got mono last weekend, so we had to cancel our plans to travel to spend Thanksgiving with family. By Wednesday, my husband was also sick with a bad respiratory virus. So, we had a very quiet Thanksgiving at home, with just my father-in-law as a guest. I cooked all the traditional foods (thank goodness I have been feeling good this week!), but the smallest turkey I could find was 11 pounds...for 5 of us!

We enjoyed the feast, as well as a dinner of leftovers on Friday, but by then my family was getting sick of the same old stuff, so I used our leftover turkey to make a nourishing soup for my sick family. I based it on the way my mother used to make homemade chicken noodle soup when I was a kid (I still have the basic instructions scribbled down in a strange short-hand in the back of an old recipe book!). Since we are eating a Paleo diet for medical reasons, I subbed wild rice (which is actually a grass, not a grain) for noodles, which turned out delicious. Here's the case you were wondering what to do with all that left-over turkey (for those outside the U.S. who didn't have lots of turkey leftover this week, you can also make the soup with fresh or leftover chicken).

Turkey & Wild Rice Soup
(Serves 8)
This is a great way to use left-over turkey after the holidays when you tire of basic left-overs!
Leftover turkey pieces and/or carcass, skin removed *
Tops of celery with leaves
1 small onion, cut into quarters
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 teaspoons minced or crushed garlic
1 lb. carrots, sliced
32 oz. (2 cans or 1 carton) chicken broth **
2 cups cooked wild rice
1 teaspoon of sea salt (or to taste)
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  1. Remove skin from turkey pieces and put in a large stockpot. Add the celery tops and quartered onion to the pot. Add cold water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.
  2. Drain contents of pot through a colander over a large bowl. Set broth aside and allow the meat in the colander to cool.
  3. When cool (it will be just right if you chop your veggies while waiting), sort through the meat in the colander. Discard bones, cartilage, and any other inedible pieces, as well as celery and onion. Chop the turkey meat.
  4. Sauté onion and celery in oil in stockpot over medium-high heat until soft.  Add garlic toward end of sauté.
  5. Add homemade broth, canned broth **, carrots, chopped turkey, wild rice, and seasoning.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
* The amount of turkey we had left over included 2 wings, back, 1 leg, plus a few slices of white and dark meat. I removed the skin to reduce fat.
** Because I started with already-cooked turkey, my broth was a bit light on flavor, so I added the additional carton of store-bought chicken broth. If you start with uncooked turkey and cook the stock for a bit longer, then you probably won’t need the extra broth.
© Suzan L. Jackson 2014
(Do not reprint or publish without written permission from the author)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Life Can Change in a Moment

Ah, yes, that's a lesson everyone with ME/CFS has learned isn't it? Blink and your life can change. We get used to cancelling plans at the last minute, bowing to the whims of this crazy disease, and just going with the flow.

So, that happened to us this past week. We were enjoying a quiet weekend, with plans to leave on Wednesday to spend the holiday weekend with my extended family up in Rochester, NY. Then, bam!, everything changed.

My husband and I heard a loud noise in the middle of the night Saturday, which alarmed us since our younger son was away for the weekend. It turned out to be our older son, home from college in the middle of the night because he was feeling so horrible (and couldn't sleep with a party going on in his apartment!). He woke up Sunday barely able to move, with a severe sore throat and swollen glands. Even more alarming (we tend to get used to sore throats with ME/CFS), he had a temperature of 102 degrees F! This from someone whose normal temperature runs about 97.5 and for whom a "fever" usually means a high of 99 F.

As soon as we finished breakfast, we took him to our local Urgent Care clinic. We thought maybe he had strep throat since people with ME/CFS tend to be more susceptible to bacterial infections. His strep test came back negative, but the mono spot (rapid mono test) came back positive. This is something we have dreaded for many years: one of our sons getting mononucleosis (aka glandular fever in the UK). It is a known infectious trigger for ME/CFS and something that both our boys had always tested negative for, showing no past exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

Of course, we immediately cancelled all our holiday travel plans. Besides the fact that he was in no shape to go anywhere, we were supposed to stay with my dad, who is undergoing chemo for stage 4 melanoma. We couldn't risk exposing him to such a virulent infection.

Before ME/CFS, something like this would have sent me into a panic and upset me greatly. Now, we're used to last-minute changes and cancellations. I was very disappointed we wouldn't be seeing any of our family for Thanksgiving, but there's nothing we could do about it. We accepted the change in plans and made the best of it.

As it turned out, my husband caught a bad respiratory virus starting Wednesday, so it turned out to be a good thing that we (ahem, he) weren't driving 8 hours in a snow storm that day. We had a nice quiet Thanksgiving at home, something that hasn't happened since before our youngest son was born! And we were able to spend the holiday with my father-in-law, whom we just moved to the area a couple of months ago.

Our son is doing a bit better. Of course, the effects of mono can last for months even in a healthy person, but his fever has at least dropped, so he's not quite so miserable as he was. We got him started on Valtrex, an antiviral that works against EBV, immediately, so we are hoping that will help him to kick this sooner. He contacted all of his professors - on the plus side, at least mono is something they will all understand! And he contacted the Disability Office at school to request Incompletes in his classes, since finals are just a week away. He'll probably need to cancel the Winter session class he just signed up for, so he can finish his Fall Semester work.

And that's life with ME/CFS, right? You roll with the punches and adapt. Even when the thing you dread most finally happens, you accept it and move forward. That's one thing I've learned from 12 years of living with ME/CFS. We have little control over our lives, so when something goes wrong, go to Plan B.

Hope all of you in the U.S. enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving with your families!

Jamie felt well enough to join us at the table for Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Contribute to ME/CFS Research While Shopping!

With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, remember you can contribute to ME/CFS research WHILE doing your online shopping!

Since getting sick almost 13 years ago, I've had to switch to mostly online shopping, so I was thrilled to discover that I could contribute to my favorite charities while shopping! It costs you nothing extra - the online stores have agreed to contribute a percentage of each purchase (the amount varies by store) to the charity of your choice.

Here are my two favorite ways to contribute while I shop - your first step should be to select your charity, then start shopping! Let me know if you know of others:
  • - click on "Stores" to find your favorite stores (or browse through their categories to discover new ones); click on "Causes" to select the charity you want to contribute to. I contribute to Solve ME/CFS Initiative (formerly the CFIDS Association) - my header on iGive says I have contributed $176 so far, and the Solve ME/CFS Initiative has gotten over $6000 so far from all shoppers!
  • - works similarly - choose your charity and start shopping!
(I had trouble with with search function on GoodShop, so if you are looking for a particular charity there, you might try typing its full name in or searching alphabetically)

BONUS! From now through December 15, iGive will donate an additional $5 for every new member who joins - just use the link above.

There are plenty of ME/CFS charities to choose from, including:
  • Solve ME/CFS Initiative 
  • Fibromyalgia-ME/CFS Support Center
  • CFS Foundation
  • National Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Association
NOTE: Not all of these use their funds for research - some sponsor support groups or focus more on awareness.

The Solve ME/CFS Initiative has its own list of ways to "shop & give" this holiday season, including handcrafted items, ME/CFS awareness items, and ways to donate your eBay proceeds.

Have fun shopping...and helping ME/CFS organizations at the same time!

Addition 12/1: I forgot to mention Amazon Smile, Amazon's own charity contribution program.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Movie Monday 11/17's Tuesday already. But I didn't want to miss the opportunity to tell you how much I enjoyed watching a classic this weekend:

My husband and I watched Rear Window, the classic suspense film from Alfred Hitchcock. Confession time: this was the first Hitchcock movie I have ever seen! Can you believe it? My husband had seen this one before but happily watched it again. Jimmy Stewart stars as L.B. Jeffries, a photojournalist with a broken leg who is stuck in a wheelchair in his tiny apartment during a heat wave. He can't wait to get back on the road with his camera, and is horribly bored. Only visits from his nurse and his wealthy & fashionable girlfriend, Lisa (played by Grace Kelly), break up the monotony. In between their visits, he amuses himself by watching his neighbors through the rear window. He lives in a courtyard apartment, so there is plenty to watch across the yard. He even makes up silly names and stories for some of his neighbors. One day, though, he sees some unusual behavior across the way from a traveling salesman whose invalid wife is suddenly absent. L.B. guesses (half jokingly) that the man killed his wife and chopped her up. As the days pass, though, events in that apartment seem stranger and stranger, and L.B. even gets Lisa and his nurse in on the guessing game and amateur sleuthing. The question is: is this another of L.B.'s silly stories or did a murder really take place? The movie starts out slowly, but the suspense builds right up to the end and kept me guessing. I really enjoyed seeing these famous Hollywood stars and was surprised to see how well the old film holds up. I definitely want to watch more Hitchcock classics now! My husband says Vertigo is next.

NOTE: When I looked up Rear Window to grab the photo above, I discovered that the movie was remade in 1998, starring Christopher Reeve (post-accident) as the man in the wheelchair. It's rating wasn't nearly as high as the original, but it might be fun to watch it and compare the two (besides, I love Christopher Reeve).

Have you seen any good movies lately? And which Hitchcock film is your favorite?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Battle Continues

Just a quick update since I haven't been posting much here recently.

I haven't felt well (or at least, my normal baseline) since mid-September. Back then, you may recall, I ended up with bronchitis. The usual 5 days of Zithromax didn't do the trick this time - my bronchitis actually got worse and began to develop into pneumonia, so the doctor put me on a stronger antibiotic, Cipro, for another week. That finally got rid of the bacterial infection but left me struggling once again with yeast overgrowth.

We know a lot about yeast problems in our house - we've fought this battle many times before! So, from the time I started the first round of antibiotics, I was already on a super-strict diet and taking loads of extra-strong probiotics and all the antifungal supplements in our arsenal. None of that mattered - I still developed yeast overgrowth.

This has been a stubborn case. I've been taking prescription antifungals for about 6 weeks now, and I still have some visible thrush in my mouth. Worse are the immune systems - terrible aches all over, every day.

To make matters worse, I've been extra busy around here: running my car to the shop and the DMV to try to beat my re-registration deadline (I thought I'd left plenty of time until my car failed inspection the first time!), driving all over town taking my father-in-law to doctor's appointments, plus my own commitments. So, bottom line - it's just been a really difficult couple of months.

My doctor saw me again Friday and switched me to a stronger antifungal med, alternating days with the one I've been taking. I hope this works because I've been feeling so frustrated and fed up with all this. I also have a cervical biopsy scheduled for Tuesday after an abnormal Pap smear, so I've been worried about that (I went through the same thing about 10 years ago and it turned out fine, but now I know how much the biopsy hurts!). All of this just has me feeling like I'm on the edge of an emotional breakdown - you know what I mean? Sometimes with this illness, you just feel like you can't take anymore.

I've been planning to write an in-depth blog post on yeast overgrowth/candida, but I keep waiting until I resolve my own problem so I can write about what finally worked - no luck so far! In the meantime, if you are also struggling with yeast problems, you can check out this older post on yeast overgrowth for some information.

Hopefully, these new meds will finally do the trick. I'll keep you posted. Wish me luck!

One joy lately: the brilliant fall colors! I hate to see them go.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Movie Monday 11/10

My husband and I enjoyed a rare quiet, relaxing weekend! Our son was out of town, and we ignored the never-ending to-do lists and just took it easy for a change. We took a walk together on a lovely fall day, started a jigsaw puzzle (it's been years since we've done that!), read good books, met friends for dinner, and enjoyed a really good movie:

Nothing quirky this week - we went for a mainstream hit that got great reviews: Begin Again, starring Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, and Adam Levine, in a musical romantic drama/comedy that doesn't fit the usual genres. Ruffalo plays Dan, a music executive who used to be on top but is now struggling (and often drunk). One night, Dan hears Gretta (played by Knightley) singing in a bar and is blown away by her original song and her voice. He convinces Gretta to embark on an ambitious project with him. Gretta is still getting over a betrayal by her boyfriend Dave (played by Levine) who is now off making a name for himself as a singer/songwriter, in what Gretta had assumed would be a partnership. The project that Dan and Gretta take on gives them both a fresh start (hence the title). The plot description alone doesn't do this movie justice because its magic is in the actors and music (and the script is great, too). Ken and I both really enjoyed the film; it's uplifting and full of hope and will leave you tapping your feet and singing along...and believing in second chances.

I enjoyed the music so much that I listened to some of the songs on YouTube today, like this one sung by Keira Knightley (she really did her own singing in the movie and is surprisingly good!):

The video includes scenes from the movie. I liked the music so much that I plan to buy the soundtrack.

Have you seen any good movies lately?

Friday, November 07, 2014

Claim Your Illness Experience, Don't Let It Claim You

I like to start my morning by listening to a TED talk while I eat breakfast - something funny or enlightening or inspirational. This morning, I cam across a talk by a cancer survivor that really hit home.

Though her own bad experience was cancer, she is talking about bad, life-changing experiences in general here - whether it is cancer or rape or an unfair firing....or illness, in our case. And although, we don't usually recover from ME/CFS or become "survivors," a lot of what she discusses here is very relevant to us. The one line she repeats often in this talk is:

"Claim your bad experience; don't let it claim you."

She talks about the dangers of defining yourself by these bad experiences. No matter how sick we are and how limited in our lives, we can still define ourselves by our roles and passions, beyond just being sick. I love her opening question about defining yourself. So, check it out for yourself - it's a short talk, only 16 minutes long:

Oh, and the bit about cancer awareness panties alone is worth a good laugh, at the very least!

She's given me a lot to think about, including how much time I spend every day immersed in our world of illness. Hope you find it just as thought-provoking as I did!

So....three things that define me: I am a writer, a book lover, and a parent.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Perils of Traveling with ME/CFS

In front of Jackson Square, our first day
On September 30 this fall, my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. We had planned a long weekend trip to New Orleans, where we used to live when we first met, dated, and married. We were excited about the rare getaway on our own, but I was also very anxious about various aspects of the trip and worried about how I would handle it all. I've written previously here about my strategies for managing air travel and about how well I usually do on our annual summer camping vacations, but I knew that a city vacation had its own unique perils. To make matters worse, I hadn't been feeling well during the two weeks before our trip - not totally crashed but not good either. As is sometimes the case, whatever could go wrong did! Here are some of the things I was concerned about and what worked (and didn't work) on our trip....and some of the things that went wrong that I hadn't anticipated!

Plain and simple, the biggest worry of all for those of us with ME/CFS, no matter where we go. In this case, I was particularly worried because New Orleans (and most cities, I suppose) is a walking city. 

As I knew would be the case, we did a LOT of walking - we walked to meals, wandered the French Quarter, walked while shopping and sight-seeing. We occasionally took taxis and used the streetcars a few times (a lovely form of transportation in New Orleans), but we still did a lot of walking. I knew, based on how I'd been the previous two weeks, that I was doing too much, but I felt like it was our 25th anniversary. I wanted the trip to go well, and I didn't want to ruin it for my husband.

Ha! What's nightlife for someone who goes to bed by 10 pm every night? Yet, New Orleans is a city for night owls. Walking around the French Quarter, we passed a nightclub (and I use the term loosely) called The Dungeon where we used to go with friends many years ago. It doesn't even open until midnight! So, yeah, that was out. There are a lot of live music venues in the Quarter, but most are crowded, many are standing room only, and all are very noisy. Thankfully, my husband didn't want to put up with the loud noise, either, so that worked out OK. Most evenings, after dinner, we just walked around a bit, peeking into shops, taking in street performers and the other (ahem) sights of Bourbon Street, but I couldn't handle much walking at that time of night.

One thing we did that worked out great was to visit Pat O'Brien's famous piano bar. We went in at about 8 pm, so there was no line (a benefit of going to bed early!) and got a seat at a crowded table right near the two pianos. No, I didn't order any Hurricanes. But I did come up with a brilliant idea, since I can't have alcohol, caffeine, or sugar, which leaves me without many choices in a bar! I ordered Bloody Mary mix without the vodka - I not only had a fancy drink to sip on, but tomato juice is loaded with sodium, so it was helping my Orthostatic Intolerance as well!

We had a blast at the piano bar. They played and sang a wide variety of music, everything from 70's ballads to 80's rock to current pop songs, with a smattering of oldies and classic New Orleans' tunes. We had a lot of fun singing along. I was starting to wear out after about an hour, but we stayed for almost 90 minutes.

And as for being back in our hotel room by 9 (sometimes 8:30) every night? I apologized to my husband for being such a party pooper, but he reassured me he was worn out and ready to go back, too!

You would think that after 12 years of living with this illness and taking piles of pills every day, it would be impossible for me to forgot my medications. But apparently, it's not. Despite my repeated checks before we left home that I had all my meds packed in my carry-on, plus all the over-the-counter stuff I might possibly need, when we arrived at the hotel, I realized I forgot the most important medication box that I have: my bedtime meds. These include the medications I take to correct sleep dysfunction, allowing me normal, refreshing rest at night (extra important on a trip); my beta blocker that keeps my heart rate down to normal levels so I can walk and be active without crashing; and my birth control pills which hold my hormone levels steady to prevent migraines, as well as the obvious function of preventing my period (which makes me crash). I was panicked - a 4-day trip without those essential medicines would be a disaster.

So, we spent much of the first 24 hours of our anniversary trip trying to replace my meds. During our first dinner out, I had to excuse myself to talk to the doctor on call to explain my predicament. Of course, it was a Saturday night, so there were no pharmacies open until 10 am the next day. The next morning, I was on the phone again, back and forth with the doctor and the pharmacy. I had to wear my heart rate monitor and be careful, as without the beta blockers, my heart rate was much higher than normal.  Finally, my meds were ready to pick up...but they were out of stock of one of them which had to be ordered from another Walgreen's. We took a cab to that drugstore and finally - around noon on Sunday - had all my meds again and were able to resume our vacation. But the damage had been done - a night without good quality sleep and hours of walking without beta blockers had already taken its toll.

One of many amazing meals!
Food, oh, the food! This is one of the primary reasons to visit New Orleans, and we had many favorite restaurants we wanted to visit. Seafood, desserts, local specialties - there is just so much to enjoy there! I am dairy intolerant and have been on a Paleo diet (no grains, no dairy, little sugar) since February. In some places, especially with main courses, it was easy to stick to my dietary restrictions - fabulous fresh fish or shrimp with local vegetables or a salad is what I would have ordered anyway. When it came to dessert, I threw all the restrictions right out the window. That double-chocolate caramel bread pudding the first night was well worth the stomach upset later! For our anniversary dinner, we treated ourselves to a superb restaurant that we went to when it first opened 24 years ago. We thoroughly enjoyed the food on our trip, though I'm sure ditching the diet (and especially the sugar and dairy restrictions) contributed to my growing exhaustion and my later problems. I did really miss sampling all the fabulous beer and wine in New Orleans, though, especially since I was young and healthy when we used to live here - it was hard to compare my current circumstances with the times we used to spend in these places, before ME/CFS, and sometimes a bit depressing for me.

Unforeseen Circumstances
All of these were things I'd more or less foreseen and/or worried about, but by Monday, another common travel issue took me by surprise. I woke up Monday morning with a tightness in my chest and a mild cough. For me, that means just one thing: bronchitis. The classic immune dysfunction of ME/CFS makes me extra-susceptible to bacterial infections, and those symptoms ALWAYS lead quickly to bronchitis for me. I don't know whether I picked up a germ on the plane on the way down or already had it in my system when we left home, but by the time we flew back on Tuesday, I felt truly awful, with chest congestion and a cough, coupled with crushing exhaustion and aches. I ended up with an extra-nasty case of bronchitis that didn't respond to the first round of antibiotics and turned into pneumonia. I finally got rid of those infections a few weeks ago but then was left with a bad flare-up of yeast overgrowth from the antibiotics - despite taking all kinds of precautions - that I am just now recovering from six weeks later.

So, all in all, it was a difficult trip for me, though there were certainly things that I enjoyed. It was good to be back in our favorite city but also hard for me to be there as such a different person than I used to be. Travel is difficult under the best of circumstances, and several things on this trip went wrong. I definitely do better on our camping road trips, where we bring our own little home on wheels with us and go at our own pace. We have wanted to go to Europe for years (though we can't afford it right now because all our money goes to medical expenses!), but this short trip to New Orleans reinforced to me how difficult it is for me to travel in this way - airplanes, cities, hotels, walking, etc.

What have been your experiences with travel? Do you have any tips for making things easier?

Our 25th anniversary dinner at Bayona, an old favorite

Monday, November 03, 2014

Movie Monday 11/3

I've had a rough couple of weeks (more on that in another post), so I got a bit behind here at the blog recently. These past two weekends, my husband and I watched two movies on DVD, both what he called "quirky," which isn't usually a compliment coming from him! But he liked them OK, and I enjoyed both. Nothing too weighty here - just some light-hearted fun:

Last weekend, we watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, a Wes Anderson film. Anderson is known for quirky, with movies like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, and The Darjeeling Limited. This movie is no exception and has a brightly-colored, slightly fake look to it, like a sort of simulated reality - if you've seen any of the aforementioned films, you know what I mean. His movies are also known for a dark humor and somewhat farcical quality, also evident here. So, the plot centers on a grand old hotel in the Alps during the 1930's. Gustav is the hotel's venerated concierge, whom is responsible for the impeccable service that its customers come to expect. His protege is a young Lobby Boy in training named Zero who wants to be just like Gustav. When an elderly woman who is a frequent guest dies and leaves Gustav a priceless painting, the woman's greedy family suspects foul play and sends one vicious family member (played by Willem Dafoe) after him. What ensues is a madcap race across the continent, including an ingenuous escape from prison and assistance from Zero and a network of other high-end concierges. All of this takes place in that over-saturated colorful, fanciful style that Anderson is known for. I went along for the ride and enjoyed the fun.

This weekend, we watched Dom Hemingway, a movie that had been previewed on the Grand Budapest Hotel disc (by the same production company but a different director). The lead role of Dom is played by Jude Law, "as you've never seen him before," according to the promo (which is quite true!). He plays a street criminal in London who's just been released from prison after a twelve-year stay. He has two main goals: to get the money due to him from his last crime (and from keeping quiet all these years) and to reunite with his daughter. He acts as you might expect a criminal released from prison to act, going seriously overboard with alcohol, drugs, and women. As he tries to get his money, though, he runs into one roadblock after another. As for his daughter, she wants nothing to do with him. This movie also has a somewhat farcical quality to it, as one thing after another goes wrong for poor Dom. He's a despicable character - violent and foul-mouthed - but somehow likable, too, and you can't help rooting for him when nothing seems to go right. His efforts to win back his daughter bring an element of heart to the movie. Again, I really enjoyed it - though be warned that it is not for the faint-hearted!

Have you seen any good movies lately?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Quote It Saturday 11/1

In this occasional feature, I choose a quote or two from a book that has relevance to those of us living with chronic illness.

Frankenstein doesn't sound like it would be a good source for inspirational quotes, but I read the classic by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley this month for Halloween, and I discovered it is a very thoughtful and thought-provoking novel, more focused on human nature than on monsters. You can read more about it in my review.

Two quotes in particular caught my eye, one dealing with sorrow and one with joy:

"Heavy misfortunes have befallen us, but let us only cling closer to what remains and transfer our love for those whom we have lost to those who yet live. Our circle will be small but bound close by the ties of affection and mutual misfortune. And when time shall have softened your despair, new and dear objects of care will be born to replace those of whom we have been so cruelly deprived."

          - Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley

Although in the book, he is talking specifically about losing loved ones, I think the sentiments apply equally well to other kinds of losses, like losing our former occupations or favorite activities to illness. Time does indeed soften our despair, and new interests - reading, blogging, knitting, etc. - may come to replace those other things we've lost. And I love the line about "bound close by the ties of affection and mutual misfortune" - that perfectly describes the closeness we often gain from our new friends (often online friends) whom share our illness.

And, now joy:

"When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with ecstasy."

          - Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley

I love that line, and it perfectly describes my own feelings about nature. Lying out on my back deck, looking up at blue sky, fluffy white clouds, and the gorgeous colors of fall can fill me with unbridled joy, even on a bad day. I was feeling pretty awful most of the last few weeks. Last Tuesday, my husband took over most of my responsibilities, but I still managed to drive out to the local farm to pick up our weekly veggies. It was a perfect fall day, sunny and in the 70's, and the 10-minute drive in my VW convertible, amid the fall colors, lifted my spirits more than I thought possible.

If you'd like to know more about this classic novel and its philosophical bent, you can read my review on my book blog.

Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend!