Monday, November 30, 2020

Movie Monday: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

We were scrolling through Netflix and Amazon this weekend, as one does, searching for a movie we both wanted to see. There were plenty I was interested in that my husband wasn't, neither of us wanted anything too dark, and it seemed like we'd already seen all "the good ones." Then my husband suggested Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which I had scrolled right past earlier; he'd read about it online and thought it sounded good. What a great choice! We both loved this funny, warm-hearted adventure set in New Zealand.

As the movie opens, a social worker named Paula, played by Rachel House, is delivering an overweight young teen boy named Ricky, played by Julian Dennison, to a new home in a remote, rural area. Bella, played by Rima de Wiata, welcomes Ricky warmly, in spite of the long string of previous problems that Paula recites to her. Hec, played by Sam Neill, also lives there, and Bella tells Ricky he can call them Auntie and Uncle, if he wants to. After being shuffled around for years and generally unwanted, Ricky is understandably doubting and distrustful. He even tries to run away, but Bella's warmth and kindness eventually win him over. Then tragedy hits, and through a series of events, Ricky ends up in the bush (wilderness) with Hec, who's been injured. The two of them work together to make a camp for themselves until Hec's ankle heals enough that they can walk back home. When they're on the move again, though, six weeks later, they discover that there is a national manhunt going on ... to find the two of them! As the authorities have completely misunderstood their absence and want to take them both into custody, the pair decide to just stay out there. Many adventures follow!

We loved absolutely everything about this unique movie! The pairing of a difficult teen and a grumpy old man might seem a bit trite, but it is wholly original here, with the actors playing Hec and Ricky both doing an outstanding job in their roles. The more time they spend together alone, the closer the two misfits become, as they help each other to heal. This is truly an adventure movie, action-packed with plenty of suspense, but there is wonderful humor woven into every scene and a warmth that made us both smile throughout the film. I think this is my favorite movie of the year! We both laughed and enjoyed every moment of this uplifting movie. I think we could all use a little Ricky and Hec right now.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is currently available on Netflix or to rent on Amazon, starting at $2.99 (or $6.99 to own) - definitely worth it!

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Weekly Inspiration: Chronically Ill Holiday Gifts and Tips

I want to put together my own gift guide for the holiday season, but I haven't had time yet (very busy this past week with Thanksgiving and still not quite back to my usual baseline from my 8-month-long crash).

Then I noticed that lots of other chronic illness bloggers have already put together some wonderful gift guides and holiday tips for those with chronic illness, so I thought I'd collect those here and share them with you! Gifts first ...


Chronic Illness Gift Ideas

Well, first, of course, I have to mention my own book, Finding a New Normal: Living Your Best Life with Chronic Illness, which includes all kinds of support and advice for daily living, emotional coping, relationships, and, yes ... tips for managing the holidays! 

From now until December 13, you can buy my book on sale for a reduced price: just $9.99 for the paperback and $6.99 for the e-book (available in all popular formats for Kindle, Nook, Apple, Kobo, and more). You can read more about it and find the links to all the different formats here.  


My Migraine Life blog has a wonderful new post, 20 Gifts for Migraine Relief: Gift Guide 2020, with some awesome ideas for the migraine sufferers (or others just needing comfort) in your life--or gift ideas for you to share with loved ones! She has some awesome gift ideas here. My son and I both use head ice packs/ice hats and CBD oil, and my other son just gave me a salt lamp for my birthday that I can't wait to try! 

Chronic Mom
has a gift guide focused on those with chronic pain, though many items are perfect for anyone dealing with any kind of chronic illness/medical condition. How to Find the Best Christmas Gifts for People with Chronic Pain includes 10 great gift ideas, and some of them come from small business owners with chronic illnesses themselves, so that's a double-win! I've never heard of migraine glasses before, but they sound perfect for my son.

Me, Myself, and Chronic Illness Blog has a unique twist on the gift guide: Low Cost/Low Energy Gift Ideas for Others. If money is tight and energy is low, she's got five great gift ideas that cost very little but will provide a thoughtful gift for your loved one. Some involve some simple, low-energy crafting and some are even simpler than that! Loads of creative ideas here to get you started. These kinds of personal, thoughtful gifts are often the most appreciated.



The Pain News Network published a list of 12 Holiday Gifts on Life with Chronic Pain. This is a list of books, and my own book is the first one on the list! Others also deal with emotional coping or personal stories, some with specific approaches to pain management, and some to specific conditions that cause chronic pain. I am honored to see my book included with such an outstanding list of books!

Holiday Coping Tips for the Chronically Ill

Besides my own book, there are a couple of excellent blog posts that provide tips on managing the holiday season, a significant challenge for all of us with chronic illnesses:


Navigating the Storms: Thriving in the Midst of Invisible Disabilities
has a new blog post, Advent Begins, that answers the question, "How can we prepare for Christmas when we deal with so many limitations daily?" She includes some excellent, supportive tips that we can all benefit from, plus a few more resources to help.


My Medical Musings offers a focus on enjoying the season in our own way in Decking the Halls and Creating Comfort and Joy at Christmas. She talks about her own experiences and tips on creating new or revised traditions that fit within our restricted lives. It's a lovely post with some great, creative ideas for celebrating the season in our own way.


I hope these excellent blog posts help YOU to get ready for your best holiday season ever!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

TV Tuesday: Yellowstone

After hearing several friends rave about the TV series Yellowstone, my husband and I decided to try it. We loved the first two seasons of this modern Western drama and can't wait to see season 3 when it starts this week!

Yellowstone is the name of an enormous ranch in Montana, headed up by patriarch John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner. John has three grown sons and a daughter but lost his wife tragically when they were still kids/teens. He is getting older but is still fiercely committed to protecting his huge ranchlands, from the constant threat of land developers and the local Native American tribe. John's plan is for his oldest son, Lee (played by Dave Annable), to take over the ranch eventually, and Lee's been training for that. His next son, Jamie (played by Wes Bentley), was sent off to Harvard to become a lawyer so that he could protect the ranch legally, so he works in town. The youngest son, Kayce (Luke Grimes), was in the military--which clearly left some emotional scars--and is married to Monica (played by Kelsey Asbille), a beautiful Native American woman. They live in a small house on the reservation with their young son, Tate, and Kayce is trying to make a living training horses, which is a special talent of his. John's only daughter, Beth (played by Kelly Reilly), is a bit of a mess, to put it mildly! She drinks way too much and is quite promiscuous, including with the ranch's longtime manager, Rip (played by Cole Hauser), who John treats almost like another son. Thomas Rainwater, played by Gil Biirmingham, is the well-educated newly-returned leader of the local Indian tribe, who is determined to return some of the Dutton's land to its original owners. Plus, there are evil brothers in development, and a wealthy guy new in the area who desperately wants some of the Dutton land for his new luxury hotel, golf course, and ritzy housing development.

In case you can't tell from that basic description, every episode is a rollercoaster of secrets, lies, deceipt, behind-the-scenes machinations and deals, plus a healthy helping of sex and violence. It's basically a complex soap opera set among cowboys in the West. Costner plays the consummate cowboy, though he will do anything to hang onto his lands and keep his ranch together. The rest of the cast is excellent, too, though many of the actors were unfamiliar to us. The ranch house is rustic but luxurious, and the land in and around the ranch is breathtakingly gorgeous. There are constant surprises and plot twists, keeping each episode action-packed and suspenseful. It's a riveting drama that kept us captivated through its first two seasons, and we can't wait to watch season 3!

Yellowstone is a Paramount Network show, so you can watch the new season 3 free on their website. It is also being shown (all 3 seasons) on Peacock, with season 3 starting this Sunday, which is also free (we watch it on Peacock through our cable service On Demand, but you can also watch it directly from the website). Finally, Yellowstone is also available on YouTube, with a subscription, or on Amazon for $1.99 an episode or $12.99 for the first season. Lots of ways to watch!

Have you tried this compelling Western drama yet? 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Weekly Inspiration: Busting the "Everything Happens for a Reason" Myth

I've already written here about Kate C. Bowler and her magnificent podcast, Everything Happens, in my post from a few weeks ago, Weekly Inspiration: Two Inspiring Podcasts. My love affair with Kate's moving, funny, inspiring interviews continues, and I have been listening to both her new episodes and her backlist. So, scrolling through the TED Talk site today, it occurred to me to check if she'd ever given a TED Talk. She had, at TEDMed 2018, and wow, it's a powerful talk that speaks directly to those of us with chronic illness.

As with her podcast--and book-- her TED Talk is titled, "Everything Happens For a Reason"--and other lies I've loved. In it, Kate explains how she had spent years studying the "prosperity gospel," the basic concept that good things happen to good people, and if you just live a good life, you will be rewarded. Then she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the age of 35. She tells the story, with jokes and also with tears streaming down her face at times, much better than I can:




A couple of her points really hit home for me. She talks about this concept of good people being rewarded, which implies the opposite: if something horrible happens to you, you must have somehow deserved it. She describes how hundreds of people (through her writing) have tried to convince her of this (what a horrible thing to say to someone with cancer!). She talks about the underlying fear that encourages people to think this way, which is basically "if it happened to YOU, then it could happen to me." In this way, people try to find a reason for your tragedy, a way to explain why the same thing could never happen to them. But, as she says in the opening to her podcast each week (see my earlier post--the full quote is so powerful), "Hey, there are some things you can fix and some thing you can't, and it's OK that life isn't always better ..."

I have experienced this first-hand with people in my life who refuse to accept the severity or permanence of my illness. One person very close to me even went around telling everyone else that my illness was all in my head in my early years of ME/CFS. I figured out long ago that this fear Kate describes was likely at the root of all that, but it still hurts tremendously to be minimized or to have my suffering ignored by people I love. That's why it feels so powerful and encouraging to listen to Kate's talk and podcast and to feel like she is talking directly to me.

On the positive side, she also discusses an unexpected benefit of her experiences with cancer (hers is treatable but not yet curable). In talking of discovering this hidden world of illness (see my own article, The Hidden World of Invisible Suffering), she says, "My own suffering began to feel like it had revealed to me the suffering of others." She explains that this led to more connection in life. 

I agree wholeheartedly! I've often written about exactly that (like in the article linked above): that one silver lining in a life of chronic illness is reaching out and connecting with others just like you. Finding others--online or in real life--widens your world and not only brings you comfort and companionship but allows you to offer the same to others, which can be incredibly rewarding. I wrote about that topic here, including how to find others.

She concludes with a statement I fully agree with: "Life is so beautiful and life is so hard."

Her talk is less than 15 minutes long, and is so powerful and touching. I hope it inspires YOU as it inspired me.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Official Statement on COVID-19 "Long-Haulers" and ME/CFS

I was excited to see a new letter published a couple of weeks ago, Post-COVID "Long-Haulers" and ME/CFS, from the U.S. ME/CFS Clinician Coalition, a cooperative group of the top ME/CFS doctors in the U.S. This 1-page letter (with a page of scientific references) officially summarizes what has been reported in various media outlets previously: that many so-called COVID-19 "long-haulers" have developed ME/CFS. They provide the background and history of infectious triggers and ME/CFS, explain what ME/CFS is, and provide an explanation of and links to their own website, which provides details on diagnosing ME/CFS and mentions some treatment options. It's a short, easy-to-understand letter, so take a look at it at the link above.

Why is this a big deal? 

Back in August, I wrote a post about COVID-19 Long Haulers and ME/CFS that provided links to a bunch of news articles, TV news stories, and other media summaries about those who had COVID-19 but continue to suffer with symptoms months after supposedly recovering, referred to as "long-haulers." All of those included in my post mentioned ME/CFS. The problem is that the news doesn't seem to be catching on very quickly or effectively! There are still loads of news stories every week about the "mysterious" long-haulers, saying that no one knows why they are still sick. I've noticed people joining some of the ME/CFS online support groups who are long-haulers and don't yet have a solid diagnosis. 

In short, while some experts understand what is going on, it seems that most of the medical profession (particularly those who have either not believed in or made light of ME/CFS in the past), the general public, and most importantly, the patients themselves have not gotten the message that many cases of COVID-19 long-haulers fit the ME/CFS diagnostic criteria. (Note that not all long-haulers fit that criteria; some have lung damage from COVID-19 that better explains their symptoms.)

This letter is the first time that a top group of experts have all communicated as a group and provided all of the information necessary to understand how so many people who had COVID-19 could now have developed ME/CFS.

How Can You Help?

Now, what we need is to help get the word out by sharing this letter widely. Share it on social media, print it and give it to your doctor(s) so they can better understand their COVID-19 patients, and share it with anyone you know who's had COVID-19 and is still sick so that they can share it with their own doctors.

If you are looking for more information on both the link between COVID-19 and ME/CFS and how COVID-19 might affect those who already have ME/CFS (and what you can do now to protect yourself), check out these posts from the past eight months:

  • Coronavirus and ME/CFS (March 4, 2020) - includes information about the specific immune dysfunction in ME/CFS, how COVID-19 might affect us, and links to ME/CFS treatments that can help to prevent and treat, with resources from several different sources.
  • Info and Resources on COVID-19 and ME/CFS (April 9, 2020) - a wide range of resources on how COVID-19 might affect those with ME/CFS and treatments to help protect yourself.
  • COVID-19 Long Haulers and ME/CFS (August 27, 2020) - the aforementioned post about the connection between COVID-19 long-haulers and ME/CFS, with links to lots of news stories and comments from experts.

I hope that you and your family are staying safe and healthy during this difficult time.

Please share your own experiences in the comments section, whether you already had ME/CFS or are a COVID-19 long-hauler.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Movie Monday: Rebecca

Last weekend, on Halloween, my husband and I settled in for a creepy, suspenseful new adaptation of Rebecca on Netflix. We listened to the audiobook a couple of years ago, though my husband quit halfway through (at the end of our car trip), and I listened to the end. We both enjoyed the taut suspense of this new movie.

For those new to the story, Rebecca is a classic Gothic novel, written by Daphne du Maurier and published in 1938. It was first adapted to film in 1940 by Alfred Hitchcock. My review will focus mainly on this new adaptation from Netflix, which differs in some ways from both the book and the first movie.

Lily James plays a naive, pretty young woman working as a "lady's companion" for the loud and gossipy Mrs. Van Hopper, played by Ann Dowd, who is staying in Monte Carlo. When Mrs. Van Hopper becomes ill temporarily, the young woman (who is nameless in the story) is left on her own. She meets the handsome and charming Max de Winter, played by Armie Hammer, and the two of them immediately hit it off. Mrs. Van Hopper has warned her that Mr. de Winter lost his wife a year ago and is grieving and unstable, but in spite of the warnings, she falls in love with him and spends days with him, dining out, touring the area, and going to the beach, enjoying a lifestyle she never dreamed of. When Mrs. Van Hopper recovers and abruptly proclaims that they are returning to New York, Max proposes, and the two are quickly wed. After a honeymoon in Europe, Max brings her back to his huge estate in England, called Manderley. Coming from such modest means, she is completely overwhelmed by the wealthy and grandiose estate, its formal traditions, and especially the stiff and unwelcoming house manager, Mrs. Danvers. She makes it clear that the new Mrs. de Winter can never replace the old one, Rebecca, whose room and other things remain exactly as she left them. Try as she might to fit in and make a place for herself at Manderley, Mrs. de Winter finds it harder and harder to ignore the sinister feelings, as secrets slowly unfold. Things are definitely not as they seem.

This new movie successfully replicates the creeping dread and twisty plot surprises of the book, though some of the plot points and characters have changed in certain ways. For instance, Max is said to have a quick temper, but it doesn't really show up much in this latest adaptation. The ambiguous, sudden ending of the book here is drawn out a bit more, to allow for a happy ending. My husband and I enjoyed watching the movie, so I was surprised when I listened to a review of the new Rebecca on Pop Culture Happy Hour, one of my favorite podcasts, and found that most of the hosts didn't like it (their episode at the link - it includes spoilers). My conclusion is that if you have seen the 1940 Hitchcock film (which won an Academy Award for Best Picture), then you will probably find this version lacking. Similarly, if you are a huge fan of the original book and have read it multiple times, you may find yourself nitpicking at the differences here. My advice if you want to enjoy this new adaptation is definitely don't watch or rewatch the 1940 version first, as one of the hosts on the podcast did! I read the book (listened to it) several years ago, and my husband never even finished it, so we went into the movie fairly cold, and we enjoyed it as the excellent dark, creeping, suspenseful story that it is.

Rebecca  is a Netflix original movie, so it is available exclusively on Netflix.

If you'd like to watch the original 1940 film adaptation directed by Alfred Hitchcock, you can stream it on YouTube or watch on DVD.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

TV Tuesday: The Stranger

The trend of adapting books into TV shows and movies shows no sign of slowing, which makes me happy! Novels often translate beautifully to the screen, bringing the characters to life and providing complex, intriguing plots. The Stranger, a Netflix original program, is adapted from a Harlan Coben thriller, and although neither my husband nor I read the book, we both thoroughly enjoyed the dark and twisty TV show.

Adam Price, played by Richard Armitage, lives a happy typically suburban life. He's a lawyer, his wife, Corrine (played by Dervla Kirwan), is a beloved high school teacher, they have two healthy sons, and they spend their Saturdays at the soccer field. One day, out of the blue, a stranger--a young woman wearing a baseball cap (played by Hannah John-Kamen)--comes up to Adam and tells him that Corrine faked her pregnancy and miscarriage the previous year. Stunned, Adam goes home and checks the evidence the stranger told him about and then confronts Corrine, who is upset but says he doesn't know the whole story. The next day, Corrine disappears, leaving a mysterious text message that says she needs some time alone. Meanwhile, Johanna, played by Siobhan Finneran, is a police detective in town who will eventually look into Corrine's disappearance. For now, though, she and her partner are investigating a brutal and strange crime scene in the woods, involving a decapitated alpaca from a local farm and a naked, injured boy from the local high school. As each episode unfolds, we see the stranger approach more people in the town, each time disclosing a secret held by a loved one, complete with evidence, and sometimes blackmailing them for large sums of money. Who is she and why is she doing this? And what happened to Corrine ... and that poor alpaca??

Just like the thriller novel it is derived from, this show takes off like a shot and is filled with all kinds of unexpected plot twists. By the end of the first episode, we were hooked, but each new episode adds another layer of complexity, as the stranger weaves a web of secrets and deceit through the people in town that gets more and more complex. It's just eight episodes long and fast-paced, so it kept us rapt ... and always wanting to know what happens next. We watched it over the course of a couple of weeks, but it would be a fun show to binge, too. The acting was excellent and the plotting superbly complicated (but not so much that we couldn't follow it). We really enjoyed this taut thriller filled with suspense that kept us guessing right up to its last moments.

The Stranger is a Netflix original so is only available on Netflix.