Sunday, January 24, 2021

Weekly Inspiration: Winter Boosts


It's that time of year again - the cold, dark days of winter (at least for those us us in the northern hemisphere). Short days, less sunshine, fewer times when we can get outdoors (especially for those who can't exercise), and even more isolation. In addition, many people with ME/CFS experience a downturn physically in the winter months (here's one reason why and how to prevent/treat that). 

Taken all together, that can make for some rough days when you are chronically ill. Below, I have collected some great advice from other bloggers (plus a bit from myself) on accepting where you are, finding joy in small moments, coping, and lifting your spirits.

 

From My Book

While all of my book, Finding a New Normal: Living Your Best Life with Chronic Illness, is about emotional coping and improving your life, a couple of the chapters feel extra-relevant this time of year when you're feeling down or gloomy. Here, I will link to those, where I previously reprinted them on the blog.

My chapter, You're Right Where You Need to Be, was inspired by a friend's wonderful memoir. It's all about accepting where you are right now, switching from fighting the situation to giving in (but not giving up), and feeling more at peace with yourself and your current situation. You can read my previous blog post about it and the full text of the chapter at that link.

Once you have accepted where you are now, you can focus your attention on Finding Joy in Every Day. This means living in the present, being grateful, and finding small moments of joy in every day. This change of attitude can make a huge difference in how you feel about your illness, your current situation, and your life.

 

Banishing the Winter Blues

Pippa from The Life of Pippa blog wrote a wonderful post recently on Banishing the Winter Blues: Chronic Illness-Friendly Recommendations. She talks about how typical advice heard in the mainstream media and on social media at this time of year just doesn't work for us, and then she offers three great tips for helping yourself through the winter months.

 

7 Reminders for Those Bad Days to Keep You Going

One of my favorite chronic illness blogs is from Sheryl at A Chronic Voice. Her latest blog post is warm and supportive, like wrapping up in a super-soft, warm blanket. Her 7 Reminders for Those Bad Days to Keep You Going are all kind, gentle lessons that we probably learned at some point but need to be reminded of. Read it now, and bookmark it for the next time you are feeling crummy and having an especially rough day.

 

Loving "Moments" of my Chronic Illness Life

Sam of My Medical Musings blog has a thoughtful post about living her life in moments, that add up to days, weeks, and months. She explains why she feels content with her life, in spite of multiple serious medical conditions and disability. As in my own essay about finding joy in every day, she writes about living in the present and enjoying small moments, even on the worst days.

 

Stressed Out? Can We Manage and Overcome It?

Carole of Navigating the Storms has a helpful new post up, Stressed Out? Can We Manage and Overcome It? Here, she offers some great tips for dealing with stress, whatever its cause, which can be even more challenging for those of us with chronic illness.

 

So, there you have it - a collection of inspiration and wisdom from some of my favorite bloggers. You can enjoy the posts I linked to and also maybe find a new blog or two to follow (in addition to this one, of course!)

How about you? How do YOU deal with the winter doldrums? Please share your own tips and advice in the comments.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

TV Tuesday: Home Before Dark

When I finally joined the 21st century and got a smartphone last summer, an iPhone, a free year of Apple TV came with it. I had wanted to see The Morning Show, the Jennifer Aniston/Reese Witherspoon drama (review of that one later), so I accepted the offer. Now, we are exploring additional offerings on Apple TV before our free year runs out. Our favorite so far is Home Before Dark, a classic murder mystery/suspense show ... except that the "detective" is a 9-year-old girl.

Hilde Lisko, played by Brooklynn Prince, isn't too happy about her family's recent move from urban Brooklyn to a small town in Washington state where her Dad grew up. Her father, Matt, played by Jim Sturgess, isn't too happy about it, either, but there are hints that he lost his journalism job over some sort of scandal. He and his wife, Bridget (played by Abby Miller), and their three daughters try to adjust to small town life while getting reacquainted with Matt's dad, played by Reed Birney, who has dementia. Oddly, no one in Matt's home town seems particularly glad to see him again. Hilde wants to be a journalist just like her dad and wrote her own newspaper back in Brooklyn, so she starts up again here in remote Washington. After an unexpected death soon after they arrive, Hilde quickly finds out why her dad is not being welcomed back. Decades earlier, her father's best friend, Richie, was kidnapped and never found. Police arrested a young Native American man named Sam, played by Michael Greyeyes, and convicted him, but Matt--just a child about Hilde's age--testified at the trial that he was not the man in the van who took Richie. Now, Matt is back, with his determined young daughter, this latest death has a link to those old events, and the cold case is again dividing the town. Hilde and her friends bike, scooter, and walk all over town to try to solve both the recent death and the decades-old case, despite pushback from the police who insist the right man is in prison.

This show has all the features of any good mystery/suspense/thriller show with a murder at its center, but the young girl leading the investigation makes it something special. You might think that a little girl investigator would be too cutesy, but young Brooklyn Prince does an outstanding job in the role, with a fierce determination for justice that would put most adult detectives to shame. The story is actually based in truth, on real-life 9-year-old journalist Hilde Lysiak who really did solve a murder in her town. So, it's not as far-fetched as you might think. The other children and the adult actors are also excellent in their roles, as you struggle to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. The mystery itself is complex and twisty, with plenty of unexpected reveals and red herrings. Best of all, the show has emotional depth and a sense of humor, which we always appreciate, especially in a show that might otherwise be too dark. My husband and I both enjoyed this show very much. We usually juggle 6-8 shows at once, but we kept coming back to this one and were sorry when it ended. Luckily, season one ended with an unexpected twist, so we can't wait for season two!

Home Before Dark is an Apple TV show, so it is available exclusively on that streaming service (which is free for one year for anyone who buys an Apple device).

 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Movie Monday: The Peanut Butter Falcon

In order for me to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve, I need plenty of diversion, so we watched two movies that night. Though they were both good, one of them, The Peanut Butter Falcon, left us with huge grins on our faces. It would have definitely made my Best of 2020 list, if I had been able to review it sooner, so I guess it will be my first favorite of 2021!

Zak, played by Zack Gottsagen, is a 23-year-old man with Down's Syndrome who is living in a nursing home with the elderly and infirm. It is definitely not where Zak belongs, but he has no family, and this is where he ended up. So, his elderly roommate is more than happy to help him break out one night, greased up to slide through the bars on the window. Now dressed in nothing but his underwear, Zak takes off running. He soon encounters Tyler, played by Shia LeBeouf, who is also on the run for entirely different reasons and has been struggling emotionally since the loss of his brother. The two of them end up teaming up and heading south, through the marshes of the North Carolina coast on land and sea, to follow Zak's dream of becoming a professional wrestler. They are heading to meet the Salt Water Redneck, played by Thomas Haden Church, who is Zak's idol from the very old VHS tapes he has watched hundreds of times. Meanwhile, back at the nursing home, a supervisor named Eleanor, played by Dakota Johnson, is being held responsible for Zak's escape and is sent out to find him. She does catch up with Zak and Tyler, but convincing Zak to return to the quiet home after his exciting life on the road is not going to be easy.

We both loved this original, heartwarming movie about friendship, family, and healing. It's an outstanding cast, including Zachary Gottsagen in his first movie role, and the writing is excellent. We were frequently laughing out loud while watching their carefree, full-of-life journey, but there was also suspense to keep us on our toes. Mostly, though, this film is full of heart, examining the depth of love and what it means to be family. It will leave you with happy tears in your eyes and a huge smile on your face!

Released in 2019 by Roadside Attractions, The Peanut Butter Falcon is currently available on Hulu and on Amazon Prime.

I guarantee this trailer will make you smile!


 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Favorite TV Shows of 2020


It's time for my annual TV wrap-up. 2020 was an unusual year for TV for us, since we usually watch mostly cable shows, but so many of those were interrupted by the pandemic. That led us to explore streaming services more.

Listed down at the bottom of this post are all of the shows that I reviewed here on my blog in 2020. TV shows here include those on network TV, cable, and On Demand, as well as on the major streaming services (and many shows are available on network websites, too). I have also added all of these to my TV Reviews tab on the blog, so you can come back anytime to see ALL of the shows I have ever reviewed here. 

I only review shows I enjoy, so anything listed here or on the TV Reviews tab is worth trying!

Best of TV
First a few superlatives - my favorite shows reviewed last year in each category/genre - always tough choices to make because TV shows are just getting better and better (and more and more!). Some of these I almost made two-way or three-way ties, but I stuck to the rules. Remember that we enjoyed all of the shows reviewed - see the full list at the bottom of the post. Links are to my reviews, including trailers and details on where to find each show.

 Best Comedy
The Good Place (A, C, N, P)

We finally tried it ... and everyone was right!


 

Best Drama

The Queen's Gambit (N)  

My husband's vote is Yellowstone (A, C, P, Paramount) - a close second for me - though he loved Queen's Gambit also.


 

Best Dramedy

 Atypical (N)

Outstanding in every way - can't wait for season 4 in 2021!


 

Crime/Mystery/Thriller/Legal/Action

 Lie to Me (A, IMdB)

(a tough call - lots of good shows - but we like the mysteries plus humor)


 

Best Sci Fi

Russian Doll (N)  

(don't be put off by the sci fi label - hilarious Groundhog Day-like show!)


All TV Shows Reviewed in 2020

So much good TV last year, though it's depressing how many great new shows we enjoyed have already been cancelled! That's the flip side of having so many choices.

KEY: Available on:
A = Amazon Prime
C = Cable and/or Cable On Demand

CBS = CBS All Access

H = Hulu

IMdB
N = Netflix
P = Peacock
S = Showtime


(Offerings from subscription services change all the time, so double-check. Also, some shows are available for an additional fee on Amazon Prime whether you subscribe or not. Most networks offer some episodes of every show for free at their own websites. Click the links below for my review and details on where it is available.)

Comedy

The Good Place (A, C, N, P)

Miracle Workers: Dark Ages (A, C)

 

Drama

All Rise (A, C, CBS)

The Good Fight (A, CBS)

The Queen's Gambit (N)

Quiz (A, C, AMC)

Yellowstone (A, C, P, Paramount)

 

Dramedy (both drama and comedy combined)

Atypical (N)

Dash and Lily (N)

Sex Education (N)

Zoe's Extraordinary Playlist (A, C,  H, P)

 

Crime/Mystery/Thriller/Legal/Action

Better Call Saul (C, N, AMC)

Dublin Murders (A, H, Starz)

Lie to Me (A, IMdB)

Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector (cancelled but hoping NBC will put it on Peacock)

The Stranger (N)

 

Sci Fi

Russian Doll (N)

Snowpiercer (A, C, TNT)

Star Trek: Picard (CBS)


Monday, January 11, 2021

Favorite Movies Watched in 2020


Notice my title photo for my 2020 movie wrap-up features a television screen instead of a theater screen? Yeah, it was that kind of a year. We watched exactly one movie in a theater before everything shut down, so the rest of our movies were watched on the small screen, at home, and only a few were new releases. sigh ... just when recliner seats made it possible for me to enjoy movie theaters again!

Nonetheless, it was still a good year for movies at our house! 

We watched only 13 movies last year, down from 16 in 2019 and 22 in 2018, as the TV options continue to expand and improve with so many streaming options in addition to cable. Actually, I see from my notes that we watched 19 movies in 2020, but I only reviewed 13 of them. That's a shame because some of those not reviewed, like The Goldfinch and The Town were quite good. You can see the full list of 2020 movie reviews and genres below, with my favorites marked with *, but I only review movies that I like, so all of the movies listed below are worth watching. I didn't see any documentaries (second year in a row!) or musical drama (I did watch but didn't review Hamilton). It was tough to categorize many of the movies, as more and more, movies are blurring the genre lines: funny mysteries, dramas with plenty of humor, action/comedy/romance, etc.

You can see my full list of movie reviews, covering several years at the Movie Reviews tab.

And now, for my top picks (full reviews at the links):

Best Action/Suspense/Thriller

I See You

Unique and super-twisty

(it's a weird movie poster so don't judge it by that)


 

Best Drama

 The Rainmaker

Great courtroom drama with all-star cast based on Grisham novel


Best Comedy & Best Movie of the Year

 Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Warm, funny, action-packed adventure set in New Zealand



Best Sci Fi

The Vast of Night

Teens in 50's-era town investigate strange noise


Best Family Movie

The Call of the Wild

Disney remake of classic adventure novel about a man and dog


 

All Movies Reviewed in 2020:
My favorites are marked with *, but I only review movies I enjoy, so all of these are worth a try: 


Action/Suspense/Thriller

* I See You

The Lovebirds

Rebecca 

* Serenity

* Transsiberian

* We Own the Night

 

Drama

* The Rainmaker

 

Comedy

* Enola Holmes

* Happiest Season

Holidate

* Hunt for the Wilderpeople

 

Sci Fi

* The Vast of Night

 

Family & Animated 

The Call of the Wild

 

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Top 10 Live with ME/CFS Blog Posts of 2020


To celebrate the new year, I took a look back at my 10 most popular posts on the blog last year. These are the posts that got the most visits in 2020:

  1. Coronavirus and ME/CFS - Without a doubt (as you'll see from the rest of the list), COVID-19 was at the top of everyone's list this year, and it seems that people with ME/CFS were eager for information about the virus itself and how it might affect us. This post explains all about the immune dysfunction of ME/CFS, how COVID-19 might affect us, with links to more information.
  2. The October Slide: ME/CFS and Infectious Triggers - While relevant to COVID-19, this post focused on the annual downturn that many people with ME/CFS experience every fall and winter, explaining why it usually happens, how you can prevent these seasonal crashes, and how to treat them when they do occur.
  3. Info and Resources on COVID-19 and ME/CFS - By this time, in April, information had begun pouring out in articles, videos, blog posts, and more from ME/CFS experts, doctors, and patients. This post included much of that information.
  4.  My Update: Crashes, Infections, and Treatments ... Oh, My! - I don't know whether it had anything to do with the pandemic (the timing is suspicious), but I started an unexplained downturn in mid-March that still continues (with some improvements) today. In this post, I describe what I was experiencing, the tests and investigations to help me figure out what caused my sudden worsening, and the treatments that helped me to improve somewhat, though I am still not back to my "normal" baseline and my investigations continue.
  5. Weekly Inspiration: Lift Up Your Spirits - Clearly, others were having as bad a year as I was and were looking for inspiration and joy because this Weekly Inspiration post got a lot of visits! It includes inspiration specific to chronic illness, silly videos to make you laugh, and some of my comfort TV recommendations for laughter and smiles.
  6. Weekly Inspiration: 5 Ways to Start the New Year Right! - Relevant again now, this post includes my own traditions for starting a new year, plus inspiration from four other bloggers for more joy, happiness, compassion, and more in the new year.
  7. Weekly Inspiration: You're Right Where You Need to Be - Seeing a trend here? By April, we all needed some comfort and reassurance (as both the pandemic and my own personal downturn continued). This post was inspired by a wonderful book a friend of mine wrote and a chapter in my own book.
  8. COVID-19 Long-Haulers and ME/CFS - By August, what the ME/CFS community expected and feared was coming to pass--somewhere between 10 and 25% of those who got COVID-19 were not recovering and developed a "mysterious condition" featuring debilitating fatigue and an intolerance to exertion. This post collects some of the many news stories about long-haulers that began to reference ME/CFS, and discusses the impact for us existing ME/CFS patients.
  9. Interview with Rachel of Chronic Fatigue Sanity Blog - I was pleased to see that Rachel's interview of me hit the Top 10 because is was certainly a highlight of my own year! This interview, where we talk about our own experiences with ME/CFS and my book, was the start of a wonderful friendship. 
  10. Weekly Inspiration: Chronically Ill Holiday Gifts and Tips - Though the holiday season is now past, this great collection of gift guides and coping tips from other bloggers is still perfectly relevant for the new year--maybe you could use a new year gift to yourself to start the year off right!

There you go! As you can see, information about COVID-19, emotional coping, and inspiration were the hot topics of the year here.