Tuesday, May 30, 2023

TV Tuesday: The Company You Keep

One of the new shows that my husband and I enjoyed this winter/spring was The Company You Keep. With its combination of unique crime show and forbidden love story, it is welcomingly original.

Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us) stars as Charlie Nicoletti, the son and heir apparent of a unique family business. His mother, father, sister, and he all work together as criminals and con-men, with their working-class Baltimore bar as cover. His father, played by William Fichtner, and his mother, played by Polly Draper (of thirtysomething fame), own the bar, and Charlie and his sister Birdie, played by Sarah Wayne Callies, work there, while the whole family plans their next job in their off-hours in the basement. Birdie also has a deaf daughter named Ollie, played by Shaylee Mansfield, who is not in on the family secrets. They're a close-knit family, and they are very, very good at what they do. After a huge, $10 million score, they consider retiring from the life of crime, but the big-time drug-dealing, arms-buying crime family they scammed isn't ready to let them; they want to use the Nicolettis' unique talents to earn back the money they stole from them. One night, a beautiful woman named Emma Hill, played by Catherine Haena Kim, comes into the bar, and she and Charlie hit it off. There is instant chemistry between them and plenty of witty banter, though it is clear to both of them that the other has secrets. It turns out that Emma is a CIA agent, so Charlie must keep his criminal life even more secret than usual, as the two get closer and their physical attraction turns into a deeper love. Emma is not only in law enforcement but comes from a well-known D.C. power family, and her brother is running for the Senate (to take his father's role). What kind of future is there for a federal agent and a career criminal who come from such different worlds?

The beginning of this show is a playful secrets-and-lies love affair between Charlie and Emma, but their respective secrets are revealed to each other fairly soon in the first season. Things get even more complicated when Emma is investigating the very crime family that is blackmailing Charlie's family. The acting in this show is top-notch, with great writing featuring lots of witty banter between Charlie and Emma. Its fast-paced, fun heist plots rival any crime show but with the added fun of Charlie and Emma's opposite positions. We really enjoyed this show with its perfect mix of suspense, action, family drama, and romance.

Unfortunately, I just read that ABC decided not to renew The Company You Keep for a second season, though the final episode of season one certainly sets up plenty of threads for a continuation. I decided to still review it because this first season is a lot of fun and worth watching on its own ... and we can always hope that one of the streaming channels picks it up to continue it (as Netflix did with Manifest which comes back for a final season starting June 2).

The Company You Keep is an ABC show, so it can be viewed on cable On Demand, on Hulu, or a variety of other streaming services. It is also available free on ABC's website.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

NEW Video: Correcting Sleep Dysfunction in ME/CFS and Long-COVID

I just posted a new treatment video on my YouTube channel, Correcting Sleep Dysfyunction in ME/CFS and Long-COVID

Sleep dysfunction is an integral part of ME/CFS and long-COVID (and often fibromylagia, too). Poor sleep makes every part of our disease worse which further worsens our sleep quality, in a vicious cycle. Thankfully, the opposite is also true: correcting sleep dysfunction so that you get normal, natural, deep sleep each night helps to improve everything! The most effective approaches treat sleep dysfunction at its source: endocrine (hormone) dysfunction. This has worked wonderfully for my son and I. We have both gotten 8-10 hours of normal, refreshing sleep every night for over 16 years now.

I posted a written article on Correcting Sleep Dysfunction here on the blog a couple of months ago. The written article is perfect for sharing with doctors, as it is research-based and includes scientific references at the end (which both prove its medical validity and provide additional resources for doctors who want to learn more). This version of the article, as originally published in 2019, is the best one to print and share with doctors.

I made the video for those who have difficulty reading and/or those who learn better through sight/sound. The video covers the same material as the written article. With complicated information, I included text, lists, and charts to help explain.

You can watch the video on YouTube or I will include it below for convenience:

If your cognitive dysfunction/brain fog prevents you from understanding either the article or the video, I recommend asking a friend or family member to read or watch so they can help you. You can also simply print the article and share it with your doctor and ask him or her to help you try some of the treatments.

Twenty years ago, after diagnosing me with ME/CFS, my wonderful primary care physician told me, "The first thing to do is to fix your sleep. That will improve everything." She was right!

If you have any questions, please leave a comment here on the blog or below the video, and I will answer. I would also love to hear about your experiences in treating sleep dysfunction and what has worked best for you.

Let me know in the comments below.

You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, May 12, 2023

ME/CFS (and Lyme) Awareness Day & Month: Help Spread the Word!

May 12 is International ME/CFS Awareness Day, and the entire month of May is ME/CFS Awareness Month (and also Lyme Disease Awareness Month). You can do a number of easy things from home to help raise awareness all month long, including:

  • Check out the #MEAction website for their #MillionsMissing2023, with links to different ways that you can help to build awareness, from home, by posting on social media, joining virtual events online, downloading graphics (like the one above), and more. Check out all the options at the link, including the Activism at Home page and its toolkit.
  • Post a personal message on social media (or e-mail it) to your friends and family to help them better understand what ME/CFS is and how it affects you (see mine, below).
  • Edit your profile pics on social media with a #millionsmissing frame. Here is the #MillionsMissing profile pic frame. Twibbon also has a bunch of other options, including blue ribbons, from previous years.

As mentioned, I also use this day/month to tell my friends and family about ME/CFS, too. I use my main Facebook account for just friends and family (though you can follow my blog on Facebook), so I rarely mention my illness there, but May is the exception each year. Here is what I am posting on my Facebook wall for my friends and family:
"Today is ME/CFS Awareness Day & May is ME/CFS Awareness Month (and Lyme Disease Awareness Month). We've gone from 2 million with ME/CFS in the U.S. in 2019 to more than 20 million (including many children) with the addition of long-COVID. Most of you know that my son and I both have ME/CFS and Lyme, but you may not know what that means. ME/CFS is a debilitating immune disorder that has dramatically changed our lives the past 21 years. If you see me out in the world or even just look at my photos on Facebook, you may think we live pretty normal lives ... but that's why this is called an Invisible Illness. In reality, you only see me out and about when I am having a good day, and even then, I need a LOT of extra sleep, I can't get through the day without a nap, I almost always have symptoms, and I have to carefully monitor and limit my activity. One of the main characteristics of ME/CFS is that exercise or exertion makes us sicker, so our lives are defined by limits and restrictions. Even with all that care and caution, we still sometimes overdo and "crash" and feel like we have the flu for days or weeks afterward. But, we are the lucky ones. About 25% of those with ME/CFS are housebound or even bedridden. Worst of all, few people--and very few doctors--understand ME/CFS, so Awareness Month is really important. We don't want pity, just understanding. You can help to spread the word by sharing this post or clicking the link to learn more. If you know a friend or family member who has or might have ME/CFS or long-COVID (or tick infections which have similar symptoms), I would be glad to help them find the right doctors, accurate diagnoses, and/or effective treatments. We are always glad to share our experiences and help others, and we are happy to answer questions. Thanks for reading this far.

https://solvecfs.org/me-cfs-long-covid/about-the-disease/ "

Besides helping to educate your friends and family (most of whom probably want to know more but don't know how to ask), here are some other ways to help further ME/CFS education and research - share these resources widely!
  • Learn more about ME/CFS. Here are some sources of information you can share with others:
  1. What is ME/CFS? by Solve ME/CFS Initiative
  2. Facts About ME/CFS by Phoenix Rising
  3. The CDC's information on ME/CFS
  • You and your friends and family can also donate money to help fund badly-needed ME/CFS research. I know inflation has been rough lately, but you could always do what we've done and just switch some of your charitable giving from other organizations to one or more of the following ME/CFS-related charities. I also set up a recurring donation for one of these of just $5 a month - easily affordable but not noticeable day by day!
  • You can also donate to ME/CFS research without spending any extra money by using a shopping donation site or links like:
  • You can even earn money for CFS research when you use a search engine:

Happy Awareness Day/Month!  Help to spread the word!

(feel free to link to this page or share its information)

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

TV Tuesday: Somebody Somewhere

As I've mentioned here before, my husband is not generally a fan of comedies, so when we find one we both like, it's usually something pretty special. Our recent find is Somebody Somewhere, a hilarious show with a lot of heart.

Samantha, aka Sam, (played by Bridget Everett) returned to her hometown of Manhattan, Kansas, to care for her sister who had cancer. Now that Holly is gone, Sam feels stuck. She's part of a seriously dysfunctional family, and she feels like she personally has failed at her life. She doesn't know how to move forward. Sam gets a job at the local test center, grading student essays. Her sister, Tricia, is bugging Sam to find some purpose in her life; she runs a successful boutique shop downtown and is married with a daughter. One day at the test center, when Sam breaks into tears, another grader named Joel, played by Jeff Hiller, approaches her and tells her he's sorry about Holly. It's clear from what he says that he and Sam went to high school together, though Sam doesn't remember him. They were both in show choir together, and Sam was a swimming star as well. She never even noticed Joel back then. But now, the two misfits gradually become friends. Knowing what an amazing singer she is, Joel invites Sam to "choir practice" at his church, though it turns out to be, as he whispers to her after she arrives, "not officially sanctioned." Choir practice is a place for everyone to be themselves and to express joy, and with Joel's urging, Sam begins to sing again, rediscovering an old passion. Challenges continue to pop up--with Sam's parents, with Tricia, in Joel's life--but the two of them become very close friends and support each other, as they each grow and learn more about themselves.

This show has an intriguing, twisty plot, with all kinds of surprises along the way for Sam and Joel, but that is only a small piece of what makes it so special. It is hilariously, laugh-out-loud funny but with a deep emotional heart. If you are offended by language, sexual references, toilet humor, or--well, just about anything--this is probably not the show for you. Nothing is off-limits here! But this very funny show is not afraid to wade deep into difficult topics, from alcoholism to grief to infidelity. Through it all, Sam and Joel's friendship grows stronger, and they help each other to become their true selves and rediscover joy.

Somebody Somewhere is an HBO original, so it airs on HBO Max. We were delighted to find that we discovered it just before the premier of season two, so we were able to start the second season right after finishing the first one. We look forward to every episode, though we have to be careful if we watch during lunch--those sudden belly laughs can be hazardous while eating!

Monday, May 01, 2023

New ME/CFS Research Funding at Cornell University

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, has received a new $9.5 million grant from the NIH (National Institutes of Health) for its multidisciplinary center, Center for Ennervating Neuroimmune Disease, which was established in 2107 to study ME/CFS. You can read all the details of how this new grant will be used in this article.

The center is run by Dr. Maureen Hanson, a longtime ME/CFS researcher who has played an important role in studying the mysterious exercise intolerance at the heart of the disease. Well-known ME/CFS clinician Dr. Susan Levine will help the studies by diagnosing patients in her NYC practice who may participate in the studies. 

The grant will be used for three main research studies, all focused on gene expression that can help to characterize the disease and understand it better:

  1. Analyze gene expression in muscle biopsies, using new technology, and looking at RNA in the cells.
  2. Study RNA released into blood plasma when cells die, both before and after exercise, to study post-exertional malaise and differentiate between people with ME/CFS and healthy controls.
  3. Characterize gene expression in monocytes (a type of immune cell) and platelets in ME/CFS and controls to identify differences in the immune and circulatory systems. Previous work in the center identified abnormalities in these two cell types.

These are all excellent areas for further study. The better that scientists can characterize ME/CFS based on gene expression, the better they will understand exactly what is happening in our bodies. This will hopefully lead to specific ways to both diagnose the disease and treat it effectively.

The full summary about the center and its use of the grant money can be read here.