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Unrest: a Personal Documentary That Really Hits Home

February 1, 2018

This is a personal and passionate plea for everyone to see the documentary Unrest. It premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize for Documentary Editing. It also made it to the top fifteen shortlist for documentaries eligible for an Oscar. The DVD is available for checkout at the library and is also available on Netflix for viewing. Jennifer Brea, the director, producer and author of the film, shares her journey of living with the medical condition, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), more commonly known as ME/CFS. This illness impacts every facet of Jen’s life. The view of her personal struggle is heart wrenching and awe inspiring at the same time. She is a champion in my eyes. Knowing her condition as a mother of a daughter who has ME/CFS, one can only be amazed at her inner strength and perseverance to be able to complete this daunting project and to have done it so beautifully. I can’t help but be concerned over what this may have cost her in terms of her own health.

You will be amazed at Jen Brea’s foresight to begin recording early on in her experience with ME/CFS. She holds nothing back. She kept her camera going through her most vulnerable moments. Through her use of the web, Jen enlarged her world exponentially; communicating with others worldwide struggling with this illness (including my daughter), organizing demonstrations to raise awareness, and speaking with researchers about current developments and ongoing funding needs. This documentary has the potential to break down the walls of the medical world and to shake up those who decide how the limited research money will be allocated. The incredible determination of those in this film and the strong woman who created it will hopefully move you to take action.

Right now this illness is going unnoticed by most of the world. That’s why the most recent demonstration of ME/CFS patients was called Millions Missing. At the global protests, pairs of ME/CFS patients’ empty shoes, along with a brief bio, were displayed in front of the Department of Health and Human Services Offices in many cities throughout the world. Patients, Caregivers and family members demanded that this illness no longer be ignored. ME/CFS needs immediate attention. I sent my daughter’s black poke-a-dot shoes to Chicago.People with ME/CFS are often unable to make the herculean effort of demonstrating in person. They struggle with the most basic functions of life. Their voices have gone unheard. They are too ill to get out of bed. 25 percent of ME/CFS patients are housebound or bedridden. Their condition is often brushed off as being psychosomatic. I know it is not that. I witness it every day.

My daughter, Karina, came down with ME/CFS after she was ill with Mononucleosis. That was in 2014. Today she is housebound and frequently bedridden. She hasn’t left the house except for doctor’s appointments since July of 2016, when we took her for a drive to see the sunflowers at Pope Farm Conservancy. I didn’t know that would be the last time she would be able to endure an outing in her wheelchair. She suffers from debilitating pain all over her body. She tolerates neither noise nor stimulation. She is allergic to nearly all foods, scents, chemicals and most of her medications. She suffers from post exertional malaise (PEM). PEM is one of our greatest challenges. The littlest bit of physical exertion will set Karina back for weeks. That last outing to see the sunflowers cost Karina dearly by worsening all her ME/CFS symptoms. Her body just doesn’t use energy the way it should, and yet her mind works and works to solve the mystery of ME/CFS.

Karina is a brilliant researcher. In four years she completed her Bachelors and Masters Degrees, earning degrees in Neuroscience and Biology. She should be in her 2nd year at Tufts University School of Medicine where she was accepted as a sophomore in college on the early assurance program; instead she is imprisoned in a body that fails her at every turn. I won’t go into any more detail. It will only make me weep.

We need to do more than cry. We need help! We need money for research to better understand the pathology and to develop effective treatments. ME/CFS research is underfunded, at only $6.00 per patient. The  National Insitiute of Health’s Research portfolio shows the disparity of funding in great detail. I beg you to see this documentary. Tell your family and neighbors about the documentary. If you are so moved, please support the research effort by making a donation to the Open Medicine Foundation, whose advisory board includes three Nobel Laureates and six National Academy of Science members who are assisting in the search for biomarkers, and treatments for ME/CFS. Visit to see how you can make a difference in the lives of those who suffer from ME/CFS. Please sign the petition insisting that the National Institutes of Health increase research funding for ME/CFS.

If you are interested in reading more about ME/CFS, the Institute of Medicine’s guide will provide more detailed information. I wish I could tell you there is a cure. But to date there is no real treatment or cure. This disease is so complex; it impacts nearly ALL systems in the body, including the circulation, metabolism, digestion, immune system, and nervous system. It impacts all functions of the human body. The exact array of symptoms and limitations manifests itself differently from patient to patient. Universally, everyone gets worse with physical and mental exertion (PEM).

Currently, estimates show that 2.5 million American have ME/CFS. Global estimates are as high as 17 to 30 million. No one is protected from this illness. It can take over your life or the life of a loved one. ME/CFS has claimed my daughter. I want my daughter to have her life back. I want Karina to have a life outside of her small bedroom.

I pray that this documentary will speak for the “millions missing” and their families. To all who hear my cry, to all who know our struggle and have helped us, to all who have already watched the documentary, please know how much you are loved! For those whom I’ve persuaded to view Unrest, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.


Mission of Literacy

January 25, 2018

I am at home recovering from yet another surgery on my left leg following the accident that injured my leg and brain in October 2016. Due to my injuries, I haven’t been able to read like I use to. The hit on my head impacted my ability to focus; it stole my greatest pleasure…reading. I am taking baby steps in building up my attention span and my ability to read and remember the story.
My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson captured my attention right away. Front CoverI couldn’t put it down. It’s a children’s historical fiction title that can be enjoyed by all ages. The story takes place in Cuba in 1961. Then Prime Minister Fidel Castro had a mission to create an illiterate-free country in 12 months. A volunteer brigade was formed to teach the farmers and their families how to read and write. The story follows 13-year-old volunteer, Lora, as she joins the army of teachers and ventures outside her privileged life in the city of Havana.
For one year she would live with a family in the country; working side by side with them by daylight and teaching them to read and write by lamplight at night. Lora gives her students a new life. Literacy helps open the doors of opportunity. All who participated in this mission are forever changed by the intimate exchange of lives and lifestyles.
This story is based on the historical events in 1960 when Fidel Castro announced his plan, to the United Nations, to educate the entire population of Cuba. By 1961 more than 700,000 Cubans had learned to read and write. In one year the literacy rate in Cuba went from 60% to 96%, earning Cuba the title of illiterate-free nation. This is an inspiring story of the value of literacy and the joy of teaching. May it inspire all of us who love to read to help improve our own country’s literacy rates.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? – Movie

January 3, 2018

This is an old movie in Hollywood standards. A black and white film, it encapsulates the early ’60’s horror movie and a twisted tale of hate and jealousy and so much more.WP

This is a famous still from it, on the left is Bette Davis as Jane and the right is Joan Crawford as Blanche.

My first take on the film was positive, the characters are believable in their individual paths of torment. The typical lifestyle of that time was lost on me, however, and some comedic moments would have been frightening when it came out. The scale of society’s fear and disgust have obviously morphed since then, making it something Elvira or Mystery Science Theater 3000 would make fun of.

I could not tell from the film itself, but Bette Davis went extreme in her character transformation. Compared to Joan’s normal pallor in this picture, you can see Bette’s face is ghost-like in appearance, caked on with white makeup and a beauty mark with dark red lips. A striking picture indeed.

What peaked my interest (in the original movie) was the show The Feud, that aired on FX earlier this year. It enlarges the scene to paint the lives of these two women in 1962, cast out of Hollywood for young replacements, creating a cycle of viciousness between the cast in order to distract from the directors and producers playing with perception and emotion. The outright manipulation used to oppose Bette and Joan is tragic.

The film’s ending mirrors the tragedy in reality, the two entertainers and women could have been friends.

If not for being unfairly pitted against each other so they would not test the male dominated field at that time. The callous disregard for mutual respect, even though these two similar women could have taken on the entire studio and changed things before their time.


The only thing to prevent any continuance, is to learn from history and be aware not to repeat it.

Just the right book

August 4, 2017

My husband and I just got home from a 2-week trip to Alaska.  We visited 8 cities and also spent time at Denali National Park.  Because I love to see other libraries (as most librarians do) I also convinced my husband to stop at 2 in Alaska.  I love the library that I work at but something about a library nestled at the foot of a beautiful mountain made the library in Haines very appealing!vendorimagesJans_WolfCalledRomeo_02._CB350838642_

Before I left, I was looking for the perfect book to read during the trip.  I settled on A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans.  Set in Juneau, in the Mendenhall Glacier area, this book tells a remarkable true story.  Romeo is a lone, black wolf that starts to visit the people that live in this area.  He begins interacting with dogs and their owners that hike near the glacier.  Little by little, some members of the community begin to seek out this wolf and eventually name him.  As time goes by worries about what could go wrong develop when crowds start to gather for a glimpse or photo of the wolf.  As we were on a tour through Denali National Park, I saw how established rules are implemented daily to keep animals from becoming too comfortable around people.  Even though we all enjoyed seeing a variety of wildlife, it is important for the safety of the animals and people to make this a priority.  While in Juneau, I thought about how amazing it was that this wolf had lived on the edges of this community and engaged with its residents and their dogs for 6 years. It was the perfect book to read while traveling through this beautiful state! Even if you have never been to Alaska, I would recommend this book.  I tells a great story on the importance of respect and preservation of wildlife.

The Garden of Small Beginnings by: Abbi Waxman

June 29, 2017


I was looking for a good summer book to read and the title of this book caught my eye.  If I’m not reading this time of year, you can probably find me in the garden.  Even though this story revolves around a very tragic event, it shows how a family can eventually move forward and grow into a new life after the loss of a loved one.  You will meet Lilian, a single mother, her two daughters, Annabel and Clare and Lilian’s sister, Rachel.  The characters in this story are quirky, funny, real and honest.  They carry on with life as best as they can while trying to figure out the future.  Woven into the story you will find gardening tips and humor that are an added bonus.  If you are looking for a book that draws you in and keeps you turning the pages, try it and see if you agree with me.

Inferno (the movie)

March 31, 2017

I will not give away any spoilers-

This is an adaption of a book by the talented Dan Brown, following Prof. Langdon in another adventure.

The book was fantastic, inspiring and brilliantly laid out and written with the characters and plot fit together so perfectly…


The first time I tried to watch it, I fell asleep. The second try, I wish I had fallen asleep.

I understand the book and movie are not always similar. But in my opinion, the way they did the movie was an absolute disaster. It altered the very essence of the book, it’s theme and the moral grounds on which Dan Brown writes.

Of course they altered character’s appearances to make them more “Hollywood”, younger and more attractive. Obviously needless love stories needed to be added as well; it was such a stretch from the book they really should have renamed it away from the book, as it was nothing alike it’s original format.


I hope at least it gets people’s attention to read the book and learn from there the wonderful plot and characters of Inferno.

To Stay Alive

March 29, 2017

by Skila Brown


First of all, it is a quick read with a fantastic story woven in historical research. The pages vary in length, some only contain a handful of words. They still contain great power, as it is written in poem form; the strongest words picked to convey they merciless situation. It is not a gory story also, although strong content within as it tells the tragic stories of the unfortunate people in the Donner party.

Following another family before they set off to new adventures through the eyes of a teenage girl. They leave with plenty of time in the spring left, with fate only to intervene.

*Possible Spoiler Content Below*


A few small decisions ended being the turning points for their entire lives. Getting to a town and meeting the Donner family and several others, they change paths to follow a shortcut, saving time and supplies. However, the shortcut is not fit for the cattle and wagons, so they must turn back, losing valuable time and supplies. Early snowfall also impacted them, it is speculated that if it would have held up for a mere 24 hours they would have survived the trail.

The beginning is almost too suspenseful to manage, because everyone knows how this story ends (for some). When the snow gets too high they cannot move for days and weeks, becoming ill and weak, dangerously low on food with no game to be found to sustain all the families. Two men leave for supplies and help, one returns with two Indian guides and supplies on a mule from town. Another time they try to leave for supplies, they must turn back. A third attempt is made, with our main character trying to make a break for it, guilt ridden to be cared for by her mother, whom has no food to share with her family.

The trip is tragic, with the fateful decision being made. They get lost, and wander in circles 18 miles away from the town they were searching for before one person finding a house, and the other rescued by it’s owner.

The writing is brilliant, you felt for all of the characters, and the historical research  shines through with authenticity in every sentence.

A five star read! I finished it in two days, and still cannot get it out of my mind.

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