Last Week’s Links

How to heal through life writing

“Learning to write about trauma helps you to process the painful experience, and gives you the life skills to overcome it”

When I went back to school for my Ph.D. in psychology, I studied life stories. One aspect of that topic is how writing about negative life experiences can help us overcome the pain, grief, or anger we associate with them. This article offers some advice on how to do that.

A Brief History of the TV Dinner

“Thanksgiving’s most unexpected legacy is heating up again”

If, like me, you grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s, you probably remember Swanson’s TV Dinners. Here’s a brief history of how and why they came into being.

COVID-19 patients are developing ‘brain fog.’ But what does that mean?

I have fibromyalgia. One symptom of this and other autoimmune conditions can be periods of “brain fog,” a fuzzy feeling of being not quite fully present in the world, of being not quite fully in touch with reality. Researchers are now finding that patients who have long-term COVID-19 symptoms sometimes experience this same feeling, a symptom often dismissed by doctors.

for millions of other people with chronic illnesses, some of which seemed to have began with infections, constant brain fog is already their reality. Now, they’re hoping that this global pandemic will draw attention to a condition that has so drastically affected their lives.

 Night Terrors

“The creator of ‘The Twilight Zone’ dramatized isolation and fear but still believed in the best of humanity.”

You remember The Twilight Zone and Rod Serling, right? “The show ran from 1959 to 1964, and by the time it went off the air the phrase ‘twilight zone’ had entered the language as a kind of shorthand for whatever feels eerie or strange.”

Andrew Delbanco discusses The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi.

Death rates have fallen by 18% for hospitalized COVID–19 patients as treatments improve

It’s hard to find good news amidst rising virus spikes and perilous pandemic predictions, but here’s a little bit. 

He was an American paratrooper. She withstood bombing in England. 75 years later they remember love born in wartime

And here we are back to life stories. I’m always on the lookout for good stories like this one, which appear most often in local publications. The best such stories, like this one, are full of scrapbook memories.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

This Is Not a Moon Landing. It’s a Murder Hornet Operation.

Click on this link to see the photo, even if you don’t read the article. 

“After an operation that looked like a cross between a lunar landing and a low-budget sci-fi flick, entomologists on Saturday suctioned away the first “murder hornet” nest found in the United States.”

The first nest of the invasive Asian giant hornets was found and destroyed in northern Washington state. It’s an interesting article, with a lot of photos.

How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension As an Adult

Reading comprehension, defined as the “ability to process and retain information from texts,” is something we usually think of as happening to children in their early years of school. But here Christine Ro reports on some recent research into enhancing reading comprehension for adults and offers some suggestions for doing so.

Unsurprisingly, some of her suggestions involve slowing down while reading and actively engaging with the text, for example, by annotating, all examples of slow reading.

As holidays near, the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, putting families in a quandary about celebrations and travel

Amidst all the discussion of pandemic fatigue, many families are wondering if they’ll be able to celebrate together this fall and winter. This article indicates that Barbara Alexander, a physician and the president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, will not attend the annual Christmas gathering of about 35 people at her parents’ farm this year.

An epidemiologist explains the new CDC guidance on 15 minutes of exposure and what it means for you

“the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is acknowledging that even brief contact can lead to transmission. Specifically, the new guidance suggests that those spending a total of 15 minutes of contact with an infectious person over the course of a 24-hour period should be considered in close contact.”

Here’s some more information if you’re still making up your mind about attending family events this holiday season.

‘Passion and expertise’: UW’s Dr. Vin Gupta shares coronavirus insights with the nation

In normal times, Dr. Vin Gupta would be spending more time with his family and less time on national TV.

But since the world is battling a pandemic — and a flood of conflicting information — pick any weekday and you’ll likely see Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist and an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, on at least one news show on either NBC or MSNBC as a medical contributor.

Many of the first cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. appeared in Washington state. Here’s a profile of a physician from the University of Washington who has emerged as one of the experts seen most often on news coverage of the virus.

“A Sow Killer”: Nursing Home Residents Wither in Isolation Forced by the Virus

One of the worst things about growing old is the social isolation caused by the loss of friends and family members. This year the viral pandemic, with its enforced isolation to suppress the contagion, has been especially hard on older people, particularly those in nursing homes, where strict regulations prohibiting visiting have been necessary to control the spread of the disease.

The article explores how some facilities are addressing the seemingly contradictory requirements for both physical distancing and personal human contact.

Q&A: Did Justin Turner put Dodgers at risk by celebrating their World Series championship?

I always watch the World Series, even when, like this year, none of my favorite teams is one of the last two left standing. But I turned the TV off after the announcement of the Series MVP (Corey Seager of the L.A. Dodgers) and didn’t learn until the next day that Dodgers’ player Justin Turner, who had been pulled late in the final game because of a positive COVID-19 test result, had come out onto the field to celebrate the victory with his teammates.

While I can certainly understand his desire to celebrate, I was incensed and disappointed by his action. In many of the photos he’s not even wearing a mask.

What do you think? 

Should Turner have been allowed to leave the room where he was isolated and mingle with his teammates on the field? 

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Daylight saving time ends this weekend: Don’t let ‘fall back’ worsen your 2020 depression | The Seattle Times

As we prepare to turn the clocks back an hour on Sunday morning, experts in winter depression say the loss of daylight — just as coronavirus infections start to spike again and election tension comes to a head — could make this an unusually difficult stretch.

Source: Daylight saving time ends this weekend: Don’t let ‘fall back’ worsen your 2020 depression | The Seattle Times

Election stress disorder is a real thing — and lots of us have it 

From Mayo Clinic News Network

 

Heading into a contentious national election with an ongoing pandemic and racial unrest, many people are experiencing tension and stress.

More than two-thirds, approximately 68%, of American adults say the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their lives, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association. In comparison, only 52% said the same before the 2016 election.

Source: Election stress disorder is a real thing — and lots of us have it | The Seattle Times

Last Week’s Links

A Massive Earthquake Is Coming to Cascadia—And It Can’t Be Stopped

By almost any measure Cascadia—a term born of the 1970s environmental movement to describe the Pacific Northwest’s geography and cultural identity—is a strange and beautiful place.

But just offshore from the postcard-worthy landscapes is a seismic threat as catastrophic as any on earth.

Yes, there’s a lot of talk around here about “the big one.” This article focuses on four people who are working to understand the CSZ (Cascadia Subduction Zone) and inform the population about what to expect.

50 States, 50 Scares

What’s the scariest novel set in your state? 

For us here in Washington, it’s The Good House by Tananarive Due, a haunted-house tale about “racism, greed, separation and communication breakdowns,” according to this article.

Sick of COVID-19? Here’s why you might have pandemic fatigue

When COVID-19 first hit the U.S., most people were eager to follow the recommended safety guidelines. Fear sparked the hoarding of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. But now that fear has abated, and we’re hearing a lot about pandemic fatigue.

Public health researcher Jay Maddock, professor of public health at Texas A & M University, explains the psychological reasons for pandemic fatigue and offers some tips on protecting both mental and physical health. 

You’re not nuts. This really is a crazy time. Here are a dozen ways to cope

And here’s some more help, from CNN’s Sandee LaMotte, on coping with the current pandemic, which shows no signs of going away any time soon.

Quarantine book club: Reading for mental health in a plague year

Jeannine Hall Gailey, who previously served as the second poet laureate of Redmond, Washington, describes how reading has been a lifeline in helping her cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, can reading really address the state of anger, despair, and confusion so many of us are in? I can only say that books (along with gardening, cats, chocolate, and phone calls with friends) definitely helped me hold on to not only sanity and hope, but also serve as a reminder of why we continue to act to address injustice instead of just saying “that’s the way it’s always been.” Reading also provided a useful context to talk with family and friends who were also experiencing anxiety about politics, race, class, and fear of illness and death. Discussing books — even on social media — seems safer and more enjoyable than merely doomscrolling or rehashing whatever the day’s traumatic news cycle had revealed.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Inside the Fall of the CDC

One of the most painful experiences, for me, of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been watching the formerly revered CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) cut its own throat. I fear it won’t recover in the remainder of my lifetime. 

Going Out With a Bang: Janis Joplin’s Hard-Partying Wake

I still remember where I was when I heard that Janis Joplin was dead. But I don’t remember hearing about this:

When Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970, she left behind a will that included an offbeat, albeit totally in-character, stipulation: $2500 of her estate should be dedicated to funding a hard-partying wake in her memory.

Today something like this would be big news, all over the internet, but times were simpler back in 1970. So we’ll have to content ourselves with reading about it here.

‘I Was Unprepared’: Louise Glück on Poetry, Aging and a Surprise Nobel Prize

I always enjoy reading about accomplishments of older adults. In this interview Louis Glück says, “Aging is more complicated. It isn’t simply the fact that you’re drawn closer to your death, it’s that faculties that you counted on — physical grace and strength and mental agility — these things are being compromised or threatened. It’s been very interesting to think about and write about.”

How I met my mother: dementia brought back her true self

All of my life I had a troubled relationship with my mother. When I took my aging mother on a long trip to visit, for probably the last time, her aging sister who had dementia, my aunt talked about some long-ago family events that involved me as a child. I learned just enough to wonder if my mother, if she developed dementia, would fill in some of the blanks—secrets never talked about—of our lives.

My mother did develop dementia, but hers was marked my aphasia, the inability to put words together to express complete thoughts. If you asked her if she was cold or hungry, she could answer either yes or not, but she couldn’t say more than two or three words. As her physical condition worsened, we went to visit her in the memory-care facility where she spent her final months. When she saw me, her eyes lit up, she smiled, and said, “I want to tell you . . .”

Those five words were all she could manage. I’ll never know exactly what she wanted to tell me. I know what I want her to have wanted to tell me, but I’ll never know what was on her mind. That’s why this article caught my eye. Ina Kjøgx Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark, was able to talk with her mother as her dementia deepened. She was fortunate: “At last I got to know my mother as something other than just my mum, and saw the contours of the strong-willed, vibrant and incisive person she might have let out if she hadn’t experienced so much personal tragedy so early in life.”

Perhaps if my mother had been able to talk through her dementia, I would have learned a similar story

Dementia deaths rise during the summer of COVID, leading to concern

Deaths from dementia during the summer of 2020 are nearly 20% higher than the number of dementia-related deaths during that time in previous years, and experts don’t yet know why. An estimated 61,000 people have died from dementia, which is 11,000 more than usual within that period.

Geriatrician Laurie Archbald-Pannone, Associate Professor Medicine, Geriatrics,  at the University of Virginia, examines some of the possible reasons for this increase and offers some tips for caregivers.

A Disturbing Twinkie That Has, So Far, Defied Science

When I was a kid, my favorite treat was a Hostess Twinkie. If you remember this cloyingly sweet treat, you might be interested in this story.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Books to Celebrate the Life & Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The New York Public Library has compiled a list of books about the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The list includes several children’s books.

Leave the Kids with Grandma: 7 Insightful Stories Featuring Grandparents We Love

“Here are seven heartwarming and insightful adored stories about beloved grandparents to remind us of their lasting impressions.”

What Made Black and Blue Pens Standard? A Colorful Look at Ink

When I was a kid, ballpoint pens—which we didn’t get to use in school until 4th grade—came only in blue, black, or red. By the time I started college, green ballpoints were available, which the rebel in me promptly adopted as my main writing implement.

24 colored pens

In this article Yashvi Peeti delves into the history of ink and the psychology of color to help us choose among all the writing implements and colors now available.

How to make friends as an adult

“Making more friends in adulthood is going to take some deliberate effort on your part.”

My husband and I made a huge move—from St. Louis, Missouri, to Tacoma, Washington—when we retired. We moved to be near our daughter, but that move also meant leaving behind the friends we’d made over the course of living in the same general area for more than 40 years. One of the reasons we chose to move into a retirement community instead of buying a house in the city was to be near people of similar age with whom to share planned activities. We’ve been very happy with the new friends we’ve made here.

Nonetheless, making new friends as an adult can be difficult. Here psychologist Marisa G. Franco offers some background on the benefits of friendship and hints about making new adult friendships.

The Pandemic Is Chasing Aging Coaches from the Field

Although I’m a pretty big sports fan, here’s one aspect of the COVID-19 health crisis I hadn’t thought about until I read this article

“While young athletes are considered less vulnerable to Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, aging coaches are at higher risk of infection and having a severe response.” As a result, many older coaches are choosing to leave their sports rather than risk getting sick.

On Remembering to Be Grateful on the Darkest Days

“Through the coronavirus and a loved one’s cancer scare, I’ve found immeasurable relief through writing in a gratitude journal.”

woman's hand holding pen and writing

Dom Nero explains the benefits from keeping a gratitude journal, which, he writes, “doesn’t have to be all about the big picture stuff. In fact, I often find it’s more satisfying when I focus on the random joys from my day.”

The act of recording even short and simple snippets of things to be grateful for can help relieve the anxiety and uncertainty most of us have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, he says.

Nursing Homes Oust Unwanted Patients With Claims of Psychosis

Here’s an alarming trend to be aware of:

Across the United States, nursing homes are looking to get rid of unprofitable patients — primarily those who are poor and require extra care — and pouncing on minor outbursts to justify evicting them to emergency rooms or psychiatric hospitals. After the hospitals discharge the patients, often in a matter of hours, the nursing homes refuse them re-entry, according to court filings, government-funded watchdogs in 16 states, and more than 60 lawyers, nursing home employees and doctors.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Does forgetting a name or word mean that I have dementia?

September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and therefore a good time to talk about dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common dementia, but there are others to be aware of, a gerontologist explains.

Source: Does forgetting a name or word mean that I have dementia?

Last Week’s Links

How Solitude Can Help You Regulate Your Mood

Whether we think we needed it or not, the arrival of COVID-19 has given us plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of solitude. Writing for NPR (National Public Radion in the U.S.), Colin Dwyer looks at the findings of recent research on the topic of solitude. 

Dwyer offers four findings from this research:

  1. Solitude is in the mind of the beholder.
  2. We may crave time alone the way we crave time with others.
  3. Don’t expect an epiphany.
  4. Solitude can be a communal exercise.

You Don’t Have to Be Young to Be a Badass Detective

Author Jane Badrock has noticed a fictional marketing niche that she aims to fill: older adult detectives, particular female ones.

“Think of the opportunities! Imagine, even the real-life unsolved crimes that may have happened because nobody suspected the little old lady.”

Brain scientists haven’t been able to find major differences between women’s and men’s brains, despite over a century of searching

brain

I couldn’t resist including this article. The search to explain gender differences by tying them to differences in the anatomy and/or function of various parts of the brain began at the dawn of the discipline of psychology. Here Ari Berkowitz, Presidential Professor of Biology and Director of the Cellular & Behavioral Neurobiology Graduate Program at the University of Oklahoma, concludes:

So it’s not realistic to assume any human brain sex differences are innate. They may also result from learning. People live in a fundamentally gendered culture, in which parenting, education, expectations and opportunities differ based on sex, from birth through adulthood, which inevitably changes the brain.

In other words, gender differences are not biological—that is, inborn—traits but rather social constructs, normative behaviors defined and passed down by societies to tell people how they should live, think, and feel.

The 40 Must-Read Books for Baby Boomers

Lorraine Berry makes “An earnest attempt at an essential library.”

She writes, “I aimed to include those novels rooted in a writer’s emotional honesty in telling true stories about the human condition. Light on classics, the list is weighted toward books published in the past 119 years.”

She adds that we should hurry up and look at the list—before she tweaks it yet again.

How about you? What books would you add or delete from Berry’s list? Remember, you must limit the list to 40 books.

Lifelike robotic pets are helping isolated seniors avoid loneliness

This CNN article looks at test programs that have provided robotic pets to older adults to help ease the loneliness exacerbated by the isolating restrictions of COVID-19. These programs have been conducted in Alabama, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.

So far the results look promising, but, at least in Alabama, evaluation of the program will continue over the next year.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

How to be alone

“Solitude is a skill. You can get better at it with practice.”

Sigal Samuel urges us to lean into being alone.

Many factors have conspired to make us bad at solitude. They’re mostly not our fault. As Jenny Odell lays out in her book How to Do Nothing, we live in a culture where sociability and constant connectivity are rewarded, and where choosing to be by yourself marks you out as a loser, crazy, possibly immoral.

This article goes deeper than I expected. Samuel offers several ingredients for making the most of solitude:

  1. “First, there’s the idea that to succeed at solitude, you have to accept that you’re being “thrown upon yourself” — to confront your reality rather than opting for distraction.
  2. “Another key ingredient to successful solitude, psychologists have found, is having a clear sense of purpose.”
  3. Some people who have adapted to living in isolation “emphasize the importance of routines — the little daily rituals that anchor us in time and give shape to a day.”
  4. “Many artists insist that isolation is necessary for creative work.”
  5. “Most world religions, even if they’re ambivalent about solitude as a long-term path, acknowledge that it’s useful for fostering spiritual insight.”

But Samuel also acknowledges that sudden isolation, such as that forced on us by the COVID-19 pandemic, can also have risks. There’s a link to a guide to developing “distress tolerance skills” developed by psychologists for the Centre for Clinical Interventions, supported by the Australian government’s department of health.

Loneliness Hasn’t Increased Despite Pandemic, Research Finds. What Helped?

NPR reports on several new studies that suggest the huge increase in loneliness social scientists expected to accompany the mandatory isolation necessary to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus hasn’t materialized.

Some researchers wonder if the many ways communities have found to band together while socially distanced—such as porch chats, Zoom dinners, neighborhood dancing—have contributed to the lower-than-expected rate of loneliness. Still, they add, conditions are ripe for anxiety and depression, which we should be on the lookout for in both ourselves and others.

As the pandemic surges, old people alarm their adult kids by playing bridge and getting haircuts

My husband and I are both over 70, and we’ve been terrified by how hard this virus is hitting older adults. We have minimized our trips out as much as possible, always wear masks when outside the house, and stay six feet away from others when we do go to the grocery store. So I was surprised to see this news story about older people shocking their children by not following recommended health guidelines.

Various factors are contributing to this generational divide. Older people in the United States are statistically more likely than younger generations to listen to conservative media and to politicians who have played down the dangers of the virus, and some may have followed their lead. Others may be well aware of the risks but have weighed them against the mental and physical benefits of maintaining exercise and social routines.

Whatever the reasons, the dynamic can leave middle-aged people, many of whom may already be worried about their adult children going to protests or beach gatherings, feeling that they must also parent their parents.

You’re Doomscrolling Again. Here’s How to Snap Out of It.

This experience of sinking into emotional quicksand while bingeing on doom-and-gloom news is so common that there’s now internet lingo for it: “doomscrolling.” Exacerbating this behavior, shelter-in-place orders leave us with little to do other than to look at our screens; by some measures, our screen time has jumped at least 50 percent.

Read explanations of how to use these approaches to lift yourself out of the doom and gloom:

  1. Create a plan to control your time
  2. Practice meditation
  3. Connect with others

Viewing Literature as a Lab for Community Ethics

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront many bioethical questions, such as, when resources are limited, which lives should be saved and which sacrificed? Maren Tova Linett, author of Literary Bioethics, argues that fiction, with its ability to present imagined worlds, offers the chance to explore such concerns: “Fiction has the virtue of presenting vividly imagined worlds in which certain values hold sway, casting new light onto those values. And the more plausible we find these imagined worlds, the more thoroughly we can evaluate the justice of those values.”

Literary Bioethics considers novels such as The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Lingering Legacy of America’s First Cookie-Cutter Suburb

I’ve been hearing a lot about systemic racism in the U.S., the fact that racism is built so basically into our culture that even the best-intentioned white folks don’t notice it. This article from Atlas Obscura startlingly illustrates that point.

“The idyllic ideal of modern suburbia in the United States was born in 1947 with the creation of Levittown, a large housing development in Long Island, New York.” Furthermore:

A clause in the standard lease for the first Levitt houses baldly stated that the homes could not “be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race.” Government policies at the time, such as those of the Federal Housing Administration, supported such racist practices, blocking Black Americans and other people of color from the new suburbs and homeownership.

I’ll just leave that fact right there.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown