Look! A Library Book!

I’ve been jealously eyeing people’s Instagram and Facebook posts showing off their book hauls from their library’s curbside pickup service. A lot of libraries opened for pickup while I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for  announcements from both my city and county libraries. 

Now my county library has finally figured out how to handle pickup service. They’re offering only walkup or bikeup pickups at my location rather than curbside service because there’s not enough space on the street for cars to line up while still keeping two-way traffic open. Therefore, they’ve had to set up two pickup lines on the side of the facility, in a space between two buildings.

I was thrilled yesterday to pick up The Only Child by Mi-ae Seo, which I’ve had on request for six or seven months.

On a related note, I hadn’t driven in so long that I almost forgot how.

There’s still no word on when pickup will be available at city libraries, but I’ve always had more luck getting books I want from the county library anyway. 

Long live public libraries!

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

15 Trailblazing Facts About Gloria Steinem

After more than half a century advocating for women’s rights and other civil liberties, Gloria Steinem has become one of the most famous feminists of all time. While you might know her best as the face of the women’s liberation movement or the founder of Ms. magazine, the Ohio-born activist has quite a few other accomplishments to her name.

Those of us who grew up along with Gloria Steinem probably know that, as a young woman, she served a stint as a Playboy Bunny. Here are some more tantalizing facts the feminist icon, including her discovery, through Little Women, that “women could be a whole human world.”

But writer Ellen Gutoskey saved the best for last:

“15. GLORIA STEINEM HAS NO PLANS TO RETIRE.”

The Crime Victim Who’s Obsessed with True Crime Shows

“After I was injured in a school shooting, I found unexpected comfort in binging grisly TV shows and podcasts. And I’m not the only one.”

Taylor Schumann reports that, after being wounded in a school shooting, she began obsessively watching true crime TV shows because “at their root was reality: real people and real pain, just like my own.”

Later, discussing true crime shows and podcasts, she was comforted by the realization that she wasn’t the only person fascinated by them. And those discussions often offered her the opportunity to share bits of her own experience, with the result that “I felt more known.” Finally, “I found an unexpected community of other victims of violent crime who also experienced a sort of mending of themselves through the true crime genre.”

50 Years Ago Neil Young Wrote a Song That Changed a Generation of Protest Music

Jon Friedman writes for Esquire about Neil Young’s song “Ohio,” written 50 years ago this summer “in the aftermath of the massacre of four students on the campus of Kent State University, on May 4, 1970.”

This moment in history has special poignancy for me because my graduation from Boston University, scheduled for late May, was canceled immediately after the killings. We were in the middle of the final exam period, and all exams not yet taken were called off. We were also made to leave the dormitories within the next few days.

And that experience made me sympathize with all the students who missed out on their high school, college, or graduate school graduations this year, the spring and summer of COVID-19.

And I wonder what kind of music will emerge from our current experience. Will there be anything as lastingly significant as Neil Young’s song “Ohio”? 

“Today, of course,” writes Friedman, “Young is defined by his lifelong activism, but in early 1970, before the release of ‘Ohio,’ there was no real indication of the protest singer he was about to become.” 

Lonnie Wheeler, 68, Dies; Helped Ballplayers Tell Their Stories

Darn, I miss baseball. Everything at all baseball related reminds me how much.

In Praise of Solitude

Academician Irina Dumitrescu riffs on the notion of solitude. The main bases for her musings are the new book The Art of Solitude by Stephen Batchelor and the curious isolation the COVID-19 virus has forced upon us:

Zoom and Skype and Instagram live beam faces and voices into our rooms, but we miss touch and scent of skin, the warmth of another’s body, the easy energy of a conversation in place. We are neither with one another nor alone with ourselves, neither imprisoned nor truly free.

scroll divider

As the virus surges, I hope all of you are keeping yourselves healthy, both physically and mentally. Take time to engage in whatever activities bring you comfort and joy. And do not feel the need to apologize for self-care.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Our great staff here at Franke Tobey Jones provided a Cinco de Mayo party at yesterday’s weekly tailgate happy hour. We are indeed lucky to live in such a caring retirement community.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Celebrating Earth Day

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. First celebrated in 1970, “The date of Earth Day was specifically selected to mobilize college students”:

To head up the Earth Day project, Senator [Gaylord] Nelson enlisted Denis Hayes, then a graduate student at Harvard University. As national coordinator, Hayes recruited a staff of 85 energetic young environmental crusaders and grassroots organizers, along with thousands of field volunteers, in order to promote the fledgling holiday across the nation. The team knew that in order to gain the most traction, college students would need to play a central role, as they did in the Vietnam protests of the era. The date that Hayes selected for the first Earth Day was a calculated choice: April 22 on most college campuses falls right between Spring Break and final exams.

Read this and other memorable morsels in 10 Fascinating Facts About Earth Day.

If you’ve finally decided that it’s time to read a book about climate change, The New York Times has some suggestions in the following categories:

  • I don’t even know where to start.
  • I just want to understand how we got here.
  • I’m ready for the hard truth. Don’t sugar-coat it.
  • Who saw this coming?
  • I’m fascinated by how people behave when things get bad.
  • Did we learn anything from Hurricane Katrina?
  • I live on the coast. How scared should I be?
  • New York is the center of my universe.
  • What’s happening to the Great Lakes?
  • I know it’s all politics. So who’s to blame?
  • Someone must be profiting from climate change. Where’s the money?
  • I’d like a novel that taps into my current, IRL dread.
  • What are some future scenarios?
  • I’m a dystopian. Prepare me for the worst.
  • I need help arguing with my denialist uncle.
  • I’m just an old-fashioned tree-hugger.
  • What about the animals?
  • I only have time for one canonical read.
  • What will inspire the climate activist of the future?
  • What will our grandchildren think of us?
  • What I can do right now?

And here are some more reading suggestions: 9 Nonfiction Books About Nature and Climate Change.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Irritable? Can’t sleep? We react to pandemic’s stress in many ways, experts say

Over on my literature blog I wrote about how the current health emergency has made it difficult for me to read and write: Reading & Blogging in the Time of COVID-19.

Many people are writing similar pieces about how the situation is affecting them. Here, from my local newspaper, is an article about what a couple of experts have to say about how different people handle stress differently, along with some advice on how to care for ourselves as well as others.

The Tonic of Gardening in Quarantine

Just as people experience stress differently, they also find comfort differently. One activity often recommended is gardening. Here, in The New Yorker, Charlotte Mendelson explains how gardening is helping her cope in these unsettled times:

What all gardeners know, and the rest of you may discover, is that if you have even the smallest space, a pot on a window ledge, a front step, a wee yard, there is no balm to the soul greater than planting seeds. Watching them begin to sprout, checking far too often as the firm yet fragile stems break free of the soil, the dry seed-case caps, is a joy so strong you can feel it in your knuckles.

purple iris
purple iris

6 Indoor Gardening Projects for *Any* Size of Home

And for those who live in small spaces, here are some indoor gardening suggestions. The one I found most intriguing was a link to an article about how to create a vertical garden (not that I’m actually going to do it, mind you, but the thought piques my imagination).

Need to Cure of Case of Cabin Fever? Try Backyard Birding

Maybe you prefer birdwatching to gardening. (I know I do.) According to this article, “A 2017 study from the University of Exeter found that being able to see birds around your home may reduce levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.”

birds: northern flickers
northern flickers

The article itself is short, but it contains links to several related resources.

Dispatches from a Pandemic

This is a portal to several articles by writers for The New Yorker. There’s a wide variety of topics here, so you’re bound to find something to interest or inform you.

A Force Outside Myself: Citizens Over 60 Speak

I learned about this site from Ron Charles’s weekly Book Club newsletter for the Washington Post. Here’s what Charles has to say about this site:

I’ve been alarmed by some of the “reassuring” rhetoric around the Covid-19 crisis. The worst example came last month from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who sounded like he might push grandparents into a pit if it meant the rest of us could start shopping sooner. . . . In response, McSweeney’s has started publishing a series of short statements called “A Force Outside Myself: Citizens Over 60 Speak” . . . Their pieces are haunting, sobering, sometimes witty, always achingly sincere.

Fran Lebowitz Is Never Leaving New York

“The writer on growing old, life in quarantine, and the sadness of seeing her city shut down.”

Here’s an interview with Fran Lebowitz, “one of New York’s most distinctive personalities.”

At age 69, she’s in the high-risk category of people over 60. When asked how she feels about being in this category, she replied:

One thing I’ve absolutely noticed about myself, and which should be true as you get older: it’s not that you want to die, but you are less attached to life. You’re less panicked. I’m not very panicked by this, and I have friends who are. They’re 


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Night’s Super Moon

Here’s my husband’s photo of last night’s super moon over Tacoma, WA, USA.

We often can’t see the full moon here because of cloud cover, but the last couple of nights have been super clear for the super moon.

Here’s a photo I took with my phone to give you an idea of how big the moon looked. Of course the resolution of the moon itself is horrible, but you can see the moon in context.

Full moon over building, Tacoma, WA, USA, April 7, 2020

Here’s an explanation of the super pink moon from The Seattle Times.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

It’s nearly impossible to avoid COVID-19 new entirely, and I apologize for that.

I hope you are all staying inside as much as possible, remaining safe and healthy, and WASHING YOUR HANDS.

My husband got all dolled up this morning for a run to the grocery store:

My husband masked up for a trip to the grocery store

Why Life During a Pandemic Feels So Surreal

“You’ve heard your friends and family say it: just surreal. We in the media call it surreal all the time. Because it is surreal, “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream,” so says Merriam-Webster.

It’s good to have our feelings validated in these unusual—well, yes, surreal—times. Even though “study of the surreal isn’t exactly an official field in psychology,” here are some psychological explorations into what we’re all feeling right now and why. 

Here’s a good take-away from the article: “Psychologists say that to combat our aimlessness, we need continuity, and luckily that’s one of the few things you can easily create for yourself right now.”

20 Surprising Facts About King Tutankhamun

Unless you’re an Egyptologist, you can probably, like me, learn something new about a subject other than COVID-19 from this article.

How Epidemics of the Past Changed the Way Americans Lived

“Past public health crises inspired innovations in infrastructure, education, fundraising and civic debate.”

I’m finding it hard right now to find the silver lining in the current pandemic cloud, but here’s some encouraging discussion from Smithsonian Magazine:

the effects of epidemics extend beyond the moments in which they occur. Disease can permanently alter society, and often for the best by creating better practices and habits. Crisis sparks action and response. Many infrastructure improvements and healthy behaviors we consider normal today are the result of past health campaigns that responded to devastating outbreaks.

The Best Books for Distancing Yourself From Reality Right Now

“If you’re looking for an escape from your Coronavirus quarantine pick up one of these and transport yourself to rural Maine or to Mars.”

Esquire offers some reading suggestions to help pass the time in isolation: “From speculative and historical fiction to soulful works of nonfiction, these transporting books are the best medicine for strange times.”

How to Digitize Your Most Important Documents

“If you have some spare time at home and want a productive project, consider creating a digital archive of your personal papers.”

Or, if you’d prefer a more hands-on activity than reading, New York Times tech writer  J. D. Biersdorfer tells you how to scan personal papers to create a digital archive: “ even if you don’t have a document scanner, you can create your personal archive with a smartphone, a few apps and a bit of time.”

Stop Trying to Be Productive

Now that we’re all living even more online than before, our world is saturated with articles (like the ones included here) about how to spend fruitfully all this enormous amount of time now on our hands. “This urge to overachieve, even in times of global crisis, is reflective of America’s always-on work culture,” writes Taylor Lorenz.

But it’s important to remember that the current situation is not normal. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed and perhaps even a little disconnected. If some of the recommended activities can help you stay occupied and get through this, fine. But if the seemingly endless urge to be productive just makes you feel even worse, that’s OK, too. 

For the first couple of weeks of self-isolation, I, an introvert who likes nothing more than curling up with a good book, couldn’t read a novel or write anything more than the occasional Facebook post. For the past two weeks I have been able to read novels, but I’m still having trouble concentrating long enough to write anything of substance, such as book reviews. 

Everyone will react to this surreal (there’s that word again) time differently. What’s important is to find something that works to soothe you. During times of stress such as these, different people find solace in very different activities: cleaning, cooking, baking, rearranging the furniture, reading, writing, gardening, meditating.

You don’t have to be productive in terms of making finished projects you can check off on a list. All you have to do is get through this. Whatever works for you is what you should do.

As long as you remember to also wash your hands.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and, if you’re so inclined, let us know in the comments how you’re coping.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Does Retirement Hurt, Rather Than Help, the Aging Process?

This excerpt from Extra Time: 10 Lessons for an Ageing World by Camilla Cavendish examines the Silver Centre movement in Japan. “By providing part-time work, the Silver Centre movement restores purpose and connection to older citizens.”

Life expectancy over 65: big differences based on geography, urban vs. rural

Seniors in urban areas and on the coasts are surviving longer than their counterparts in rural areas and the nation’s interior, according to an analysis from Samuel Preston of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s leading demographers.

The study found that these “differences emerged around 1999-2000 and widened from 2000 to 2016.” 

The real Charles Lindbergh behind ‘The Plot Against America’

HBO is currently airing a new series, The Plot Against America, based on a 2004 novel by Philip Roth. In this fictional version of history, Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 election.

In addition to being a famous aviator, the first airplane pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Lindbergh “also had an interest in politics, campaigning for the United States to stay out of the war and supporting the anti-Semitic, pro-fascist America First Committee.” 

This article takes a look at what might have happened if Charles Lindbergh had become President in 1941.

ON THE MURDER OF WESLEY EVEREST AND THE BLOODY HISTORY OF THE LOGGING INDUSTRY

This article hits two of my personal sweet spots: crime fiction and Washington State focus.

Melissa Anne Peterson explains how she used her family’s history in the logging industry to write her debut novel, Vera Violet. The book tells the story of “a crime America couldn’t admit to, a crime based in economics.”

Convincing Boomer Parents to Take the Coronavirus Seriously

I was quite surprised to come across this article in which Michael Schulman describes the difficult time he had convincing his mother and father (ages 68 and 74, respectively) to take the coronavirus seriously and follow guidelines for self-isolation and social distancing. Schulman adds that, as he spoke to his peers, “I realized that I wasn’t alone. A lot of us have spent the past week pleading with our baby-boomer parents to cook at home, rip up the cruise tickets, and step away from the grandchildren.”

I live in an independent-living unit in a retirement community in Tacoma, WA, about 30 miles south of Seattle. It was right around here that the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. appeared. No one I know took much convincing about the need to follow recommended guidelines. My husband and I are 70 and 71, and most people who live in our community are older than we are, many in their 90s.

Also, the stories I had been hearing about people not following the emergency guidelines involved young people flocking to southern beaches for spring break. I believed these stories because young people are notorious for thinking that they are invincible and invulnerable.

While we baby boomers weren’t around during the flu epidemics of 1918, we did live through the polio epidemic of the 1950s. Most of us remember being lined up in the corridor at school while the school nurse went down the line giving each of us a polio shot. We also remember not being allowed to go swimming because that’s how (we were told) the virus spread. And we remember seeing pictures of large rooms filled with giant metal tubes known as iron lungs, the ventilators that kept polio-paralyzed patients alive.

So yes, I’m surprised by this report. Perhaps Schulman’s experience and mine are so different because he’s been hanging with his demographic (children of baby boomers) and I’ve been hanging around, albeit at a socially safe distance, with mine (baby boomers themselves). 

How about you?

What has been your experience with handling this new reality?


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

A Washington author renovates a Port Townsend house, and her life

This is “an edited excerpt from the new book, “House Lessons: Renovating a Life,” © 2020 by Erica Bauermeister.” 

“Because here’s the thing — we aren’t looking for a house; we’re looking for a home. A house can supply you with a place to sleep, to cook, to store your car. A home fits your soul.”

This is a local-interest for me, as Port Townsend is a vibrant arts community within an easy day trip from where I live. And the book is a memoir about the search for community, or home, as much as the story of the remodeling of a historic old house.

12 Reasons Why The World Wouldn’t Be The Same Without Washington

And OK, this one is pretty frivolous, but I’m still in love with my new home state.

ON THE JOY OF MAKING A SCRAPBOOK

About 20 years ago I went through a prolonged period of scrapbooking. It was relaxing and fulfilled my need for a creative outlet. It also put important photos into an accessible format. It’s so easy, and often comforting, to pull a scrapbook off the shelf and dust off old memories.

And I was reminded recently of the advantage of scrapbooks when my external hard drive labeled “Mary’s Photos” went off line. The device is apparently dead, and unless I can find some techie service to try to rescue its contents, some of my photos will be lost forever.

Sebastian Barry: ‘Family stories mean a whole different thing in your 60s’

When art imitates life:

The story behind all his novels – beginning with The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty in 1998 and including Annie Dunne, the Booker-shortlisted A Long Long Way and The Secret Scripture – is one of the deliberate and careful construction of a family that would at some level stand “in place of the kind of disaster of the family I was accidentally part of originally. I mean utter disaster.”

How to reduce ‘attention residue’ in your life

“Mundane chores take up our time and headspace. Bundling life admin into specific time slots – known as GYLIO – might be the ultimate act of self-care.”

A discussion of GYLIO (get your life in order) practices being developed in some Australian universities: “Essentially, GYLIO is about bundling tasks into a single morning, day or week in order to clear your mind; learning to prioritise and find focus so that you can enjoy guilt-free downtime.”

Madeleine Dore explains her experiment with this approach to life’s inevitable chaos.

Stop Telling Older Women to Step Aside

Leslie Bennetts reviews and discusses the book In Our Prime: How Older Women Are Reinventing the Road Ahead by Susan J. Douglas. Bennetts calls the book:

a clarion call for older women to “rip off the invisibility cloak” and reinvent the world they live in so it stops cheating them. Aside from the title, it’s hard to find anything here that a fair-minded reader could dispute — and also impossible to deny the political, economic and cultural potential of what Douglas describes as an incipient demographic revolution, albeit one that is “underappreciated” and “undercovered” to date.

Bennetts writes that Douglas’s book performs a valuable service in describing how and why change must occur in a society that continues to ignore the needs and underestimate the value of older women.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Some of the Less Obvious Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic

We’re all a bit frazzled about the current health pandemic and the mammoth amount of information out there for us to process. Like you, I’m concerned about the health of my friends and neighbors here in the retirement community where I live, as we’re all over 60.

But once we get past all the health information and necessary decisions, there are some less obvious effects of everything that’s happening that I hadn’t originally considered. 

Chief among those effects is ALL THIS TIME of hunkering down at home in self-isolation. As an introvert who likes nothing better than curling up with a good book, I feel I’ve been preparing for this situation my whole life. But some others are already exhibiting signs of cabin fever after only one week of a three-week-or-longer period of “social distancing.”

Right now my biggest annoyance is bandwidth strain caused by all the students and employees working remotely. But if you need something to distract you, here, to ease that discomfiture, are 10 interesting articles I’ve collected over the past week. 

‘An Eviction Notice’: Chaos After Colleges Tell Students to Stay Away

Colleges and universities were some of the first educational institutions to cancel classes to minimize individuals’ potential exposure to the virus. But, at least initially, those plans caused problems for students unsure of whether they’d return to campus later to finish the semester. Especially hard hit were students with financial aid who didn’t have extra funds to cover out-of-dorm living or storage expenses or travel expenses for an extra trip home. Also hard hit were foreign students, especially those whose visas require in-person rather than online classes. This article from The New York Times reports how some of these problems worked out.

A Week at the Epicenter of America’s Coronavirus Crisis

Seattle-based writer James Ross Gardner provided this look at the first week of response to the influx of the virus in my local area, around Seattle, WA. 

As coronavirus spreads in 2020, here’s how Seattle handled the 1918 flu that killed 1,513 people

his story from The Seattle Times provides informative context for the current situation. It’s likely that other papers, at least those in large metropolitan areas, produced similar local-interest pieces, but I’m linking to this one because it’s in my local area.

The 25 Best HBO Series of All Time, Ranked

If you subscribe to HBO and are stuck at home wondering what to do, Esquire magazine offers this ranking of the best HBO series you might want to catch up on.

Some streaming television services (such as Hulu and, I think, Netflix) offer free one-week trial subscriptions. Now might be a good time to sign up, but don’t forget to cancel after the trial time is up if you don’t want to continue.

Your coronavirus reading list: reader suggestions to bring joy in difficult times

The U.K.’s Guardian has some reading suggestions to help fill the time. Even though many libraries are now closed, check your local library’s website to see what ebooks or audiobooks are available for download.

kid with stack of books

On Pandemic and Literature

Ed Simon in The Millions provides this historical look at literary representations of the 14th century’s Black Death and other pandemics, both real and imaginary.

The Infectious Pestilence Did Reign

In a similar vein, Ben Cohen explains in Slate “How the plague ravaged William Shakespeare’s world and inspired his work, from Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth.”

The Best Books to Elevate Your Reading List in 2020

Though not created specifically for the purpose, these recommendations for the year’s best books so far from Esquire offer some suggestions to supplement the Guardian list.

Coronavirus cleaning tips for your iPhone, Android

Originally from the Chicago Tribune, this article provides instruction on how to clean something we all probably touch more often than our faces, our phones.

In a Pandemic, Musicians Play in Empty Halls for Audiences Online

Anthony Tommasini, chief classical music critic for The New York Times, describes an eerie experience:

I was watching on my computer at home on Thursday afternoon as the Berlin Philharmonic finished a streamed performance of Luciano Berio’s “Sinfonia.” The cameras panned over rows of seats. No one was there. The musicians, dressed in their black-tie best, seemed not to know quite what to do. Finally, they began greeting each other cheerily, then stood and faced the empty hall.

It was one of the most disorienting yet profound views of a performance I’ve ever had.

Tommasini writes that his local (New York City) public radio station provided a listing of available streaming classical music resources, so you could check to see if your local station is doing the same. He also includes a few direct links in the article.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown