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

“Coronavirus is mysteriously sparing kids and killing the elderly”

I usually try to avoid current news stories, but this article from the Washington Post caught my eye:

Obviously, this one article does not tell the whole story about this medical emergency, and you should read about COVID-19 as widely as you need to. But the emphasis here seems relevant to those of us on the upper end of the age spectrum.

I feel particularly fortunate that retirement allows my husband and me to stay safely ensconced at home most days. We live in the independent-living section of a retirement community, and all meetings and social activities here have been canceled until further notice. I’ll be sorry to miss book group in a couple of weeks (for discussion of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh), but that’s a small price to pay. Grocery shopping is the only reason for which we venture out, and we are doing that as infrequently as possible.

Please, everyone, take care of yourselves and each other.

(Feature image by Mircea Iancu from Pixabay )

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Snow Day!

about 1/2 inch of snow, Tacoma, Washington, USA, January 14, 2020

Well, not really, but this is about as close as we usually come here in Tacoma, WA  USA to a snow day. Although snowfalls just a bit east of us, on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, can be epic, here at sea level we seldom get any more than this.

However, last year (I think it was in January) our area had something like 7 inches of snow all at once. We were traveling in the balmy Caribbean and missed it. In fact, we traveled in the early winter of both 2018 and 2019, so it’s been a while since we’ve seen snow of any amount—except on top of mountains way off in the distance.

We grew up in New England, so the sight of a real snow accumulation still warms my heart. One of the benefits of being retired is that, when risky weather strikes, we can just stay inside and admire it instead of having to brave it.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown