How to track your mail-in ballot

In 44 states and the District of Columbia, voters can keep an eye on where their ballot is through systems that track when a ballot is requested by, sent to and returned by the voter.

Source: How to track your mail-in ballot

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

John Lennon 80th Birthday Anniversary Essay – Remembering the Beatle, Abuse and All, 40 Years After His Death

How exactly do we remember John Lennon? In recent years, the legacy of this revered icon has gotten more complicated, and more problematic. This season will be presenting us with multiple opportunities to assess his current reputation: October 9 would have been his 80th birthday, with a tragic twin anniversary just a few months away, as this December 8 will mark forty years since Lennon’s murder. Alan Light unpacks Lennon’s legacy, which has only become as complex as it is staggering.

Source: John Lennon 80th Birthday Anniversary Essay – Remembering the Beatle, Abuse and All, 40 Years After His Death

Jesmyn Ward on Her Husband’s Death and Grief During COVID-19 | Vanity Fair

Please read this piece by award-winning novelist Jesmyn Ward.

Source: Jesmyn Ward on Her Husband’s Death and Grief During COVID-19 | Vanity Fair

Last Week’s Links

The Literature of Elder Care is Often About Shifting Power Dynamics

As people live longer, adults frequently face “elder-care responsibility.” 

“An important facet of these relationships, which often appears in fiction and nonfiction works, is the shifting power dynamic between older adults and their adult children, particularly in the United States and other predominately white Western countries,” writes Ellyn A. Lem. In this article Lem looks at how these relationships play out in literature by Shakespeare, A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, Let Me Be Frank with You by Richard Ford, Days of Awe by Lauren Fox, several works of nonfiction, and several films. 

How to Embrace Uncertainty, Even If You’re Not Sure What Will Happen Next

Not only are we dealing with our usual sources of uncertainty, but then there’s the whole global pandemic, where we’re trying to stop the spread of a virus we have never seen in humans before. We’re not just in uncharted waters—we’re scrambling to stay afloat. As it turns out, there are ways to more effectively deal with feelings of uncertainty, and embrace what’s next with some level of confidence (even if it’s very low).

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko, a bioethicist and adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University, offers “two strategies for handling uncertainty in a healthier way.”

The Museum Where Racist and Oppressive Statues Go to Die

“Germany has found ways to display problematic monuments without elevating them.” Daniela Blei reports on the job of the Citadel Museum in the Berlin suburb of Spandau, which “aims to contextualize the past, putting uncomfortable realities on display in productive, educational, and sometimes challenging ways.”

Whether you are a night owl or early bird may affect how much activity you get during the day

I am definitely a night owl. When I was in college, I discovered that I worked better if I stayed up studying until about 2:00 AM, then slept until about 10:00. Because I went to a huge university with lots of class offerings, I was able to take almost all my classes between 1:00 and 6:00 PM. Unfortunately, after graduating from college, I realized that the rest of the world doesn’t work that way. Very few workplaces accommodate a night owl’s preferred schedule, and once I had a child who had to be gotten up and out for school, any possibility of catering to my own schedule went out the front door.

Because of my own experience, I’ve been interested in relatively recent research into the differences between early birds and night owls. This article reports on various chronotypes, the “master clocks” in our brains that determine how our bodies respond to the time of day. Recent research out of Finland found that “among both men and women, the morning types and many of the day types moved significantly more than the evening types, even when the researchers controlled for people’s health, professions, socioeconomic status and other factors.”

The conclusion: “Overall, the study’s findings suggest that late risers may want to monitor how frequently they move.”

How to not fear your death

Sam Dresser suggests “several philosophically inspired reasons not to be fearful of your own death.” 

In addition to the philosophical insights offered her, the article includes some links and references to use if you want to dig more deeply into this topic. 

One Twitter Account’s Quest to Proofread The New York Times

The former English teacher and copy editor in me could not resist this article. Overall, not just in particular news sources, I’ve been appalled by all the examples I constantly find in publications (both print and digital) that make me groan, “If only you’d had a copy editor take a look at this . . . .”

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

How Colin Kaepernick inspired activism, awareness and Seattle athletes to speak out against racial injustice | The Seattle Times

Four years after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest racial injustice, more athletes — including Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe and Russell Wilson — are speaking out themselves.

Source: How Colin Kaepernick inspired activism, awareness and Seattle athletes to speak out against racial injustice | The Seattle Times

Birthday at the Zoo

My husband and daughter took me to the zoo yesterday for my birthday. It was the first time we had seen our daughter in 6 months. I felt especially celebrated because Mount Rainier came out splendidly.

The zoo is now offering timed entrance tickets and has done a good job of adapting to necessary COVID-19 restrictions.

We had a beautiful day for our visit: sunny and clear but not too hot. We got a good look at two of the zoo’s tigers, one lolling in the shade and the other enjoying a catnap in the sun.

One of the zoo’s biggest attractions right now is Trebek, the muskox calf born last spring. He’s named after Alex Trebek, host of the TV game show Jeopardy, whose favorite animal is the muskox.

You can read more about Trebek and his mother, Charlotte, here.

This was my first visit to the new Pacific Seas Aquarium, which showcases sea animals from the Pacific Ocean area. This building opened late last summer.

I was happy to see lots of families with children enjoying the zoo along with us. Everyone wore their masks and did a good job of maintaining appropriate distancing.

walrus statue wearing mast at zoo entrance

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Doesn’t this sound like a blog title?

While walking in the park this afternoon, we saw this cargo ship (probably used for transporting grain) waiting out on Puget Sound.

Doesn’t this sound like a nifty title for a blog written by someone in her golden years?

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