Three Things Thursday

Thanks to Natalie for hosting Three Things Thursday, “three things big or small, that have made you happy this week.”

Three Things Thursday

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

One

We spent 40+ years in the midwest, where dramatic thunder and lightning storms are a way of life. When we moved to the Pacific Northwest four years ago, I was surprised to learn that thunder storms are so rare here that they draw discussion.

That’s why, at a recent dinner party at a neighbor’s house, everyone went into the kitchen to see this view:

Double Rainbow at Franke Tobey Jones

The double rainbow was an added benefit that well complemented the magnificent sky.

Thanks to my husband for sharing his photo.

Two

Every summer our retirement community holds a dinner party in the resident gardens at which awards are presented for the best hats. Here are this year’s first- and second-place winners in the women’s category:

Second- (left) and first-place women's hats

That’s Sharon on the left, in her second-place hat featuring a gardening theme. I like to think she’s planting those seeds to feed the birds on Pat’s (right) impressive first-place aviary.

Well done, ladies!

Three

Last week I mentioned that I was reading this book:

And what a dramatic roller coaster of an experience that reading was!

I don’t give out many five-star ratings, but this book certainly earned one. The first few pages aren’t exactly a suck-you-right-in opening, but as soon as the meat of the story began, I couldn’t put this book down.

I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but this novel does exactly what good science fiction should do: It uses science (in this case, a problem from quantum mechanics) to explore the deepest questions of human existence. And don’t be scared off by the phrase quantum physics. The novel gives an excellent visual explanation of the situation at its heart on page 113.

This would be a good book to read on a long airplane flight, but, like me, you can read it right in your own living room. But do read it. I’d love to hear if it mesmerized you as much as it did me.

I hope everyone has a good week!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday: I Read!

Thanks to Natalie for hosting Three Things Thursday, “three things big or small, that have made you happy this week.”

Three Things Thursday

I didn’t plan things this way, but when I looked at the photos on my phone I found that the last three I took involve reading. So here we go!

One

An online book group that I participate in recently shared photos of their TBR (to be read) shelves. Here’s my photo, although I have other books scattered across multiple other shelves:

tbr shelves

Two

My newest purple T-shirt arrived recently:

i read shirt

Three

I don’t get sick very often, so when I do I tend to wallow in my misery. Yesterday I started getting a nasty cold, so I decided to be totally self-indulgent and allow myself to curl up under a light blanket with a good book. After a couple of people commented on my TBR shelf photo (above), I chose this one to curl up with:

dark matter

I hope everyone has a good week. I look forward to reading your Three Things Thursday posts.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday

Thanks to Nerd in the Brain for the weekly challenge Three Things Thursday:

three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy

Three Things Thursday

Here are three things that warmed my heart recently.

(1) A new-to-Seattle reading list: the fiction essentials

We moved to Tacoma, about 25 miles south of Seattle, just a little under four years ago. I always love finding out new things about where we now live, and I also love reading, especially fiction. So I was pleased to come across this list of books that will introduce me to the region. There are enough suggestions here to keep me happily reading throughout 2017.

(2) Creative Colloquy: A Literary Site

I’m determined that 2017 will be my year to work on my personal writing. This site was a real find:

Creative Colloquy was founded in February of 2014 with the intention of fostering relationships built upon the mutual admiration of the written word and providing a platform to highlight literary talent in the South Sound.

We do this in a number of ways including the online literary site focused on short fiction, novel excerpts and essays but also including poetry and other prose penned by writers who reside in the Pacific Northwest.

South Sound refers to the area around Puget Sound south of Seattle. This organization holds monthly events in Tacoma. I had been looking for a local writers group. Perhaps this will be it.

(3) Inside Bright Lights, the Final Curtain for Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher

Who wasn’t touched by the recent deaths, just one day apart, of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds? HBO had completed a documentary on the famous duo scheduled to premier later in the year, but the network moved the date up to January 7.

In this article, “Documentarians Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens talk their moving documentary, which gains a bittersweet new meaning in the wake of Reynolds’s and Fisher’s unexpected deaths.”

I hope all of you will have a fantastic week.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Recent Articles on Aging, Reading, and Life in the Pacific Northwest

Why you should care about this week’s giant earthquake drill

About 20,000 people are testing the region’s readiness for disaster this week, preparing for an earthquake-and-tsunami one-two punch that could devastate the Pacific Northwest should a megaquake rip along the 600-mile-long offshore fault known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The “Cascadia Rising” exercise — the largest of its kind ever in the Pacific Northwest — tests emergency responses across the region.

The potential for destruction here is staggering. Here’s just one statistic:

FEMA projects that about 9,400 people in Washington would die in the event of a megaquake and tsunami.

Is It Harder to Be Transported By a Book As You Get Older?

I’ve always loved losing myself in a great work of fiction, and the question of whether that pleasure has diminished as I’ve gotten older never even crossed my mind.

Bookends is a recurring feature in the New York Times:

In Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Francine Prose and Benjamin Moser discuss the difficulties of getting lost in reading after a certain age.

Francine Prose writes that she no longer gets immersed in books as she did as a child:

A neurologist friend says that adults are likelier than children to cross-­reference when they read, to compare people and things in a book with people and things they know, which is why an adult reading experience may be a “dip” compared with the child’s “soak.” I enjoy reading a book written centuries ago and discovering a character almost exactly like someone I know. And so I am cross-referencing: My attention is divided between the fictional character and the real-life counterpart.

She admits, however, that “Despite everything, immersion still happens”:

I’m more surprised and grateful now to be transported by words on a page from one world to another. Perhaps because, as grown-ups, we value what is harder won.

Benjamin Moser, on the other hand, believes that becoming a writer ruined him for the experience of getting lost in a book:

As I’ve grown older, I’ve reluctantly discovered that I don’t, in fact, really want to read more books. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to read. I find, though, I want to read the same books.

What those books have in common, he says is this:

they do not try to drag me into a narrative. I can open them to any page and read words — as many or as few as I like — that clean my brain rather than stuff it. The longer I write, the more I realize that stories are the last thing I need. What is missing are not stories but the words to tell them.

Libraries in care homes can improve residents’ mood and memory

Norman Miller describes how reading groups can serve older adults:

A growing number of care homes are discovering that libraries and reading groups can transform the lives of their residents, including those with dementia.

Research published by the centre for research into reading, literature and society (Crils) at the University of Liverpool has found that while any reading helps sharpen the minds of older people, shared reading in groups offers particular benefits. Almost 90% of participants reported uplifted mood, better concentration and better long- and short-term memory.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Thriving at Age 70 and Beyond

From Jane E. Brody, long-time health writer for the New York Times:

A recently published book, “70 Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade,” inspired me to take a closer look at how I’m doing as I approach 75 and how I might make the most of the years to come. It would be a good idea for women in my age cohort to do likewise. With a quarter of American women age 65 expected to live into their 90s, there could be quite a few years to think about.

About the book 70 Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade, Brody writes:

What are the most important issues facing these women as they age, and how might society help ease their way into the future? Leading topics the women chose to explore included work and retirement, ageism, coping with functional changes, caretaking, living arrangements, social connections, grandparenting and adjusting to loss and death.

Curtis Sittenfeld: Pride and Prejudice Then & Now

Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest book, Eligible, is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice.

While social rules have changed dramatically in the 200 years since the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s themes of love, wealth and class are still relevant. Women today can secure financial independence and enjoy intimate relationships without a marriage certificate. Yet societal pressures to marry and bear children persist. And so does the allure of “a single man in possession of a good fortune.”

Men Have Book Clubs, Too

Book clubs have a reputation as something women do together, but this article focuses on an all-male group in Marin County, CA:

The Man Book Club is going into its ninth year. It has 16 members, a number of whom are lawyers and engineers in their mid–50s. Each month, the host must prepare a meal appropriate to the book under discussion.

There’s also information on other all-male book groups around the country.

What You Really Lose When You Lose Perspective

Our perspective is how we perceive people, situations, ideas, etc. It’s informed by our personal experience, which makes it as unique as anything could be. Perspective shapes our life by affecting our choices. But the minute our minds become steeped in worry, perspective goes out of the window. We forget about our triumphs. We stop being optimistic as fear takes the wheel.

Sarah Newman explains how fear can cause us to lose sight of all the wisdom we’ve accrued over our lives.

Meg Rosoff on Coming of Age

Coming of age is such a common topic for fiction that this type of novel has its own name: Bildungsroman. These novels focus on the psychological growth of the main character from youth into adulthood.

Here novelist Meg Rosoff discusses these coming-of-age novels:

  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Henry IV Part I by Shakespeare
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Older women more likely to be overprescribed inappropriate drugs: Study

A recent research study from the University of British Columbia found that:

Older women are nearly 25 percent more likely than men to be over-prescribed or inappropriately prescribed drugs, with a new study pointing to social dynamics as the explanation for the discrepancy.

When authors’ prejudices ruin their books

This is a common question among avid readers: Should authors’ prejudices affect our reactions to their books?

In this article Imogen Russell Williams asks:

The unsavoury attitudes found in novels from writers such as GK Chesterton and Susan Coolidge have ruined some of the fiction I loved most as a child. But where do you draw the line when you return to tainted classics?

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Three Things Thursday

It’s time for this year’s final edition of Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

three-things-thursday-participant

A Three-Book Christmas

(1) The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

This is the latest novel in Donati’s Wilderness series. I haven’t read the previous books. What drew me to this one is that it’s the story of two female physicians, graduates of the Woman’s Medical School, in New York City in 1883. I wrote my dissertation on the autobiography of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States (1849), and the life stories of four other nineteenth-century female physicians.

I’m really looking forward to reading this one. Thanks, Kate!

(2) Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America by Roger Phillips

Since I love to photograph toadstools and other fungi, I figured I should spend some time learning about them. This book has more than 1,000 color photographs and teeny-tiny print. Boy, have I got a lot to learn!

Confession: I bought this one for myself.

(3) Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

I loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love. The description of this book says that Gilbert here teaches us “to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering” in order to realize our creativity. “She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives.”

I can use all the help I can get in this area of life, which is why I gifted myself with this book for Christmas.

scroll divider

It’s New Year’s Eve. Be safe out there, everyone.

And Happy 2016 to all of you!

My Late-Life Journey: Part 1

Today’s Daily Post from WordPress asks us to describe a journey, “whether a physical trip you took, or an emotional one.”

Here, then, is Part 1 of the late-life journey that lead me to where I am today.

Quite a few years ago I went through a difficult time when my two closest friends died of cancer just 10 months apart. I was shocked and numbed. These deaths coincided with my own entry into midlife—-a time when women characteristically begin to redefine themselves and their purpose in life. Many people say, at a time like this, that they’re looking for answers, but I wasn’t at that point yet: I began by looking for the questions I needed to ask. In my search I turned to the two activities that have always informed my life: reading and writing.

I’ve always read on a wide range of subjects, but in my emotional and spiritual disarray I cast my reading net even more widely than usual. I consumed books on philosophy, spirituality, psychology, and feminism. Each book lead to many others; synchronicity kicked it, as Jung promises it will, once I began to pay attention. Of all the books I read during this period, two were pivotal:

1. Carolyn Heilbrun’s Writing a Woman’s Life. Heilbrun asserts that throughout history anyone who wrote about women’s lives shaped the stories to conform to societal expectations of how women should be. She calls for new ways of writing women’s autobiography and biography: “For women who have awakened to new possibilities in middle age, or who were born into the current women’s movement and have escaped the usual rhythms of the once traditional female existence, the last third of life is likely to require new attitudes and new courage” (p. 124). As older women, Heilbrun says, “we should make use of our security, our seniority, to take risks, to make noise, to be courageous, to become unpopular” (p. 131).

2. Daniel Taylor’s Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories. Taylor stresses that we shape the stories we tell about ourselves, but those stories in turn shape who we are. Taylor’s most compelling point is that, if the story we’re living is broken, we can fix it by retelling it: “When we envision our lives differently, we are capable of being different” (p. 127). This ability applies not only to individuals but to whole societies as well.

My reading lead me to explore narrative psychology, narrative therapy, and the narrative study of lives movement.

writingAnd through all this exploration, I wrote: pages and pages of journal entries, unsent letters to my dead friends, real letters gratefully acknowledging my living friends, fist-shaking diatribes hurled at The Universe, contemplative musings, questions—-and, finally, some tentative answers—-addressed to myself. For me, writing has always been a crucial part of the learning process. Ideas arrive in large format; writing—-the process of putting those ideas into words and making the words fit together—-is the way I refine ideas, and clarify and discover meaning. Along with reading, writing is a necessary component of thinking.

In a prime example of synchronicity, during this period I discovered Story Circle Network, an organization headquartered in Austin, Texas, that focuses on encouraging and enabling women to write the stories of their lives. Shortly thereafter I attended a Story Circle Network weekend retreat with about 30 other women. As we all read, wrote, and talked together, many women experienced emotional breakthroughs and were able to write and talk about aspects of their lives that they had never revealed to anyone before. That retreat was an epiphany for me, and during my two-day drive home I came to realize that everything I had been reading fit together and that I had finally discovered the purpose I’d been searching for.

That five-year journey was an intellectually and spiritually rejuvenating time for me. It caused me to apply to the doctoral program in humanistic psychology offered by Saybrook University, which back then was known as Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center. I planned my instructional program to learn how to work with people, particularly women, in using writing as a means of telling their life stories, either as a record for posterity or as a means of self-discovery and personal growth.

And the journey continues…