Last Week’s Links

For some of us, returning to pre-COVID life is turning out to be harder than we expected

As an introvert, I had no trouble accepting the enforced isolation caused by COVID-19 and am beginning to regret that I’ll gradually be expected to get back out and socialize. But this article examines an aspect of “returning to normal” that I had not thought much about: fear that discontinuing the measures we’ve taken to stay healthy will allow us to get sick.

Some of us have jumped at the chance to see movies in actual theaters, grab a drink at a bar, cheer the Dodgers or attend a small dinner party with fully immunized friends. Yet for others — even the fully vaccinated — the fear that any relaxation of safety protocols will lead to another surge is hard to shake.

Turns Out It’s Pretty Good: Aging

Xochitl Gonzalez writes:

in my experience — I’m in my 40s — aging has not only been dynamic, it’s turned out to be pretty damn good. Now, I’m not talking about aging in terms of night creams and micro-needling. I’m talking about the larger sense, about having more life to live and a joy about living it.

She explains that earlier in her life, she had developed her concept of aging from hearing the lamentations of her grandmother, who had decided that she was old at age 40. But at age 35 Gonzalez realized that her grandmother’s notion of old came from an earlier time, when women’s lives progressed through the various stages society expected of them—getting married and having children—at the pace society expected.

I must admit that I find the notion of someone in her forties discussing being old quite whimsical, but she makes a good point: Since that realization, “Time, going forward, has been marked less by what happened in my past than what might be possible in my future.”

Sleeping Too Little in Middle Age May Increase Dementia Risk, Study Finds

This article on new research suggesting “that people who don’t get enough sleep in their 50s and 60s may be more likely to develop dementia when they are older.”

We should always take research results with a grain of salt and, especially, remember that correlation of two conditions does not prove causation. And this article does point out the limitations of the study. Nonetheless, if inadequate sleep is something we can control, we might do well to correct the situation sooner rather than later. 

The Brain ‘Rotates’ Memories to Save Them From New Sensations

“Our ability to make sense of our surroundings, to learn, to act, and to think all depend on constant, nimble interactions between perception and memory.”

Here’s a report on new research designed to “figure out how the brain prevents new information and short-term memories from blurring together.” 

Historical looks at a previous pandemic and fatal police shootings show familiar inequities

This article is a portrait of Nancy Bristow, history department chair at the University of Puget Sound here in my hometown of Tacoma, WA. One of the sources writer Tom Keogh looks at is Bristow’s 2012 book American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the Influenza Epidemic, an account of the 1918-1919 Spanish flu epidemic:

She gives extensive consideration in her work to a subject that has also recently preoccupied the United States during our current COVID-19 pandemic: inequities in how medical treatment has been allocated to people of different classes, color and political power.

But Keogh focuses on Bristow’s 2020 book Steeped in the Blood of Racism: Black Power, Law and Order, and the 1970 Shootings at Jackson State College. Bristow has been teaching African American history for 30 years. About this recent book she says:

“I came to the Jackson story because I’ve been teaching African American history for three decades,” says Bristow. “One of the through lines when you teach a survey of African American history is the persistence of violence. It’s there in slavery, Reconstruction, post-Reconstruction. It continues on up to the present.”

In that book, about a shooting at Jackson State that killed two young Black men and wounded 12 other people, she examines how authorities used rhetoric to excuse violence.

Top tips for older writers who want to write a memoir

“As an older adult, you have a wealth of wisdom and memories to share with the world – but sometimes fear can get in the way of putting yourself on the page. These tried-and-true tips will help you get started.”

I got started studying life writing by working with older adults interested in writing down their life stories and memories for their families. In this article from The Writer Dani Burlison offers advice on how to get started accessing your memories, finding your theme, making your life stories interesting to other people, and finding your voice.

This article is spread over three web pages, so be sure to click on the numbers at the bottom of pages 1 and 2.

I would add to the information Burlison offers the request that you not get too wrapped up in finding an overarching theme for your recollections. It’s enough to write about your memories of events and important people in your life without connecting them with a theme. 

And don’t fuss too much over your writing style. Your family will cherish a collection of self-contained stories written in your usual, conversational voice.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

A Visit to the Library! And a Restaurant!

On Monday I saw an announcement in our local paper that two branches of the Tacoma Public Library would be opening for timed-entry, in-person browsing beginning the next day. One of those two is a local library for us, so this was a not-to-be-missed opportunity.

A quick click to the library web site revealed that there will be four different times each day: noon, 1:00, 5:00, and 6:00, each lasting for 45 minutes. By the time I got there, the first two time periods for Tuesday were already filled, so I signed us up for 5:00. 

Yesterday, I was twitching with excitement by the time we got to the library. When they opened the door and I walked through, my eyes filled with tears. I immediately went for the new fiction section, where only a few books remained (and none of those were titles that I at all recognized). This was somewhat disappointing, but, hey, we were AT THE LIBRARY!

I had forgotten how small this library branch is, but, hey, we were AT THE LIBRARY! So I soldiered on. In the children’s section I found The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. And in the large print section stood a copy of Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman. 

2 books: The Island of the Blue Dolphins and Something in the Water

I hadn’t planned to spend the rest of my reading time this month with these two books, but, hey, they are actual library books checked out AT THE LIBRARY. So there we are. This whole experience didn’t require anywhere near 45 minutes.

Yesterday was a beautiful spring day here in the Pacific Northwest, so we got to see the trees in flower in the parking lot.

flowering trees in parking lot

Back in the car, my husband announced that he wanted to stop at Oddfellas, one of our favorite local eateries, for dinner on the way home. When I asked if he wanted to order online for pickup, he said no, that he wanted to go inside and sit down to eat—and drink, of course, because Oddfellas offers a large selection of draught beers.

Restaurants in our area are now allowed to open at 25% capacity. Odfellas is small. When we got there, the only other diners were a couple of women eating and chatting at a table along the back wall and a solitary man sitting at the bar. We took a booth well removed from them. While we were there, two or three other couples arrived. There was enough room for all of us to be more than appropriately socially distanced.

But, as much as I enjoyed my pizza, I also felt ambivalent. My husband and I both had our second dose of COVID vaccine more than two weeks ago, but I fear that if people start to mingle in public again too soon, there may be another upsurge in COVID-19 infections.

So we won’t be eating out routinely now, and we’re certainly not going to Disneyland any time soon. But for a couple of hours yesterday evening, I felt almost like a normal person again.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

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?

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

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

More Holiday Decorations

For the past two years we were traveling around holiday time and didn’t get to savor all the decorations around our home town. So this year I’m determined to focus on appreciating them. Please indulge me as I share some of them with you.

Here’s the tree outside the restaurant where we had lunch last week with Rudolph the Shark:

outdoor Christmas tree

Yesterday I had an appointment with the eye doctor and found this tree in the office waiting area:

Christmas tree

And the atrium lobby of the office building had room to present this big one:

Christmas tree

For a change of pace, here’s a candy sled we received from the staff:

Sled made from candy canes and other candy

I’m always amazed at how creative people can be. I never in a million years would have thought of using candy canes as sled runners, but of course they work absolutely perfectly. It’s almost as if candy canes were expressly created for this very purpose.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘Murder, She Wrote’ & Me

Crystal Arroyo writes in The New York Times that, as a child, she never understood the appeal the TV show Murder, She Wrote held for her mother. Then, as an adult, she discovered the series airing on Netflix and immediately became a superfan. “I soon recognized that the entire series, which aired for 12 seasons, was very forward-thinking, with episodes about abortion, women in male-dominated careers and prisoners’ rights.”

But here’s what she really appreciated about the series:

What really drew me to the show, however, was Jessica herself. Brilliantly embodied by Lansbury, she is a sassy, smart and funny older woman who — despite not knowing how to drive — is totally independent. As she travels the world, she seems as comfortable in Cairo as she does back home in Maine. While she has many admirers, she doesn’t have any interest in moving on from her dead husband Frank. She has no children. This is not as sad as it sounds; she’s genuinely happy with life.

Girl, You’re a Middle-Aged Woman Now

With tongue firmly in cheek, Wendi Aarons and KJ Dell’Antonia imagine some upcoming “original TV programs, books, and movies that offer new perspectives on what it means to be ‘a woman of a certain age.’” Examples include The Middle-Aged Woman on the Train, The Middle-Aged Woman with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Middle-Aged Woman.

Accept The Awkwardness: How To Make Friends (And Keep Them)

When we retired, we moved 2,000 miles away from where we had spent our entire adult lives. Making new friends (and nurturing older friendships) can be just as difficult for older adults as it is for the junior high student entering a new school after a relocation. Here, from NPR, are some suggestions from experts on how “to make new friends, as well as to take better care of the friendships you already have.”

Home health aides care for the elderly. Who will care for them?

Subtitle: “One of the fastest-growing jobs in America is also one of the hardest.”

According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. is experiencing, and will continue to experience, a “surge in the need for workers to care for the sick and elderly in their own homes.” But such jobs, which require minimal training and no college degree, prey on an easily exploitable workforce:

Because of the job’s roots in slave labor, these workers have long been excluded from US labor laws. Live-in caregivers are not entitled to overtime pay or a minimum wage under federal law, or any other labor protections. Neither are caregivers who spend less than 20 percent of their job helping clients do basic tasks. None are protected from racial discrimination or sexual harassment. They have no right to a safe workplace, and in some cases, they have no collective bargaining rights. One of the fastest-growing jobs in the US is a really lousy one.

This article provides an in-depth analysis of how to improve working conditions for this large workforce and how such improvements will increase the quality of care available for the aging population.

One of the best places to grow old? Washington has 8th-highest life expectancy in U.S., study finds

We chose to retire to Tacoma, Washington, primarily because our only child lives in this area. But we also love the quality of life here. And here’s some validation for our choice.

While Washington gets a lot of attention for being a millennial magnet, it’s also a great place to grow old, according to a new study from Senior Living, which found that our state has the eighth-highest life expectancy in the nation. Washington residents can expect to live an average of 80.2 years, according to the study.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘I am mine’: This is what Alzheimer’s is like at 41

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is particularly devastating. This article tells the story of a loving couple when the husband, Jo, was diagnosed:

Four years ago, Jo was diagnosed with dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s disease, an extremely rare form caused by a genetic mutation slithering through his family tree. Jo watched his mother die of the same illness when he was a teenager. Even in this early-onset form of Alzheimer’s, Jo is a terrible rarity: he was 37 years old when he was diagnosed.

The publication carried an earlier story, soon after the diagnosis, that is linked here.

This article decorously discusses the many issues this family faces, including information about the decision to place Jo in an a home and end-of-life directives in patients with dementia.

Lies, lies and more lies. Out of an old Tacoma house, fact-checking site Snopes uncovers them

In the pre-internet days we called wild-sounding stories urban legends. Nowadays most such stories are spread across the internet, and we call them hoaxes.

All those viral hoaxes, spread by social media, have created a market for fact-checking sites, with Snopes, started in 1994, being the champ.

I’ve been consulting Snopes for ages, but I did not know until I came across this article that it is run out of a 97-year-old house in Tacoma, WA, my new home town. In fact, the Snopes house is in Tacoma’s North End, which is where I also live.

Snopes is particularly busy in the current political climate, in which “the hoax reports just keep rolling in.” So before you blindly repeat that story you heard on Twitter or read on Facebook, ask yourself: “ Just what is your receptivity to something that sure looks like it came from a bull?”

Best Buy is cashing in as Americans grow older

Big electronics store Best Buy is positioning itself to attract an older clientele by becoming the go-to niche market for digital health:

In August, Best Buy announced it would buy GreatCall for $800 million. GreatCall makes Jitterbug cell phones with big buttons and bright screens designed for senior citizens, as well as medical alert devices that can detect falls and summon help.

The demand for digital health products and services will grow in the future as the U.S. population of people over 65, now at around 50 million, doubles over the next 20 years as Baby Boomers retire.

Google Plus Will Be Shut Down After User Information Was Exposed

I was somewhat relieved to read this news. When Google Plus came into being, I tried for a few weeks to use it. But I never really got it: Its interface wasn’t obvious, and I never saw the point of simple links with no context.

So I’m glad to learn that I no longer have to feel inadequate about not knowing how to use Google Plus effectively. Now if I could just figure out Instagram …

Nursing Homes Are Pushing the Dying Into Pricey Rehab

Bloomberg reports:

Nursing home residents are increasingly spending time in rehabilitation treatment during the last days of their lives, subjected to potentially unnecessary therapy that reaps significant financial benefits for cash-strapped facilities, a study shows.

A study out of the University of Rochester, based on data from 647 New York-based nursing home facilities, revealed that “Some residents were found to have been treated with the highest concentration of rehabilitation during their last week of life.”

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

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: Whirligig Pterodactyl

Pterodactyl Sculpture

At least we think this is a whirligig. There was very little wind when the photo was taken, so we didn’t see the pterodactyl fly.

I’m always amazed at how creative some people are!

Two: Rubber Ducky Raft

Rubber Ducky raft

There was some waterskiing going on in Commencement Bay, and these folks had pulled up to watch. Later we read in the paper that this was some kind of national championship competition.

These folks had one of the best seats in the house.

Three: Live Like the Mountain is Out

Mount Rainier: "Live Like the Mountain Is Out"

The area around Tacoma, WA, USA, is called the South Sound because we sit at the bottom of Puget Sound. And although Seattle, which is not in the South Sound area, likes to try to commandeer our mountain, we folks down here know that Mount Rainier is really OUR mountain.

Live Like the Mountain is Out is a slogan and movement of SouthSoundProud.

Over the years I’ve posted a lot of photos of Mount Rainier because I love it so much. But you need to see one more, because this one was taken last weekend, on perhaps the clearest day we’ve had in our four years in Tacoma. And it looks even better if you click for the larger view.

Once again, thanks to my husband for his great photo skills.

Have a wonderful week!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown