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

Last Week’s Links

The Power of Flexible Thinking

“Flexible thinking is often referred to as cognitive flexibility. This means an individual is able to adapt to new thinking patterns. These individuals often see more than one solution to any presented problem.”

Flexible thinking can help us adapt to challenges we face as we get older. The article offers some specific approaches to becoming a more flexible thinker, including change your routine: “Introduce new changes as you feel comfortable. Keep challenging yourself.”

Atwood, Grisham among contributors to pandemic novel

e knew it was only a matter of time until we started to see literature arising from the pandemic of the last year. 

“One of the first novels about the pandemic will be a collaborative effort, with Margaret Atwood, John Grisham and Celeste Ng among the writers.” Titled Fourteen Days: An Unauthorized Gathering, the novel will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media and will raise funds for the Authors Guild Foundation.

“The story is set on a Manhattan rooftop in 2020 as the virus spreads worldwide and the rich are fleeing the city.”

A year of pandemic life, as told by the things we Googled

In “a story sketched out by a year’s worth of Google searches,” Popular Science examines “some of the prevailing themes that emerged in our collective queries.”

Nearly 50% of people are anxious about getting back to normal, pre-pandemic life — here’s how to cope

“A recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that 49% of adults reported feeling uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends.” 

Here’s some advice on how to cope with continuing anxiety and uncertainty as we all continue to emerge from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fully Vaccinated and Time to Party, If You Are 70

“Older people, who represent the vast majority of Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, are emerging this spring with the daffodils, tilting their faces to the sunlight outdoors. They are filling restaurants, hugging grandchildren and booking flights.”

Jennifer Steinhauer reports on how older adults, one of the earliest groups to be vaccinated against COVID-19, are leading the trend back into activities that used to be considered part of “normal life.” Steinhauer points out the the demographics of this trend will change as more people become eligible for vaccination.

Study: ‘Persistent’ loneliness in middle age increases dementia risk

Social scientists have long known that loneliness is one of the biggest problems older adults face as their circle of acquaintances and their own mobility decrease. But a new study has found that “People who were ‘persistently lonely’ between ages 45 and 64 had a 91% higher risk for dementia and a 76% higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease compared to people who don’t feel lonely.”

“Although loneliness does not itself have the status of a clinical disease, it is associated with a range of negative health outcomes, including sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment and stroke.”

At age 80, Sylvia Byrne Pollack of Seattle will publish her first book of poetry

Don’t you love stories like this? I certainly do!

“Part of the magic of poetry is that, when you write the words, you’re a writer,” Pollack continues. “And once you put them down, they’re not really yours anymore. The reader has to do the other half of the work.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

There’s No Real Reason to Eat 3 Meals a Day

“Your weird pandemic eating habits are probably fine.”

Of the many aspects of daily living that the COVID-19 pandemic has rejiggered, eating patterns probably rank high on the list. Amanda Mull, staff writer for The Atlantic, describes how she came up with her notion of Big Meal.

A Model and Her Norman Rockwell Meet Again

“The illustrator’s paintings told his stories. Now a teenage subject reveals her own, 67 years later.”

Here’s an interesting story for those of us who grew up with Norman Rockwell’s covers for The Saturday Evening Post.

They can only hold hands, but for Britain’s elderly, first touch with a relative ‘means everything’

A year of pandemic isolation protocols has left us numb to how this disease has changed our lives. This is a heartwarming story of how people are beginning to get some of their humanity back.

Finding Your Voice After 50

“While many manuscripts worthy of publication land on the desks of 20-something-year-old agents, a great majority are written by women over the age of 50 and targeted to a more mature reader,” writes Heidi McCrary. 

For aspiring writers over 50, McCrary, “a woman 50+ . . . looking forward to the second half of my own story,” has four pieces of advice.

Friends by Robin Dunbar review – how important are your pals?

Rachel Cooke reviews the book Friends by Robin Dunbar, which concludes that “the quality of our relationships determines our health, happiness and chance of a long life.”

Cooke notes, “Dunbar could not have known that his book would be published in a time of such loneliness.” 

Final thoughts

“Do deathbed regrets give us a special insight into what really matters in life? There are good reasons to be sceptical”

Neil Levy, professor of philosophy at Macquarie University in Sydney and senior research fellow at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, examines the concept of deathbed regrets. In order to find out what really matters in life, he says, one method is to ask the dying what they most regret. “There’s very little systematic research on this question, but there’s some unsystematic research,” he writes. 

Read why Levy says, “I’m not convinced that the reported regrets of the dying provide us with reasons to think them valuable.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

I’m signing off as TV critic, but here are six shows I’d happily watch again

Hank Stuever wrote this piece when stepping down as TV critic for the Washington Post. I like it for its description of how television changed during his tenure as critic:

TV, which once seemed a manageable part of the cultural diet, became all-consuming. Netflix released its first big streaming hit, “House of Cards,” in 2013, and the steady supply of TV programs that I once jokingly thought of as an open fire hydrant instead began to resemble a tsunami. The customs of TV were upended: where to watch it, how to watch it, how much of it to binge-watch at a time. Also, new manners: how to talk about it, how not to spoil it for others.

Stuever ends with his list of “shows I reviewed that I would totally watch again.” I thoroughly disagree with the first on his list, “’Twin Peaks: The Return’ (Showtime, 2017).” My husband and I loved the original show but thought that this reboot was a thorough waste of time. However, three of the others he lists were total winners with us: The Americans, Lost, and Mad Men.

Turning the Page on the Year

“If ever there were a new year that called for a new notebook, this would be it.”

Dr. Perri Klass admits that she loves notebooks even if she’s not as diligent in writing in them as she’d like to be. I used to write in a journal just about every day, but for about two years, when we were traveling extensively in early retirement (and hopefully we’ll be able to do that again some time), I let myself fall out of the habit. (Yes, it’s much easier to let a habit lapse than to build a habit in the first place.)

But I’ve been building up the old habit over the last couple of months and intend to do much better this year.

You’re Not Listening. Here’s Why.

“There’s an unconscious tendency to tune out people you feel close to because you think you already know what they are going to say.”

Kate Murphy, author of You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters, says that while researching her book, she “earned something incredibly ironic about interpersonal communication: The closer we feel toward someone, the less likely we are to listen carefully to them. It’s called the closeness-communication bias and, over time, it can strain, and even end, relationships.”

There’s some good stuff here, including a possible explanation for “why people in close relationships sometimes withhold information or keep secrets from one another.”

No, it’s not weird to talk to yourself. Mental health experts point to pandemic, unrest as possible reasons

“Experts say [self-talk is] common and that, with the added stressors of a pandemic alongside protests over police brutality and race relations in America, self-talk can be a way to feel control in a world that offers individuals very little.”

Why Do Dwarves Sound Scottish and Elves Sound Like Royalty?

My husband and I had just finished three evenings of watching the extended versions of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy of Lord of the Rings when the photo of Gimli the Dwarf popped up in my email. I had thought about the language of dwarves and elves during the films (the extended versions are LONG movies) and was therefore interested in reading how these fantasy dialects had originated. 

We have J.R.R. Tolkien to thank for the way these characters of fantasy speak. Tolkien, who has a philologist, “would create languages first, then write cultures and histories to speak them, often taking inspiration from the sound of an existing language.” 

Undecided On Getting A Covid-19 Vaccine? Beware Of These Two Cognitive Biases

Dr. Joshua Liao explains how availability bias and confirmation bias may influence our decisions about getting a coronavirus vaccine.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

How to heal through life writing

“Learning to write about trauma helps you to process the painful experience, and gives you the life skills to overcome it”

When I went back to school for my Ph.D. in psychology, I studied life stories. One aspect of that topic is how writing about negative life experiences can help us overcome the pain, grief, or anger we associate with them. This article offers some advice on how to do that.

A Brief History of the TV Dinner

“Thanksgiving’s most unexpected legacy is heating up again”

If, like me, you grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s, you probably remember Swanson’s TV Dinners. Here’s a brief history of how and why they came into being.

COVID-19 patients are developing ‘brain fog.’ But what does that mean?

I have fibromyalgia. One symptom of this and other autoimmune conditions can be periods of “brain fog,” a fuzzy feeling of being not quite fully present in the world, of being not quite fully in touch with reality. Researchers are now finding that patients who have long-term COVID-19 symptoms sometimes experience this same feeling, a symptom often dismissed by doctors.

for millions of other people with chronic illnesses, some of which seemed to have began with infections, constant brain fog is already their reality. Now, they’re hoping that this global pandemic will draw attention to a condition that has so drastically affected their lives.

 Night Terrors

“The creator of ‘The Twilight Zone’ dramatized isolation and fear but still believed in the best of humanity.”

You remember The Twilight Zone and Rod Serling, right? “The show ran from 1959 to 1964, and by the time it went off the air the phrase ‘twilight zone’ had entered the language as a kind of shorthand for whatever feels eerie or strange.”

Andrew Delbanco discusses The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi.

Death rates have fallen by 18% for hospitalized COVID–19 patients as treatments improve

It’s hard to find good news amidst rising virus spikes and perilous pandemic predictions, but here’s a little bit. 

He was an American paratrooper. She withstood bombing in England. 75 years later they remember love born in wartime

And here we are back to life stories. I’m always on the lookout for good stories like this one, which appear most often in local publications. The best such stories, like this one, are full of scrapbook memories.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Cheating, Inc.: How Writing Papers for American College Students Has Become a Lucrative Profession Overseas

In my earlier years I did freelance writing and editing. Scrambling for freelance gigs was a frustrating, humbling, and often thankless task. But one type of writing gig was always on the job boards: writing papers and admission essays for students. The evergreen presence of these jobs meant that, periodically, the question would arise about whether writers could or should accept them. There were always passionate answers on both sides: (1) morality be damned, I’m trying to earn a living, and (2) I may be starving, but my conscience is clear.

Just to be clear, I never took any of these jobs. But one thing I learned from this article surprised me: Many of the people taking paper-writing jobs live abroad, not in the U.S. And many of these college-educated writers make a better living at this job than they’d earn in the profession they had trained for in their country.

People Who Read Before Bed Not Only Sleep Better, But Eat More Healthily and Make More Money

This article is concerned mainly with people who read in bed at night. I have sleep disturbance problems, and people like me are always told not to eat, read, watch TV, knit, or do anything else in bed at night. The idea is to train your brain that when you go to bed, you’re ready to fall asleep. I feel deprived of the great luxury of reading in bed, but, for me, reading in my recliner before getting under the covers will have to suffice. 

But it is good to know that people who read before bed are healthy and wealthy as well as wise.

Is Dying at Home Overrated?

“A palliative care physician struggles with the complex realities of dying at home, and the unintended consequences of making it a societal priority.” 

Unless a family has the significant resources necessary to hire aides or nurses, informal caregivers become responsible for nearly everything — from feeding to bathing to toileting. These tasks often get harder as the dying person weakens. In my experience, most family members want to care for their loved ones at home, but many are unaware of caregiving’s physical and emotional toll.

Dr. Richard Leiter compassionately looks at the multiple aspects of end-of-life care and, on the basis of his own experience, concludes “we need to focus not only on where, but also on how they die.”

Nursing Homes Are a Breeding Ground for a Fatal Fungus

This article examines the potential problems involving “Candida auris, a highly contagious, drug-resistant fungus that has infected nearly 800 people since it arrived in the United States four years ago.” 

Daydreams Shape Your Sense of Self

Psychologist Eve Blouin-Hudon addresses the question “Why is daydreaming so prevalent?” She observes that we often daydream about ourselves, about how we may feel and react in certain situations. Such daydreams contribute to building our life story: “These self-related stories allow people to make sense of who they are and to build their narrative identity—their sense of continuity through time. People need to connect who they believe they are to ongoing experiences.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Why Creepy Neighbors Are Perfect for Domestic Thrillers

How many times have you read a good thriller or mystery novel involving the new neighbors next door? Novelist Allison Dickson, author of The Other Mrs. Miller, explains why neighbors are such good novelistic material.

the one thing that might make your neighbors more interesting fodder for a thriller than family is that when relations turn sour on the other side of the street or fence, there’s no easy way out. You can usually hang up on problematic family member and ignore their calls for a few days, but the dwelling next door and your new mortal enemy living in it isn’t going anywhere. Whether by lease or mortgage, you’re both invested for the long term and have staked your claim. You have to find a way to resolve things, or risk of becoming a prisoner in your own home.

SLOBS, REJOICE: WHY YOU SHOULDN’T CLEAN YOUR MESSY DESK

I had heard quite a while ago that a messy desk is often a sign of creativity, but it’s always nice to have my excuse for a messy desk reinforced.

Experts say disorder stimulates creativity because physical artifacts can trigger people to draw connections between separate ideas — ones already in your head and seemingly unrelated — to generate novel solutions. It’s a process known as “psychological bricolage,” according to Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, a professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan.

Is the Internet Making Writing Better?

As a former English teacher, I was appalled when textspeak such as “where r u?” entered everyday speech. But in this article Katy Waldman reviews Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by linguist Gretchen McCulloch. 

“It’s only with the rise of the Internet that a truly casual, willfully ephemeral prose has ascended—and become central to daily life,” Waldman writes.

It’s only with the rise of the Internet that a truly casual, willfully ephemeral prose has ascended—and become central to daily life.

And do you know the difference between lol and LOL? It’s a subtle but real difference, according to McCulloch.

Electric Reads Set in the ’60s

For those of us who came of age in the 1960s:

November Road by Lou Berney

In these 16 historical fiction novels set in the ’60s, authors tackle some of the decade’s transformations and predicaments, its quandaries and triumphs. Each read is a great place to begin untangling the decade’s legacy.

I would add to this list November Road by Lou Berney.

ARE YOU CLIMATE HOMESICK? HE’S GOT A WORD FOR THAT

Solastalgia describes the feeling of distress caused by environmental change, and it was coined by Australian environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht. “It was important to give that feeling a name because it was missing from our language,” Albrecht says from his small farm in Australia’s Hunter Valley region in the eastern state of New South Wales.

Bonus: See also Every Day is Earth Day: 365 Books to Start Your Climate Change Library

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

When a DNA Test Shatters Your Identity

You’ve undoubtedly seen the ads for DNA tests that will allow you to connect with extended family members. While such tests can produce many exciting discoveries, they also have potential to turn up some very upsetting news. This article from The Atlantic discusses some of those bombshell results.

Most of the people presented here who’ve experienced such results are over the age of 50. Many people actively researching their family tree are those to whom retirement has provided the time necessary for genealogical research.

The generation whose 50-year-old secrets are now being unearthed could not have imagined a world of $99 mail-in DNA kits. But times are changing, and the culture with it. “This generation right now and maybe the next 15 years or so, there’s going to be a lot of shocking results coming out. I’d say in 20 years’ time it’s going to dissipate,” she predicted. By then, our expectations of privacy will have caught up with the new reality created by the rise of consumer DNA tests.

The article focuses on a support group on Facebook for people whose genetic tests deliver upsetting news.

One Seattleite’s way of celebrating his 100th birthday: jumping out of a plane

So, what are your birthday plans?

The Mystery of End-of-Life Rallies

Palliative care experts say it is not uncommon for people in hospice care to perk up briefly before they die, sometimes speaking clearly or asking for food.

This did not happen with my mother, who died almost two years ago at age 89, but, according to the article, such rallies, also known as terminal lucidity, sometimes occur. However, there is little scientific evidence about either the frequency of or the reasons for such rallies.

Write Your Own Obit

Far from seeming narcissistic, undertaking a self-obituary can be a form of summation and of caregiving for those who may be in need of direction after we are gone.

This is one of those topics that comes around periodically. Writing one’s own obituary is a variation of the psychological concept of life review, a process of life evaluation that many older adults go through, either consciously or unconsciously. Writing the obituary helps make the life review a conscious process that allows people to record the events, accomplishments, and values that they would most like to be remembered for.

For people in midlife, remembering that we all have to die may redirect ongoing goals; for seniors, such a workout may remind us to view current problems within the context of what really matters most to us.

This article contains links to obituaries others have written for themselves and suggestions for writing one’s own.

What Rereading Childhood Books Teaches Adults About Themselves

Emma Court examines the benefits of adult rereadings of childhood books.

In a 2012 study that looked at why people reread books, rewatch movies, and revisit the same places, the researchers interviewed 23 participants about which experiences they chose to repeat, why, and how they felt during it. They found that repeat experiences “allow consumers an active synthesis of time and serve as catalysts for existential reflection.” Childhood books offer an opportunity to sit down in the river of time, if just for a moment, and ponder the full scope of one’s life. For one woman in the study, who often rewatched the 1999 romantic drama Message in a Bottle, the movie helped her process an upsetting breakup.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Weekend Coffee Share

It’s time once again for Weekend Coffee Share.

weekend-coffee-share

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how delighted I was last week to connect with so many of you on my maiden excursion into Weekend Coffee Share! Thanks to everyone who welcomed me and responded to my post. I was hoping to open up some interaction with other bloggers, and you didn’t disappoint me.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I was also delighted to discover that many of you are writers. You helped me gather up enough courage to announce that I, too, am a writer and have chosen 2017 as the year I concentrate seriously on that work. At the beginning of the year I joined The Writing Cooperative on Medium so that I could participate in their 52-Week Writing Challenge. I’m a Virgo, which means I’d good at keeping my word, so committing to write an entry a week for the challenge has helped me. My work is here. If any of you would care to take a look, I’d appreciate it.

If we were having coffee, I’d say thanks once again for listening. I’m still working on developing my writer’s voice, and the Weekend Coffee Share is another exercise I’m using for that purpose.

And I’d also say that I hope everyone has a good week until next weekend!

© 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