Share Your World – January 30, 2017

Thanks to Cee for this week’s challenge Share Your World – January 30, 2017.

What is the most incredible natural venue that you’ve ever seen in person?

There are two:

  1. Mount Rainier
  2. the Pacific Ocean

Someday I hope to be able to add the Grand Canyon to this list.

How many siblings do you have? What’s your birth order?

I have two siblings from my mother’s second marriage, a brother 13 years younger than me and a sister 15 years younger.

If you were a shoe, what kind would you be and why?

This kind, purple and comfortable:

What is the strangest/weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

I honestly can’t think of anything to put down here, since my taste buds are pretty particular. I can’t eat spicy things at all. I don’t even use table pepper except for a slight sprinkling on fresh tomato slices.

Well, okay, the strangest thing I’ve eaten is a fried pickle spear. Pretty prosaic, I admit.

Optional Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

As always, I’m grateful for living through another week. This coming week promises several good things, including a trip to the local movie theater (the new theater, with recliners!) to see Hidden Figures.

Have a good week, everyone!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

11 Memoirs by 20th-Century American Radicals | Literary Hub

With the Trump era now a week old and storm clouds gathering, many decent, salt-of-the-earth Americans not previously given to shows of popular unrest, never mind civil disobedience or outright vio…

Source: 11 Memoirs by 20th-Century American Radicals | Literary Hub

Share Your World – January 23, 2017

Thanks to Cee for this week’s challenge, Share Your World – January 23, 2017.

Do you prefer juice or fruit?

Usually I prefer eating whole fruit to drinking juice, with the one exception of orange juice. Juice often does not contain the fiber of the fruit and often does contain added sugar. However, I like smoothies made from pureeing whole fruit along with greens such as spinach and kale (heavier on the spinach than the kale).

Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it?

I grew up in a fairly small town in New England. (It was a small town when I grew up there 60 years ago. Now it’s more suburban.) I liked living there while I was growing up because I didn’t know anything different. The best thing about that time was that my best friend lived just a bit up the road and we spent almost all our free time together. But overall my childhood wasn’t happy. As I got older I couldn’t wait to move away because in a small town everybody knows your business—and your family’s business for at least a couple of generations back. When I finally went away to college, I knew that I’d never live in that town again, even though some of my family continues to this day to live nearby.

If you were to paint a picture of your childhood, what colors would you use?

I’d just cover the entire canvas with the same shade of light gray, for the same reason as my desire to move out of my childhood home town.

Ways to Relax List: Make a list of what relaxes you and helps you feel calm.

  • taking a walk outdoors
  • seeing Mount Rainier when the weather is clear
  • visiting a beach and watching the waves roll in
  • reading a good book, usually a novel, while drinking a cup of coffee or tea
  • watching a good TV show (such as Gilmore Girls or This Is Us) or movie (such as Love Actually)

I hope everyone has a good week!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Review: “H Is for Hawk”

Macdonald, Helen. H Is for Hawk
Grove Press, 2014
ISBN: 978–0–8021–2341–1

Highly Recommended

When Helen Macdonald’s father died unexpectedly, she was nearly overcome with grief. She cancelled an upcoming teaching assignment and struggled to find a way to reconnect with the world. An experienced falconer, she decided to fill her days by training a goshawk, the wildest, fiercest, most difficult to train bird of prey.

Macdonald had trained other hawks, but never a goshawk. She knew well the literature of falconry and followed The Goshawk, by T.H. White (well known author of The Once and Future King, a tome of Arthurian legend), as she progressed through her own training program. White’s book is a narrative about his experiences trying—and failing—to train a goshawk during the mid 1930s (although the book was not published until 1951). The comparison between her progress and White’s lack of progress in the difficult task of training a goshawk provides the underlying structure of Macdonald’s book.

Macdonald obtained a female goshawk, whom she soon named Mabel. As Macdonald became acquainted with Mabel, she realized “without knowing why, I’d chosen to be the hawk” (p. 58). Her identification with Mabel became stronger as the training progressed:

I was in ruins. Some deep part of me was trying to rebuild itself, and its model was right there on my fist. The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life”(p. 85)

The hawk became a symbol “of things that must be mastered and tamed” (p. 113).

As she trained Mabel, Macdonald read about White’s fits and starts with his goshawk. In her book she examines White’s approach to training for clues about the mind of this brilliant yet troubled man, whose unhappy childhood underlay life-long insecurity and difficulty fitting into the world. Implicit in Macdonald’s process of understanding White through his book is the realization that readers will understand Macdonald, just as she comes to understand herself, through hers.

H Is for Hawk contains that necessary ingredient of a good memoir, an epiphany—something missing from many memoirs, such as the much over-hyped Wild. Macdonald’s epiphany begins with this realization: “Hunting with the hawk took me to the very edge of being a human. Then it took me past that place to somewhere I wasn’t human at all” (p. 195). She knew that she had wanted to slip onto the wild world of the forest with the hawk:

part of me had hoped, too, that somewhere in that other world was my father. His death had been so sudden. There had been no time to prepare for it, no sense in it happening at all. He could only be lost. He was out there, still, somewhere out there in that tangled wood with all the rest of the lost and dead. I know now what those dreams in spring had meant, the ones of a hawk slipping through a rent in the air into another world. I’d wanted to fly with the hawk to find my father; find him and bring him home (p. 220)

In the end she realized that she couldn’t overcome her grief by abandoning the human world to become a wild, feral hawk. Rather, she had to bring the lessons of the wild world back into the human sphere:

There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are (p. 171)

The key to a memoir-worthy experience is not simply to endure, but to learn, to change, to grow.

Part of that growth is the ability to see new meaning in other aspects of the world. The broadly educated Macdonald fills her book with
details of the natural world: fields, flowers, bushes, trees, animals, rocks. Nature takes on new meaning because of the experience rendered in this moving and enriching memoir.


© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

10 Memoirs That Explore the Mother-Daughter Relationship (in remembrance of Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher)

Shortly after the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds on subsequent days, Susan Dominus examined the strained relationship between this mother and daughter in the New York Times: Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, a Mother-Daughter Act for the Ages. Dominus writes:

There is something about celebrity mother-daughter acts like the one lived by Ms. Fisher and Ms. Reynolds that capture the imagination in a way that famous father-sons simply do not.

I’d say we can leave out the words celebrity and famous. Even the most ordinary mother-daughter relationship is archetypal, fraught with push-pull, attract-repel, love-hate, bond-reject, up-down, engage-disengage, support-undermine dynamics.

The HBO documentary Bright Lights, first aired on January 7, 2017, further reveals the intertwining lives of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

And here are 10 memoirs that focus on the relationship between mothers and their daughters:

Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick

Returning to My Mother’s House by Gail Straub

Don’t Call Me Mother by Linda Joy Myers

The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr

Then Again by Diane Keaton

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir by Katie Hafner

We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir by Jennifer Coburn


© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Writing Your Way to Happiness

Here’s a summary of scientific research suggesting that “the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.”

Special Report: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? The Magic of Narrative Medicine in the ED

The special report discusses how the use of storytelling in medicine, known as narrative medicine, helps physicians better serve patients.

The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking

Here’s a New Year’s challenge for the mind: Make this the year that you quiet all those negative thoughts swirling around your brain… . constant negativity can also get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level and ultimately damage our health.

This article offers not only scientific research to back up its premise but practical steps you can take to deal effectively with your own negative thoughts.

3 Reasons You Don’t Need Experience to Write a Damn Good Story

The most common advice aspiring writers hear is “write what you know.” I’ve always been suspicious of this admonition, since I believe in the power of research. Here thriller writer Brad Taylor explains how to use research to write convincingly about topics you have no personal experience with.

Infant Brains Reveal How the Mind Gets Built

This article reports on recently published research into how the human brain develops, It’s a long but fascinating read.


© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – January 9, 2017

Share Your World – January 9, 2017

If you lost a bet and had to dye your hair a color of the rainbow for a week, what color would it be?

Right now I’d probably go with lime green, as the Seattle Seahawks are in the playoffs.

At any other time of the year, I’d probably go with purple because it’s my favorite color. I don’t know how I’d look with purple hair, but it couldn’t hurt to find out.

(This color would wash right out if I didn’t like it, right?)

If you could choose one word to focus on for 2017, what would it be?


I’ve decided that 2017 is the year I actually focus on my writing instead of continuing to say, “Someday I’m going to devote the time and effort necessary to hone my writing skills and actually write some pieces worthy of being put out into the internet world.”

What was one thing you learned last year that you added to your life?

Never take friends for granted.

I really learned this lesson a long time ago, but last year it was reinforced for me a few times over.

If life was ‘just a bowl of cherries’… which fruit other than a cherry would you be..?

Pineapple, a delightful combination of sweet and tart (although I’d have to work hard on the sweet part).

Optional Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful for more of the same last week and am looking forward to more of the same next week.

And I hope everyone has a great upcoming week!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘Mysterious power over humanity’: How cats affect health

Have you ever thought about all those cat videos you seen whenever you check Facebook? In this article for CNN Alice Robb talks with Abigail Tucker, author of The Lion in the Living Room: How Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World, about:

the disturbing similarities between cats and lions, the reason cats failed to uphold the Rabbit Suppression Act of 1884, and the somewhat baffling question of why people put up with them.

How We Got From Doc Brown to Walter White

Eva Amsen on “the changing image of the TV scientist”:

The change in TV offers insight into the image and impact of scientists today, say communication scholars. Although recent headlines may have been dominated by people who bend scientific facts into the molds of their personal ideologies, surveys reveal a deep public esteem for scientists. Viewers now want and demand their scientists to be realistic, and what the viewer wants, Hollywood delivers. As a result, scientists on screen have evolved from stereotypes and villains to credible and positive characters, due in part to scientists themselves, anxious to be part of the action and the public’s education.

You’re an Adult. Your Brain, Not So Much.

A look at how the human brain matures and when the brain can be considered mature. Investigation in this area might have profound implications on policy issues such as when people are old enough to vote or to be held accountable for committing crimes.

Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall

Have you ever wondered why you and other members of your family remember experiences so differently? This article explains why: “almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail” than they remember positive experiences.

Why time management is ruining our lives

“The quest for increased personal productivity – for making the best possible use of your limited time – is a dominant motif of our age,” writes Oliver Burkeman.

Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days.


© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – January 2, 2017

Thanks to Cee for this week’s challenge, Share Your World – January 2, 2017.

Would you prefer to receive a unicycle, bicycle, tricycle or motorcycle?

I’m so out of shape that I’ll probably never be able to ride a bicycle for much distance again in my life. So last summer my husband and I bought battery-powered bikes. The battery provides the umph to get up hills. I was hoping we’d be able to ride the bikes around right away, but riding this bike is so different than riding an ordinary bicycle that I never got comfortable enough to ride it very far before the end of summer. Next spring we’ll take them out again, and I hope to get proficient enough to enjoy riding around the area during the summer and fall.

What is one thing you’d like to accomplish this year?

I am determined to work on my writing this year. To help actualize this goal, I have signed up for a 52-week challenge of publishing something (we choose whatever kind of writing we want to do) every week during 2017. We’re just now completing week 1, but so far I’ve kept up!

What was one of the highlights of 2016 for you?

2016 ended up being a topsy-turvy year for us. I think the highlight was the fact that it ended. There were also a couple of other highlights at the end of the year: spending Thanksgiving week in Long Beach, WA, with our daughter (even if it did rain almost all week) and having our daughter spend Christmas Eve/Day with us. But I’m glad to be in 2017 now.

Would you prefer to fly a kite or fly in a hot air balloon?

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to ride in a hot air balloon. I keep dropping hints, but so far none of them have materialized.

Optional Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I am grateful for the start of a new year, with new opportunities. I’m looking forward to trying to keep up with my goals for reading and writing throughout 2017.


© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – 2016 Week 52

Thanks to Cee for this week’s challenge Share Your World – 2016 Week 52.


What’s your favorite ice-cream flavor?

I only get one? Impossible!

I have various favorites:

  • chocolate (alone and in combination with other good stuff)
  • mocha (esp. jamocha almond fudge)
  • blueberry
  • pumpkin
  • peppermint (seasonal)
  • salted caramel hazelnut

If you were to treat yourself to the “finer things” what would you treat yourself to?

Like a lot of other people, I’d want someone to cook and clean for me, if funds were unlimited.

view from airplane

But my biggest “finer thing” is travel, especially international travel (although I still have a lot of things left to see in the U.S. before I’m through). I want to go back to Ireland, and to Stonehenge, and to Italy, and …

Have you ever been drunk?

Yes, a couple of times back in my college and early adult days. Honestly, it’s not an experience I have any intention of repeating. I can’t understand why people would frequently and voluntarily make themselves feel that awful, and the next morning is even worse.

Complete this sentence: My favorite supposedly guilty pleasure is…

Dark chocolate. And ice cream. And dark chocolate ice cream.

Optional Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

We had a wonderful Christmas weekend (if we leave out the horrible Seahawks game), and I’ve enjoyed kind of lounging around this week. But I’ll be glad for the start of the new year, when we will focus on eating more healthily and I will try to get back into the groove of serious reading and writing.

I hope everyone has a good week. And Happy New Year!


© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown