What I’ve Been Reading

What Makes a Person: The Seven Layers of Identity in Literature and Life
A New View of the Self: The Psychology of Connection
How authentic are photographic memories?
Do Our Memories Make Us Who We Are? One Artist’s Memory Loss Suggests Maybe Not
4 Questions to Ask Before Writing Your Life’s Story
How to survive gaslighting: when manipulation erases your reality

Share Your World – March 20, 2017

It’s time for the next weekly installment of Share Your World – March 20, 2017.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

Intellectually, I’m still about two years old. Everything fascinates me, and one new discovery leads to another. My favorite question is still “Why?”

Emotionally, in some circumstances I’m stuck at 12 years old, which is the age at which my adolescence of verbal and emotional abuse began. Because of that experience I’m still quick to take offense and to feel anger about anything that I perceive as a slight, insult, or even plain indifference. Since that time I’ve learned that not everything I perceive this way is an intentional negative action toward me. As a result I’m now able to modulate my emotional reactions better than I did at 12. But there’s still that immediate emotional reaction of anger, defensiveness, and desire for revenge.

Although I can’t think of a label for this next category, I think that in terms of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding I’m right where I should be for my age. I consider each wrinkle on my face as a piece of wisdom learned through experience, and I wear my wrinkles proudly.

Physically, though, my body lets me know that it’s not 20—or even 30, 40, or 50—anymore. I’m still surprised when my body gives out long before my enthusiasm for exploring new places and new experiences.

So, you’re on your way out and it’s raining. Do you know where your umbrella is or do you frantically search for it all over your apartment/house?

I usually don’t use an umbrella. I grew up in New England, where rain is often accompanied by high winds. I don’t remember how many of my umbrellas got ruined by being blown inside out before I finally decided not to waste any more money buying new ones.

Now that we live in the Pacific Northwest, where rain is frequent and not often accompanied by high winds, I’m trying to get back in the habit of using an umbrella. My husband and I now each have an umbrella (thanks to Santa last Christmas) that we keep right by the front door. We also have one in the car because here, the weather can change between heavy rain and bright sunshine in a matter of just a few minutes.

Do you recharge your energy by going out with friends for a good time or by spending with quiet time alone?

I’m an introvert, even a hermit. My idea of fun in a crowd is limited to about five or six people at a time. When I need to recharge, I want to be all alone, preferably with a good book.

Name three things you and your spouse, partner or best friend have in common.

  1. Political beliefs: We’re both bleeding-hear liberals, true children of the 1960s, and proud of it.
  2. Social conscience: The belief that those who have more should do more. This includes paying taxes and donating to charity.
  3. We are both perfectly happy to sit down and read a book for extended periods of time.

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

I think I’m going to opt out of this question in the future, since I keep repeating myself: Last week was great, and I’m hoping for more of the same in the upcoming week.

Ain’t retirement grand?

Thanks for reading, and I hope all of you have a great week, too!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – March 13, 2017

Thanks again to Cee for this week’s challenge Share Your World – March 13, 2017.

Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?

I don’t push the button for the floor I want to go to more than once. However, if someone else comes hurrying over and wants to get onto the elevator before the doors close, I’m always very clumsy about trying to push the “open door” button. For some reason I can never figure out fast enough which is the correct button to hit:

<— | —> OR —> | <—

It shouldn’t be that hard, but for some reason it always is.

Do you plan out things usually or do you do them more spontaneous (for example if you are visiting a big city you don’t know?)

As I have said before (probably several times), I am a Virgo, which means that I always have things planned out in advance. However, I am also willing to act spontaneously if something intriguing pops up. In my later years I’ve been making a concerted effort to allow myself to be more open to possibilities.

We are going on a month-long cruise (from mid-April to mid-May) that will take us to several European cities, and I’ll let you know how being open to new experiences works out for me when we get back.

Describe yourself in at least four uplifting words.

a devoted friend
intellectually curious

If you had a choice which would be your preference salt water beaches, fresh water lakes, ocean cruise, hot tub, ski resort or desert?

I love visiting a beach where I can watch the waves roll in. But we’re also going on a couple of ocean cruises later this year that my husband and I are both looking forward to. And I like lakes.

But no hot tubs or deserts, because I don’t do well with heat and humidity (which is why I was eager to move away from St. Louis, MO). And I do not ski at all, although I’d be happy to sit by a huge stone fireplace and read. Or I’d choose to visit a ski resort in the spring or summer, when wildflowers bloom.

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

After quite a cold spell, we finally have more seasonable temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest. Our typical rainy winter/spring season doesn’t get me down, but the cold sure did. So I’m glad it’s a bit warmer, even though the rain continues.

And I know I’m in the minority on this, but I actually like the change to daylight savings time. Since I’m a night owl, I’d rather have that extra hour of daylight at the end of the day than at the beginning, when I’m asleep.

Have a good week, everyone!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

My Recent Browsing History

The Stories We Tell Ourselves
5 Lessons to Be Learned While Writing a Memoir
Are girls really better at reading than boys or are the tests painting a false picture?
Why each side of the partisan divide thinks the other is living in an alternate reality
Nobody is normal
Sleep deprivation handicaps the brain’s ability to form new memories, study in mice shows
Why Empathy Is Your Most Important Skill (and How to Practice It)

Share Your World – February 27, 2017

Thanks to Cee for Share Your World – February 27, 2017.

Ever ran out of gas in your vehicle?

No, I haven’t. But my husband has (and of course you know that I occasionally remind him of it).

Which are better: black or green olives?

Black olives are better, but I like the green ones stuffed with pimento, too.

If you were a great explorer, what would you explore?

Do you remember the movie Fantastic Voyage, in which miniaturized doctors in a miniaturized submarine travel inside a scientist’s body to repair damage to his brain? That’s where I’d like to go, except I’d be more interested in entering a person’s consciousness instead of just the physical brain.

Quotes List: At least three of your favorite quotes?

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

—Chief Seattle

No one can make you feel interior without your consent.

—Eleanor Roosevelt

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”

Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (p. 723)

It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.

—Eleanor Roosevelt

Have a good week, everyone!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – February 20, 2017

Thanks to Cee for another weekly edition of her Share Your World challenge, Share Your World – February 20, 2017.

When you cut something with scissors, do you move your jaw (as if you were about to chew)?

No, I don’t think so. But I admit that I never really thought about this. I don’t use scissors much any more.

Do you chew your pens and pencils?

I probably did this as a kid, but I don’t think I do it any more. Back in my college and early grad school days, way before computers, I wrote papers with pencils on notebook paper. I sometimes put the pencil horizontally into my mouth when I needed both hands to flip through the pages, and I guess that counts as biting the pencils. Nowadays I use pencils to take notes, but I don’t put them into my mouth.

Are you a collector of anything? If so what?

file foldersI’ve never been a collector of objects. But I do collect a lot of information. Computers and database programs have made it so easy to collect and organize all kinds of notes and ideas. You just never know when you might need a certain fact or quotation to make a point, right? And perhaps if I collect a lot of information I’ll become incredibly smart and wise …

What size is your bed?

Queen size. As Goldilocks said, it’s “just right.”

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

I just want more of the same. I love my routine life.

Have a good week, everyone!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – February 13, 2017

Thanks to Cee for this week’s edition of Share Your World – February 13, 2017.

Do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out?

Our sheets are tucked in at the foot of the bed but untucked at the sides. I’ve never even considering tucking them in on the sides, as that would make me feel much too constricted. Also, you can’t kick part or all of the covers off during the night if they’re all tucked in.

Now this question has got me wondering about the origin of the phrase “tuck you in at night.”

Have you stolen a street sign before?

No, but I’ve known a couple of people who have. When I was in college a friend of mine had a last name that is also a common male first name. When she and her boyfriend came across a house with a sign declaring that the resident’s name combined their two last names, they swiped it.

Do you cut out coupons but then never use them?

When I was younger, I was a devoted coupon cutter-outer, and I almost always used those coupons. However, for the last many, many years I have thought cutting out coupons was not worth the time and effort.

Do you have freckles?


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

Last week we had some sun, as pictured in the feature photo above. I’m grateful for that, because this week we’re back to rain.

I hope you all enjoy this week!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – February 6, 2017

Thanks to Cee for this week’s challenge Share Your World – February 6, 2017.

Regarding your fridge, is it organized or a mess inside?

Our fridge might look messy to other people, but we know where everything is.

Do you prefer your food separated or mixed together?

I prefer having the different foods separated on my plate, but I eat randomly.

Do you prefer reading coffee table books (picture), biographies, fiction, non-fiction, educational?

Yes. All of the above. However, I usually read only one book at a time.

Close your eyes. Listen to your body. What part of your body is seeking attention? What is it telling you?

The muscles around my left shoulder blade are tight. This is not unusual, as all my tension seems to land there.

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

Last week we had dinner with our daughter to take advantage of a nearby restaurant’s lobster special. Next week, on Monday, we are meeting our daughter for lunch. It doesn’t get much better than this: family and food.

Enjoy your week, everyone!

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Memoir Review: “Brain on Fire”

Cahalan, Susannah. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Free Press, 2012
ISBN 978–1–4516–2137–2

Highly Recommended

One day in 2009 Susannah Cahalan woke up in a hospital room, strapped to her bed, unable to speak, move, or remember how she got there. As she stared at an orange band around her wrist, the words FLIGHT RISK came into focus.

Cahalan’s journey to that hospital room had begun weeks earlier. Out of nowhere she began having paranoid thoughts; for example, with no evidence she suddenly believed that her boyfriend was cheating on her, and the voice in her head nearly overpowered her: Read his e-mails. The paranoia was rapidly followed by other symptoms: slurred speech, over-reaction to colors and sounds, nausea, insomnia, wild mood swings, uncontrollable crying, lack of focus, inability to write, facial tics, drooling, involuntary muscle movements, and seizures.

Physical examinations and extensive medical tests revealed no discernible cause for her symptoms. Various doctors prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-seizure medications and used phrases ranging from all in her head to psychotic break as Calahan’s family and friends watched her condition continue to worsen. Finally, a new neurologist, Dr. Souhel Najjar, joined the medical team and did one more medical test that saved her life. Dr. Najjar tested Cahalan for a newly discovered, rare autoimmune disease that causes the body to react against the brain. The disease causes inflammation that Dr. Nijjar explained this way: “Her brain is on fire.”

This book differs from most memoirs in that Cahalan has almost no memories of what happened to her during the period she writes about. Her father, who spent most days in her hospital room, kept a personal diary of the ordeal (hers and his own). In addition, her father and mother left a notebook in her room in which both documented what had gone on during their visits; the purpose of this notebook was to keep both parents informed about their daughter’s condition. Cahalan used these two documents, her medical records, and interviews with family, friends, work colleagues, and medical personnel as the basis for the book. Her journalism background enabled her to do the extensive research necessary to supplement those sources.

Despite the absence of her own memories, Cahalan maintains the focus on personal experience that’s necessary in memoir. When she can’t focus on her own experiences, she frames the story with the experiences of the people close to her: her parents, her boyfriend, her friends, and her colleagues at the New York Post.

Cahalan excels at describing complex, arcane medical material for a general reader. Here, for example, is her description of how memory works:

My short-term memory had been obliterated, a problem usually rooted in the hippocampus, which is like a way station for new memories. The hippocampus briefly “stores” the patterns of neurons that make up a memory before passing them along to the parts of the brain responsible for preserving them long term. Memories are maintained by the areas of the brain responsible for the initial perception: a visual memory is saved by the visual cortex in the occipital lobe, an auditory memory by the auditory cortex of the temporal love, and so forth. (p. 101)

After Cahalan was successfully treated for her brain inflammation, there remained questions about how much of her former self, particularly her mental faculties, would return. This book, with its extensive research and clear writing, demonstrates that her brain is now back to functioning quite well.

Brain on Fire has been made into a movie that will come out on February 22, 2017. You can find information about the film, including a link to the official trailer, here.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

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