Do You Have a Terrible Memory?

Forgetfulness gets a bad rap. There are jokes about forgetfulness. You curse yourselves when you forget things. When you forget an appointment, you explain that you have a terrible memory. But do you really? Is forgetfulness always a problem?

Image of a finger with a ribbon tied to it, Do you have a terrible memory? Or is a little forgetfulness a good thing?

This is part two of my exploration of memory and memory loss. If you missed the first post, read, What Do You Remember and How. Today’s post is about forgetting or forgetfulness. It’s something we all do. It’s something many of us fear. But forgetting is to memory what yin is to yang.

Why You Forget

According to Psychology Today, we focus on understanding the world, not remembering it. In real life, there are relatively few situations where we focus on remembering—in school, preparing for a speech, and when meeting new people. 

You don’t have a terrible memory. “Memory is designed to be selective.” It’s probably better that we don’t remember every—parking spot we’ve used, password and pin code we’ve ever had, every meal we’ve ever eaten. “People who are better able to prune away irrelevant events are also better able to remember pertinent events, a phenomenon known as adaptive forgetting.”

We do not remember days; we remember moments. 

Cesare Pavese

Types of Forgetting

Storage Failure happens when you cannot anchor the memory properly (perhaps because of a lack of focus) or the storage system (your brain) is damaged.

Interference happens when a bit of new information overwrites older information. The article in Psychology today uses the analogy of writing something in sand, then writing something else over the top of that.

Retrieval Failure happens when you can’t access a certain piece of information even though we know it’s there. Most of you have had the experience of attempting to tell someone a name (of  a person, place, book, movie, etc.) but couldn’t think of it. Then hours later, the name pops into your head. 

Protective forgetting is a psychologically motivated type of forgetting. It shields you from discomfort. If you remember how your friend hurt you, forgiveness and moving on may be impossible. 

Finally, Decay may play a part in forgetting. This theory suggests that our memories fade with time. 

Normal Forgetfulness

You have heard of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Likely you associate both with forgetfulness or memory problems.

You might worry that forgetting an appointment might be a sign of memory loss. But we all occasionally forget a name, the right word, or an appointment, then remember them later. We all forget how to get to an address we don’t visit often. And we all get confused about the day of the week or the date, but figure it out later. 

Normal forgetfulness and normal age-related memory loss are , according to Mayo Clinic, generally manageable and don’t disrupt your ability to work, live independently or maintain a social life.” 

A question mark next to a silhouette of a head with gears inside--do you have a terrible memory?

Memory Problems

There are two general terms that describe memory problems: Amnesia and Dementia. Both are “umbrella” terms (terms that cover several conditions). 

“Amnesia refers to the loss of memories, such as facts, information and experiences. Though forgetting your identity is a common plot device in movies and television, that’s not generally the case in real-life amnesia.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines dementia as  “a usually progressive condition (such as Alzheimer’s disease) marked by the development of multiple cognitive deficits (such as memory impairment, aphasia, and the inability to plan and initiate complex behavior) … dementia is diagnosed only when both memory and another cognitive function are each affected severely enough to interfere with a person’s ability to carry out routine daily activities. — The Journal of the American Medical Association”

Between 60% to 80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s according to WebMD. But there are as many as 50 other causes of dementia.

If you are concerned about memory problems in yourself or a loved one, online quizzes and information are not enough. Please consult your physician. Or consult a neuropsychologist for cognitive-behavioral testing and evaluation.

In Conclusion

Forgetting things gets a bad rap. I know I have a terrible memory. And I’m certain I frequently use all five types of forgetting. But there’s a difference between normal forgetfulness and memory problems such as amnesia and dementia. Memory and memory loss are huge, complex subjects. My posts are a simple introduction to the concepts and diseases that affect our memory. Did you learn something? If you have concerns about yourself or a loved one, please contact your health care provider. Stay tuned. We’ll discuss amnesia and dementia in more detail soon. 

Character Reveal: Beryl Clarke

The character reveal is a feature on my website. Characters from my books (in print or works-in-progress) answer questions from a standard personality assessment test. Today’s character reveal: Beryl Lucille Clarke Mitchell. Beryl is Miranda’s aunt and mentor, and a protagonist of the My Soul to Keep series.

Image of a woman holding a sign with a question mark on it in front of her face--Character reveal Beryl Clarke


Beryl had just turned fifty-two when she appeared in the first book, My Soul to Keep. Younger sister to the Fellowship’s premier preacher-politician, Counselor Donald Clarke, Beryl learned to hate him when he betrayed her. She and Miranda escape Redemption in My Soul to Keep. Now, fifty-four at the beginning of If I Should Die, she is the First Mate aboard the Lady Angelfish. She’s sworn to protect her niece, Miranda. And she will, even if she never learns to love the water like Miranda.

1. Who is your role model? 

In character Reveal: Beryl we learn 62 year old Annie Oakley with her rifle was a role model for Beryl

As a kid, I read everything I could find about Annie Oakley. I was thirteen years old when my father took my older brother, Donald, and I to a shooting contest in Pinehurst, North Carolina. I saw Annie Oakley shoot 100 clay targets in a row at sixteen yards. Man, I wanted to shoot like her, to be like her. She was one sharp-eyed sixty-two-year-old. But Pop started going to the Fellowship rallies. By the next spring, he’d become a member. Mrs. Oakley was anti-Fellowship, so Pop forbade me from reading anymore about her. I didn’t even know when she died just four years later. 

2. Who knows you the best? 

Long ago, I would have answered, my husband. Now, there’s no one. 

3. What would your friends say about you? 

Friends? I don’t have friends. What about Miranda? She’s my niece. My student. My responsibility. 

4. What is the question people ask you most often?

Did you have to shoot him?

5. What is the thing you’d never say to another person?

I never betray a secret. Other than that, I say what’s on my mind.

6. What is your greatest achievement?

That I survived ten years of isolation and torture in the hell-hole they call Redemption and never revealed my secrets.

7. What is your greatest failure?

My daughter, Anna.

8. What did you learn from your greatest failure?

What did I learn? Never to trust anyone who says “trust me.”

9. What is the thing you are most proud of?

You mean some thing I’ve done?I don’t know. Proud is something you feel when you’re a kid and you make straight A’s. 

10. What would you like to change about yourself?

I’d like to forget some things I had to do.   

11. If something in your house breaks, what is the first thing you do?

My house? I haven’t had a house—a home—in almost fifteen years. Being on the run you don’t stop to fix things, you just keep moving. What about the boat? It’s not a house.

12. What is the greatest obstacle you’re facing right now?

Rag doll belonging to Azrael

Disbelief. No one can believe the Azrael have somehow survived the destruction of the island. I’m not sure I believe it. But I’m going to find out if they have.

13. How do you like to “waste” your time?

Sitting in the sun, not thinking. 

14. What is the ritual that helps you calm down?

Cleaning my guns.

15. What is your favorite place in town?

I don’t go to town unless I must for a mission. Someone would recognize me. They won’t arrest me if they catch me again. They’ll shoot-to-kill on sight.

16. What do you prefer–a book, a movie or a theater play?

It has been a long time since I’ve done any of those. I used to enjoy going to the theater—but that was another lifetime. I can’t imagine doing any of those soon.

17. What was the happiest period of your life?

When we brought my daughter home from the hospital. We were in love with her and each other. But we were willfully ignorant of the terrible things the Fellowship did.

18. What is your most treasured memory from childhood?

Watching Annie Oakley. 

19. What was your favorite game when you were a child?

Anything with shooting—preferably with my BB gun, but most often it was my finger or a toy gun (as long as Mother didn’t catch me.)

20. What is the greatest injustice you’ve lived through?

Being accused of murdering my daughter. But Weldon murdered her first—he manipulated and warped her mind and sent her to kill her own parents. And she almost did.

An Invitation

If you missed them, read the two previous character reveals: Irene and Miranda.

Are you an artist or doodler? Have you drawn an image of Beryl or any other character in one of my books? Please, send me a digital copy. With your permission, I’ll post it on the character’s page on this website and share it on social media. 

Did you enjoy Character Reveal: Beryl Clarke? Based on Beryl’s answers above, what additional question would you ask? Is there a character from My Soul to Keep or Fellowship you’d like to see answer these questions in the next character reveal?

Afraid of the New Virus in China?

The outbreak of the new virus in China is a source of fear and fear-mongering. Some news sources are reliable, others are out to be as sensational and attention-grabbing as they can. Those sources don’t care if they spread misinformation or fear through their word choices. The sensationalism has caused some to be afraid of the new virus. Are you afraid of the new virus in China? I hope to cut through some of that fear for you. I’m not an expert, but I have included many links to the experts. Read the experts. Inform yourself. Be aware. Be cautious. But don’t let fear become epidemic.

Afraid of the new virus in China--image of globe focused on China

Where Did It Come From

The illness began in Wuhan City, Hubei, China. Wuhan City is the capital of the Hubei province and an industrial and commercial hub for central China. At the confluence of the Han and Yangtze rivers, it is equidistant from the cities of Beijing and Guangzhou (Canton) (north-south) and from Shanghai and Chongqing (east-west). A major domestic and international transport hub, the city has a population of more than 11 million people. (Learn more about Wuhan City on Wikipedia or Britanica)

On January 11 and 12, Chinese authorities reported forty-one cases of the illness to WHO (World Health Organization). Seven of those people are seriously ill. WHO deployed a team of experts to the city to assist with local response. 

What Is It?

WHO  has identified the illness as a coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people and some infect animals including bats, camels, cats, and birds. Most diseases are mild.

Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with MERS and SARS.


 SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) occurred November 2002 and July 2003 in southern China and MERS  (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) occurred in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.

How Is It Spread?

Afraid of the new virus in China? image of cartoon character sneezing without covering his mouth

This virus is new enough that the exact route of transmission is unknown. Initially, only people who had been to a certain seafood and animal market came down with the illness. Chinese authorities contacted more than 700 individuals who had visited or purchased small game animals there. 

In general, coronaviruses are spread by the fecal-oral route or by aerosols of respiratory secretions. What this means is that good hand washing and good respiratory hygiene (covering your coughs and sneezes and immediate disposal of secretions) may help protect you from the virus.

On January 21, the first case of this virus appeared in the United States. A traveler from Washington state (north of Seattle) who had recently visited Wuhan City had no symptoms until days after his return. Aware of the outbreak in Wuhan City, he contacted his primary care provider early. He’s in the hospital but, at last report, is not severely ill. 

The gentleman in the U.S. is not the first individual to never have been to the market and developed the disease. And I’ve seen reports that China has confirmed 200-300 cases of the disease. This strongly suggests that the disease is also spread from person-to-person. They do not know how quickly it spreads.

What Are The Symptoms

The primary symptoms are respiratory—much like a common cold. {er WHO, many have had a fever, with a few cases having difficulty in breathing, and chest x-rays reveal invasive pneumonic infiltrates in both lungs.

If you have recently traveled to China (particularly to Wuhan City) and develop respiratory symptoms, contact your primary care provider sooner rather than later. If you know you’ve been exposed to the virus—contact your health care provider or your local public health department.

How Is it Diagnosed?

Respiratory secretions and blood tests can diagnose coronavirus. So far, there is no test specific to this new virus. Health care providers will ask about recent travel, exposures to ill persons, and what symptoms you have. Airports with flights arriving from central China are screening de-boarding passengers for travel history and checking their temperature.

The new virus in China is an evolving situation. Scientists hope they can modify diagnostic tests for SARS to help them identify this new virus. 

How Is It Treated?

It’s a virus. That means an antibiotic will not be effective against it.

Symptomatic treatments for cough, runny nose, and fever are the primary treatment. If a secondary bacterial infection develops, they’ll use antibiotics. 

Most likely, they will put patients in respiratory isolation as a precaution. Until they know more about the illness, this will mean hospitalization. Staff and visitors may need to wear masks, gowns, and gloves to help prevent the spread of the illness.

With a severe illness, they may need hospitalization and additional supportive measures.

There is no vaccine for this disease, but scientists are working on that.

What Is A Super-spreader?

Super-spreader is a new term to me. It’s a more modern version of what we used to call “Typhoid Mary.” There have been “super-spreaders” for many diseases (measles, tuberculosis, typhoid, SARS, etc.)

A super-spreader is a rare individual(s) who has an atypical reaction to the disease. They have no symptoms or they have different or milder symptoms. They do not realize that they have and are carrying the disease until after they’ve infected other people. Sometimes many more people. Scientists believe each SARS super-spreader infected 20-60 people.

At this time, there are no known super-spreaders for this virus. And the CDC has said that there is no reason for Americans to panic. 

How Can I Protect Myself and My Family?

Woman in a medical face mask
No need for masks in the U.S.

The best way to protect yourself is to use good hand washing and respiratory hygiene as mentioned above. As with all respiratory illnesses, the very young and the very old should avoid exposure. And persons who are immunocompromised, may need additional precautionary measures (contact your health care provider). If you have concerns about your particular health issues, contact your health care provider or your local public health department.

In Conclusion

I don’t blame you if you’re afraid of the new virus in China. It is scary when a new disease or illness appears out of nowhere and spreads so quickly. Stay informed. Be aware. If you develop cold symptoms and had contact with a traveler from Wuhan, talk to your primary care physician. Use good hand washing and respiratory hygiene. Most of all, don’t let sensational headlines send you into a panic.