Mary Beth Writes


Because I now have my Substack site where I can publish my stories, its more exciting to write fiction. I’m working on a story now.

Meanwhile, here’s a newspaper column of yore. If you like cats, you will probably like it. If you don’t like cats, well, you are missing a lot of grace, humor, and vacuuming opportunities.

We don’t currently want to adopt new cats, but since we’ve now lived with twelve of the world’s finest, we are rich in memories that make us laugh.

April 11, 2003

I don't care what you say, I haven't written about cats in almost two years. Okay, once last year I mentioned the week my dog went to church, but that hardly counts. I think it’s time to write about cats. Again.

We still have four of them and they are all still healthy. Living with four cats is sort of a New Jerusalem thing for folks with low expectations.  

Cats bring humor and passion to ordinary life. My son lets all the cats (and the dog) out of the basement when he gets up at 5:20 AM. Three of the cats rush to see what their kibble looks like this morning. Isn't it amazing how interested cats are in gobbling down more of the same thing they've been eating every day of their lives? Says the woman who always eats oatmeal for breakfast.

The fourth cat, Rosie, wanders down the hall to visit the shower curtain. Rosie has a deep and on-going thing for the noise the shower curtain liner makes when she brushes back and forth against it.

What enhances this moment is that this is the cat with natural bedhead. Her black and white fur is a tad shaggy, think Florence Henderson in The Brady Bunch. So when Rosie rubs back and forth against the plastic shower liner she gets amazing static cling. Waking up to a cat who can make your first emotional response of the day be a burst of laughter -- you were expecting life to work out better than this?

Rosie also likes to amble in and out of our fireplace. You can imagine how this plays out. First she gets her static cling thing going. Also, damp paws from the tub. Then she walks through ashes. Then she walks everywhere. Have you ever seen pictures of the thousands of animal tracks around the watering holes of the Serengeti? We know that look.

Living with too many cats tends to lower the lonely option on life. Four people walk out of my house every morning but does that leave me bereft? No, there are always more comedians left behind.

Hershey is our 9-year-old, 17-pound Siamese and he's the heftiest lunk of cat with whom I've co-habitated. He's also the most anxious. He reminds me of a third grader who proofreads his arithmetic homework three times and still can't sleep right. This cat only truly relaxes when he is so close to another body that their breath ruffles his whiskers. If you lay down to take a nap in this house, chances are excellent you are going to wake up with enormous blue eyes staring at you.

The other cats enable him. It is not uncommon to walk by a room, hear some low-grade snoring and wheezing, stop to look closer, and discern two or three cats sleeping on top of or around Hershey. They look like a vibrating fur hassock. They sound like a small airport.

Cats are cheap heat. My husband generally takes a quick snooze on the sofa after dinner. Often as not he wakes up covered in a living, breathing afghan. If you don't like the birds scene in Hitchcock, you wouldn't want to see my husband sleeping under four cats.

Last night my youngest daughter plunked down next to me and whined that her hands were cold.

"Stick them under Hershey."

She did.

"Ahhh. Nice...."

I think there is something both fascinating and macabre about this economic truth. You can buy a cat cheaper than you can buy fur mittens. And if you have snacks in your pockets, you might even be able to get your fur to walk across the room to you. Top that, Blackglama.

We also have a Flying Wallenda cat. This is our son's Suunaaba (it means "friend" in Inuit). He is young, strong, lithe, and will try anything once. Do you ever wonder if, before they are born, cats and children somehow invent each other? These two have tandem spirits. If Suunaaba notices other cats snoozing peacefully he can't resist jumping on them. He has no respect for old Hershey. He attacks, they arm wrestle until the old guy gets him in a cat half-Nelson, and then they both fall asleep. When we hear crashes in far corners of the house we look up, blink, find our James Earl Jones voice (everyone has one) and pronounce, "Suunaaba."

Violet is the little girl cat who belongs to our little girl. She is very striped, slightly plump, and timid. We have lived with her more than a year and are just beginning to learn her placid soul. She loves to move her wrists and paws; she bats at things that aren't there. If she's standing on four paws she will often lift one and turn it inward as if she is getting into a ballet position. With her, um, ample derrière, she sort of looks like she has her tutu on already.

There are two theologies out there. One says you get your reward after you die. If you are saved or worthy enough heaven will be cool.

The other theology says that heaven isn't a post-death destination. Its wherever spirits gather, hang out, live together in full and interesting ways. There's lots of action, but no violence. There's lots of personality, plenty to do, diverse beauty, and you never have to sleep alone unless you want to.

I like living with cats. They're trainers for what peace might feel like if we ever get some.




I like cats, too! Enjoyed the read.

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The Lies We Live By


Aristotle wrote a lot of important stuff, very little of which I’ve read. But this Aristotelian idea is cool and I don’t know why we are not taught this in high school. It helps untangle the importance of what we read and watch.

Fat Tuesday & Valentines Day & Ash Wednesday (says it all)


I think today has to be a Three Things. You probably don’t even know I have Three Things scaffolding in my secret writing toolbox of organizational tools, but I do. Sometimes it’s how thoughts present themselves, you know? Things to say, but not for too long.

(Now that I've finished and read what I wrote, I guess this is five things but some days, in our expanding universe, the math just works this way,)

Successful & Failed Artists


Last week I finished reading Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard. (I discovered this book via Librarian of Burgos Instagram because I am her fangirl now.)

If you like to read a book that has a recognizable plot of sympathetic characters moving forward through a problem to a solution– you will likely not enjoy this novel. Heck, I’m not sure if I ‘enjoyed’ it.

Animals of Winter


Last week I invited you to submit pictures of animals who are visiting your life these days.

The Republic of False Truths


I set a goal for this year to read one translated modern novel every month. I’ve been following ‘Librarian of Burgos’ on Instagram and this woman keeps hyping and explaining books I’ve never heard of, which intrigues me mightily. I think she might be a reader’s reader. Anyways, she is European, has transcendently luminous skin plus several master’s degrees and a doctorate in history. Sometimes she even recommends books that are not, sadly she says, not yet translated into English. Cracks me up.

Who's In Your Backyard?


It’s been a wowser of a wintery week. We had the deep and blowing snow last Friday which turned into the heavy-as-concrete snow on Saturday which turned into a deep and frozen crust on Sunday - and here we still are. Last week’s snow still limns the trees and branches. A foot of snow still covers every roof. When I walk (why yes, I’m still going out for strolls) it’s a matter of life and limb navigating the jagged piles between sidewalk and street. I do use my “Alpine” walking stick these days.

Change is coming but not today.

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