Mary Beth Writes

This month is our 40th wedding anniversary.  Whoa…

In honor of this milestone, I have two things to offer. One is instructions of how to wrangle TWO fabulous restaurant meals into one date. The other is a DIY interview for you and someone you love – partner, friend, family. If the one you love best is a dog or cat, these questions still apply but you will probably have to supply the words.

We celebrated our long streak of wedded bliss (hah) with a maneuver that only took 40 years to perfect; we ate two restaurant meals on one date. This is not dating for beginners.

We drove into Milwaukee and ate our first meal at Blue Star Café  (it’s a bit south of Brady on Farwell). Blue Star is Somalian and is incredibly delicious; we will eat there again soon. It’s a simple place where one orders at the counter and then either takes the food to-go or eats at Formica tables. I had a chicken suqaar sandwich. Spicy (but not burn-your-mouth-spicy) marinated/rubbed meat is cut into chunks, sauteed, then slid onto French bread with tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and a fresh, spicy, hot green sauce on the side. It’s an ethnic festival in your mouth! Flavorful, not greasy, healthy, filling, less than $10 including the Coke. 

We went for a walk along the lake.

Then we moseyed back to Brady Street’s Gloriosa’s Deli where we bought Italian provisions such as tortellini salad and cheese-filled ravioli and a jar of puttanesca sauce. There may have been a slice of three-layered lemon cake. Drove back home for an Italian dinner. Yes, it was too much food but this was not a real problem; after 40 years we know our way around leftovers.

So that’s how to score two spectacular meals on one date. In case you were wondering.

No one can adequately tell the story of how lucky one is to live many years in a pretty good relationship. Those of you who lived too long in a mediocre ones are nodding your heads because “no partner” is way better than one who doesn’t change with you, talk with you, work with you, respect you, laugh and marvel and eat too much with you.  Nothing shabby in belonging to oneself.

But if one does score a good partnership by smarts and luck, what's to be said?

Start here. I grew up in a complicated family and honestly, did I know how hard it was going to be to be accepted and loved for who I am?  It took a while. Early love is exciting, but a decade later, when you are in the thick of adult life – that’s when you really notice the character of your partner.

Let’s try to get some pictures of our best loving relationships. Insert the name of your partner, longtime friend, your sibling. Or your dog or cat - because love is love is love.


How did you meet?

I was at Logan Square United Methodist Church on the west side of Chicago. I was in seminary where they strongly suggested I needed have a home congregation. I’d been the church’s day camp director that summer, so I joined them. It wasn’t convenient since it took me an hour to get there on the El and bus. Then one Sunday this guy showed up and I knew I ought to say hello because church members ought to be friendly to new people. I walked over to him, stuck my hand out to shake his hand and in his hand was the paper whistle he’d been palming in the pocket of his jacket. He gave it to me.

I told him I taught the adult Sunday School class. He came to it. There’s something you don’t see just every day; a young single male attending Sunday School.

Our first long conversations happened because he asked me where one could buy a NYT and I said there was a place at Clark and Diversey. He offered to drive me home so that he could get the paper. After we’d been dating a while, he mentioned that he could also buy the paper two blocks from his apartment.

When did you know that you were going to spend a lot of time with this character?

We’d been together a couple months. We were in his kitchen when he said I had to hear this awesome story by Isaac Bashevis Singer that he’d read the night before. He perched on the edge of a low shelf, I sat on a kitchen chair, and he read the story to me. It was about an old couple who cook for each other and then when they get into bed at night, they turn to each other and talk about what they will cook the next day. While he was reading, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks that this was the man I was going to marry. I had never even imagined such a man existed and now he was mine and I would be his.

What is a story from your early years that just pops into your head?

We drove out west, similar path to the trip we took this May, although that time we drove all the way to the Grand Canyon. We set up our tent and then Len said let’s go for a walk. He was wearing shorts and flip-flops while carrying his camera and tripod and a cup of coffee; I trailed him thinking we really should have started dinner or done some other chore. I was always about being responsible back then.  Anyways, we walked a little ways and then, Holy Cow and Oh My God, the Grand Canyon was right there at our feet.  He took this picture of us that we have had on our dresser for years. That’s so us.

Also, if you look, you can see the rock I picked up. I still pick up rocks on hikes and vacations. Can‘t resist the beauty and the price.


How were you there for each other in tough times? How did you and they do that?

If he needs to, Len can drive nearly forever and not fall asleep; it’s one of his secret macho skills. We had two kids and then we miscarried a baby and then we didn’t get pregnant again until two years later. We were on a vacation to the Smoky Mountains and were on our way back to Chicago when my pregnancy started to go very wrong. We put our kids in their jammies and then Len drove us eight hours straight through to home. We talked that long night about how we wanted our life to go and what we were going to give up because we had been too busy, and we were exhausted and not on each other’s team. We’d both been going to therapists in those years (we met-cute, but no one’s whole marriage is easy). We had better ideas of who were as individuals and that helped us talk deep and true. Something changed that night, we got some focus on what it means for us to be partners and family.

That baby we almost lost is getting her Masters this year in Data Science. I always think we made room for her that night.

What’s the thing you can always talk about?

What we want to cook for dinner. See story #2.

What is the characteristic you have now that mostly comes from living with your partner?

When we got married, I didn’t think I was nearly as good a person as I thought I ought to be. Len has never asked me to be better than I already am. When other people have been critical of me, or don’t relate to the part of me that is a writer, he is critical back at them. Forty years of someone thinking I am both a good writer and also a good enough person is, oh lord, I just about have tears in my eyes.

He says I’ve done approximately the same for him.  Approximately.

If my partner ruled the world, what is one thing everybody would have?

If Len ruled the world every single child would get a Harvard-qualifying education in literature and science. Also, everyone would learn how to cook and ride a bike. And if they didn’t have food or a bike, they’d get those automatically.

Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

I will never know what it is like to not be loved at all. 


 Okay, now it’s your turn to think about these.

  1.  How did you meet?
  2.  When did you know, you were going to spend a lot of time with this character?
  3.  What is a story from your early years that just pops into your head?
  4.  How were you there for each other in tough times? How did you and they do that?
  5.  What’s the thing you can always talk about?
  6.  What is the characteristic you have now that mostly comes from living with your partner?
  7.  If you partner ruled the world, what is one thing everybody would have?
  8.  Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?


A beautiful quote from Rumi that I don’t really understand but might describe how love works: “Dancing is not just getting up painlessly like a leaf blown on the wind; dancing is when you tear your heart out and rise out of your body to hang suspended between the worlds.”




Love this entire blog. Happy Anniversary! Omg. This picture. What babies! Len, you knocked those shorts out of the park! MB, you haven’t changed one bit. Gonna ask my hubby some of these questions as soon as he wakes up from his nap in his recliner. Yep - we know about long married life.
Mary Beth's picture

For those who don't know and I suppose that's just about everybody here - Karen P. made my wedding cake. Her husband drove them 80 miles through that steamy hot day with the cake in the back seat and two toddlers in front (before kids and car seats and laws!) to Logan Square which is not touristy downtown Chicago. They delivered our wedding cake and stayed for the steamy h9ot wedding in the not-air-conditioned church. There's a friend and 40 years later, here's a friend.

1. At work. 2. When we spent an hour standing in the cold wind after work discussing books we had read. 3. Having to park our car on a hill pointed nose down to pop the clutch to start it. We laugh about it now. 4. My son Nick died in a car accident at age 19. When he died, my mind went blank and it felt like I was in a bubble with no noise in it. My husband led me around like a lamb and did my thinking and decision making for me until I got somewhat back on my feet. I hope and pray I never have to return that type of kindness to him. 5. I think we can talk about anything. 6. My husband has a heart of gold and is quick to forgive. He is a non judgmental person. These two characteristics I find very pleasing and I have worked to emulate him in these ways. I find by doing this I have transformed into a much more calm and kind person. 7. If he ruled the world he would work hard to get everybody into the great outdoors...his passion! 8. Oh yes. The thought of living without him is daunting but to have experienced the deep love we share is something I feel truly blessed to have known. Such a gift. Happy, happy 40th Anniversary!
Mary Beth's picture

This is beautiful. I am so sorry you lost your son. Loss of a child is devastating beyond words. Your husband was strong for the both of you then. Thank you for this.

It’s just beautiful!

I have been loved and I have lost, and I am ever grateful for knowing that love. We got to share 31 (short years) with all the living that that entails. I miss the witnessing of each others life, the most. Happy anniversary to you both! Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

I was thinking of you and a few others as I wrote. It is so difficult and yet, like you say, you wouldn't go backwards and not have known him. I hope your day today is sweet.

What a lovely post about you and Len. Thanks for writing it and sharing some of your marriage story with us. Happy Anniversary
Mary Beth's picture

Thank you!

Thank you for sharing your story Mary Beth. The photo says so much - joy and warmth personified in your faces. I remember when I first met you two. We were at the birthing center for a post-birth recheck, and you and Len chatted with us while you walked around the halls while you were in labor with M (you said you thought it was going to take a while). A few minutes after you returned to the birthing room, (M decided to make a hasty entrance), Len came out with the most ebullient, excited grin, and asked if we'd take a photo of the three of you. You were catching your breath, with M in your arms, and after snapping a few pictures you said "We ordered pizza!" Love and Eating!
Mary Beth's picture

I'd forgotten about that pizza! Our last kid was born at midnight. The hospital kitchen was closed, so the midwife brought me all these little boxes of Cheerios and I ate them all.

Thanks for sharing this post, MB. I loved every minute of it. (loved the shorts, too!) We went out to dinner last week with Mark's parents for their 32nd anniversary. She noted it was nice to have another couple with them b/c after being married a while, you run out of conversation topics. LOL. Mark's response was, "Well, we already don't really communicate verbally, so I think we'll be okay." I've never loved him more than in that minute. ;) But seriously, in our short (we're celebrating 13 yrs next week) marriage, we've had enough ups & downs and have both agreed "smooth sailing" seems best for the rest of our lives. I'm learning (from him & others) to give him space, stay in my lane, and trust he knows what he's doing--and if he needs to talk, he'll come to me. I hope he's learning things from me, too. This week, we're on vacation, and I was once again reminded that he's the person I most like spending time with. That's a lovely feeling.
Mary Beth's picture

That letting go to let the other person do it their way - that gets easier but it never stops being a challenge. A good challenge. Live and let live is a hard skill, but makes life oh so much more interesting.

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About My Memorial Day Story


Today my story ‘Memorial Day’ is posted at Substack. Read it here. 

Courage, Big & Little



I’m writing fiction this week. I started a story in December that, along the way, turned into a Memorial Day story. It will be my Substack story this Saturday.

This morning I looked for an old newspaper column to rerun and found this one about a time when one of our kids needed to have four teeth pulled.

Cholesterol Numbers & Squirrels


Years ago I was out to dinner with friends. We were all just entering our 40’s and thus were all beginning to get the fun medical tests about this and that and cholesterol. I said, to a friend next to me, that I’d started eating oatmeal everyday for breakfast and my cholesterol had dropped …..

The room went silent.

Everyone heard “cholesterol dropped” and stopped speaking. Everyone wanted to hear how much it had dropped – which was about 8 points. In our twenties the conversation stopper was gossip about sex. Now the secret sauce was HDL and LDL

Hum & Read


First of all, the Cute and Curious. Apparently we humans can’t worry while we hum - because humming requires too much bandwidth. When we hum, we don’t have enough power left in our head engines to think about other stuff. I don’t know if I believe this is always true but I’m sharing it in case it is.

I read a lot this week. It’s what I do when there is way to much to think about and I don’t know where to start. Read or eat. I haven’t gained any weight so you know it was a heavy reading week.

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Mahsood 

Three Things


Three Things except it’s really more than that.

1. Earlier this year I read these two books by Palestinian writers and I recommend both. If you’ve read good books by Palestinian writers, maybe tell us about them in the comments?

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