Mary Beth Writes

Last night we did another wild and crazy thing. We got in our car and went for a drive! The first thing we remarked to each other was that we had not been in the car together in weeks.  It felt a little odd to be in there, next to each other, about to GO SOMEPLACE! Maybe this is the way it feels to be the family dog when they let you sit in the front seat and EVERYTHING IS SO AMAZING!

We drove west into the rosy sunset, filled with excitement to, um, see the sky.  Quarantines are easiest on people who have a low bar for excitement.

We ended up at Lapham Peak State Park. Saw one other couple who said “Hello!” and then later, “Have a nice evening.”  Voices, manners, good wishes from strangers? Who could ask for more?

The sun had just gone down. Len took these pix.

Those lights to the west are probably Dousman. 

When I hear an extraordinary phrase I sometimes write it in the note app of my phone.  This morning I came across this from months ago. “Combing the snakes from one’s hair.” It means to intentionally deal with one’s stress in any healthy way that works for that individual.

The news is terrible and getting worse and I doubt that any of us will be attaining serenity soon. Actually, I’m not sure if any of us want to.  The sadness, uncertainty, and loss are real.

But we can try to keep up and keep at combing the snakes from our hair.

For me, it’s verbalizing the worry to myself and then taking some breaths. I listen to chatty podcasts (especially in the middle of the night), or go for a walk, or read, or watch a movie. Not very interesting or remarkable strategies, but any day one can get through without infecting ourselves or others - and when we manage patience instead of lashing out with irritation and blame - well, we did good enough. Keep the snakes out.


Two things I read. I know I said I wasn’t going to re-write the news for you – but these are side notes that might be important for those of us over here at the side of this crisis.  

1. This is a poor time to have an avoidable accident. If you are decluttering – don’t stand on a chair to get that stuff down; get your ladder or stepladder.  If you don’t have a stepladder, order one or wait till things are not this crazy. Whatever’s been on your top shelf all this time can stay there a little longer. If you ARE ordering a stepladder, get a good one with a built-in handle.  Stepladders are one of those unsung items you will buy once and keep all your life. Don’t chintz.

If you drink wine or beer while you cook, great. Don’t drink fast and don’t have more than one drink until the meal is safely prepared. Right?

Go a little slower. Think about what you are doing. Stay out of the ER. They’ve got enough to do.

2. Sleeping more? Going to bed earlier? Waking later? Naps turning into mid-afternoon pillow festivals?

There’s an answer and it’s called “managing grief.” Literally we lost our old normal and it isn’t coming back for a long time, if at all.  Did you know that grieving people often sleep more? I’m sorry if you already know that. I do, too.

We are not undisciplined weaklings. Extra rest and crazy dreams are ways humans adjust to change.

I think this is helpful. No need to yell at yourself. Take the nap.

I didn’t know when I wrote Quarantine Diary #1 what I was doing. I suppose I still don’t know. But quite a few of you have reached out to tell me you appreciate this daily writing. I’ve never before produced public stuff every single day, so this is new for me and it’s getting me through, too.

I’m completely aware most of what I write is pretty mundane. I think being ordinary people in the middle of extraordinary times is a lot of work. We have to get up, do whatever we need to do, eat vegetables, not drink the whole bottle of wine, talk to the beloved others in our lives. We have to floss before bed and be considerate to our partners if we have them. We have to not kick the cat or say mean things to the dogs. We have to be gentle and aware around children and try to share with them whatever calmness we can muster.

I have always been dazzled by the kindness and good manners of ordinary people. In greedy, awful, terrifying times of great need and loss - being considerate is a revolutionary act. 

Keep calm and carry on. 










I have never found your writings mundane, just the opposite!!! Thank you.
Mary Beth's picture

Utterly welcome!

We have been in voluntary lock down for 12 I write that, it seems longer...huh. I feel that we as individuals will come out of this stronger. I agree that our job is to stay out of the hospital, care givers have enough to deal with now and it will only get worse. I am hoping that the conspicuous consumers in our society will have gotten the word to cease and desist. I wear the same the t shirt for days at a time and NO bra! Some things just are not as important as they were. We live in a tourist area and many are out of work and will be for a long time. I hurt for them. If it were only just the economy but the virus makes us afraid to reach out and see what our neighbors need. Food banks are having to come up new ways to get food to those who need it. A wise person once told me “ it’s not really a problem if it only takes money to fix it.” Before I had only applied it to a grandchild’s cerebral palsy.
Mary Beth's picture

That's a pretty good thought - 'it isn't really a problem if it only takes money to solve it'. Except, I guess, for those who don't have money and no way to get it right now. It's a new way of organizing our lives - to not arrange our days around what we need or want to procure. I'm realizing how many of my walks - at least one per week - were to St Vincent's to buy some little thing we needed or I wanted. It wasn't about money but it was refreshing to look at all the things. Now I have to be "satisfied" with trees, sky, wind, sunshine, and neighborhoods. I think this might be good for me.

Son Drew is a critical care paramedic in Chicago and burbs. It is true - there are no N95 masks available to them and very few for emergency staff. Since he lives in my basement he has trained me on protocol to care for him when he gets sick. Yep, he believes he will get it. Crazy dreams for me:) Anything we each can do to hold on and help others hold on to physical distancing is a great help. Thanks for writing!
Mary Beth's picture

I sent an email to you, too, Chris. Oh my heart, to have a child on the front line of this. Keep us informed. Keep me informed. This is so hard and it didn't have to be this way if the president been thinking about the nation instead of about his campaign.

You are doing an excellent job with good advice, calmness and the talent to voice what we are all feeling. Keep on keepin' on MaryBeth. Tell your husband that he is an extraordinary photographer. Stay safe. We love you.
Mary Beth's picture

I just smile to see your name. Thank you so much. I'm sure you remember when you asked me to come to talk with your 7th graders. That was my First Talk as a writer. I was so nervous and then those kids were wonderful. I told Len you like his photos... He says Thanks, too!

I look forward to your daily post. Thank you. Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

I appreciate your comment.

Angela ( Favorite Sister ) goes back to St. Luke's on the 1st after being on vacation for the past 11days and isn't looking forward to it... A coworker told her that they will get one mask per day and a brown paper bag in which to store it until the next case... THAT doesn't sound very safe to me and only gives me something else to stress about... ( as if my plate isn't full enough ) Now there's a rumor going around that radiology isn't even going to get mask... If that's true that is Totally Unacceptable and only putting my sister and her colleagues in even greater risk... I would expect those conditions from a Third Wold country but most certainly NOT HERE in the good old USA....
Mary Beth's picture

Let us know what she learns when she gets back in there. if she goes. I've read that Wisconsin will be in the worst of this in 2-3 weeks. I don't know what that means, either.

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Quarantine Diary #312

“You know me, I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let's give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.” ― Bob Ross

This tree lives in Waukesha and stopped me in my tracks when I was out for a walk.


 When will this Quarantine Diary end? When Len and I drive out not wearing masks to go to a place where we will stay overnight. Just letting you know. FYI we started last year on Friday the 13th of March.


Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.


Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

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