Mary Beth Writes

How many feelings have you cycled through since the Inauguration? I’ve been the Lance Armstrong (without the drugs or cancer) of ups, downs, responses, relief, and outrage.

I read that the Twitter word trending last Thursday morning was “slept.” As in “I slept well last night for the first time in four years. How about you?”

I went for a long walk last Wednesday morning; it was a charming 7 degrees here with no wind, so it was pleasant enough but not exactly a stroll on a beach. Len had turned the TV on to the Inaugural (we have TV on in the morning here about as often as we discuss Kafka with the cats). I walked back into my house just as Lady Gaga was singing the Star-Spangled banner. I stood there, sweaty in umpteen layers. My glasses fogged as my tears formed and fell with the swelling of her voice. And I don’t even LIKE that song…

I said aloud to the cats, “Yes! THIS is the nation I claim with all my heart.”

So much has been written. I don’t need to replay/re-say what we all saw and heard. It was a beautiful day.

Except I hope you didn’t miss Jill’s ivory cashmere coat and dress. What was not made clear enough were the embroidered flowers along that hemline; Delaware’s peach blossoms are over her heart. Since she is a teacher inside this coat is this Ben Franklin quote. “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."

These photos are from the Instagram account of the designer, Gabriela Hearst.


It's only been a week since the Biden administration took over. It’s a relief to have grownups back in the White House.

But what ridiculous irony is this? The more we learn about the deadly intentions and treacherous planning of the Jan 6th riot – the further away from a call to investigation and charges most Congressional Republicans move. I do not get it. Is the chaos and deception of Trump this influential? Still? This is dangerous and crazy.

I can’t fix it and I can do very little to influence what happens next. Paying attention is the American hairshirt; to love our fellow humans enough to witness what is happening and to care.

Last night we finished Season 1 of The Bridge. The plot, which exists in at least three streaming TV series, is this. A body is found on a border; Denmark/Sweden, England/France, Texas/Chihuahua. Two detectives respond – one from each country. While they are sniping about who has jurisdiction, EMT’s try to pick the body up to put in an ambulance – and the body falls apart. Because it is TWO half-bodies. Half in one country, half in the other.

Now they both have to take the case for their half body, plus work together because it was obviously one murderer. Different laws, regulations, department staffs, and personalities create a story that pulls one’s attention away from everything else (I’m not going to tell you how often we have done the supper dishes at 10:30 because we got sucked into the show). The female detective is on the autism spectrum which gives her strong abilities to solve complicated puzzles. The male detective is on the lackadaisical scale; he's smart, experienced, intuitive, and not good with marriage vows.

They’re at loggerheads until they know each other well enough to trust each other. After that, their partnership is fascinating to watch. This isn’t a romance, its fiction about people working together.

I’ve read two good books lately.

“Deacon King Kong” by James McBride is the comedy and tragedy of African American life. It’s 1969 and all the characters live in or near an urban housing project in south Brooklyn. The main character is Sport Coat who is a 71-year-old alcoholic widower. He’s charming, talented, irresponsible and he talks to his dead wife all the time. She talks back.

The book was dryly funny. There were also several times I had to put it down and walk away because I could see characters losing their souls to the ugliness and limitations. But then I would go back into that world where character and love are as powerful as racism and evil.


“Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyasi is really powerful. She’s a new Black writer, her novel is infused with the racism that defined and infused her childhood.

Gifty is a researcher studying the brain chemistry and mechanisms that cause people to become depressed or addicted. She is focused, motivated, and very alone in her world. The novel flips between brain research on mice, her memories of her depressed mother, and her anger at and grief for her heroin-addicted brother.

Gifty (like Gyasi herself) grows up inside a Fundamentalist congregation. She experiences love, loss, death. She lives in the dark shadow of the undiagnosed clinical depression of her mother who doesn’t believe in depression.

Gyasi describes her adult angst and anger at the church which taught her that questions were sin and that faith required believing everything they said. This is one of the clearest novels I’ve ever read that worked from and through that dynamic. It 's a good explication of what we are watching now, iwhere “conservative religions” is a demand to ask no questions. 

As timely as hell.

Do you read or watch TV more or less when times are turbulent?

Are you reading more, or less, now? 



Thank you again and again!!!!!
Mary Beth's picture

You are welcome again and again! I appreciate your thank yous! I need to know (writers are needy this way) that people are reading and I am glad you let me know.

It's painful for me at times because my flawed eyesight isn't conducive to sitting down and reading a book... It took years of training my eyes to work together to get to this point... Unbelievable to me but I'm reading more than I ever have in my entire life... One right after the other... Why is that? Is it because of the English professor? I don't believe so, it started before we ever met... Is it to escape the craziness going on in the world? Or my own problems?( there's always something ) I can't answer that in the affirmative either because it seems like with every book I pick up the people who I'm reading about have way more, or bigger issues/problems than I could dream up... I guess it's to escape my world or to see that mine isn't really all that bad... I've at least survived most of my stuff with a few scar's to remind me... I've got no answers but I'm glad to have the opportunity to escape for at least a few days...
Mary Beth's picture

I think falling into the world of someone else's story - novel, show, tales told by a spooky old grandma across a fire in a cave... I think they way we fall from our lives into someone else's tale is a clue to understanding 'spirituality'. That our lives are in our spirits and how that works is the truth and mystery we keep aiming at.

We hardly ever play the TV or “ TAA- VEE” as my Louisiana husband still calls it. We did crank it up for the inauguration. I cried and I think he got a bit misty. I have been into escapism and volunteering these last four torturous years. I watch British murder mysteries on YouTube. I wish those Republican fools could realize that they, too could have been ripped apart by that rabid mob. There was at least one faction represented that hates government, red or blue. God Save America!
Mary Beth's picture

It's humorous and true that escapism and volunteering are BOTH the business of our hearts. And both bolster our hearts. Weird, that. This afternoon Homeland Security is telling us to be alert for MORE rightwing terrorist action. I read a tweet that is is time to call them Radical Christian Terrorists. Since we call others Radical Islamic Terrorists.

As the past 4 years progressed I read less (hard time concentrating), watched TV more. I also knitted more (therapy) hence the TV watching. Got lost in British Shows... Of the 3 versions of the Bridge ( like I said watched a lot of TV), the best is the original Scandinavian version. Then the British one and the American, which is my least favorite. The original story varies enough that they are all worth watching. AS for reading: I recently re-read "A Tree grows in Brooklyn" which was as wonderful as I remember it. Just picked up The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. I think I am going to suffer while reading it, but I believe it will be excellent. Will post back. The Inauguration was emotional. Don't understand the Republicans. They frighten me. Thank you for your posts! Patricia

I was also gratefully teary over the inauguration - knocked out by Amanda Gorman's poetry, moved by Lady Gaga's powerful sincerity in singing the Star Spangled Banner, hopeful and relieved listening to the tone of Joe Biden's speech . . . and smiling at the fact that Bernie's practical parka and home made mittens were the fashion statement of the day. What I've noticed with myself since the "peaceful transition"; is that I no longer tense up and grit my teeth when the word "President" is mentioned in news reports. We witnessed the power and ability of the words of an ignorant, fear mongering and souless man who became President (how did that happen???), unable to put even halfway intelligent statements together; influence, change and motivate hate and violence in an unsettlingly large number of people in our country. My hope is that President Biden's influence from his powerful platform will move things in a more peaceful, united way of acceptance and love. It's going to be a long road, but we're all on it together.
Mary Beth's picture

You said this so beautifully.

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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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