Mary Beth Writes

Well, first off… it’s SNOWING! Friday morning, May 8th and it is snowing enough that the view out my office window is hazy with falling snow. Sheesh!

The message the Trump administration is trying to sell us is that Everything is Fine. If someone says otherwise Trump silences them by firing them, transferring them, or moving them out of media events. We know this. We see it and it is infuriating and scary.

Some businesses are opening up which seems like a sign that things will revert to normal soon. It will not. Many of us are in a (lucky) situation where we don’t know someone sick with Covid, so it doesn’t seem real. Spring seems real. Screwball snow followed by a sunny afternoon seems real. My friends emailing interesting things, and reading to my granddaughter, and thinking about planting tomatoes – that all seems far more real than coronavirus.

Keep your guard up and I will, too. We are not even close to fine yet.

Unemployment figures are out and congratulations, our grandparents no long win “Worst American Economy Ever.” About a fifth of our jobs have vamoosed and because of that, all the rest are in jeopardy. Unless and until government can invent a cohesive approach to this crisis (bet it won’t be Trump’s administration) we are in a Wiley Coyote economic plummet.

I have two things to say.

One - is that we who are retired are missing the brunt of this. Those of us with assets and stability have GOT to keep our eyes peeled for what we can share and do.

Two – somewhere along the line I want American subsidies to American people to be tied to American asset building. Sure, we will pay your rent because there is a not a safe job to be had, but here are the free online trainings for forklift certification, for CNA certification, and for Food Safety in hospital settings protocols. And now this person has a few more assets on their resume.  

Need more food assistance? Of course you do because you have a family to feed. So here are online cooking classes for everyone over age 12 in your family. Specializing in how to cook greens and beans and how to use appliances that help turn cheap foods into delicious meals – such as Insta-pots and slow cookers. When the online tests are completed and passed, not only do you get increased food assistance, you also get Insta-pots and slow cookers.

Sure, we will raise and extend your unemployment checks but here are American history, American literature, and American civic classes that you need to take and pass.  Online and taught by people who recently earned their MA’s and PhD’s in the above subjects. And now they can put this experience on THEIR resumes.

You need a tablet or laptop or smart phone? Come to our local county social services site and we will give you one, but you can’t take it home until you have taken the 2-4 hours class on how to utilize it most efficiently and you have passed a not-too-hard test. And filled out a couple online job apps, so we know you can do it.

This is how you build a stronger nation. Let people learn more of the abstract and concrete skills of being a citizen in a complicated society in an at-risk time.

I dream of a society where we teach civics again. 

The opening photo is of the Michigan state capitol. I visited it in 8th grade along with the rest of my 8th grade class. We had studied state civics classes every Friday afternoon for a year and the reward was that awesome overnight trip to Lansing. 




I do believe that those who will do best in this crisis are the ones who will be creative and dare to think outside the box. You shared some good ideas, Mary Beth!

The community college here has two classes: American National Politics and State and Local Politics, and I took them to get a second Associates degree as a senior. did I take them because they seemed interesting or I wanted to increase my knowledge? No, I took them because they were mandatory for that degree! And I think they should be mandatory for any degree or certificate. I learned stuff I should have known my whole life! This should be mandatory in high school! In junior high we had to pass a "constitution test" and possibly again in high school. I memorized enough facts to pass. But bless my college instructor who brought it to life, and required us to define our beliefs, learn to research, learn about valid sources (NOT most TV news), communicate with our town, county, state, and national elected and unelected officials, attend political meetings and so much more! And it cost maybe a hundred or two hundred dollars to learn all of this. I'm still content with who I had voted for all these years, but maybe for some of the wrong reasons. I just couldn't get over how uninformed I had been, and I could cry or go crazy to see how uninformed some other people are!
Mary Beth's picture

Somehow we MUST figure out that the most important asset this nation has - is our minds - which we hone and protect with education. News is mostly sensational stories. "Critical thinking" is disrespected as something for eggheads to do. It's so nuts and its so dangerous.
Leonard's picture

In addition to all the free stuff on YouTube and Vimeo, and the (not free but pretty) cheap online courses, there are some valuable courses available from the Public Library. These are subscriber-only classes that are free to you through your library card. My library offers Gale classes, but there are others. Libraries never cease to amaze me! (Waukesha classes are at

When I was in 8th grade, back in the Dark Ages before it was known as Middle School, we spent a year in history class studying the Constitution. It was great. The teacher added the study of politics (it was an election year), and other citizen-related issues. Like I said, it was great. I can't any longer remember what the 8 powers of the President are, but I do remember that he had only 8. Also, Renee told me that Coursera is offering their online classes for free during this time, and some of them lead to certificates that people can use for, say, IT jobs. I haven't looked at the course list, but it would be worth doing. Sedgwick

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Quarantine Diary #150 8/11/2020 Taking a Break

I’m depressed. How about you?  I’m not the kind of depressed where I should call a doctor. I’m more “Michelle Obama depressed.”  Things feel stuck, wrong, and getting worse. There’s the pandemic and the feeble, chaotic response to it. There’s racial strife. When, if ever, will the police police themselves? Teachers and kids are being thrown back into schools like spaghetti thrown against a wall - to see who will stick? There’s the angry self-entitled idiocy of too many people.

Quarantine Diary #142 Swimming Lessons

“It's a good idea to begin at the bottom in everything except in learning to swim.” Unknown author

I was well into my 40’s when I realized that one doesn’t have to wait for perfect weather if one wants to go into the water. 

Quarantine Diary #141 8/5/2020 "Red Dust"

I just finished reading “Red Dust – A Path Through China” by Ma Jain.  It is a remarkable book that asks more questions than it answers.

Ma Jain was born in the 50’s and grew up grew up very poor in a small Chinese city. He remembers when his mother would simmer stones for dinner so that the neighbors would see her cooking and not realize how poor they were.  (A whole different take on the children’s tale “Stone Soup.") The violent and terrifying Cultural Revolution that Chinese citizens lived through is over but memories of it are in everyone’s minds.

Quarantine Diary #140 7/31/2020 Wishing you a Merry Quarantine Weekend

When I’m in a certain mood I love how-to articles – and I’m in that mood right now. I think it happens at the intersection of reasonable weather and Friday ... when happiness still seems possible.

I googled “How to have a nice weekend in the time of Covid” and guess what? There are no Wiki-How articles on how to be happy in a pandemic.

Let’s invent this right here, right now.

Quarantine Diary #134 Written while sweating …

My best coping skill for appalling weather is to show it who is boss. 30 below?  Cool. Let me put on all my clothes plus a hat down to my eyebrows and another one up to my glasses, and I’ll go out there.

Quarantine Diary #131 7/23/2020 "Becoming Labrador"

Yesterday I forgot to write about a movie we watched which I think many of you might like to watch, also.  We’ve been talking here about what one can stand to read and watch these days when our spirits are stressed and anxious.

I thought I wanted to reprise some of our Canada travels.  FYI, if you’ve traveled in a place you loved, put that place into your streaming service Search window, find some great or mediocre documentaries about that place, and revisit your memories.  It’s fun.

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