Mary Beth Writes

First of all, tonight at 8:20 the time will be 20:20 on 20/2020. If you have kids, or if you are your own odd duck, I think that would be a good time to celebrate. When our kids were young we celebrated New Year’s Eve by piling, on a table on a tablecloth, a crazy stack of metal cookie sheets, muffin tins, bread pans, and bowls. When midnight struck they would try to pull the tablecloth out from under the stack, everything would teeter and then tumble with a terrific crash and the cats would run and it was satisfying. Since we are all in a l-o-n-g siege of at-home quarantine maybe you would like to perform this ceremony at your house at this evening’s 20-20-20-2020 moment. If you are your own adult, you might finish this with an adult beverage.

I read most of this article yesterday in which the writer is asking if we are witnessing the death of consumerism. I don’t agree with everything she says, though I would like to. I’m not sure people are anti-mega retail outlets i.e. Amazon. But her statistics and points are interesting and she’s a good writer.

This line follows her description of how much of our life we are now doing via Facetime, Zoom, etc:

“The aperture of my world feels very small, its rhythms incredibly repetitive. Sometimes, it’s almost calming. Other times, it’s incredibly claustrophobic.”

Preach it, Sister.

I’ve been thinking about assets. When life gets hard and we feel squeezed it can be a release to not think about what we are losing and have lost … but what we have that we can build on.

Such as If one can’t afford a spectacular meal in a spectacular restaurant for someone’s birthday, make chocolate chip pancakes at home and it’s nearly as delicious.

If one can’t travel to China, watch documentaries about China. We watched this one recently. Did you know the Great Wall of China is not one wall but is several meandering thousands of miles of walls built in different dynasties over the last two millennia? )

Personally, Len and I feel sad we can’t take a car trip in the foreseeable future. Maye the situation will change, but that’s how it seems right now. Therefore, we are working to make our yard nicer and more hospitable to others and for just the two of us.

This theory is also called: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

So, thinking bigger lemons and bigger lemonade: We’re all wondering how society will every go back to the institutions of yore. How can we do daycare and school? How should we run clinics and hospitals so that we never get caught that far behind the 8-ball again? How do we protect medical care providers and their careers, so they are not so vulnerable to economic decisions made by administrators they barely know? What is a safe residence for older or medically fragile people now? How can we travel and shop and ride public transportation?

It occurred to me that thinking outside the box means to CONSIDER OUR ASSETS instead of dwelling on our failures and vulnerabilities.

When I started thinking about our strengths, Zounds. This is the USA, folks! We’ve got Amazing Assets.

This country has land, land, and more land. We have gorgeous woods and fields, big famous parks, and small lovely close-to home parks. Have you read about Outdoor Schools – schools that happen outside, not inside a building? Consider outdoor daycare and early grades, when kids are so bad at “social distancing” and sitting still in one place – what if we built outdoor schools across the nation where little kids stays outside almost all day in almost all weather. Teachers teach via things they discover.

We have museums and zoos! What if elementary schools took over parts of the infrastructure of art and history museums, and the kids could spend half their day in the museum and unstructured art classes, and the other half in regular classes? Same at zoos. What kid would not want to say hi to lions study tigers every day?

We have nearly empty malls. Can we rebuild them into retirement communities? Each person gets a former store remodeled as a simple living space. They can leave their apartment to walk or wheelchair the mall in all kinds of weather. Most malls have interior places that could function as small sunny places. But the mall is also a medical care place for the whole community: doctors, urgent care, eye care, dentists. Rehabilitation equipment stores. Maybe a day care center?

This nation is rich in excellent people who do not have “credentials.” All of the above will need designated professionals – teachers and medical care providers. But we will also need “techs” who are adults who can care for and watch kids when they are not in designated classes. People who can assist older folks. Right now, we exploit by over-expecting and under-paying under-credentialed people for these jobs.

We have technology. Most Americans have phones, tablets, and/or laptops and we could certainly outfit the rest. We need better systems of free internet, and we know how to do that, too. We just need to train and hire the people to install it. With electronics we can teach adults what they need to learn to be credentialed childcare techs, older people techs, as well as how to understand internet systems, etc. We can offer tuition-free online classes to teach how to do those jobs so that one can apply for those jobs … and if ones passes the test they can get it. Without the expensive, daunting hassle of going to college or tech schools and then trying to translate that into a job. Make the path easier.

Individually, as families, in groups, and as a nation, if we consider our assets instead of our panic and losses, we can invent solutions for our needs.

Like you, I keep hearing about the millions of people across the nation who are turning their fabric stashes into masks. There’s one prime example of people turning assets into solutions.

What else?



I love the idea of outdoor schools, and do think there are some in place. We have a local high school that's outdoor-based and the farm where it's located also does a summer camp that's outdoors every day (except thunderstorms). Wayne went last year and loved it. They also offer a "Nature Day" program where kids who attend a regular elementary school can take one day off and go to the farm and be outside all day. I tried to get Henri in there in 5th grade but he didn't make it off the waiting list, so we did our own nature day. Every Monday, I kept him out of school and we forced ourselves to go outside, no matter the weather. (His favorite part was that we always ate at a diner after our hike.) We're lucky to live in a town that doesn't have a truancy policy so we didn't get dinged for him having that many absences. Also, having a smart kid who can miss a day of school a week without falling behind is a Super Privilege, I'm aware. :) But having this kinda of program--even 2 days a week out, 2 days a week in (alternating so class sizes stay small)--is such a good idea, for the health of kids, teachers, families, communities, farms, and our planet.

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Remembering Stuff

“I’m getting so old. I just can’t remember anything anymore.”

Okay, I understand and accept that forgetfulness is weird and awkward. We talk to someone about this movie and that house repair and that small restaurant from which we ordered amazing food a few weeks ago and it feels as if we are talking with 95% of the words we used to know. What was that guy’s name? Where did I read that really powerful thing about political strategy now?

Ayad Akhtar's "Homeland Elegies" & Do We Understand Colonialism?

I heard part of an NPR / Fresh Air interview with writer Ayad Akhtar so I borrowed the book from the library and read it.

In the 1960’s his parents earned medical degrees in Pakistan and then emigrated to the US where Ayad was born and has lived all his life. (His parents are now deceased.) His dad was a highly respected cardiologist. In the 1990’s, when Donald Trump was having heart issues, Dr. Akhtar was flown to NYC to examine Trump.

Susan's Birthday Questions 10/19/2020

(One decorates for October birthdays with orange trees.) 

Last week was my birthday. My niece Susan sometimes sends me birthday greetings where she asks excellent questions. She doesn’t know I still have the card she sent six years ago; I meant to answer her questions in the blog I had then, but I never got around to it.

Stereotypes Day

Today is October 12th - Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Not Columbus Day, okay?

I was in the process of giving birth to one of our kids and it was getting on towards midnight. The midwife wondered whether our baby would be born on the day we were in or whether it would be a few more minutes and then the child would have the next day as their birthday.

10/11/2020 This Crazy Advent We're In Now

This painting is by Andrea Kowch


Regarding Time: It’s been about a million months since the quarantine started. It will be an at least one epoch if not two, until a vaccine is available to quell it. Election Day is here now (I’ve already voted, have you?) yet it feels as if it will never be done and gone. Even when Nov 3 arrives we could be in for more epochs of anxious and angry waiting as ballots are tallied, argued over, recounted, all while lawyers and politicians fight and scrap.

Quarantine Diary #204 10/4/2020 3 Short Takes

Three things to say today and none are about our goatish, swag-bellied, canket-blossomed president. How to create a Shakespearean insult. 

1. I just read this WONDERFUL and REMARKABLE book! The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

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