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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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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