Mary Beth Writes


So that might have been the quietest Christmas of my life. How about you?

A tweet from this morning: “Are you suddenly knowing people who HAVE Covid?”

I don’t know anyone close. One of my daughter’s friends was super disappointed to cancel flying home to New Jersey when she suspected she had Covid. Which, once she could find a test, she did. Then she heard last Friday that 13 people in her family have it.

Friday we did house tasks and worked here in the office. Christmas we got up early to watch the launch of the James Webb telescope. Well, Len got up early. I wasn’t committed until Len yelled up the stairs, “There’s coffee down here.” So I watched it, too.

I read an entire novel Christmas day. We ate ribs and garlicky mashed potatoes. We zoomed with the kids and the best moment was when the little cousins realized they could see each other and their eyes lit up and they leaned forward.

Yesterday we met friends for a walk at “Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.” It was beautiful, sunny when we were there, and super cold when we sat at a picnic table to eat our friends' sweet potato pie. Then again, we are fast pie eaters.

(FYI: By Evergreen parking lot at Lapham Peak, there is a shelter building, picnic tables outside and cross country skiing that goes by and through woods - with snow-making machines to keep it snowy. If you go further into the park there is a tower from which you can see all the way to Milwaukee and Lake Michign.)

“Traditional” Christmas days with the same loved ones, the same foods, the same places, and rituals etc. – are beautiful when they works. But Norman Rockwell is dead and this is the world we live in now. In a weird way for those of us who live stable and comfortable lives - the front line of many of the crises of our era – global climate warming, racism, pandemic, religionism vs faith, catastrophic economic disparities – the front lines are our holidays.

Things are changing slowly, but massively, like icebergs turning over.

If you made it through your holidays with some laughing, eating, sharing, giving, receiving – then you did it. Nothing to apologize for if you did all the above with six cookies and a cat.

In the Stories category of this website are stories I have written. This is my favorite one about Christmas.


Since we moved here we have been on advanced friendly terms with an American Mexican family in our neighborhood. (Yes, American Mexican is redundant.) They lived in their too-small apartment more than 20 years. I met them one steamy summer night when they were sitting in the front yard of their apartment building, on kitchen chairs, talking and laughing with each other. Their little boy asked if I would like strawberry juice. I said yes. It was real strawberry juice, like I had in Guatemala. I went home and got cookies I made that day and gave some to them.

This fall all three generations moved to a small house that they bought six blocks from here. Two days ago, they dropped off to us homemade-from-scratch tamales.

I have been up here writing for a few hours. Len just called up to me. “Where are you? Are you outside shoveling?”

Their 15-year-old son, the one who was once a little boy offering me strawberry juice, was outside shoveling our driveway. He said he woke up this morning, saw the snow, got up and shoveled his family’s driveway. I want to point out this is probably the first time any man in his family has shoveled HIS OWN DRIVEWAY. Then this kid walked all the way over here to shovel ours. He will never take our money. Drives us crazy,. He did take two Cokes.

Must buy more Coke.


Thank you!!!!!

I love your posts...your writings. There's always a smile in there - or several.

Mary Beth, this is why being cautious, keeping isolated and careful matters:
Mary Beth's picture

Those photos are so sad and grim. We are watching, in real time, hysteria that makes the Salem witch trials look like nothing. How else do we explain tens of thousands of people who believe what they want to believe instead of what is in front of them?

As always, thank you! I know people with COVID, most of them vaccinated so the cases have been mild, the family had attended an end of year school program which is were they believe they were exposed. I didn't ask if they wore masks. It was four of us for Christmas Eve dinner, it was a blast, mainly because we were filled with gratitude to be able to celebrate (mom had COVID last year and there was nothing but worry for Christmas). Christmas day as quiet and home. There is a movie on Netflix: Don't look UP. Watch it and tell me what you think ( it goes with your response to Karen's comment. Be well, my friend.

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The picture is our wedding cake, made by my friend Karen, who drove it from Indiana to Chicago on the hottest day of that year. It was in the back seat so their two little boys had to ride in front (remember when kids could ride in front?). They got lost in the city but I didn't know that for years because Karen and her husband start early and had time to get lost and then figure it out. Sometimes wedded bliss is a lot of work. 

The following story and recipe is not about the wedding cake, but it is the photo I have...



How Do We Remember What We Remember?


The Jan 6 Hearings, huh? This is an amazing moment in US history and I’m trying to understand our incredibly intense response. Four of 10 voters have watched at least some of the hearings, which is 20,000,000 people. It’s not just me that can’t look away.

Our Terrible Canoe Adventure

The eagle photo was taken by Len - but not on this trip! 


We are fine but I have a tale to tell.

American Successes / American Failures

Did you ever have to tell the truth when it was hard? Did you ever lie to avoid a hard situation?  Did you ever know a hard, wrong thing but you told no one because it was going to be complicated and some people wouldn’t believe you and you might end up disrespected or worse for “telling on” someone else?

Most people work hard at learning truth-telling when they are 4 and 5-years old.

Molecule Moving


I didn’t know a Panoply of Dental Moments was coming my way this week, but such is life with teeth. One can brush, floss, slosh, and swish - but if one’s teeth want to crumble, they do. Yesterday I had my six-month cleaning. The hygienist said several times that I brush and floss beautifully. I was proud and thinking maybe I would give myself a “well-done” sticker when I got home. Then the dentist came in to do the check-up and said two fillings had cracks around them and needed to be replaced.

Rough Stories, Tough Week


Last Friday evening on PBS Tonight David Brooks said something like this. “I am afraid for all of us. The news just pummels us.”

There are as many tough stories as there are fingers on a closed fist. The shooting in Uvalde. The shooting in Buffalo. The corrupt power of the NRA and other obscene wealth-mongers that are destroying our society from the inside of elected reps’ pockets outwards. Ukraine. Global climate mayhem. Oh, and covid is everywhere. Less traumatic for most; long covid for some. So that’s six fingers on that pugilistic fist.

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