Mary Beth Writes

The cat in the picture is my daughter's cat, Nancy. Sometimes we all just need a quiet place to slow down and think.


Due to sudden changes in his vision, on Monday Len went to our ophthalmologist and Tuesday he went to the neural ophthalmologist she referred Len to in an opthamologically urgent way. He will have more tests but it seems as if with luck and a change of Rx, he will outlast his eyes. Whew. Also on the breaking medical news front, my teeth stopped hurting. I have upcoming Dental Appointments that will cost more than my first car, but currently nothing hurts.

So the week started wierdly. What do you do when your life skews sideways? What do you do when nothing on your to-do list matches what you actually have to do now?

I walked to the library and got more books and said no to activities I would usually say yes to and I sat around and read. I tried to write but nothing was worth posting. I made a red lentil curry and a lot of chocolate chip cookies and that was about it.

So this morning I went through some of my old stuff and found things I thought weren’t good enough back when I wrote them. Now I like these two pieces and decided to post them here today.

From 2020: How They Divide Us.

I read this a few years ago. A mother to teenage sons recognized a pattern in how young white men are being radicalized into white nationalism.

First her sons hear jokes that put down women, people of color, liberal politicians, progressive causes and ideas. The jokes are not complicated. Start with blonde jokes and go from there. Blacks act like this. Hispanics act like that. All the trite and sometimes funny jokes that belittle people who are not white males.

Then, if anyone protests, call those who protest snowflakes or other derogatory terms. Say things like, “Jeez, can’t you take a joke?” or “Why are you so _____ sensitive?” Note I left out the swear word. Using profanity builds the ego of the person who uses it and is intimidating to those who don't swear.

The white teenage boy now feels put upon because HE feels that HE has to monitor his jokes and language for the sake of snowflake baby-headed ‘sensitive’ people who aren’t as tough as he is.

He may begin to notice the media organizations that play off this exact dynamic. “Are you tired of our hothouse society? Are you tired of having to curtail your power as a strong white male?”

We all recognize this dynamic but it’s powerful to recognize how it happens. And obviously, it isn’t just white teenage boys who are vulnerable. I read this before January 6th.

I wrote this while I was still working, right before Christmas in 2014 which is eight years ago. FYI: my daughter is no longer a probation officer but I think the way we watch, admire, and feel wistful about our grown children is as relevant as ever.

Our youngest started her new job this fall. She’s a Probation Officer in Cook County, IL. Yes, that would be Chicago. Many of you know her. Smart, polite, and sweet to most; cynical, hilarious, and feisty to those she knows best.

Also relevant in my mother’s opinion? She’s small - about the height of a snowman built entirely by 4th graders; taller than them but not by much. The snowman might weigh more, though she’s way cooler. (Hah…)

So now she knows how to write and manage serious reports, she has been trained to fend off “bad guys”, and she has a cubicle under a heating vent that occasionally blasts hot air. Welcome to county jobs in older buildings.

After weeks of training, she has started to see the people in the caseload she will share with another new PO.

This week she had to arrest one of those people so yes my daughter made her first arrest. I’m so proud.

The mechanics of the process are not dramatic. She and her partner have to know when one of their people has warrants. They did the check and this guy did. Then she proceeds within the normal protocols which includes having a PO who carries cuffs (meaning he has extra training and experience at this) to put the offender in handcuffs. Then they wait for the Chicago Police to arrive to take him to jail.

She told this story with a lot of detail. I both held my breath and then laughed a lot. We talked about how interesting and odd it is to work with folks whose lives are out of control; the intensity and ordinariness of it all.

Oh, and her name at work is Officer Danielson. I do so wish my mother and/or brother were alive; she’s taking our name to a whole new place. They’d be so proud.

So that was that.

Then there was this: I stopped at a store after work to buy some presents. I spent way too much time studying necklaces because I wanted to buy one for each of my daughters.

At first the jewelry looked cool, but the longer I perused, the more the stuff began to look cheap. Still, these are young women who work with people who are often poor; they don’t want to wear expensive stuff. (And they already have more Fair Trade/Mayaworks stuff than most.) Finally I chose two; one is silvery, the other has twisted strands of gold and tiny black rhinestones.

Driving home I realized I really don’t know which necklace to give to which daughter or if they will even want them. Does younger daughter ever wear jewelry? My older daughter is quite fashion-aware; does she even want a heartfelt bauble from mom?

These are my daughters; they look like me only young and beautiful instead of old and beautiful (we have got to stop thinking of ourselves as homely). They have complicated jobs, friends I’ve never heard of, and clothes I’ve never seen. I don’t know what they eat for breakfast; I don’t know what they think about when they fall asleep at night.

Christmas can break your heart. Our children don’t need us nearly as much as we need to give them gifts that say they were and still are the best part of our lives.

They are distant from us now in their smooth skin and confident ways. Argh, the way they handle a smart phone at the same time as they talk AND chew gum. Who are these handsome young adults who buy houses and cars, who win trivia contests at bars in their neighborhoods, and admire actors and musicians I’ve never heard of, and send ME thank you notes?

Then, when we talk on the phone about the dysfunction and challenges we wade into each morning at our jobs--there are still places where we are not the opposite ends of a continuum. There are still these connections between who they are and who we are. How hard they have worked to obtain jobs they care enough about to do every day. The way they get to work on time and make their co-workers laugh, The way they type fast and drink coffee at their desks.

I’m so proud of them. I miss those little kids who used to hang around me.

And now, back to MB in July of 2022.  I need to post this because in an hour my son and his wife and their two kids will be here.  My little kids are gone. My little kids are about to show up. 




MB yep,,,,,,I'm right there with you. Reading this made me feel a bit melancholy while smiling and thinking to myself how wonderful to have a friend that can put all these feelings into words. Being a mom wasn't easy to start with, a really good gig but not for the faint of heart! Hugs!
Mary Beth's picture

Yeah, we raised really awesome kids but who knew, back when we were doing it, it would ever be this melancholy and also wonderful. Grandkids just left. Hard to believe i ever had this much energy!

You and Judy said it perfectly! Loved the read.
Leonard's picture

But they’ll remember that we sat with them, listened to their stories, got angry (or sad) alongside them to show them we understood and we would be there for them. Maybe those young men wouldn’t have felt the Ned to swear and put down folks around them if they thought people were listening to them. Or, maybe not, I dunno. But as we keep up with our medical appointments, waiting for the one that’ll be some news we can’t laugh off, we can point to what we’ve accomplished by just living, listening, and trying to get through the day.

I like that Len - living, listening & trying :)

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The Good Old Days???


Over the past few days Len and I have been emailing with two cousins regarding this interesting topic.

Were the Good Old Days All That Good?

The four of us grew up in the late 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. We are from three hometowns. Two of us were and still are science nerds. Two of us grew up in the same family and church.

This is what Len said about his childhood.

This is a more intense version of joking to kids that our smallpox scars are power ports.

Send $ to Welcome the Strangers Among Us.

If you have a heart for new immigrants among us and are open to another way to support them – Listen Up.

Three Things - Surviving the News, Our Web, Hiking Pix


Len and I went on a hike yesterday at the Monches section of the Ice Age Trail and the photos are from there. 

Was it only a week and a half ago? My how time flies when one lives in an open and free society under daily assault.

3 Things - Cool, 9/11, Bulbs

The photo is from Hiroshima. It's the shadow of what was there before the bomb. 


Yesterday it was hot and muggy and sticky. Almost every day since May has been hot and muggy and sticky. We have a small house with air conditioning; utility bills are not prohibitive so I am a lucky that way.  It’s usually cool enough in here.

But spending time outside, as one ought to do, is perpetually hot and muggy and sticky. I’m weary of sweating. Most weeks my laundry has included nearly twenty spent t-shirts … just from me.

3 Things - QE2, Triplets, & Me

The death of Queen Elizabeth dominated the news yesterday and it still thick afoot today. ‘Thick afoot” is my attempt to sound like a wee English countryside river animal political pundit. You know. An otter with a pipe. A weasel in a dark suit and an appropriate tie. A crow with an Hermès scarf.

I have two responses to QE2’s passing.

Wild Horses & Other Beauties


I first saw this photograph on Twitter in April. I don’t know the photographer, but the photo stopped me in my tracks. 

The Twitter handle of this person is Chris Byrne @ChrisByrnePhoto. He has a website; I think he leads photography workshops. His website is:

Meanwhile, here I am, awestruck by a beautiful and wild place I will likely never go. It’s called Torres de Pain and it’s a national park in Chile.

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