Mary Beth Writes

1. This morning I was texting with Franc about our heritages. He was born and raised in the Midwest although his ancestors are from Puerto Rico. Being the child of children of a Caribbean Island means he probably has Taino DNA as well as African and European. Heck, he probably has Phoenician and Viking and Pacific Islander because island people and sailors have always thought each other cute.

This is the thing that occurred to me. We know that around 9/10’s of ALL native ‘New World’ people perished in the first 150 year after European contact. They died from relentless epidemics, from the brutal conditions of enslavement, from wars.

Which means it’s amazing that any person with mostly new world DNA is here at all. So many humans died, yet somehow his foremothers and forefathers survived and kept going. His existence is a heritage of endurance, tenacity, perseverance, and luck.

He also explained this phenomenon, which is weirdly functional/dysfunctional. His parents frequently told their kids all the ways in which they were ugly, lazy, and unclever. Psychological abuse was a thing in his family. He and his siblings (some more than others) had to grow up in the face of the ever-present disapproval of his mom and dad.

Franc just learned recently that this is not an uncommon in parents descended from enslaved people.


If you were enslaved as well as the parent of a gorgeous and beloved kid, the LAST thing you could afford was for that kid to feel bright and empowered. Smart and articulate kids were the first ones chosen to be exploited and sold. Parents did their best to keep the lights off in their kids’ eyes. Don’t tell them how much they are loved. Don’t tell them they are marvelous. Kids with self-esteem have a rockier road than kids who appear dull. Enslaved parents learned how to raise kids to plod along with their heads down.

This was a dynamic in Franc’s family and is true in many families who still carry the severe cautions learned in enslavement.

2. My family: When Sweden no longer worked for my ancestors because of both famine and religious oppression, my people immigrated to Michigan. I have often felt that moving from my hometown to Chicago to Racine to here was part of the banquet of DNA solutions passed along to me.  

When one is everyday unhappy - numb those feelings with cinnamon buns. When one is truly perplexed about how to go forward - move.

What have you done in your life that maybe didn’t make immediately sense to your family and friends, but if you stand at a distance and look backwards … Yup, some great-great-great-Gran handed that solution on to you?

3. This week was our last week of daily reading, drawing, and playing dollhouse with our granddaughter. We have a lot of feelings about this.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday we were having a birthday party in the dollhouse for the Golden-Haired Princess and the Magical Baby Princess. The Bad Guys came to the party until they burped too loud and the Baby Princess knocked them over and they cried all their way back to their barn. Boy, was our kid laughing, which makes us laugh really hard, also.

Anyways, she said fairies had to come to the party. We do not have designated fairies, so we would have to invent them. Len picked up some tiny dolls we’ve had 20 years. They have tiny calico dresses and felt shawls. 

“Grandpa! Fairies don’t wear sweaters!”

I hope you have a pretty good holiday weekend. Stay safe. Wear your mask. If you end up in crowded places, do like Bill Clinton and don’t inhale.


My DNA profile is Spanish, Taino Indian, and northern African, and some European... The Spanish were notorious for keeping and dealing in the slave trade for their sugarcane plantations... As I had just texted M.B. earlier, I was saying that dating Mr. P. an Anglo (Bless his battered heart) from a small Town outside of New York has had it's culture clashes because some of the things that I say affectionately and with love get misinterpreted in a way that I have to sit down and explain the background of (NOT always easy to do)... When I've mentioned this to my sister, cousins or the woman who explained this phenomena to me who is half Puerto Rican, and was raised in a large mixed generational family of 15, they have all basically said the same thing "Don't bring him to any family gatherings because he'll be eaten alive if he's that thin skinned... We certainly can look a fright and like we are messed up to someone looking at us from another culture (Some of us are just in case anyone is wondering)... But it's mostly just loving banter to us and mostly non abusive (Mostly but not always, as I can personally attest to)... There is a thin line...
Mary Beth's picture

Those thin lines...

My Swedish ancestors arrived in NYC via Ellis Island and then drifted up to New England...Massachusetts to be exact. Three sets of my great grandparents all lived less than a couple of miles of each other and the fourth set lived not much further away, just over a hill and into another neighborhood. I know all about the Cinnamon buns (with Cardamom). Comfort food at its finest. Along with a cup of Coffee, they are guaranteed to temporarily erase cares and worries.

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"Brotherhood" by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr - A Book Review


“Brotherhood” by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr is the most compelling novel I’ve read this year. I read the first half as if I was reading a book for the first time; it felt as if the writer was expressing a story so powerful he called it fiction just to get it out, to me, to us. 

I skimmed the second half because I was exhausted by the impossible trauma and decisions the characters would need to endure and try to survive.

Let me say right here than many will survive. Not all.

Thanks & Now Let's Do Pups!


 Thank You!

I sent our collated list of “Ways to Help My Community” to the Third Graders this morning.  Laura has already shared it with them; I just received this from one kid. This was really cool and helpful thank you for coming back to me so quickly well you always respond quickly like all the time and also I like hiring (hearing) from you always make me smile from writing to pictures I love them all.”

3rd graders on Community Building



I’m just back from volunteering in the third grade.  I’ve done this for five years; Laura Zahn who is this class’s teacher, plus her friend and fellow teacher Mara, have become among my favorite people in Waukesha. 

My Relationship with a Door 10/5/2021

Dear Friends,

I seem to be out of Deep Thoughts lately. Not sure if this is apparent to you but it is to me. This is not exactly a problem but keeps me guessing what in the world I should be writing. Or - since “should” is a sometimes toxic and generally unhelpful word – these days I am not sure what you want to read and I want to write.

So maybe I’ll just write you a quick Dear Friends. Sometimes relationships are just about checking in.

Up North 9/30/2021

Here’s why I’ve not posted anything in nearly two weeks.

Last week Len and I took a trip to Duluth, MN and Ashland, WI. We hiked seven hikes, met new friends, ate too much. (We didn’t eat IN restaurants. We ate take-out dinners while sitting in our car overlooking Chequamegon Bay.) We marinated in the breezy Up North rhythms of woods, streams, rivers, and Lake Superior. 

Then we came home to all that stuff one does up returning; laundry, groceries, and bringing in the Big Dozers to deal with cat litter boxes. 

Cabeza de Vaca & Company: A 500-Year Old Story for Our Time.

I’ve been thinking about Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca for years and I’ve also been thinking about him for a week.

It’s crazy out there in the world right now and people are, I think, kinda sick of each other. Racism, sexism, and classism are the muck we walk through to get to our cars while our climate is turning into flying monkeys. And the rich keep getting richer.

So let me tell you about a guy I admire.

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