Mary Beth Writes


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.

Early last week Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon (appointed AFTER he lost the election) said that the bazongo “Why Do You have All Those Secret US Government Documents at your Golf Club” case COULD NOT JUST PROCEED. It should have a Special Master, i.e., a friend of Trump who would one-by-one look at the 11,000 documents. Slow walking it. Tie up American foreign intelligence?

Sometimes the news feels like being slapped; the barrage of injustice and abuse of power feels almost physical. Here we are, ordinary citizens trying to live our best lives, while others are shredding law, order, justice, and what we hoped was the American Dream growing stronger and more inclusive. It’s witnessing baby seals being beaten to death for a luxury fur we do not need nor want.

I’m an old, secure white person and it feels like this. How do people of color even breathe?

I decided to pay attention to how I live through this stuff. We all get through, but how?

I looked at social media a little less for a couple days. I didn’t quit it. I know some people sharply restrict their social media exposure and I get that. Personally, I feel as if Twitter leads to much of the best, clearest, deepest, and spunkiest news.

But when I feel assaulted I intentionally ratchet back how often I check it.   When I do look, I go to feeds of people I respect. (Like Angry Staffer and Heather Cox Richardson) They know experts I don’t know. They retweet helpful explanations about how to understand what’s going on.

Next day constitutional lawyers were weighing in. Counter legal opinions were being discussed. By the end of last week smart lawyers and politicians were throwing monkey wrenches at and into Judge Cannon’s directive.

Is this solved? Not at all. But I watched myself make a path that worked for me. I didn’t go into overdrive. I didn’t despair. I paid attention to smart people. I read some things that are relevant and then I went back to whatever I was doing. And I donated money to a good organization.

Here’s one thing I realized: We need to acknowledge how easily we slam lawyers and politicians. So many of our cynical jokes assume all lawyers and politicians are cut from the same cloth. Yet without smart and responsible lawyers and pols we would be hosed. I am becoming more respectful of what those particular people are living through. I am glad they are exist and are working and acting.

Heads up, MB. It isn’t my job to personally defend democracy. It IS my job to be smart enough to watch the process and support the people doing this job in front of us. and then to vote and to work for good candidates,

Breathe deep. We are in it now.

And if YOU follow smart people on social media – who are your folks?


Regarding my health. Yesterday I finished the second round of the medication that fight the c diff. I feel as good as one can feel when energetically hiking a beautiful trail in a place where a grizzly ate a hiker a couple days ago. Enjoying my life. Paying a LOT of attention. Kinda freaked but we won’t talk about it too much.

PS: No hikers have been eaten by bears anywhere around here.  There ARE a lot of chipmunks in our woods, thugh. 

We were in the car with some friends. They pointed out a house and said Brian’s parents used to live there. I said, “But Brian lives in Minneapolis and you knew him when you guys were kids Up North.” They explained that Brian’s dad had a peripatetic career. I commented, “Oh you guys know too many people in too many places.” They said, “You knew Brian and his wife’s BFF’s who were your BFF’s years ago in Racine.” We agreed people are a lot more connected than we generally think about.

A few weeks back I read the dense and absolutely fascinating book, An Immense World, by Ed Yong. He does deep science diving to tell us, as much as anyone can know, how various bugs and birds and animals experience the world. The point being we humans are precisely one species of animal. Our senses are awesome, but many critters sense and live out their lives in a world that is extremely different from what we know.  

Take spiders. I know many people (such as Len) seriously do not like spiders. I don’t want them as pets but I don’t mind them. Possibly I read Charlotte’s Web to too many kids in my life so I anthropomorphize - but spiders seem like contented and introverted women (I think a lot of them are women) and I can respect that groove.

But here’s the thing. We see spiders as generally small creatures. (I don’t live in the Southwest. My spider equanimity might not extend to those creatures you guys have that are as big as skedaddling fists). Spiders are so attuned to their webs that their webs should probably be understood as extensions of their bodies. They know when anything hits the web and they know from the way their web wafts or waves what that bug or breeze or bit of flying flotsam probably is. They sit their quietly but that web catches most of the news of the big world around them.

So back to Brian who nearly everyone knows. Do we understand how interwoven we are?  

Like this. We were camping in South Dakota’s Black Hills. There was a couple next to us. We said hi. They said hi. One of us asked where we were from and with one minute we knew these people were Denise’s brother and sister-in-law. Denise lived in Chicago and Len had been at a social action meeting with her a few days earlier.

One of our kids was interviewing for a job in Chicago. The interviewer asked if she could write long reports. She said yes, listed her credentials, then laughed and said both her parents were writers. The guy asked what we wrote. My kids answered. The guy replied, “Your mom wrote that book with Carol Stoner?” Like, my kid met one of the six people (I exaggerate but not much) who read that book? 

He decided to hire her (on the basis of her resume, not essays her mom had written15 years earlier). So then he called HR. The woman recognized the name Danielson. “Is this woman you are hiring mid-twenties, blonde, smart and lovely?” The guy responded, “Yes, Nancy, but you’re freaking me out.” “Oh, we lived across the street from each other when our kids were little.”

How interwoven is your world? When you thought the world was enormous and foreign and risky, who did you meet?




Leonard's picture

I remember meeting Denise' brother. In addition, before I met Mary Beth, I traveled to California and met a friend of mine from my old neighborhood in high school. Even better, another friend from high school traveled (a lot) more than I did, and she met another friend of ours in Nepal. Best of all, my father looked vaguely like Raymond Burr in "Ironsides," the (very) old TV show. A young family on an airplane was convinced that he was Raymond Burr, despite his insisting that he was not. In the end, he gave them a signature (as Raymond Burr, of course), and I imagine them telling the story to this very day.

We moved to a neighborhood (kind of rural/not anymore) when my girls were quite small.Through the years we developed great friendships with other families, and the women became very close, as did many of the children. Best friends to this day. In our conversations, we discovered: I delivered my youngest 2 days before a dear friend. Same hospital, same doctor. We realized we probably waddled past each other on the hall way several times. Who knew we would become sustaining friends all those years later! Same friend was an ICU nurse in the pediatric hospital and was the nurse caregiver to the daughter of our other friend when she was born (serious heart condition). She was so happy to see her once ;very ill patient, thriving and doing well. All these kids are now in their thirties! As for the news, I live in Florida. My mother is Venezuelan. My late father, a texan worked in Venezuela where he met my mother. Anger and sadness, are some of the many feelings I am experiencing. We don't treat people this way. Vote. Please. Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

If Karen from Chicago days gets around to reading this, she will smile. We gave birth to our sons two days apart in the birthing center at Illinois Masonic; I think we talked to each other about two minutes in the hallway, yet when the boys started school, she recognized me! The immigration debacle in the US right now is sinful. Today's Heather Cox Richardson letter explicates what most of us remember. Before immigration was militarized with walls and guards, there was so much more traffic flow back and forth. Every decision made and unmade is about politics, not about people and it's inhumane. Why are we complaining abut "not enough workers" and then barring workers at the borders? None of us would be here if the "rules" now enforced had existed when our ancestors immigrated.
Mary Beth's picture

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Y is for Yellowstone


Back in February I asked you to give me topics to write about that would correspond to the alphabet. Sometimes several of you sent ideas for one letter and sometimes I wrote about all of them (I’s and S’s) Here we are at letter Y for which your suggestions are Yummy Food and Yawns. The word yawn absolutely makes me yawn; no way I could write about that - I would yawn for hours. I worked on Yummy Food but could only find a scolding voice about Americans eating too much sugar. Bah. True but not interesting.

So, I gave Y a go again. Y is for?

"I was Scott Simon's teller."


First of all - Thank you to those of you who came to the Wisconsin Writers Association zoom gala last night. I HAD received an email a week ago which said I would be reading my whole story. Cutting it in half while I was reading was awkward! It was still a happy event for me and the other writers. Thanks for being there! 

X is for Xeriscape


Xeriscape is pronounced ‘zeer-eh-scape’ and it means landscaping with little to no irrigated water. Readers in the west already know about this. Those of us who don’t live in arid or desert places need to wake up to the incredible resource that water is - then begin to accommodate ourselves to “water all around and beneath us all the time” is no longer our reality. Nor is it our right. We’ve got to get smarter and do better.

W is for Wonder


To whomever suggested Wonder - Thank You!  ‘Wonder’ has been bobbing in my mind like a frog in a pond.

However, I have FOUR suggestions from you guys for X - but I do not want to write four X essays. These are the suggestions:

1.) X signature substitution

2.) xylophone on a string pulled by a toddler

3.) xenophobia

4.) Xmas. 

If you have an opinion respond with the one you would like me to attempt. I will choose whichever X gets the most comments.

There will be no gerrymandering in this election.



Grownups Noticing Their Lives


Most of you know about my former weird and lovely job of coordinating an employability skills program for Huber-qualified inmates in the Racine County Jail (that’s a mouthful). Early on I realized that most of the people I would work with were people with 1.) huge addiction problems, and 2.) underlying and over-the-top and to-the-side just lying around mental health issues.

V is for Vocabulary


For those who are new here - This year I am writing about topics, in alphabetical order, that were suggested to me by readers. Sometimes this is hard! 


My cousin-in-law Dave has some powerfully thorough avocations (for fun and profit he earned a PhD in biochemistry; you will notice this in his list). This year, among other pursuits, he has been collecting words which have appeared in our culture since 1945, which was the year he also appeared in our culture.

Tag Cloud

9/11 17 minutes 500 Words A-Z AARPtaxes AAUW abortion Acadia accident Accountable Advent aging Alaska anniversary antibiotics antlers apples appointments Arrows art Ashland August Augustine aunts baby Badlands balance Baldwin Barbara Barkskins Beauty Becky Becoming Esther Berry birthday bistro BLM Blue BookReport books boy scout Bread BrokenDays BuyAngry Cabeza de Vaca Cahokia calendars Canada canoe cat romance cats cello Chicago China Choosing Christmas cilantro Cinnabuns circus climate change clouds Clowns clutter Colonialism comet ComfortZone CommonSense community consumerism Cops Corvid-19 Courage Covid-19 Crazy creditreport creosote CrimeShows danger DarkRiver death Debate December DecisionFatigue decluttering democracy dentist depression Destination Today Detroit Didion disasterprep dogs dollhouse Dreams Duty Easter eBay Echoes Eclipse election EmilyDickinson eschatology Esquipulas exit polls eyes Fable FairTrade family farmer Fata Morgana ferns firealarm Fitness Five Flatbread Flexible flu Food Pantry Fort de Chartres frame Franc FrancGarcia friends frugal FrugalHacks Frugality frustration Ft.Ticonderoga fungi fusion Galena Gannets Garden GarfieldParkConservatory Gaspe genius geode GeorgeFloyd gerrymandering ghosts gifts girls GNTL gorgons goulash GovernorThompsonStatePark Graduation grandkids granola groceries Guatemala gum guns Hair happiness HaveYouEver? hawks healthcare Healthinsurance hearings heart heaven HelleKBerry heroes hike History home HomeRepair Honduras Hope HowCrowGotOutofJail humor hurricane Ice Cream idiosyncrasy igloos impeachment Innkeeper Instincts integrity InternetPrivacy Interview InviteMe2Speak James Baldwin Jan 6 Janus jewelry JoyceAndrews Judy JulianofNorwich Jump justice Karen kites ladder Lady Lamb LangstonHuges LaphamPeak laundry LeeLeeMcKnight lemming Len Light Lincoln Little Women LockedOut Loki loneliness LouisArmstrong Love Ludington Macaw macho Manitoulin MargaretFuller Maria Hamilton Marquette marriage Marsden Hartley masks Mayan MayaWorks meme Memories men Middlemarch MilesWallyDiego MindfulChickens Mistakes MLK moon Mother MothersDay mounds mouser movies museums must-haves Mustapha NAMI Nancy Drew Newfoundland New Mexico New York City Nomadland nope observation OBUUC Ocotillo OnaJudge ordinary OscarRomero osprey Outside oximeter Parade mayhem PastorBettyRendon Paul Hessert PDQ Penny persimmon photos Pi Pies pineapples poetry Preaching privacy procrastination Protest QE2 Quern quest Questions Rabbit holes racism reading recipe recipes recommendations Remember RepresentationMatters Reruns responsetoKapenga Retirement rhubarb Ricky rime RitesofPassage romance Rosemary Ruether Roses Roti Ruth SamaritanWoman Sanctuary Sandhillcranes Santuario de Chimayo SaraKurtz SaraRodriguez satellites ScottSimon sculpture Seasons Sermon ServantsoftheQuest sewing Shepherd Shontay ShortStory shoulder sick sickness Slower snow Social Security SofritoBandito solstice South Dakota SpaceShuttle spirituality spring square feet staining stars stele Stereotypes stories StoryStarts stream monitoring stress Survival swim Talent taxes teenager thankgsgiving Thanksgiving TheBridge TheMaid ThePerpetualYou therapy ThreeBillBoards Three Thing ThreeThings Three Things TidalBore TimeBeing toddler Tom tortillas Trains travel Traveler Tubing turtle Twilight Bark Tyrone Ukraine Ulysses Grant Umbrella UnrelatedObservations Up North urgency vacation vaccine Valentines vanilla Vietnam vision VivianWokeUpDrowning Vocabulary vole volunteer WalkingAndSeeing Wampanaog war WarsanShire weather weaving Webs wedding whines WhyAttendChurch Wiley Willa WillaCather Wisteria Won! Wonder words Xeriscape Yellowstone
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