Mary Beth Writes


I walk a lot; I laugh a lot and make other people laugh fairly often. I can water plants on a high shelf and carry laundry down two flights of stairs and pick up fairly heavy boxes to move from here to there. But boy oh boy, one thing I do not do is - I don’t Jump.

Except … maybe?

It was not yet 7AM and we were on I-94 into Chicago to watch our kindergarten grandkid and her 3-year-old brother for part of the day. Public schools were on spring break last week and my daughter and son-in-law were pulling out all the stops to keep her happy and safe while they kept up with their jobs.

My phone rang (buzzed?) identifying the caller as my daughter. Before I could say hello, Miss Six was sprightly chatting her plans for our day, “I have all my babies out and they all need you and me to take care of them and my other grandma gave me craft kits and we can do them and can we make cookies and go to the playground.”

She was talking so fast that I could barely say hello. My daughter was trying to get her to eat more breakfast but she was too excited to think about peanut butter toast or applesauce. All I could do was laugh. 

An hour later we walked in their front door whereupon Six pulled me to the kitchen to consult about her pile of dolls. Meanwhile, Mr. Three launched into deep conversation with Len, showing his printed-out pages of trains pictures (mostly from us) and identifying what was what in each photo. Len said later the kid can identify something like 30 types and models of engines and train cars. What he can’t do is say an R but Len can, so between them the conversation was vigorous and mutual.

Daughter, who needed to go upstairs to the corner of her bedroom to do her job (what a world!) said there’s a bakery close to their house. We put on our jackets back on and carried little bikes and helmets from the porch down to the sidewalk and off we spun and tumbled. Both kiddos were chatting whether we were next to them and responding or not. Amazingly, they DO stop at corners to wait for the grownups. Savvy city kids.

At the bakery (both kids knew how to get there, we just had to keep up) Miss Six said precisely at least eight times that she wanted a “vanilla iced Long John and one rainbow sprinkle cookie”. Mr. Three looked at the cookies at his eye level, picked out blue sprinkled ones, and that’s what he signified with less than crisp R’s and L’s. (‘I wan baloo.’) Len picked a chocolate iced donut and I, mortally impaired by the heartbreak of gluten sensitivity, ordered for them but not for me..

Then we were back outside chasing the flying small kids on their flying small bikes, on our way to the playground that is two blocks on the other side of their house.

Got there, laughing at how fast they zip and chatter. You don’t even have to really listen to them, they just keep talking, especially Kindergarten kid. It's kind of like the background sound in a contented chicken coop - a tumble of fluttery sounds.

We handed the kids their treats. Three ate his blue cookies so fast all I saw was that suddenly his lips and teeth were blue and his smile had sprinkles.

Len offered him a bit of his chocolate donut. Three proceeded to eat the entire top half with all the icing, then handed back to Len the bottom half of dry cake. By then Len and I were simply laughing at how confident and small they really are.

We watched them five hours. At lunch we discovered Six had eaten half her long john in the same fashion as her brother - the top iced half was gone, the bottom dry part lay like a victim in it’s bakery paper.

I’d brought a bag filled with random pieces of cardboard and paper towel tubes and old pansy-printed wrapping paper I bought at a Goodwill years ago. Before I could suggest anything, she announced her babies needed a crib (there are several adorable wood and/or plastic doll cribs upstirs in her room) but play is not about increasing inventory, it’s about the moment. Len designed a crib, cut it out, hot-glued it together. Six glue-sticked the pansy paper to the crib. A friend had given me an envelope of paper butterflies recently, Six glued several inside the crib. The new pansy crib was too small for any of her pile of babies, she said she needed her ladybug stuffie. So I snuck upstairs, past my daughter conducting a legal interview, to find the specific plush bug.

Three was busy drawing wavery lines on small pieces of paper. It made no sense until I asked and he said they were railroad tracks. Some of this lines ended at the edge of the paper. He informed me that they were an abandoned track. “It mean no twains go on it anymoe.”

Len and I looked at each other in amazement. He knows this? He can say 'abandoned' but not twacks?

I don’t jump?

Oh boy, yes I do.

Spending time with kids one likes and loves, this is how old people jump.

Speaking of jumping, how many of us will pay attention to the news tonight with rapt and jumping attention? An election whose results will map out the future of Wisconsin. Orange is arraigned. What a day.






Made me laugh, too!

Wisconnsin gives me such HOPE!!!!!! Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

In Wisconsin, when all voters get to vote, we tend to vote in Dem candidates. Not radical Dems, just Dems. But this state is so gerrymandered, brought to us by R's in 2010, that they have the majority in both state houses and as of a state senate race last night, R's won that by less than 1%, R's in the state senate now have the 2/3's needed to impeach. Possibly they will try to impeach Janet? Who knows? She won by 10%. The state seat was won by a tiny amount and that was in R suburbs. One can see voters are divided and also traditional R's are not all that keen on what's going on here. . This "may you live in interesting times" stuff is getting old...
Leonard's picture

Even though Republicans are in the majority in the WOW counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington), they're not in total control - and the numbers in these counties are too big to ignore. 30% of the state's democrats are in Waukesha County, and the GOP can't win statewide against the "Blue Wall" here.

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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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