Mary Beth Writes

I wrote most of this for my newspaper column, February 14, 1997. But I subtracted a little, added a little; I guess it's a refurbished Valentines Day posting for you today.  I hope you have a lovely day. And that there will be a little chocolate in it.

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It was many years ago today that, after a few hours of studying in my grad school’s library, I decided I needed a break.  I walked out to the main hall of the school to slurp a drink at the drinking fountain.  While I was there, a flower shop van drove up; a guy got out and started carrying in a bud vase that held three red roses. 

It was exactly the kind of moment with which I was totally familiar.  Somebody else was going to receive a token of affection from their thoughtful and romantic significant other.  I felt wistful and more than a little melancholy, like a little kid with her nose pressed up to the window of someone else’s life. 

The delivery guy walked up to the receptionist. “These are for a Mary Beth Danielson, can you have them delivered to her?”

The receptionist looked over her glasses at me and grinned.  “Want them?”

As if that wasn’t enough, at that exact moment another guy walked down the hall.  He was the very handsome man who had decided a few weeks previously that he didn’t want to date me anymore.  I saw him from the corner of my eye, standing stiff as a telephone pole, as I lifted the roses to my nose and - playing the moment for all it was worth - sniffed them.

My life-luck was changing.  

Of course, since it was my life, the day did end up in what I’ve come to understand is my particular style.  The man who sent the roses also cooked a spectacularly romantic dinner that evening at his apartment.  I remember it well.  Pounded chicken breasts stuffed with spinach/pine nut filling and drizzled with champagne sauce. 

A half hour later I came down with the flu and lost my dinner. I stayed the night because I was too sick to go home.  He spent the night reading in his living room while I became intimately acquainted with his bathroom towels.

Len and I married a year later.

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 I still love to remember that dazzling moment when I looked up from the water fountain to learn that this time, the roses were for me.  Valentine moments are those amazing snippets of time when we realize that what we have to offer is what someone else wants to receive.

It can be as simple as that fleeting second when a neighborhood squirrel stands on your porch clutching an entire stale corn muffin to his furry little chest.  You put the muffins out there earlier.  Blizzardy winds now whip past him as he cocks his head to study you.  You decided to interpret the look in his eyes as gratefulness.  What you had to offer definitely made his day. 

A friend without kids of his own volunteers at kid clubs.  He tells me how it almost makes his heart stop when a kid comes up next to him to tuck their head under his arm and slide their arm around his waist.  

 “Maybe people with kids are used to that feeling.  I tell you, every time it happens I get tears in the back of my eyes.  To think that a child would trust me and want my hugs still blows me over.”

That’s a Valentine moment.  What each has to give is what the other wants to receive.

It’s sweet when Valentine’s Day is celebrated by young lovers.  (Although I think maybe we ought to give them Groundhog’s Day.  That’s the occasion where we celebrate a fellow sticking his head out of his burrow, looking around, and sometimes deciding to stick around to enjoy the sunshine.) 

Valentine’s Day should belong to all of us.  To those of us who gave life to our kids and who now joyfully receive back their lopsided and heavily-taped heart cards.  To people who need to make music - and to those of us who long to hear some.  To people who know how to teach - and to those who long to learn.  To those who like to listen and to those who need to tell their stories. To people who need humanitarian assistance to survive, and to people who give what they can to support those organizations.  We might not see with our own eyes the child in Bangladesh gobbling a lunch, or the woman waking from a successful surgery somewhere in Africa, or the homeless person in your own town filling their belly at a soup kitchen in a church basement – but these are all  valentine moments where we can give what others want to receive.

Four color “Buy Your Sweetheart this Bauble Now” flyers promise us romance - 1/3 off while quantities last.  But what most of us really want is someone to take the time to find a way to tell us that we what we have to offer is what makes their life sweet.

Roses, diamonds, or stale corn muffins - all work when the message is heartfelt. 

I hope a dear person gives you love today. And even more, I hope you give your love into the world, too.

                 

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Awww, love your Valentine story. Hope it was a great day for you, too.

Smiled th entire time I was reading ——- Happy Valentines Day, Gf!

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Home Maintenance aka Early Religions

Yes, this was my column from August 29, 2001.

I the past two weeks Len and I have talked with 9 guys (and there are two more to consult) about doing some exterior work on our house. Replacing parts of gutters and some other really sexy stuff.  

Time for this old essay, I think.

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Interview with a Mother - Mary Helena's Empty Arms

The last interview at the Nativity Scene. This one has only become more poignant with time. Mary Helena still lives in Racine these 12 years later - and if you choose to say anything kind to her in the comments, i can get those remarks to her for you.

Blessings on us all as we move into theis year's celebration of birth and love. 

Written 2005

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An Interview with a Traveler from Afar - Far Places & Strange Sights

From: December 17, 2005                          

As we trek ontowards Christmas we are encountering characters suggested by the traditional Christmas story; a shepherd who's actually a local dairy farmer, an innkeeper who manages a hotel on Durand. 

And now we meet a wise man traveling from afar.

 ...

When I met Eddie Jirgensen, who works for Merchant's Moving and Storage, the first thing he asked was, "You're not gonna say I'm a wise man, right?"

I said I'd call him a traveler.

He sighed his relief. 

What's Up at the Inn?

Part 2 of the 4-part series of interviews at the Nativity Scene

This was written December 10, 2005

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 Let’s meet "innkeeper" Monica Hanson.  Monica, who is manager at the local Microtel Inn and Suites, is slight, has warm brown eyes, and smiles when I address her as an innkeeper.  She's just Lutheran enough to get the joke.

I ask her why she picked this career.

An Interview with a Shepherd (Actually, he's a Dairy Farmer)

In the next few days, as we slide into Christmas, I am going to reprint four interviews I wrote for the Racine Journal Times, years ago.  

From December 3, 2005

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Perhaps you've heard the story that goes with this season.  It includes in its cast of characters; some shepherds, an innkeeper, travelers from afar, and a young mother. These persons are acclaimed for their endurance, compassion, and wisdom. I'm going to talk with some local persons who are the above - shepherd, innkeeper, traveler, and mother - to see what these characters might say to us today.

Peace Makers' Freedom Train / 1984

This is my first published writing. It appeared in 1984 in The Other Side, a social-activist evangelical publication based in Philadelphia, PA.

The Other Side was similar to and friends with Sojourners, a community of evangelical social activists based in Washington DC.  If you have ever heard Jim Wallis on NPR, or read any of his books, he is one of the founders of this small but influential slant of modern Christianity. Sojourners started in the Chicago area; I knew some of those good people decades ago.

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