Mary Beth Writes

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.

One is that Queen Elizabeth has always reminded me of my mom. They look a little alike (though you might have to be my mom’s kid to see it). Those kind eyes, strong nose, quick and gentle smile. An affinity for modest clothes and behavior. That light in their eyes that suggested withheld smart-aleck remarks, though you would seldom to never hear them yourself. (Me: “I wish Leonard would dress better.” Mom: “He dresses like you.” Ouch.)

They were born in the 1920’s; they grew up in the crucible of the Depression and the War. Elizabeth learned to be a truck mechanic. My mom learned to run an offset printing press because dad was in the war. These were smart women who learned what need to be learned. They did their part

Also, this. Neither went to college. The Queen and her sister Margaret were the last of the royals to be totally educated by tutors at home. My mom, valedictorian of her high school class, was not offered the support she would have needed to go to college.

They were the best kind of worthy, responsible, loving, and enduring women who lived impossible lives with grace. They were expected to be obedient to their pasts while leading us into futures they could not have comprehended.

We should respect how little they were properly prepared for how much they were asked to do.

Dad and mom, before they married. I suspect that hat she is wearing belongs to him.  


Queen Elizabeth reigned over the British empire. To her credit, there is a LOT less of it now that there was in 1952 when she stepped up to the throne. Also, she was a figurehead. The politics of the dissolution of the empire belongs squarely to the men, mostly old and white, who made or allowed the gains, losses, and changes. But to mourn a queen while not acknowledging the hideousness of imperialism of which she was the figurehead, is wrong. For nearly 500 centuries imperialism destroyed people and their cultures, their histories and their futures.

When we admire those old European castles and palaces, universities and libraries, let’s not be rubes. That wealth is the glittery side of the lost, dead, scarred bodies of humans torn from their own lives. Those are riches built on bones.

The above global map is from Twitter and there are lots of comments about the inaccuracies in it. But as a quick pix – those are nations, once ruled by Britain, that now celebrate independence from it. ‘Independence from Britain Day’ is the most widely celebrated holiday on earth.

When and if we honor the passing of a Queen Elizabeth, lets breath for the millions of lives lost imperialism. Let’s look at the entrenched global racism that is part and parcel of it that legacy.



The Triplets of Belleville

Last night we watched the quirkiest movie we’ve seen in a while. The colorful DVD cover caught my attention at the library, so for the price of “free but you have to bring it back” … I brought it home. We started it expecting it might be weird or dumb. Then we both just fell in to this animated French movie.

French! It’s in French! We thought we’d selected English but honestly, the story is told visually. Watch it in French. Doesn’t make much difference.

It is one of those astonishing pieces of art that doesn’t tell you what to think or feel. It just moves along, grabs your spirit, pulls you in. It is not about someone else’s experience. Watching it is your experience.

A grandma with a club foot who is powered by love, a very fat dog with very skinny legs who is also powered by love, and a beloved young Tour de France bicyclist named Champion - are the characters you will love. Three old crones of Belleville catch frogs to survive and make music to live. They can make a beat from anything, including trash paper. Together these characters defy evil. 


Yeah. The c diff came back and I got to spend another slow week mostly moseying and then another interesting evening in the ER. Only three hours this time so I guess that was a win? I’ve learned more about how to mange this disease. (Don’t take probiotics at the same time as you take antibiotics, it garfs up both meds. Why did I not know this?) I feel worlds better and for three days in a row now nothing has hurt and I have energy. Cool.



Thank you once again for such insightful tidbits. Happy you are feeling better!!!!

And she raised a (much) better kid
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks. You are right, I never thought I could lie to a person I intended to marry, didn't think one could cheat on a partner, and especially never thought children existed for my disgusting pleasure. pretty low bar.

Thank you for this post on your mom and QE. They both faced enormous challenges and tragedy with grace and firm resolve. I remember your mother as kind and gentle but she must have had nerves of steel. They both needed a sense of humor! Check out Paddington Bear's recent tea with QE if you haven't seen it.
Mary Beth's picture

Those small moments of Paddington and the Queen are lovely and funny and oh so touching.

Glad you are feeling better. And, thank you for always for your insight. Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks, Patricia. Getting better is it's own adventure.

Thanks for that, Mary Beth. And for this space to write. I have always respected and admired Queen Elizabeth. I read her biography when I was in grade school. Which puts QE at only 30+ years old. But, being young and impressionable, and perhaps needing a hero (heroine), she became an icon to me. Not overly rational, perhaps. Her path, at the beginning of her journey, was pre-mapped. The path going forward, was hers. She chose values of loyalty, dedication, honor, duty, and tradition. Politics aside for a moment, her life was not easy, her path strewn with life's challenges. She was the Queen of Great Britain. Very few were privileged to actually know Lilibet. I am sure I would have clashed with her politics, and she mine. But I greatly admire her. She was trusted and respected by millions. Her life was long and full. I would never have wanted her life. But, at some level - that of a young girl that became entrenched in the adult me? - I will miss her presence in the world. And then there was that double rainbow....

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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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