Mary Beth Writes

A friend (Thanks, Carol) tweeted this.  

“The term “must-haves” is profoundly unsettling to me.”

For those of us trying to live both frugally and thoughtfully – Yup!

I looked into the website she was responding to; it was coupons for:

  • A white noise machine,
  • Therapy Dough – Honest to God, you can buy ½ cup pots of playdough in really lovely colors – usually $25 a pot but on sale for $12.50. Oh yeah.
  • Essential oil personal diffusers
  • A bunch of make-up
  • Weirdly shiny yoga pants reminiscent of Naugahyde. Did that girl want pants made out of a rumpus room davenport? (Remember when sofas and couches were davenports?)

As a teenager I read those teen magazine articles about the “must-haves” we were supposed to obtain. This kind of skirt, that kind of mascara, this kind of hair-fixing device, etc. As we got older this turned into “a little black dress”, and “black pumps” and I can’t think of what else.  Everything was clothing and make-up-related; i.e. the “equipment” we needed to get boyfriends and husbands.  It was as sexist as hell and part of our indoctrination into thinking “feminine” was defined by how attractive we were to the white males who were the editors of those magazines. Damn them.

Len was attracted to me because I had a figure one could see from the outside of my home-made dress (it had a white Peter Pan collar - sexiest look ever, right?), longish hair, and four minutes later we were talking about books and he liked my mind and I liked his.  No “must-haves” involved.  Just young humans being nervous, chatty young humans.

It was one of the adventures and privileges of my life to be on the board of  MayaWorks.   http://www.mayaworks.org/   

Sometimes board meetings were held in Guatemala. Twice I made arrangements to stay with a weaving family for a long weekend; this was as close as I would ever get to living in the serious poverty most people on earth live in most of the time. 

At the end of the second weekend Vicenta asked if I like tamales. 

Who doesn’t love tamales???

The next morning, 7AM, she was already kneeling on the cement floor of the main room of the family’s tiny compound - hand-patting masa into corn husks. All the corn in this process had grown on their milpa (a cornfield about the size of a basketball court). Vicenta snugly tucked the tamales into a very old, seriously dinged-up tin pot. She sprinkled water over the tamales from the plastic water filtration jugs at the other side of the room, covered the pot with a lid that didn’t fit the pot, put a weight on that. She set the pot on the brick stove that the family fueled with corn cobs and sticks.

The tamales steamed six hours.

They were extraordinary; I’ve never tasted anything like them since. Simple cornmeal mush inside corn husks – yet it was biting into the very essence of mild, rich, redolent, creamy earth. 

Vicenta had no working surface; she kneeled on her floor and worked from plates. She had no sharp knives, if she needed one she had to borrow a machete from her husband. The plates we ate on were unmatched, generally chipped or plastic or chipped plastic.

What am I trying to say? That the earth is jam-packed with humans who have no “must-haves”, yet they create families, food, drinks, and lives that are rich with flavor, oomph, and love.  Seriously, the kids in that family were radiant; they moved with grace on tiny bare feet; the teenage son worked hours every day on the farm, then put on his school uniform and rode hours to and from a technical high school in a town far away. Hollywood would fall over to see that kid’s dark bangs falling across his dark eyes lit with life, hope, and the high jinx of a confident teenager. 

No little black dress ever got close to the gorgeousness of a Maya woman’s huipils (kinda pronounced wee-peals). These beautiful women lived their rich, difficult, hard lives in clothes more beautiful than we get married in.

It’s too easy to compare clueless materialism against motivated women and men in deep poverty. The poor people, if they have any sense of hope at all, will always capture our respect – and then we go back to our own lives not knowing what to do about economic injustice and third world deprivation and our own sad lethargy of spirit. Yadda, yadda.

So when I read and hear the phrase “must-have” I think I want to say this.

What we “must-have” is a deep respect for others – and also for our own mission here in our lives.

We need to know what we can do, and then do it. Some people create art so amazing it makes us weep. Others can organize an event; feed a family on enough or not enough money. Paint a chair, sing a song, invent a story, code a website, tell a joke, cuddle a puppy or cat or child. Feed the birds; listen so well the teller can’t stop talking. Fill out a 3-page form without having a panic attack. Teach, build, critique truly and gently. Bake cookies. Cook a gorgeous vegan soup (my roasted squash and carrot soup tastes like salted melted vitamins). Clarify, embellish, embroider, lead, or follow.

Each of us need our own “must-haves” – tools and ingredients we need to do whatever it is we are here to do. It is our job to know what those things are, get them as we can, and then use them.

We are not paper weights. We are not here to collect or impress or to cover our sadness with layers of stuff.

We are here to give, share, accomplish, and create. Everything else is background.

Comments

Leonard's picture

"What is your 'Must Have'?" "Shoes" "Bless You"

My "Must Have" is Love with a generous side of music to go with it along with a song for dessert. I loved this writing. It puts "stuff" in perspective
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks. And I guess to be honest, I'd need to have coffee, the illusion that I'm only going to eat healthy stuff, a warm-enough house, and stories. Stories to read, stories to remember of people who made my life fun and better - such as yourself, stories to make-up and write down, and the stories that motivate me.

Those 12 pairs of shoes above certainly are not my must haves! Love hearing about ur adventures. Must haves —— hmmmmm, need to think about that. Although, lately I have been thinking I must have an instapot.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Frugal? Road Trip to New Mexico

If our finances were stretched we wouldn’t have gone to New Mexico. We are doing fine despite the advice that says one ought to retire with a million dollars in the bank. Imagine that.

1. We and, at this point, about half the nation, have had our Covid vaccines so we felt safe and ready to see something new. However, we traveled to a place where they had worked WITH the effort to fight this pandemic. This limited our choices and is the #1 reason we didn’t go to the Badlands. How we spend $ is our power.

The Mindful Chickens are Wordy Today

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

  • Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).
  • Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.
  • Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

This is my collection of wise choices and dastardly schemes from the last two months.

ONE: Our electric toothbrush/water pick would no longer hold a charge but a new one costs more than $100. Len took it to the battery store where they replaced it for $15.

Mindful Chickens - Plastic & Hunger 12/20/2020

I went for a walk on Wednesday and saw this mitten on a sidewalk. When I was at the same spot on Friday, it was still there, so I brought it home because it is a hand-knitted kid mitten, ya know? Any knitters out there interested in making it a mate, so that we could give it to a kid in my community or your? It's 7" from top to ribbed bottom. 

...

The point of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money while being mindful of the environment and our human values. We can try, right?

Holy Mackerel! Mindful Chickens 12/12/2020

Yamiche and Weijia licking out the mackerel bowl this morning.

...

I said I would write “mindful things” we did this week. The agenda of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money plus be mindful of the environment and our other values at the same time. Sometimes, one of those purposes wins over the other, but we can think before we spend, right?

1. I cut my hair. This is not a particular skill of mine, but I can do it well enough to not look like the Pittsburgh Paint Dutch boy.

Who Let the Chickens Out?

Mindful Chickens i.e., being frugal and living by our values instead of by blithering consumerism is how this blog started. Yet I seldom post lists anymore about choices Len and I make that hit that marker because I can tell from who follows me that this is not why most of you are here.

But today I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. Preparing the Light Posts takes me a long time so I am not going to do one – I do plan to be back at it Monday.

7-6-2020 Mindful QUARANTINED Chickens

(Thanks, KJR, for the funny fluffy chicken photo!) 

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

Tag Cloud

9/11 17 minutes 500 Words AARPtaxes AAUW abortion Acadia accident Accountable Advent anniversary antlers apples Arrows Ashland August Augustine baby balance Baldwin Barkskins Beauty Becky Becoming Esther Berry birthday bistro BLM BookReport books boy scout Bread BrokenDays BuyAngry Cabeza de Vaca Cahokia calendars Canada cat romance cats cello Choosing Christmas cilantro Cinnabuns circus clouds Clowns clutter Colonialism comet ComfortZone CommonSense community consumerism Cops Corvid-19 Courage Covid-19 Crazy creditreport creosote CrimeShows death Debate December DecisionFatigue decluttering depression Destination Today Detroit disasterprep dogs dollhouse Dreams Duty Easter eBay Eclipse EmilyDickinson Esquipulas exit polls eyes Fable FairTrade farmer firealarm Fitness Five Flexible flu Fort de Chartres frame Franc FrancGarcia friends frugal Frugality frustration Ft.Ticonderoga Gannets Garden GarfieldParkConservatory Gaspe genius geode GeorgeFloyd ghosts gorgons GovernorThompsonStatePark groceries Guatemala guns happiness HaveYouEver? Healthinsurance HelleKBerry heroes hike History home HomeRepair Honduras Hope HouseinBlueRiver hurricane impeachment Innkeeper integrity InternetPrivacy Interview InviteMe2Speak James Baldwin JoyceAndrews Judy JulianofNorwich justice Karen Lamb LangstonHuges LaphamPeak laundry LeeLeeMcKnight lemming Len Light Lincoln Little Women LockedOut Loki loneliness Love Ludington Macaw macho Manitoulin MargaretFuller Maria Hamilton Marquette marriage Marsden Hartley masks Mayan MayaWorks meme Memories MilesWallyDiego MindfulChickens Mistakes moon Mother MothersDay mouser movies museums must-haves Mustapha Nancy Drew New Mexico New York City Nomadland Ocotillo OscarRomero osprey Outside oximeter Parade mayhem PastorBettyRendon Paul Hessert PDQ Penny persimmon poetry Preaching privacy Protest Quern quest Rabbit holes racism recipe recipes Remember Reruns responsetoKapenga Retirement rhubarb rime RitesofPassage Roses Ruth SamaritanWoman Sanctuary Sandhillcranes Santuario de Chimayo SaraRodriguez sculpture Sermon ServantsoftheQuest sewing Shepherd Shontay ShortStory sick sickness Slower snow Social Security SofritoBandito SpaceShuttle spring square feet staining stele Stereotypes StoryStarts stress Survival swim taxes teenager thankgsgiving Thanksgiving TheBridge ThePerpetualYou ThreeBillBoards ThreeThings Three Things TidalBore TimeBeing toddler Tom tortillas Trains travel Traveler Tubing turtle Twilight Bark Tyrone UnrelatedObservations Up North urgency vacation vaccine Valentines vanilla Vietnam VivianWokeUpDrowning vole WalkingAndSeeing Wampanaog war WarsanShire weather weaving wedding WhyAttendChurch Willa WillaCather Wisteria
Ad Promotion