Mary Beth Writes

(One decorates for October birthdays with orange trees.) 

Last week was my birthday. My niece Susan sometimes sends me birthday greetings where she asks excellent questions. She doesn’t know I still have the card she sent six years ago; I meant to answer her questions in the blog I had then, but I never got around to it.

Since I have this year’s card from her right here, right now – I am going to answer her good questions. If you are feeling cynical or overwhelmed about the rest of the world, go ahead and ask yourself these questions. Get out of the news cycle; visit your own head.

What is something you learned to do this year?

This was the year Physical Therapy became my go-to magical miracle. I learned how to do hip stretching exercises on behalf of my poor sore tailbone of last autumn-through winter. This summer I learned quad strengthening exercises which enabled my knee bones to work again. I don’t have a hairstylist, but I do have a physical therapist. That kind of year.

I learned a little bit about how to edit photos in Photoshop before I put them on my website.

I learned that you can put me in quarantine lockdown for eight months and if in the middle of that you ask me if I would like to meet friends to do a socially distant activity outside with people I like and love – I will still have to talk myself into it. I knew I was an introvert. I didn’t know I was this far gone…

I discovered that The National Book Awards books are interesting, compelling, brilliantly written, wildly varied. Why have I not been paying attention all my life to all these awesome books?

Who do you know now that you didn’t a year ago?

My granddaughter is three so obviously I knew her a year ago. But reading to her every day for 10-15 minutes on Facetime has made us “familiars.” She talks to us now. She has opinions. She is bright and chatty, interested and feisty - just the way we want little kids to be. Today we read Barney Bear’s Pizza Shop. Haven’t read it to her in weeks although since March I’m sure we’ve read it four or five times. There’s a part where vendors bring product into the restaurant kitchen and, yup, she knows which one is Sammy and which one is Rita. She reminds us, before we get to that page, that when the bear family sits around eating pizza, she’s the cub in the pink overalls. She said to us today that we should come over to her house sometimes and we can sit outside (she knows coronavirus quarantine protocols better than many Republican politicians) and have pizza together. We think that is a great idea.

What is something about which you have changed your mind?

When Len makes hamburgers on the grill, he puts molasses and soy sauce on the patty that will be his burger. He leaves my plain, because years ago I made fun of him in regard to this procedure. Then, this year, I tasted his burger and OMG it is WAY better than mine. I ate one serving of humble pie and ever since, my hamburgers are immensely more flavorful.

I just now asked him what he does in case you want to try it, too. He says this is for about two burgers of about 1/3 pound of meat each, preferably from meat where the cows got to walk around and eat grass. Use about 1 tablespoon of molasses and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Pat these condiments on one side, flip the burger and do the other side. Do the next burger. These measurements are not precises.

The chemistry of what happens when this sweetness hits the heat and flames – well, this wife could possibly have been more respectful of Len’s meat savvy.

How will you celebrate this year?

I like to utilize (hah) birthdays as an occasion to move and to eat. In the past two weeks, with and without Len, I’ve gone on four nature hikes.

(It is pheasant hunting season at Bong Nature Center. This pheasant stuck close to me for much of my hike.)

On my actual birthday we went into Milwaukee to pick up a book at Boswell’s and then buy some more books. We walked Brady Street to the lake and back. We went to Glorioso’s Italian Market and also to Peter Sciortino’s Bakery and at both places we spent money like thrashing catfish. Sicilian salad, pizza bread, different pizza bread, tiramisu from each place, and more.

That evening we ate more delicious food at home including more bites of those tiramisus.

This is my birthday party from the year (4th grade?) when I got a brownie camera. Which is why I am not in the photo. 

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Comments

Love it! We aren’t getting older, we are getting better!

I just love your old photo! Those parties were so great- humble, simple, but epic to us! When I was 10 I got a Kodak X-15 Instamatic camera, which was a huge, important present. I have the little album of my first pictures- priceless!
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks! I've scanned some of those old pix and emailed to my cousins. there are three cousins in that photo, I think the boys were there cuz my mom wanted to have a good time, too. Which meant getting her sister and SIL - my aunts - involved in the after school party-ette. Cameras were oh so chic... And i still love to take photos when I'm out and about. Those kid cameras invited us to see the bits and parts and people around us.

What a great way to celebrate a birthday! Those are some fun places to visit, and especially with permission to try those delicacies. Tiramisu is a real treat! I am going to try Len’s not so secret burger recipe, too. Sounds delicious.
Mary Beth's picture

We've lived in Wisconsin 25 years - longer than I lived in Chicago - but I'm still a foreigner in Milwaukee.

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Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.

But...

Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. https://lithub.com/. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

Advent Light Post 12/24/2020

Judy Saunders. Photo of a Rose.

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As folks of old have sung.
It came a flower bright
Amid the cold of winter
When half-spent was the night.

...

Len and I were delivering presents to Chicago yesterday. Social distancing, with masks, but we did it and we saw our kids’ faces and there’s your Christmas, Ma’am.

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