Mary Beth Writes

1. This morning I was texting with Franc about our heritages. He was born and raised in the Midwest although his ancestors are from Puerto Rico. Being the child of children of a Caribbean Island means he probably has Taino DNA as well as African and European. Heck, he probably has Phoenician and Viking and Pacific Islander because island people and sailors have always thought each other cute.

This is the thing that occurred to me. We know that around 9/10’s of ALL native ‘New World’ people perished in the first 150 year after European contact. They died from relentless epidemics, from the brutal conditions of enslavement, from wars.

Which means it’s amazing that any person with mostly new world DNA is here at all. So many humans died, yet somehow his foremothers and forefathers survived and kept going. His existence is a heritage of endurance, tenacity, perseverance, and luck.

He also explained this phenomenon, which is weirdly functional/dysfunctional. His parents frequently told their kids all the ways in which they were ugly, lazy, and unclever. Psychological abuse was a thing in his family. He and his siblings (some more than others) had to grow up in the face of the ever-present disapproval of his mom and dad.

Franc just learned recently that this is not an uncommon in parents descended from enslaved people.


If you were enslaved as well as the parent of a gorgeous and beloved kid, the LAST thing you could afford was for that kid to feel bright and empowered. Smart and articulate kids were the first ones chosen to be exploited and sold. Parents did their best to keep the lights off in their kids’ eyes. Don’t tell them how much they are loved. Don’t tell them they are marvelous. Kids with self-esteem have a rockier road than kids who appear dull. Enslaved parents learned how to raise kids to plod along with their heads down.

This was a dynamic in Franc’s family and is true in many families who still carry the severe cautions learned in enslavement.

2. My family: When Sweden no longer worked for my ancestors because of both famine and religious oppression, my people immigrated to Michigan. I have often felt that moving from my hometown to Chicago to Racine to here was part of the banquet of DNA solutions passed along to me.  

When one is everyday unhappy - numb those feelings with cinnamon buns. When one is truly perplexed about how to go forward - move.

What have you done in your life that maybe didn’t make immediately sense to your family and friends, but if you stand at a distance and look backwards … Yup, some great-great-great-Gran handed that solution on to you?

3. This week was our last week of daily reading, drawing, and playing dollhouse with our granddaughter. We have a lot of feelings about this.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday we were having a birthday party in the dollhouse for the Golden-Haired Princess and the Magical Baby Princess. The Bad Guys came to the party until they burped too loud and the Baby Princess knocked them over and they cried all their way back to their barn. Boy, was our kid laughing, which makes us laugh really hard, also.

Anyways, she said fairies had to come to the party. We do not have designated fairies, so we would have to invent them. Len picked up some tiny dolls we’ve had 20 years. They have tiny calico dresses and felt shawls. 

“Grandpa! Fairies don’t wear sweaters!”

I hope you have a pretty good holiday weekend. Stay safe. Wear your mask. If you end up in crowded places, do like Bill Clinton and don’t inhale.


My DNA profile is Spanish, Taino Indian, and northern African, and some European... The Spanish were notorious for keeping and dealing in the slave trade for their sugarcane plantations... As I had just texted M.B. earlier, I was saying that dating Mr. P. an Anglo (Bless his battered heart) from a small Town outside of New York has had it's culture clashes because some of the things that I say affectionately and with love get misinterpreted in a way that I have to sit down and explain the background of (NOT always easy to do)... When I've mentioned this to my sister, cousins or the woman who explained this phenomena to me who is half Puerto Rican, and was raised in a large mixed generational family of 15, they have all basically said the same thing "Don't bring him to any family gatherings because he'll be eaten alive if he's that thin skinned... We certainly can look a fright and like we are messed up to someone looking at us from another culture (Some of us are just in case anyone is wondering)... But it's mostly just loving banter to us and mostly non abusive (Mostly but not always, as I can personally attest to)... There is a thin line...
Mary Beth's picture

Those thin lines...

My Swedish ancestors arrived in NYC via Ellis Island and then drifted up to New England...Massachusetts to be exact. Three sets of my great grandparents all lived less than a couple of miles of each other and the fourth set lived not much further away, just over a hill and into another neighborhood. I know all about the Cinnamon buns (with Cardamom). Comfort food at its finest. Along with a cup of Coffee, they are guaranteed to temporarily erase cares and worries.

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The Good Old Days???


Over the past few days Len and I have been emailing with two cousins regarding this interesting topic.

Were the Good Old Days All That Good?

The four of us grew up in the late 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. We are from three hometowns. Two of us were and still are science nerds. Two of us grew up in the same family and church.

This is what Len said about his childhood.

This is a more intense version of joking to kids that our smallpox scars are power ports.

Send $ to Welcome the Strangers Among Us.

If you have a heart for new immigrants among us and are open to another way to support them – Listen Up.

Three Things - Surviving the News, Our Web, Hiking Pix


Len and I went on a hike yesterday at the Monches section of the Ice Age Trail and the photos are from there. 

Was it only a week and a half ago? My how time flies when one lives in an open and free society under daily assault.

3 Things - Cool, 9/11, Bulbs

The photo is from Hiroshima. It's the shadow of what was there before the bomb. 


Yesterday it was hot and muggy and sticky. Almost every day since May has been hot and muggy and sticky. We have a small house with air conditioning; utility bills are not prohibitive so I am a lucky that way.  It’s usually cool enough in here.

But spending time outside, as one ought to do, is perpetually hot and muggy and sticky. I’m weary of sweating. Most weeks my laundry has included nearly twenty spent t-shirts … just from me.

3 Things - QE2, Triplets, & Me

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.

Wild Horses & Other Beauties


I first saw this photograph on Twitter in April. I don’t know the photographer, but the photo stopped me in my tracks. 

The Twitter handle of this person is Chris Byrne @ChrisByrnePhoto. He has a website; I think he leads photography workshops. His website is:

Meanwhile, here I am, awestruck by a beautiful and wild place I will likely never go. It’s called Torres de Pain and it’s a national park in Chile.

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