Mary Beth Writes

3/14/2023  (Happy Pi Day)

Idiosyncrasies are like cave drawings; enigmatic clues that say once upon a time something happened here. A story unfolded. Someone tried to solve a problem. The solution worked, or at least it kept the person comfortable or comforted long enough for the idiosyncratic habit to form.

Such as Rosie the Holstein Cat who joined our family after Len’s sister found her huddling in a Chicago alley. She couldn’t move very well; Lindy had seen some kids trying to kick her which was a miserable way to begin one’s story. She was precariously tiny and had soft fur that blew gently off her all the time and everywhere.

We took her to the vet who did surgery to smooth a hip bone that was broken and poking her on the inside. Poor kitty.  (In case you were wondering, there’s no such thing as a free cat.) After that, Rosie was delightfully lively and spent many years purring her way through her life. 

But she had her idiosyncrasies, that’s for sure. She liked to nab dish rags to hide hither and yon. There was the year we took down the Christmas tree and under the tree skirt found all the dish rags of that holiday season. She also deeply enjoyed milk rings. We bought a new stove years after Rosie had gone on the Great Tea Party in the Sky. We pulled out the old stove to discover hundreds of Rosie’s plastic rings. I kept two that are in my kitchen now.

Rosie had known trauma. She knew treasures need to be protected and hidden and she had the idiosyncrasies to prove it. 

I looked up “famous people idiosyncrasies.”

  • Truman Capote wouldn’t begin or end a piece of work on a Friday, would change hotel rooms if the room phone number involved the number 13, and never left more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray, tucking the extra ones into his coat pocket.
  • Victor Hugo only had a few months in which to write The Hunchback of Notre Dame so he bought one bottle of ink, locked his clothes away, and only wore a grey shawl to keep warm. (Didn’t he have family?) He finished the book in time and considered naming it What Came Out of a Bottle of Ink.
  • Agatha Christie ate apples in the bathtub while thinking up plots.
  • Michelangelo would focus on one project at a time until he finished it. He hated interacting with others so much while he was thinking that he would walk away from people in the middle of a conversations.
  • Model/TV host Heidi Klum carries a pouch of her baby teeth wherever she goes. (Gah!)
  • Mary Shelley wrote with a boa constrictor around her neck. (?)
  • Charles Dickens carried a compass with him to be able to ensure he faced north while he slept—he believed sleeping north increased creativity.
  • Dr. Seuss had a collection of 300 hats. When he had writer’s block, he’d pick one of them to wear.

Idiosyncrasies are poignantly related to our sense of being too small for the tasks at hand. We feel anxious, nervous, not sure if we can pull off the next thing we need to do. Consciously or unconsciously, we develop small, weird tics that somehow give us the spirit we need to go forward. Superstition is when a whole bunch of people agree to take on the same idiosyncrasy.

Athletes. Politicians. Saints. Serial murderers. The rest of us.

Idiosyncrasies help to channel us through our days and lives.

I think I’m done writing.

Time to take off my baseball cap, go downstairs, get a cup of coffee to drink as I stare out the kitchen window and slowly transition to whatever I’m going to do next.

What idiosyncrasies do you have?

Do you know why you do those things?




Had to comment on what you wrote about Rosie knowing trauma and knowing that treasures had to be protected and hidden. Beautifully written! Thank you

Baby teeth in a pouch. A boa constrictor around ur neck. Hmmmm. I gotto think. I suppose I do have some. Ha. Interesting - a good read!
Mary Beth's picture

The baby teeth is really yucky. The boa sounds extreme but interesting. I'm always interested in what motivates writers...

I sure love envisioning Rosie at the great tea party in the sky with her favorite dish towels and lots of milk rings decorating the table. I am sure everyone at the tea party appreciated her idiosyncrasies!
Mary Beth's picture

Awww, I love this, too.

Love this

Cigarette butts in his coat pocket - Truman Capote appeared too fastidious for that.
Mary Beth's picture

One wonders what happened to make him think that was a saving strategy!

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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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