Mary Beth Writes

Last night we did another wild and crazy thing. We got in our car and went for a drive! The first thing we remarked to each other was that we had not been in the car together in weeks.  It felt a little odd to be in there, next to each other, about to GO SOMEPLACE! Maybe this is the way it feels to be the family dog when they let you sit in the front seat and EVERYTHING IS SO AMAZING!

We drove west into the rosy sunset, filled with excitement to, um, see the sky.  Quarantines are easiest on people who have a low bar for excitement.

We ended up at Lapham Peak State Park. Saw one other couple who said “Hello!” and then later, “Have a nice evening.”  Voices, manners, good wishes from strangers? Who could ask for more?

The sun had just gone down. Len took these pix.

Those lights to the west are probably Dousman. 

When I hear an extraordinary phrase I sometimes write it in the note app of my phone.  This morning I came across this from months ago. “Combing the snakes from one’s hair.” It means to intentionally deal with one’s stress in any healthy way that works for that individual.

The news is terrible and getting worse and I doubt that any of us will be attaining serenity soon. Actually, I’m not sure if any of us want to.  The sadness, uncertainty, and loss are real.

But we can try to keep up and keep at combing the snakes from our hair.

For me, it’s verbalizing the worry to myself and then taking some breaths. I listen to chatty podcasts (especially in the middle of the night), or go for a walk, or read, or watch a movie. Not very interesting or remarkable strategies, but any day one can get through without infecting ourselves or others - and when we manage patience instead of lashing out with irritation and blame - well, we did good enough. Keep the snakes out.


Two things I read. I know I said I wasn’t going to re-write the news for you – but these are side notes that might be important for those of us over here at the side of this crisis.  

1. This is a poor time to have an avoidable accident. If you are decluttering – don’t stand on a chair to get that stuff down; get your ladder or stepladder.  If you don’t have a stepladder, order one or wait till things are not this crazy. Whatever’s been on your top shelf all this time can stay there a little longer. If you ARE ordering a stepladder, get a good one with a built-in handle.  Stepladders are one of those unsung items you will buy once and keep all your life. Don’t chintz.

If you drink wine or beer while you cook, great. Don’t drink fast and don’t have more than one drink until the meal is safely prepared. Right?

Go a little slower. Think about what you are doing. Stay out of the ER. They’ve got enough to do.

2. Sleeping more? Going to bed earlier? Waking later? Naps turning into mid-afternoon pillow festivals?

There’s an answer and it’s called “managing grief.” Literally we lost our old normal and it isn’t coming back for a long time, if at all.  Did you know that grieving people often sleep more? I’m sorry if you already know that. I do, too.

We are not undisciplined weaklings. Extra rest and crazy dreams are ways humans adjust to change.

I think this is helpful. No need to yell at yourself. Take the nap.

I didn’t know when I wrote Quarantine Diary #1 what I was doing. I suppose I still don’t know. But quite a few of you have reached out to tell me you appreciate this daily writing. I’ve never before produced public stuff every single day, so this is new for me and it’s getting me through, too.

I’m completely aware most of what I write is pretty mundane. I think being ordinary people in the middle of extraordinary times is a lot of work. We have to get up, do whatever we need to do, eat vegetables, not drink the whole bottle of wine, talk to the beloved others in our lives. We have to floss before bed and be considerate to our partners if we have them. We have to not kick the cat or say mean things to the dogs. We have to be gentle and aware around children and try to share with them whatever calmness we can muster.

I have always been dazzled by the kindness and good manners of ordinary people. In greedy, awful, terrifying times of great need and loss - being considerate is a revolutionary act. 

Keep calm and carry on. 










I have never found your writings mundane, just the opposite!!! Thank you.
Mary Beth's picture

Utterly welcome!

We have been in voluntary lock down for 12 I write that, it seems longer...huh. I feel that we as individuals will come out of this stronger. I agree that our job is to stay out of the hospital, care givers have enough to deal with now and it will only get worse. I am hoping that the conspicuous consumers in our society will have gotten the word to cease and desist. I wear the same the t shirt for days at a time and NO bra! Some things just are not as important as they were. We live in a tourist area and many are out of work and will be for a long time. I hurt for them. If it were only just the economy but the virus makes us afraid to reach out and see what our neighbors need. Food banks are having to come up new ways to get food to those who need it. A wise person once told me “ it’s not really a problem if it only takes money to fix it.” Before I had only applied it to a grandchild’s cerebral palsy.
Mary Beth's picture

That's a pretty good thought - 'it isn't really a problem if it only takes money to solve it'. Except, I guess, for those who don't have money and no way to get it right now. It's a new way of organizing our lives - to not arrange our days around what we need or want to procure. I'm realizing how many of my walks - at least one per week - were to St Vincent's to buy some little thing we needed or I wanted. It wasn't about money but it was refreshing to look at all the things. Now I have to be "satisfied" with trees, sky, wind, sunshine, and neighborhoods. I think this might be good for me.

Son Drew is a critical care paramedic in Chicago and burbs. It is true - there are no N95 masks available to them and very few for emergency staff. Since he lives in my basement he has trained me on protocol to care for him when he gets sick. Yep, he believes he will get it. Crazy dreams for me:) Anything we each can do to hold on and help others hold on to physical distancing is a great help. Thanks for writing!
Mary Beth's picture

I sent an email to you, too, Chris. Oh my heart, to have a child on the front line of this. Keep us informed. Keep me informed. This is so hard and it didn't have to be this way if the president been thinking about the nation instead of about his campaign.

You are doing an excellent job with good advice, calmness and the talent to voice what we are all feeling. Keep on keepin' on MaryBeth. Tell your husband that he is an extraordinary photographer. Stay safe. We love you.
Mary Beth's picture

I just smile to see your name. Thank you so much. I'm sure you remember when you asked me to come to talk with your 7th graders. That was my First Talk as a writer. I was so nervous and then those kids were wonderful. I told Len you like his photos... He says Thanks, too!

I look forward to your daily post. Thank you. Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

I appreciate your comment.

Angela ( Favorite Sister ) goes back to St. Luke's on the 1st after being on vacation for the past 11days and isn't looking forward to it... A coworker told her that they will get one mask per day and a brown paper bag in which to store it until the next case... THAT doesn't sound very safe to me and only gives me something else to stress about... ( as if my plate isn't full enough ) Now there's a rumor going around that radiology isn't even going to get mask... If that's true that is Totally Unacceptable and only putting my sister and her colleagues in even greater risk... I would expect those conditions from a Third Wold country but most certainly NOT HERE in the good old USA....
Mary Beth's picture

Let us know what she learns when she gets back in there. if she goes. I've read that Wisconsin will be in the worst of this in 2-3 weeks. I don't know what that means, either.

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Remembering Stuff

“I’m getting so old. I just can’t remember anything anymore.”

Okay, I understand and accept that forgetfulness is weird and awkward. We talk to someone about this movie and that house repair and that small restaurant from which we ordered amazing food a few weeks ago and it feels as if we are talking with 95% of the words we used to know. What was that guy’s name? Where did I read that really powerful thing about political strategy now?

Ayad Akhtar's "Homeland Elegies" & Do We Understand Colonialism?

I heard part of an NPR / Fresh Air interview with writer Ayad Akhtar so I borrowed the book from the library and read it.

In the 1960’s his parents earned medical degrees in Pakistan and then emigrated to the US where Ayad was born and has lived all his life. (His parents are now deceased.) His dad was a highly respected cardiologist. In the 1990’s, when Donald Trump was having heart issues, Dr. Akhtar was flown to NYC to examine Trump.

Susan's Birthday Questions 10/19/2020

(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.

Stereotypes Day

Today is October 12th - Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Not Columbus Day, okay?

I was in the process of giving birth to one of our kids and it was getting on towards midnight. The midwife wondered whether our baby would be born on the day we were in or whether it would be a few more minutes and then the child would have the next day as their birthday.

10/11/2020 This Crazy Advent We're In Now

This painting is by Andrea Kowch


Regarding Time: It’s been about a million months since the quarantine started. It will be an at least one epoch if not two, until a vaccine is available to quell it. Election Day is here now (I’ve already voted, have you?) yet it feels as if it will never be done and gone. Even when Nov 3 arrives we could be in for more epochs of anxious and angry waiting as ballots are tallied, argued over, recounted, all while lawyers and politicians fight and scrap.

Quarantine Diary #204 10/4/2020 3 Short Takes

Three things to say today and none are about our goatish, swag-bellied, canket-blossomed president. How to create a Shakespearean insult. 

1. I just read this WONDERFUL and REMARKABLE book! The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

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