Mary Beth Writes


I have a lot of projects to get through today. I wrote this in 2006 when I worked at Target for six months. I still like it.


This week I saw an inspiring sight.  I saw a little kid completely lost in his imagination. 

The boy, who looked about 4-years-old, was sitting on the floor at the store where I work.  He'd plunked himself down next to some bins of cheap plastic cups, plastic Margarita glasses, and plastic pineapples. He'd cleverly stacked some of these items into interesting towers and during the moment I watched him, he was struggling to balance a pineapple on top of them. 

He didn't have a mess of misplaced merchandise all around him; he'd only borrowed a few things. He was also very quiet as he concentrated in that that way people do when they get lost in their own world. I noticed a mother and big sister not too far away, shopping and chatting. One could guess he was on his way to becoming a world-class architect as a defense against the slow-shopping women in his life.

I was already thinking about this column, so his enterprise caught my attention.

Sometimes it feels as if our whole culture is devoted to the pursuit of romantic love (when it isn't devoted to war, that is). Sure, finding a partner, falling in love with them, then pulling off a big ole wedding is interesting stuff. But what does one do with the rest of their life? Review the wedding album?

Here's what I wonder.  Do we sometimes pursue romance because we are afraid to pursue that other element that really does make a huge difference to our daily happiness? 

You know what I mean.

How's your work-life lately? 

Did you know when you were 16 and dreaming of blue mascara, blue cars, and bluer dates -- that that the career you would pursue would make the biggest difference to the quality of your life?

Most of us were not positive what we wanted to become. Even if we thought we wanted to be rock stars or astronauts, icons of fashion or brain surgeons, we were usually surrounded by people who insisted we should be reasonable -- a great way to tell a 17-year olds that they should put the lid on their dreams.  So we got some practical training or education, and then we went to work.

As they say, life happens.

Still, what about the kid in us who needs to build towers? How do we keep on waiting on customers and answering the phone when we have pineapples lurking in our souls? How do we keep our spirits alive while we do tedious and demanding tasks all day long? 

No matter how young or old we are, we really need to honor those crazy inner pineapples. Some people sculpt, some listen to others really, really well. Some make or pay attention to music in a way that is more than pastime. Some are passionate about organizing things, others study stars, train cats, paint lighthouses, nurture children. This isn't about playing games, this is about doing the thing that makes our consciousness fall away as we do the thing we are here to do.

If we earn our living doing these things, we are luckier than most. But even if it isn't what brings home the bacon, I'm sure it's still our work.  

Have you ever noticed this at your job? There are clearly defined tasks for you and your fellow employees.  You may even have written job descriptions straight from the heart of your HR department.

But is there one person who always remembers birthdays, someone else you go to for one kind of knowledge, another you tell when the printer jams? Do you automatically rely on one person to keep you all safe, another to make you laugh?

Like a 4-year old who builds forts and towers wherever he goes, we have work to do, and the world won't be right until we do it.


I worked in a factory for the first fifteen years of my working ¿Adult?life, first as an assembler in a factory (putting lights together), then as a degreaser, and finally as a painter... I spent most of that time learning skills from, and hating my jobs, but liking the steady paycheck at the end of the week (as I dreamt of Pineapples and what I really wanted to do)... When the lighting company decided to move I was left with the choice of getting another job I'd surely hate or follow my heart and dreams and strike out on my own without a safety net... I chose the adventure of the second choice and never looked back... The early years I nearly starved, lived way below the poverty line, and yet I had never been as happy when someone was handing me a check as I was then... I spent years until I retired doing several different things that I found either interesting or challenging, and usually both... It didn't make me rich in the usual sense of the word but it made me happy and that's priceless beyond words... As they say "If you do what you love it's not work"... It never felt like work to me...
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I love this.

Written in 2006. Still very much pertains to today. A timeless piece.
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A-Z M is for Aunts


Reprint of old column from 5/22/2004 

Happy Mother's Day to all the women who raised us! 

This was my all-time favorite moment from the "Friends" TV show. It's a few hours after the birth of Ross's son (not with Rachel) and all the friends are meeting the baby for the first time. Monica, Ross's sister, holds her newborn nephew tenderly, tears in her eyes with awe for this new life in her family.


This was first published May 10, 2002

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were talking with our kids about the best and worst jobs we have had. I said picking asparagus was pretty boring. My husband didn't like the day he was a taxi driver. We both love writing when it goes well, we get a lot done, people tell us what clever people we are, and we earn lots of money from it. These aspects of writing come together about once a, well … I'm sure it's right around the corner.

My daughter prodded, "Come on, Mom. What's the best job of your life?"

Dark River

The photo is the Platte River in Nebraska. This post was a newspaper column for the Racine Journal Times in 2003.


Dark River

"I think us here to wonder."  (From "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker.)

The day was one of those glorious October days when the sun blazed through gold and crimson trees; the incense of burning leaves perfumed the air. It seemed a shame to go inside simply because night was coming on.

"Let's take the canoe out on the river tonight."

Where Heritage is Found

Last week I spoke with a woman who  is working to support MayaWorks.

I sent her this writing I did back in 2006.


I stayed several days with the Sepet family, a very cash-poor Maya family that lives in the altiplano, the mountains of Guatemala.  These people were so intelligent, gracious, strong, and hospitable.  

This adventure happened during my second day with them.

Car Accident & Not Buying the Farm Today

My friend Karen texted last night that she is okay but she had been in a car accident in the afternoon. A driver had not stopped at a stop sign, thus plowing into Karen’s rear driver-side door.

Her accident reminded me of one I was in with my son years ago. This is the newspaper column I wrote about the event.

Hold a good thought for Karen today, okay?  She texted this morning, rather poetically, “I feel like I’ve been dragged through a knothole.”


When History isn't in Museums

I stayed twice for several days with a Maya family in Guatemala’s altiplano. This adventure happened during my second day of my second stay with them.

Senor Jorge, the 50ish father of the family, asked if I would like to take a walk to see a Mayan antiquity. It took a minute to understand his question since my high school Spanish was a long time ago.

Yes, I would!

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