Mary Beth Writes

When I ran employability skills workshops for jail inmates, I usually included this “stress exercise’ in the final class. It’s a quiz where one checks off stresses in one’s life from the previous year (counting back 12 months from the day you are in).

Stress affects our ability to think and act. I wanted my participants to be aware that they were not “just failures” but that they were men and women who lived under extraordinary stress. I’d even take it further when their scores were in and ask them to be honest with themselves. Had they responded to frustration with violence??  Some had, many had not. Most were incarcerated because they owed child support and the reason for that failure was the toxic sludge of racism, depression, addiction, and the economy (I worked through the Wall Street recession of 2008-2011). I pointed out if they lived their life without violence, they should realize that was a strong victory in the middle of a life that was hard.

Well, anyways, people would get scores between 300-800.  All of them. 

Then a church ladies’ group in the community asked me to present a program about what I did.  Weird thing to ask, but okay, I can always talk. I gave the ten ladies in that group this same test. All of them scored under 100. I was stunned at how incredibly different individual American lives are. All the folks I am talking about – inmates and church women - lived within two miles of each other and yet it was as if they lived in different universes.

There is nothing about this test that is solid, predictive science. Don’t think if you score high it means you are going to dissolve at your seams. 

But in these stressful times, it can be helpful to look at these questions, answer honestly, and see where we are.  If the number is high, consider including into your life more sleep, exercise, protein, and calming activities. (Take a warm bath with your undone dishes?) Most of us have a clue what we need in order to ratchet down our stress. Might be a time to be more intentional about that.

I took this test again just now and the truth is that my score is very low. I’ve had my 400-point years; this is not one of them. 

Except for the wee little stress of wondering what kind of effing world we are handing to our children and grandchildren.

So now people are protesting that flattening the curve works?  Because not as many people died as would have had we not quarantined, NOW we should kinda stop and a lot of us go back to work and back to making things and shopping and playing sports? I understand that this has been hard but Muddy Muckity Mother of Prairie Dogs (you know what I want to say), I am ALIVE.  My loved one are ALIVE. 

Medical care providers and hospital techs and janitors and grocery store workers risk their lives - yet this administration still doesn’t have coordinated end plan. It’s been four months since the All Points Bulletin that a pandemic was at hand - and there is still no way to see who has been exposed and who hasn’t.  Unless you work in the White House where apparently they are testing often.  Maybe we could all pile into the White House?

But protesters snarled traffic downtown Lansing, Michigan yesterday. Some people (not very many from the photos I saw) waved signs around at the entrance to Lapham Peak State Park. People are protesting governor-issued mandates to stay at home.

I think two things.

1. This is stereotypical male thinking.  Maybe the protestors didn’t want to flatten the curve? Maybe they wanted to shoot it? Being asked by Democrat politicians (not all the govs are Dem, but Dems seem to irritate the protestors the most) to continue to the quarantine does not satisfy their need to be “out there” and in charge.  Solutions that don’t involve driving fast, riding horses, or offering an opportunity to be a hero – these don’t seem like solutions.

2. Until there is testing, the quarantine needs to continue.  Protesting quarantine without demanding testing is yelling at the door that keeps out the bad guys.

We need workers to go back to work, kids to go to school, churches to be open to their weary parishioners, nursing homes to be places of rest and care, not places of fear and isolation. 

But until there are easy-to-access, FREE tests for who has been exposed, who hasn’t, and who might be contagious right now – until then – lifting quarantine is using citizens as litmus papers. It’s throwing us against the wall to see who sticks.

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.    (H. L. Mencken)








The Warsan Shire quote is beautiful . . . and almost too much to bear.
Mary Beth's picture

Totally agree. All her poetry is just stunning. She is an African refugee immigrant to Great Britain; she knows what pain is and she knows how to turn it outwards towards what oppresses.

I'm laying here on the couch after coming home from George's and I'm NOT leaving the house for anything... I could use some bread and milk but I'm not going to the store because I'm not going to deal with the crowds at this time (5:00pm) it and I can wait... I too would like to be out and about and enjoying my new friendship and hugging him and my other friends but this isn't the time for that, and I have no idea when a normal time will return for us to do so ( But it's NOT now ) I will stay were I am until someone figures out when it's reasonably safe to be out on the streets again...
Mary Beth's picture

Spoken like a veteran of the first awful years of HIV-AIDS arrived in our world and lives. Losing friends is real.

Re Lansing, Michigan protest: I want to think that you of all people would celebrate protest. It is our constitutional right to protest, to be activists. But yet, in your post, you downgrade the 100 thousand plus who showed up by sharing that a few were not wearing masks. And worse yet, you stated that this was male stereotypical thinking. Not true. The person who put this protest together is a women. Fact check. The truth is that Govenor Witmer has gone beyond what is not only common sense but also way beyond both federal and state constitution. Read her demands & then repost with the truth.
Mary Beth's picture

Probably thousands of protesters, but not 100 thousand. "The event was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the DeVos-backed Michigan Freedom Fund" I'm not arguing that they shouldn't protest - I'm arguing what they protested - quarantining. When there are tests, we can do this. Without tests, it's a crap-shoot with peoples' lives.
Leonard's picture

This seems to me a lot like public funding for things like libraries and education. Should individuals be forced to fund something that benefits the community? Not everyone has children who attend school (and some choose to attend private schools or - DeVos' favorite - charter schools). There are even people who don't use the library! Should they be forced to consider the rest of the community? Gov. Whitmer believes that the community is best served by continued quarantine. If testing were available, we might be able to limit quarantine to those who are positive, but there is not (thanks, Trump) so we must assume everyone is positive. This definitely interferes with the rights of individuals - but (the doctors tell us) that it benefits the community to stay inside and off the golf course for a little longer. I am not a scholar of the Constitution. Only time will tell: whether people are willing to be a little more considerate, or whether they will insist on their right to be selfish and irresponsible. Peoples' lives hang in the balance of this question.

We seem to be so caught up in 'our rights', that we are ignoring our 'responsibility'. Perhaps an individual's rights are not the issue, as much as our collective 'responsibility'. We, these UNITED States, should mean something. We are being asked to care for one another. Protect the herd. And in doing so, keep yourself safe, also. Or, as safe as is feasible. Many are sacrificing their personal safety, their home and family life, to care for you...for us... They assume their responsibility. Many have been laid off from work, face significant hardship, health issues. Those in assisted living, long-term care facilities, are isolated from loved ones, confined to their rooms. Do they enjoy this?? No, but even my 95 yr old mother, understands it's necessity and she prays her care givers DO care, and are doing their best to keep themselves and their charges, safe. That safety goes away, if quarantine is lifted without knowing first - who has been exposed, where the boundaries of risk factors, of disease is lurking. Thus, TEST, TEST,TEST. And since our federal government is NOT following this science, is not mandating testing, then that RESPONSIBILITY falls to each State and County. If you doubt the devastation of this disease, research what ER's, first responders, mortuary workers, are saying. Have you seen the mass graves? It is way time to put on-hold our personal rights and to do our utmost to be responsible friends, neighbors, colleagues; parents, spouses, children. I applaud our governor in WI. He is following the science and not the partisanship, the dissadent groups that are screaming 'me, me'. We should be in this, TOGETHER, asking what can. I do to help? Thanking! those in charge for keeping the 'curve' from being any worse than it already is. Thanking, as opposed to protesting the quarentine. To the World: Where does it hurt? Reply: Everywhere...everywhere...

Somehow I missed this back in April, and so today, July 3, am catching up with reading, and find this so interesting that I HAVE to comment even though I’m not sure anyone can see it. OK, so now we have free testing pretty much widely available, on demand, no doctor’s orders needed, and you can go every few days! Masks, gloves, sanitizers are all available. We’ve had two-and-a-half months for experts to learn and advise us. Clearly-explained guidelines are in place for some businesses, and for institutions like hospitals and schools, and for general living and socializing, but we’re still in a pretty huge mess. I blame human nature, anti-science people, selfish “king-babies”, and laziness.

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Quarantine Diary #312

“You know me, I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let's give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.” ― Bob Ross

This tree lives in Waukesha and stopped me in my tracks when I was out for a walk.


 When will this Quarantine Diary end? When Len and I drive out not wearing masks to go to a place where we will stay overnight. Just letting you know. FYI we started last year on Friday the 13th of March.


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.


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. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

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