Mary Beth Writes

Remember how I was writing a post for every letter of the alphabet? Then I went to Newfoundland. 

I've got FOUR suggestions for S so will probably collpase them into one. I don't have suggestions for T and U and W and Y. If you want to suggest topics for those letters, .. the light is on and the drive-up window is open! 

...

7/20/2023

I went to therapy in my middle 30’s because I felt out of touch with myself. I could explain this more explicitly but, sheesh, I’m not here to proclaim the Inner Foibles of MB.

Anyways, I’ve always felt (and still do) as if I am a haphazardly educated person and back then I was determined to get cohesively smarter. 

Everyone talks about Shakespeare, right? I started reading a play. Can’t remember which one. Kept falling asleep and was irritated at myself about that. I told this to my therapist who looked at me calmly and asked, “Why do you think you need to read Shakespeare now?” She was referring, of course, to the fact that I had three kids, one of whom was a baby, plus a lot of obligations and a new house and oh yeah, Len. (though Len has generally been an easy keeper.) Plus, the dog. And I was writing a novel in the basement.

I said I felt like I was not as educated as I wish I was.

She lifted her eyebrows mildly. “Would being more widely well-read make you feel something you are looking for?”

I lifted my eyebrows un-mildly. “I think I would feel safer from the opinions of others if I read more impressive stuff and was smart and could refer to classical literature easily.”

“Is that so?”

Gah. A good therapist keeps bringing you back to the ways you try to protect yourself from realities that might not actually exist. Any more.

..

R is for Reading.

I love to read; this is not a secret. I read several books most months. When we moved from Racine to here, we gave away at least 2000 books and still brought another thousand with us. My favorite exercise is to walk to the library.

There are all the nice things we all say and think about reading. It takes us away. It slows our heart rate, sends to-do lists flying out the windows. It lets us live in the shoes of other people in other places. It shows us that we are not the first people to face the things we are facing. Reading teaches us history and science and how stuff works and how to fix it if it breaks. Reading opens us to a more vibrant life despite our impediments.

Plus, there’s that awesome Mark Twain quote, that if I don’t put it here Len will put it in the comments. “Outside of a dog, a book is a person’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

But here’s something we don’t always ponder when we consider what we do and don’t read. Reading a book is being in a short-term relationship with particular characters, plots, knowledge, systems, authors, worlds.

When we read a crime novel (who, me?) we become immersed in a complicated place with murky characters and one truth-seeker who is flawed but earnest. Gosh, wonder who that person is? It will be fraught for a while but when the story is over, something in us is soothed. (For a while).

I don’t read mysteries because I care about “keeping my mind active.” I read them because here I am, this old and I still get scared I’m not going to even find the right question let alone answer it. For a while when reading a whodunnit, someone else is carrying the load to find the right question.

In romance novels the underlying question is, “Who deserves to be loved?”. Science fiction is about negotiating an alien world with not quite enough knowledge for this unwelcoming place. Octavia Butler, science fiction writer extraordinaire, was female, Black, and dyslexic.  Hmmm.

I listen to (and fall asleep to) history podcasts hosted by incredibly erudite historians who appear to read at least one, if not more, history tomes per week. I assume they like to figure out what was going on back then because their partners, kids, neighbors, and students break their hearts or make them dizzy.

We could go on but let’s not.

The human mind is strangely complicated. Reading is a path from who we are now to where our particular hearts want and need to go. Respect what you want to read instead of what you think you ought to read. Those are your clues to you. 

 

If you are reading this on a phone or pad, scroll down for a while to the word cloud. If you are a laptop, it’s to the left side of the screen. Those words link to posts I’ve written in the past years. Click on Book Reports to discover some books I've read I thought were remarkable.

 

Comments

Reading has been my my lifelong favorite activity. There have been other favorites, but at this point in my life, reading and eating are my two favorites. Listening to someone else read or to podcasts or other alternatives to reading just don't do it for me--I need to read it myself. I crave good reads -- politics, history, mystery novels, cereal boxes, news -- I MUST read every day. Some of what I read is to educate myself, some of what I read is that be a well-informed citizen, some of what I read is purely for pleasure (those mystery novels) -- I need it all. My suggestions: T -- therapy (thought of that even before beginning to read your essay) U -- umbrellas W -- wonder Y -- yummy foods So glad you keep giving me more stuff to read!!!
Mary Beth's picture

I love these suggestions and let's see what else, if anything, comes along. Reading is like breathing for many of us.

Mary Beth, I'm totally blown away by your last paragraph. Raw truth. I'll add it to words of wisdom regarding reading I heard from a teacher: It doesn't matter what you read, as long as you read. And an opposite view from my father: The best thing you can read everyday is a newspaper (this from a man who read two newspapers a day). I'm 64 but somehow those two pieces of advice always stuck with me. Okay Len...I'll add your Mark Twain quote, too.

I have loved reading since I was a young girl. My bedroom was right next to the Br and we went to sleep with the br light on. So even when we had to go to bed, I could read in the dark because of the br light. Why yes, I do were glasses. Reading is like breathing ! T- talent. Y - yawn
Mary Beth's picture

Last week I read 'Free Food For Millionaires' by Min Jin Lee and today finished 'American Dervish' by Ayad Akhtar. Both were about kids and young adults making sense of of the strong religion passed on to them by their families and cultures. Both were really good and boy oh boy, still working on the path from who we were to who we want to be, right? Thank you for you comment. It feeds me.

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Y is for Yellowstone

9/27/2023

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."

9/22/2023

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

9/20/2023

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

9/13/202

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.

GNTL - NAMI

9/7/2023

Grownups Noticing Their Lives

NAMI

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

9/6/2023 

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! 

IRTNOG

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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