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! 



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.



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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What Now, US Constitution?


Not sure if I wrote this post for you or for me.

I was close to the end of my volunteer shift at the Food Pantry yesterday. The morning had been tougher than usual (see the upended boxes we didn’t have time to flatten) and I was tired. Then I got this text from Len, “Don’t look at the news.”

I’ve never received anything this cryptic from Len in my life. I told my co-worker Nancy I needed to look at the news because something weird was going on.

She replied, “The Supreme Court.”

Hot Weather Diary #4


Guess what amazing thing is happening at my house right now? This has not happened in, I think, two weeks…


Yesterday evening the heat index was 100 degrees. Tonight the temperature is 70, low humidity, breezes wafting in the windows like angels’ breath.

Hot Weather Diary #3


Today was another hot one and right now, it’s still 93 degrees in my backyard.

Hot Weather Diary #2


“Time wasted at a lake is time well spent.”  (I tried to learn who wrote this; it seems to have arisen spontaneously on a Pinterest plaque for your cabin.)

There is an argument that civilization started on the banks of rivers, the oceans, and along the shores of the hundreds and thousands of lakes on our earth. Waterfront is where people and animals gather to drink, eat, cool off, and watch the youngsters while they play. Also, it’s where adults gather to chat, fish, breathe in beauty, and sometimes swim far out there where joints don’t ache and its quiet.

Hot Weather Diary #1


We all knew it was coming and here it is. A Hot Week! We are in the news! We are important! Humans around the nation, especially in the East and Midwest, will be living through a week with temps in the 80’s, 90’s and worse.

What the Dickens?

The photo is from Barnados, a childrens charity in London in the 19th century. 


Argh! I have a new phone because the old one stopped staying charged plus a few more foibles. My phone cost $400 five years ago so it makes sense that it stopped working reliably, right? If an appliance worked like this we would burn that manufacturer to the ground.

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