Mary Beth Writes


The last three suggested S words are Summer, Snow, Smoke. Sounds like the seasons we now have in Wisconsin.

How’s your summer going? I bet it's zipping past and you are as weirded out as I am that we are about two minutes from August. Where did the summer go? I have felt this wistful way every summer since I was old enough to know how much First Grade was going to cramp my style.

I walk around with two seasons in my head. Do you?

One is the project, agenda, and to-do list of the day I’m in. I need to make that phone call I’ve been putting off. We can have the rest of the tuna salad for lunch. We’re taking a grandkid to Cave in The Mounds tomorrow; will it be cool enough today to open the windows so I can make banana muffins for him and do I even want to? Oh Lordy, there’s a load of laundry in the dryer. Of course, there is. Nice day for a walk if my sunburn from yesterday doesn’t slow me down. Possibilities and obligations churn through my head like a water wheel running an old-time mill.

Summer is all the images we automatically see because those images have been hawked at us all our lives. Lakes, beaches, picnics, watermelon, bike rides on country lanes. You know.

But then our lives are real and summer is also the eye-popping electric bill, and weather sirens blaring at 10PM (last night) because hail and gale force winds are near. (No damage here.) Summer is driving kids to a beach and then sitting there with a friend having 79% fun and joy while 21% of your soul wants to be at home reading an adventure novel on the sofa.

We love the idea of seasons. We love thinking about awesome times with family and friends at that Up North cottage because the memory isn’t tinged with vacuuming sand and laundering towels and rolling up the kids’ sleeping bags and finding someone else’s overcooked underwear in a corner.

We love snow in our hearts because it’s snowmen, hikes in a silent forest, cardinals at the birdfeeder, big happy (irony intended) family dinners. Not, well, all that other stuff snow is. I promise, I won’t list it. You know.

We don’t even mind smoke because it's what we get with evening campfires and s’mores. Or that lovely pungent sweatshirt we wore when raking leaves weeks ago. Smoke is ribs and smoked gouda on crackers and the Platters singing Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Not the smoke from from climate disaster forest fires. 

So how’s your summer? Are you having summer or are you reveling in memories of other summers? Sometimes we don’t even know where we live. In our skin? In our memories? In those novels on the sofa?

Out my window right now a huge Black Sailor (you call them turkey buzzards) is high in the sky, elegantly soaring on leftover winds from last night’s storms. I wonder what it’s like to learn from experiences, as wild creatures do, but to never really live anywhere but in the season one is in.

If you make a summer memory today, let us know in the comments so we can share it for a moment.

I took these cloud photos last night a couple hours before the storms arrived.

And the one that looks like a dog.




It’s a good thing it isn’t snowing! Can you imagine shoveling the sidewalk in this heat? Also, I can’t get the image of “overcooked underwear” out of my head.

MB, Your pics sure capture your theme. Beautiful photos and memories—. Sure hope your sunburn heals quickly!
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks. Thankfully, my skin doesn't hurt, it just looks like I am evolving a lobster neck. Fabulous memories from yesterday. A quieter day today.

Love the pictures! You captured all the right thoughts of summer. My Monarchs are a big part of my summer memories!

Thank you. LIVING WITH summers OF PAST...
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks! Yeps! There were so many good adventures back there that it would be a waste to not revel in those memories now.

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Y is for Yellowstone


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."


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


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


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.



Grownups Noticing Their Lives


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


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! 


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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