Mary Beth Writes

1. This morning I was texting with Franc about our heritages. He was born and raised in the Midwest although his ancestors are from Puerto Rico. Being the child of children of a Caribbean Island means he probably has Taino DNA as well as African and European. Heck, he probably has Phoenician and Viking and Pacific Islander because island people and sailors have always thought each other cute.

This is the thing that occurred to me. We know that around 9/10’s of ALL native ‘New World’ people perished in the first 150 year after European contact. They died from relentless epidemics, from the brutal conditions of enslavement, from wars.

Which means it’s amazing that any person with mostly new world DNA is here at all. So many humans died, yet somehow his foremothers and forefathers survived and kept going. His existence is a heritage of endurance, tenacity, perseverance, and luck.

He also explained this phenomenon, which is weirdly functional/dysfunctional. His parents frequently told their kids all the ways in which they were ugly, lazy, and unclever. Psychological abuse was a thing in his family. He and his siblings (some more than others) had to grow up in the face of the ever-present disapproval of his mom and dad.

Franc just learned recently that this is not an uncommon in parents descended from enslaved people.


If you were enslaved as well as the parent of a gorgeous and beloved kid, the LAST thing you could afford was for that kid to feel bright and empowered. Smart and articulate kids were the first ones chosen to be exploited and sold. Parents did their best to keep the lights off in their kids’ eyes. Don’t tell them how much they are loved. Don’t tell them they are marvelous. Kids with self-esteem have a rockier road than kids who appear dull. Enslaved parents learned how to raise kids to plod along with their heads down.

This was a dynamic in Franc’s family and is true in many families who still carry the severe cautions learned in enslavement.

2. My family: When Sweden no longer worked for my ancestors because of both famine and religious oppression, my people immigrated to Michigan. I have often felt that moving from my hometown to Chicago to Racine to here was part of the banquet of DNA solutions passed along to me.  

When one is everyday unhappy - numb those feelings with cinnamon buns. When one is truly perplexed about how to go forward - move.

What have you done in your life that maybe didn’t make immediately sense to your family and friends, but if you stand at a distance and look backwards … Yup, some great-great-great-Gran handed that solution on to you?

3. This week was our last week of daily reading, drawing, and playing dollhouse with our granddaughter. We have a lot of feelings about this.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday we were having a birthday party in the dollhouse for the Golden-Haired Princess and the Magical Baby Princess. The Bad Guys came to the party until they burped too loud and the Baby Princess knocked them over and they cried all their way back to their barn. Boy, was our kid laughing, which makes us laugh really hard, also.

Anyways, she said fairies had to come to the party. We do not have designated fairies, so we would have to invent them. Len picked up some tiny dolls we’ve had 20 years. They have tiny calico dresses and felt shawls. 

“Grandpa! Fairies don’t wear sweaters!”

I hope you have a pretty good holiday weekend. Stay safe. Wear your mask. If you end up in crowded places, do like Bill Clinton and don’t inhale.


My DNA profile is Spanish, Taino Indian, and northern African, and some European... The Spanish were notorious for keeping and dealing in the slave trade for their sugarcane plantations... As I had just texted M.B. earlier, I was saying that dating Mr. P. an Anglo (Bless his battered heart) from a small Town outside of New York has had it's culture clashes because some of the things that I say affectionately and with love get misinterpreted in a way that I have to sit down and explain the background of (NOT always easy to do)... When I've mentioned this to my sister, cousins or the woman who explained this phenomena to me who is half Puerto Rican, and was raised in a large mixed generational family of 15, they have all basically said the same thing "Don't bring him to any family gatherings because he'll be eaten alive if he's that thin skinned... We certainly can look a fright and like we are messed up to someone looking at us from another culture (Some of us are just in case anyone is wondering)... But it's mostly just loving banter to us and mostly non abusive (Mostly but not always, as I can personally attest to)... There is a thin line...
Mary Beth's picture

Those thin lines...

My Swedish ancestors arrived in NYC via Ellis Island and then drifted up to New England...Massachusetts to be exact. Three sets of my great grandparents all lived less than a couple of miles of each other and the fourth set lived not much further away, just over a hill and into another neighborhood. I know all about the Cinnamon buns (with Cardamom). Comfort food at its finest. Along with a cup of Coffee, they are guaranteed to temporarily erase cares and worries.

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Happy Birthday to Len


Today is Len’s birthday. I told him this morning I might write about him but I would let him read whatever I said first. He said not to run it past him, he’d like the surprise of reading it when you all do. Let’s see what I come up with.

1. This is cute. Len was born in Chicago’s Passavant Memorial Hospital which was the grandparent hospital to Northwestern’s Prentice Women’s Hospital - where two of our grandkids were born.

Stories, Q Club, Us

The photo is not by Len or me, its from I Love Canada on FB. I've seen a sky like that just once. 


Last week I read two books about young people who left their homes. They experienced some good and too many rough experiences and they couldn’t go back until they figured out how to not be who they used to be. Both novels knocked my socks off.

The People You Keep by Allison Larkin

Covid Diary #979 - Still Paying Attention?


Yes, it’s been 979 days since Friday the 13th, March 2020, when everything changed.

Last Saturday one of our kids visited for several hours with their kids. It was fun though our kid looked tired. They said they’d taken a Covid test that morning and it was negative. They figured it was the wine and rich foods they’d shared the evening before with friends at the end of a very busy week.

Next Day - What Are You Seeing?


It was a late night last night, wasn’t it? Len worked at a polling place 6:30 AM until 10:30 PM. He said the actual experience is a lot like working retail (which he has not done since he was 22). Stand up most of the time, pleasantly say the same thing over and over. Wonder if lunch is soon.  

Professional reporters and pundits are talking a lot about “what just happened”, but heck, we are noticing interesting things, too.  Let’s talk about what We The People saw and heard and are watching now.

Here are some things catching my attention.

Election Day


So many times I’ve thought things were going to be okay, and then they weren’t. My dad had that heart attack and the kid who was MB back then told herself to not overthink the drama because things always turn out more or less okay. Then the next day he died.

We lost a pregnancy far enough along that we had a name picked out and a crib in which to put that child. For a week I had all the misery and cramps that go with miscarrying and I still thought somehow it was going to work out okay.

That Beep-Beep-Beeping Moment.

In spring Len got a $100 traffic ticket when he turned right at a corner we’ve been turning right at for seven years. However, construction had started and there were orange barrels and cones everywhere – plus a small sign NOT facing the street Len was on, telling drivers to not turn there.

Len went back later that day and took photos. Len called the city to mention that if they posted a sign that actually faced the traffic, the city could save the cost of the cop parked there ticketing drivers.

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