Mary Beth Writes

Barbara 1/26/2023

A-Z means I’m writing short takes on random topics and I’m going in alphabetical order. I love this quote: “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”

That’s the spirit I’m pursuing: Undisciplined, irreverent, and original.

  • A – Alaska (done)
  • B – Barbara
  • C – Cats
  • D – Danger
  • E – Echoes
  • F – Friend, ferns, fungi
  • G – Goulash
  • H, I, J, K, L,
  • M- Mothers
  • N, O, P, Q,
  • R – Reading
  • S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

 If you have words for unclaimed alphabet letters, suggest them and I will try to go there. I like challenges..


I had my annual Medicare wellness checkup this week. These appointments exist simply to catch where and how our bodies and minds begin to deteriorate. For instance, the nurse says three words. More tests and five minutes later she asks what they were. Mine were banana, chair, sunshine. Words I can do.

Then she gave me a circle and instructed me to fill it in as a clock.

Bam. I was back in 3rd grade and inside at recess because the class learned how to tell time that day but I didn’t “get it.” Mrs. Chisolm assigned Barbara to tutor me.

Here’s the backstory. I went to school Kindergarten through 8th grade with the same 20 kids and I was a popular frog in that small pond. I got good grades; teachers were nice to me. My BF’s were Diane, Dawn, Ruth Ann, Jenny Sue, and Norma Jean.

 My burden to bear was Barbara.

I don’t know exactly why Barbara didn’t appeal to me. She was kind, smart, and well-behaved. She had a nice family and wore clean and tidy clothes. She did have some muscle tone issues; she walked a bit clumsily (not a lot). She talked a little slower than the rest of us, as if she was concentrating to get her mouth to move right. But she smiled amiably, played fair, and there was not one rude or mean thing about her. She was a sweetheart kid.

Maybe that was the problem. She was too sweet and too well-behaved and too eager to be my friend. She waited for me many mornings so that when I got off the bus, she was right there to ask if she could play with me that day. Every day for nine years this slow and earnest kid asked me to hang out with her. There are marriages that require less.

My parents and church indoctrinated in me that it was my obligation to always be kind and never be selfish. So I had to say yes to Barbara. I spent a lot of energy figuring out ways to say she could play with me AND THE OTHER GIRLS. I spent a lot of imagination inventing things to do that would allow all of us to play with Barbara, not just me.

In significant ways I was learning social skills. At the same time I was learning that what I wanted was not as important as what I was required to do for others. You can see I have thought about this as an adult. I wish adults would have helped me with this but they probably just saw kids playing and assumed all was well.

When I was 8-years-old Barbara taught me how to read a round clock.

I would be well into my 30’s before I learned how to say no when people asked me to do something I didn’t want to do - and like many adults, I still work at this.

Though I’m really good at telling time.




How about “Soulful” for the letter S?
Mary Beth's picture

As suggested by the mom of two dogs... Yes!

Coincidentally, last night I was thinking of a classmate I had in elementary school. I probably haven't thought of her in years. Her name was Linda and like Barbara, she had somewhat flacid muscle tone and a slow way of walking and talking. In gym she was chosen close to last or last for a team. Cruel systems we had back then. I hope that's been abolished. She didn't ask me to hang out with her although she lived quite closeby but I distinctly remember not wanting to. Looking back, I'm so relieved none of us picked on her although sadly she was somewhat of a loner. Poverty played a part in her life too. I know this because she invited me to her birthday party once and it was held at her house. Mattresses thrown down on the floor is one thing that comes to mind. A messy, bare bones house if there ever was one. I hope Linda did okay in her life.
Mary Beth's picture

It's something that all these years later, a small moment can bring these memories back so fast and so powerfully. And that we can still feel that awkward guilt. At least now we have some perspective. and we wish them well.
Leonard's picture

We have had dogs and we have had cats. Dogs will love you without reserve, and make you feel slightly guilty when you go out of the house without taking them. Cats have an eternal, "Oh, that you? Hi." look. Is it any wonder that we currently have two cats and no dogs?

Z - zealous or zoo. That could go a number of ways. Ha.

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Be a (bit of a) Scientist This Summer!


This is an updated rerun of a story I posted last spring.

This is about Stream Monitoring and How to Do It. You don’t have to be a man to do this, but many are and that’s as close to the obvious joke as I’m going to go.

Len and his volunteer pal Tom enjoy this volunteer gig a lot. Once each month in the summer they go to the same stretch of the same stream to check water quality and to discover what creatures are lurking in the water and muck.  

A-Z Ice Cream & Marco Polo

DQ will never look the same. This photo is of a patio where one eats their gelato, somewhere in Italy. 



What is the thing most people spend a great deal of time, energy, and money keeping off our necks and out of our homes?

Chilly air

What is ice cream?

Chilly air with sugar.



We are working our way through an Alphabet of Topics and we are currently considering the letter I. Two days ago, I wrote about Idiosyncrasies. Today is Igloo. Next up is Ice Cream.

So here we are again with nervous banks and a jumpy stock market and we “commoners” quietly peruse how many bags of beans we have in the pantry. I hope by the time I finish and post this the news is more stable, but I doubt it. “May you live in interesting times.” Right?

You know what I learned while researching igloos?

I is for Idiosyncrasy - "I'm not goofy. You are..."

3/14/2023  (Happy Pi Day)

Idiosyncrasies are like cave drawings; enigmatic clues that say once upon a time something happened here. A story unfolded. Someone tried to solve a problem. The solution worked, or at least it kept the person comfortable or comforted long enough for the idiosyncratic habit to form.

A-Z Humor Me

Humor 3/8/2023

I heard this joke in a sermon in 1974. I heard that highly revered minister preach at least a hundred sermons and this is the ONLY thing I remember him saying.  

A guy loses his job and is desperate for a new one with which to support his precious family. Nothing turns up until one day the newspaper Help Wanted Ads (so now you know how old this jokes really is) says the zoo has an opening. Guy applies. The HR person looks worried and then says the zoo changed its mind, the job is too demeaning. Guy says he’s desperate, will take anything.

A-Z Heaven ...


First of all, you should realize that tomorrow is March 4th which is the only date of the year which tells you what to do. Hah.

This week I was amazed by this map/representation of the process of the creation of a new star. A year ago, there were no visuals of this process. What you are looking at is cutting-edge stuff observed and collaborated by 90 astronomers worldwide.

That + in the middle is the new star that right now is bigger than our sun. We know it’s young and new because it’s growing.

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