Mary Beth Writes


Words nominated for the letter H were: Hairy, Heaven, and Humor. Let’s start with Hairy and then let it morph into Hair.


Our 4-year-old Madison grandkid goes to 4K classes which do not meet on Mondays. My son and his wife often work from home but imagine how easy it is to run the Monday morning zoom meeting for your work team while someone who small and not patient needs to lisp urgently to you right now.

Occasionally we go there to help. I’d intended to go alone yesterday but by Sunday evening the Monday weather forecast was “Rain like the Hounds of Hell.” I asked Len if he’d drive (losing his day home alone). He said yup. (What a guy.)

Hairy is for the drive to Madison. The rains were so torrential that we, veterans of TWO hurricanes, recognized the signature “bands of rain.” It would rain so hard water would sheet off the windshield. Then it would slow down a bit and we’d think we were through the worst of it. Then another band would come along.

Len drove the speed limit and, unprecedentedly, only changed lanes once the entire trip. He even let me hold his coffee cup most of the time. White knuckled Len is rare. 

That was Hairy.

(The rainstorm stopped midmorning and the drive home was easy.)


While we are at H words – let’s talk Happy. This discovery was total serendipity but I’m here to share that an old deck of cards and kid scissors became a Happiness Activity. A kid can hold a card in one hand and it is stiff enough to cut while also being thin enough to provide no resistance. This kept Miss Munchkin happy for hours.

Whether we want this to be true or not, our hair is the flag we fly.

Forget The Red Wedding. I personally think one of the most terrifying scenes in modern cinema is the part in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the families meet for the first time. Her family has gone nutso cooking, baking, and roasting a ginormous feast. They’ve decorated their already rococo house. Everyone is dressed up; the ladies have huge hair, loud voices, and big hearts.

Ian’s mom and dad show up with a Bundt cake.

The terror is 1.) Chocolate marble Bundt cake is one of my show-off desserts. 2.) Ian’s mom’s hair is flyaway, nebulously light brown/dark blond, and cut in a humdrum bob. Just like mine.  

I am not the flamboyant and voluble mom. I’m the one with a barrette keeping my hair out of my eyes, who knows all the words to some lovely older hymns, and who feels awkward in crowds. My hair flies this flag.

You’ve seen those social media videos where a barber cuts the hair of guys who are homeless; they go from disreputable to nice looking just that fast. Tidy, normal haircuts can disguise a lot.

In high school, how much time did you spend trying to make your hair look like something it didn’t want to look like? How many hours of your young life did you spend with pink foam curlers or those black brush ones that tattooed your scalp as you slept? Remember when we Dippity Do-ed and Dippity Didn’t? 

It isn’t that we have to have fabulous hair, but that no matter what our hair looks like, it says a great deal about us.

Bald men are saying they don’t have hair, or don’t want to deal with it, and they don’t care.

Bald women, perhaps more powerfully, are saying they gave up trying to appear a way their hair growth can’t sustain. Stress, DNA, chemotherapy, and other medications can change women’s looks. It’s a strong woman who can give up the struggle to blend in.

This is Congreewoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Some show off their wealth of money and time via fancy hair.

This is a modern representaiton of Marie Antoinette who really did go to a party wearing a model ship in her hairdo. 

There are folks with simple and unprecise hair because they are too busy, not interested, they are active in sports and activities, or they spends much of their day caring of others while trying to find time to sleep.

Some men have profoundly perfect hair. If they are gay, we celebrate variety. If they are straight, we pay a little extra attention to what’s going on here. There are women who get only windswept at a modeling shoot.

Many women emerged from Covid lockdown with silver hair and marveled we didn’t even know we were this beautiful.

Clues and indications we note without noting that we note: The color of our hair. The tidy cut or rambling lengths. People who obsess. People who comb it a couple times a day but then forget it. People (Hi, Len) who if they didn’t have partner would take their morning shower and then forget to comb their hair which can become a startled woodland animal look really fast.

So many of us remember when how our hair looked was important. When we judged others for not being up to our standards. When we assumed women wearing a wimple was intimidating and pious, but women in hajib were too “foreign” to accept.

Hair reminds us how far we’ve come when we think we haven’t come far at all.

A few years ago I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This Nigerian author begins her amazing and award-winning novel in a beauty salon in Trenton, New Jersey where the protagonist is getting her hair braided. One of the questions of her story is what women do with their hair can be a way of claiming, separating from, or returning to one’s roots and culture.

There are a lot of messages about what we should do with our hair.

It might be more interesting to look at the hair we already have, and see what it tells us about who we are now. If we are pleased with the message, cool. If not, maybe it’s time to try a different flag.




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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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