Mary Beth Writes


Procrastination. Or how the American Revolution was won. 

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't grant him the serenity to accept the things he cannot change.” (Tweet by Bob Golen) 

P is the next letter to write about in this project to write an essay for every letter of the alphabet. Someone suggested Procrastination.

Guess what? I’ve been putting it off.


When I was a little kid I believed myself to be a procrastinator. People criticized me for being pokey and doing the easy thing when I was supposed to do a hard thing. Now that I’m this old – isn’t this what kids do? Show me a purposeful little kid and I will show you a child to worry about.

Procrastination is pretty simple, actually. We are born with things in us we are here to do, but also, we have to figure out how to navigate our family situation. This is seldom easy and too often weird or unkind. By the time we are adults on our own, the force of our innate mission on earth versus requirements lobbed at us by our childhoods – have become an internal brawl. To make adulthood even more fun we generally aim for higher education, take on jobs, woo partners, have kids, and adopt animals that shed. Did I mention living inside homes that get dusty and oops, no one did the dishes last night? Or changed the sheets this year?  

Procrastination is a nonviolent way to survive the above.

I have two recommendations to manage procrastination: 1. Are your kids more or less okay? If they are, or if you are in the process of doing your best to care for and support them, then it’s not procrastination. It’s just priorities and you have them.

2. If the kids ARE okay but everything else is flying monkeys – go back to square one. What is the endeavor that when you do it awake and sober, you lose your sense of time? Go do that thing for at least twenty minutes and see what happens.

That’s my take on how to survive being a procrastinator in a check-list world.

William Howe (1729-1814) was a British General who helped the American Colonies win the Revolutionary War via procrastination.

You may have heard of the year 1776. There were British generals and soldiers all over the place, especially around Boston. One of the first proposed military plans of the Brits was a plan to take high ground and hills around Boston so that they could intimidate the Patriots into submission. General Howe was thinking about doing that with a lot of his co-Generals. He was also having an affair with the wife of a loyalist in town and was apparently distracted. While Howe was in charge and not doing much, George Washington with some smart problem-solver guys most of us have never heard of climbed Dorchester Heights one foggy night and set up hasty redoubts (little protective fort-like walls). The Brits saw this the next morning and were dismayed. They continued being dismayed for several days which gave the patriots more time to make those redoubts more secure. The Americans had stolen some cannons so they had time to haul those up to the overlook, too.  Now they had fa clear shot to pummel every British ship in Boston harbor.

So General William Howe and the British soldiers (there were thousands of them) left Boston and sailed down to NYC. To Howe it seemed uncomplicated in New York. There were way more British and they were far more supported with weapons and supplies than the ragtag Patriot soldiers. Everyone knew there would be a battle soon. Thinking he already had the Americans beaten simply with his manpower, Howe procrastinated and called off striking early. The American army knew they couldn’t win against all those Brits so they silently and completely evacuated New York on a foggy night.

Washington escaped across New Jersey to set up camp along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. He had started in New York with 12,000 men, by December there were less than 3,000. General Howe and the British were sure the American rebellion was a lost cause. Despite indications that Washington was planning to attack some of the smaller British forts in New Jersey, Howe didn’t view this as a serious threat so he procrastinated doing anything in the nasty winter weather. Patriots attacked several garrisons in New Jersey, winning small but essential sites. Hearing about this, plus the previous Patriot wins at Saratoga, enticed the French to enter the war.

Howe and the Brits took Philadelphia in 1777. The Americans couldn’t take it back, but they camped close enough to make it difficult for British soldiers to leave the city.

General Howe, at several critical moments of choice and crisis in the American revolution, stayed home. Played footsie with his mistress. Hosted balls. Convened lots of meetings where important men in spiffy uniforms showed up and looked at maps and had discussions. Fought heated arguments with fellow leaders instead of going outside to fight the patriots with soldiers.

General William Howe’s procrastination was one of the most powerful building blocks of American freedom and liberty.


Cool Dorchester story at American Revolution Podcast: episode 85, Dorchester Heights.  



Leonard's picture

General Howe's affair with Elizabeth was known rather widely. Francis Hopkinson, who went on to sign the Declaration of Independence, published a poem, "The Battle of the Kegs," which we quote here: Sir William he, snug as a flea, Lay all this time a snoring, Nor dreamed of harm as he lay warm, In bed with Mrs. Loring.

I bet this could be a musical! Ha
Mary Beth's picture

What a cool idea!

I'd never heard about that. It piqued my interest as to whether there were repercussions to his procrastination and partying. Looking into it further - the blame for the loss at Saratoga was put directly on Howe. He was relieved of his duty as commander in chief in 1778.

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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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