The Usual and the Not So Usual Updated

If all goes as planned, when you read this post, John and I will be comfortably ensconced in our new home in Chicago. We might also have a few aches and pains from assisting the movers with unpacking, and we will definitely be tired. But if glasses of wine are poured and there are birds singing in our new back yard (yes, we once again have a back yard) we will be happy.


I write this the night before we leave, but when you read it, we will have driven from Henderson, Nevada to Grand Junction, Colorado, then to North Platt, Nebraska and then to Des Moines, Iowa where we used to live, and finally from there to Chicago.

I will always be grateful to my friends—all of you, for reading and commenting and keeping me feeling loved. Moving is challenging. Super thanks to my family and especially our three children and my sister-in-law Therese. We have “climbed a mountain.” Well not really, but figuratively. Whenever my dear mother had accomplished something that rose in front of her as a challenge (and it was now over) the mountain phrase was used.

But irony, we have left our mountains which we loved for seven years, and now will enjoy the waters of Lake Michigan—to drink and when possible just sit and enjoy; also the green of spring-summer, the color of autumn (my favorite season) and our two fireplaces in the winter. And this moment knowing that we are finally here and you are reading this is such a comfort.


But that’s it, isn’t it. Friendship; communication. Knowing that I can communicate with you, whether I’m in California or back in Chicago, my ability to write and post being seamless. But I am also fortunate to have a computer and a phone, to be able to rely on such benefits.

Note: all of us are living in a time when we totally rely on people who help and serve others. And, we are living in a time when some in power look down on people who help and serve others. So wrong. The United States of America is blessed when we work together, when we help each other. It’s always best for us to be there for each other and not become warring tribes. It is best when we say thank you—as much as possible.


And even though we might meet on the street wearing masks, your eyes glitter with friendship.  And even though we might long for hugs, your eyes tell me you care. And even though it seems like this virus will never go away—it will. If we all work together, if we all sacrifice. If we help one another.

Thanks for reading. From Chicago, sending a big hug. Photo Credit: TIME OUT




the garden…

The sense of it, the experience of it started with “A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf. Parts of it read: 

But they had found it in the drawing room. Not that one could ever see them. The window panes reflected apples, reflected roses; all the leaves were green in the glass. If they moved in the drawing room, the apple only turned its yellow side. Yet, the moment after, if the door was opened, spread about the floor, hung upon

the walls, pendant from the ceiling—what? My hands were empty. The shadow of a thrush crossed the carpet; from the deepest well of silence the wood pigeon drew its bubble of sound. “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat softly.

A moment later the light had faded. Out in the garden then? But the trees spun darkness for a wandering beam of sun. The wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass.

Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall, and, meeting, stain the faces bent…

AND I FOUND MYSELF…going to that place whenever I read A Haunted House, or thought about those roses and apples. That was the first lighting of my vision.


The second was so opposite in its source! Yet I cannot remember the exact magazine, but it was either Country Home or Better Homes and Gardens. For when you fall in love with your own rooms, with your roses and apples, the sunlight on your carpet, the soft beating of safety when the sun departs and the moon glows in your window—a-ha, there are others who feel the same way about their homes. And they were reading the same magazines.

And so, this woman had a house in California. I do wish I’d saved the photographs. But in a major living area with tables and candles, with chairs and tea cups, she could open large doors of glass and smell the roses growing just beyond, in jardinières or window boxes, I don’t remember. And she was gracious and giddy about the bees that hummed just there, beyond the openness of her home’s windows and doors.

And I thought that lovely. I thought that so like Virginia Woolf, the image of crossing from the wooden floor planks of a house into the stones of the garden—the roses and sunlight bending inward, the bees behaving, possibly humming with the music that wafted outwards from a radio, a stereo.

Did I have that vision in my mind when, my patient husband, my patient brother and the real estate agent, took me from one place to another. Until. Until—there it was.

The day was cloudy, and the rooms smaller, but there was a large glass window and a door that opened to the garden, to the roses I would plant, the bees that I would summon, and the sunshine of southern California. And Virginia Woolf, the woman in the magazine, they would have approved.

But the trees did spin darkness for a wandering beam of sun. Though “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat gladly. “The Treasure yours.” And again, the wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass. Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall.

There were moon beams and sun beams to warm the floor, the home, this harbor, this home. There was laughter and weeping, kisses and warm embraces—and music, downstairs and flowing up the stairs, all throughout and lingering. What remains of us—only worn and warmed places and those spirits, and all those words, so many words that weave us together.  


But now we depart California, bid this home goodbye, we eager to love another, a treasure of solid walls lightened by sunlight, brightened by roses, by flowers that bend to us in summer, and blessed by all those who have ever sheltered there and now will shelter us.

Leaving has its pain, but—as Joan Didion, who was born in California but now lives in New York City, wrote: A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest…remembers it most obsessively, loves it so radically that it remakes his image…

Goodbye California, I will miss you, always. Hello, Chicago. We return to the neighborhood where we were both born and raised. We will greet our son and future daughter-in-law who now live just a few Chicago blocks from us. And the photo above—this is my new garden, and there is that door that opens to it, that pulls the inside out and the sunshine in. And there is some sunny window where I will sit and write…

P.S. So now we wait for the machinations of business, for things like escrow. What a funny word! And for a while we will be staying in Nevada with family. I hope to keep posting every Sunday, as living is change and change can make for interesting writing. Be “safe, safe, safe”—– Beth


Some People Have a Gift for Helping, Remembering

Some People Have a Gift for Helping, Remembering

Curtis Jenkins is a bus driver. And a very happy man. He looks upon his job as important, and that decision–to grab on to his bus-driver identity and make something of it– colors his entire world.


  • During the school year, he gives a present to each kid, something that after he gets to know them, he knows they will need and love.
  • He believes sincerely that while these children are in his care, he is totally responsible for their lives and their hearts. Driving his bus is his calling.
  • He’s decided to spend part of his salary purchasing a gift for each child. He talks to them, finds out about the emptiness in their lives and does what he can to fill up that emptiness.
  • He gave one student a bike!
  • He also assigns each child a position on the bus, so that they form a family that helps one another. One boy proudly said he is the administration assistant. The kids on the bus form a social organization, each child knowing every other child and often their needs, strengths and weaknesses. They have learned to help and protect one another. There are no fights or quarrels.


Curtis took on this role and blazed an unusual path. I know there are others like him, men and women who care about children and who smile through the noise and craziness that often is the major experience of the bus ride.

In my years as a teacher, I was blessed to know men and women whose devotion to their students did not end when the bell rang at three o’clock. Though teachers need to provide a responsible barrier between themselves and their students, the ability to encourage, to listen, to applaud, and to discipline with well chosen words can be the difference between a student who learns and succeeds and one who falls behind, drops out, gets lost.

Curtis represents a special love and dedication. One of his riders, a young boy named Ethan, states that the bus ride is the best part of his day. “He’s the father I always wanted. I wish my Dad could have been like Curtis.”

This story appeared on ABC’s Sunday Morning, a great show if you have the time.


One cure for opening our hearts to others is to open our memories at the same time. If yours are filled with protection, love and care–then you will want to go there, think about snow forts and tree forts; boat trips and walking the dog with a parent; family get-togethers with cousins or the close friend you wished was your sister, your brother. Bike rides, ball games, ice skating or river rafting. Wherever you were raised, whatever you did, pulling those memories closer can make a hectic day or a lonely day much sweeter.

I enjoy reading a column every Saturday in the LA TIMES that is written by Chris Erskine. 

He’s an amazing story teller who can pull me back in time with only a few words, put a smile on my face, encourage me to keep writing my own Memoir about growing up in Chicago. Chris tosses out memories in just a few words: Schwin bikes, Bactine, Mickey Mouse Club, reading Little Women, or anything by Hemingway. He once wrote that Los Angeles can feel like a college dorm: Where you from? What’s your major? (job) 

And then Chris comes back to Chicago, which is his HOMETOWN too. He writes: “Hometown: I just like the sound of it—sonorous and acoustic. A bow across life’s cello.”

Have a lovely week, Beth

PHOTO; Thanks to


Love in the Time of Trump

My mother (Jinni) always told us the truth. Widowed in her 30’s with three kids under six, she had to do it all—teach, discipline, love, guide. We learned to honor every word she said. We trusted her.

But what about Santa Claus? We believed in him because Jinni believed in magic. Was that lying? No. She was simply allowing us to live some dreams—the tooth fairy, Santa. But because we trusted her, knew she would never abandon us—this childhood magic was logical. IT FELT RIGHT.

And consider this: the three of us knew about death. It lived with us in the form of a photo of our father—ever-present in our living room. Friends, cousins—they all had fathers. We did not. But we had Jinni.

If she got angry or cried ( she was human) or revealed that yes she was the tooth fairy—we accepted that. Jinni was home, life, security. Jinni was truth.


And we did walk out our front door to encounter the world: how our friends and neighbors lived, that they had fathers, dogs, newer cars; that some had country club memberships and took vacations. WE READ. We read non-fiction and fiction. Reading provided a pathway to learn about the world. Snug in the corner of the couch, I could explore places beyond my house on Wood Street.

So a question: have you, READER, and many others been gob-smacked by learning how others lived: in an apartment in New York City with a nanny to care for them, their parents spending months abroad; in a trailer in South Dakota where food is scare and education the only way to get away; on a farm in Iowa or Alabama where even in the 60’s, 70’s, outhouses were plumbing and going to school meant getting farm chores done between 5 and 6 before a long school bus ride; or in a large home on Lake Michigan in Lake Forest, Illinois, with a chauffeur who drove you to school.

We weren’t all raised on Elm Street or Main Street. But because of READING, and often because of excellent elementary and secondary teachers, our world opened up. How did that affect me, my brothers, all of us? Back to Jinni.


Because of Jinni and extended family: teachers, the neighborhood—we knew we were being given real, actual truthful information. We saw that we were fortunate, that we were BLESSED even though we didn’t have some things that others had.

Michelle Obama in her recent biography BECOMING writes fervently that she grew to understand the world outside of South Shore (in Chicago) because truth was always spoken within the walls of her home. Some of her cousins didn’t open their arms as freely to that world as Michelle, whose mother always inspired her to move forward, to believe in herself, to aspire to whatever she wanted to be despite the negatives she did encounter. How to BECOME? Seek goals, work hard, open mind and soul to LIFE IN THIS WORLD.

BELIEVE IN: the truth will set you free, which can have a major basis in society. Because when someone lies to you, doesn’t tell you the STRAIGHT STORY, confusion will reign. You will begin to mistrust, to feel hurt.

  1. How many of you have had an employer promise you a raise or better position only to skip over you; or a coach making you believe you’ll be shortstop when you find yourself on the bench.
  2. Of course, the worst scenario we have seen in recent years is the innocent boy or girl student who trusts an adult teacher, leader or priest only to have that person sexually abuse them. THERE IS NO TRUTH IN THAT. Children and young adults have been made to distrust EVERYONE after such an experience. They are then chained. They are not set free.

The latter did not happen to me. I was again fortunate. All of us have had some disappointments that stem from beliefs that we will rise to the top. That’s part of life. But it should not be all of life in our free society. I believe in continuing to have goals and to always believe in MY BECOMING.


It’s when SOCIETY accepts the liar, promotes the liar, the abuser, the cheater, that little by little we all lose hope. It’s like JINNI (truth) has abandoned us, run off with some guy. left us alone, tipped our world upside down.

Okay, now I’m using JINNI as a metaphor. But what I’m saying is that in our country today we are being LIED TO, and many of our dreams are being messed with. Little by little we are being abandoned by our government. DON’T LIE TO ME. DON’T CHEAT ON ME. DON’T TAKE AWAY WHAT I HAD: healthcare, my voting rights, my right to own a home, to have a steady income that can feed my family. DON’T LIE TO ME.


So if your life reflects some of these changes, what do we do?

  • The only cure is love and empathy.
  • It’s recapturing basic values and trust.
  • It’s pulling in those you love in a tight embrace.
  • It’s telling the truth and teaching that truth to your children and grandchildren.
  • It’s having close conversations with your friends, with your neighbors.
  • And if those neighbors have sought the other side, if they’ve bought into the lies and are still clinging to the purveyor of those lies, it’s giving even more of your own kindness. MAKING THAT YOUR TRUTH.

FINAL THOUGHTS…I’m not messing around here. These are critical times. My husband and I agree, thank God, on what is happening. We are in love. Yet each one of us needs to spread that love to others, reclaim a time when we were not so divided, when good things like education, libraries, Special Olympics and healthcare were not taken away or diminished and only allowed to a few.



I know I say this over and over, but when on Twitter some other crazy is yelling and swearing at a minority “Just for fun”–that has to stop. Elm Street might be more diversified, but it’s still the place I want to live. RIGHT NOW! 

Thanks to PINTEREST Katie Slaby Artwork

Good Things Happening to Our Young Adults

Good Things Happening to Our Young Adults

DACA students will study at Stritch Medical School

Despite some distractions, good things are always happening to young men and women who are in college and/or soon to graduate and move into their careers. So I’m sharing these stories to support young people who are preparing to make our world a better one.

FACES OF CHANGE… (thanks to Loyola University Chicago and their Summer Magazine)

Our Future Physicians

They were born in Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Pakistan. They grew up in Memphis, Los Angeles, Orange County, Houston, Boulder and Chicago. They learned English, excelled in classes, volunteered in their communities. And now, the first six students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status accepted to the Stritch School of Medicine have graduated and moved on to the next state of their medical careers. BRAVO!

Stritch became the first medical school in the country to openly welcome DACA applicants in 2014. Let’s look at some stats.

  • This year there were 32 applicants across four classes.
  • At least 82% of the national pool of DACA recipients applied to Stritch in 2018;
  • One’third of the total DACA student population enrolled in medical schools are now at Stritch. The following students were the very start of a program that has since gained national recognition: Rosa Aramburo, Diana Andino, Johana Medias-Beck, Manuel Bernal, Ever Arias and Aaima Sayed. (Erinn Connor, reporter)

“I was so determined to get here and at times I wonder, was that me being naive? I think if anything that was a good thing, me being naive or stubborn, because it led me to Stritch. It made it all worth it.”

— Aaima Sayed

“I was at work, and remember seeing the number from Chicago and my heart was pounding. I found out I got in and cried with my coworkers. It was the first step of knowing I would be a doctor.”

— Diana Andino

“One of our school’s core strengths is its diversity, and this is seen today as our first DACA status students go forth as champions of social justice to provide care for the underserved across the country.”

  • Dean Steve A.N. Goldstein, MD, PhD

WEATHERING THE STORM: Forging ahead to deal with Climate Change

In the same issue: Former EPA director Gina McCarthy (the Obama administration) delivered the keynote address at Loyola’s FIFITH ANNUAL CLIMATE CHANTE CONFERENCE. Here are FIVE THINGS she stressed at the conference.

  1. Climate change is not a partisan issue. In the past, both parties have worked together. She mentioned that Richard Nixon founded the EPA by executive order in 1970.
  2. We are still in. The federal government may have withdrawn support of the Paris Climate Accord, but many American organizations are still working to move forward on the commitments of the Paris Climate Accord agreement. ( Like my state, California.)
  3. We can combat many climate change-related deaths. Dr. Peter Orris of Chicago Physicians for Social Responsibility pointed out that 3.3 million annual deaths worldwide are connected to outdoor pollution. But this is fixable through diligence and government regulations.
  4. Young people are a powerful force for change. The younger generation is driving those changes though actions like getting involved in local government, shopping at companies that support sustainability, and listening to the voices of the under-represented.
  5. We are all climate refuges. Anthropologist Susan Crate of George Mason University reminded us that “we are all being displaced by the climate.” And that very often “wars and conflict have deep roots in climate change.” We must be vigilant, we must be prepared, and we must be available and willing to help each other through these tough times.

FINAL THOUGHT: “This is not about whether the planet is going to survive but about whether human beings survive on the planet.” Gina McCarthy, former director of the EPA

What are you doing to fight climate change for your children and grandchildren? What are you doing to support DACA and help these young people and others.  We rarely know the background of someone who might be helping us with medical care, or banking or legal advice or selling us a car etc etc. The future is these young people.

P.S. As a former Chicagoan who attended Mundelein College which is now part of Loyola Chicago, a shout out to this man: SENATOR DICK DURBIN, who was thanked by the DACA students.

Sen. Durbin has been a longtime proponent of legislation that would allow DACA recipients a pathway to permanent citizenship. He has told the stories of Stritch students on the Senate floor and invited students to Washington, DC, to share their aspirations and lobby for immigration reform.

PHOTO: Loyola Magazine







What I Love about America

What I Love about America

Do you remember as a kid having an argument with a sibling or a friend and when they tried to stop you from doing something you responded: Hey, it’s a free country! Those words, if we truly examine them, are incredible words that even as children we so took for granted. Because yes, we were living in a free country and most of us could roam our neighborhoods or fields and vacant lots with impunity–a gift we took for granted. It’s just one of the reasons why I LOVE AMERICA.

Today, as adults, our freedoms still exist, though for some there are challenges. But because we are celebrating the 240th birthday of the United States of America, I wanted to list some things about my country that I love. (And a nod to TIME MAGAZINE who did the exact same thing in this weeks issue.)

There is not a particular order to my list, except that when creating it, I started from childhood and then moved on.

  • Vaccines. I love that as a child my pediatrician provided me with the vaccines which were available at the time.The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) was NOT available, and so I had to experience all of those illnesses and they can be dangerous. But because polio raced through the country affecting many children with death and paralysis, a vaccine was created and was immediately made available to me and my brothers. Anti-vaccinators today need to realize what a relief it was for my mother to know her children were protected.
  • Backyards, sidewalks and porches. Growing up, we spent most of our playtime outside. In any weather. Imagination fueled that play. We didn’t need any expensive equipment to keep occupied. A white dish towel provided me with a cape–so that I could be Snow White. My brother and I played Davy Crockett and shared one coon-skin cap that a generous relative provided. WE MADE STUFF UP–it was and should still be the American way.
  • Public transportation and my bike. If we weren’t walking half miles or more to get to the candy store, the park, a friend’s house–we took the 103rd Street bus and transferred to get to the beach. We had a pocketful of quarters to get us there. Or we often biked–no helmet in those days. And summer jobs? The Rock Island Train was always my ticket to downtown Chicago where I worked in the file department of an insurance agency through some of high school and all of college. Now living in California, I wish public transportation was more easily accessible. The state is working on it.
  • The opportunities for single woman. My mother was widowed with three children, yet forged an opportunity to care for us and work and pay the bills. It got easier as the years went on and women were given more power in the workplace. My two single aunts both had Master’s Degrees and thus acquired excellent jobs in publishing that allowed them to golf and travel abroad. In some countries, my life would have been buried in poverty without a father, a male in the household.
  • Public education. Though I attended private schools, I became a teacher and fell in love with public education. The soft landings in my life did not apply to many children in the high school where I taught, so being a part of that experience made me value what good teachers and administrators and school boards can do to help an entire community and it’s future workers, parents and children.
  • Advancing medical science and research. This American gift has profoundly affected my life. Good medical care (and for much of my adulthood that meant HMO’s and PPO’s through my husband’s employment) allowed me to have healthy children, experience the birthing and newborn care of those children in a fully staffed and well run hospital. It has also meant access to advances in the care of cancer and is the reason my husband is still alive today. Thank you medical research and dedicated doctors and nurses of all persuasions who contribute daily to LIFE.
  • Taxes. Many people complain about paying taxes and often try to get around the system to limit what they have to pay. Bottom line: what if you had a fire in your home and when the firemen arrived they tried to limit the expertise to put out that fire–they tried to pull back and not provide you with all their capabilities. We live in a country where every day public servants deliver our mail, work to keep our cities safe and in California are ready to use any means possible to stop a raging fire that can destroy neighborhoods in an instant. I’m willing to pay my taxes to insure that safety.
  • The power of voting. I have a say in determining a way of life fro me and my family. Millions on this planet have no say.

For sure, this is a very short list. But it might get you thinking about the things that you appreciate about being an American, the reason you are willing to blot out all the chatter, the voices that have nothing positive to say, who fail to acknowledge anything worthwhile that we as a people have built and can continue to build on.

Our forefathers and mothers insured that we would have the freedoms that we live with today. Let’s celebrate that. And let’s be aware that these freedoms belong to every American. Happy Fourth of July. And don’t forget to vote.


Photo Credit: