~thankful thursday~ soft walls

Thursday… ish?


~30 days of gratitude~ day 11


I am grateful to be feeding a bottomless boy and playing endless rounds of Tiny Epic Quest this evening. As Quinn has slowly reintegrated into life at the dragon house, I stood in Fred Meyer one recent day contemplating the gummi vitamins. The ones in the cupboard from when he was in seventh grade and the pandemic began that led him to shelter in place at his dad’s for over two years were kids’ multivitamins, now hardened with neglect and past their expiration date. On the grocery store shelf, I looked back and forth between kids’ and men’s. Kids’. Men’s. I put the men’s gummi multivitamins in my shopping cart. Grateful for vitamins, and the boy-man sleeping under my roof tonight.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 12


I am grateful for sunshine again. The dwindling of the busy market season allows me to work a little on Saturday to earn my produce, then go home and nap. Then walk in the woods with the kittens (I guess feral kittens love to be taken for walks) taking backlit photos of vine maple leaves to wake up from my nap again. A newt saunters by with a wave. A stand of tiny mushrooms sprouting from a pinecone catches a sunbeam. I go back inside and I am grateful to get to watch Quinn, also sunlit, eat systematically around the flaky pastry crust edge of the Danish I brought home for him, then the gooey cream cheese center, then lick his fingers.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 13


I am grateful for a phone call with Mom today. Another big 2022 gratitude is that I finally got to visit Mom and Dad in January and June, and I’m looking forward to another visit in January. And then June (when I graduate) and then having them come out and visit us in Oregon again. I am so grateful for my parents and for their love.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 14


I’m grateful that even when a day in the middle of November is a blur between the hours of still dark and dark again, sometimes it’s a very pretty blur.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 15


As I spend each November being grateful, I tend to take a closer look at gratitude.

Every October, I know that by mid-November some gratitude momentum will build. But every November 1st is daunting. There is something about October that whittles me down. Only because I know the benefits do I intentionally sit down each November 1st and begin again.

Sometimes I judge my gratitude posts because they are tainted with ungrateful sentiments (say, about a difficult coparent or a bad hiring process) and think, my gratitude isn’t pure. And then I think, if I strain out any negative feeling, I’m not being very real.

I can both have a terrible day and express gratitude. It’s not that gratitude wins, or that it erases death or taxes or my archnemesis coparent. It doesn’t resolve my inlaws’ complicated estate-trust-thingie and it doesn’t end war or defeat the patriarchy.

What gratitude does do, is it lights a little warming fire in my soul while the shitstorm howls and sleets and ices over the part of the world I can’t control, just outside. I have soft walls and the wind can knock me over sometimes, but I prop my shelter up and keep rebuilding my little fire. Imperfections, scars, holes are all illuminated. But so are textures, colors. I notice the way the sunset makes the tent walls glow orange, noticing that the night is long, but the sun does rise again each morning. I keep turning toward it, and it keeps being there to greet me. Grateful for gratitude, year six.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 16


I am grateful for salted caramel rum gelato.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 17


I am grateful to be married to such a hardworking person who works overtime hours for large chunks of the year. I am also grateful that he leaves work promptly at 4:30 for date night, because priorities. Also, the sunrise over the bay when I arrived at work this morning was easy to be grateful for.

~thankful thursday~ celebrating bigger

~30 days of gratitude~ day 4


I have felt grateful quite a bit in 2022. One thing that happened to me this year is I got hired to a permanent position doing what I’ve been doing for decades, contract to contract, grant to grant, lab to lab, with some lapses. Biologists do this all the time, but it’s a horrific system, and should be phased out, and I’m not shy about holding this opinion. It would be difficult to overstate the amount of relief brought on by this development, after all these years. Even the tiny auto loan I took out ten years ago to buy my 2002 Dodge Neon required payments that stretched, at that time, beyond the end of my one-year job contract. And a one-year contract is a good one, often the best there is. And sometimes they get renewed, like that one did, that year, so I paid off the Neon after all.

Side note: I’m grateful for my little Neon, with its little second engine that could, that I still drive to my job, which is now a permanent job I can keep until I’m done with all the car payments I may ever want to make.

I like fish, and I’m grateful to get to work with them, and I like the people who work on the fish with me. I’m grateful to be needed and valued enough for my skills that a whole job, with benefits, was bestowed on me.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 5


I’m so grateful for all the congrats on the job, wow, thanks everyone! To follow on gratitude for my job, another big thing happened in 2022 that I am also super grateful for. Rich and I closed on our house that we’ve been hoping to buy since we moved into it six years ago. A strong sense of providence and a heaping scoop of divine glitter sparkles pervaded the timing of the job-house combination. See my previous post about payments that extend past the end of contract durations if you want to understand why. Two mortgage payments in, and a lot more to go, these two big adulting milestones feel like they just had to go hand in hand.

I have not made Facebook posts or told many people about these huge life events in real time (July for the job, September for the house) and I know now that I was falling into the silence-will-protect-me trap. I have feared that knowledge of my successes would lead my coparent to strike out, but either these new developments made it to him despite having kept my celebrations small, or here’s an idea, maybe it’s not me or anything I have control over that makes him play dirty.

So I am celebrating now. I am so grateful to have a home with a wood stove that my husband has been keeping warm through the last few weeks as the weather got chilly. I am grateful for the well-insulated walls and the sturdy roof and the quirky backsplash and the big front window. I am grateful for our good well and our septic tank and our driveway covered in a blanket of needles. I am grateful for comfy spots to snuggle our kitties and my borrowed fairy dog. I am grateful for the acre and a quarter sloping gently to the slough-bayou, with giant beautiful redwood, port orford and western red cedar, hemlock, and spruce trees lining the trail we have walked into being and Rich has maintained with his power tools for our daily walks. I am grateful for a couple of redwood trees in particular, the wedding trees we stood in front of when we said our vows five years ago, and so grateful we don’t have to move away from them.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 6


I’m grateful for a day full of real and satisfying work of filling our pantry. I have been attending the fill-your-pantry market since its early days, back when Rew was still my last name, before I even met Rich. When they can’t find my pre-order filed under “H” I know to ask them to look under “R”. When I was a kid eating meat and potatoes on the farm, Dad would exasperate me by telling me the name of the cow I was eating. I usually made a big scene and stomped away from the table, but I have come around to appreciate that close knowledge of where our food came from. I did not ask the nice farm family today the names of the cow, chickens, and pig we will be eating this winter, but I am sure they knew. They also radiated gratitude for our purchase, for supporting their farm, and said it was fine to haul our chickens, sausage, and roasts out to our car in their cooler and bring it back in when we were done.

I am also grateful for a new four-gallon bucket of honey because there is something so wealthy about all that gold.

I forgot my camera, but luckily I always have an abundance of local food photos up my sleeve.

P.S. Happy nacho day!



~30 days of gratitude~ day 7


As I try not to be devastated that the sun is down when I leave work, I am grateful to get a very nifty glimpse of the moon while driving home. The top half was obscured under a periwinkle dusk cloud, which made the moon look like a big whale eye (not the first time I’ve seen whales in the sky). I didn’t capture that image but when I got home I watched it rise up through the trees and then went inside where there was soup in the crock pot.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 8


Today I’m grateful I got to leave work on time before dark, and that it wasn’t raining, or even very windy, and I stopped by the beach. I’m grateful I thought of it this morning, so I had my camera with me. I’m grateful I arrived in time for sunset, and that sunset was quirky and unique. I’m grateful I started my day by turning in my final thirty-page creative writing packet of my third semester of the MFA program I’ve been semi-secretly enrolled in. Twelve thirty-page packets since last June means I’m about to be a thesis student. I’m grateful to be quitting this business of staying small and keeping it all under wraps. Also grateful for my vote and to all who vote for women not to have to stay small.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 9


I’m grateful for an ordinary day of hard work, kitties and woodstove fires, husband hugs, and nachos. (And falling asleep in my chair before posting a gratitude post, apparently!)


~30 days of gratitude~ day 10


Today I’m grateful for sunshine.


~thankful thursday~ feral kitten pirate ship

A few days after Thursday but here we go! Year six of daily facebook gratitude posts compiled for my non-social-media peeps here on the blog.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 1


It is November. We made it here, again. I am grateful, just for that. If you are new here, I’m about to post every day of this month about something I am grateful for, in which we learn one reason I’m not on twitter (hint: not enough page space). Before I get too far into this, I want to say that if my past five years of gratitude posts have ever made you feel feelings you don’t want to feel, especially involving words like “should”, please visit the three dots at the upper right of this post where there is an option to “Snooze Mary Beth for 30 days” which is the perfect amount of time since I’ll snooze myself in exactly 30 days for the other eleven months. No hard feelings, I promise. This whole thing is about taking care of ourselves and that’s one great way.

I am grateful for the friends who encourage me to continue making gratitude posts each November. Some of these friends have shared that they, too, get SAD and struggle with the lengthening darkness. Making it to another November means we made it through another winter, and we can make it through this one, too. And speaking of mental health, I am especially grateful today for one friend who has made it to today, having survived a year of harrowing health adventures. This friend is also the Therapist Extraordinaire of my lifetime, who taught me: my first commitment is to myself. If you know, you know (lucky you, too).

T.E. was on my mind this morning when I emailed Lauren (so grateful for her every day), something about my son’s father to the effect of, “I’m so pissed that he is doing this right now. It’s bleeping day one of gratitude, bleeping bleeper.” Therapist Extraordinaire walked me up out of some of worst troughs of despair with my nightmare on coparenting street. He unfolded me from the contortions I was performing to try to achieve the insta-worthy separation and said I was allowed to pursue happiness instead.

One thing T.E. taught me years ago, a lesson I am still working on, is, “my silence will not protect me.” Lauren told me this morning, “you’ve held your breath and your voice for years afraid of being attacked only for this.” And it’s true. My silence doesn’t keep him from reaching and grasping for new ways to take from me.

When there are a small number of people in the world out there who know the whole backstory and still want to be my friend, it dampens each new atrocity into a buzzing mosquito. It siphons the survival surge out of my blood and reminds me I don’t need to fight or flee. Not anymore.

Some of you are friends and relatives of my coparent and I don’t want that to make anyone uncomfortable. He is nice to other people, just not to me. I can be around people who love him. One of the people I love most, my son, counts him among the people he loves most. I’ve never asked anyone to take sides. Reminder that the three dots/snooze option is available to all. Me holding silence for others’ comfort is not one of the available options.

I am grateful for good therapy. I am grateful for lessons that reverberate with new relevance after all these years. And I’m so thankful for the person behind the lessons.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 2


Today I am grateful for all the sweet comments, messages, and encouragement on yesterday’s post. I want to reply to each one but that may be a weekend gig, so please just know each and every one made me smile and feel grateful for each and every one of you. I am grateful the sun came out today. I am also grateful for nachos tonight, for their supreme ease and deliciousness for tired people, and I’m not taking this class for a grade so it’s okay if I use nachos again in four days on their official holiday.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 3


I am grateful for date night. When Rich got home from work, the pack of kittens who have come to live in our yard scampered up to the driveway to greet him, then ran away again toward their food bowl, then zoomed all around him while he poured their kibble. I am grateful for these kittens. And I am grateful for my husband who is the most indulgent kitty daddy. They do not just have a food bowl, oh no. He has built them a pirate ship structure out of pallets and a tarp. He has added boxes and kitty beds so the kittens can nestle in the lengthening cold darkness. They are attuned to the sound of his truck and they run up and down around his work boots in anticipation of his feedings. We hovered for a few last minutes of daylight and gave some attention to Fluffy who is experimenting with getting petted, and then we were off on our date night.

And he got us the yummy chicken tenders for an appetizer and asked me all about my day. And we ate the shepherd’s pie with the cheese and hot sauce because it’s cold outside and that’s when we crave it. And then he got us dessert, because this is the way he cares for not just his kittens but also his wife.

banner day

This kind human is a sophomore. He spent our labor day hike dispersing dandelion seeds because, “every living thing deserves a chance to grow.” I made a wish on each seed, in similar words, but my wishes were all about him.

Also, today we sign closing papers to buy the dragon house. A long-held dream comes true.


Honorable mentions:

I am halfway through semester three of my program, and still loving every 4am writing session. On a sunny day back in January, I typed one of my essays on Great Grandma Rew’s typewriter and submitted it to a zine called Selkie, and I recently received word that they’ve published it! I will share how to get copies when they become available. My first published essay, hurray! In a zine named for mythical females who zip in and out of sea-suits to live in both realms, on the theme of “disobedience.” Sounds about right!

I started my permanent job in July. I’ve filled out what could be the last round of new hire paperwork, for the last set of changing benefits, and the waves of relief are still washing over me, and I expect that will keep going for some time. Three pay periods in, I went to Kodiak, Alaska, for field work. A new place to fall in love with. (They have otters there!!!)

rock greenling

penpoint gunnel

giant Pacific octopus



Salmon for breakfast, and second breakfast.

Sending love to all the mama bears out there with cubs snuggled close and the otter mamas with their pups swimming off and away.

tidepool immersion ~ not far off

killer whale week

It’s been a big week.

This week I got my start date for my new job (July 5th), I finished my second semester—my first half—of my MFA program, and I saw killer whales in Yaquina Bay!


I managed to take a few terrible photos, and some rather poor videos, which I will cherish forever and always. How I love them. I spent an entire thirty-page submission writing about them during first semester, so it seemed fitting they would come help me celebrate the day I reached the halfway point! I tried to clip many frames of blurry, empty water, and skip to the pertinent parts, but apologize for causing anyone seasickness with my shaky cinematography.


This one is longer and retains more shakiness, but also shows an eye patch a time or two, which was completely awesome to see. I was fairly close. You can’t hear it in the video over the wind, but from where I was standing, I could hear their exhales each time they surfaced!

After work, I grabbed my camera and husband for a bay road drive date and he got to see a couple of them, too.


All of which is to say, a lot is going on behind the scenes, but I’m still here, and I still write things.


Here is my poem about the welcoming party for the herring who came to spawn in Yaquina Bay on Quinn’s birthday:

western grebe

western gull

hooded merganser

harbor seal

great blue heron


black brant

double-crested cormorant

California sea lion


The first player to score in tennis earns fifteen points. Fifteen-love. I guess no one is sure why zero in tennis was originally called love, however “the most accepted theory is that those with zero points were still playing for the ‘love of the game’ despite their losing score.”

Maybe it’s immature to think of this coparenting journey as a tennis match but sending a child back and forth between two households was a never ending volley, until it wasn’t. Many times I remind myself I’ve consistently chosen to play the long game when it comes to parenting, that I may be in a streak of losing game after game, I may be about to lose this set, but if we’re lucky, it’s still early in the match. In the long game, maybe I have a chance. The long game is the basket I have all my eggs in.

In the short game I’m at zero. Zero is love. Love is zero. Love is a big goose egg. Love is missing the egg I could be finding. Love is emptiness. Empty spaces. Empty nest. Empty loft bed with dinosaur stickers on the side, dinosaur flannel sheets, fuzzy owl blanket, and a quilt each from Grammy and Mama. Empty seat at the table. Empty green plate that I’m sure is too small for him to eat off of now. Except for maybe eating birthday cake. Which he isn’t going to eat from it this year.

Image credit Roberto Mura


We left off at fourteen, chatting about galaxy NGC 14 and a quasar called the Einstein Cross in the constellation of Pegasus, the winged horse. Well, 4.2° west-northwest of the brightest star in Pegasus, there is a globular cluster called Messier 15. M15 is 360,000 times the luminosity of the sun, contains pulsars and a planetary nebula, and wouldn’t you know it: astronomy suspects its center may contain a black hole.

In another galaxy called Holmberg 15, a supermassive black hole was recently discovered, one of the largest black holes ever known (40 billion solar masses, I guess that does sound big). I thought, huh, I wonder what constellation Holmberg 15 is found in. Wouldn’t you know, it’s in Cetus, the whale. (I’ve said it before, you can’t make this stuff up.)

This little planet Quinn has now taken fifteen trips around our sun on, rotates 15 degrees per hour, making the sun and stars appear to move fifteen degrees per hour over our heads.

From the music of the spheres to the music of our own solar system, fifteen is a special number. Not a lot of time signatures involve 15, but there is one I know of:


Which is sometimes called compound quintuple meter. Or it can be called triple quintuple time. Marking time in our ongoing separation feels complicated, like it might need a special time signature. It feels compound, in the sense that a fracture can be compound. It feels like I need to concentrate hard. Then it feels like I need to avoid thinking about it at all. I think compound Quintuple meter fits.

My ability to document the lifelong learning that is still ongoing despite our separation has ebbed and flowed. The notes have been tucked away, and I have not given up on one day backtracking to revisit this time, but for now, my heart isn’t ready for much of it.

A few of his presents are Rubik’s cubes. He recently solved his 6 by 6 Rubik’s cube, so I got him the 7 by 7, as well as some other shapes that remind him of D&D dice, and finally, a Molecube. He told me about solving the 6 by 6, detailed step by step his approach to solving it, which reminds me that I’ve never entirely trusted the evaluation that disqualified him from being on the tippy end of the autism spectrum, and come to think of it I wonder about myself sometimes, and if you’re still reading this verbose sentence you must really love us for who we are. Example:

“The three by three is interesting to solve, because you can’t move the centers in relation to each other. You can only move other things in relation to the centers. You have to solve all the corners, of which there are eight in any cube puzzle, and you also have to solve the grand total of twelve edges between all these corners. My method solves four adjacent corners that are all on one face, then solves all the edges between those corners, all with the center obviously solved for those. Flip the cube over, solve the other four corners. I always do the same colors. I go to the yellow, I solve the yellow corners, along with the yellow layer, like not just that side of the yellow is solved, but like the green and the red on the side of it, whatever. Then I flip, and I solve the four white corners, then I flip it like this with yellow on the left and white on the right. And from that there are some other sequences you can use to solve the white edges. So, you use sequence A1 and A2, E1, E2, E3 and E4 to solve the yellow side. Flip it, and use sequences C and A2 again to solve the white corners. Then flip it so the white is on the right. And using sequences G1 and G2, solve the white edges….”

At this point in my audio file we are at 4:41 of a 39:43 minute “dialogue” concerning cubing solutions and it will probably take me until he is sixteen to type in the rest.


As usual with birthdays around here, there are the mathematical fun facts. Fun facts about 15, according to Wikipedia:

15 is a lucky number.

Fifteen is a triangular number:

12 months 8 sock monkey 

bdaysealion Photo2196

 Photo1104 Photo505 0225131805

Picturez 006 happy 7 orange IMG_6629  


When I first made a grid of Quinn’s previous nine birthdays as he turned ten, I reflected on him being halfway to 18 one year and halfway to 20 that next year.

Now he’s halfway to 30.

15 is a hexagonal number:


hexagonal grid of circles oe each for Quinn's 15 years

Fifteen is a repdigit in binary, and there are few people who love binary counting as much as Quinn, age 1111.

15 is a magic constant of magic squares.

In pi, 15 comes after 14:


All of which is to say that 15 is quull.

In navigation, every 15 degrees of longitude equals one time zone. These lines of longitude, also known as meridians, are farthest apart at the equator, but they come together at the poles… eventually.

In the meantime, we can span time zones on computers, even three of them if we need to, as Quinn recently has to connect with his cousins Mario and Luigi on Discord. The three of them are peas in a pod still, even online, where Quinn is leading his cousins on a D&D quest for which he prepared a nine-page campaign script, five spreadsheets worth of maps, and an ancient scroll to introduce them to the quest.

Fifteen is the number of months Quinn had been out of the womb when he started walking. Now that he is 180 months of age, the moments I am going to look back on are our walks together. Our pre-birthday hike was a good one, and we noted that our spot in the forest is also visited by owls:

Someone has pruned a lot of the regenerating trees on either side of the trail, limbing them up so they will grow taller (the trail goes through former clear cut). On the way back down the hill, the light was just right for me to see what is left of some of the mother trees, still present there, still supporting the lanky youth.

Quinn, you are the magic constant in this mama’s life. Wishing you a happy fifteenth birthday today!

tidepool immersion ~ between scattered showers

Between scattered showers, between the week-before-deadline and the deadline, I hit a lucky low tide. The sun came out and shined on the encrusting critters, the chitons decorated with barnacles and limpets, making the anemones look lit from within.

I see a selfie in this heart-shaped tidepool. Happy Valentine’s day!

Hermit crab, you are in the middle of a sea anemone. Not sure if you know.

juneuary beaches

…in which I share the photos I keep scrolling back through, from that one week in January (or sometimes February) we can’t count on but always appreciate when we get it.

two walks… the first is a lunchtime walk I took myself on.

This image reminds me of my writing process lately. It’s like trying to braid water.


The second walk: I got asked on a sunset beach date. I accepted.