The Childhood Memoir I’m Not Publishing

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But if moiself  did publish such a book, it would have a chapter titled, “The Girls of Summer.”  Said chapter would be devoted to describing the elaborate role-playing [1]    games my grade school friends and moiself  played, in my backyard and/or garage, during summers, on the three-point-five days a week when we were *not* at the beach.  

The games we played on a regular basis included

* Dracula
(we were – surprise! – vampires, although no one ever played the titular Count.   [2] );

* Haunted House
(we transformed my family’s garage – in which my parents did not park their cars because doing so would have taken away a vital part of our play space – into a haunted castle, wherein we would haunt [read: terrorize] our younger siblings, aka “The Little Kids ®,” who were so desperate to play with us Big Kids ® that they’d do anything we’d say);

* Leopards
(we were a family of leopards, living harsh lives on the African plains and forests)

* Amazonian Women
( explanation forthcoming)



*   *   *

Department Of The Hitherto Unexplained Connection
Between Barbies And Nuns

First, the Amazonian Women game explained, or at least outlined.

My childhood home’s backyard was a vegetation paradise, particularly during summer.  Our fruit-producing trees and shrubs included a lemon tree, a peach tree, a plum tree, a pomegranate bush, several banana trees,   [3]   and five apricot trees.  A huge, great-for-climbing pine tree of some sort (the sort that produced so much sap my mother kept a jar of Crisco, soley dedicated to sap removel, by the kitchen sink) was behind the garage.  The pine tree provided a good access point to the garage roof, which we kids were technically forbidden to climb onto, due to our (read: *my* ) tendency to play WWII paratrooper and jump off of the roof holding an umbrella.   [4]   Summer night bonus: If you climbed far enough up in the pine tree you could see the halo at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium light up when an Anaheim Angel hit a home run.   The view was definitely worth the sappy hands, arms, elbows, knees….



The perimeter of our yard’s back and side fences was lined with a variety of shrubbery.  Cascades of bougainvillea flowed up and down and around the backyard fence, and the vines’ vibrant magenta-colored flowers provided the perfect tropical aura for our Amazonian game:  we would drape a garden hose at the top of one of the vines and adjust the hose’s sprayer to the finest mist setting, which provided the proper, lounging-by-the-waterfall atmosphere, and also kept us cool.  You could work up quite a sweat in the summer as an Amazonian warrior, canoeing from island to island, hunting and fishing and gathering tropical fruits, fighting off dangerous wild animals, and planning excursions to either visit or plunder neighboring islands.

Our brothers and other neighborhood boys were welcomed for the tag games    [5]  my girl friends and siblings and I played on balmy summer evenings, but with the exception of having one boy join the Dracula or Haunted house game on a few occasions, the other games were all-female.  There were no literal male occupants of our Amazonian island; there were a never-specified number of men that we’d taken from neighboring islands and whom we kept in captivity.  My friends and I knew enough about mammalian reproduction to know that our species could survive as a single gender, so we kept these imaginary male captives for “breeding purposes” – the ultimate meaning of which was lost on us, but somehow, we knew we had to acknowledge that aspect of our culture.



My notes for my SoCal girlhood memoir have gathered dust; moiself  hadn’t thought of the Amazonian game in ages, until Monday, when friend CC and I saw the Barbie movie.  During our après-cinema lunch when we were discussing the movie,   [6]  I told CC about the Amazonian game, and how it fit into my theory of why so many girls  (especially those whose girlhoods were 40+ years ago) – girls who would either then or later identify as feminists – liked playing with Barbies, and also sometimes pretended to be nuns.

Hold on to y’alls wimples: it’s the long-awaited for, Barbies-Nuns Connection. ®



Like all the girls I knew when I was in grade school, my sisters and I were given, and played with, Barbie dolls.  I never received, nor wanted, a Ken doll.   [7]   I did have a few male dolls: I asked for, and received for Christmas one year, a G.I. Joe doll and a Johnny West cowboy doll (which came with a palomino steed, and a plastic vest and chaps and spurs wardrobe for Johnny!).  But as I discovered, a boy’s G.I. Joe was not to be called a doll, but an “action figure.”  You’d best not refer to any of a boy’s male play figurines as what they were – dolls –  lest the boy’s little dingus shrivel up and snap off at the mere suggestion that he played with a kind of toy commonly associated with girls.

Like many most of same girls with whom I played let’s-pretend we’re _____  games, we also played the We Are Nuns games.  This was not a The Sound of Music fantasy thing,    [8]  and with one exception these friends were *not* from Catholic families.  But there was a similar appeal to the world of Barbies, Amazonian island women, and nuns.

It’s not a complicated connection, not in the least.  The appeal was that those worlds (Barbies; Amazons; nuns) were composed solely of females.  Thus, girls got to do *everything.*  This was not the case when we played games with the neighborhood boys.

One of a bajillion examples:  One summer day I agreed to play “The Smith’s Home” (or some other family name) with my younger sister and our next-door neighbor boy.  Next Door Neighbor Boy and I were The Smith Family.  We were a recently married couple, with a dog and a cat and two hamsters and no children.  After we’d discussed the game parameters, NDNB announced that he was leaving our house (a fort we’d built in my backyard) to “go to work.”  I wanted to head out as well, but NDNB boy-splained to me that things didn’t work that way: as the wife, I had to stay home.  When he insisted on taking the family pet, a German Shepard (played by my sister), to work with him, I in turn explained to him that things didn’t work that way.  Husbands do not take the family pets with them to work – name one husband in the neighborhood who does that?!  And that was the end of The Smith Family game.

Now then: NDNB was a nice boy, of whom I was genuinely fond re his gentle disposition and kind heart.  But he, like the other neighborhood boys and the brothers (whether older or younger) of my friends, always tried to take over during the few times we let them join our games.  If the girls were starting a game of Blackbeard’s Buccaneers you didn’t want the boys to join in because they’d insist on being all of the pirates and you had to be…something else.


Who you callin’ a scullery maid?


As young females, we grew up seeing a world where males were in charge, of just about everything.  In television and movies men were the primary (if not the only) protagonists, with the women there as domestic/romantic supporting players.  I was no fan of Catholicism and steadily (if secretly) came to despise almost everything about any religious doctrine (including my own family’s moderate Lutheranism); still, nuns held a peculiar attraction for many girls such as moiself .   [9]

A convent, while admittedly mimicking the patriarchal structure of a hierarchical society, was an all-female world.  Nuns did everything in their society; being a nun was one of the few options for women wherein they could leave their parents’ (read: their fathers’) homes without having to go to another man’s home; i.e., marry and have children.  Women could have a “calling” – an occupation, a life’s work – that did not involve (and in fact precluded) tending to the needs of a husband and children.  Nuns (seemed as if they) had a life outside The Home. ©



Sure, nuns were “cloistered,” but at least a nunnery was a cloister of choice.  Girls grew up seeing few-or-no female counterparts to the much-envied, free-livin’, swingin’ bachelor: whether by choice or circumstance, females who remained single were portrayed as objects of pity.  “Spinsters” and “old maids” were the only terms for women who remained single and childfree.

Similarly, when you played with Barbie dolls, you could be the good egg, the louse, the protagonist and the hero and the side player and everything in between.  Our Barbies ran the house, earned the paychecks, planted and harvested the crops, designed fantastical machines, drove the stagecoaches between the OK Corall and Santa Fe, flew to the moon in shoebox rocket ships – whatever you wanted them to do, with no Ken to tell you that you couldn’t, or yeah, maybe just this once but you gotta ride…


“Sidesaddle my PVC ass, Ken.”


*   *   *

Department Of Wait Wait Wait Wait Wait A Minute…

“The battle over legacy and donor admissions to college — the practice of giving special treatment to family of alumni and contributors — is about to heat up in California as critics take aim at what they see as a long-standing barrier for less privileged students to access elite institutions.

State Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) plans to renew efforts to deny state financial aid to any college or university that gives an admissions advantage to such applicants, who research has shown are overwhelmingly white and affluent.”
( “Battle over legacy and donor admissions preferences to heat up;
USC, Stanford could take hit.” LA Times 7-31 )

What the….

Moiself  is, of course, *highly* in favor of such a bill, even as I’m stunned (naive? ) by California’s need for it.  Since when did state financial aid go to private universities?

*   *   *

Department Of  And In A Related Story…

A long time in a galaxy far far away:   In the summer after son K’s junior year of high school, he began the first of several rounds of visiting colleges he was interested in applying to. Moiself  accompanied him on the first three campus visits, which were in California.   [11]   It was late June when K and I flew down to Sacramento, rented a car, then in the next three days toured UC Davis, Stanford, and UC Santa Cruz.

My Oregonian born and bred son, who was known to complain when the temperature rose above 72°, seemed to have had an weather-influenced relationship with the colleges we visited on that trip: the closer we got to the coast, the more he liked the school, inversely conflating the temperature of the area with what his academic experience would be.

When we deplaned in Sacramento the heat blast hit K in the face, and I remember thinking, “Yep, this is familiar…”  I am a UCD alum.  A couple of summers I stayed in Davis to work expanded hours at the student job I had during the school year.  I assured K that if he went to UCD he would probably not be staying during the summer, and that Davis had winters an Oregonian would appreciate. Nevertheless, looking back, I think all he “saw” of UCD was the heat.



Neither MH nor I were the kind of parents who lobbied (nor even encouraged) our offspring to consider attending our respective alma maters. But in the fall of K’s junior year, one winter weekend afternoon when he and I were hiking in a local nature preserve, K mentioned his interest in studying entomology.  I told him there were not many colleges which offered an entomology major, and of those that did…things may have changed, but when I was at UC Davis it had the top-rated entomology program in the nation (when we returned home I did an internet search and confirmed that that was still the case).

I forget the reasons K had an interest in Stanford (his aunt, my younger sister, was a Stanford alum, but I don’t know if that was the influence);  he was curious about UC Santa Cruz for its connection to the Human Genome Project.  So: we planned our trip, signed up for the campus tours of and presentations by the respective colleges, and moved from east to west, starting with UC Davis, then Stanford, then UC Santa Cruz.

As moiself  mentioned, I don’t think K saw much of Davis but the heat.  UC Santa Cruz – he liked many things about it, although he agreed with my observation, as we did a bus tour around UCSC’s verdant campus, which is situated in the forested hills of the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay, that it might be like going to college in summer camp.



As for Stanford, our visit there provided the most indelible, visiting-a-campus story.

We both enjoyed the Stanford campus tour, which was led by an enthusiastic student who was personable and articulate and knowledgeable and proud of his campus.  K was quite keen about Stanford after that tour.  Next on the agenda was a sit-down presentation for prospective students and their parents, given by Stanford’s Director of Admissions.  In 20 minutes K went from, “Wow, I really like this place; it’s definitely going to be on my application list,” to, “I wouldn’t go to this snobby, elitist, self-aggrandizing institution if *they* paid *me* to do it.”

One of many statements the Dude of Admissions made which K found off-putting was a dyad of contradictory statements, which he kept repeating:

” *Any* person can get into Stanford! “
(After saying this, he would give examples of students from lower income, and/or nonwhite and/or non-big city backgrounds who were Stanford alums)

” Stanford, as one of the top rate universities in the United States,
is very selective, and has one of the, if not THE, lowest acceptance rates
of any college in the world! “



Several times during his presentation Admissions Dude said that he wanted parents or students to ask questions at any time, about any Stanford-related subject.  After AD’s third repeating of his anyone-can-be-here/almost-no-one-gets-in couplet, a student raised his hand and asked how he might increase his odds of getting accepted to Stanford.  AD answered with what he obviously meant to be a humorous story:  “First of all, don’t do this….”  He proceeded to tell how a high school senior had marched into AD‘s office, unannounced, hours before the admissions deadline.  The student dismissively flung an admissions packet onto AD‘s desk and said, “Take care of it.”

I looked around the room, noting that both parents and students were snickering with “Oh, can you believe that arrogant wiseass?!” amusement.  Moiself  raised my hand, and when AD called upon me I asked him, “Was that student a legacy?”

Admissions Dude turned an impressive shade of white.   [12]   In a Very Serious Voice he stammered, “I can’t give any names; I can’t – uh, we can’t reveal any personal information about an applicant…”

To which I perkily replied, “I didn’t ask for his name; I asked if he was a legacy.”

Admissions Dude was quite flustered that I’d brought up an apparently taboo subject – as if no one present in the room had ever heard of legacy admission preferences before the big-mouth Oregon lady brought it up.  He squirmed with discernable discomfort – I thought he was in danger of pissing his Trussardi trousers.  The more the AD tried to act “plussed” the more nonplussed he became.  As he strove to change the subject, several parents seated in front of K and I turned around and flashed me knowing, sympathetic, and/or incredulous looks.

K ended up applying to six of the seven schools he visited that summer. He was accepted at all six, and chose to attend the University of Puget Sound.  He did not apply to Stanford.


Stanford LegacyGuide (The Koppleman Group)


*   *   *

Department of Employee Of The Month 



It’s that time again, to bestow that prestigious award upon moiself .  Again. The need for which I wrote about here.   [13] 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week    [14]

“If 50 million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”
( Anatole France 1844 – 1924, Parisian poet, journalist, writer )



*   *   *

May you have fond memories of your own childhood summer games;
May you be mindful of what popular foolish thing you believe;
May you enjoy your own reign as Employee of the Month;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *


[1] No, not today’s RPG.  It meant something different back then.

[2] For us, Dracula was synonymous with vampires.

[3] Probably akin to the Blue Java varietal, which we never let come to full ripeness before we’d pick (and ruin) them.

[4] Which did nothing to slow my descent.

[5] “Green Monster” was the favorite.

[6] As were three women sitting next to us at the sushi train bar counter…from what I could hear of their conversation.

[7] One of my friends was given a Ken doll by her parents, and she brought him to a few Barbie play sessions, but he stayed mostly on the sidelines.

[8] We were never, ever, singing nuns.

[9] One that was romanticized, of course, but what other options did we see?

[11] MH did the next three visits with K, to colleges in Washington, British Columbia, and Minnesota.  And K and I later made an overnight trip up to Tacoma to visit the University of Puget Sound, which is where he decided to go (as did his sister, Belle, three years later, and for similar reasons: they both had the experience, upon touring the campus, of “Oh, this is my place.”)

[12] Made even more impressive by the fact that he was not white.

[13] Several years ago, MH received a particularly glowing performance review from his workplace. As happy as I was for him when he shared the news, it left me with a certain melancholy I couldn’t quite peg.  Until I did.

One of the many “things” about being a writer (or any occupation working freelance at/from home) is that although you avoid the petty bureaucratic policies, bungling bosses, mean girls’ and boys’ cliques, office politics and other irritations inherent in going to a workplace, you also lack the camaraderie and other social perks that come with being surrounded by your fellow homo sapiens.  No one praises me for fixing the paper jam in the copy machine, or thanks me for staying late and helping the new guy with a special project, or otherwise says, Good on you, sister. Once I realized the source of the left-out feelings, I came up with a small way to lighten them.

[14] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.   No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

The R I’m Not Pronouncing



Department Of Common Ground

It’s been a contentious primary season, here in the U S of What-the A?, and it’s nowhere near over. The issues and personalities on all sides are contentious; I often despair over the fragmentation of our nation, and wonder if there is any way to get us to focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us?

Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greenies, Independents – here is an issue all of us red-blooded [1] Americans can, IMHO, get behind:

Let’s do whatever it takes to get rid of the first r in February.

It isn’t as if removing that one pesky consonant would leave the month bereft of the 18th letter of our alphabet. And my official survey [2] results show that no one pronounces the first r, anyways.



*   *   *

My Son Went To Iceland And All I Got Was This Rotting Shark

Góðan daginn!

My intention was to greet you in Icelandic language. Or perhaps I just warned you that there’s goop in your dog’s hotel. Either way….

Son K is in Iceland this week. The raison d’etre (or, as those suave Icelandic philosophers say, réttlætingfyrirtilvist) for the trip: he’s attending the EVE online convention or convocation or conflagration, or whatever the nerdfest gathering of devotees is called.

As His Mother © ,  I made him promise he’d go outside – i.e. leave the virtual and actual basement that will likely be the gamers’ world, even in A Foreign Country ® – and  do some sightseeing while he’s there. Appreciate the unique topography that is Iceland. And no, other gamer’s buttcracks don’t count.


Not approved by the Icelandic Tourism Board.


See the country’s legendary, “arctic desert” landscape of mountains, glaciers, geysers, hot springs, waterfalls, and unpronounceable volcanoes! Try to get a feel for the local culture!

Up to a point.

When it comes to travel, advice like, check out the local culture can lead a person down a multitude of dark alleyways…such as partaking of culinary traditions for which the phrase “it’s an acquired taste” doesn’t even begin to excuse the horror which is about to plague your palate.

Speaking of which, before he departed K told me that if someone offers him a bite of Hákarl, the infamous Icelandic death sentence reserved for the most heinous of criminals “delicacy” which consists of fermented/rotting shark meat, [3]  he’d have to try it.

I advised K that, like the ferret-sized pickled anchovy I had to sample [4] when I was in Croatia, such regional delicacies are best washed down (and sometimes can only be kept down) with copious amounts of the local hooch. K doesn’t drink alcohol…but he does know how to vomit.




*   *   *

Department Of Life Lessons Not Quite Learned

Last week on Thursday MH announced that, given our daughter Belle’s and our respective schedules, there would be no time for us to visit her, [5] as she’d been requesting we do, before finals week…and the day after her last final exam she’s embarking on a cross-country driving trip. So, how’s about a quickie up to Tacoma?

MH procured overnight lodgings for Saturday night, and we drove up that afternoon. We got to see her working a shift at her job at the The Cellar, the on-campus pizza parlor and smoothie shack, after which we took her and a friend out to dinner at a restaurant overlooking Commencement Bay. After dinner Belle had to return to The Cellar to work a closing shift, gave her the story she shared with us the next morning.

The set-up: Belle lives in a house on campus. Another on-campus house, about a half block down the street from hers, has acquired the nickname, The Slut Hut.[6]   The Slut Hut is known for hosting raucous parties. Saturday night TSH threw a big party, the highlights of which included (Belle later heard) a drunken party guest deciding it would be fun to jump off the house’s roof.

Sometime after midnight, several groups of TSH partiers wandered into The Cellar. A few ordered food and smoothies; mostly they just hung around in the booths until Belle, as she put it, “shooed them away” at closing time (one am).

Belle began her cleanup duties: bussing and wiping down tables. As she wiped the table at a booth where a group of TSH partiers had congregated, she noticed a large spill underneath the table. Not wanting to contaminate her table-wiping bleach cloth, she thought she’d get a start on cleaning up the mess by using her free hand to scoop up some of the blob…only to discover that what she’d thought was someone’s spilled raspberry smoothie was actually a puddle of blood.

Belle chuckled when she reached the part of the story where she saw “bloody bare footprints” leading from the puddle and out of the Cellar’s entry door. She shook her head over the idea that, “Someone was just sitting there, bleeding, and was ok with it!”  [7]  MH and I shook our respective parental heads over the fact that our daughter would think it reasonable to use her bare hand to scoop up an unknown…er…gooey substance.

Belle assured us she didn’t have any open cuts on her hand, and that the campus biohazard team, which her fellow Cellar employees summoned as per protocol, did a good job of cleaning up the floor (which was not our main concern, imagine that).


No, this picture is not apropos to the story, but would you rather see a pool of blood on a pizza parlor floor, or a baby sloth in pjs?


*   *   *

Department Of The What-Abouts

So, it seems certain factions are up in arms (down in trousers?) about whose naughty bits get to use which public restrooms.

I don’t know what the fuss about toilets is about. I’ve long thought that all public restroom facilities should consist of as many single stall, accommodating-to-all rooms that can fit into a designated space.

What about the dad or mom, single parent or partnered, who takes his young daughters or her toddler son on an outing, and needs to accompany them to the restroom? What about the mom whose son is old enough to use the restroom on his own, but they’re out in a sketchy area – or even a public library [8] –  known to be frequented by junkies and mom would prefer to accompany her son lest he enter a bathroom full of discarded hypodermic needles or encounter someone shooting up in the stalls?  What about the gay parents, out shopping with both boys and girls, and the kids need a potty break?

What about parents with disabled children, or adult children with elderly parents who need assistance? What about the people who, like my MIL, needed to assist her ill/handicapped spouse with…whatever needs assisting? What about the person who, for whatever reasons, doesn’t feel comfortable using a restroom designated for (only) Men or Women?

What about – that’s what it’s all about. Life is about the what-abouts, isn’t it?



Gender neutral public restrooms – it just seems so reasonable. Which is, of course, why the civil rights bigots astute and civic-minded state legislators of South Carolina and Mississippi recently decided they must pass potty patrol legislation.

Now, as much as I am in favor of unisex bathrooms, I think the urgency of the need for such can be overblown, or used as a wedge issue. My son K was mightily annoyed – rightly, I’d say – when his college, responding to a vocal minority’s [9] demands, somehow found the money to construct several gender neutral bathrooms in buildings on campus, including the building housing the chemistry department…the very department which had been told there was no $$ in any campus budget to purchase laboratory equipment vital to K’s and other students’ academic and research projects.

OK; a bit of a backtrack. Scratch the first sentence of the second paragraph. I do know what the fuss about toilets is really about. It’s another code way to try to foster “acceptable” LGBT discrimination/harassment. It’s becoming more and more difficult to spew bald-faced vitriol; thus, instead of admitting, I think trans people are icky, you wrap your fear and hatred opinions in a flag and declare, Laws must be enacted to protect our children!

I know why it’s done. Even so, I’m trying to imagine a politician attempting, with a straight (well, of course) face, to pen a law that, as per  N. Carolina’s, includes provisions requiring people “to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate.”

Giggles aside, how would such a law be enforced?  Three cups of green tea and I really need to use the Sushi Hut’s ladie’s loo…not so fast, you alleged lady, you. I must first pass muster with the undercover (underwear?) monitors, who would — what? Do an external genitalia check – after, of course, I show them a copy of my birth certificate, so they know what to, uh, look for?  [10]

And can you even imagine what kind of person would apply for a Pee Pee Protector Patrol position?



*   *   *

May your what-about be about what matters;
May your bathrooms be free of gender monitors;
May you never need cleanup assistance from a biohazard team;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *



[1] You know, the color that looks like a spilled raspberry smoothie. Just read on; you’ll get it.

[2] Which consisted of listening to radio and TV announcers and eavesdropping on people riding public transportation.

[3]  The least offensive description of which I’ve come across is odorifously reminiscent of festering urine.

[4] So as not to offend our trip’s 6′ 6″ 250 lb driver, formerly one of General Tito’s bodyguards, who did me the honor (or so I was told) of offering it to me, along with a swig from whatever was in the bottle inside the paper bag he carried.  

[5] She’s a sophomore at the University of Puget Sound.

[6] a term Belle claimed to “object to” yet nonetheless used: “It’s all guys, and they fit the definition of man-sluts.”

[7] Was it, perhaps, the party roof jumper, we wondered?

[8] Unfortunately, this is more common than you might think.

[9] The kind of people who argue along the lines of, “If you disagree with me on any issue, no matter what your reasoning, it is because you are prejudiced against me.”

[10] I bet in two months there’ll be an app for that!