Tip: Ladies & Real Men

One of the exercises that has yielded many fertile results for me has been the “Ladies and Real Men” exercise I’ve blogged about before.  It’s pretty easy.  Just write a page or two or three starting with the phrase: “Ladies always” or “Ladies never” or “Real men always” or “Real men never” and let your guard down – way down.  Write as fast as you can and don’t pause for any reason, until you have filled the page.  I am always surprised by what I write, even though I’ve done this exercise many times.  Quite apart from being fun to write, these exercises show just how stupid – and how deep – gender stereotypes are.  Here’s another one I wrote:

 Ladies always cover their knees with their skirts, and if they show their panties they blush painfully and stutter as they apologize. Ladies always say please and thank you and they always look up through their eyelashes at men, in a silent plea for protection. Ladies always laugh quietly; they never roar with delight, and mostly they just titter behind their hands. Ladies always shut the bathroom door behind them and they never let anyone come into the bathroom with them, even to brush their teeth. Ladies always know what the current fashions are. Ladies always have enough money to look down on somebody else, only they never do because that would be rude, which ladies never are. Ladies always bring cookies for the after-church social and volunteer at PTA functions. Ladies always should wear hats, and when hats went out of style many ladies felt naked on top. Ladies always wear white bras, never black ones. Ladies always ask for permission. Ladies always follow and never ever lead.

Sharing my Stories: Native American Crackers

One summer when I was around eight or so, my friend Rose and I spent a week at my grandparents’ cabin on Camano Island in Puget Sound. We played at many things, but one I remember well was when we made “Indian crackers.” My father, who was part Native American and proud of his heritage, had told us stories of how the Indians fed themselves on crackers made from seaweed when there was nothing else to eat. For some reason this sounded romantic to us, so one hot sunny day we decided to make these Indian crackers for ourselves.


Washington beaches are notoriously rocky, and clinging to these rocks is an abundance of green leafy-looking seaweed. We pried an armful of seaweed off the rocks and found a big flat rock where we carefully smoothed the slick seaweed out flat, pressing our pudgy hands down on its surface until we had a large sheet of seaweed. Then we ran to Grandma and borrowed a box of salt, and sprinkled the salt lavishly over the seaweed and left it to dry in the sun.


Later that afternoon, the salt-seaweed cracker had dried completely, and we eagerly broke it in pieces and sampled it. Naturally enough, our crackers were foul, brackish, absolutely dreadful. We had to drink at least four glasses of Kool Aid to get rid of the taste, and even then it wasn’t completely gone – the next morning we both woke up with our mouths in the same state we’d later know as “hang-over” mouth.

 Our opinion of Native Americans took a nose dive. They weren’t romantic, they were crazy. No matter what my Dad said.

History Quiz Answers

In early May, I posted another history quiz here in this blog. Now it’s time to give the answers. (The winner of the quiz drawing was Joan, who will be receiving a free copy of Making History!)


The questions and answers:

1. In 1935 a situation comedy radio show premiered about a wacky husband and his patient wife.  It was called:  B) Fibber McGee & Molly. 

2. The Kennedy years in the White House were often referred to as: A) Camelot.

3. What was the result of the much-ballyhooed “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in 1973? – B) Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs.

4. Agent Orange was used during the Vietnam War to: A) kill jungle plants so the enemy could be seen.

5. “The Dinner Party”, a feminist art exhibition, was created in 1975 by:  B) Judy Chicago

6.  Which product of the 1940s advertised that “a little dab’ll do ya?”  C) Bryl Cream

Compost: Mushrooms

I taste mushrooms in my dreams sometimes. Almost sweet, almost nutty, they taste like a thick slab of moss heated up and sucked dry. Eating a mushroom is like eating a piece of the forest. If I wasn’t scared of being poisoned I’d like to taste all the wild kinds of mushrooms there are – those lemon-colored ones wearing white lacy veils; the Black Helveticas that look like deer turds; the magical mushies that cluster together in fairy rings; the flat-topped shrooms that look like Swedish pancakes waiting for jam; the brown ones with red slimy tongues erupting from their bellies — I could go on but I won’t. I guess you can tell that I admire the infinite variety and endless creativity of mushrooms. I want to write like a mushroom, bringing color and life out from the dense, dark undergrowth covering the grave.

Tip: What You’re Afraid Of

Here’s a writing exercise that calls for deep honesty and lots of guts. Write about your fears – those real, down dark fears that you don’t like to admit to yourself. What are you really afraid of?  Connecting with your fears is a great way to access your authentic self, to give voice to the real you who lives at the bottom of who you are. The last time I did this exercise this is what I wrote:

 I want to write about being afraid of death and sickness and incapacity. I want to write how I never want to be helped to the bathroom by my children and how I don’t want to see pity in their smiles as I stumble for a word. I want to write how scared I am of having to give up driving and how I don’t want to be an old lady confessing all the trivialities of my life to a doctor who only pretends to care. I want to write about fearing that everyone will eventually forget me and no one will feel the warmth of my smile and won’t miss it either. I want to write about how much I’d like to see 2025 but I’m so afraid I won’t. I want to write about the fears so that afterwards they will be drained dry of their power and lie, inert and ineffectual, like dryer lint caught in a lint trap, no more scary than that.

Compost: While You Are Dead

While you are dead, you will miss tending your garden; the dew on the early morning spider webs strung between the rosebushes, the dark smell of earth in your nose, the rough feel of dirt between your fingers, and even the ache in your knees. You will miss the little breezes freshening across your damp forehead, the pull against your hands of the weeds clinging to life, and the dog turds decorating your uncut lawn. While you are dead you will miss them, but all things come around again, perhaps even you.