Tag Archives: oops50womenwriters

Annette Dunlap’s New Book: The Gambler’s Daughter

Annette Dunlap, who has been a contributor to Oops50 in the past, has written a fascinating new book called The Gambler’s Daughter:  A Personal and Social History, which weaves together a history of gambling among Jewish people through the ages with her own childhood experiences as the daughter of a compulsive gambler father.  The book offers the religious and cultural origins of Jewish gambling as the backdrop for Annette’s father’s own personal history.

Here’s an excerpt that shows both Annette’s command of the English language and her unique and very insightful perspective on life:

“America is a nation of vast contradictions between what we promote as our values and how we actually put those values into action.  We like to point to someone who emulates the rags-to-riches newsboy, Horatio Alger, but our preferred national heroes are those who have rapidly accumulated wealth through speculation and a streak of good luck.  The American story gives lip service to hard work leading to financial success, but our tax code rewards those who have figured out how to make their money earn them more money” (p. 153).

This quote seems particularly compelling in this election year!

I could go on about the book, but what I really want to talk about is my friend’s courage in writing it.

I’ve known Annette, or “Netty,” since we were in high school together in suburban Maryland in the late sixties.


Back then, she was sometimes not an easy friend to have.  She was loud and outspoken, when I was struggling to figure how much of my Southern upbringing I could hold onto and how much I wanted to discard.  She used cuss words.  She protested things, loudly and without apology, if she saw injustice lurking—from the Viet Nam War to school policies.  I remember vividly how she marched up and down the hall outside of the yearbook office yelling her grievances—as  I recall,  she was upset about the extreme predominance in the yearbook of pictures of “cool” kids—to a completely unsympathetic audience of students passing nervously by her, their newly-formed personalities visibly shuddering from the encounter.  But it didn’t faze Netty.  She just kept marching.

I wasn’t sure what to make of her—except that I knew I was impressed at how she could do stuff that I would never have the nerve to do.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that she was dealing with things at home that I couldn’t even begin to imagine—her father’s compulsive gambling that had led to overwhelming debt, her mother’s extreme unhappiness and frustration at being forced to carry the lion’s share of the family’s financial burden, and Netty’s own burden of being compelled by her father to be a partner in deceit, when he would make her take his phone calls from creditors and lie to them about his whereabouts.

Granted, it took Netty a while to write this book, but it’s understandable that she had to wait until after her father and her mother were both dead.  The important thing is that, once she decided to open herself up to the topic, she dove in.  And I just want to salute her incredible courage in deciding to take this very personal journey.  So, here’s to you, Netty, a brave and adventurous woman over fifty—and an excellent researcher and writer!  Gambler’s Daughter is available on Amazon!  Check it out!


As you know, Oops50 is not a literary blog but a site dedicated to women baby boomers  – a place where we share whatever we feel like.  And today, I want to share an essay, 5/28/58 written by our friend, Terri Kirby Erickson.  

Terri is the author of three collections of poetry, including her latest book, In the Palms of Angels (Press 53), which won a 2012 Nautilus Silver Award for Poetry and a Gold Medal for Poetry in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.  Her poems are forthcoming or have appeared in American Life in Poetry, 2013 Poet’s Market, The Christian Science Monitor and many other publications.  She lives in North Carolina.  Please visit her website for more information about her books and poetry.


Terri Kirby Erickson

It would be convenient to blame Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63, wherein a guy who owns a diner in Lisbon Falls, Maine, finds a portal to the past—a certain day in 1958—for the longing I feel these days, when I think about my childhood.  But I’m only on page 81 of Mr. King’s 842-page book, and I was feeling this way before I ever checked it out of the library.

No doubt memory has put a patina on my early years that have rendered them golden in my mind’s eye.  Intellectually, I understand that life wasn’t perfect when I was a kid, that I still sometimes felt afraid (particularly of what might be hiding under my bed at night), and my family didn’t have a lot of money, which meant that my father worked two jobs sometimes, instead of one.  Also there were the usual number of bullies in the neighborhood, injuries suffered in bike accidents, etc., and my mother often served peas for dinner, which I cleverly hid beneath piles of mashed potatoes.

I’m well aware, too, that the 1960’s were tumultuous years in our nation’s history.  But children back then were not necessarily macrocosmic thinkers.  All that existed for us was our own neighborhood, the people we knew.  There was no such thing as the Internet, and we were too busy playing outside to watch much television.

For us, every day unfolded like a flower.  My parents were young and beautiful.  My grandparents and my little brother, Tommy, were still alive.  And I felt safe, loved, and happier than I’ve ever been since then, mostly because I didn’t know that unhappiness was an option.  Summers above all, were magical.  Centuries passed between the moment I woke up in the morning in a body so new it practically hummed with health and vigor, and suppertime, after which we still had hours of daylight left.

And death, although we knew about it through the loss of an occasional pet or finding a dead bird in the yard—was something that only happened to ancient animals and people, and it would be a thousand years before anyone we knew, including ourselves, could possibly die.  Besides, we would all “wake up” in heaven, a wonderful place where good people and animals go when they pass away.  We didn’t know anyone who wasn’t good except for the aforementioned bullies, and they deserved whatever was coming to them as far as we were concerned.

I still believe in heaven, but I’ve lost count of all the loved ones who are there, now.  I miss them more than I can say, especially Tommy, who was killed in an accident when he was twenty.  If I’d known what was going to happen to my brother, I would have let him hang out more, with me and my friends.  I wouldn’t have cast the blame on him for schemes that I cooked up.  I would have been a better sister, all around.

But none of us knows what lies ahead, which is probably for the best.  What I do know is that I’m very glad I was born to my particular parents in my particular town—that I have my own “portal” to 1958, the year of my birth, and I don’t need a diner in Maine to find it.  And I’m lucky enough as a writer, myself, to have such a wealth of memories from which to draw for my work—to have the opportunity to make the past come alive for readers who have walked a similar path, and others (including my own lovely daughter!) who will not know what it was like to be a child in the 1960’s, unless we tell them.

But I have to admit, it would be nice to wake up tomorrow morning feeling like I did when I was six, to climb one more tree without being afraid of falling.  On second thought, maybe I’ll just write about it!

Later this week, we will share a poem by Terri.

Terri on her Swing


What Worries Me


At 5, which is the first age where I can remember the feeling, I worried that I would never see my favorite red-and-white cardboard bricks again, since my parents had “loaned” them to my cousins as we were leaving for a four-year Army tour in Germany.

At 10, in addition to worrying that our house might burn down, I lost sleep thinking that if Santa Claus wasn’t real, then what other lies might my parents have told me?  And, since Tony Ludholz had stuck a ring with a blue stone in my hand and said “now we’re engaged,”  did that mean I really had to marry him?

At 15, I spent a lot of time worrying about that horrible guy who killed the nurses or those two men who killed the family in Kansas ‘in cold blood’.  I worried that the first men on the moon might not make it back home safely–and that every single person who had a chance of saving the world would get assassinated.  I also worried a lot about nuclear bombs, when I wasn’t worrying that Michael Krick would not ask me to dance at the end-of-the-year dance.


At 20, I worried that I would never, ever finish all the work I had to get through to graduate from college, that we would never get out of VietNam, that even if I graduated, I would never get a job because all I knew how to do was go to school and pass my classes, and that I would never, ever fall in love because men were all sexist pigs–and that I would never be able to tolerate my father ever again because he sat and read the paper while my mother fixed dinner–and because he thought “Ms” was an unnecessary addition to the English language!

At 30, I worried that my new marriage would end in disaster, that childbirth would hurt worse than anyone had said it would–and I would die in the process–and that nuclear war would happen right at the point where I had discovered I could love someone.

At 35, I worried our baby girl would grow up in a world full of pollution, nuclear bombs and global warming–and would blame us.  I also worried that she would die of SIDS, be kidnapped, get injured, have a life-threatening illness, or choke on bacon.


At 40, I worried we would never get out of Iraq, that my son would end up being drafted, that my children and my parents would die at any minute, that nuclear war would destroy us all, that Bush would always be president.

At 45, I worried that I had not read to my youngest child enough (or ever taught her to floss), that my parents would die, that I would die of heart failure caused by obesity, that my son would end up a crack addict, in jail, or a paraplegic from a skateboarding accident, that, despite all the changes of the ’70’s, my daughters would live in a world of sexist pigs and their souls would be trampled.

At 50, I started worrying about growing old before I could ever finish a single good poem, that our troops would never get out of anywhere, that  my parents would die before my kids were old enough to remember them, that September 11th was just the beginning of a horrible end to whatever was left of the American dream, that there might not be a God, and that my children might hate me forever, since I was making daily mistakes with their teenage psyches.

At 55, I worried that my children were growing so fast that I couldn’t even take a breath before they’d be grown.  I worried that my brain would stop working before I could finish anything, that my daughter/son/daughter would hate college, be unhappy away from home, get hurt without me there to fight off boogeymen, not want to come home because they took a Sociology class that made them realize all of their parents’ inadequacies.  That I might be turning into my mother!


Looking back over this list, I realize that 1) some of these things came true, and, although they were bad, they were not as bad as I had feared–some of them were worse  2) there was nothing I could do about it, no matter what.

I wish I could say that now, at 58, I’ve stopped worrying.  But I can’t.  I think I might be addicted to worry because of the elusive sense of control it gives me.  If I can make sure I worry about something, maybe I can stave that thing off for a few more seconds, keep that wolf away from the door.  After all, bad things always happen when you least expect them.

I do know one thing:  after all these years, I have at least learned to take some of my worries with a grain of salt–like , for instance, the one about the ice caps melting and carrying away our house.  I have a few years before that could happen, right?

Help: My iPhone says it’s OK to check my email while driving!


I got a new iPhone last week so that when I am at our stand at the Market, I can take credit cards with the Square.  I spent a long time trying to figure out the best deal from the many companies, and frankly, it was harder than my first year of college!  So when a friend said I should Google Square I did and was so happy that someone (one of the founders of Twitter) came up with this easy method that lets you take any credit or debit card with a smart phone.  And the best part is that there’s no monthly fee or service contract.  Another added perk is that customers think you are cool if you offer this, don’t ask me why!  Kind of like if you’re the first kid to have the newest-toy-on-the-block sort of thing.  It couldn’t be easier to use, and the money goes straight into your bank account.  Perfect for massage therapists, artist’s, and small business owners.  And it works with the Droid and the iPad too.  Really, it’s great.


But getting an iPhone has made me cross the line from where I set my boundaries in my own personal comfort zone of technology.  I mean, I don’t text because I find it kind of weird to type on something so small, and, I don’t have kids, which I hear is the only way to communicate with them these days.  I don’t like to play games.  I don’t really get lost, and if I do, I like to look at a map or even ask people for directions (I get a secret thrill out of talking to a complete stranger of the same species as me!).  I don’t need to identify a song I like on the radio, I can just enjoy it as something new, and I will leave it to chance when I am on the road and am looking for a good place to eat.  If it’s not good, I know it will be an interesting memory, or something soon forgotten.

So imagine becoming immediately addicted to something that I am a bit embarrassed to write about: and that is, checking my incoming email while driving!  Can you believe it?  It was as if some part of my brain took over and told me: ‘It’s OK…you’re just cleaning up any junk mail and looking for the important ones!”  The bad part is that I wasn’t just doing it just at red lights.  After catching myself doing it during a long stretch of the ride home, I vowed not to touch that iCrackThing while driving ever again.  I don’t know what happened, but it was scary!  No wonder Apple is now worth more than the oil companies!

My 10-year-old niece came to visit, and while driving together in the car to the horse ranch that she would be staying at with her Dad in the car ahead, the beautiful mountain views were truly something to behold.  She sat next to me playing a game on her new iPhone4.  “I love it!”, she says.  I told her she can love it, but not while driving on vacation with her Aunt Sadhvi.  I wanted her to find enjoyment in the ride and the journey and the wonderful views.  She reluctantly put her beloved iPhone away.

Just to let you know, I also write her letters in cursive writing, on cute stationary and send them in the mail with stamps that I pick out, not the ugly Forever Stamps.  I’ve heard they don’t teach cursive writing in schools any more, and I think that’s kind a real shame.  That’s when I started to send her letters.  So maybe my niece will be able to land a job someday because she knows how to read cursive?!  No, I’m just kidding.  I really just want to make sure she has some “human connection memories” instead of computer games that she’s become addicted to on her awesome iPhone.

Or just maybe all this tuning out and tuning into a hand-held computer that is so cute, sleek and even loveable is just a way to tune out the hectic energy of the world?



“Be careful not to fill up every moment of your life with “stuff”: things to think about, to react against, to worry about, be upset about, regret or even look forward to… There’s more to life.  You don’t have to stop doing, but you can intersperse your life with brief moments of presence.  Like now… allow everything to be as it is.  Then become aware that there is an awareness here, a consciousness, & that THAT is more truly who you are than anything else.”