Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011

It’s a wrap!  Holiday Craziness Edition 2010 is over… almost. I have put away the gift wrap, scissors and tape scattered around the house. I have made a “returns” pile and finished three loads of dishes and laundry from Christmas dinner. I now find myself in a “purging” mood after the 60-day activity sprint that occurred between Halloween and New Year’s. Us moms shift into high gear over the holidays so, note to self for next year:

  1. Don’t hide presents purchased in July when they won’t be given until December –it guarantees that they will not be found until Dec. 26….
  2. Do purge decorations that were not displayed this year; they will still be unused next year  and will continue to take up space in a non-essential  “organizing bin.” Just get rid of the stuff and the bin!
  3. Don’t go on the one-month over-tired and over-sugared jag during the holidays.
  4. Do take a fun girlfriend getaway during the year and during the holiday season.

Now that it is almost 2011 I find myself wishing for more… 2010. Not so I can cross off extra items on the “to do list” but so I can capture back the ever elusive “down time” that seems to be in short supply.

Next year, instead of spending the three weeks before Christmas manically writing holiday cards, buying gifts and fulfilling social obligations I resolve to mandate personal “time-outs.” These self-imposed breaks will include going to a movie or play with my family and taking an evening or afternoon holiday outing with girlfriends to help with the holiday cheer. If I say it out loud, and certainly if I commit in writing, it must happen!

In the next few months Linda and I will be writing about getaways that last from 36 hours to one week. We will offer tips and anecdotes so you can make the most of your own time away. Hello 2011, I welcome you with enthusiasm and anticipation.

Carol Lewis Gullstad, Dec. 27, 2010

Help for Last-Minute Shoppers

My husband dreads Christmas shopping, and it’s mostly my fault. I don’t make it easy for him to find me the perfect gift.

I don’t want to tell him what I want, for fear of sounding needy or greedy.  I can’t trust him to pick up subtle hints, such as, “I love cashmere sweaters, and have every color I need except aqua.” And I really can’t expect him to walk around the house or, God forbid, go through my closet, and figure out what’s missing. I want my husband to be a mind-reader, and I am well-aware that I’m asking a lot.

Even more important, I want him to plan ahead, to show that he was thinking of how to make me happy long before Christmas Day (or Mother’s Day, or Valentine’s Day or my birthday…). If he comes home with shopping bags five minutes before a celebratory dinner begins, it really doesn’t matter what’s in the bags.  The notion that he forgot about his treasured wife’s special day and rushed to buy an obligatory gift on the way home really raises my hackles.

However, he really is thoughtful and generous, and always rises to the occasion – eventually.

One of our special traditions involves preparing Christmas stockings for each other, filling them with chocolates, magazines, new toothbrushes and a few other fun or useful items from Target or the Sharper Image. When we were first married, we both enjoyed this exercise. Now that our extended family has expanded (together our clan, including in-laws, comprises three parents, 15 siblings and 17 nieces and nephews), shopping for trinkets has lost its luster.

One year, when my husband was staffed on a consulting job in California, he completely forgot about the stocking. He had dutifully shopped at the mall near his client site, finding an adorable outfit for me, presents for his parents and small gifts for the kids, but the stocking slipped his mind.  Back at home on Christmas Eve, after we had enjoyed the annual holiday dinner at his parents’ house and snuggled the kids into their beds, we queued up our favorite Christmas movie (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) and started wrapping the “Santa” gifts.  He suddenly got a look of panic on his face, and set out for the nearest 24-hour Walgreen’s Pharmacy. I knew, and he knew that I knew, and there wasn’t much he could do about it.

The next morning, I found a stocking brimming with wonderful items – probably more lavish than in other years – but it took me a while to get over my funk and appreciate the bounty.

I know, I know, I’m a terrible ingrate, but I am working on self-improvement.

Along this vein, Carol and I came up with a solution for husbands who stress over shopping or have trouble planning ahead. Even as late as Christmas Eve, they can sit at a computer and buy their wives the fabulous gift of time: permission and plans for a vacation with their good girlfriends.  So, for those of you who suspect your husbands may need a little help, print out the following list and leave it on his pillow:

The Top-10 Reasons Why Girlfriend Getaways Make Great Gifts

1. It’s a Great Way to Acknowledge That Special Someone’s Value: When a man offers a woman an all-expenses-paid vacation – a true break from her duties at home – he shows how much he appreciates all that she does to keep the family running smoothly.

2. The Gift is Guaranteed to Produce a Smile: A vacation with friends will delight even the hardest-to-please woman.

3. You Can Avoid Holiday Crowds: Just log on to your favorite travel-planning site, such as or, and book the flight, hotel and rental car in one fell swoop.

4. Vacations Work With any Budget: The trip doesn’t need to be extravagant; frazzled moms can benefit from as little as one night away at a nearby resort. Of course, a shopping trip to Paris works, too.

5. You will Appear Thoughtful: Your wife or partner needn’t know when you made this purchase. And, you can always say that you spent weeks checking flights and hotels before making the final selection.

6. It’s a Guaranteed Keeper: This gift won’t get stuffed into a drawer or closet, and you won’t have to suffer through long lines to exchange it.

7. The Trip’s Value Far Exceeds its Cost: Whether you pay full price or cash in frequent-flier miles and hotel points, your wife or partner will place a high value on time away with girlfriends.

8. It’s a Gift that Keeps on Giving: After the trip, your partner will return home glowing and happy, relaxed and refreshed. The tone of the household will change – at least until she’s due for another trip.

9. Dads Benefit from Girlfriend Getaways, Too: While your wife or partner is away, you will have the chance to work on your relationship with your child(ren) and run the household your way, without a critical spouse hovering.

10. You Get to Be a Hero: All of your partner’s good friends will be envious of her. You will enjoy hero status among her friends, family members and colleagues (however, be aware that your male associates might resent that you have upped the ante).

– Linda Williams Rorem, 20 Dec. 2010

Mom’s Book Club

Sometimes an over-night getaway is not possible or so far in the future that an evening or afternoon’s break is a necessary booster. The occasional mini-break is welcome and one that is calendared monthly, like a Women’s Book Club, is even better. Book Clubs can function as a steady staple for girlfriend socializing. Who doesn’t like a fun gathering that features food, drinks, gossip and even a little bit of “on topic” discussion?

I love the idea of a book club. I enjoy looking at books sentinel like as they stand guard in stacks around my bedroom. And, I have attempted to join the fun over the years, but one thing keeps getting in the way for me – the reading part. Reading four pages at a time before I fall asleep at night doesn’t bring me to the finish line of preparation for club discussions. Somehow, I have never found a way to move book club reading to the top of my “spare moment” priority list, yet I would love the guaranteed monthly fun with girlfriends.

As motherhood advanced along and concerns over creating readers (as opposed to being one) moved into the forefront, I discovered a book club with the appropriate pace and commitment level – a mother/son group with my 5th grader. I concluded that the content could be read quickly and in spurt-of-the moment opportunities such as 20-minute intervals while waiting for soccer practice to end. With great study guides and questions readily available on-line, I finally found a book club niche that fit my reading availability and, along with the mother/son bonding, had girlfriend time for the moms.

Another benefit of the club is that the reading list expanded my repertoire for interesting conversation starters. It is unlikely that I would be toting World War Z or Eagle Strike in my purse without the assignment. Thanks to my book club group I understood the article in the Seattle Times that talked about the quarterly Humans vs. Zombies games that play across the University of Washington campus. Boy did I feel hip, or is it that the book is sick LOL.

I love that my son and I have an enjoyable shared interest and activity (three years now) that we can regularly count on. And, there has been an unexpected side benefit – the adult-only component. When we started this club the mothers congregated for a kick-off planning session at a local wine-bar, Cellar 46. The get-together was so much fun that after our first few book club meetings we discussed the need for more “planning sessions”. The boys began to inquire why the moms looked forward to the club planning meetings that were sans books and sons! We delicately explained that moms need time to just be “girls.” We were not hijacking the club; we were just enhancing the mom component! The book club is still going strong and we regularly schedule one planning session for each book club meeting.

 There is no way we would ever give up “moms only” night with the “club.”

Carol Lewis Gullstad  – December 13, 2010

Hula-Rocker-Surfer Girls

A few years ago, at a charity auction, our husbands successfully bid on an item that included two tickets to the closing night of U2’s world tour, with Pearl Jam as the improbable warm-up band, plane tickets and a hotel room on Waikiki beach. Because they decided to send us on the trip, the guys enjoyed “hero” status in our small community.   

Several weeks later, in early December, we felt happy and still a little stunned to be leaving Seattle in the middle of the holiday craziness. A three-day trip may not seem like much time off, but at this time of year—with all of the events, shopping, sports games, practices and schoolwork—getting away is nothing short of a Herculean feat. 

During the flight across the Pacific, we found ourselves slowly decompressing. We discussed plans for the weekend, listing all the activities we wanted to cram in. Sleeping in and eating large, pricey meals were definitely not on the agenda.

Saturday morning started early with a “Hulacize” lesson in the hotel basement. The class consisted of us and a group of Japanese tourists – two women of a certain age and two unbelievably adorable and fit teenage girls. It quickly became clear that our hips just didn’t, and wouldn’t, move the way the others’ did, so we migrated to the back row. Our sweet, patient instructor soon abandoned her mission to make us Hula-capable, and let us go through the motions with one eye on the clock.

That afternoon, we signed up for another sport. We stopped by a surf shop and found a suitable instructor who appeared more sympathetic to beginning middle-aged moms. A few hours later, as we waited near our hotel for the ride to the beach, a white van drove past slowly, and a long-haired, leather-skinned young man called out to us: “Hey, are you girls surfers?”  We looked at each other, giggled and shouted back, “YES WE ARE!”  The van came to a screeching halt.

 We survived the lesson with coral cuts, sore arms and sunburned backs.  However, we did ride a few waves all the way to shore (and got photos to prove it). We recalled our triumphs all afternoon and into the early evening, as we shopped, lounged by the pool and prepared for our big rock concert outing.

That night, we headed back to the street corner, this time for a shuttle to Aloha Stadium (which was an hour’s drive away).  A black-and-white party bus was already parked nearby, and young men and women streamed on and off with stiff drinks in plastic cups.  We figured it was our ride, climbed on board and joined the fun.  (We later realized we had crashed a private party and missed our assigned bus, but that’s another story…)

As we rolled down the highway towards the stadium, we chatted with three guys in the seat behind us.  After a while, one of the young men said, “You are the coolest moms we have ever met. We can’t imagine our moms going to a U2 concert or knowing so much about music.”  We of course glowed with the compliment – even if we were being grouped in the older generation.

We rocked, we rolled, we felt young and carefree, and at 2:30 am, when the bus stopped outside the Hyatt, we decided it was a perfect time to call it a night, to leave while we still felt “cool.” Our young friends carried on.  Back in our room, we laughed about the evening and our once-in-a-lifetime experience. Carol joked, “We are definitely Hula-Rocker-Surfer Girls now.”  

After just two days away, we had begun to remember who we were.  We were fun.  We were spontaneous.  We were courageous.  We were capable.  We were even…well, maybe just a little bit…at least for women our age…hip. 

Monday afternoon, we were back to reality at our homes in Seattle. When our kids returned from school, we shared our concert and surfing experiences. They were surprised and maybe even slightly proud.  However, when Carol’s kids saw the surfing shots, they said, “You’re kidding! That is a dinky wave, not the Big Kahuna you were talking about.” Carol replied, “Well, all I can say is it looked really big to me when it was behind me, and in my mind, I was a real surfer girl.” 

 –   Carol Lewis Gullstad and Linda Williams Rorem, 6 Dec. 2010

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