Crushes and Dreams, and Crushing Dreams

This week several old friends celebrated birthdays (thanks, Facebook, for reminding me), and in leaving them messages, I was transported back to those long-ago friendships.

On May 22, as I wrote to Nancy in Chicago, I thought of my first kiss, sitting on her pink-ruffled twin bed when we were 10 years old.

And, no, it wasn’t that kind of kiss.

We were holding the record album Nancy had just received for her birthday, taking turns kissing the larger-than-life, blue-eyed man on the front.

Oh, Bobby Sherman, I remember you well.

I can’t recall how the crush started or which one of us latched onto him first, but I do know the two of us were crazy about Sherman, a pop singer/ actor. We stood in the magazine aisles perusing copies of Tiger Beat magazine, saved up for his latest 45s (including “Easy Come, Easy Go” and “Julie, Do Ya Love Me”) and talked to each other on the phone when his TV show, “Here Come the Brides,” was on.

bobby sherman album coverReaders in my age group will understand the irony of my ending up in Seattle, where, Sherman’s “Here Come the Brides” theme song claimed, were “the bluest skies you’ve ever seen.” (That was certainly false advertising.)

Nancy and I believed that Sherman’s lyrics included personal messages to us, such as “Hey, little woman, please make up your mind…” We imagined what would transpire if we ran into him walking around our local five-and-dime store.

I have no idea how or why pre-teen girls start crushing on young singers and actors, but the phenomenon has existed for decades. Just take a look at the supermarket magazine racks, filled with the latest teeny-bopper rags offering “free posters” and intimate details about young heart-throbs (how else would my daughter, Pea, know that Justin Bieber‘s favorite color is purple?).

Proof positive is Pea, who — along with a young friend spending a few nights with us in the mountains — suggested I write this post about Cody Simpson. When I asked why, the girls replied, “We really love him. We love his song ‘Pretty Brown Eyes.’ We know he wrote it for us and he is singing to us, even though neither of us has brown eyes.

“We love him because he is cute and he is a good singer and he is from Australia,” they continued. “We love everyone from Australia.”

The Cody Simpson craze is not new to our household. Last month, when I spent s few days in the Los Angeles area with Pea and another friend, Smiley, the girls made use of an iPhone app that actually tracks the blond boy-toy’s whereabouts. “He’s seven miles away,” Smiley would announce. “Drive north-west!”

Smiley and Pea were absolutely sure their paths would cross, and discussed exactly what they would say to Simpson. They did, in fact, meet a young Australian actor during our trip, and experienced a “second degree of separation” when he replied that he knew people who knew Simpson.

The girls will get a bona fide opportunity to meet Simpson when he travels to Seattle for a concert next month. They’ve heard that when he performs, he pulls an audience member on-stage and sings directly to her (Smiley knows she’s in the running, with her pretty brown eyes).

I and Smiley’s mom will be on hand, with cameras ready. Hey, even Moms have permission to dream a bit.

Linda Williams Rorem, 27 May 2013

Praising Pink Flamingos

flamingo car
This photo appeared in a national meme titled “only in Seattle.” It could have been labeled, “only in my neighborhood,” because the pink flamingo car lives in my neighbor’s driveway, a mere three houses away. Really.

The vehicle started out modestly with pink flamingo upholstery. This was followed by a cute innocuous pink bird dangling from the rearview mirror. While certainly a unique car statement, this was nothing new to me. I grew up in L.A. where there is a cultural understanding that “one’s car is one’s castle.”

Months later however, a pink flamingo was temporarily affixed to the roof of the car. The bird soon became a permanent part of the daily décor and was quickly joined by new flock members.

That was before it escalated.

I haven’t seen a car with this much ornamentation since I traveled to Bali. bali carWe live on an Island about 5 miles long, so it is not uncommon to see the pink flamingo car and hear chatter about it in the grocery store. I can’t help but smile when I hear the conversation. Yes, the car’s a little weird but it certainly sparks imaginative conversations and it’s our weird.

I’m also a not-so-secret admirer of the species. I admit to stowing a few plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments in my garage. My husband “won” them in a contest. We have had fun over the years migrating the birds towards unsuspecting neighbors lawns or setting them in our trees to temporarily nest. Flamingos are pure mid-century Americana.

The plastic birds have been around since 1957 when designer Don Featherstone created them. He won a Nobel Prize for Art in 1996 for his modern masterpiece of lawn kitsch. The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas was the stamp of luxury in the old rat pack days of Hollywood and interest was reignited with flashback scenes in Brad Pitt’s film, Ocean’s 11. The plastic pink flamingo is even the official bird for the city of Madison, Wisconsin. What could be more validating?

Now that the car is complete, the decorating has commenced in my neighbor’s yard. I haven’t heard any complaints yet. Only in Seattle.


Flamingohotelyay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

.pink flamingos lawn

Carol Lewis Gullstad May 20, 2013

Who Wants a Job?

Had to share this hilarious post from my friend Monica Moline, who recently interviewed young candidates for summer work:

“Parents with teens: A few tips for you after hiring a topnotch teenager this week:

1. If your teenager wants a job, do NOT hand deliver their application. Have them deliver it themselves. You can sit in the car and wait.

2. If your teen does deliver it in person, tell them not to bring their boy/girlfriend with them. Especially if such friend is hanging all over them.

3. Do not follow up with the place of business to “check on things” for them. You just put them at the bottom of the list.

4. Make sure your teenager makes eye contact and shakes with a firm grip. Shifty eyes and jello fingers will not get a call back.

5. Have then deliver the job application looking clean and showered. Those who deliver application after working out or wearing too much perfume/cologne will not get a call.

6. Make sure that their application is filled out completely and is legible.

7. If their job application states that they can only work on x, y, and z dates and between a, b, and c times, and only when the moon is full but not when it’s too nice outside, and they have to go to camp, a family reunion, and two other vacations, they’re probably not going to get hired.

Just saying.

I have never seen so many parents applying for jobs for their kids and then checking up on the process, and so many teenagers that are clueless and expect [us] to work around their schedules. I’m giving jobs to the most polite and professional applicants. BTW, I had my top-notch teen [who I hired] ask me how she should dress. I love her! I may have to give her a raise!”

– PermissionSlips, 18 May 2013

Permission to Skip Mother’s Day

I hate Mother’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the idea of celebrating all that we moms do for our families. I’m glad that on one day each year, children are urged to consider their mothers’ value, and husbands must acknowledge our role in the household machine.

I love flowers and chocolate and the notion that I can take one out of every 365 days off.

photo (5)I adore my kids’ homemade cards and, when they were younger, teacher-driven art projects. I absolutely treasure my four ladybug paperweights (rocks painted red and black), four beautiful “What My Mother Means to Me” poems paired with watercolor irises, four sunflower pins, four Native American pinch bowls and ceramic kimonos.

I’m glad for the reminder to reach out to my own mother. But also, I’m reminded that I could be a better daughter. I should call more often. I should visit more than once or twice a year. I should try to improve my kids’ connections with her…

Every year, as the big day approaches, my emotions mount. I tear up during Johnson & Johnson commercials, feel overwhelmed in the Walgreen’s cards section (should I go funny or thoughtful this year?) and start to feel regret for my failures as a daughter and a mother.

I hate the pressure that Mother’s Day carries. If we moms only get one day in the sun, it had better be spectacular, right?

I try to envision the warm feeling I will experience on Sunday morning, as my adoring husband and perfectly behaved four children, two large dogs and ginger tabby gather around.

And then, I remember.

Breakfast in bed is always a disaster. I am an early riser, and like to set the household wheels in motion while my energy surges. Laundry, email and writing or editing projects need attention. The sink brims with evidence of the boys’ late-night snacks: cups caked with fruit-smoothie residue, bowls with drying chunks of salsa and knives smeared with peanut butter. The dishwasher must be emptied. The garbage stinks of last night’s salmon dinner.

The dogs are hungry and nudge me for a walk. The cat wants fresh food and water.

The New York Times Style section awaits.

However, if tradition holds, my daughter will saunter into the kitchen when she hears the silverware clanging, and order me back in bed. She will rouse my husband, and, from my bedroom above the kitchen, I will listen to 30 minutes of mayhem as they prepare my “breakfast in bed.”

Of course, I love the thought behind this breakfast, and it is always delivered with love. But in that half-hour confined to my bed, I can’t help considering all the chores left undone, and the mess that awaits below.

Perhaps worst of all, I can’t keep my expectations in check.

I expect my husband to deliver the perfect gift. He is incredibly thoughtful and generous, and I know he would get me anything I wanted. And yet, I believe that if he loves me enough, he should inherently know what I want. He should have been paying attention to my hints. He should be able to put the right words into a card. Right?


I expect the kids to be kind to me, and to each other, all day long. When they were younger, I would often yell, on that most glorious of all Sundays, “Can’t we all just get along?” (Rodney King, RIP.)

With that kind of pressure, who wouldn’t crack?

Yes, dear readers, I fully acknowledge that this is my problem. I should look at the glass half-full. I should appreciate every gesture from my husband and kids. I should value their efforts and know they love me, despite the messes, the fussing and the fighting.

I am working on it.

And so, this year, I chose to give everyone a break on Mother’s Day.

I heard the mountains calling, and decided to grab the dogs and get out of Dodge.

My sweet daughter (who has yet to roll her eyes at me, although I know that day will come soon), asked if she could come along. “I really don’t want to spend Mother’s Day without you,” she pleaded.

I knew the others would be fine. The oldest has work, the second has sports and parties and the third has homework, friends and “car stuff” to occupy them this weekend. My husband can catch up on work emails, watch Mariner’s games and celebrate the holiday with his parents and siblings later on.

I knew that removing myself from the mix would ease the pressure on the men in my life. More importantly, heading for the hills would lower my own expectations for the day.

Right now, on a quiet, calm, Mother’s Day morning, the rain drips steadily from the eves outside my window. Fog lifts slowly from the evergreens. The dogs rest lazily at my feet. I hear the rhythmic breathing of my sleeping 13-year-old. I am savoring a cup of decaf, and will soon enjoy a bowl of yogurt and fruit.

I have no great plans for the day, other than to walk the dogs through the woods, catch up on a few episodes of “Downton Abbey” and dig into the latest book-club selection.

Happy Mother’s Day to all who are, or have, cherished moms. It’s your day, so live it your way.

Linda Williams Rorem, Mother’s Day, 2013

Mom Down

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and stores are festooned with celebratory banners reminding us to honor all things Momish and to commemorate contributions to family life.  My stay-at-home dad friend, Tom, often proclaims, “Mom is a job description not a gender.” Today, I applaud the Mom of the house, whether it is a she or a he.

The mom-job broadly speaking is to operate the central nervous system of the family unit. The advertising agency for United Parcel Service (UPS) developed a tag-line, “We love logistics.” It is without a doubt that they came up with that line while observing the electromagnetic signals emanating from a mom’s brain.brain-waves control tower

Nobody knows logistics like a mom.

Our brains hold millions of information bits that may require retrieval at any moment. We need to simultaneously know the time and date of a doctor appointment, the shoe size of our youngest child and the location of the “hidden” ketchup bottle in the refrigerator. We must know when a birthday present needs to be purchased, when a carpool time needs to be swapped and which volunteer spot needs to be filled one month from Friday. We must keep the food-supply and medical-supply chain filled at all times and know the directions to Grandma’s 85th birthday party in the next state.

When a mom goes down, it is akin to the central air-command server crashing. It is a finely balanced house of cards that collapses when the critical piece is removed. I’ve seen it happen to families and it is not pretty. However, the army of “moms” at-the-ready is a majestic sight to behold.

Last week, I was the “mom down.” My husband had a freak accident that resulted in emergency surgery. He is recovering and on the mend but there were some scary moments. My hats off to the “special forces” that appeared.

  1. First Responders. Thank you to my “wingmen.” I called them while following an ambulance. I didn’t explain much, yet asked them to get medical information retrieved and vetted. These moms got back to me within 40 minutes. They pulled favors and people out of meetings to get the important information I needed fast.
  2. Meals on Wheels. Food appeared. I have kids at home who were bewildered and upset as I tried to update them from the hospital. A meal appeared that night and each night after. One of our favorite deliveries was from a dad who was concerned about our teenage boys getting fed. Biggest bowl of pasta ever. He must have used 5 pots to prepare.
  3. Rapid Transit. My kids got to where they needed to go. Pick-up and delivery service with a smile.
  4. Visitors. My husband’s friends provided a steady stream of good cheer at the hospital and at home.
  5. Humor. A little levity goes a long way to defuse a tense time. Thank you to all the friends who masked their worried looks and managed to get us laughing.

Even though the mom in this situation was not the injured person, the control tower was taken out of play. My friend told me that when she heard the news she sprung into action knowing there was a mom down in the neighborhood.

Happy Mother’s Day to the moms and dads who pitched in without asking and those who asked how they could pitch in. It was humbling and I am so appreciative. Our family is now “mom up,” with all the extra support.

Carol Lewis Gullstad

May 6, 2013


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