Oh Baby!

Love the Royals, hate the Royals, but add me to the Kate Middleton Fan Club.

Burlington Royals

Burlington Royals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can anyone imagine giving birth for the first time and then making a public appearance in front of thousands of people a mere 24 hours later? How about doing it with a smile on your face while facing hundreds of snapping cameras as you exit the hospital? No one could come close to being prepared for such an extreme encounter. Baby George of Cambridge has a cool “mum.”

My biggest reason, though, for becoming a fan is that she looked like a new mother when she greeted the throngs. She looked elated, a little puffy-faced and she still had a big tummy. That is how a new mother looks when she is not airbrushed.

A friend’s husband remarked that he was surprised Princess Kate still looked pregnant a day after giving birth. Seriously? LOL!

The biology of birth. Even after the baby arrives it takes a while for the rest of the “stuff” — that’s in layman’s terms — to come out. It truly shows that in the era of Photoshop we have lost perspective on what a female body looks like. No doubt Kate will reclaim her slim figure at some point, but how sweet it is that she did not feel a need to use her baby as camouflage.

On a separate note, I couldn’t help but notice how Will and Kate looked like any young couple who has just experienced the life-altering event of bringing a child into the world. They appeared a little bit awestruck, a little bit nervous, but generally giddy. There is nothing better than a healthy newborn baby to make us all gaga.

Some wags snarled at the tremendous interest the new baby received because the Royals are about “nothing.” At least the Brits have a seemingly normal couple with the Cambridges. In the U.S.A. we have the Kardashians. Sadly, that probably makes us the reigning world champs of celebrity nothingness. For the record, I have no plans to join that fan club.

Kate gets an A+ in “new mom 101.” I loved her polka dot dress, her genuine smile and her post-baby bump seen ’round the world. She is a real mom, not a photo-shopped ready for the camera “lost the baby fat in 2 weeks mom.” Kate, you rock.

Carol Lewis Gullstad July 29, 2013

Choosing Cousins

The clues hinting to the location of the next “Eight and Up” trip are streaming in, so my kids are getting excited about the annual trip with their paternal grandparents and cousins, all of whom they adore.

I’m so happy my children have cousins they can relate to, in our town, in my hometown and in Albuquerque. When I was young, I believed that cousins my age would make my life complete.

patty_duke_cousinsIn fact, I was always a bit envious of the “two” girls on “The Patty Duke Show” re-runs (“still, they’re cousins, identical cousins…”) and neighbors who had close relatives. It seemed so fun.

My father’s half-brother was 15 years his senior, so his three daughters are quite a bit older than my siblings and me.

My mother’s younger brother married almost 15 years after she did, when I was in second grade, so didn’t provide sons in time to help my cause.

Fortunately, I had a wonderful stand-in, Ann, who was handed to me when my family landed in the Chicago area on the eve of my kindergarten debut.

Unlike Patty Duke and Cathy, my friend Ann and I look nothing alike, and, in truth, don’t have many interests in common. Still, we’re “cousins,” and share a history and closeness that would rival any relative’s.

Our families met in Boston, where my mom – in addition to mothering six children ages eight and under – worked as a church organist, and Ann’s father, Dick, was the choir director. Our parents became fast friends, and we often gathered after church for coffee and donuts.

Ann’s oldest brother was a perfect match for my second oldest, and her other brother is the same age as my oldest sister. So, times together were full of laughter and adventure.

Later, when both families ended up in the Chicago area, without other relatives close by, we became family, and for several decades, spent every holiday together, from Christmas, through Easter and July 4, to Labor Day.

My father passed away in 1982, after taking ill during an evening spent with Ann’s parents, and her father died of cancer 10 years later. Needless to say, both families were in full attendance at both memorial services, and we all shared in both losses.

My mother and Ann’s remain best friends to this day. For some 20 years, they spent every Wednesday together at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, working as docents. Several years ago, they moved to the Chicago Historical Society.

Ann and I could walk to each other’s homes at an early age, and often did. We joined the YMCA swim team and middle-school club together, attempted ballet classes, shared babysitting clients, rode our bikes to the beach and took the bus downtown for frozen cokes and hot dogs. Ann saved her gum wrappers for my gum-wrapper chain.

During high school, we participated in the same youth group, but slowly grew apart. Our families still gathered on holidays, but we didn’t share much one-on-one time otherwise.

In the long run, those years were of little consequence. When we were juniors in college, Ann set off for Spain and I to France, and, aside from visiting each other’s new locales, we traveled through Italy during an extended school break. We experienced Carnevale in Venice and the ruins in Rome, and never stopped laughing. We still haven’t shared all of our stories with our mothers, but the memories keep us smiling whenever we get together.

Ann_Rosewall_003When Ann got engaged, she asked me to serve as her maid of honor. When it was my turn, I was honored to have Ann perform the ceremony (she was then “just” an ordained minister; she now has a Ph.D in divinity). Friends across the country still recall her moving, heart-felt homily.

I traveled to Texas to see Ann’s baby girl, and was able to simultaneously show off the girth that contained my first son. When my husband was ill, Ann flew to Seattle to spend a week supporting me and my three young boys.

We still get together, most years, on the Fourth of July.

Today, on Ann’s birthday, I celebrate her, real cousins and the cousins that we claim as our own. They definitely enrich our lives. Ann, I’m looking forward to dinner on Friday night. (Oh, and a very happy 70th birthday to my teen idol, Bobby Sherman, too!)

Linda Williams Rorem, 22 July 2013

Gartending and Happy Hour

I do not have a green thumb. In fact, my thumb is more like the grim reaper of plants.my garden

As a young newlywed living in Minneapolis I decided to surprise my husband one spring evening. I knew he would be working late so I took advantage of the time and weeded the flower garden knowing it was a chore he could skip on the weekend. He had carefully cultivated the newly planted flowers from seedlings and they had recently been transplanted to beautify our front porch.

After gardening, I sat on the stoop quite pleased with my good deed. When my husband approached the front yard he indeed looked astonished. I asked him if he liked what I had done. He hesitatingly replied, “Hmm, I like your idea.” I was a little puzzled by the underwhelming response so I asked for clarification.  He said, “What did you think you were taking out?”

“Weeds of course,” I replied.

“Those weren’t weeds.”

As the pit in my stomach grew I weakly replied,”Uh, what were they?”

“They were my flowers!”

We agreed from that point forward that it was best for me to take a more limited role in the garden. Decades later, my only responsibility is to water one palm tree. It’s safer for the plants and better for our marriage.

No one will ever mistake me for a botanist but I appreciate the clever souls who can cultivate a garden and identify a plant from 10 yards away. I am particularly impressed by creative uses for garden bounty.

This weekend I attended a seminar, Garden to Glass, taught by Seattle gardener and creative cocktail crafter, Beth Evans-Ramos. Attendees were tutored in the art of “gartending,” a fun combination of organic gardening and bartending. We oohed and aahed at the beautiful creations of infusions, non-alcoholic beverages, bitters and syrups.infused in a row

Evans-Ramos delights in tinkering and encouraged her students to do the same.  A “grandma on the go,” Mama Beth happily recounted her serendipitous route to cocktail crafting. She talked about her eclectic thrift store collection of glasses and the joy of discovering hidden talent amongst the master bartenders of Seattle.

Beth goes by the moniker, “Mama Beth knows her cocktails,” and that is no hyperbole.

Check out her website to see for yourself: mamaknowshercocktails.

I haven’t felt this inspired to dig in the dirt since my epic weeding episode of nearly 25 years ago. I came home from the seminar and headed straight to our garden. My husband looked a little nervous but was relieved to see me merely picking mint and raspberries to use for an “infusion.” However, seedlings be warned. I may have discovered a new hobby and a new happy hour – time in the garden.

Ginger Beer Lemon Mint Medley

Ginger Beer Lemon Mint Medley

Carol Lewis Gullstad July 15, 2013


Slow-Motion Re-Entry

Few adults would argue the benefits of taking vacations, but whether you’re taking a break from a hectic job or running off with your family, the preparations can be grueling.

Beforehand, it’s a race against the clock to check-off pre-trip duties in time: confirming reservations, paying bills, returning emails, canceling newspapers, filling prescriptions, washing and folding clothes, arranging pet care, straightening the house, making packing lists and fitting necessities into suitcases.

We find solace, in those harried days or hours before departure, knowing that a true break lies ahead.

photo-2Returning home is a different story. We’re exhausted from travel, the teens are bristling from too much “family time,” our suitcases brim with dirty clothes, a mountain of mail awaits and, most likely, a strong smell of past-date food fills the fridge.

We are overwhelmed, and feel our bodies start to tense up again.

Late last night, when we returned from the airport after 10 days away, I was determined to slow-down the re-entry process, and to try to maintain the vacation calm.

The teenage boys rushed out, and I lifted their curfews for the night. I didn’t even wait up for them.

Friends of my kids had left a welcome-home cake on our front porch. Despite the late hour, I allowed my daughter to dig in.

My email inbox stretched on for pages, and I decided to attack it later. (Of course, modern technology allowed me to deal with any critical messages while out of town.)

I knew the bread was growing mold, the yogurts were past-date and the milk had soured, and vowed to deal with it later.

My husband, daughter and I emptied our suitcases, and I decided to let the piles of laundry sit.

I didn’t open the Sunday newspapers, turn on the TV or play the answering-machine messages.

Instead, I took a tip from Scarlett O’Hara, and said to myself, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” I washed up, climbed into bed, and allowed myself time to reflect on the trip:

For most of 10 days, my teenage boys got along, and even smiled occasionally. (I have photo documentation!)

We sampled new foods, went to museums and experienced cultures different from ours.

We walked, together, in the bright sunshine, absorbing sights and much-needed vitamin D.

The kids gave their thumbs a rest from constant texting. They read books and talked to each other…and even to their parents.

My husband “un-plugged” from work, and didn’t once mention issues with clients.

For more than a week, I didn’t get behind the wheel, didn’t rush a child to a lesson or practice, didn’t scurry to the grocery store for milk, cereal or bread.

I didn’t cook, clean or do laundry.photo-1

While on vacation, I didn’t remind anyone to put dishes in the dishwasher, pick up dirty towels, turn down music or turn off lights.

I went to sleep every night knowing where my children were, who they were with and what they were doing.

This morning, I still sense the quiet and calm. The kids will sleep in. My husband will soon rise and head back to the airport, but hopefully with lower blood pressure than usual.

The cat is purring on my daughter’s bed, relishing in her warm body and rhythmic breathing.  The dogs are resting at the Tails-a-Waggin’ pet hotel, where I will fetch them later today.

For now, I will spend time on Facebook, enjoying photos of friends’ July 4 adventures. I will load my own photos into the computer, and look at them over and over. I will make another cup of decaf, and sip it slowly.

I give myself permission to slow down the re-entry process, and make my vacation last just a little longer. And, maybe, I can take some of the lessons learned, and apply them to “real life” here. 

– Linda Williams Rorem, 8 July 2013

The Terminal

Memories of the summer vacations of my youth tend to run toward a hazy recollection of freedom, sticky otter pops and endless possibilities. As an adult I am always excited to recapture that feeling each summer during our family vacation. However, I have a little more sense of urgency now knowing that time is finite and precious. Thus any delay in the long-awaited summer break can be a great source of angst.

Construction roadblocks encountered during family car travel makes me ponder 50 uses for orange traffic cones as projectiles. Flight delays that negate a day of sight-seeing inspire me to compose snarky letters to the CEOs of airline companies.

At least in a car you have the illusion of control in the situation. You can take an alternate route, build in an ice cream stop or extend the sing-a-long. When stuck at an airport you are bound by the “point of no return,” the ominous looking May-not-return-beyond-this-point signs.

In the 2004 movie, The Terminal, Tom Hanks portrays a man named Viktor who is trapped in a New York City airport for nearly a year. The movie was inspired by the real life situation of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who resided in the departure lounge of Terminal One in Charles de Gaulle Airport for nearly 17 years. Currently, “NSA leaker,” Edward Snowden is rumored to be in limbo at a Moscow airport. While both men had political problems, not summer vacation snafus, it does make one pick up the pace when traveling through an airport.

A few days ago my sister was to visit me but became stuck in the Oakland, CA airport for a day after her flight was cancelled due to “mechanical problems.” She wandered the airport to kill time. She contemplated the art, browsed the limited selection of stores and purchased a meal. She still had a long wait ahead.OAK airport

Susan finally found a cavernous corner between terminals one and two and sat down. Shortly after situating herself she noticed a fellow passenger having a very animated conversation on a cell phone. The woman on the phone alternated advice with gesticulations and loud proclamations of “Praise Jesus.”

best terminal waiting areaSusan couldn’t help but listen to the conversation as they were the only two people in the echo-chamber terminal area. When the woman hung up she looked at Susan with a sigh and exclaimed, “Those veggies in my sandwich hit the spot, they’re just what I needed.” The lady, Victoria, was a talker. She and Susan were about to become terminal friends.

Victoria called herself a late bloomer. She had some hard knocks along the way in life. She was shot by her ex-husband while pregnant with a child; she had been on food stamps and lived in a tough neighborhood. However, she was blessed with a positive outlook on life and knew how to make the best out of a bad situation. With limited resources Victoria would make homemade ices out of powdered Kool-Aid and crushed ice cubes. She made her own donuts out of biscuit dough. She held coloring contests for the neighborhood kids and found something special to say about each child’s art.

Her house was the one that her daughter’s friends always wanted to go to after school. She truly was the Kool-Aid mom and very proud of that. Now she had grandkids and even though she is better off she told Susan, “I still like to do some of the cheap things with them to teach them you don’t have to have money to be happy.”escalators oak terminal

At the end of the conversation, Victoria said to Susan, “I wanna give you a hug.” The women embraced and Victoria parted with a twinkle in her eye and said, “I like making people feel good.”  When I picked up Susan at the airport that night she was upbeat, not in the least bit irritated. She had spent some quality time with Victoria and probably had one of the best starts to a travel day ever.

Carol Lewis Gullstad July 1, 2013


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