Doggone It

Many of you read Carol’s recent post announcing her hiatus from Permission Slips blogging (click here if you missed it).

I miss her already, and suspect that our loyal readers do, too.

Blog puppyCarol’s life is very full, raising the new puppy pictured here, managing a family that includes four children, ages 13 – 21, coaching the local high school’s JV girls tennis team, serving as an adviser to several start-up businesses, helping out with her family’s organic farm and playing tennis as often as she can.

I don’t know how she found the time to blog at all.

However, I think Carol enjoyed writing about the world around her. She is much more interested in politics, brain development, local government and sports than I am, and I believe readers enjoyed “hearing” her unique perspectives.

Personally, I liked it best when she wrote from the heart. Some of my favorite “Carol Posts” are listed here (click on the titles to read each post):

Carol and my friendship dates back more than a dozen years. Back then, our children were enrolled in the same Montessori preschool, but it was rare for parents to interact as many were dropping and picking up children on the way to and from work.

In early 2000, Carol’s third child attended my third son’s birthday party at a local play space. She approached me and said, “Everyone keeps telling me we need to get to know each other. I see you’re pregnant with your fourth child [due four months later], and I just found out I’m pregnant with my fourth.”

We immediately understood each other.

Since our kids are roughly the same ages, we started crossing paths more and more – at first-grade basketball games (her daughter was the only girl on the team), T-ball practices, PTA meetings, swim club events and while pushing full carts down supermarket aisles.

Our families became fast friends. After all, who else would invite a family of five or six to dinner?

And then, we started taking “Girlfriend Getaways” together (click here to read about one of our trips). This photo was taken on our Blog carol linda paris2005 trip to Paris, when I had my “mommy braces” (friends from Paris and London are at the photo’s right side).

After our third getaway, in response to friends who kept asking, “How do you do it?” we conceived of a book promoting and explaining the concept.

We attended a publishing conference in New York, secured an agent and met for hours each week to write our book proposal and sample chapters.

While our proposal was well received, publishers told us the timing wasn’t right – in the midst of a depressed economy – for a book about non-essential travel with friends.

So, we retooled our idea several times, and eventually decided to write a blog about frazzled women like us. We fine-tuned the blog’s concept as the time passed, and decided to keep it going as long as we were having fun and had something to say.

Three and a half years later, I’m still not sure where PermissionSlips is headed. We have a stable base of readers, get great feedback (mostly through emails and live conversations, not necessarily in the blog’s comments section) and seem to come up with fresh ideas each week. But I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort to expand the readership or try to turn the posts into a book.

Nevertheless, since I have made a career out of writing, I’m not ready to stop blogging. At the same time, I do get tired of hearing myself “talk” every week, so would really welcome submissions from others. If you’re interested in guest blogging, please let me know. The only requirement? Clear, concise writing that promotes some kind of “permission” (usually relating to the idea, “Give yourself a break.”).

And, please, if you have ideas for future posts, but don’t want to write them yourself, let me know. My goal is to make PermissionSlips as “user-friendly” and interactive as possible, for as long as I have the energy to keep it going.

– Linda Williams Rorem, 21 April 2014
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Project Equator: A Family Gap Year – Part I

As a pre-Thanksgiving special we share the story of a family traveling around the world with their five school-age children. We often joke about “living the dream” in reference to some of the more mundane aspects of life such as scrubbing the floors or waiting in a parking lot for soccer practice to end. Cliff and Lisa Sharples are living the real dream. Here is Cliff’s account of their family adventure. The ultimate permission slip.

One wintery day in 2012 at Crystal Mountain, WA, while the kids searched for powder, Lisa and I found ourselves more inspired by hot toddies than cold moguls; beckoned with a warm embrace of the upstairs base lodge bar. It had been a long week, a long month and a long year of stressful work, too much business travel and an endless calendar of games, events and to-dos for all of us. Reminding ourselves of the catch-phrase mantra “be a problem solver, not a problem alerter” we embarked on a decidedly MBAish exercise of writing our Family Mission Statement and Core Values. Both of us are serial entrepreneurs and hopeless MBAs who innately write mission statements, corporate core values and business plans as often as grocery lists. So, why not do that for our most important venture – our family?Sharples family

When we met, Lisa and I just knew our children would be waiting for us in unexpected places. Through the miracle of childbirth, the magic of international adoption and travels across the globe, all five of them found us; forming our unconventional family. As we listed values and beliefs we felt important to imbue in our children, a theme of connection began to emerge: connection with each other; connection with family and friends; connection to community and environment; connection with new ways of learning; connection with the world.

The more we talked, the more we realized that rather than remodeling our circa-1961 vintage kitchen, maybe it was time to invest in our family venture and explore the theme of connection as a family. Realizing that our window of opportunity to have a shared experience with all of our kids, with our oldest son half way through his freshman year in high school, we decided that it was now or never to embark on a project we’d dreamt about for many years. Ever the disrupters, we decided to embark on a global adventure – a gap year for the family, if you will.

After that cozy afternoon, and many hot toddies, life changed pretty dramatically for us. Like any startup, this venture had innumerable tasks and parallel strategies to execute to ultimately be viable. We had to creatively navigate our careers and achieve budget targets. The kids needed a plan for school so they could each drop back into the requisite grade upon our return. We needed a plan for our house, three dogs and two parakeets. An itinerary needed to be agreed upon, and then planned out. Reservations of many types needed to be completed. Medical and dental appointments had to be lined up, including 50 shots between us to inoculate us from the world’s ills… the list went on and on! barcelona

On September 9, 2013, exhausted from an amazingly wonderful and crazy 18 months of planning, saving and scheming, the seven of us boarded a plane for Europe. Now in the heart of Seville, Spain, it’s hard to believe we are almost two and a half months into our adventure. In my next post, I’ll tell you about where we’re headed and how it’s going!

Permission Slips will post part two on Thursday.

Cliff Sharples 

November 18, 2013

Facebook Dos and Don’ts for Dads

Today’s guest blogger is Toby Suhm, a “super dad” with a super good sense of humor after his daughters tell him what he is allowed to post on Facebook.

Like many parents of teenagers, I struggle to balance my desire to stay relevant in the rapidly evolving world of social media with the feeling of a drowning man – I am having trouble keeping my head above water.  Instagram, Snapchat, Pintrest, Twitter, Viber, Vine… who can possibly keep up? Thankfully, MySpace has fallen by the wayside, so I don’t have to worry about that one anymore.

I recently shared one of my daughter’s athletic competition pictures on my Facebook page. In my comments I mentioned that I was probably violating Facebook Posting Rule #4 by posting the sports picture, but thought the risk was worth it. I got a number of queries –  what are the Facebook Posting Rules?  Simply stated, “The Rules” are  guidelines my daughters have given me to keep from embarrassing them or myself on Facebook. Bear in mind my daughters are 19 and 16 years old; virtually anything I do embarrasses them.suhm family

A year or so ago, they gave me this set of five rules – plus I’m pretty sure, the sixth one implied. The girls tell me they are for my own protection, so I won’t embarrass myself.  I think we all know the real reason for the rules…

  1. Is it longer than one sentence? If so, don’t post. Now I appreciate brevity as much as the next guy, but really, who can communicate anything meaningful in one sentence? Even in a speech renowned for its brevity, Abraham Lincoln needed 10 sentences to deliver the Gettysburg Address. How can I possibly communicate anything in Facebook in one sentence or less?
  2. Is it bragging? If so, don’t post. This one I actually sort of get. Who likes to constantly read posts from people strutting around on-line, thumping their chests and spouting off? On the other hand, isn’t that the whole reason behind Facebook? Look at what interesting things I’m doing! Look at my amazing kids. Isn’t my pet the cutest thing you have ever seen? How do you like these photos of our recent kitchen remodel?
  3. Is it political? If so, don’t post. I claim that I don’t post anything blatantly liberal or conservative, but, rather interesting, thought-provoking, middle-of-the-road essays and editorials that cause one to stop and ponder the issues. My daughters say that’s not possible. Anything remotely political is going to offend at least some of your friends.
  4. Is it about your daughters? If so, do you have their permission? If no, don’t post. Refer to #2 above. The whole reason for Facebook’s existence if you are a parent is to post pictures, newspaper articles, updates and “A” English essays from your kids. I don’t consider it bragging, just keeping family and friends updated on what they’re up to. Besides, if I had to get their permission, I’d never get to post anything.
  5. Are you using the Facebook “check-in” feature from a sporting event, movie theater, restaurant, activity, venue, roadside attraction, monument or anywhere else on planet Earth? If so, don’t check in. This one has always confused me because my daughters, and every person below the age of 30 I know, checks in on Facebook about 25 times a day. But for some reason, if I try to check in from the Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy soccer match of the year, I am violating rule #5 and am in the Facebook equivalent of a time-out.
  6. If in doubt, don’t post. It’s always good to a have a blanket, catch-all rule to fall back on.
    Italiano: versione ombreggiata e ingrandita de...

    Italiano: versione ombreggiata e ingrandita del simboletto “like” di FB (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Other than that, I have their approval to post pretty much anything I want on FB.

Toby Suhm November 4, 2013

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If you haven’t already seen this funny list, check out: 17 Reasons Why The Kids Don’t Like Facebook Anymore.

Wake Up and Live: The Kristy LeMond Story

What would you do if you had a rare aggressive sarcoma cancer and knew that time was of the essence? Would you be consumed by fear and illness or would you find hope? Would you see your life’s work as having a finite ending point or would you find a way to continue your dreams? Would you shield yourself and loved ones from the worst possible news and sorrow or would you face it straight on?

These were some of the serious questions that Kristy LeMond faced at the tender age of 23.

Kristy was a beautiful young woman with a zest for living and a passion for helping others. The advice to live authentically and truthfully is an inspirational goal for some; for Kristy it was a daily reality.

Kristy in TanzaniaAfter graduating from the University of Washington in 2011, Kristy’s adventurous and giving spirit led her to travel across the world to volunteer in orphanages, teach English and learn. She was particularly impacted by her time in Tanzania and became a huge advocate for the Tanzania Children’s Fund. After Africa, her curiosity and wanderlust continued and she made her way to Europe and then to Chile where she felt she could make a real difference with teaching English through the English Opens Doors program. It was at the start of her Chilean trip that she felt a lump that necessitated a return to Seattle to start a different journey. Kristy died in May 2013 less than a year after being diagnosed with cancer, yet she lived fully to the end.

She found the ultimate truths and meaning in life and shared her thoughts through her own inspiring blog, Wake Up and Live. This is an excerpt from her last entry, written April 23, 2013, a week before she died:

Kristythe hardest thing i’ve ever done

Hello everyone! I know I’ve been absent for a really long time, most of that being because for the past month or so it’s been pretty rough on me emotionally. Usually I’m able to balance my faith, reality, hope, and facts in a nice, mostly positive bubble and I think that’s what has gotten me through to this point so far. After my last meeting with my oncologist saying that the second line of chemo we were trying was not working, this bubble was so deflated and angry that it was hard for me to get back to that positive place when my doctors were telling me the reality of the situation. For the first time since this process I started, I was thinking about my future and not seeing much. I started worrying about things I would miss; my career, finding the love of my life, having a family, watching my friends and family grow up and experiencing all these things too. These are all things that started buzzing constantly in my head where as before I was able to shut it off and ignore the noise. I was able to remind myself that I don’t know God’s plan and I don’t get to know if this will end up one way or the other until it happens. Lately, it’s been different. I can’t understand why people keep saying ‘you’re so inspirational’ and ‘you’re so positive’. Excuse me? No, I’ve been grumpy, edgy, and pretty negative for about a month now-ask my poor parents 🙂 it wasn’t until a message I recieved from an almost complete stranger a few weeks ago that shook me to my core and brought me back to that place I knew I had once been and could get to again. She reminded me of how strong my faith was and how inspiring that could be. I started to slowly crawl out of that funk, despite the difficulties I was dealing with all of a sudden with my breathing.

To read the blog in its entirety click here:

No one can imagine being in Kristy’s shoes, nor being her parent, brother or friend and seeing this unfold. Kristy’s mother Kathy has good days and bad, but has been buoyed by the power of her daughter’s resolve. Kathy said, “Kristy was helped enormously through her 11-month battle by her faith and her desire to continue to make a difference. Her blog did, and continues to, make more of a difference than she ever knew. She so much wanted others to embrace volunteerism like she had. She wanted us to see what she saw and experience the feelings she had and so we are and we will.”

Recently Kathy came across a list of New Year’s Resolutions written by Kristy in late 2011.Kristy's resolutions

Kristy’s 2012 resolutions

  1. No more gossip! No judgmental thoughts towards others and yourself. No snide comments
  2. Take advantage of every opportunity no matter how small.
  3. Respect and love your family always. Meaning act on it all the time.
  4. Take risks when applying to jobs – don’t get discouraged.
  5. “You can’t dance with the devil on your back” so shake it off. Shake off your bad moods. Don’t let yourself get frustrated to the point of anger. Others don’t want to be around your negative energy!
  6. Reach out to someone every week. No more hiding. No more selfishness.
  7. Smile more your life is good!
  8. Focus on you and what’s best for you.
  9. Little things to show your friends you love them.
  10. Spread love, love, love. You have so much to offer!

Kristy wrote these resolutions prior to her diagnosis. What’s even more amazing is that she accomplished all of these resolutions in her life time, many in her last months.

In her last blog entry Kristy stated, “I refuse to die anything short of successfully.” She spent the last seven days of her life at home with family and friends talking, listening, crying and just being. During the service, her eulogist stated, “She loved unconditionally when helping those in need and being the type of friend that we all hope to become…I have witnessed many people die, but I have never seen a journey like this one.”

Kristy’s message to us is clear, be authentic and truthful – Wake up and live!

Carol Lewis Gullstad October 21, 2013

Post Script

Kristy’s family, friends and those moved by her story are carrying on her mission to help others in a myriad of ways:

Her sorority sisters at the University of Washington chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma are raising money to establish a scholarship in her memory. For more information:

Beauty Chain Julep developed a special nail polish “Kristy,” 10% of all sales go to the Kristy LeMond Memorial Fund. For more information:

Kristy’s loved sunflowers. Friends and family are photographing sunflower stickers in various locations around the world to show that Kristy’s spirit is with them. The photos can be viewed on the Facebook page, We carry you in our hearts Kristy LeMond. us strong

Learn more about Kristy:

Permission to Love Swag

Nothing can kill the “had a great time out with my girlfriends” buzz better than returning home to a mess.

When the kids were young, I could literally retrace their – and my husband’s – steps after a few hours away. Sherlock Linda could detect: Dad made pancakes, dripped batter on burners…child spilled syrup on table…child added Nestle Quik to milk (and counter top)…boys used seven blankets to build fort on bunk beds…someone opened 13 video cases to find missing tape…boys learned how to make paper airplanes…toddler “ate” Cheerios for snack, all over house…and so on.

Fortunately, the messes diminished as the kids aged. So, on Friday night, I was shocked to see dozens of small packages strewn across the kitchen counter. And then, upon closer inspection, I realized it was MY stuff.

photo-20Yes, the box of swag I had shipped home from last weekend’s BlogHer 13 conference had arrived, and my daughter had rifled through it for the goodies I had promised.

Every conference attendee received a bag full of stuff – promotions that companies wanted to market to the 5,000 or so, mostly female, primarily aged 35 – 55, bloggers. Other advertisers handed out their wares at alluring booths adjacent to the conference rooms.

Of course, I loaded up on lotions, dog toys, nail polish, lip balm, key chains, coffee packets, almonds, cups and even a T-shirt emblazoned with my daughter’s nickname, “Peapod” (a new grocery delivery service).

When I returned from a GNO on Friday night, Pea and my husband were watching “So You Think You Can Dance” downstairs (one of them CAN dance; the other wants to reincarnate as Gregory Hines). Pea heard my footsteps and shouted, “Mom, your box got here. Dad thinks you have a ‘Free-Stuff’ problem!”

It’s true, I love “free stuff.” And I come by the trait honestly.

My maternal grandmother was the queen of cheap. Although she and my grandfather were financially secure, Nana never passed up a freebie. In fact, she filled the candy bowl in her living room with chocolate covered mints pilfered from their Yacht Club’s hostess stand.

If that isn’t irony, I don’t know what is.

Back in the day, banks offered cool stuff – toasters, dishes, electric blankets – as incentives for deposits. So, my Pop-Pop gave Nana a certain amount of money to move around as the spirit – and swag – moved her. I know that was the source of many Christmas presents.

My well-to-do grandpa wasn’t immune to his wife’s obsession. In fact, Nana and Pop-Pop’s bridge group met in one bank every Tuesday morning for the free coffee and donuts. True story.

After Pop-Pop died, my mom was astonished to discover Nana’s stash when helping her move into assisted living. Apparently, an entire closet brimmed with useless items from banks.

Although the taste for the free treat may have skipped my mom’s generation, it certainly hit me hard. And while I don’t want to “out” anybody here, I can say that when visiting a certain older sibling in Rochester, NY, and Minneapolis, we planned trips to supermarkets known for generous and savory samples.

Here in Seattle, we have Costco. And if you time the trip right, you can enjoy a full free meal. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like or would never otherwise taste the treat offered; if it’s free, you take it.

After that, you buy the multi-pack and watch it grow mold or gather dust in your kitchen cabinet.

Several years ago, my co-blogger Carol and I enrolled our youngest kids in a weekly gymnastics class. Not being the type to hover during practice, ready to advise the coaches on training our budding Olympians, we escaped to the local Trader Joe’s every week.

The class started at noon, so we knew TJ’s samples could serve as lunch. We always circled back for a second helping, hoping the server wouldn’t remember us.

We then purchased the promotional ingredients to replicate the dish in our own homes, and often, at least in my home, that food turned moldy or gathered dust. Even worse, the TJ fare occasionally got pushed to the rear of my deep cabinets and was forgotten.

That is, until the pantry moths started hatching.

This became a multi-month problem, which began with throwing out tons of food (mostly all-natural grains), continued with wiping down the cabinets with ammonia and ended with installing fly-paper like traps from my pest-control agent.

It was probably payback for my “Free-Stuff” problem. However, from the looks of the bag of swag on my counter, I didn’t learn my lesson.

– Linda Williams Rorem, 5 Aug. 2013
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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

Gartending and Happy Hour

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

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

The Thorns in the Rose

The mother wore an expression of joy and awe as she cradled her newborn son and stood before the congregation. The occasion was a child dedication ceremony and her visage could not have been a purer expression of hope and love. The minister whispered and kissed the two-week- old and presented the parents with a rose stripped of its thorns. He said the thorn-less rose signified new budding life and the desire to protect our children from life’s harms and struggles.

The second part of the dedication was a bridging ceremony for high school seniors. Once again parents stood and faced the congregation but this time with their children by their side. The juxtaposition was clear.  The occasion was joyous and anticipatory however the expressions of hopes and dreams were worn by the young-adult children rather than their parents. The profoundness of the contrast hung in the air.

The assembly echoed, “We honor you at this transformative time,” and “May you find among us allies and friends…we share together the sorrow of leaving the past, as well as the excitement of embracing the future.” The minister repeated the presentation of roses but the seniors were given roses with thorns.


He said the roses represented the sweetness of life but the thorns showed that there would be struggles. The parents nodded with the knowledge of hard-won wisdom.  The minister said the thorns should not be seen as a frightening omen. He assured the youth that they were equipped to handle life’s prickly moments, would be supported and would always have a place to come home to.

My son participated in this ceremony yesterday and is nearly ready to leave the nest. We have done our best to deliver him to the altar of his future self. It is a bitter-sweet moment, knowing that he will no longer be part of our daily lives. Yet, I am filled with joy.

In the words of Henry Ward Beecher, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.”

Carol Lewis Gullstad June 3, 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

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