Sarah R. Callender

Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Tinkerbell

In General on August 31, 2010 at 11:04 am

I might have also called this blog post, “Night Sweats,” but I’m not sure I would want to read a post with such a title. And I assume that you, gentle readers, might not either. Hence, “Tinkerbell.”

So you know those TV ads for Cialis that show the old guy about to get lucky because of his ED meds? Or, the Cymbalta ad with that wind-up doll who gets all floppy and droopy and unwound, but then perks right back up with the help of her antidepressant? Yeah. But my favorite part of all drug ads is the end, where that faceless person speaks in a hushed tone about the possible side effects of the particular drug. The person always sounds soothing and knowledgeable and trustworthy, like your Aunt Martha or your PCP, but the side effects sound decidedly gruesome. An erection that lasts for three days? Zowie. How awkward! Or, the antidepressant that encourages some people consider suicide? Terrible in its irony.

Well, my drug of choice, Zoloft, comes with the following warnings:

Anxiety; constipation; decreased sexual desire or ability; diarrhea; dizziness; drowsiness; dry mouth; increased sweating; loss of appetite; nausea; nervousness; stomach upset; tiredness; trouble sleeping; vomiting; weight loss. Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); bizarre behavior; black or bloody stools; chest pain; confusion; decreased bladder control; decreased concentration; decreased coordination; exaggerated reflexes; fainting; fast or irregular heartbeat; fever; hallucinations; memory loss; new or worsening agitation, panic attacks, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, irritability, hostility, exaggerated feeling of well-being, restlessness, or inability to sit still; persistent or severe ringing in the ears; persistent, painful erection; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin; seizures; severe or persistent anxiety or trouble sleeping; severe or persistent headache; stomach pain; suicidal thoughts or attempts; tremor; unusual bruising or bleeding; unusual or severe mental or mood changes; unusual weakness; vision changes; worsening of depression.

Seems to me like they’ve covered just about everything. But I have some questions for you, Aunt Martha: How can I figure out if it’s the Zoloft or my children who are making me “irritable”? At what point does my goofy behavior (making up songs, dancing with the cat, intentionally putting huge hunks of spinach in my teeth, then asking el husbandio, “do I have anything in my teeth?”) cross the line and become Bizarre?

And Dr. PCP, just what constitutes “exaggerated reflexes”? And is this really a bad thing? Seems to me that exaggerated reflexes would be helpful, kind of like a Super Power. I can just see the comic strip character: Reflexo Woman is here to save the day, catching various falling objects that might crush puppies and small children! Or, “Help! Where’s Reflexo Man, champion of dodge ball and table tennis! We need you, Reflexo Man!”

And gosh, what if you’re the poor soul who gets ALL of these side effects? THAT would be depressing.

But back to me. For some reason, the only irritating side effect I experience is the phenomenon of night sweats. Which is certainly better than pooping “black stool” but probably not as cool as having really amazing reflexes.

Yet, for those of you who are too young still for menopause, and others of you who have brains that function without the assistance of SSRIs, let me tell you, it’s disgusting to have night sweats. I literally wake up drenched. DRENCHED.

About a year ago, I stumbled upon a kick-arse Macy’s sale where I bought a set of beautiful sheets that basically make me feel like I’m sleeping in butter. Sadly, there is now a Sarah-shaped splotch of yellowness in the place where I sleep. Which yes, is better than having “red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin,” that musses up the sheets, but just by a little.

But like many things in my life, this story has a slightly-happy ending, one that came when I was visiting my favorite boutique, Fresh, (which is MILES away from my ghetto hood).

I was happily exiting the store with my latest purchase, a cute green purse, that Wendy, owner of Fresh, and I christened “Helene,” when I walked past a pharmacy advertising Wildbleu Menopause Pajamas.

“Shraggy?” I said, speaking to Helene in my Scooby Do voice. “Shraggy? Did you jhsust shee shat shign?”

Well. When you have a cute new green purse named Helene, you feel sassy and cute and yes, comfortable enough to walk into a pharmacy and study the menopause jammies, which, I am sad to report, are about as sexy as a can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup. Worse, they are pricey, and as many of you know, I am a hardcore cheapskate.

I already have the Grandma No Soliciting sign; I don’t need the slumberwear to match.

Seriously, this is an example.

Well, Helene made that tutt-tut sound she always makes when she’s disgusted or disturbed about something, so off we went. In search of cheaper and not-so-Grandma-y jammies.

At this point of course, it does occur to me that talking to my green purse, Helene, in a Scooby Do voice does constitute “Bizarre” behavior, but that’s another blog post. I’m talking about night sweats here.

What I did was rush home, google “menopause pajamas” and shore nuff, up pop several options that are only semi-Grandma and semi-pricey. With a couple of lightning-fast clicks (most likely, exaggerated reflexes) I was the proud owner of some menopause pjs, airy and gauzy as a spring breeze.

Then, seven-ten days later:

“Bossie?” el husbandio calls from the office. (That’s what we call each other: Boss or Bossie or various iterations of Boss-related nicknames.)

“Yeah, Boss,” I called back.

“Uh, there’s a charge here on the Visa bill . . . for Dri-nights? Is that Buddy’s pull-ups?”

Sigh. There ain’t nothin’ sexy about depression.

Truth be told, these jammies are not sweat PROOF, more like sweat RESISTANT. But you know what? That’s a step in the right direction.

Plus, they’re especially gauzy and flowy, which means when I wear them, I feel a little like a garden sprite or a fairy. Someone like Tinkerbell, I guess.

The Mom-version of Tinkerbell.

The slightly sweaty, Mom-version of Tinkerbell who sleeps not in the center of a flower, but right over the yellowed stain that now mars some otherwise very luxurious sheets.

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Solitaire

In General, Parenting on August 30, 2010 at 6:14 am

As it turns out, Buddy only likes to play solitaire with other people. Someday, he’ll see the irony in that.

It shouldn’t surprise me. Buddy’s always been one of those kids for whom quality time and physical presence is akin to oxygen. So, when Buddy asks, “Want to play solitaire with me, mama?” and I say yes, he runs to get two packs of cards.

And there we sit, sometimes for more than an hour, playing our own games of solitaire. Side by side. Separate but together.

See? Here I am, clad in my Sunday Solitaire outfit. The sad look on my face is NOT that I am lonely, but that I have a whalebone corset digging into my ribs AND garish wallpaper.

What I am NOT kidding about however, is this: If I were to point out to Buddy how alone this solitaire-card playing woman looks, which is precisely how a solitaire-card playing woman should look, he would get that sad look on his face. “But I get lonely when I’m alone.” That’s what he’d day.

That is, in fact, what he does say.

For as long as I have known Buddy (7.5 years plus 38 weeks of pregnancy where he and I were undoubtedly separate but together) he has craved the company of others. He likes brushing his teeth with someone standing there in the bathroom, he likes watching the Mariners with someone beside him, he likes listening to books on tape with someone lying on the floor next to him.

Buddy and I are similar in many, many ways, yet his preference for a constant sidekick is foreign to me. I need alone time. As Lonely as Buddy feels when he is by himself is exactly the same amount of Crazy I feel when I get no alone time.

So as Buddy took breaks from his solitaire game to give me pointers and suggest “better” moves, I realized that Buddy’s and my Love Languages don’t sync up. It’s a problem. I feel guilty when I’m trying to escape him, when I’m hiding from him in the closet or the garage, but man, I cannot abide his presence all the time.

Realizing this issue this morning, I remembered The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman’s book that explains how, in any relationship, we show our love for another by expressing one (or more, but usually one is dominant) of the five Love Languages: Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation and Receiving Gifts.

That’s how we demonstrate and express our love to someone. We also feel the most loved when someone expresses a particular, preferred Love Language toward us.

The problem occurs if I am not showing el husbandio, for example, love in the lanugauge he understands. I could be giving him infinity Words of Affirmation, and if he only feels love by spending Quality Time with me, he will feel unloved. And I’ll feel misunderstood because I feel I AM loving him, always prattling on with my Affirming Words. It’s like Pepe le Pew and Penelope Pussycat, and Pepe’s thinking that he is giving Penelope exactly what she needs, when really, she’s just looking for someone who’s not so brazen. Or French. Or skunkish.

This theory does not just apply to grown-ups. Kids too, feel most loved and secure when a parent expresses that child’s preferred Love Language.

So yes, Buddy’s Love Language is Quality Time. He feels most loved when there’s someone (anyone really) standing beside him watching him floss his teeth. In contrast, while sometimes I feel like my love language is Someone Lending Me Her Cleaning Lady and Her Nanny and Maybe Her Ooompa Loompa and Then Slipping Me Shopping Money for Some New Fall Clothes and Sassy Boots, I know my love language is actually just plain old Words of Affirmation.

So Buddy needs ALL of my time, which I cannot offer him. Meanwhile, I need Words of Affirmation, and all I hear from him, especially at the bitter end of the summer, is whining and whining and whining. And I’m probably giving him plenty of Words of Affirmation, and all he hears is the Mwaa Mwa Mwaa Mwaa that Charlie Brown’s teacher perfected.

Sweetie, in contrast, would probably claim that Allowing Her to Get Dressed/Eat/Comb her Hair at Her Own Pace is her love language, but again, that language is in direct opposition with my need to ever leave the house.

You see why children feel misunderstood, why marriages break down, why I never get my Ooompa Loompa.

El husbandio and I discussed love languages years ago (read: I forced husbandio to discuss love languages years ago) when I first read the 5 Love Languages in my book group. But when he and I revisited it this morning, after my Buddy-solitaire ephiphany, I learned husbandio’s preferred love language has changed, become more sophisticated.

Apparently, husbandio feels most loved when I Pick Things from His Garden (basil, tomatoes, berries, stubby little cucs) and Cook with Them.

“That’s how you feel loved?” I asked. “When I harvest your basil?”

He nodded.

“I had no idea.”

I paused, trying to think of the last time I had harvested anything from his gardens. “In case you’re wondering, mine’s still Words of Affirmation.” I did a dramatic supermodel pose. “Like right now,” I said, using the sultry voice the Victoria’s Secret ad lady uses. “You might affirm my just-out-of-bed Heat Miser hair. Or perhaps my ratty XL Northwestern sweatshirt with this Flashdance neckline that I wear over my jammies.”

And while husbandio didn’t exactly verbally affirm, he did nod and smile and wiggle his eyebrows, and that was affirmation enough that yes indeed, he loves me in all my morning glory.

Tube Sock

In Parenting on August 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Every time I take the kids for their routine teeth-cleaning, the dentist asks me if Sweetie has a thumb-sucking habit. And every time I say, “Why, yes. She does.”

And then the dentist suggests we try a rewards chart as a means of ending this nasty habit. So I nod and smile, as I always do, knowing that with my kids, rewards charts go over about as well as an okra milkshake. “Oh, good idea!” I tell him. “We’ll try a rewards chart!”

And then he always adds, “Of course, you can also try duct taping a tube sock to her wrist so she won’t suck her thumb.” He demonstrates using mime gestures as if I don’t speak English, as if he hasn’t told me about this New Idea during every appointment since Sweetie turned three. “Just make a little duct tape bracelet around her wrist, like this, to keep the sock on.”

So I just keep smiling that bullshooty smile, all the while thinking (very loud in my head) there’s no way in H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks I am DUCT TAPING anything to my daughter, partly because it sounds mean, partly because it sounds dangerous and of course partly because I am not interested in adding any additional fodder for future therapy sessions. Even if adding the word “bracelet” to the end of the term “duct tape” does make it seem slightly more feminine and pretty.

BUT today, on the way home from the visit with Dr. Bondage, Sweetie announced that she would like to try the “taping the sock to her hand” thing.

“Really?” I asked. “You’re sure? You really don’t have to unless YOU want to . . . you know that, don’t you?”

Sure, Sweetie nodded. But you know what? I’m not taking any chances. I am crafting an affidavit that I’ll have Sweetie sign with her backwards capital letters, an affidavit that will absolve me of all guilt.

Then I will produce this affidavit in triplicate, saving one for me and one for Sweetie and putting them both in the fire-proof safe where we keep all of our important documents.

The third copy I will seal in an envelope marked Sweetie’s Therapist.

And now, off I go to find some of husbandio’s old tube socks. And some duct tape. Sweetie has requested pink or purple.

Pajama-wearers

In General on August 22, 2010 at 8:38 am

Whenever I write a blog post about chronic depression, I always like to follow it up with a post that’s a tad cheerier. A little more summery and care-free . . . the bloggish equivalent of a Beach Read. So here we go, ladies and gents.  A post about the Complimentary Hotel Breakfast.

First things first: I love free anything, Costco snacks or samples of eye cream or the five minute massage I got at the Wednesday night concert in Sunriver. Which felt a little weird, getting massaged on a golf course with a Steely Dan-ish band playing in the background. But I had neck kinks. And I was on Day Five of a Family Vacation. And it was free.

On our way to Sunriver, however, we spent the night in Portland at a charming little hotel with a cozy, French-ish feel, one that allowed dogs and sold cartons of Ben and Jerry’s at all hours and was just a few shimmy-hops away from the Willamette. Our room also had a separate sleeping area for the children (lovely for many reasons, not the least of which is that Sweetie snores like a drunken frat boy), AND I will add, this quaint little place was paid for with all the hotel points el husbandio accumulates from his travels to Reston and Atlanta and Tel Aviv, often for only a two-hour meeting. In other words, except for the parking and the Ben and Jerry’s, it was FREE!

So yes, this charming semi-Parisian hotel was a winner. And it got even better when I noticed the sign announcing Complimentary Breakfast, 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

“C’est magnifique!” I said, doing a little fist-pump/tap dance to express my happiness at a free meal, one that would certainly have Sugar Cereal (which would make Buddy and Sweetie happy) and English muffins with fake butter (which, yes, would make me happy).

But. Then. I. Remembered. Last. Summer.

Coeur d’ Alene, ID, the Shiloh Inn. It was our first stop on our way to a family reunion in Colorado, and needless to say, that particular caravansary was the exact opposite of Parisian. In fact, perhaps the entire city of Coeur d’ Alene is the exact opposite of Paris. Gay Paris’ doppleganger. After all, there’s no Louvre in Idaho, the food is, well, heavily potatoed yet somehow never pom frited, and as far as I know, Idahoans aren’t scared to put in a full day’s work, five full days a week, fifty weeks a year.

But I digress!

It was during this Shiloh Inn pass-through that I experienced my first Complimentary Breakfast, and while the celophane-wrapped Danish may have been free, the study in human nature was priceless.

Part of what is fascinating about the Complimentary Breakfast should not surprise me at all because I know this: if you tell a class of twenty kindergartners that there are only nineteen cupcakes and they can just mosey on up to the cupcake table to select a cupcake, THEY WILL ABSOLUTELY NOT MOSEY.

That was, in fact, what happened at the Shiloh Inn: the management had miscalculated the Danish to Patron ratio. Plus, the hot chocolate machine was on the fritz, and the 1980-era microwave was no match for the frozen sausage muffins. It was only 8:20 a.m. and suddenly the promise of a Complementary Breakfast seemed wholly uncertain.

When patrons got wind of the food shortage, they started grabbing at whatever they could grab, even if it was just a single-serving tub of orange marmalade or a green banana.

I, too, felt a little desperate; I had been sent ahead of el husbandio and the kids to get their plates ready. And now? Well, how would Lewis have felt if he had told Clark, “Hey buddy. I’d like to sleep in tomorrow. Can you go on ahead and set up breakfast?” but then, when Lewis arrived, all that lay on the table was a single-serving tub of marmalade? I think that would have made Lewis feel really sad. Like Clark had let him down.

But that was just the first stop of last summer’s 3,000 mile road trip. And, as far as Complimentary Breakfasts go, that was a low point. Other ones, the Hampton Inn for example, were quite lovely, filled with yogurt-fruit-granola parfait bars and omelet bars and waffle-making stations. And yes, fake butter.

Yet (and this is where the story gets sad again) each and every Complimentary Breakfast had something else in common: Patrons who think it is acceptable to come to the Complimentary Breakfast wearing their pajamas.

As if we are all friends, or perhaps relatives at a family reunion.

But these people are not my relatives! And I don’t like to have breakfast with people I don’t know who are in their pajamas. I just don’t. I think whoever invented pajamas did so because somewhere in our DNA, we are programmed to understand there is a difference between what one wears to bed and what one wears to a restaurant. Which should never be one’s pajamas.

Plus, I would like to throw out my theory that it’s even worse seeing strangers in their jammies because breakfast (in addition to being the most important meal of the day) is already the most intimate meal of the day.

Think about it. Breakfast is a ritual for many of us, with details and preferences that are far more embedded and private and personal than our preferences for lunch or dinner.

A stranger watching me from over at the Breakfast Burrito Bar would be able to know this about me: Sarah R. Callender is not much of an Egg Person. She is an English Muffin with Butter and Honey Lady. With maybe a Little Thing of Yogurt. And some Black Tea. But No Juice. And Some Bites of Her Kids’ Leftover Waffle. And Perhaps Some Melon if It Doesn’t Have That Sour Taste That Buffet Melons Often Have.

Just by watching me select my meal, that guy waiting for the green light to appear on the waffle iron knows way too much about me. And I prefer to have my breakfast identity kept a little more private.

Vice versa, I prefer not to know about the sleepwear preferences of others. I don’t want to know that That Guy sleeps in a wife beater undershirt and thread-bare pajama bottoms. I’d prefer not to catch a whiff of people’s sleep funk. And yes, I’d really prefer to see that That Large Lady Over There perhaps don a brassiere.

Some things are meant to be private.

However. I realize some might say that my decision to share details of my personal life with anyone who clicks on a blog titled Inside-out Underpants is just like being a public pajama-wearer. That my decision to discuss my depression is no different than wearing threadbare, rumpled flannel granny nightie to a fine restaurant.

And maybe it is no different. Comment intéressant!

Maybe That Guy wishes I would jot my thoughts not in a blog, but in one of those old fashioned diaries, the ones with the combination lock on the cover. Maybe he thinks Facebookers share way too much. That no one needs to know JANE DOE just drank too many margaritas and puked in Mary’s shoe.

Maybe, in an attempt to find community or share our writing or feel at home, we’ve lost all sense of decorum, which of course, means we are ALL Public Pajama-Wearers.

I don’t mind sharing parts of my life with both friends and strangers, which means I shouldn’t care what sleepwear people share with me at the Complimentary Breakfast. I just need to try to look away when, for example, That Fellow is making a yogurt parfait in his icky terrycloth bathrobe.

We live in a very unprivate world, my friends, and I suppose I have to embrace all aspects of that fact.

As for the Complimentary Breakfast in Parisian-Portland? Only four pajama-wearers (two of them little kids; which is somehow OK with me).

There was another kid, however, who kept driving his scooter around the buffet area, nearly careening into me and the other patrons, while his clothes-wearing mother said, “Be careful with your scooter, Timmy.” And then Timmy would scooter off, barely avoiding that grandmother carrying a tray of juice drinks and prunes and oatmeal.

Be careful with your scooter, Timmy???

Gee whiz. Maybe instead of being uncomfortable with what people wear in public, I should focus on another issue: parents who let their kids ride their wheeled vehicles at the Complimentary Breakfast.

That suddenly seems a lot more dangerous than threadbare jammies.

One more thing . . . (re: Concrete)

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Many of you have sent thoughtful and encouraging feedback . . . please know that I am not nearly as brave as some of you suggest. I’m just ticked off and impatient that a stigma exists.

Many of you cannot “go public” with mental health issues for fear of getting fired, not getting promoted, being forced to take a leave of absence, etc. Some of you cannot even use your insurance benefits to cover mental health meds and appointments because you can’t let your employer know. Right? That’s what makes me sad. And ticked off.

Again, I am lucky. I’m a Mom and I’m a writer . . . who’s gonna fire me?

Anyway, just wanted to give a little applause to all of you who can’t go public. Maybe someday . . .

Concrete

In Body Stuff on August 17, 2010 at 8:27 am

We are in Sunriver, Oregon right now . . . but by the time you read this, we will be back home so please, if you are a robber, don’t bother breaking into our house.

It’s been two years since we were last here. Two years ago, Buddy was five; Sweetie was three, el husbandio was as amazing as ever. And I was severely depressed.

I just didn’t realize it.

In spite of my crying-for-no-reason, my anxiety, my everywhere-but-nowhere pain, my inability to sleep well, and then, my inability to get out of bed, my trouble processing more than one simple thought at a time, my feeling that it would feel really good to drive my car into something concrete (I know; it’s awful to admit), I didn’t realize I was depressed.

How is that possible?  After all, I had been through it before. I should have remembered, oh yes, here’s the depression again.

The first time (at least the first time I gave it a label), I was six months postpartum after the birth of Sweetie.

But I thought that was postpartum depression. Something hormonal and temporary. Temporary or no, it was so debilitating that I stumbled around, forming Team Sarah, a combo of mi husbandio, a close friend, my doctor, and my therapist. And yes, medication.

I’m one of the lucky ones. Zoloft, the first SSRI I tried, eventually worked like a charm. It allowed me to feel the opposite of an incapable, despondent, suicidal, insomniac. Zoloft didn’t make me feel happy; it made me feel normal. Functional. Present. Not constantly crying.Like it was a better idea to steer clear of concrete.

But after two and a half years, I figured I should wean myself off of it. After all, I felt great again, AND, if it was “just” postpartum depression, there would be no need to stay on meds. Aren’t we an over-medicated nation as it is?

Of course, that’s one of the sneaky, terrible things about depression: sometimes, when it’s more than “just” post-partum depression, it comes back. Dressed in an invisible cloak and soft-soled shoes. As my dear friend Janna Cawrse Esarey says in her memoir, (and I’ll paraphrase) “that’s the thing about being depressed, the depressed person is often the last to know.”

So I called my lovely doctor who saw me THAT VERY DAY and who also explained my depression perfectly: “Sarah, your brain doesn’t make the right about of serotonin. That’s all it is.”

I loved that.

Actually, I didn’t love that. Being who I am, I don’t appreciate slacker organs. Slacker anything is unacceptable. But I loved that she reminded me depression is a medical issue. Not some issue a wack-job creates out of air and cotton candy. Not something that can be willed away.

Still though, it was embarrassing. Postpartum depression was OK. Chronic, clinical depression? Well that’s not necessarily something to chit-chat about at parties. Not really something to highlight on the old resume.

But (speaking of resumes) as I reminded myself,  I was a writer. And weren’t writers always dying of depression or alcoholism? Given the choice, I’d definitely rather be mentally ill. Mentally ill writers are allowed to have a glass of wine now and then and not get dirty looks from their friends.

Only I was not in the mood to die from anything other than really old age or excessive laughter. Or eating too much watermelon (which I almost did today). So I re-formed Team Sarah, added a Dr. Marty Hoiness, Psychiatrist (AKA, His Royal Hoiness) to the team, embraced my underperforming brain, and got myself back on Zoloft.

Of course, getting rosy again wasn’t easy. Beyond the medical team, I had to rely heavily on my husbandio, who, thank God, is the tallest, most solid piece of concrete I’ve ever run into. I also leaned hard into friends like Schmidtie who developed a score system for me, knowing that someone who is depressed has a hard time articulating how she’s feeling. If I told Schmidtie I was at a Two, she’d be over in a heartbeat. Anything between Three and Five was rough but not desperate. Anything above a five? Well, that never happened. Until the Zoloft eventually kicked in.

I have had people tell me (people who don’t know I struggle with depression) that meds are unnecessary and silly, that Americans should be OK feeling sad now and then, that we pop pills to make us feel happy. I have had friends (who do know about my depression) tell me I should just buck up, change my attitude. I have had someone jokingly compare my depression to her problematic overabundance of ear wax. Yup.

Whatever. I understand people say silly things because they are uncomfortable with mental illness. I also know it’s easy to have opinions on something when a person’s never had first-hand experience. But frankly, I’m a little tired of the stigma (which is, of course, the main reason I share in this very public venue). Why should I have ever been embarrassed?

I guess I also think people who don’t deal with depression or bipolar disorder or OCD or paranoia or schizophrenia should consider themselves lucky that their brains make the right stuff each day and zip it already.

Because being here this year makes me remember how I felt two years ago, and I know this (plus, my concrete-solid husbandio will back me up): summer 2010 in Sunriver is a heckofalot sunnier than it was in 2008. Thank goodness.

Even my poor, slacker brain knows that’s a fact.

Sunscreen

In Body Stuff, Parenting on August 15, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Well, here’s a bummer. It turns out the the very Coppertone 50+ and Neutrogena SPF 90+ I slather on my dear, pasty-skinned children to keep them safe might, in fact, be giving them cancer. And breasts.

And gosh, as I’m writing this, I especially hope it doesn’t give my son breasts, mostly because there was already that time I accidentally bought him Girl pull-ups.

This was, in fact, the exact style. The packaging, just to clarify, was severely misleading: dark maroon. Probably a color chosen by the American Society of Child Psychologists, just to ensure there is an endless flow of little boys needing therapy because their mothers bought (and yes, made them wear) Girl pull-ups.

There he was, Buddy’s skinny little 2% body fat body in Girl pull-ups, butterflies and flowers decorating the hoo-hoo area. Oh, he was so mad.

So right? I really don’t want to have to worry that, in addition to talking about Girl Pull-ups with his shrink, Buddy will also need to discuss how his mother’s obsession with sunscreen gave him a really nice rack.

I just feel really betrayed. It’s like suddenly I’ve learned that it’s safer for kids to ride in the car sans booster seat and seat belt. That wearing a helmet while biking will increase the chances of brain injury. That allowing your four-week old to watch Baby Einstein DVDs for seven hours a day will actually give them ADHD instead of a guaranteed spot at Northwestern (go Wildcats!).

Of course, it’s all about trust. And just in case you don’t trust a bullshooter like me, OR just in case you do trust me and are heading out to Sears or Victoria’s Secret or wherever to buy training bras, let’s examine the facts.

On May 24 of this year, AOL news issued the following report:

Almost half of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A or its derivatives, according to an evaluation of those products released today.

AOL News also has learned through documents and interviews that the Food and Drug Administration has known of the potential danger for as long as a decade without alerting the public, which the FDA denies.

The study, released by the Environmental Working Group, goes on to say that “Other additives cause harm including the hormone-disrupting chemical oxybenzone, which penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. Titanium dioxide that is made nanosized may also have serious health implications.”

Ick!

True, nowhere in the report does it mention boy breasts, but when I hear the phrase “hormone-disrupting chemicals” I guess I immediately assume artificially-created breasts will start appearing all over the place.

So I went around the house, collecting and examining my stash of sunscreen. Nine cans of spray-on sunscreen; five bottles of the lotion; one tube of the stuff that looks like Chap-stick.  All nearly brand new. All of which contain the dreaded Oxybenzone, the alleged darling of the cancer-causing world.

At this point, I must also point out that the American Academy of Dermatology stands behind their claim that sunscreens do not cause cancer (or boy breasts). But still, when I look at the back of the sunscreen that I coat on my own face, year round, rain or shine, as my dermatologist instructs me, I can’t help but wonder, what ARE all those chemicals doing to me? To my children?

Am I just slathering cancer all over our skin? Should I toss all fourteen bottles of new sunscreen, mosey down to PCC, and buy fourteen new bottles of the all natural stuff that makes me look all greasy-faced? I don’t know. I kind of like my face better when it’s not slippery.

That said, I would imagine I like my life better when I don’t have cancer.

Can’t a girl dream of an all natural sunscreen that doesn’t make her look all lubed-up? Is that really so much to ask?

Or . . .  maybe a girl can dream, as long as she does it in the shade, with SPF 50 clothing and a cute, big-arse hat. As far as I know big hats are still relatively safe. For now.

DingdongII

In General on August 11, 2010 at 5:58 am

This, of course, is the continuation of Ding-dong.

Needless to say, there are many things for which I am grateful: a healthy family, wonderful friends, el Husbandio. Riesling. Vosges Bacon Chocolate.

I am also deeply grateful that Anne Frank didn’t have to live with my children in that attic. I love my children, but man, they would have blown it for the whole Frank family. Poor Anne’s Diary would have been no longer than seven pages.

My kids’ inability to be still and quiet during times of necessary stillness and quietude is truly astounding. I swear, the doorbell rings at that Solicitor Time of the evening, and even as I am hissing, “QUIET! AND DON’T MOVE! STAY AWAY FROM THE GLASS DOOR!” Buddy and Sweetie are bolting to the door as if the ringer of the doorbell can only be Ed McMahon with one of those huge fake checks. But the kid equivalent of Ed, of course. The ice cream man, maybe, holding a rucksack of ice cream. Or Santa Claus with a rucksack of ice cream. Or some teenage hipster who wants to take them to his house to play Wii (which wii do not have) for ten hours straight and snack on Oreos and Doritos and Capri Suns. As they bowl imaginarily.

So yes, my children have a loud and energetic and Pavlovian response to the doorbell which meshes not at all with my desire to pretend we are not home when solicitors knock and it’s dark and el Husbandio is traveling.

The problem? All the No Soliciting signs I found after what seemed like weeks and weeks of searching (but was likely more like four or five minutes on Amazon.com) were either too big or too rude or too country kitsch.First of all, I need a sign that is smaller than 6×9 inches. I’m sorry, I just do.  Otherwise, I might as well surround my yard with barbed wire and a herd of Dobermans. Furthermore, as someone who burns at least 500 calories a day trying to teach her kids some manners, I want my sign to be polite. As in I’m Sure You’re a Perfectly Nice Person, but Please, No Soliciting. Everything else just seems too rude, and I don’t want my (former) friend to say, “You know Sarah? She’s the one who lives in the ghetto with that huge-arse rude sign on her front door?”

But there was nothing that fit my need for politeness and style. “Oh, snap!” I finally said after the sixth minute of sign searching.  And with that, I clicked Amazon’s one-click shopping to purchase the best of a poor selection, a sign that I hoped was neither too big nor too rude nor too country.

Now let me pause a moment to contemplate good friends: the roles they play, the needs they fulfill, the way they bring me a huge hunk of fresh salmon (thank you, Stephers) or a bag of chocolates when my kids have been sick for two weeks and I’m starting to talk a little fuzzy and laugh at things that aren’t conventionally funny. The way they suggest perfect, low-key science experiments (thank you, Schmidtie) for my children who are just re-entering the land of the normal-fevered. The way they give me permission to have a glass of Riesling at 5:00 p.m. eastern standard time (also Schmidtie; bless you).

That is, of course, why some friends are friends for life. My friend, Kasey, is another one of those friends. The chocolate-bringing kind of friend. Just yesterday for example, she sensed my desperation when I told her that yes, we’d be home sick again todaaaaaaay. An hour later, she was knocking on my door, a bag of peanut butter truffles in her hand.

But while Kasey might be a chocolate-bringer, she isn’t one of those nicey-nice friends who blows smoke up my tush. And I like that. Today for example, she took one look at my brand-new No Solicitors sign, smirked, and said, “Ooooo, Sarah. No, no, no. That sign’s totally Grandma.”

Grandma? Now that’s something I didn’t even consider.

“Grandma,”  I repeated, staring at the sign and nodding. “You’re right. It is grandma.”

Oh snap. The search for the perfect No Soliciting sign continues.

But I will say that I have had that dorky little grandma sign hanging on our door for three days now, and you know what? Not a single ding-dong that wasn’t a welcome guest.

It may look grandma, but it keeps the ding-dongs away. (And if that’s not already the title of a country song, it should be.)

Stoopid

In General on August 10, 2010 at 7:02 am

Recently, there was a burglary ring in my neighborhood, one that was doing some pretty serious and scary robber stuff. One family who attends my kids’ elementary school (a family that lives just three blocks from us) was robbed in the middle of the night WHILE the two parents and three kids were sleeping upstairs. Oy! If my sources are accurate, this poor family came downstairs in the morning to find they were missing $40,000 worth of personal belongings, including their CAR. Ack!

To explain my neighborhood a bit, let me just say this: I once had a friend who referred to my little pocket of my little Seattle neighborhood as “the ghetto” (she now lives in Laurelhurst, if that means anything to you locals), but let’s get one thing clear, I don’t live in a ghetto. I also do not live in a million dollar home with a view of the Olympics and Lake Washington. All this is to say that my home is somewhere in between Ghetto and Waterfront w/ View.

Still though, these robbers hit homes like mine, even with its old laptops and mediocre stereo system. Even with its one television. Even with its spewed-in 2004 minivan.

Which might be the first tip-off that these robbers weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.

But the REAL tip-off came a few weeks later when one of the robbers, (I like to imagine him looking a little somethin’ like this): was caught and arrested for this burglary after he started BLOGGING ABOUT IT. I know! Clearly this fella is not a graduate of whatever place James Bond graduated from. He must have forgotten that blogs are public. That blogs can put personal information into the hands of the Wrong People. In this case, in the hands of police detectives.

But then, just the other day, I got a call from my dear Sister, someone who has been blogging for decades, since long before Al Gore invented the internet. Sister gently reminded me that it might be best not to use my children’s real names in my blog. Likewise, if I blog about going “out to dinner in my neighborhood” it might be best not to say the exact name of the restaurant. And while we’re at it, it’s probably best not to mention the name of my neighborhood at all.

“Because, Sari,” Sister said, “there are really disgusting sickos out there. Ones who will spend three hours memorizing your blogs posts.”

Yeah. It appears I’m no smarter than my dumb robber compadre; it also appears that I did not graduate from whatever blogging school the Dooce.com lady graduated from.

So the moment I hung up the phone, I went back and changed my kids’ names to Buddy and Sweetie (which is, in fact, what I call them in real life), made neighborhood landmarks less distinct, and made sure I only called el Husbandio, el Husbandio. (Which, in case you are like Mark J. and were wondering, the accent is on the “ban,” as in el HusBANdio.)

But even with all of those top-secret precautions in place, now, every time I post something, I wonder who’s really reading my blog. After all, the creepiest of the creepy people in the world tend to be really smart in that impractical, off-beat, Unibomber sort of way. Certainly less stoopid than burglars and nascent bloggers who share too much. That’s just an incredibly icky thought, isn’t it?

Yet, I am confronting my fears. I am taking matters into my own hands. I’m keeping my enemies close.

In fact, if you happen to be one of those creepy people who likes to follow bloggers just a little too closely, I’ll make it easy by telling you exactly where I live: my house is in the ghetto. In a neighborhood light years from Laurelhurst. And we have two trained-to-kill attack cats who have NOT been declawed (one has rabies, the other has feline HIV). And mi Husbandio is 6’4″, 225 pounds, and unless he has a basketball injury, is fairly agile. And I am a green belt in Taekwondo.

My point? Maybe it’s best to take your creepy self elsewhere. At least into a more creep-friendly part of the hood. Please.

Ding-dong

In General on August 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Note to readers: I should have called this Ding-dong, Part One, except I’ve gotten in the habit of writing one-word blog titles, and I’m gonna go with that for as long as I can. I don’t, however, want to give you a cliffhanger ending without warning. That does not foster trust between blogger and reader. So clip on those caribiners, people. I’ve got a two-part story to tell.

I should also say that when I sat down to write this post, I thought I’d write about my 20-year high school reunion. But as that took place just last night, and as I have at least seventeen different emotions about what actually was a lovely night, I need a bit more time to ponder and process the dynamics of The High School Reunion.

After that dead end, I thought I’d perhaps gravitate to the story of how, just today, my daughter projectile vomited in the car on the way to pick me up at the airport after my aforementioned (out of state) reunion. But because I SO detest vomit and because I am a super-smeller and will be heretofore reminded of puke each time I drive carpool AND because Jake, seven-year-old son of my dear, compulsive car cleaning friend is going to gripe ad nauseum about the gross smell when I drive him to soccer camp this week, I feel too sad to write about minivan vomit.

So instead, I’m going to talk about door-to-door solicitors (Part One). And how it’s hard to find a No Soliciting sign that is polite yet firm yet understanding (Part Two). After all, as we hover on the edge of the double-dip economic disaster, I do understand that people gotta do what they gotta do to make a dollar, whether it be by selling Hershey bars or End Times post-apocalyptic land parcels. I am understanding; I just don’t want them knocking on my door.

Let’s set the scene: our front door is glass, not clear glass, but kind of a pattern thing. I love this door. It’s unique and practical, largely because if, say, a child likes to lick glassy surfaces, and if that child’s mother isn’t really the best of house cleaners, the saliva rivulets aren’t obvious to the casual observer.

The glass pattern also provides what I call JEO, Just Enough Obscurity. So, if I am dancing in my living room, right in front of the door, a solicitor coming to sell me candy or land parcels will know someone is dancing inside, but he will not be able to ascertain the identity of the dancer, nor will he likely be able to ascertain the genre of dance, especially if the dancer has been known to dance (as her son once stated), “Like you are just skiing really fast.” That’s the kind of glass front door I have. I hope that helps.

Of course, if you live in Seattle you know why it’s helpful to have a glass front door, especially on those mid-December days when the run rises at 9:53 a.m. and sets at 4:02 p.m. and there’s drizzle round the clock. Happy Light? check. Zoloft? check. Glass door to add just a touch of natural light while still maintaining JCO? check.

The problem of course, is that this door does not allow me and my children to hide from solicitors when we are playing Yahtzee! or dancing or reading books on the other side of that door.

Now, let me pause to explain that there is a circumstance when I will open the door to a solicitor and that is when on the other side of the door stands a woman who appears to be a lesbian. Yes, this is judgmental and certainly involves a lot of stereotyping. But I just know that I have never met a lesbian who is unkind or who wanted to rape me or steal my laptop. Second, many women who come knocking support a cause I also support: women’s rights or marriage for everyone rights or nature or short, sassy haircuts. So yes I judge. And I stereotype. And if I judge that there’s a nice, like-minded woman on the other side? Bingo.

I also have been known to open the door to shiny young men whom I believe to be Mormons. That’s because even though I have no intention of dropping my Presbyterian faith, I like talking about religion. Especially with the Very Fervent and Determined. And really, the icing on the cake is that Mormon boys tend to call me ma’am. And I like that. I like it very much. I have no desire to be southern, but for that little yes, ma’am, no ma’am tradition.

There is, however, a third reason I have been known to open the door to apparent Mormons: legend has it, sometimes, if you listen very carefully to the young men’s spiel and are really polite and respectful as you decline further information, they will say, “All right. We’ll just leave these materials for you.” And then if you’re very lucky, they just might ask, “Is there anything else we can do for you?”

And if you say, “Well, yes as a matter of fact. You can haul that pile of beauty bark from the front yard to the back.” they will say, “Great. We’ll be back tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. in our work clothes.”

And they will be back at 9:00. On the dot! (Someone I Know has been known to do this. I am not lying.)

For everyone else though, I generally opt  to not answer the door. And that’s because I do that emotional flooding thing which means I have been known to do (very stupid) things like follow two bad-arse (one male, one female) solicitors back down the path and out to the front walk asking, in my tough girl voice, “WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?” even though I heard them, very clearly, call me some string of words that ended with “white bitch.”

Because I’m sorry. I try very hard not to be a anything on the bitch spectrum, certainly to people I don’t know who are just doing the best they can in this double-dip economy. It’s my right to politely decline, even to not answer the door, if I don’t feel like I need a Hershey bar or a subscription to Shape or The Atlantic or White Seattle Bitch magazine.

Yes solicitors, that is my right.

End of Part One.