Sarah R. Callender

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page


In General on July 24, 2011 at 8:22 am

I do, on the rare occasion, experience fleeting moments of greatness.

Just the other day, for example, I was mid-recipe when I realized I needed a six-ounce can of tomato paste. “Carp!” I said, and scuttled down to the garage pantry, breathing, please let there be tomato paste, please let there be tomato paste, where, lo and behold, there was tomato paste! SIX cans of tomato paste!

In the bare-bulb light of the garage, I did a little fist pump, then scurried upstairs to show Husbandio.

He gave a wink. “Just add that to the list,” he said.

Yes. The list. He means the list (that I have created) titled “Sometimes it’s actually GOOD to be Sarah Callender.”

There have been a few other moments that have made the list: that time the kids and I went to the pool (via my parents’ club membership) and I remembered the kids’ swimsuits AND goggles AND sunscreen. True, I forgot their towels, but that’s why God made air. As I reminded my chilly children, kids in other countries don’t have towels. “Just pretend you’re in another country for a few minutes. By the time you’re dry, you’ll be right back in America.”

Another brief moment of greatness took place that time I remembered to wash Buddy’s boy-stinky sheets before bedtime. Usually I don’t notice a bare mattress (or realize I have forgotten to start the wash) until right at bedtime.

Oh yes, and there was the time I went to Safeway (the one with the well-voiced checker), and I remembered everything on my list–the list that was at home on the kitchen counter.

Of course, not one of these examples of list-making awesomeness may seem noteworthy to those of you with fully-functioning brains. Furthermore, reminding oneself of one’s awesomeness, especially with things that aren’t overly awesome, might seem the act of someone with overly high self-esteem, but make no mistake, I think myself the opposite of awesome with far greater frequency.

I, for example, wish I were a faster email responder.

I wish I were more able to love thy neighbor (my neighbors are fabulous; they are easy to love; it’s loving Thy neighbors that’s tricky for me.)

I wish I had enjoyed playing the game Sweetie created last weekend: Hakey vs Snakey, a game that involves a wooden snake, a hula hoop, lots of jumping over little pieces of paper that say M O M M Y. And one of our very patient cats. I did not love that game. That game, in fact, made me want to scream, “I’m centimeters from Crazyville, and you want me to play Hakey Vs. Snakey?!?!?!” Not even Buddy, who’s usually up for anything with rules, was into it.

Let’s see, what else . . . I have been eating too much of that Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Pistachio Toffee.

I rarely clean my house, yet I also refuse to hire a house cleaner.

And yes, there was that moment where I had that mean thought about that lady in the ice cream line.

On that subject, I think mean thoughts about my kids who, as it turns out, generate a lot of noise and a lot of crumbs in the summertime. I’m not kidding, it is very loud and very crumby at our house. Did I mention how loud and crumb-generating they are?

Oh, and just the other night, I got mad at Husbandio for folding his own laundry (I KNOW!) when of course, the issue wasn’t him folding his own laundry. The issue was me and Summer Funkapalooza 2011, July apparently being the month where I get mad at people I love when they do nice things. Which of course, does nothing to improve one’s self esteem.

But as my attempts to stave off the summer funk have, it seems, come too little and too late, I am trying to remind myself that I am OK even when I feel totally sub-OK. That in spite of what my lemon-brain is telling me about who and how I am as a wife, mom, friend, writer, human, I still manage small successes in my day. Small successes are better than a sharp stick in the eye. I think Yogi Berra said that. Either Yogi or my dear Dad.

SO along these lines of celebrating the mundane in order to boost swampy spirits, my dear friend, Schmidtie, and I are going to make ourselves capes. Glittery, gauzy capes. With badges (iron on).

Imagine a mash-up of Superman and a Girl Scout, and that’s basically the gist of our cape design. It’s something she and I have been plotting for years now, ever since we became moms who, upon occasion, feel that no one really notices we are, in fact, not unlike superheroes. It was Schmidtie’s idea, and I’m telling you, she’s not even 1% crazy. Schmidtie has the absolute best ideas, all of which come at the absolute best time.

Schmidtie and I like to imagine ourselves making school lunches in The Cape. Perhaps grocery shopping in The Cape. She’d wear her Cape while training for triathlons;  I’d wear mine while writing at a coffee shop. Certainly while chaperoning the kids’ field trip to the tide pools on a day when it’s 52 degrees and raining, The Cape wrapped around our chilly bodies.

We will not, however, wear The Cape to the pool or the beach, as a cape, in general, suggests we have the ability to rescue a floundering child. And that’s not really what The Cape is for. The Cape is NOT for saving people. The Cape is merely a gentle reminder that we all sometimes need and deserve to feel like a superhero just for getting out of bed and tromping through the day with a smile and cute shoes. Or, as the day may dictate, a grimace and cute shoes. Always cute shoes. For the love of Pete, do not forget the cute shoes.

What, Sweetie? Your birthday is tomorrow and you need 28 cupcakes that look like rainbow horses, some with blond manes and others with brown manes? Yes, just get me The Cape, and I’ll whip those right up for you.

Really Buddy? You want me to purchase a Yoda mask from EBay, and do Jedi Training at your 6th birthday party? Say no more! In this Cape, anything’s possible!

Trust me. That is I in the Yoda mask. Sweating profusely.

As for the badge part, one badge on my cape would be a picture of a silver bowl, the Throw-up Bowl, representative of the one I needed for me and for Buddy when Husbandio was traveling. That was in 2005, when Sweetie was just a pea, and Buddy was a slightly bigger pea, and as you know, a pea cannot announce when he is about to puke. For four days, Buddy and I were like the synchronized swimmers of the puking world, perfectly-timed, simultaneous pukers.

In case you’ve never tried it, it’s hard to be throwing up and to have a two-year old who’s also throwing up and a baby who is not throwing up but still wants to nurse because she refuses to drink from a bottle. Sure, a lot of people have it about a billion times harder (Libyans come to mind), but in my world that was hard. I want a badge for that.

I also wouldn’t mind a badge for surviving Sweetie’s Helen Keller phase. The phase where, just a few months ago, she apparently lost all verbal capacity and instead, resorted to grunting and fervent pointing and tantruming. “What, Sweetie? You want this for breakfast? No, this? THIS?? THIIISSSS??? I CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU WANT FOR BREAKFAST WHEN YOU ARE JUST SAYING ‘MEH MEH’ AND POINTING AT YOUR SOCK!”

I need a badge for that. The Annie Sullivan badge.

And, once I am safely on the other side of her Sweetie’s Baby Talk phase, I’ll need a badge for that too. But not until I have earned it.

I’d also like an I Inadvertently Enraged 50% of the Parents on Buddy’s Baseball Team with that Trophies are Detrimental and Unnecessary Email. And Yet, I Survived badge.

A Chief Cat Barf/Cat Pee Cleaner badge.

An I Did Ten Full-Body Triceps Push-Ups badge. (Don’t laugh. Those are hard, and if you don’t think so, then get down on the floor and try it, but do NOT cheat–your elbows have to rub your waist as you lower your planked self down to the place, where if you have bosoms, your bosoms nearly touch the floor. See? Very hard. Now imagine TEN of those!).

And yes, the Stockpiled Tomato Paste badge. The Stockpiled Peanut Butter badge. The Stockpiled Mustard badge.

Maybe you could use a cape too, one with your own personalized set of badges. Some of you would get a Take THAT, Cancer! badge. A Rockin’ Single Mom badge.  An I Was Kind to a Stranger Today badge. Or how about the I Have Squirreled Away ONE Extra Roll of TP, So No, We’re Actually NOT Out of TP! badge. An I Loved My AND Thy Neighbors Today badge.

My friend Elissa is waiting to hear back from her agent as he shops her memoir around to publishers. She needs the Patience of a Saint badge.

My sister-in-law gets all kinds of cool badges (she knows what they are).

My friend, Kasey, gets a Triple Hip Replacement badge. I’m thinking that badge should show a woman doing a really awesome salsa with lots of shimmy in the hip region.

My grandmother deserves a badge that says Gracefully Living Through Alzheimer’s. Because she is.

Whether you’re someone (and I know there are at least three or four someones out there) who has unknowingly tripped and stumbled into a bit of a depression and subsequently, is working really hard to find the good in yourself, OR, whether you’re just a normal-brained person who’s doing the best you can every day, you need a cape.

With lots of badges.

In fact, unless you are someone who hurts bunnies or kidnaps children, unless you’re a fan of Hitler or Gaddafi or sex trafficking, unless you are someone who enjoys watching others suffer, you deserve a cape. A cape and a list of Reasons Why It’s Actually Good to be YOU today.

Even if you don’t really feel faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive, what cape badge do you deserve today? What act of greatness (or even apparent mediocrity) should be emblazoned on your cape as it flutters behind you?

Come on, let’s hear ’em.

Or if you don’t care to share, just join me and Schmidtie for a little Caping Bee. You bring the sense of humor, we’ll supply the sewing machine and the iron-on badges.



In Body Stuff, Parenting on July 10, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I am one of the only people I know who doesn’t love summertime. Which is a little embarrassing. But then, so are my night sweats and my chin whisker and my affinity for doing pretend British accents, and I haven’t exactly been shy about sharing those details of my very glamorous life.

Or . . . maybe you don’t love summertime either, and we just have never had the I Dread Summertime conversation. If that’s the case, then please, let’s have that conversation because I know it would make me feel better, less alone, less like some F to the R to the EAK of nature.

In the mean time, outing myself as a summer-hater is risky because being a summer-hater in Seattle is akin to being a communist during the McCarthy era. Being a summer-hater in Seattle is like being that guy who, at the Vida Vegan conference, admits that a BLT without the B is really depressing. Being a summer-hater in Seattle is like being that gal at the writers conference who stands up and says, “It only took me eight days to write my novel, and already, I have three agents who want to represent me and five publishers who want to buy my book. Being an author is easy! And so fun!”

I do see why summer-haters aren’t welcome in these here parts.

For starters, summertime in Seattle is the only reason (most) people live in Seattle. OK, Summertime and coffee. If you are able to walk .3 miles in pretty much any direction, you can run right into a tall split shot, three-pump Americano in a grande cup with room for cream. Or whatever your drink of choice happens to be. Seattle’s a city where addiction is easy AND convenient. I put that in the Pro Seattle column.

Seattle also has bodies of water in pretty much every direction. And mountains to the east and to the west and beautiful clusters of islands where Orcas frolic and bald eagles soar like it ain’t no big thing to be a bald eagle.

I think Seattleites also probably love the idea that it’s OK to wear fleece to the symphony, jeans to the opera, and these weird shoes out to dinner:

But I’m just going to digress for a brief moment and say that it’s not OK to wear these shoes out to dinner. Fine if you’re going to wear grubbies to the symphony or to the opera. Fine if you want to wear these shoes when you are kayaking to the grocery store or searching the tide pools at Golden Gardens. I’ll slap you silly, however, if I see you wearing these shoes at Crush or Le Pichet or even Red Robin. It’s not OK to think it’s OK to wear those shoes. It’s really not. I don’t care how comfy they are, how much your toes enjoy having their own little toe-compartment.

But yes, if you ask Seattleites why they stay in Seattle, most will include “the summertime” in their top ten list. There’s very little humidity, the average temp hovers right around 75 degrees, and the sky is so suddenly blue that you feel like you’re in a kid’s Crayola-ed, blue-skyed drawing.

People are outdoors again, riding their bikes and working in their gardens. Flying kites. Eating al fresco. The sun is finally warm. Everyone is friendly and chatty and happy.

Everyone except me. The idea of summer feels like a punch in the gut.

It goes without saying that Seattle is not to blame. Nor does my dread involve my concern about the sun’s damaging rays. I just know that for the past eight summers, I have entered the summer cheery and chipper, but celebrated Labor Day in a cloudy, scratchy funk.

In spite of the sun finally doing its job, in spite of me getting to exercise a bit more, in spite of a more relaxed schedule, in spite of the opportunity to take a break from Everyday Math and Reading Logs and packing school lunches, in spite of the fact that I take my Zoloft communion wafer every morning without fail, summer ends with me feeling like I’ve been injected with a massive dose of BLAH. Like I’ve pounded a grande quad-shot of I FEEL SO HEAVY AND WEARY. Like I should be wearing a t-shirt that says, Really? This is supposed to be fun?

And I feel pretty terrible about that. I like to think of myself as a hopeful, optimistic person who’s got a really amazing life. So why do I hate the summer?


At least I didn’t know until earlier this week. Somehow though, I stumbled across a blog called Beyond Blue written by a lovely and honest woman named Therese Borchard. Therese is a mom and a writer and yes, she struggles with depression.

It is she, my new friend Therese, who helped me understand why even the mention of summer leaves me with rising anxiety and dread. Her post, 6 Tips to Help Summer Depression normalized all of my weirdness about summertime and helped me realize that I am not so alone after all. And really, isn’t that part of what living our individual lives is all about: finding others who make us feel less alone?

Therese, in this post, starts her post with this:

The kids are out of school. Your neighbors are whistling on their way to work, greeting you with an enthusiasm peculiar to warm weather. And if you hear one more person ask you about your summer vacation plans, you will throw a US map and atlas at them.

You don’t mean to be grumpy. But darn it, you are miserable in the oppressive heat, your kids are home for 90 consecutive days, and you are don’t have the stamina to pretend you are giddy that summer has arrived.

Sound familiar?

You’re not alone. After publishing a piece recently about the trigger of Memorial Day for me — reminding me that most of my relapses have happened in the summer months — I’ve heard from so many readers that fear this time of year for the same reason: summer depression.

Of course, I went on to read her post, and the reasons behind my unpopular feelings about summer became totally clear:

The summer, at least to me and my lemon of a brain, is terrifying because it is unpredictable and unstructured. And for those of us who are blessed with brains that don’t deal well with large amounts of unplanned, unstructured time, especially chunks of time where small children are needing attention and care, that creates (in me) a feeling of quizzyness and schumphitude. Utter dreadification.

But why? Life is unpredictable. That’s what keeps things interesting, right?

Yes. Right.

Except that reading Therese’s blog post made me recall a study my therapist once shared with me. In this study groups of rats were shocked, some at predictable times where they had some control over the duration of the shock, others at unpredictable times where they had no control over the duration of the shock. The latter group, after a time, showed high anxiety and/or depression. Many rats simply schlumped in their cages, demonstrating utter despondency, passivity, and helplessness.

I think that’s what happens to me too.

While more easy-going people (i.e. not I) appreciate the change in the summer routine, that absence of structure makes me feel anxious and depressed. If you add young kids to an already unpredictable schedule, that’s a doozey of a combo where one’s schedule is both unpredictable and just beyond one’s  control. Unpredictability + lack of control = anxiety and depression.

It’s elementary, my dear Watson!

Of course, I am WELL aware that my woe-is-I version of unpredictability and unstructuredness is an ice cream sundae compared to that of others whose days are filled with suicide bombers or despotic leaders or alcoholic husbands. With that tandem of lack of control and unpredictability, I’d be in a world of hurt.

But my flea-sized version of unpredictability is real to me. So I am trying to structure my summer with the hope that I can be in Rat Group A, the group that’s shocked on schedule, like having Tea and Crumpets and a Wee Electric Shock every day at 4:00. Promptly at 4:00, please.

So I am trying to structure my day with all sorts of things that are fun for both me and the kids so that the shocks, perhaps, are more predictable than not. Yahtzee, for example. Yahtzee’s nice and predictable. As are Math workbooks. Violin practice. Twice weekly trips to the library.

Yes, it may sound a little uptight, but frankly, I don’t want to lose my sugar this summer. It’s less than fun to lose one’s sugar, especially when everyone I know and admire is tra-la-la-ing their way through August, happy as bivalves.

In addition to using the Tiger Mother’s Guide to Summer Violin, Math and Literature, I allow myself to go on vacuuming sprees a few times a week during which I allow my Miele Red Star to inhale whatever flotsam and jetsam has been left behind by the small people who call me Mom. Vacuuming up one’s kids’ crapola is deeply satisfying in that vindictive, I’ll-show-you-who’s-boss sort of way. As you may know.

Along with militant daily structure and my trusty sidekick Miele, I also have a trusty mantra, boring and cliché and trite, BUT effective:

I, Sarah Reed Callender, am appreciating these fleeting moments of my kids’ childhood.

Because it’s true what all those other, older parents have said: the kids do grow up so fast. And, for the first time ever, I feel a glimmer of sadness about that reality. That’s a good sign, that glimmer of sadness. Hooray!  I guess I am like most moms after all; I’m just a bit of a late bloomer.

I am also trying hard to remember to laugh, which is getting easier now that Buddy and Sweetie have started to become funny. Buddy, for his part, has discovered the art of doing airquotes in his speaking. Sure, 50% of the time he does the airquotes on the wrong word. Like this:

Mom? I think we should go to “the park.”

Hm. “The park?” As if that recreational area with three slides and monkey bars and a wading pool and three big fields and a path to ride your bike and a merry-go-round AND that massive climbing structure isn’t actually a park?

But I just laugh. OK, I say. As long as you let me put “sunscreen” on your face before we go.

The other 50% of the time, though, Buddy’s dead-on with his airquotes:

Bye, Dad. Have fun “working” at Starbucks.

Hey Mom, since Dad’s out of town, what’s for “dinner”?

Dad, what book are you going to discuss at your all-dads “book group”?

I remind myself to laugh when I hear Sweetie in the shower, belting out songs from church, only she’s singing “This Little Light of Mine” and “Peace Like a River” in that nasally Bob Dylanish voice.

I remind myself to laugh when I go into Sweetie’s bedroom in the morning to wake her up, only she’s fake-sleeping and she scares the carp out of me by bursting from under her covers, yelling, “MA-MAAAAA!” in a gravelly Jimmy Durante voice.


To be honest, the first time she did the Jimmy Durante thing, it was a “bad” shock–i.e. one of the unpredictable ones. Now though, the shock of my daughter channeling Jimmy Durante has become a predictable shock. So I can laugh.

Summer may always be my least favorite of the four seasons. But darnnit, THIS summer, I am determined to laugh and schedule and mantra myself right into Labor Day, airquoting my way though July and August, laughing so that I can remind myself to feel as “happy” as possible, lulled by the croon of Sweetie Dylan, knowing that fall’s nip–that tart fwwiisst in the air that turns cheeks and leaves red-rosy– is “just” around the corner. Thank goodness.

Now. Where’s my vacuum? I think it’s time to do some “cleaning”  . . . right after I thank “Someone” for leading me headlong into Therese’s blog.