Summer Wish List 2018


The thing is, when I wrote my Summer Wish List last summer — 2017 — as I’ve done for many years, it seemed like things could not get all that much worse. Reader, things have gotten all that much worse and more. It’s beyond fathom how steep democracy’s tumble is. we get the children out of the camps and reunite them with their parents maybe we can salvage a sense of decency in this country and build back from there. … Sorry to start summer off on this completely horrific note.

Jamil Smith: “Sometimes, we forget where we are. Folks who fail or refuse to grasp that we live in an America that is capable of shedding our democratic norms and embracing policies of pure hatred are treading water in a tsunami. Trump is now capitalizing upon that false exceptionalism, that belief that it cannot happen here, to execute the white-supremacist agenda that got him elected. His despotic urges pair well with a complicit Congress and a devout following.”

This is where we are.


Note: Given even what’s happened between Tuesday when I wrote this and Thursday morning the first day of summer, I nearly deleted this whole list. I think I’ll publish it anyway, because perhaps like me, you have other people around you (I have two kids here and a husband studying for the bar exam) who need me to also have life move on and truthfully, I need that, too. I am changed by this last year and a half, and will not emerge the same. This is a process I may look back upon and wonder why didn’t I realize I should have ditched everything else (we all should have) or I may look back and be glad we also kept our lives going. I actually have no idea which one it’ll be.


So, it’s summer (100 degrees in a “tent camp” for adolescent boys in Texas). It’s not 100 degrees where I live and we have air conditioners in some rooms. How to proceed? However haunted I am right now (and really for a year and a half now), I also have a family that deserves my best attention, attention I want to give. Besides, I know that if I am only enraged or only panicked I am not nearly as effective or productive or healthy as if I continue to take care of myself. It’s a luxury to think you can go at democracy at a measured pace, I totally get that. You can play a teeny-tiny violin here. There’s a freaking orchestra amongst my incredibly principled and dogged friends. We sound angry and beautiful let me tell you — and you’ll hear us around the country and I am betting around the world on June 30.

Months ago, I remember having lunch with a dear friend and we discussed how to calibrate all of this horror and how if we turn our backs on everything good in service to red alert emergency programming all the time, when we are ready to turn back what will be left? We still need to focus on the good.

I confess this past week challenges that assumption, but bear with me. Because in fact, I believe it still holds with an asterisk to denote that in this crisis for families we need all hands on deck to push this Trumpism thing over the edge if we possibly can. Let it catapult off a cliff or into a hurricane at Mar-a-Lago.

So, I will start summer with my eyes heart and ear to the phones. I will be laser focused in my activism-humanism time to that issue. How can I bear to do anything but? I cannot.

It is summer and here is my wish list (and it reads like a hall of fame Sarah Summer Wish List, so clearly “small reach” and “comfort” are front and center. Written in the frame of this time with hopes I feel much more mellow (that we all do) by next summer:

I do live in a glorious and abundant valley and I take in its beauty much more readily when I am not freezing, so I will, as I do all year long, look at the sky each morning, note the beauty in my neighborhood as I walk about and enjoy those moments the air feels like silk. I cherish the light. We sure need light.

It’s impossible not to savor the strawberries, summer’s first promise fulfilled (and wow, this year, yum).

Although I won’t feel like it because of so many things crowding in, I will make jam. The stickiness and the slowness will soothe me and then it’ll be there for people to enjoy. There’s another metaphor when you think about it.

I have been so sucked in by the disastrous challenges to democracy I haven’t read much, but I have begun to remedy that and will try to do so in the coming weeks. I also cannot wait to see the Fred Rogers’ documentary:

Yesterday, Saskia and I got briefly caught in a downpour. It was miserably glorious. I imagine the next time that happens this summer I’ll get wholly soaked right down to squishy shoes. Yes.

After wishing for one of my kids to attend a camp at Farm and Wilderness, one of my kids is. Just the idea of this brings me a smile. Best-case scenario, she finds what is the equivalent to a second home. Worst-case scenario, she has a fine time. If you want to read an amazing essay about sending a kid to camp, my friend Andrea Volpe wrote one a few years back (I think that’s how we first connected, over this beautiful essay).

My ongoing “goods” this summer will be local, and excuse me for lumping them together, but that’s how I roll:

I’ll be at work — and a faithful audience member, too — for PaintBox Theatre’s 15th season. This year, I won’t even have a kid around for every performance weekend, but no matter. I’ve attended an astonishing number of shows without a kid in tow. It’s FINE. I laugh without embarrassing my daughter. I might bring a small friend or two. And she’ll be back for some of the hilarity.

I will be constantly talking up (and working for) two fierce, compassionate women running for State Representative and State Senate (Lindsay Sabadosa and Chelsea Kline). Local elections matter!

I’ll also meet as often as we can make it work with some of my writing peeps. I have begun, again, to know that to write is a deep happiness, even when I struggle with a project or just with myself as a writer. It really helps to have community.

It really helps to have community: maybe that’s the true summer wish — to lean into how much community can support me, support us. The friends who pass through, the friends who are here but have a chance to hang out, the friends we run into on the street, all of this is worth my placing on the list. Oh, and the friends I see at Pure Barre, where I give myself some time to develop physical strength, soothe my nervous system, empty my mind and feel good, actually, really good each day.

There will be other delights and other challenges for my family, not just camp. I’ll be cheering everyone on. I’m a super proud mother and spouse these days.

So, there’s my kind of sparse but honest list. Let’s savor the light. We need it.



Writer, brainstormer, networker — follow me on Twitter @standshadows

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Sarah Buttenwieser

Writer, brainstormer, networker — follow me on Twitter @standshadows