Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vagina Dialogues, Part III

We had a shower to celebrate Bucky’s significant birthday. Rock Star and L. Tiny distracted her on the porch while we strung banners, blew up balloons, and piled presents high on the huge oak dining room table.

She wore her t-shirt that proclaimed, “It’s All About Me!” (props to Spike), and properly admired the beauteous wrapping before ripping through paper and ribbons to oooh and aaaah over a cupcake carrying gizmo (because she is the Queen of Giant Delicious Cupcakes), big fluffy bath towels, baking dishes and supplies, and more—but weirdly, no covered brown casserole dish!

Because I suck at delayed gratification, from the moment I arrived I was begging the other shower-planners to pleeeeeze let me give Bucky my gift right away—but of course, more sensible heads prevailed, and we waited. It was better that way, of course—but oh, so painful.

(I don’t want to wait to give presents—which is why I can’t do my Christmas shopping in September—and I don’t want to wait to get them. At 12:00:01 a.m. on the morning of my birthday I’m shaking Mr. Peevie and asking him can I please have my present, please?! It’s not an attractive character trait, but there you have it.)

I called J. Cool when I was standing next to the slinky lingerie in a Store That Shall Not Be Named (because I don’t want their ads showing up on my sidebar). I wanted to give Bucky some really pretty and comfortable P.J.s. I had no idea what size to get (everybody looks like a size six to me) or what color to pick (peach, I learned, is not a good choice for many skin tones).

I required additional consulting on style and fabric: Pretty much everything in the store is in this irritating babydoll style. Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like an insult. Chemise? Might work, once I figured out how to pronounce it. Lace? Too scratchy. Flannel? Too L.L. Bean.

My contribution to the Festival of Gifts, of which I am inordinately and sinfully proud, was a set of butter-yellow, fabulously soft cotton shorty PJs and a slinky satin robe the color of sunshine. Bucky wore it to dinner that night and was a big hit.

Oh, she did not. But it would have been great if she had.

We had a blast showering Bucky with gifts and celebrating her life. A person should not have to get married or have babies to get a shower. I would be completely P.O.ed if I had reached a Significant Age (which for me would be like 25) and had not yet had a shower.

Instead of dumb shower games, we had cocktails and cheese. We toasted our girl Bucky, who has made a name for herself as a wacky but lovable, talented and kind-hearted friend who gives from her heart, writes thank-you notes that would make Shakespeare proud, and will always take a pair of old toilets off your hands.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Remedy

Today my pastor, the Esteemed Reverend Moses Butcher, spoke to my sad and stressed-out heart from Psalm 77.

"I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted."

I'm overwhelmed, sad, distressed, and anxious. I'm experiencing the kind of emotional and spiritual fatigue that makes me want to browse the chip aisle, watch Monk marathons, and consume mind-altering substances. This, apparently, was the emotional state of Asaph when he wrote this psalm.

Pastor Moses pointed out that we don't know the source of Asaph's distress. It could have been something awful from his past that still haunted him; a terrible choice he made that hurt someone; a besetting sin he could not let go; or possibly the illness or death of someone he loved. It might have been the universal feeling of emptiness that every honest human being admits to feeling at times in his life, that everyone recognizes but can't name.

We don't know why Asaph was feeling distress, only that he felt it. The source doesn't matter, because the remedy is the same.

"I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak."

Poor, pitiful Asaph. He seems to be doing the right thing--remembering God; but it only brings him more sorrow. He remembers God, and then he groans. He's thinking and pondering, but he only grows weaker and sadder. God is even "putting toothpicks on his eyelids", as Rev. Moses described it, not letting Asaph find brief respite in sleep. He can't even put words to his distress.

"Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"

It reaches that point, sometimes, doesn't it? You begin to wonder if what you believe about God is true. You may not say it out loud, but when you're alone, when you pray, you wonder, like Virginia, "Are you there, God? It's me, E. Peevie."

So what's the remedy? What's the tonic, what's the spiritual penicillin that cures the desperate heart?

"Then I thought, 'To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.' I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works, and consider all your mighty deeds."

The remedy is remembering. Asaph remembers God's deeds, miracles, holiness. He ponders the greatness of the God who rescued the people of Israel from centuries of slavery. He reminds us to remember God's greatest Rescue, to contemplate the cross, to soak ourselves, as my pastor expressed it, in the gospel.

What is the gospel? It's the good news that I can be right with God because of what Jesus did on the cross. It's the good news that this empty feeling, this guilt, this distress or sorrow or fear or whatever weighs down your heart like a bag of sand can be lifted because Jesus fought the battle for my soul and your soul, and He won.

Remembering, observed Esteemed Reverend Moses Butcher, is not a fast-acting cortisone shot. Remembering is a spiritual discipline. It's like physical therapy that restores gradually, healing years of dysfunction through re-alignment, restoring strength and mobility after months of atrophy. Remembering is the remedy for a sorrowful, weary, oppressed heart.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dream Life

I was feeling like an under-achiever because I was slipping into the odious trap of comparisons. One sibling is fast-tracking his way to CFO-dom in a billion dollar hospital group; and another sibling is hobnobbing with generals and presidents while organizing mult-national conferences.

When I mentioned this to Mr. Peevie, he gently reminded me, "Honey, you're living your dream life!"

I love that man.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What To Do With All Those Tomatoes

With our tomatoes ripening faster than we can give them away, we are discovering new ways to enjoy them at every meal, and re-discovering old favorites. Last week we had turkey club sandwiches, with three layers of wheat toast piled high with lettuce, tomato, sliced turkey breast, bacon, and a paper-thin slice of cheese.

To make it even more garden-friendly, I Martha Stewarted a batch of homemade basil mayonnaise (recipe courtesy of J. Noelle at 24 Boxes). Mr. Peevie and I tried making our own mayonnaise one other time in the past 23 years, and it was an interesting experiment in non-emulsification. The end result looked kind of like something you'd clean up off the floor after a frat party.

But J. Noelle's recipe turned out fresh and creamy and delicious. What's next in the Peevie Kitchens, homemade ketchup?

Another garden treat we've been enjoying: fresh tomato and corn salsa. Here's the recipe from the Cuisinart cookbook, but I don't like cilantro, so I make it with fresh basil and parsley instead. If you use a whole fresh ear of corn, like I do, you might want to include some of the jalapeno seeds to counter some of the delicious corny sweetness and add a little kick. 'Sup to you. I love this salsa scooped up with plain old corn chips, or piled on top of grilled fish.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Veggie Tales

This, my friends, is the bounty of my garden. I'm just like a proud grandmom, dragging out my Brag Book to show off my little sweeties.

Those tomatoes in the front that look like Roma plum tomatoes are actually grape tomatoes. I think they were sneaking off at night to huff steroids.
The big honking dudes in the back are just now approaching ripe-itude. They include Early Girl, Health Kick, and Tomato Celebrity.
Notice the herbs? Clockwise, starting at bottom left, we've got thyme, curly parsley, and basil, and hiding shy-like in the back, some nice fresh Italian oregano. They've been seasoning corn and tomato salsa, pesto, and spaghetti sauce for a few weeks now.
And how about that shiny sweet red pepper lying like a cheerleader across the front row? M. Peevie ate two of them today, chomping down on them like apples.
Remember back in May when I posted about planting perennials in my front garden spot? Well, the jury is still out on that experiment.
Unfortunately, the brightest spot in the garden is that big weed right at six o'clock. Nothing is really flowering except the echinacea; and the euphorbia (is that what it's called?) looks kind of scary, like it might have slithered over and winked at Eve in the First Garden.
My flower pots on the deck, however, are another story altogether. My friends and neighbors have been "ooohh-ing" and "aaaahhhing" over them. "OMG, where did you get them?" and "Did you make them yourself?"
I did, I swear. Apparently, this is my hidden talent: creating beauteous flower pots to adorn my deck, right next to the soggy beach towels and broken sand buckets.
Just don't ask me about perennials, because apparently, that's NOT my hidden talent.
[Update: I have tried and tried to get the spacing right on this post, but now I completely give up.]

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Vagina Dialogues, Part II

What do nine women of varying ages and backgrounds do for a whole weekend in the country, away from family, jobs, responsibilities?

They talk, of course. They tell stories, they emote, they give gifts, they encourage, they cry. They share little personal pieces of themselves that are too scary to reveal in the Halogen brightness of regular life. They laugh, sometimes a little too loudly. They drink, sometimes a tiny bit too much. They walk and shop and eat and take turns holding L. Tiny, who makes them yearn, or mourn, or remember, or sometimes, just smile at her baby-soft beauty and contentment at being held up by a net of loving arms.

Except when we dropped her. At one point, Bucky was holding L. Tiny and sitting on the arm of an over-stuffed chair. The chair tipped and crashed, L. Tiny sailed up in the air while Bucky hit the floor. When the dust settled, Bucky was holding LT over her shoulder, murmuring comforting words to her, while some of us were suggesting that perhaps she should turn the scared, crying infant over to her mama. It was kind of hilarious how long she resisted the obvious.

These women are some of the most amazing, beautiful, accomplished, brilliant, and tender-hearted women in the whole entire world. Even our normally reviled bodily functions became a source of venerated wisdom and hilarity. Some of us delivered farts with such skill that they engendered our first candidate for catch-phrase of the weekend, submitted by our own Arid Queen. A moth flitted in through the open screen door, and she said,

"That moth is a metaphor for your farts. Get it OUT of here!"

I know, right? Catchy.

Before we turned into Nighty-Nighters, we sat up late, talking and laughing and cocktailing our way into the wee hours. As we talked and laughed, our on-site mixologist (Bob the Builder) mixed and poured. One by one, the morning glories faded away, and we learned who really had the late-night cajones: E. Peevie and Arid Queen.

The rest of you light-weights can sleep your whole lives away, but we've got stories to tell and laughs to laugh! Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha! Zonk.

Stay tuned for Vagina Dialogues, Part III.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stardust Twinkles

Stardust is a fun, beguiling, and often unpredictable fairy-tale.

Reviewers are comparing Stardust to Princess Bride (but without the quotable one-liners like "As you wish" and "I am Inigo Montoya. You keeled my father. Prepare to die!"), so I'll be different. I'd say it's one part Willow, with the innocent that needs protecting; one part Harry Potter, with a not-quite-seamless blending of magical and mundane worlds; and a tiny bit of Pirates of the Caribbean, complete with a flamboyant, girly-man pirate and a Greek chorus of ghostly princes.

The story concerns young Tristan, who sets out to win the love of a beautiful but shallow girl by bringing her a star that has fallen into a dangerous and magical land. Tristan becomes the protector of the star--which has taken the form of an irascible beauty--who is pursued by the fraternity of ambitious, fratricidal princes and a sorority of badly aging, cackling witches.

Along the way Tristan and the star, Yvaine, meet up with an extraneous pirate ship with a don't-ask-don't-tell culture. Robert De Niro is Captain Shakespeare, the tough-talking pirate chief whose loyal crew "aargh"s on cue and keeps his cross-dressing penchant under wraps (pun intended). They sail the skies, buoyed by a dirigible; they don't really advance the plot, but they add goofy fun and a connection between earth and sky, magical and muggle.

The witches hunt Yvaine in order to cut out and eat her still beating heart -- it's their black magic Oil of Olay. Michelle Pfeiffer leads the sisters in their witchy quest for the star, using the dregs of the last eviscerated star to restore her villainous beauty.

Stardust is too long and too convoluted to be a true classic, but it has plenty of charm and whimsy to keep you caring about Tristan and Yvaine to the fairy-tale ending.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

President Hay Hay

My little brother was a pain in the you-know-what. One time we were playing in the rocks that the street-makers had laid down in preparation for paving. I don't know how the little creep did it, but somehow, he got his head right under a rock that I threw, and started bleeding and screaming. I had to start screaming, too, in order to protect myself from the wrath to come. They probably locked me in a closet while they took him to the ER. I'm sure he did it just to get me in trouble.

Another time he really bugged me, so I pushed him and he fell backwards right into a metal garbage can and cut his leg open. Again with the screaming and bleeding; and again I had to launch the counter-measure, screaming and crying and claiming "He started it!"

My brother hated it when my Dad referred to me as "the athlete of the family," since I was a girl and all. What I realize now and didn't then is that Mark is and was a much better athlete than I was, but he had greater competition, and didn't shine as bright on the field or court as I did against other girls.

My brother, his friends and I would play run-the-bases on the side yard until we wore a base-path into the grass that my Dad nurtured with chemicals and the sweat of his brow. Sometimes we'd play half-ball in the street with the neighbors, with half of a pink rubber ball and a broom handle bat.

I never remember a playtime with my little brother that did not involve competition. We'd compete for the most Halloween candy (kids take note: pillow-cases make the best bags for collecting candy), over board games like Risk and Battleship and ping-pong, at who could keep their candle lit the longest at the Christmas Eve service at church.

We had a long hallway at the top of the stairs, and when we were supposed to be in bed, we'd play this insane game of chicken. We'd charge toward each other, our pillows clasped in front of us, and we'd crash and send each other flying. One time he ended up with his butt at the bottom of the hamper and his feet waggling out the top.

In the winter, we'd sled across the backyards, and make fake outlines of sled-tracks leading up to and beyond the baby pine trees that Mr. Pendowski had planted two months earlier. We knew it would drive him nuts to think we had sledded right over them; and sure enough, my Dad would get an angry call the next day.

The best trick my little brother pulled was hiding the wooden paddle that my Dad used on our disobedient butts. Mark had created the "Hay Hay Club" with walls of piled-up pine needles under the wooded yard that abutted our back lot. One day he'd had enough of getting his butt shined with that stupid paddle, and he stole it and buried it under the pine-needle carpet of the secret clubhouse. It's probably still there today.

Today my brother is honorable and honest, hard-working, kind, peace-making, and tender-hearted. He's a great husband, brother, son, and friend. And sometimes, he's still a pain in the you-know-what. Even if he weren't my brother, I'd want to be his friend.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Rumor and Innuendo

Some of my favorite blogs are linguistics and language related. I just happened onto another great one, called Mr. Verb.

One thing that Mr. Verb said in a recent post was that our society suffers from a "profound anti-intellectualism." I could not agree more. Things that regularly pass as science and fact are actually rumor, innuendo, superstition, and tradition. My most frequent personal anecdotes illustrating this point involve Diet Coke and linguistics.

Well-meaning friends (you know who you are!) frequently advise me not to drink so much DC because it's carcinogenic. I say, cite your source--but they prefer to stick to the hard science of I-just-know-it-ology.

Well, one of my favorite bloggers, minor celebrity cartoonist Scott Adams (a fellow Diet Coke guzzler) recently posted a link to a study that indicated that there is, in fact, no link between one DC ingredient--aspartame--and cancer. (I tried to find the link, but he's such a prolific blogger that I gave up after a short, feckless search through his archives.)

Mr. Peevie also sent me a link to the National Cancer Institute that supports the same conclusion.

And as far as the English is concerned, some of my family and friends assume that because I love words and language, I also enjoin the alleged rules of English grammar and usage, in particular those which are really only myths and/or wishful thinking. The problem is that many amateur word lovers (the operative word here being "amateur") are language bullies: they want language to be pristine and unchanging so that they can prescribe rules and contemn people who break them. It's a self-esteem thing.

But, as Mr. Verb's descriptive catchphrase indicates, "Language changes. Deal with it. Revel in it."

I am not a linguist, nor do I play one on TV. (There's a pitch for the networks: Chicago Five-Oh: A buttoned-down linguistics professor solves crimes during office hours with her red pen and a penchant for descriptive phonetics! Dun dun dun!) I try not to snark too much about pronunciations, usages, spellings, and syntaxes that fall outside of the E. Peevie Style Guide.

(That being said, there are certainly usages making their way into standard English that do tend to grate like a rake on pavement. But that's a blog post for another time.)

Here are some other language and linguistics-related blogs that I enjoy:

The Language Log
Language Hat
Tenser, said the Tensor

[Update: This post has been edited to incorporate the truly thrilling word-as-link techno-frizzle. (I don't get out much. And I don't even know how to talk about whatever it is that you call this stuff, being techno-impaired. But you know what I mean. And I am indebted to Roger and Mr. Peevie. Thanks, guys.]

Monday, August 6, 2007

Vagina Dialogues, Part I

My pals and I escaped to Michigan for the weekend, leaving jobs and spouses and kids (except nursing infants) behind.

There's nothing like a road trip for food stories. As you may or may not know, I am not particularly choosy when it comes to food. I love really great eats, but I don't turn my nose up at food that's somewhat meh. I love me some crunchy nosh. I'm one of those people--otherwise known as "fat"--
who just love to eat.

With optimism and anticipation I ordered my all-time favorite, nachos, at an Indiana Denny's along I-94. The picture in the menu gave me goose-bumps: crispy golden chips, just-barely-melted grated cheddar, picturesque snips of green onion poking up like crocuses around a snowy dollop of sour cream.

Whoever made the menu was a lying liar who will burn in a special hell. The waitress delivered what looked like actual hurl: gobs of oily cheese oozing viscously over bright yellow rectange corn chips suffering from a bad case of acne; watery sour cream Clearasil separating over the top. Even the plain chips around the edge were inedible, let alone those that had been violated by the curdish goulash gobbed on top. I did not eat them, and I did not pay for them.

By the time my two friends and I arrived at the "cabin," the party was in full swing (read: cocktails and stories were flowing).

Here's the weekend line-up, in no particular order (names have been changed to protect, well, nobody, since anybody reading this will easily identify who's who):

Host, J. Cool: Beautiful, stylish, talented. This is the woman I call when I'm browsing the grout aisle at Menard's, or selecting lingerie for a mutual friend.

Guest of Honor, Bucky: My favorite author is nutty and multi-talented. This weekend was a celebration of her significant birthday.

Bob the Builder: A hot tomboy who thinks she's stronger than she really is. Once she persuaded me to be my own contractor for my kitchen renovation, because it comes so easily to her. I will never forgive her.

Arid Queen: This girl has more even more stamina for staying up late than I do. A independent thinker with a sense of humor dryer than the Sahara during drought season, and great taste in TV boyfriends.

Spike: Twin-set wearing volleyballer with celebrity connections and a secret crush on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar Ric Flair (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ric_Flair).

Rock Star: This one makes you ask "Why do some people get it all?" She's got Dolly Parton's voice, Demi Moore's looks, and brains to boot.

Dr. Vespinator: Her special talent is twisting human pretzels. She tools around on a red Vespa, healing everyone she touches with gentleness, humor, and great back rubs.

The Professor: Helps our group stay organized, and keeps her class in line. Loves the little fishes, and hosts an excellent open house.

L. Tiny: The tiniest crazy group member. Slept, nursed and smiled all weekend.

Our ages range from 29 to 55. We're all above average intelligence, of course, and all smokin' hot. Some of us are married, some single; some have kids, most don't. We work in a variety of fields, including construction, communications, advertising, education, and health care. Jesus is our common denominator.

(Hmmm. That last line was sort of queer. Oh, well. So be it.)

More later. Check out the Vagina Dialogues, Part II.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Eat All the Sugar You Can Get

My grandmother--we called her by her middle name, Libby--was a stubborn, independent character. She lived alone in a Philadelphia row house until she was 96, when her children finally insisted that she move to an assisted living facility.

At that point she was subsisting on angel food cake and cat food. She'd forget to wash her thick, waist-length hair for months at a time; it was bound up in a greasy, tangled bun on the back of her head. Dust and cat hair coated every surface in her two-level home. My parents' Hollywood-style wedding photograph sat on the same cherry end-table where it had gathered dust for the past 35 years.

(BTW, I love that old photo. My parents look like movie stars, with perfect skin and touched-up cheekbones. My mom's wedding dress was simple and elegant: an off-the-rack street dress with covered buttons and a matching fabric belt cinching her tiny waist.)

The kitchen surfaces were coated with grease from the Jurassic Period, and crops were growing in the bathtub. I don't know how her adult children allowed it to get so bad, nor am I passing judgment on them. But my sibs and I swore we would not let the situation with our own parents reach the same level of ick.

Libby named her cats Barry and Goldy after that Republican spitfire who famously said, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue" when he accepted the 1964 nomination for president. Barry and Goldy happily chased mice and snacked on angel food crumbs while Libby read large-print Readers' Digests and watched soaps on a tiny black-and-white TV precariously balanced on an old TV tray.

Libby had a philosophy of longevity that she'd pronounce loudly every time we'd take her out to eat. "Eat all the sugar you can get!" she'd holler, and heads would turn. "That's my motto--and I'm 96!" She also loved butter, and only ate vegetables that had every last vestige of nutrition blanched right out of them.

Libby lived a non-traditional, opinionated life. She firmly believed that she had pulled herself up by her own bootstraps, and had no respect for anyone who didn't do the same. She died in a nursing home at age 98, with my mom holding her hand. I like to imagine that her last words were, "Eat all the sugar you can get!"