Friday, March 28, 2008

4,000 U.S. Soldiers Dead. Does Anybody Care?

War in Iraq: Death toll for U.S. soldiers reaches 4,000. Why don't we seem to care very much?

I'm just saying. Maybe 4,000 isn't enough for us to get enraged about. Maybe 4,000 U.S. soldiers, compared to 58,000 American casualties during the 15-year Vietnam debacle, is just not enough death to get our attention.

And what about the nearly 1.2 million--MILLION--Iraqi deaths since the U.S. invasion? What do they count for?

When the U.S. first invaded Iraq, I was convinced that it was a reasonable idea because I believed that the threat of weapons of mass destruction was real and that it would be a good idea to find them and remove them from within reach of Sadaam Hussein's trigger finger.

Now I feel, like many Americans, like I was, best case, misled, or worst case, lied to.

Meanwhile, the body bags keep piling up.

Do you know anyone who died in Iraq? Do you know a family who lost someone in Iraq? A friend of a friend, even?

This is why we can be so unexcited about this war, and why we can be ambivalent about whether we get our red, white and blue rear ends out of Iraq sooner rather than later. The war is distant, geographically and personally. We don't see battles and body bags on the nightly news; we aren't going to funerals for people we knew and loved.

Four thousand dead just isn't enough to get our attention.

But it should be.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Gerbils on Stilts

The Fug Girls do NOT need my help boosting their readership, but this made me snort Diet Coke out of my nose:

"As Paula Abdul would say, it's just not connecting with the audience, and also, gelato unicorns don't talk to gerbils on stilts unless there's a rainbow involved."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! They've totally got their P.Ab impression nailed! In the proud tradition of Simon Cowell's favorite eye-roll target, it's a comment that vaguely alludes to an actual aspect of a performance, but then it veers off into a surreal, nonsensical, hallucinogen-inspired homage to Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky!

And after I read that line, I searched on the Fugly site, and discovered that these bee-yotches can totally channel Paula, every single time. OMG. I'm still laughing.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Jelly Beans and Jesus

"Thank you for the Easter baskets, mom and dad!" said C. Peevie, as he and his sibs opened pastel plastic eggs to discover malted milk balls, Dots®, generic jelly beans, and small change.

"Thank you, Easter Bunny," I reminded him.

"No," A. Peevie chimed in with sincerity, "thank you, Jesus!"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Misogyny Wears a Skirt

Let's jump into the fray that Dr. Laura Schlessinger kicked off on Monday when she said she holds women partially responsible for their husbands' infidelity. She was not completely wrong in all of her comments on the Today Show. Here's what she got right:
  • Wives and husbands share equal responsibility for keeping their marriages happy and healthy.
  • Conversely, wives and husbands share responsibility when their marriages experience troubled times. It's rarely one person's fault when a marriage falters or fails.
  • Mental and emotional illness in one partner changes the balance of responsibility for marital trouble.

But Dr. Laura was completely wrong when she said "frequently when there is infidelity in marriage, both spouses share the blame" and also when she said if the wife is not being supportive enough, "then she's contributing to his wrong choice." I would like to know, Dr. Laura, what is "supportive enough," exactly? How do you measure it? If he's tempted, does that automatically indicate that her level of support is insufficient?

And also, at what point does the wife assume this partial blame? Is she picking up the phone and dialing the escort service? Is she driving him to the Mayflower Hotel? Is she turning down the covers and putting a mint on the pillow?

Yes, a wife shares responsibility for keeping a marriage happy and healthy. But she does not share responsibility for the specific choices that her husband makes if the marriage is not happy and healthy. It's on him alone if he chooses to call a hooker instead of a marriage counselor, or if he chooses to let his innocent office flirtation turn into something not so innocent.

In the context of the Eliot Spitzer brouhaha, Dr. Laura also said, "I hold women responsible for tossing out perfectly good men by not treating them with the love and kindness and respect and attention they need." First of all, who died and left Dr. Laura in charge, with the authority to hold anyone responsible for anything, except her own obnoxious self?

And second, "tossing out perfectly good men"? Seriously? Sometimes misogyny wears a skirt.

This statement reeks of double standard, even in the context of the whole Today Show conversation, which included one or two grudging allusions to a husband's responsibility. The Schlessinger Theorem equates a wife's giving an undefined but insufficient amount of love, kindness, respect and attention to her husband with a wife "tossing out" her husband.

Essentially, she's providing philandering husbands everywhere with a ready-made excuse: my wife drove me to it.

Dr. L is also insulting men by suggesting that they have such a tenuous hold on their character, maturity, and emotional security that if they don't get enough compliments from their wives they will automatically fall prey to the temptation of adultery.

I guess misogyny's fraternal twin, misanthropy, wears a matching skirt.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

M. Peevie Finds A Challenge

Hi. I'm M. Peevie. I'm seven. I wrote about what it's like to be seven a few months ago, but now I'm going to tell you about my book club.

My mom thinks my school work is too easy. She said, "M. Peevie, is it easy?" and I said, "Yes!" very cheerful.

Then mom said, "M. Peevie, are you bored?" and I smelled a trick! I said, "No! No, I am NOT bored. I like it when my work is easy, because then I get to play more!"

But even though I explained that I was NOT bored, my mom thinks I need to be challenged, which means that I need more harder work to do, and so she told my teacher Mrs. K. to give me more challenge. After one week, I told my mom, "Mom, Mrs. K. is not giving me enough challenge at school," and so my mom had another talk with Mrs. K.

After that I got to go to see Mrs. Sheets for a special reading class, but guess what? My mom is still not a happy camper. When I told my mom that I got sent away from my special reading class because I could not find my Curious George coloring sheet, my mom made a very mad "Grrr" sound, and then I knew that there would be trouble. I think my mom had a tiny alter-kayshun, which means fight, with Mrs. Sheets about those darn sheets. I don't know why she doesn't like coloring sheets, but that woman is on The Rampage.

And now we have a whole new way for me to get a challenge! My neighbor KT came up with a great idea for a book club for us girls. We get to read books and talk about them and do a craft together, only my mom thinks the craft idea is not going to fly. I do not know why it needs to fly, but sometimes that woman gets confused.

So anyway, we have Mabz, Lala, Tres, and me, M. Peevie, in our excellent book club with probably no crafts. At our first meeting we played a fun game that KT found out about. It was like Hot Potato, only different. We sat in a circle and passed around a piece of dress-up clothing while one person read the back of a Junie B. Jones book. Then when the reading was done, the person holding the clothing had to put it on! KT had to wear a purple tutu on her head!

After we read about all the Junie B. Jones books, we picked out Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl. We all love to read about the wacky things that girl gets into. Our first book club assignment was to read the first five chapters, and put sticky notes in places that we really liked, that we didn't like, that we didn't understand, and that were funny. We don't even have to use words, just smiley/grumpy/confused/laughing faces on the sticky note. This was KT's idea, and my mom thinks she is a phenom. That means she's really great.

I will let you know how my book club goes. We are going to meet today. I sure hope we get to do a craft.

As Tigger says, TTFN.

M. Peevie

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Alabaster Jar

This is Holy Week, when Christians remember the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. My Esteemed Reverend Moses Butcher preached from Mark 14 about what he called The Beautiful Waste--the woman who broke a valuable alabaster jar and poured the rare and costly ointment over Jesus.

The alabaster jar, Rev. Moses said, was probably a family heirloom; possibly the most expensive thing the woman owned. It was her family's financial security, worth almost a year's wages: if they fell on hard times, they could sell the jar and live off the proceeds until their circumstances improved.

The alabaster jar did not have a resealable flip-top; the jar had to be broken, destroyed, in order to pour the perfume. The ointment itself was rare and powerfully fragrant. Imagine the ointment running down his clothing, and making sweet-smelling puddles in the dirt floor.

This woman--Mark doesn't name her, but John says it was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus--intentionally broke and poured out her most valuable possession without regret or hesitation. She gave no thought to what the onlookers might think of her or her action. The intent of her heart, Jesus discerned, was to do a beautiful thing to honor him.

When the dinner guests criticized Mary for her wasteful extravagance ("the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor!"), Jesus rebuked them. His words may seem uncompassionate ("the poor you will always have with you") and self-promoting ("you will not always have me")--but Jesus merely reminded them who he was--the divine, long-awaited Messiah (Mark 8:29). He pointed out that Mary had her priorities in the proper order: First Jesus, then everything else, including her own wealth and security, her reputation, and the important social concern of caring for the poor.

Mary's gesture was extravagant and beautiful. She probably didn't realize the significance of her act--that it symbolized the annointing of Jesus' body for burial--but she did what she was able to do, and gave what she was able to give.

I want to have the kind of faith that is extravagant and beautiful. I want to offer up my treasure and my security, so that I can find them again in Jesus. This Holy Week, to tell the truth, I feel far apart from God and from grace. There's nothing extravagant or beautiful about my faith at the moment.

Luckily, or rather, providentially, my feelings are not a factor when it comes to Jesus. I know who and what I am. I know how unfaithful I am, how self-centered, angry, idolatrous. But I also know I can lay the ugliness of my sin at the foot of the cross, where the ransom was paid; I know I can believe this crazy, scandalous story because of the empty tomb.

This is Holy Week. Welcome to the infamy of the cross, and the hope of the resurrection.

Friday, March 14, 2008

My Love Language

As you know from prior posts, I am unashamed to admit that my Love Language is gifts. I love presents--they make me feel loved and appreciated. They don't have to cost a lot of money, they don't have to be diamond-studded, they don't have to have a fancy logo. Just the idea that someone thinks enough of me to take the time to pick out something because they think I'll enjoy it is enough to bring a tear to my eye and a smile to my face.

My friend J-Ro (sorry; couldn't resist) does this for me frequently. She'll pick up a little box of chocolates, or a fancy bottle of lemonade, or some hand lotion, put it into a pretty gift bag with some tissue paper, and give me a gift for absolutely no reason! I know, right? We should all be such thoughtful friends. (Now that I think about it, what have I done for her lately? Oh, yeah, there was that time I promised to pick up her daughter from after-care and then TOTALLY FORGOT to do it.)

Eeeeenyway. Another person with really excellent gift-giving skills is...wait for it...of course you know; you're not's Mr. Peevie!

On our first Christmas as young marrieds, Mr. Peevie gave me a pair of hiking boots that I still own and wear to this day. I had always wanted that style of boots--do you remember them? The big clunky brown ones with the red laces, like lumberjack boots?--and I probably wept when I saw them. I slept with one arm around them that Christmas night--seriously, I did.

He's given many perfect gifts in the years since then--sometimes for an occasion, sometimes for none. One time it was an entire outfit, including coordinated accessories, from Talbot's. Often it's something little but precisely right--like a book about language or a box of notecards.

(Just so you don't think that I'm a total schlub in the gift-giving department, you should know that I've come up with some memorable gifts for him as well: A visit to a taping of his favorite TV chef, The Frugal Gourmet; a Tissot Rock Watch that took me three months to save up for and which left him speechless; and romantic overnight stay at a downtown hotel. With me.)

Astonishingly, after two decades, Mr. P just keeps getting better and better at gift-giving. Last week he went to Las Vegas on "business," leaving me to handle three kids (one with the flu, one kid with sock bumps, and one with multiple, conflicting after-school commitments), my work, my own mysterious hip ailment, and the household on my own. I understand that millions of single parents do this all the time--but remember, I AM SPOILED! I am used to having a helpful, supportive, fully-engaged partner around to help in the daily struggles, chores, chauffeuring, refereeing, homework assisting, and general functioning of the household.

When he returned, I asked him how much he spent on gambling--not because I wanted to bust him, but merely because I was curious.

"Nothing," he said.

"Nothing?" I asked, disbelieving. "Not even twenty bucks at craps?" He's done the research. He knows that the house has the smallest advantage at craps compared to all the other games, and he occasionally plays the safest bets.

"Nope, nothing," he reiterated.

"Not even ten bucks on the wheel?"


"Not even a quarter in a slot machine?" I pressed.

"No. Nothing. Nada," he said, simply. "I spent my gambling budget on presents for you and the kids."

And that right there, my friends, says it all. It is entirely possible that he is the only person in the entire history of Las Vegas to stay there for four days without spending even one lonely quarter on gambling.

"I just didn't feel like it," he said.

But he did feel like bringing home perfect presents for his little family--all of whom share my genetic disposition toward fondness for presents. He bought In-N-Out Burger t-shirts for the kids, plus little personalized mementos from the M&M store. Mr. Peevie consulted his colleague about a gift for me, and she suggested he buy me something that I wouldn't buy for myself. Mr. Peevie knows that I don't really go for jewely, and I'm currently in an "accessorizing with handbags" phase. So here's what he brought home for me:

Is that not the most perfect gift for a husband to bring his wife from Las Vegas? I practically wept. It's so adorable! It's so fashionable! It's so shiny!

I love that he was so obviously thinking of me, even when he was surrounded by so many distractions--shows, gambling, food, beverages, and women of ill repute. I love that he pays attention.

I'm not trying to make every other woman in the world jealous. Really, I'm not. I'm just grateful to be so loved and cared for.

Also, I consider these "Mr. Peevie posts" to be a kind of public service, like a primer for husbands and boyfriends, and for potential husbands and boyfriends.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

America's Silent Epidemic: Sock Bumps

A. Peevie doesn’t handle distress well. He tolerates frustration like a cat tolerates being tossed into a swimming pool. There is nothing moderate or rational in his automatic dismay response: it’s loud, violent, and intense, like a Die Hard movie.

And it has a hair trigger. A.P. is hyper-sensitive to hot, cold, noise, and light; to flavors that are too sweet, too sour, too spicy, not spicy enough; to large groups of people; to transitions; to smells, stickiness, and clothing that is too tight or too loose. Even crumbs on the table can set him off in the morning, which in our household is not a little bit ironic.

Today, it was a debilitating scourge that almost brought our family to doom, causing unimaginable pain and horrific mental and emotional distress. What was this this vile plague, this painful torment, this deluge of disruption?

Socks with bumps.

We were getting through our morning routines with a normal amount of delay and distraction--this one can't find her favorite jeans, that one doesn't want to stop drawing Pokemon characters long enough to get dressed. But finally, finally, we were all mostly dressed and mostly in our right minds. M. Peevie and I headed downstairs, when suddenly, we were stopped in our tracks by a blood-curdling scream.

"Aaaaaaaaaggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!" A. Peevie screeched at the top of his lungs. "Buuuuumps! Aaaaagggghhhh!"

That sound was like ice-picks are being jammed into my brain--but I valiantly tried to stay cool-headed. "A.," I said calmly, "What are you screaming about? Stop screaming, use words and a normal voice, and I'll try to help you."

A. Peevie calmed down a tiny bit, but his face was still scrunched up like that of a ticked-off bulldog. He took a deep breath. "Bumps!" he whined. "These socks have bumps." He was still huffing and puffing, on the verge of more ice-pick jamming volume. "They hurt my feet. I can't wear them!"

They were brand-new socks, the thin, polyester kind. I picked them out on purpose because I knew from past experience that sock bumps could set our morning schedule off by 15 minutes or more. I tried to explain this to Captain Sensitive.

"A. Peevie," I said, "Look! There are no bumps! These socks are thin and smooth. No bumps!"

Wrong approach. You can't tell the princess there is no pea under her nine-foot-high stack of Posturepedics®, and you can't tell A. Peevie that there are no bumps on his socks. He feels them; therefore, they are. And they are pure torture. Michael Mukasey might get away with equivocating about waterboarding, but he would never have been confirmed as the Attorney General if he supported making terrorists wear socks with bumps (known as 'sock-bumping' in the intelligence industry).

"No, look!" A. Peevie sobbed. "Here! and here!" He rubbed my finger along the smooth-ish seam of the sock. "Bumps!"

I wiped the tears, I smoothed the bumps. "Here," I said, "if I smooth out the bumps, and then hold the sock tight up by your ankle, it should be fine." Finally, we got the bump situation resolved, and our breathing returned to normal.

Two Minutes Later: "Aaaaaaaaagggggghhhhhh! My shoes are too tight!"


Postscript: Apparently these ultra-sensitive children are not uncommon, and there's even a book about how to parent them. I already ordered it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Stinky and the Giant Poo

This post is about turds. That's the last time I will use that particular noun, because I know that some of you are a tiny bit sensitive about it, but that's what this post is about, and if you can't handle it, click away and read about something else.

So. I have a child who will remain nameless in case he ever decides to run for public office--I don't want his opponent to dig up this particular "dirt" on him, if you know what I mean.

My children are all above average in many ways--intelligence, beauty, talent, kindness--you name it, they are setting the curve. But one of my children has an unsung talent that will never get him a slot on American Idol or into an Ivy League university; this ability lies far outside of the scope of winning friends and influencing people.

This child, let's call him Stinky, has the most efficient bowel in the history of bowels. His colon does not waste any effort on inefficient, space-wasting production. His intestines don't feel the need to make deliveries every day. Rather, they conserve their energy, use every last square micromillimeter of space, and eventually evacuate an enormous log of solid poo, as dense and shiny as a granite countertop.

These tree trunks of excrement are a modern miracle of human digestion and elimination. Every time one comes out--about every three days or so, after an hour-long stomach-ache--Stinky proudly calls us into the bathroom to pay homage. The rest of the family comes running, and you'd think we were looking at a fabulous sculpture or a six-foot-high tower of playing cards.

"Oh, wow. Stinky, dude, that's gotta be 20 inches long!" one exclaims.

"Man. That's going to be a four-flusher," says Mr. Peevie grimly, being the Vice President in charge of toilet plunging.

"Ew, gross! Disgusting! My eyes are watering!" says another.

"How did that thing even fit inside of him?" we wonder aloud. "No wonder he had a stomach ache. It's bigger than his thigh!"

Stinky just hangs his head modestly and says, "I'm hungry."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Are You American Idol-ing, Too?

Watching American Idol has become a fun family pasttime. Sometimes all the kids join us, and sometimes just M. Peevie. We try to catch all of the singers and most of the judge's commentary (even though Paula Abdul makes me crazy, and not in a good way).

Tonight, Asi'ah sang a Whitney Houston song, I Wanna Dance With Somebody. She did a great job, but as Simon pointed out, she's no Whitney Houston. Our family agreed that she should have given it a different spin, or used a different arrangement, in order to set herself apart from WH instead of trying to copy WH.

And then a little later, Brooke "Not Quite Successfully Passing for 24" White comes on and sings a Pat Benatar song, Love is a Battlefield. She did the opposite from what Asi'ah did: she sang it raw, with just guitar for back-up, sitting on the edge of the stage, with a completely different delivery than Benatar's. We think it worked.

M. Peevie inevitably contributed her seven-year-old-but-beyond-her-years wisdom: "Here's what I think," she said with conviction. "If you try to be like someone else, you'll fail. If you try to just be yourself, you'll do it right." Not following this wisdom could cost Asi'ah her place in the top 12, dawg.

Two other American Idol comments that I must make: One, What is the matter with Paula Abdul? She cannot formulate a coherent thought to save her own life. She said about someone's performance, "there are just not enough adjectives"--um, whuh? Not enough adjectives? Or not enough adjectives in her vocabulary? She makes vague, surreal comments that often repeat a theme from Randy's remarks, but she rarely contributes any original thoughts or constructive criticism. It rankles.

And Two, I think Amanda is fabulous. Vote her back, readers.

What do you think? Who are you voting for?

My Husband Made Me Cry

Last night I was sitting in The Green Room, wasting time on the computer, as I am wont to do (I know you're suprised) and Mr. Peevie came in. He said, with a serious expression on his face, "I have something to say to you." He looked around. "Here, let me sit down," he said ominously.

My stomach flapjacked, and my heart Titanicked. "Is it bad?" I worried. "Did something bad happen? Did I do something bad?" (My vocabulary shrinks in the face of fear.) Nobody follows "I have something to tell you" with "I better sit down" unless it's difficult to say, right? And bad news is tough to deliver. It was only a brief moment, but I can still feel the dread on my neck.

"No, not at all," Mr. Peevie quickly reassured me. "It's good."

Whew. Then why all the seriousness? I wondered. Why the sitting down? Why the formality?

And then came one of the sweetest, tenderest moments of my 23.75 years of married life.

"I thought about sending you an email today to tell you this," Mr. P said, "but it just didn't happen, and it didn't seem like the best way to say it."

Now I'm thinking, oooh, he bought me a present! He bought me a really great present that I'm going to love, and it's being shipped, and he's going to tell me about it! Because that's how my mind works. But it wasn't a present. Actually, it was better than a present--which, coming from me, the queen of loving to get presents, is shocking.

Mr. Peevie leaned forward and looked into my eyes. "I just want to tell you," he said, "that you are always building up my self-esteem, always telling your friends how wonderful I am, and telling stories that put me in a good light. I want you to know that I wouldn't be half the man I am without you."

By this time, the tears are totally rolling right down my cheeks. But there was more.

"I never had very good self-esteem until I met you. I wasn't a very good communicator, and I especially wasn't very good at expressing my feelings. But you have taught me those things, and you appreciate the things I'm good at."

I kept on leaking salty tears, and he kept on talking. "I'm glad I didn't try to put this into an email," Mr. Peevie continued. "It's better in person. I want to look right at you and tell you how much I love you, and how much I appreciate you, and what you mean to me. You make me a better person."

I don't even have words to tell you what a gift that was to me. I hugged Mr. Peevie and left tear-marks his sleeve. "Too much credit," I said, but he just hugged me harder.

Anne Lamott said in Grace, Eventually, "A good marriage is supposed to be one where each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal"--and the only point I'd contest is that it's no secret.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

What do Shakespeare and Obama Have in Common?

You'll be excited to learn, as I was, that next week we'll be celebrating National Grammar Day. In honor of this august holiday, I'd like to share a grammar story with you.

"A. Peevie," I said, "don't eat any more of this bacon. The rest is for me and M. Peevie."

"M. Peevie and I," said A. Peevie, wearing his Captain Grammar cape. I gave him a Look.

"What?" he said, with a sly grin. "I'm teaching you English."

The keenly observant among you will immediately note that technically, in terms of standard English grammar, my original construction was correct and A. Peevie's correction was wrong. The phrase "me and M. Peevie" constituted the object of the preposition "for." You wouldn't say "the rest is for I."

But more important, where is he getting the idea that clear, understandable spoken language requires correction? Not from me, I assure you. In fact, he gets quite the opposite from me. We take non-standard grammar and syntax examples and fondly turn them into family slogans, like "What did you said?"

I suspect the nefarious influence of a prescriptive English teacher at school has inculcated the noxious notion that correcting someone's grammar is acceptable and appropriate. I love excellent and precise written and spoken language as much or more as the next guy--but I'm not on board with untrained and unrestrained grammar policing.

The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) is the primary sponsor of National Grammar Day. The society's blog (yes, the SPOGG Blog) comments on celebrity grammar goofs, with recent bi-partisan criticism for both President Bush and Senator Obama; and the blog even nags celebs to use "proper English" in text messages and blogs.

Obama got nailed for using a "they" with a singular antecedent--the same construction that Shakespeare used more than once ("There's not a man I meet but doth salute me/As if I were their well-acquainted friend," in A Comedy of Errors). If it's good enough for Shakespeare, and if it occurs "in the carefully prepared published work of just about all major writers down the centuries" according to Language Log's Geoffrey Pullum, then why isn't it good enough for Grumpy Martha (SPOGG's prescriptive host) and the rest of the grouchy prescriptivists?

My favorite linguists over at Language Log Plaza mildly ridiculed National Grammar Day as potentially mean-spirited--but they did not resort to name-calling, as Grumpy Martha said they did in her reply. I'm in the linguist's camp on this one. I don't think we need more finger-pointing about language, especially when the operational definitions of "correct" and "proper" grammar are dynamic.

And we definitely don't need more correcting and finger-pointing from 10-year-old ill-informed language tyrants.