Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Review: Twilight

I love vampires and vampire stories. I love Dracula, by Bram Stoker. I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I love Angel even more. But I'm a little conflicted by these Stephenie Meyer vampire stories.

I'm conflicted because the writing is lame to the point of distraction; but I really wanted to like Twilight because many of my reader friends like it--"can't-put-it-down" like it; "read it again and again" like it.

The gist of the story is that this girl falls in love with a vegetarian vampire--a vampire that doesn't feed on humans. Ha ha. He reciprocates, even though she is a clumsy dork who has never kissed a boy. They engage in lots of adolescent sexual tension: shivers, cheek touches, hair smelling, meaningful glances across crowded rooms, and a couple of kisses. It's very chaste.

It's also repetetive and harlequin romance-esque, with eyes that brim with unshed tears and lips that quiver, hearts that pound, and innocent touches that send electricity coursing through lovers' veins. Yada yada yada. For example:

"Bella?" I turned and he was leaning toward me, his pale, glorious face just inches from mine. My heart stopped beating.

"Sleep well," he said. His breath blew in my face, stunning me. It was the same exquisite scent that clung to his jacket, but in a more concentrated form. I blinked, thoroughly dazed. He leaned away."

I was unable to move until my brain had somewhat unscrambled itself.

Meyer uses the word "glorious" to describe vampire Edward's beauty at least four times. In the first 80 pages. She also overdoes the beauty adjectives when describing the perfect features of her ancient blood-suckers, as though she has never heard the first rule of writing: show, don't tell. For example:

"devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful" p. 19
"dazzling face...flawless lips" p. 43
"his livid, glorious face" p. 65
"his stunning face" p. 65
"his too-perfect face" p. 74
"his eyes were gloriously intense" p. 84
"his deep gold eyes" p. 89
"his heavenly face" p. 107
"his burning gold eyes" p. 108
"his flawless features" p. 162

Edward also smiles crookedly about once per chapter, and don't even get me started on his muscular chest and his cold skin. Apparently I'm not the only one who likes to catalog literary flaws, and who noticed the insane amount of adjectivizing going on in this book. You will thank me if you click on that link, and especially if you scroll down and read the parody, entitled Duskiness.

Compare all of this with Stoker's subtle but compelling sexual subtext:

With a mocking smile he placed one hand upon my shoulder, and holding me tight, bared my throat with the other, saying as he did so, "First, a little refreshment to reward my exertions. You may as well be quiet. It is not the first time, or the second, that your veins have appeased my thirst." I was bewildered, and strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him. I suppose it is a part of the horrible curse that such is, when his touch is on his victim. And oh my God, my God, pity me! He placed his reeking lips upon my long this horrible thing lasted I know not; but it seemed that a long time must have passed before he took his foul, awful, sneering mouth away. I saw it drip with the fresh blood.

It's no excuse to suggest that Meyer's writing is more simplistic because it's targeted to a juvenile audience. JK Rowling writes for the same audience without insulting them, and without pissing me off.

And maybe I'm just an incurable anti-romantic, but the intensely intoxicating effect that Edward has upon Bella is completely insipid and unbelievable; and not only that, but the relationship is characterized by an unhealthy dependence and a ridiculous lack of awareness. Bella gets all loopy when she doesn't see Edward for 24 hours. I hate being minus Mr. Peevie for very long--but does "desolation hit me with crippling strength"? No, it does not.

This is not to say that I don't think that Twilight could make a good movie. It's only getting 50% on the TomatoMeter, but I might give it a try.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

You Have Got to be Kidding Me

Last Friday, C. Peevie removed his Velcro boot cast and put on two shoes for the first time since he spiral-fractured his tibia on September 2. Three days later, M. Peevie slipped on the stairs, smashed her foot into the wall, and fractured her tibia.

That's our story and I'm sticking to it.

I expect a visit from DCFS at any minute.

Apparently, this is the year of broken bones in the Peevie household. This is fracture number three. I had specifically forbidden any further bone breakage, but my disobedient daughter totally disregarded the prohibition. And not only that--she did it 12 hours before we were scheduled to depart for our Christmas Aught Nine: Philadelphia Edition road trip.

C. Peevie and I went running when we heard "Thump! Thump! Thump! Ow!" as M. Peevie catapulted down the stairs, crashed into the wall, and cried out.

"It hurts!" she cried. "My ankle! I felt the bone move up! Wah! Wah! Waaahhh!"

We carried her to the couch, elevated her leg, and gently laid a bag of frozen corn (nature's ice-pack) across the already-swelling and tender-to-the-touch area. M. Peevie continued to weep, and I called the pediatrician, who recommended that we take her for an x-ray since she was unwilling to even attempt to put weight on her leg. I dosed her with Children's Tylenol (t), splinted her leg with a St. Andrew's phone directory and an ace bandage, and headed off to the hospital.

I thought the splint was a nice touch. I sort of felt like an army medic applying a field dressing during combat--only without the field and the combat. I was hoping somebody at the hospital would notice and comment on my heads-up treatment protocol--but no.

We arrived at the ER about 40 minutes after the accident. M. Peevie sat patiently in her wheelchair in the uncrowded waiting room, her face bearing the strain of pain and fatigue.

"I'm going to have to unwrap your leg," Nurse Jane said kindly when we finally reached triage about a half hour later. Not one word about how great the make-shift splint was.

"OK," M. Peevie said in a small voice, with a tiny hiccup.

"What's your pain level, honey?" Nurse Jane asked, showing M. the sad face/happy face pain chart.

"Seven-and-a-half," M. Peevie said. "Maybe eight."

"Well, you're being very brave," Nurse Jane said, unwrapping the ace bandage. When she got the splint unwrapped, she held out the school directory. "I hope this isn't homework," she said, amused. "How did you hurt yourself?"

I liked how Nurse Jane talked to M. Peevie. She spoke calmly and directly to M., and gave her the opportunity to speak for herself like a big girl. It did cross my mind, however, that hospital personnel are trained to watch for signs of abuse when children come into the ER with injuries; and I arranged my face into a concerned and guilt-free expression.

"No," M. Peevie said. "It's my school directory. I fell on the stairs," she continued. "I slipped and went all the way down and crashed into the wall with my foot. I felt the bone move up." She was very believable.

The nurse looked at me meaningfully, and we both noticed that the swelling on M. Peevie's leg had an uneven indentation in it. I knew we were in for a long night, and even though I reassured M. Peevie that it might just be a sprain, I was confident that we were dealing with a fracture.

Three hours, an x-ray, and four or five re-tellings of the Fall Down the Stairs later, including two tellings to each of two maintenance personnel who stopped by the room, we headed home with a little girl in a temporary cast, discharge instructions, and a prescription for Tylenol plus codeine. Yay. Hope she has some left over.

Meanwhile, Mr. Peevie finished packing, wrapping presents, and organizing us for our trip to PA. He is the true hero of the story. Our original plan was to get out the door by 6 a.m., but we allowed ourselves a little more sleep in the morning, and delayed our departure by six hours.

Brave broken-tibia girl barely cried after the initial trauma. We managed her pain primarily with ibuprofen and occasional doses of T3.

After this auspicious beginning, Christmas Aught-Nine: Philadelphia Edition was a piece of cake, even with the crazy relatives and the too-close quarters for too much time.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas, Aught-Nine: Pekin Edition

The Peevies usually celebrate Christmas twice: once with Mr. Peevie's family, and once with my family. Both celebrations involve lots of eating, the opening of many presents, and irritation levels ranging from the I-will-mention-this-to-Mr.-Peevie-and-then-get-over-it variety to the to the hold-me-back-or-I-will-bitchslap-him/her assortment. More on the lattermost situation later.

Both celebrations also involve the driving of long distances in a tinier-by-the-minute minivan with five persons in varying stages of sleep deprivation, crankiness, constipation, and snot production. These are the times that try men's souls, these times of long-distance auto travel in sideways-blowing blizzards and patches of black ice and frequent pee stops. And the souls of women, as well.

So we have just survived our first Christmas of aught-nine; and after a day of laundry, re-packing, errand-running, and last-minute shopping, we will embark upon our second aught-nine-Noel. (Our house sitters have a large, hungry Dobermann and a loaded Remington, in case any of you Internet Lurkers out there have any funny ideas. Of course, I'm not talking to my loyal Green Room readers, who are all not merely law-abiding, but also above average in intelligence, beauty, and integrity.)

The first Christmas had a minimum of irritation and a high level of kindness, generosity, and sweetness. And--bonus!--there was no bleeding, and no broken bones! So I am bracing myself for Trouble in Christmas #2, because statistically, we are due.

Three kinds of soup simmered fragrantly on the stove, and 17 kinds of holiday cookies awaited us when we arrived in Pekin Friday night. The little cousins greeted us with joyous shouts and enthusiastic hugs. It's always curiously wonderful to me that cousins who see each other maybe three times a year have such warm and close-knit bonds with each other. Why does this happen?

On Saturday we attended the Big Game, in which little cousin Ri-Ri's team narrowly defeated the opposition in a nail-biter, 14-12. These 7- and 8-year olds are seriously cute basketball players, and some of them actually have skills. One tiny point guard on the other team dribbled like a Globetrotter, cleverly stutter-stepping his way around defenders and exploiting inadvertent picks to approach shooting range. (That's the point at which his skills more closely resembled those of a typical 8-year-old. Hence the score.)

After an unfortunate toilet-clogging situation because of yet another gigantic bowellian output from a Child Who Will Not Be Named, in which Roto-Rooter had to be called, but not until after the amateurs tried their hand at unclogging and succeeded in flooding the bathroom with fecal matter--I say, AFTER this unfortunate incident occurred, we took the kids out for some wholesome fun at Striketown in North Pekin.

I have to say--as a girl from the big city, I love this small-town bowling alley. The place was clean and friendly and uncrowded. When we arrived early in the afternoon, only two other customers were bowling in the 20-lane, out-of-the-way stand-alone building. Between the nine of us, we bowled about 16 games, rented eight pairs of shoes, drank a pitcher of Coke and about five beers--and the whole thing cost about $60.

The big winner was six-year-old cousin Tiny, with 112, as compared to my measely 102. I attribute my embarrassing micro-score to my aging, arthritic hips and the bowling ball that I carry taped to my abdomen. Mr. Peevie came through with a respectable 150-something, but he arrived late after some much-needed shoe shopping, so I'm giving Tiny the win.

And it is all about winning, isn't it?

Oh, wait. That's not very Christmasy.

Anyway, we had Christmas dinner at the SIL/BIL's lovely home overlooking a lake. SIL laid out a spread that would feed a small country, and we ate ourselves into comas. Then we opened presents from youngest to oldest, which used to put me in a good position, but now I'm one of the old folks.

The sun set on Christmas number one as we drove the three-hour distance home in about 2:40, unpacked, and got ready to to it all over again 24 hours later.

And then M. Peevie broke her leg.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Spirit

Oh, I'm filled with Christmas spirit, all right. That's why I'm up after midnight, wrapping gifts, doing laundry, washing dishes, and caulking windows.

Oh, I'm not really caulking windows, but that's one way my friend spends her late-at-night-after-everyone-else-is-in-bed-and-the-house-is-quiet time. Strange, right? But also a tiny bit wonderful at the same time.

The dishes have been piling up faster than usual. The microwave oven broke, and we have to put food into pans on the stove or in the oven to heat it up. Hence: more dirty dishes. Annoying.

[How did people ever live without microwave ovens? I remember the first one Mr. Peevie and I ever bought--we gave it to each other for our first anniversary. It lasted for over 20 years. The next one lasted a couple of months. This one is now about three years old, and the stupid door-opening button took early retirement. M-waves are so cheap now that it's not cost-effective to repair them; but it's still a hundred bucks we don't have.]

Since I'm co-room-momming for the sixth grade class, I'm also putting my secret talent to work arranging a lovely gourmet gift basket for Mr. Santa. Did you know I had this talent? Now it's not a secret anymore. I don't know what teachers like and don't like to receive from their students for the holidays, but this has got to be a good choice: gourmet goodies from Trader Joe's, including spiral ham, lovely cheeses, assorted crackers, nuts, sparkling juices, and some other crap. I mean yummie treats.

Meanwhile, my uterus is doing origami with itself, and I'm allergic to the painkillers that actually work for menstrual cramps, so I'm moaning softly and yearning for menopause.

There are ten jillion more things that need to be done in the next week, and I can already tell I'm going to have to double up on the Lexapro, and maybe add in a few Xanax, to get through it all.

Ah, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year.

I would love to be that person who is totally focused on the reason for the season (even though that phrase makes me throw up a little in my brain every time I hear it). I would love to be all Jesusy, reading through parts of the Christmas story with my children every night before bed; making care packages for homeless people and delivering them to shelters; baking cookies and wrapping them up in festive containers for all my neighbors; creating and mailing homemade Christmas cards.

But I can't even get my dad's birthday card in the mail. His birthday was two days ago. I can't even brush my hair every day; and forget about getting even store-bought cards in the mail.

I don't know how other people do it: wear holiday-themed jewelry, get their shopping done before Thanksgiving, French braid their daughters' hair and tie it with ribbons that match their outfits, and generally appear to have all their shit together.

Fortunately, I do have a secret for surviving the holidays, and indeed, for surviving any stressful or challenging time in life. Do you want to know what my secret is?

Low standards.

Try it. It works.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Conversations About Health Care

Jacob Weisberg recently compared the Republican response to the current pending bill to the 2003 Medicare Part D bill in Slate magazine. It's very illuminating, and here's the most telling line:

"Medicare recipients are much more likely to vote Republican than the uninsured who would benefit most from the Democratic bills," which is why the Republicans overwhelmingly passed Medicare Part D at an estimated 10-year cost as high as $1.2 trillion, but won't support the current bill.

"That figure," Weisberg continued,
—just for prescription-drug coverage that people over 65 still have to pay a lot of money for—dwarfs the $848 billion cost of the Senate bill. The Medicare D price tag continues to escalate because the bill explicitly bars the government from using its market power to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers or establishing a formulary with approved medications.
I had a conversation recently with a guy who opposes the health care reform bill because, he said, it would cause his health insurance premiums to increase by $700 per year. First of all, I doubt that he--or anyone--knows enough about the impact of the bill to be able to calculate a specific individual cost.

But aren't there more important considerations at stake here than the anecdotal alleged impact on one wealthy family? Such as health care bankruptcy for tens of thousands of Americans? Such as millions involuntarily uninsured or under-insured?

He would say no. He would say, "That's socialism. That's redistribution of wealth, and I'm against it." But as we have pointed out before,this is not socialism, it's progressive taxation. It's what we do here in this country to help take care of people who are poor, of children, of families who are struggling to keep a 10-year-old car running, not driving late model Beemers; who sometimes have to choose between buying medicine and buying food; who get non-emergency health care at the emergency room because they can't afford the cost of an office visit.

Health care reform is imperative because health care in this country works great for some, but there are too many left out in the cold. Health care reform is an issue of social justice.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Annoying TV Commercials

There are certain TV commercials that make me wonder if the intern that wrote them had a hangover, grew up on Pluto, or was intentionally trying to sabotage his client. Or maybe all three.

1. Charmin' Ultra Strong--I just do not want to think about "the pieces left behind," thank you very much. That's just...nas-tay.

2. Six Flags/Great America. "Six Flags! More Flags, More Fun!" says the loud, annoying, creepy guy in the Harry Caray glasses. I know I'm not the target demographic for these ads, but I am the likely source of funding and transportation--and these ads make me want to run, not walk, in the opposite direction.

3. The Eddie and Jobo United Auto Insurance commercials that air here in Chicago. Who the hell are Eddie and Jobo? I realize that these two knuckleheads have--had--a radio following on B96 (Chicago) for 20 years; but seriously. The non-E&J demographic--and I believe I'm speaking for all five million of us--just doesn't get it. When Eddie (or Jobo) show up on my little blue screen saying, "Eddie and Jobo here!", I just mutter, "Not any more!"--and change the channel.

4. Every single lawyer commercial ever made, or at least those that air in my town.

"Hi, I'm Roni DEUTCH. I don't own a hairbrush, but I will help you fix your taxes!"

"Hi, I'm Peter Francis Geracy. I have the most annoying Chi-keeah-go accent in history, but if you can stand to listen to my nasally blended soft a vowel sounds, I will help you declare bankruptcy! It's the answer to all your problems! Call for my free info tapes NOW!"

5. The Scooter Store TV ads that say, "Call for your pow'r churr today!" What the heck is a churr? Why can't Mr. Scooter say the word "chair"?

6. The new Steak-Umms pitch that frames the frozen alleged steak slices as your ticket to keeping up with the Joneses: "It's time to tell the neighbors you're eating steak again."

Apparently, I'm not the only one (nor the first one) to comment on the stupidity of this totally unpersuasive line of advertising.In his critique of the ad, Moons in Leo recently observed that Steak-Umms may not even count as meat because they're "about as thick as two-ply toilet paper." Heh.

There's probably more, but that's all I can come up with at the moment. But how about it--you got some? I'd love to hear about them.

Awful Christmas Music

I confess: I love Christmas music. When WLIT switches over to their holiday music programming, I play that station all the time. The kids and I sing along. It's very corny and lame.

However, I am not so lame that I don't recognize truly awful Christmas songs when I hear them, and I've heard a few this season that provoke the same type of response as
ipecac syrup.

One of them is Christmas Shoes, written and performed about 10 years ago by a group called NewSong. It's about a little boy whose mother is dying, and he wants to buy her shoes so she'll look great if she "meets Jesus tonight." It is awful for many reasons, but primarily because it is more manipulative than a tween with a joystick.

Hilariously, the guy in the video almost rolls his eyes at the little boy (at 2:20 in the vid) when the little boy looks up at him and asks him, "Sir, what am I gonna do?" If the song had gone dark at this point, it would have at least had entertainment value. But no. We're stuck with horrifying theology suggesting that God sends pathetic, poverty-stricken children and cancer as object lessons to teach a cynical, shopped-out guy "what Christmas is all about."

And what is Christmas all about, anyway? From this song, I gather it's about waiting until the last minute to buy a useless gift that the recipient will never use. Or sending your unwashed child out after curfew to do your Christmas shopping.

Another Christmas song I love to hate is
My Grown Up Christmas List, made popular by Amy Grant and covered by dozens of artists hoping to cash in on its sappy manipulation. It's like the interview portion of the Miss America Pageant set to elevator music:
No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up Christmas list
These are all good things to wish for. But there's nothing compelling, nothing personal, nothing challenging or new about saying, "I want all war to end." It's kind of a "duh" thing to say, even if you say it in a song.

Then there's a version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas out there--maybe Mariah Carey sings it?--that's set to such a slow tempo that you can leave your house when the song starts, drive to St. Charles to chop down your Christmas tree, bring it home, and finish decorating it before the song ends. Or you can just switch the station, which is what I do.

This one might get some flack, but I absolutely hate
The Soldiers' Night Before Christmas, a bastardization of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, set to sappy instrumentals. It's just simplistic, manipulative, clichéd rhyming. Here's a sample

His face so gentle, his room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured a United States soldier.
Was this the hero of whom I'd just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

I couldn´t help wonder how many lay alone
On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

I think those who serve deserve a far better tribute than this lametastic sentimentality. There are plenty of poems that honor the sacrifices that a soldier makes without resorting to maudlin clichés.

So, there you have it. I'm a giant Scrooge. Songs that are supposed to move me and touch my fossilized heart instead trigger cynicism and ridicule. But I suspect I'm not alone. What Christmas songs do you love to hate?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Life Lessons from Spongebob Squarepants

A. Peevie had told me last week that he wanted to be a leader among his friends, but he didn't know how to make it happen.

When this conversation started, I was thinking to myself, "Oh, that's so honorable, so beautiful, so mature that my boy wants to be a leader! He wants to help people make good choices, even though they might be hard ones. He wants to set an example for his classmates. He wants to inspire others to dream big dreams and reach for their goals!"

I was getting all Winston Churchill-y in my mind--but it turns out, A. Peevie had a different kind of leadership in mind.

"Mrs. Faker told us once that some kids are leaders, and some are followers," he said. "And I always end up being a follower. But I don't WANT to be just a follower! I want to be a leader sometimes, too!"

This sounded a little weird to me. Some kids are leaders, and some are followers? Did she really say that? And if she did, why? Was she trying to inspire, um, mediocrity? A sense of entitlement? A philosophy of determinism?

"Well, A. Peevie," I said, "I think it's possible that you may have misunderstood Mrs. Faker. I don't really know why she would say that."

"She did, mom," he insisted.

"Well, if she did, then I disagree with her," I said. "I believe that all kids are leaders sometimes, and all kids are followers sometimes. So you can be a leader, too!"

And here's where my dreams of Churchillian greatness started to crumble.

"But mom!" A. Peevie objected. "Every time I try to lead, nobody wants to follow!"

"What do you mean, A?" I asked.

"If I want to play a game, I tell the kids, but nobody ever wants to play what I want to play," A. Peevie explained. "They just follow The Archangel, or Xander, or Trog. I don't ever get to be the leader!" he finished with a decidedly un-leaderlike whine.

Later, I asked C. Peevie to give his perspective on A. Peevie's dilemma. "I don't know, Mom," he said, "I've never had that problem."

"But what would you do, C.," I asked him, "if you wanted your friends to follow your lead, but they didn't want to?"

"Talk louder," he said, with brutal simplicity, "and keep talking until they give in." And he meant it.

"A. Peevie," C. Peevie added, "You should take a lesson from Spongebob Squarepants. Remember when Plankton was teaching Spongebob how to be more assertive?"

"What's assertive?" A. Peevie asked.

"Assertive means saying what you want loud enough to get it," C. Peevie said. Or something like that.

"Plankton offers to teach Spongebob how to be assertive," C. continued. "He stands in Spongebob's mouth and yells at a little kid to give him his ice cream cone! 'Hey kid! Gimme your ice cream!' And the kid screams and drops his ice cream, and Spongebob says, 'Hey! he dropped his ice cream!'--and then Plankton laughs evilly because it's all part of his evil plan! 'Bwah- hah-hah!'"

By this time A. Peevie had forgotten his leadership woes and was cracking up in the back seat. C. Peevie continued with his slightly mis-remembered retelling of Spongebob's adventures in assertiveness, and any opportunity to add actual value to our discussion went up in giggles.

It was worth it, though. One kid was in his element, talking, telling tales, and entertaining his audience; and the other one was, for a brief moment, forgetting his sadness and frustration.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Santa Question, Revisited

When your kid believes in Santa, how do you deal with her inevitable encounters with the testimony of doubters and disbelievers?

Yesterday at school, a mom approached me and asked if M. Peevie still believed in Santa Claus. I told her no.

"She's been telling the little kids that Santa's not real," Mom of Little Kid (MLK) said.

"Oh," I said, feeling a little, but not a lot, guilty. "She shouldn't do that."

"Yes, I know," MLK said. "I thought I'd talk to you about it since I saw you here." And what? And then I can cast my forgetting spell so that the younger kids will have no memory of what she told them? And then I can tell M. Peevie (again) to be very careful not to talk about her mature belief system in front of the still-deluded?

MLK continued, "Yeah, my kids were telling me that a big kid at school was going around saying that Santa wasn't real, so we got the yearbook out and went through all the pictures to see who it was, and they pointed to M. Peevie."

Sooooo, you didn't just happen to see me and decide to have a little conversation about it; in fact, you spent time doing research to figure out which ill-mannered child had crossed the Santa boundary, planning to accost the bad parent who obviously neglected her parental duty to strictly instruct M. Peevie to keep the Santa Secret on penalty of...of...of something really bad.

OK, I'm probably overthinking this. But still. Instead of talking to me about my daughter's big mouth, shouldn't you be talking to your child, who will continue to encounter opinions, stories, and data that contradict her fond, innocent fantasy? Isn't it part of your job as her parent to help her make sense of her world? Surely M. Peevie isn't the only third-grader who has made the intellectual transition to reluctant realism.

Here's the real kicker: when I talked to M. Peevie, and asked her to please use discretion about her Santa skepticism around the younger kids, she told me that one of the playground moms had already had that same conversation with her. Wait, what? Really? This bugged me more than MLK having her kids pick M. Peevie out of a grade-school line-up. I asked her to tell me what happened.

"The little kids were talking about Santa," M. Peevie said. "Playground Kid asked me if I believed in Santa."

"What did you say, M.?" I asked.

"I said, 'No, I don't believe in Santa because he's not real'," she said simply. "And then Playground Mom talked to me and told me I shouldn't say that."

"What else did she say?" I asked, irritated. "Did she think you should lie to Playground Kid?"

"No," M. Peevie said. "She told me what I could say instead of saying that Santa wasn't real."

"Like what?" I asked.

"I can't remember," M. Peevie said. And this is exactly the reason that adults should not put it on a nine-year-old to protect their children's Santa-believing innocence: because she's been taught to tell the truth. Even though she doesn't exactly have to lie to avoid telling the painful truth, she would have to behave, think, and respond in a way that is beyond the mental and emotional capacity of many adults, let alone a third-grader, in order to avoid giving a direct and truthful answer. It's not fair to her.

Ironically, on the way home from school today, A. Peevie, who just turned 12, asked me if Santa was real.

"What do you think, A.?" I dissimulated, as I usually do when confronted with direct questions about the existence of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and any other childhood larger-than-life fantasy figures. In fact, it's exactly what I did last year when he asked.

A. Peevie did not bite. "I don't know, Mom," he said. "That's why I'm asking you."

"He's not really real," M. Peevie asserted, and A. Peevie quickly and peevedly cut her off: "I'm not asking you! I'm asking mom."

"Well, A.," I said slowly. "I like to believe in Santa."

"That's not really an answer, mom," A. Peevie observed accurately. "Is he real, or not?"

"Hmm," I said, stalling for time. "Well, don't you think you're kind of Santa, when you give a gift to someone?"

"Um, no," he said. "No, I do not think I'm Santa. Is he real?"

"A.," I said, "Do you really want to know the truth?"

"Yes," he said, sadly, "Even though I think I already do."

"Yeah, I think you already do, too," I said. "But in a way, he's real, because he's an idea, a symbol of giving and generosity. He reminds us that God gave us the best gift of all, Jesus."

"So he's not real," A. Peevie concluded, and sighed a huge sigh of sorrow.

"Does that make you sad, A?" I asked.

He slumped in his seat and looked out the car window at the twinkling holiday lights flashing by. "Yes," he said; and then he was quiet the rest of the way home.

M. Peevie chimed in again, remembering our conversation about The Santa Question from a year ago. "When mommy told me that Santa wasn't real, I cried and cried," she said.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: Blue Like Jazz

I'm late to the party, as usual.

Six years ago, when Blue Like Jazz came out, a bunch of people recommended it to me. I didn't read it. I tagged it TBR in my LibraryThing catalog. Every time it came up in conversation, or was mentioned in a book or an article, I'd say to myself, "Oh, yeah, I need to read that book soon."

So here it is, six years later. I borrowed it from a friend and read it in one day. The whole time I was reading Blue Like Jazz, I was pissed that I hadn't written it.

Donald Miller charts his spiritual journey in a series of autobiographical essays. His voice is sweet and almost child-like; he's real, and transparent, and funny. Miller, a lapsed Baptist reconditioned into a non-denominational Jesus-lover, struggles with the same existential dilemmas that keep me awake at night: the responsibility of being human, the irrationality of God, the meaning of life, and why girls like Pride and Prejudice so much, but guys don't.

He acknowledges that sometimes faith is inexplicable: "My belief in Jesus did not seem rational or scientific, and yet there was nothing I could do to separate myself from this belief." I feel Miller's pain on this. It doesn't mean that he believes that faith in Jesus is completely irrational; it means that even though some parts of the faith scenario make rational sense, some parts don't, like the resurrection, like the notion that a guy who lived 2000 years ago could have life-altering relevance today. It means that sometimes we just don't feel the presence of God in our lives, even though we confess that God Is There. It means that sometimes believing in God feels like having an imaginary friend.

That's why it's called faith--but there are not many modern Christians who write authentically about this struggle between their heads and their hearts. Miller's unpretentious struggle gives the rest of us the ability to admit our own doubts and fears.

Miller's faith encompasses his emotions, but it does not rely solely upon them. "Early on," he wrote, "I made the mistake of wanting spiritual feelings to endure and remain romantic...When this didn't happen, I became confused." From this confusion and fear, Miller decided to try self-discipline as the means for overcoming the encumbering sins of self-addiction. You know what happened: It didn't work. It never does. The cycle, Miller said, was dehumanizing.

Again: haven't we all been here? We misunderstand or misinterpret the gospel. We have been taught that as believers, we must look different, behave differently--and we want to, we really do. But sooner than we can say "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" or some other annoying Christian catchphrase, we're back in the middle of whatever idolatry holds our hearts.

This is why Miller emphasizes the relationship with Jesus, emphasizes the grace of the cross. Because it's what makes Christianity--or Christian spirituality, as Miller labels it--different from other faiths. We rely on something outside of ourselves to change us, to redirect us. We fall in love with Jesus, and it fuels our change.

I felt kinship with Miller in his pursuit of faith that is deeply connected to the heart, that is deeper than mere intellectual assent. "Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little is spent allowing our hearts to feel awe," Miller writes. "By reducing Christian spirituality to formula, we deprive our hearts of wonder."

As the product of a strict, behaviorist upbringing, I am painfully aware of the struggle to grow a faith that is as real to my heart as it is to my head. In our household, loving God meant having the right behavior, with little or no regard for what gurgled behind the scenes in our hearts, in our emotions.

Miller gets this, and even though the Baptists don't like it, and the Presbyterians get nervous with this crazy talk about feelings and emotions (ohmyword is someone going to clap in church?), and even the de-converted despise his "tepid theology of the feel-good variety," his message is valuable to both believers and non-believers.

Miller--whose photo on his website makes him look like my boyfriend, Vincent D'Onofrio--said that when he started writing Blue Like Jazz, he "wanted to end up with something like Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies." He succeeded. I love Traveling Mercies (reviewed here) for the same reasons I love Blue Like Jazz: both authors speak honestly, transparently about what it's really like to be a Christian in a post-modern world.

So, better late than never: Put Blue Like Jazz on your reading list for 2010, if you passed it up in order to re-read Stephen King's The Stand (the uncut version).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

I'm thankful for...

...celebrating Thanksgiving with friends.

...not having to travel for the holiday.

...a first-time ever brined turkey that turned out FABULOUS.

...perfect garlic mashed potatoes that did not taste like ball bearings coated with papier mache.

...a gorgeous, delicious apricot and cranberry pie festooned with delectable pie crust leaf cutouts (thanks to LiDe). It looked even more fabulous than this image I borrowed from

...a clean basement, thanks to Mr. Peevie, where kids could play ping-pong while moms and dads could have conversations elsewhere.

...M. Peevie's first Turkey Trot: cold, a bit wet at first, but ultimately, successful.

...the warmest November since I can remember.


...guests who do dishes.

...sleeping late the next day. Until 11. Yeah.

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 22, 2009


A. Peevie turned twelve today. This is not a big surprise, since he turned eleven last year.

A. Peevie is a complicated boy. He is deep and thoughtful; he doesn't give an answer until he feels certain and confident. He always tells the truth, and he has a very tender conscience. He always has schemes going in his mind: ideas for game characters; plans for fort-building and club-making; stories waiting to be written.

A middle child, birth-ordered between two extroverts with big feelings and loud opinions, A. Peevie sometimes plays for hours in his own imagination. He lies in bed and invents stories in his mind in which he is the central character. He acts out the adventures of the character in his mind, with sound effects. We often hear shooting noises--"Tffffhhhhhh! Tfffhhh-tffffhh! Dzzhh! Dzzhh!"--coming from his room in the middle of the night.

One time, years ago, he let me watch him while he was playing in his imagination. (Nowadays he wants privacy for his imagination play.) He was making crashing noises, and thrashing around on the bed--up on his knees one moment, falling backward into a crumpled heap the next. I asked him what was going on in the story. A. Peevie was some kind of animal or creature, and there was a huge stone wall involved.

"Did you knock the wall down?" I asked him, taking a stab at interpreting the kinesthetics and audibles.

"No," he said, shaking his head. "The wall fell down on me."

"Ah," I said. "That must have hurt."

"Mm-hmm," he said seriously; and then he went back inside his imagination to continue the carnage.

My theory is that this imaginary play gives him the opportunity to be stronger, braver, and more heroic and successful than he feels in real life, which has presented him with more physical and emotional obstacles than your average 12-year-old faces. He takes meds for complex congenital heart defects; dangerous cardiac arrythmias that presented about four years ago; and hypothyroidism. Plus, he struggles with low self-esteem and a level of anxiety that makes Woody Allen seem like the poster child for self-confidence.

Mr. Peevie and I just want this boy to know how great he is, how much he is capable of accomplishing. He's smart, and kind, and funny. He's a great artist, and has a vivid, energetic imagination.

Tonight, when I was cuddling with him at bedtime, he was worrying about his schoolwork. Again. Still. He hadn't stopped worrying about it all day--even when we were eating pizza for his birthday dinner.

"A. Peevie," I told him, "I want you to do three things when you start to feel worried about school, or about anything.

"Number one: Pray. Just a short prayer, asking God for help. You can just say, 'Jesus, please help me.' God will answer that prayer.

"Number two: Remember this: Mom and dad will help you get through it. We will help you learn it, we will help you figure out how to do it, fix it, or get it done. We are on your side.

"And number three: Tell yourself, 'I am smart and strong, and I can do it.'" I cannot lie: I did think about Stuart Smalley when I said this.

He was quiet when I finished. I thought maybe he had fallen asleep.

"A. Peevie," I whispered. "Are you awake?"

"Mm-hmm," he whispered back.

"Can you do those three things?" I asked him.

"Mm-hmm," he said.

Half the time, Mr. Peevie and I throw our hands in the air because we feel clueless about how to parent this mysterious, imaginative, highly sensitive child.

Jesus, please help me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tibial Fractures and Monkey Carcasses

C. Peevie's hard cast came off on Tuesday. The X-ray of the tibia in question showed that his body was hard at work generating new bone around the spiral fracture. Time to put the saw to the fiberglass and slice that baby right off--so buzz, buzz, and off it came.

The smell was palpable. It mushroomed into the office atmosphere like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion, and the doctor and I both collapsed, unconscious. When we came to, C. Peevie and his mushroom cloud were isolated behind yellow crime scene tape, and men in white suits and gas masks were stuffing the pieces of cast and lumps of cotton padding into Hefty bags marked with the yellow and black universal symbol of Yikes!

C. Peevie was happily scraping layers of cheesy epidermis off, exposing patches of tender, pink skin dotted with manly black hairs. He groaned with the ecstasy of delayed scratching gratification that only the recently de-casted can truly appreciate. Even after the haz-mat team hurled the steaming pile of cast remnants into the incinerator, the smell of decaying monkey carcasses still wafted up from C. Peevie's newly liberated calf.

But we're not done with Broken Leg Drama yet. Now he's wearing a removable velcro knee-high boot. He can place as much weight on his leg as he feels comfortable with, but he's still got to have his crutches with him for the next four weeks. That puts us at December 15 before he's cast- and crutch-free, adding up to a total of three-and-a-half months of limited mobility and limited chore-doing.

C. Peevie has developed an unattractive victimy dependence and sense of entitlement that reaches far beyond his actual medical needs. On cast removal morning, I got him up to get ready to leave with me to take A. Peevie and M. Peevie to school. I was running around, making breakfasts, making lunches, helping kids find missing shoes, reminding them about various books and homework assignments, and doing my best to get the four of us out the door on time.

Meanwhile, C. Peevie was sitting on the couch in his PJs, video game remote control in his hand, hollering, "I need a tissue! I need a tissue!" I ignored him the first few times, but his insistent demands finally broke through my calm and patient exterior; and I started leaking a bit of (justifiable) homicidal rage.

I walked into the living room, smacked the off button on the TV, and squarely confronted Captain IHaveABrokenLegCanYouPleaseWipeMyAss.

"C. Peevie," I said grimly. "Get up off your butt and get your own tissue."

"But there aren't any on this floor," he said, pulling his I Have a Broken Leg card for the 80 jillionth time.

"Then you can walk to the bathroom and use toilet paper like the rest of us do," I said, pointing out the obvious-to-everyone-but-him solution.

"Oh," he said.

I feel like we have regressed about two years in the training of this man-child, who's first sentence was "Me do it!" He has always wanted to do things himself, learn, and take responsibility, and he was growing into an independent, responsible, helpful member of the family. He was making his own oatmeal at age four--and now he has to be reminded to get his own damn Kleenex.

My friend Q said I'm being too hard on him; that I should just let him heal, and let the chores and responsibilities go for now. But she is the parent of one compliant child, and you know what Bill Cosby had to say about that: You're not really a parent until you have more than one child. I figure she doesn't really know jack.

[Note: I searched and googled for a link to the actual Cosby quote, but could only find anecdotal references to it. I know I read it myself, probably in his book Fatherhood.]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nothing Ever Happens on My Block

Did you read this book in your erstwhile youth--Nothing Ever Happens on My Block? OMG. I LOVED that book. And then it sort of disappeared from my life, and I didn't think about it again until I had kids. In searching for information about the book, I came across this cute blog that highlights vintage children's books.

Meanwhile, in only-sort-of-unrelated news, The Crazy Lady on my block got taken away today by the entire police department and half the fire department of Chicago.

I was sitting on my couch, minding my own business, watching People's Court (I have a girl-crush on Marilyn Milian), when I noticed a squad car out in front of my next-door-neighbor's house. Not the neighbor with the jungle, the neighbor on the other side. So I peeked out the window from behind the sheers. There was not just one squad car, but three!

Two police officers were standing on the walk in front of The Crazy Lady's house--and BTW, I mean no disrespect to TCL, who suffers from schizophrenia or some other fairly serious mental illness--and as I peeped, another officer went tearing around the side of the house, down the gangway to the backyard.

Well, being the responsible homeowner that I am, I felt that it was exactly the right time to take out my trash. (I'm not proud of this impulse to gawk at another person's private demons being brought out into the light of day--but it's in me. I wasn't the only neighbor with this indecorous inclination. Other neighbors were not just peeking over back yard fences, but actually walking down the street to get a closer look.)

I went out the back door with my Hefty Bag, and as I crossed the deck, I could see two officers restraining TCL and trying to talk her into accompanying them to the squad car. She resisted them, hollering and flailing. Eventually, four officers carried her around the house and stuffed her as carefully as they could into the back of the squad car.

TCL was still yelling and flailing, and the officers called for back-up. Within minutes, three more police vehicles showed up, including a paddy wagon (are they still called that?) and an SUV. The officers unloaded TCL from the back of the squad car, and re-loaded her into the paddy wagon.

She was not pleased, and she started clawing at the wire mesh. I think she was starting to hurt herself, because within a few minutes the officers extracted her again, two of them peeling her fingers from the doors and two holding her legs to keep her from kicking. Once they got her extricated, they gently plopped her on the street, where she sat, hand- and ankle-cuffed, rocking and occasionally yelling at them not to touch her (they weren't) and that she needed to lock her doors. She was surrounded by officers, and once or twice she started butt-scootching along the pavement, but each time an officer stepped in front of her.

In a few minutes, the six police vehicles were joined by one more squad car, a fire truck, and an ambulance. The paramedics, wearing thick rubber gloves, loaded TCL onto a stretcher, covered her with blankets, strapped her in, and wheeled her off.

TCL has been dealing with obvious mental illness since before we moved into the neighborhood, but she has also had periods of calmness and lucidity. Lately, however, her crazy had been escalating to the point where she was making threats to neighbors and generally acting in a threatening, unpredictable way. She tried to run over one neighbor with her car recently, and she has thrown rocks at children.

Last week when A. Peevie and M. Peevie were playing in the backyard, I went out to check on them. "Mom," A. Peevie said, "That lady is saying B-I-T-C-H over and over again. Really loud." He couldn't even bring himself to say the word in reporting it to me.

M. Peevie came over and told me the same story, and we had a little object lesson in mental illness. "She can't help it," I told them. "There's something in her brain that makes her act that way." I told them that if they felt uncomfortable, or if she directed any of her scary talk directly at them, they should come in the house for awhile.

So the neighbors reluctantly went to court yesterday, and hours later the entire fleet of emergency response vehicles showed up. TCL is currently being held for observation somewhere. It's all very sad and disturbing. The neighbors didn't want to make police reports or go to court to have TCL picked up; but they felt it was the responsible thing to do. Mental illness is absolutely horrifying, and I truly feel compassion for TCL and her husband.

But nothing ever happens on my block.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Celebrate! Win! Book Giveaway!

I went to a short workshop on SEO tonight, sponsored by Independent Writers of Chicago. I am now equipped to Optimize for Search Engines. So there.

And in other news, I have decided to celebrate the fact that this blog now has 20 followers. Count 'em: 20. Thanks, Igor! I am so thrilled to have such an astonishing level of popularity on this newfangled Internet that I have decided to sponsor a book giveaway.

I will randomly draw the name of someone who comments on this post, and send that lucky winner three (3) books from my library. You can see what kind of books I have in my library at my LibraryThing page.

I have too, too many books, and if I don't start giving some away soon, I will have to move. I love my neighbors--most of them, anyway. I love my city. I love my church. I don't want to move.

Hence: the book giveaway.

All you have to do to win is leave a somewhat relevant comment on this post, and I will put your name in a hat. On November 15 I will draw one of the names, and I will contact you to find out where to send your books. Be advised that if I have no other way of contacting you, I will contact you through replying to your comment on this blog post, so check back after November 15 to see if you won the Big Book Giveaway!

If you want, you can tell me in your comment the kinds of books you like to read, and I will take this into consideration when I pick out the three books I will be sending your way. They'll probably be paperbacks, and they'll probably be fairly current titles.

Rules: I will only send books to a U.S. address. I will give you another entry in the contest if you direct another reader to The Green Room, and they mention your name in their comment. Contest closes November 14 at midnight. Sometime on the 15th I will draw a name.

Oh! Oh! Isn't this exciting! My very first giveaway! Comment away. Tell me what you've been reading lately, and if you like it or not. Recommend a book to me, even if it's something you read a long time ago. Tell me what your kids are reading.

Who can resist FREE BOOKS?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Are You There, Internet? It's Me, M. Peevie.

One time my mom let me make a post on her blog. It was when I turned 7. Then she let me make a post again when I turned 8. Now I'm turning 9, and she's letting me make a blog post again. She's kind. And nice. And a good mom. Usually.

I went back and read what I wrote in my mom's blog 2 years ago, and I think I sounded a little bit like a baby, especially when I talked about kissing people. Now that I'm in third grade, when my mom drops me off at school, she likes to kiss me, but and I like to pretend that I don't like it when she kisses me, and I yell, "It burns! It buuurrrrrnnnns!" Then my teacher laughs.

I like my teacher, Mrs. Santa, and my student teacher, Miss Boksham. They are very nice and friendly. My mom and Mrs. Santa had a conversation about getting me more challenged, just like in first grade and second grade, and now I have way harder spelling words, like DECIDUOUS and GEOGRAPHY and TEMPERATURE. I'm only in third grade, people! Give a girl a break!

I got all A's on my report card except for one B+ in math. One time I came home with a really bad math paper, with lots and lots of mistakes on it, and I was scared that my mom was going to be really made. I mean mad. But she wasn't mad, and she just said I needed to figure out what I did wrong on the math problems, and do them over again. So I did. And guess what? I made the numbers add up instead of making them minuses, and that's why I got so many wrong answers. I guess that's why I got a B+ instead of an A.

My mom asked my what my goals were now that I'm nine, and I said: Be more mature; be kinder to my siblings, and make peace on earth. I also want to clean up parks and things, and be helpful. My mom says, "We'll see."

I like being nine because I'm able to do more things and better things. And my age (NINE) is almost a DOUBLE DIGIT. That means the number takes two numbers to write. Awesome.

Today for my birthday I got a lot of excellent presents. I got lots of cupcake-making supplies, like cupcake pans, cupcake paper-thingies, cake mixes (which you can use to make cupcakes, too), frosting and sprinkles, a cute hair dryer, some books, some clothes, and some money.

I kind of wished that I got a game called Animal Crossing City Folk, but I think my brother A. Peevie and I are both going to spend some of our birthday money to buy it. That's why it's nice to get money for your birthday, because then you can buy a present for yourself that somebody didn't give you.

I already made one batch of cupcakes with my cupcake supplies. My mom helped. They were delicious. (I know how to spell that.) I'm going to bring some cupcakes to school tomorrow to celebrate my birthday even though my birthday was today.

Now I have to go to bed and read. That's what I do every night before I go to sleep. After my dad turns out my light, I still read by the light that comes in from the hallway. Then my mom comes in later and busts me--but she usually doesn't yell at me. I think it's hard for her to tell me to stop reading. It's READING, after all, not doing something inappropriate (I know how to spell that word, too), like coloring on my walls or playing my DS.

Goodnight, Internet. See you next year, when I turn DOUBLE DIGITS.

M. Peevie

Friday, November 6, 2009

Boys With Saws and Shovels

I just said one of those sentences that you never expect to have to say when you first become a parent of a tiny, soft-headed, angelic baby.

"A. Peevie! Stop sawing the deck!"

I was in my kitchen when I noticed that I was hearing loud sawing noises from somewhere nearby. I opened the back door, and the noises were louder. I stood on the deck, and I heard the noise, but couldn't see anybody.

"A. Peevie! Where are you?" I hollered.

"Under here!" he called, from under the deck. Then another little head popped up on the fence side of the deck and looked at me with wide-eyed innocence. It was his much-younger friend, K-Pup.

"What are you guys doing under there?" I asked, stupidly.

"Sawing a board," he said.

"What board?" I asked. Pause. "Are you actually sawing the deck?"

"Weeeellll," he said slowly. "Yeah. Kind of."

"A.!" I said sternly. "What are you thinking? Stop sawing the deck! In fact," I added, "Stop sawing--period! Stop playing with sharp implements. Put the tools back in the garage where you found them."

This is what comes of mom sending the kids outside to play without strict instructions and stricter supervision. You would think that an almost-12-year-old boy would know that his mom would not approve of him playing with an actual saw, and especially would not approve of him inviting the 7-year-old neighbor to also play with serrated blades.

I got a lot done in the house, though, while the kids were outside playing with pointy objects. It's sort of a trade-off, sometimes.

I don't know which is worse, playing with a saw, or digging an unauthorized trench on the side of the deck--which is what A. Peevie did yesterday with a different playdate buddy. Not only did they dig a hole deep enough to bury a body, but they did it without calling 811 ("Know what's below! Call before you dig.").

They also conscripted M. Peevie to lug buckets of water over, so they could fill the hole and...what? Stock it with bluegill and then go fishing? I don't even know. By the time Mr. Peevie busted them, all three kids were caked with mud, their shoes were unwearable, and they looked like they'd need three showers each to return to their normal pigmentation.

When I mentioned the ditch-digging to Playdate's dad--to explain the extreme filth on his son's gym shoes--he told me that they had holes all over their backyard because Playdate and his little brother also really loved to dig holes. What is up with boys and holes in the ground?

I love it when my kids play outside. I guess I just need to be a little more specific about the rules: No playing with sharp objects. No unauthorized demolition. No unauthorized digging.

There. That should do it. Until they devise another "project" involving new activities that I have not yet specifically forbidden.

I give it a week.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Haz-Mat Clean-up in Aisle Three

Who knew that glass thermometers still had mercury in them?! Guess who found out the hard way that they do?

I really thought that mercury in household thermometers was a thing of the dangerous past, like those rickety wooden spinny things on the playgrounds of my childhood. But tonight, after C. Peevie accidentally knocked the thermometer on the hardwood floor, I found out that a) mercury thermometers are NOT a thing of the past, and b) cleaning up a mercury spill is sort of a pain in my pasty white butt.

How dangerous could a few tiny balls of elementary mercury actually be? I thought to myself. I'll just wipe it up with a rag and throw everything away. No, I decided, better take a few seconds and look it up first.

Geez. You practically have to call in a haz-mat SWAT team to clean up the spill area. The EPA provides guidelines that list nine items on the clean-up supply list, including "eyedropper" and "optional powdered sulfur," and nine not-so-simple steps to get the mercury safely off the floor and into an EPA-audited safe disposal unit. Or something.

So I spent the next half hour collecting my haz-mat equipment, not including the optional powdered sulfur, but including the shaving cream and paint brush and a temperamental flashlight that worked sporadically, like a sixth grader who forgot to take his Ritalin.

Then I got down on my hands and knees and oh-so-carefully cardboarded the metallic beads into a little cluster. The flashlight turned out to be very useful for locating a multitude of tiny beads that I would not have seen otherwise--when it actually worked. It was apparently in an intermittent kind of mood--which I totally understand; trust me, Flashlight, I've been there --and it would randomly stop working, at which time I would leak swears. Just itty-bitty ones, though.

Once the beads were corralled, I was supposed to suck them up with an eye-dropper, but of course, I did not have such an archaic implement. What do you need eye-droppers for these days? Meds that require a dropper--like eye drops, for example--usually come with the dropper built into the container. So I used the "scootch method" to pick up the larger mercury beads, a method which the EPA has not yet included in its instruction manual.

Then, to get most of the teensy beads, I used the shaving-cream-on-a-paint-brush method. Unfortunately, the hardwood floor in The Green Room has very slight gaps between some of the planks, and I am positive that I am even now being slowly poisoned by left-over mercury infecting my airspace.

I'll let you know if I break out in a disgusting rash, or suddenly stop breathing.

This haz-mat episode took over an hour, which is an hour I did not get to spend watching Dancing With the Stars, dang it all to heck. I cannot believe that Mark was eliminated, which makes me sad, but Bruno, as always, came through with hilarious analysis: "It was a little bit like watching Kung Fu Panda dance the samba in 'Planet of the Apes.'"

Meanwhile, C. Peevie was comfortably ensconced in his couch divot, watching Angel DVDs and snorting at my frustrated outbursts. What is wrong with this picture? If the kid didn't have a broken leg, and if the EPA didn't firmly instruct me with capital letters to NOT allow children to help clean up the spill, his 14-year-old ass would have been doing haz-mat duty.

And just because I like to provide full-service information to our Green Room visitors, here are a few fun facts about elemental mercury:

  • A mere two tablespoons weighs about one pound.
  • NEVER use a vaccuum or broom to clean up mercury, because doing so will increase exposure.
  • Chronic exposure affects the central nervous system, causing various symptoms including tremors and irritability.
That's all, folks. Get rid of your old thermometers before you end up cranky and hunched over a tiny paint brush coated with shaving cream, like me.