Wednesday, April 29, 2009

King of Music

At the end of American Idol tonight, tiny little Seacrest was announcing the special guests that will appear tomorrow night.

"We'll have the World Famous Slash!" he said, and Mr. Peevie and I just looked at each other, all, huh? Slash? But my little Music Man A. Peevie is way hipper than either of us, and apparently way more on top of the contemporary music scene.

"Slash!" he said joyfully, "He's the lead singer for Guns and Roses!" He then went on to name three or four of his favorite Guns and Roses songs, which, wha? When did this pop culture knowledge flood his brain, and from whence? I'm certainly not a contemporary music maven. Until last week I though Pink was just a color.

We were watching another show a couple of weeks ago, and a tune started playing. After literally five or six notes, A. Peevie says, "Hey, it's The Immigrant Song!" Mr. Peevie cocked his head, listened for a moment, and agreed.

Again, I was a musical outsider, and I cogently inquired, "Huh?"

"Led Zeppelin!" A. Peevie and Mr. Peevie said in unison, and Mr. P reminded me, "It was even in School of Rock" which we watched last week for family movie night. Apparently The Immigrant Song has quite the backstory, and even got a shout-out in Shrek the Third.

That kid never ceases to amaze me--and he was so cheerful when Mr. P and I were amazed at his musical knowledge that I thought his cheeks were going to pop right off his face.

"You are the King of Music!" I told him, and then M. Peevie, not wanting to be left out of the royalty-making, announced, "And I'm the Queen!" Princess, maybe; but since she just fractured her wrist on Sunday, and didn't get it x-rayed and diagnosed until two days later, and has been such a non-complainer about it, I'll promote her to queen.

Like how I stuck that little anecdote of continuing family drama into a completely unrelated blog post? It's called segue, and the really great writers know how to make it so smooth you barely even realized it happened. Then there's writers like me who point it out and analyze it in the next paragraph, making the whole thing completely irritating and clunky.

I'll stop now.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


The most hilarious consumer item since The Clapper is the Chia Obama.

Every time I hear the radio ad it cracks me up--and then I click on the web-site and find out I can order a "Happy Chia Obama" or a "Determined Chia Obama"--or BOTH! I could watch Determined Chia Obama's hair grow over and over on the Chia landing page for hours.

In a ludicrous development, Walgreens decided that it would be inappropriate to sell Chia Obamas because some customers complained that they are offensive. Do they not hear the patriotic music playing in the background of the ads? This is not a product that mocks our president; it is a product that celebrates the fact that we finally have a president with curly hair. Duh.

I must have one. The only question is: Determined, or Happy?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Get Ready for Poem in your Pocket Day

Go here to enrich your life with poems and poetry-related ideas and activities.

Start thinking about what poem you'll put in your pocket for Poem in your Pocket Day on April 30. Will it be a classic that reminds you of your 8th grade English teacher? Or a sentimental favorite that you first read when your love was young?

Maybe the poem you put in your pocket will be a brand-new find, something that makes you think, hmmm, I should seek out poetry more often. Or maybe it will be a Psalm, or other poetic verses from the Bible, which of course is packed with poetry and all sorts of other literary forms.

I'll help my kids choose a poem to put in their pockets on PIYP day. It'll probably be something by Shel Silverstein, a perennial favorite among all Peevies, not just the short ones. (FYI, if you only click on one link in this post, click on the Shel Silverstein one, because it's fun.) Maybe this one, called Messy Room:

Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
His underwear is hanging on the lamp.
His raincoat is there in the overstuffed chair,
And the chair is becoming quite mucky and damp.
His workbook is wedged in the window,
His sweater's been thrown on the floor.
His scarf and one ski are beneath the TV,
And his pants have been carelessly hung on the door.
His books are all jammed in the closet,
His vest has been left in the hall.
A lizard named Ed is asleep in his bed,
And his smelly old sock has been stuck to the wall.
Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
Donald or Robert or Willie or--
Huh? You say it's mine? Oh, dear,
I knew it looked familiar!

You are going to think I am terribly predictable and lame when you hear what poem I chose to put in my pocket on PIYP day. Too bad. I came across it by accident while cruising around on, and at first I was going to choose this one instead, because when I read it I thought, wow, this woman is my psychic twin! Only smarter and more literary.

But then I clicked to read about the author, Elizabeth Alexander, and I was reminded that she read a poem at Obama's inauguration--and I remembered liking it when I heard it; so that's my poem in my pocket: Praise Song for the Day. Here it is:

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need
. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

I would love to hear your PIYP selection.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Good News, Bad News

Good news! I'm working on five different projects this week.

Well, actually, two of them are somewhat inactive, but technically still in progress. The other three are all on tight deadlines.

I am so very grateful to be working. Me--the Player! Grateful to be working. Must be a sign of the apocalypse.

Bad news! I had this tender red lump on my neck which I thought was probably a baby alien, a la Sigourney Weaver. The surgeon took one look at it and disagreed with my diagnosis (so ridiculously arrogant, these surgeons).

"It's an infected cebaceous cyst," he said confidently. "It needs to come out now."

[I want you to know that on purpose I did not make the words "infected cebaceous cyst" a hot link because the pictures are kind of gross. I'm not a little proud of myself for having that kind of self-control and respect for my readers TMI boundaries. Feel free to look it up on your own if you want...Bucky.]

Um, now? I have my busiest work week in eight months, and you're telling me I must have surgery?

"Yes, now," he reiterated. "I'll squeeze you into my schedule tomorrow, first thing in the morning. You don't want to mess around with that thing."

"That thing"? Here I was fondly thinking up names for it, and imagining it's four tiny arms and six tiny eyes--and he rudely calls it a "thing." Surgeons--they're so artless and businesslike.

Good news! I had the surgery yesterday (well, it's late, so technically it was the day before yesterday) and was back in the Green Room saddle by 10:30 a.m. The surgery took 15 minutes, I was told--all I remember is the anesthesiologist, Dr. Mayer, telling me he'd be giving me something to help me relax, and then I felt all happy, and I said, "Aaahhhh, I like that." Next thing I know, I'm waking up in the recovery room, wanting to propose to Dr. Mayer.

I did end up crashing for a three-hour nap shortly thereafter because the general anesthesia and the extremely short night of sleep the night before wiped every last ounce of energy and alertness right out of me--but now I'm back to my perky and cheerful self.

Wait. Perky and cheerful? They must have performed a personality transplant while they were at it.

OK, this is meandering and completely unprofessional, as blog posts go. Chalk it up to the pain meds. Lovely, lovely pain meds.

I'll be back tomorrow to talk about National Poetry Month. You can get prepared by pulling a copy of The Collected Works of Emily Dickinson off your bookshelf and reading a couple of poems to yourself. Out loud, of course.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Caitlin's Story, Part Two

Read Part One here.

I stayed overnight in the hospital, and got a slow ambulance ride home the next day. The EMTs carried me, sitting up and strapped into a transport chair, into my house, and up the stairs to my bedroom. Mr. Peevie had gotten the room all situated, with the foot of the bed elevated to give gravity a hand in keeping my baby inside of me.

I laid down in bed, and didn't get up for two weeks. I peed in a bedpan, bathed from a bucket, and ate grapes and sandwiches from a cooler next to the bed. It was awesome. If anyone was ever made for bedrest, it was me. The only thing that would have made it better would have been cable TV.

It was all for naught. One day I felt wetness in my underwear, and I thought, "Oh, geez, I just peed in my pants!" Mr. Peevie picked up test strips from the pharmacy upon the recommendation of a doctor friend, and sure enough, it wasn't pee, but amniotic fluid.

An ultrasound at the hospital later that day revealed that most of the amniotic fluid was gone. Even if she stays put, they told me, she won't thrive without fluid around her. The doctor said "induce," but I couldn't pull the trigger on forcing her out before she was ready. The doc also said there was a tiny, slight, almost negligible chance that the amniotic fluid would renew itself--and I clung to this hope, clenching my thighs together and praying more desperately than I had ever prayed in my life.

A couple of days went by like this, with the docs and nurses checking on me, and everyone urging me to go ahead and let them induce labor. "Letting the baby stay inside you won't help her," they told me, "but the danger of infection is very great for you." What did I care about a stupid infection? I only cared that as long as the baby was inside me, she was still alive, and still possibly developing, possibly increasing her chances of survival once she was born. To induce at this point felt like giving up, abandoning her, or worse: killing her. I couldn't do it.

I prayed for a miracle.

Mr. Peevie and I talked about names for this baby who would probably not survive. Should we give her the first choice name we had picked out? We wouldn't be saying that name as we watched our child grow up; should we save it for a child who would run around in our home, so that we'd have a chance to actually say her name? Every time we tried to have this conversation, Mr. Peevie would break down.

How do you even make a decision like that?

On Sunday night I spoke to another doctor friend, who cried with me on the phone, and who also advised me to go ahead and induce.

"E. Peevie," he said gently, "Even if she stays inside you, her lungs will not develop without amniotic fluid. You are risking your future fertility, and your life, without any benefit to the baby. Let them induce." I don't know why this conversation changed my mind--our minds; but it did. The next day we told the doctor we were ready to go ahead and induce.

The baby was already partially in the birth canal by the time they had me dosed with pitosin and ready for delivery. I gave a small push, and out she came, all 13 ounces of her.

"Does she have a name?" asked the neonatologist.

"Her name is Caity," I said. We honored her with the name we had chosen, including the name of my grandmother, who we always called by her maiden name, Libby: Caitlin Libby. They wrapped her up and brought her over, and we wept. She was red and fragile, with lips like mine and a tiny bruise on her bony, bald head.

My pastor came and stood by the side of my bed, looking down on our daughter. He didn't say a word--like Job's friends in the Old Testament. He cried, and his tears preached a sermon on compassion and empathy.

We held Caitlin for two hours, examining her, kissing her, and crying over her. It was awful and also amazing. I was too numb to feel much besides sadness--but later I became angry that she was so perfect, and the only reason she didn't survive was that my body failed her.

When we left the hospital, I did not know how I was going to put one foot in front of the other. I looked around me at the world going on a usual, and it felt obscene. I wanted to scream out the car window as we drove past yard sales and people pushing strollers and people actually having the nerve to smile and laugh, "I had a baby and she died!" As the days passed, I began to realize that we had not just lost a baby; we had lost an entire future with her.

During the next few months, I wrestled with angry questions, which all came down to the problem of evil: is belief in God compatible with the existence of evil? I did not let go of my belief in the existence of God, but for the first time, I needed a theodicy: a vindication of God's goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil.

God must be cruel, I reasoned, or else powerless to prevent pain and evil. How could a God who was good allow such terrible pain and unfairness?

God did not abandon me to doubt and disbelief. Eventually, even without understanding why Caitlin died, I remembered the goodness of God. I had always believed that God was good, but this belief had never been tested. Eventually, after having it tested from a place of deep pain and doubt, I found it to be more true and relevant than ever before.

When peace like a river attends my soul
When sorrows like sea billows roll--
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

As time went by, I found I could be grateful to God: for two hours to hold Caitlin while she lived; that she resembled me, having my lips and my nose; that Mr. Peevie and I both learned about our capacity to love, and had the amazing experience of loving Caitlin; that Mr. Peevie was able to express his own grief, and that our marriage grew stronger as a result of our shared loss; for our friends and family who stood by us and cried with us and helped us through it.

Today Caitlin would be 15 years old. Is she 15 in heaven? (Do people age in heaven?) What color are her eyes? Is she rambunctious and non-compliant like my other three kids--or is she the quiet and compliant one? That would just figure.

Love you, baby.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Caitlin's Story, Part One

We sent out hand-lettered birth announcements 15 years ago with these words:

Our daughter, Caitlin Libby Bradshaw,
was born and died on April 21, 1994--
18 weeks premature.

We felt an amazing sense of joy,
in the middle of overwhelming grief,
that we were able to hold her for two hours.

We knew you would want to know,
because she is as much a part of our lives
as if she had lived.

This was our introduction to parenthood--having a daughter who lived for two hours in our arms before her tiny heart stopped beating.

My pregnancy with Caitlin had been high-risk from the start. Since I had three prior pregnancies that ended in miscarriage during the first trimester, my OB/GYN had transferred my care to a practice specializing in high-risk.

I didn't have trouble getting pregnant, just staying pregnant. After dozens of blood tests, ultrasounds, and a very painful X-ray-type procedure called a hysterosalpingogram , ("this might be a little uncomfortable!") the docs decided that my problem was that my body wasn't producing enough progesterone to sustain a pregnancy; this was called a luteal phase deficiency.

Treatment entailed ovulation-inducing drugs, progesterone injections, and tons of ultrasounds. If you have been through infertility treatment, or you're going through it now, you know that there is nothing beautiful, natural or unstressful about making a baby under these circumstances. You want to have a baby, so you're willing to go through it; but it is hard work, emotionally and physically.

And the waiting! Oh, the waiting. It's almost physically painful. I realize that waiting is a fact of life, and everyone, not just the infertile, endure painful periods of waiting. But the specific waiting period between Cycle Day One and Cycle Day 14--when you can test for pregnancy--is such a universal challenge for the hoping-for-a-baby crowd that one of the many web sites for them is called There are blog posts and articles and on-line diaries devoted to the 2WW. Googling "two week wait + infertility" produces 365,000 hits.

The waiting ended, the treatment worked, and I stayed pregnant for 15 weeks for the first time ever. We started breathing a bit more easily, and even told a few friends and family members our happy news. We had five weeks of joyful anticipation before we encountered a brand new problem.

The 20-week ultrasound turned up a problem with my cervix. Apparently the little bugger was slacking off on its job, and starting to dilate before it received its dilation orders. The medical community, showing an incredible lack of sensitivity to already hormonally imbalanced and guilt-ridden maternal-wannabe's, calls this condition incompetent cervix. Yeah, thanks guys, for the name-calling. Could you at least come up with a name that sounds like a medical diagnosis, instead of something on a not-so-stellar performance review?

I ended up on the operating table with my legs up in stirrups and my doctor staring up my vagina. The plan was for him to put in an emergency cervical cerclage--stitches to hold the cervix closed and prevent pre-term delivery--a procedure which has a success rate of somewhere in the range of 42 - 60 percent.

"E.Peeeeviiieeee," the doctor singsonged, "We have a little problem." And by "little" he meant "life or death." Apparently my lazy-ass cervix was already five centimeters dilated, and performing the cerclage would increase the risk that I'd go into labor right then and there. I needed to decide, my doctor said, whether to go ahead and do the cerclage, or to just wait it out without the cerclage. He estimated that the longest the cervix would hold without the stitches would be a week, which would put us at 21 weeks gestation--not nearly enough for the baby to be viable.

There I was, lying on the table, pubies to the wind, facing life and death decisions, and Mr. Peevie was nowhere to be found. The doctor even had him paged him over the hospital loudspeaker; but I had to make a decision sooner rather than later.

"Do it," I told him.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story, tomorrow, on Caitlin's birthday.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Creepy, or Just Me?

A boyfriend from eons ago--let's call him David McCall--contacted me through LinkedIn. He used his American name and had shortened his long Middle Eastern last name to a less ethnic-sounding name. He was ostensibly looking for an editor for an engineering report and his resume. I wondered who the guy was, and why was he asking for rates from a writer in Chicago when writers in LA are a dime a dozen.

Then I put two and two together: the first name, the still-recognizable last name, the engineering specialty, the LA location, and most importantly, the LinkedIn connection through the university we both attended--and I figured out who he was. But why the sneakiness? Why contact me as a potential client instead of coming right out and saying, hey, it's me, how the heck are you?

It felt sneaky and manipulative to me, so I did not respond.

The next day, I had another email from David McCall--this time using his full name instead of the Americanized version. This time he was straight up, re-introducing himself, asking about my parents and siblings, and hoping to get re-connected. He also mentioned the engineering report--but I still think it's a smokescreen, a way for him to say how he found me without saying he was looking specifically for me.

I don't know--maybe I'm a little too optimistic about my own attractiveness. But hey, who wouldn't want to hook up with me? I might be a middle-aged, overweight, mildly depressed, unemployed, happily married mother of three above-average-but-incredibly-loud children, but I do have great hair and a killer sense of humor.

But since he was honest, and since I was impressed that he remembered my parents names and the names of all my siblings 20 years later, I responded to his email with an email of my own. I was friendly, but not too friendly, and included details about my perfect family and my deliriously happy marriage, so that there would be no misunderstanding about my intentions.

(Listen to me. I really do have an inflated sense of self-worth, don't I? Like if I'm not careful, every man on the planet who once vaguely knew me would be knocking on my door if I wasn't clear enough about my lack of availability. I crack my own self up.)

When David M. wrote back, I was immensely relieved to find out that he was married, with two very young children. I thought, finally, he's reached a happy, healthy place. (Early on in my marriage, this guy would call me once every four or five years, and tell me yukky stories about his pathetic lonely life and tell me I was still his best friend; and I could not wait to get off the phone. I was happy when he finally stopped calling after about ten years.)

Anyway, I started regretting accepting his friend invitation on LinkedIn when he called me on my cell phone one afternoon shortly thereafter. On my cell phone--after no contact for almost 20 years! My own parents don't call me on my cell phone! Where the hell did he get the number? I wondered-- and then I realized: it's on my email signature line. I gave it to him myself.

And here's the weird part: I picked up the call because the number had a 773 area code--the area code of my part of Chicago. I thought it was going to be a neighbor or a friend, and when I heard this voice from my past, I was flustered, creeped out, and probably rude. I told him I couldn't talk and to call back later. My stomach was still churning hours later--but that might just have been the tuna I had for lunch.

How and why was he calling from a 773 area code? Does he have some kind of magical re-routing software to hide the origins of his calls? It's very 24--and again, this felt slightly manipulative to me.

Later I found that he had emailed me again, requesting my parents' phone number because, he said, "I miss them." My parents. He misses them. Oh, and he asked again for a quote on revising his resume. Doing his resume will require talking to him on the phone for about an hour, and frankly, I don't really want that kind of contact with an old boyfriend who got a little too clingy after our relationship was over. I didn't respond.

About a week later, I got another email from him alleging that that he had heard about the shooting at a church in Illinois and was worried about my family's safety. Again, a little disingenuous. David McCall knows I live in Chicago, and the shooting was nowhere near Chicago. He asked again for my parents phone number.

I wrote back, curtly told him yes, we were fine, and said that I'd need to check with my parents first before giving out their phone number. I never did get back to him with the phone number, or with a quote on his resume. I should have emailed him and just told him it made me uncomfortable--but I didn't.

This week, a month later, I got another kind of weird and freaky email from him, written all in the third person about a man who happened to be surfing the internet looking for a technical writer when he happened upon the profile of a writer who turned out to be his old friend. He even mentioned the earlier calls from 15 - 20 years ago, and specified that he had no ulterior motive, "particularly after knowing that his friend is also happily married."

Doesn't that clause imply that if his friend were not happily married, that there might have been an ulterior motive? I wonder what his wife thinks about that.

His email continued,

"The man kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a response from the writer, but for some odd reason, the writer never, ever bothered to get back to the old friend...Was it right for the friend just to put off the man and deny his friendship? Probably not. The good book says the following..."

--and then quotes three Bible verses, including this one from Job: "My relatives and my close friends have failed me." He asked me--in the third person still--to delete everything he sent me.

He visited my blog at least four times the first week that he contacted me--but I don't know if he still comes by The Green Room. He might be reading this right now and thinking, hey, what a bitch! Or perhaps it will give him a clue about normal social boundaries. Part of me is thinking, how does he have time for all this, with two very young kids and a wife and a big-ass engineering job? I can barely get a blog post written once a week even though I have no clients and my kids are in school all day!

The more I think about it, the more irritated I am that this person has any expectations of me at all, let alone has the nerve to send me an angry, manipulative email quoting the Bible at me! It's exactly this kind of response that confirms for me that my instincts were correct.

I'm probably I'm not being very Jesusy here, but at this point, I don't even know what Jesus wants me to do about this.

Is it creepy, or is it just me?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Relentless Love

A super-long time ago, back when Mr. Peevie and I were young and carefree (read: no kids yet), our pastor asked us if we'd be willing to unofficially foster a teenage boy for a few months. His mom was having some substance abuse issues, and the boy--we'll call him L. Peevie--needed stability and support. We were willing, but clueless--barely more than children ourselves.

(Well, I guess we were around 30 years old, which, from the side of life that's brushing up against AARP membership, seems practically infantile.)

Anyway, we said yes, even though I had no idea if it was even legal for a non-relative to arrange an unlicensed, unofficial foster care home instead of calling DCFS; and the next day a 13-year-old kid from the West Side moved into our spare bedroom. He was sweet, polite, funny, smart and affectionate, and he had the brightest smile I had ever seen. I instantly loved him.

“Hey, mom!” he told his mother happily a few days later, “there’s even a computer in my room!” The walls were soon plastered with posters of Vanessa Williams and Mariah Carey.

L. Peevie was motivated to do well in school, had tons of friends, and loved to sing and dance. Soon every radio in the house was tuned to black hip-hop stations (if it was even called hip-hop back then; what do I know? I'm just a geriatric white woman); and there was hair grease on every piece of furniture.

This teen used more hair and beauty products than I did. We had one tiny bathroom on the second floor, which became cluttered with an astonishing array of skin care and hair care equipment and supplies. I didn't even know what most of them were used for. There were picks, gels, hairnets, colognes, bottles of stuff.

And then I discovered that the few beauty supplies that I did keep in the house seemed to be fair game for our new, curious teenager. Even my white-woman make-up, my white-woman hairbrushes, my bottle of Jean Nate (yes, Jean Nate. Get over it. I did.) attracted L. Peevie’s experimentation.

It became hard to keep food in the house. L. Peevie would come home from school , often with pals from school, and like a swarm of locusts, they’d devour everything in their path. One time I looked in the refrigerator a day after dropping a couple of bills at the grocery store, and my jaw fell open.

“There’s nothing in here!” I said. “What happened to all the food I just bought yesterday?”

L. Peevie brought an unfamiliar cultural perspective to the situation. “When white people say ‘there’s nothing in the ‘fridge,’ there’s tons of stuff in the ‘fridge,” he said philosophically. “When black people say ‘there’s nothing in the ‘fridge,’ the only thing in the ‘fridge is mustard.”

I looked in the refrigerator again—and he was right. Leftover pizza, lunchmeat and cheese, a few vegetables in the crisper: enough food to make a meal for a family of four, if they weren’t spoiled by comparative wealth.

When his friends came over, they’d hang out in the backyard, practicing their “stepping.” My neighbors peered suspiciously over the fence, wondering why there were six black kids hopping around between the hostas; there weren’t many persons of color in my neighborhood, and unless they were standing behind the counter at the Post Office, they were often looked upon with mistrust.

A couple of neighbors at different times asked us about our new family member. No one said anything overtly offensive, but I had the impression that they were calculating the drop in their home values if L. Peevie stuck around.

Meanwhile, even though we loved L. Peevie, we were reeling with all the changes wrought by suddenly having a teenager in the household. I talked and talked and talked to my friend Dr. Paradigm Shift, processing the seismic shifts in my life and getting her advice on how to handle the unfamiliar territory of parenting an adolescent. But things were harder on Mr. Peevie, who did not happen to have a social worker for a best friend.

One time L. Peevie asked to borrow a couple of bucks for a snack or music or something. We decided that a teenager needed to have his own spending money, so we set up an allowance for him. It wasn't much, but I think it helped him have more of a normal teenage existence.

In many ways, those four or five months of trial-run parenting were excellent training for the real thing: having L. Peevie living with us made our lives far more complex, interesting, frustrating, and hilarious. One time L.P. and I went to Six Flags for the day. It was practically deserted for some reason, and we rode the roller coasters over and over.

I was ready to hop on the American Eagle for one more ride, but poor little L. Peevie had had enough.

"Phew!" he said, wiping the sweat from his forehead and plopping down on a wooden bench. "They sure don't make old white women the way they used to!"

"Hmmmph," I told him, "Apparently they don't make young black punks the way they used to."

On the walk back to the car, L. Peevie spontaneously broke out into the national anthem, adding some pitchy warbling to his high notes like a young, tone-deaf male Beyonce.

"L. Peevie," I told him, "You are way off key."

"No I'm not," he contradicted me, "That's just the way black people sing."

Eventually, L. Peevie returned to his family, and our household returned to boring. L. Peevie went on to become an authentic Big Shot, styling hair for Victoria Beckham, Missy Elliot, and Eve, and for big shot advertising campaigns.

He sent me an email last week, which included these lines that brought me to tears:

I often think about that moment in my life and am so grateful to God for you both. The relentless love that you guys showed me will never leave my heart.

"Relentless love." Relentless love is not what comes to my mind--although we did love that boy. I mostly remember feeling like I had no idea what the hell I was doing, trying to parent a teenager. I remember talking, talking, talking--with him, with Mr. Peevie, and with my built-in therapist, to try to figure things out.

If L.P. remembers relentless love, instead of relentless talking and relentless cluelessness, then God gets the credit.

And one final note: L. Peevie told me that his mom has been clean for 15 years and runs a Chicago program in Austin called Sister House which offers a temporary home to women after incarceration or recovery from substance abuse.

Happy endings all around!

[Photo courtesy of Joe Schwartz at]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be High Schoolers

After his long journey navigating the tortuous road to high school, C. Peevie has officially enrolled in classes for fall 2009 at Jones College Prep.

Just to backtrack a teensy bit: When C. Peevie was a sweet-smelling angel of a baby, I would hold him close and feel sorry for my friends whose kids were gigantic high schoolers. I would think to myself, Oh, how sad that they don't get to have the baby experience anymore. They must miss it so much: the cuddling, the adorable clothes, the cooing and gurgling, the toothless smiles that made everyone within a six-mile radius smile back.

And now, with my baby boy entering high school and wearing man-size pants and shoes three sizes bigger than mine--I have to tell you folks who are feeling sorry for me because my babies are no longer babies: Don't.

I do not miss those days AT ALL. I don't miss the stinky diaper smell that pervaded the entire house. I do not miss the constant gnawing on my breasts. I do not miss sleeping next to a staticky baby monitor for the slightest sigh, and wondering if I should get up YET AGAIN to make sure he's still breathing. I don't miss carrying around all the baby equipment: diapers, wipes, Cheerios, bottles, toys, extra outfits, and kitchen sinks.

I don't miss measuring the disgustingness of a poopy diaper by the number of wipes it took to clean it up ("Yow! It's a 12-wiper!"). I don't miss having to carry him everywhere--although it was kind of nice to be able to shove him, in his car seat, under the table at a restaurant during dinner. Now he takes up space and costs money.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed every minute of those days. OK, maybe not every minute, but many, many of them. But now that we're past them, I don't miss them. However. This week my little boy hopped on the Brown Line by himself, headed downtown, got off at the right stop, and met Mr. Peevie at his office. They walked to Jones and enrolled him in his freshman classes: math, world studies, lit, physics, French, P.E./health, and theater.

I am a little bit verklempt.

Here I am, facing the looming prospect that C. Peevito is headed to high school in a few short months, and taking public transportation all over the city--and part of me just wants to tell him STOP! Just stop growing up. I can't take it any more.

He is straddling the fence between childhood and adulthood. His voice is deepening, he'll be taller than me in about an hour (if he's not already; I didn't check today), and he's pretty much accepted the fact that he needs to shower every single day. At least once.

But in many ways, he's still a child. Being within 30 feet of his younger siblings causes his maturity level to plummet. His pre-frontal cortex won't reach maturity for another ten years or so, according to this Chicago Tribune article. That means he lacks impulse control and emotional stability.

It means he still drives me nuts--but he literally can't help himself. It must be tough being an adolescent. I remember a tiny bit about those years, myself, even though they were in a completely different geologic era. I remember my dad yelling at me for doing something I wasn't supposed to do, and my standard answer was, "I couldn't help it. It was an accident."

" 'You couldn't help it!' " my dad would growl, "That's what you always say!"

Turns out I was right. And now the Universe is getting back at me with my very own man-child. Who's almost in high school.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Of Chest X-Rays, Weaponized Bio-Agents, and Evil Tony

OK, fine. You can all breathe more easily now, because my chest X-ray came back negative. No tuberculosis. So you won't have to take prophylactic antibiotics or get chest X-rays. Aren't you relieved?

But now we're faced with not knowing what mysterious malady is marauding my mortal coil. Unsettling, isn't it? My doc has plied me with samples of Nexium, the new purple pill, in the event that all or some of my symptoms can be attributed to acid reflux disease. Like, I'm so sure.

To make matters worse, this morning I stupidly slipped on some stupid water in my stupid kitchen while wearing those stupid faux crocs that ALWAYS cause me to fall on my ass--and now I'm hobbling around like House, only slower and with more wincing. I twisted my leg under me in a way that violated the normal, isometric preferences of my ligaments, and I think I need a leg transplant to go along with my lung transplant.

My kids saw me tumble and came running over, filled with compassion and empathy. As soon as I could speak, I reassured them that I was OK--I think I said, "I'm fine" more times than Jack Bauer said those words to his new, short-term girlfriend Agent Freckles last night, which was far more times than a guy infected with a deadly bio-agent should say them.

Later, we talked it out, because I knew they were a tiny bit traumatized by seeing me writhing in pain. "Were you scared?" I asked them in the car on the way to school.

"Yes," A. Peevie said. "I thought you were unconscious."

Unconscious would have felt good, but no such luck.

"What does 'unconscious' mean?" asked M. Peevie.

"It's between asleep and dead," A. Peevie explained matter-of-factly. I thought it was a pretty good definition.

And speaking of 24, was anyone else throwing up during the Kiefer and Spawn scenes last night? To me, they were completely overdone--not the acting, so much, but the script. "Oh, Daddy!" "I love you, Daddy!" "Daddy, I'll save you!"

I just wasn't buying it, that they'd go from not speaking to each other or seeing each other for several years, to Spawn being all willing to put the past behind her and actually take responsibility for her own life. That is so totally out of character.

And finally: Evil Tony. Yay or nay? I say, nay. First he's evil. Then he's good. Then he's evil. Then he's good. Now he's evil again. If he's evil, does anything he's done in the last three hours make any sense at all?

Please explain it to me.

UPDATE: The little purple pills actually worked. Go figure.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Waiting for a Diagnosis

Well, with tuberculosis in the news because of an infected doctor making the rounds at several local hospitals, I decided I might as well join the fun.

I think I have TB.

We'll know more tomorrow after we get the results from my chest X-ray.

All's I know is, I have all the symptoms except the ones I really wouldn't mind: loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss. Those would be excellent, really. The only time in my life when I had appetite loss was when I was preggers with M. Peevie, God bless her. I was so happy to be un-hungry, and the doc confidently (if insultingly) reassured me that she'd easily live off the fat of the land, so to speak.

But back to the topic at hand: my imminent death from tuberculosis. The symptoms I could do without are non-productive cough, chest pain, and a fever that keeps coming back at night, with chills and night sweats. It's hard to catch my breath sometimes, especially after a huge coughing fit.

Wait, where are you going? Stop backing away! You do not need to worry about infection, as TB is not typically spread through blog contact.

The good news from Dr. Zippy today is that my blood pressure was back down to normal and my weight was down by about three pounds. (It wasn't unexplained weight loss, however, as I spent the last month trying not to drink much alcohol, limiting my caffeine, and reducing the number of times I ate potato chips for breakfast.) I also improved my spirometer score, pushing the little red marker up to about 350, and once to almost 400. Not perfect, but definitely an improvement over "Are you even alive?"

But the TB-type disease is making me tired and a teeny bit cranky. Plus, I stupidly googled "TB treatment" and learned that treatment is complicated and lengthy. Four simultaneous antibiotics, one of them for 6-9 months; blood and sputum tests; no alcohol for the duration; and no Tylenol for the duration. As a person who hates and fears pain, takes Tylenol at the first twinge of a headache or any other kind of ache, and is allergic to all pain relievers except acetominophen, this might be the worst aspect of treatment.

If I actually do have TB, which, of course, is highly unlikely, except I really do love speculation about worst case scenarios, which is why we're having this conversation, I will be all achy, cranky and needing an adult beverage for six to nine months. Look out, world.

And if it's not TB, then what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is going on inside my chest? The docs agree it's not pneumonia--I guess they can hear pneumonia through the stethoscope. Is it just a particularly long-lasting strain of bronchitis? Is is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)--which, BTW, is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.?

Cancer? Brain tumor? Catastrophic lung failure, require double lung transplant?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

American Idol: Predictions and Very Important Analysis

I'll put my Big Prediction right up front, so there's no surprises:

Adam Lambert will be the next American Idol.

Probably every AI blogger in the universe is making this prediction--although when I googled "who will win Idol 2009," I got a little Danny, a little Matt, a little Kris. Not so much lovin' for the girls--except my fave girl, the little redbird Allison. That girl has a smokin' hot voice--but she really is just a girl, and does a 16-year-old have what it takes to win?

I think Adam will beat her--but I also think that the judges will use their "save" vote for her if she gets booted before, say, Anoop or Lil. (Anoop-Dawg is the favorite among the fifth grade male demographic in our completely unscientific poll, however.)

For some reason, there's a little bit of hating going on for Adam out there in the ether. I don't get it. He's talented, cute, and creative--what's not to love? They're calling him a "screaching troll," the "gay screamer," and "over-theatrical." He totally channels Freddie Mercury, and maybe a little bit of David Bowie; some say he's the new David Cook. (But I wasn't done with the old David Cook!)

About the show tonight:

  • What's up with Paula and gloves? Does she have really bad eczema or something, and she has to cover up her hands and arms? Tonight she wore long white gloves. M. Peevie, who usually has a great deal of respect for fashion statements, announced the gloves "looked weird."
  • Flo Rida was better than I expected, being not a big fan of the rapping genre.
  • Kellie Pickler was pitchy, dawg. I mean, she was pretty bad. I was sitting on the toilet (sorry--was that too much information?) and I could hear her hitting notes that were not even close to the mark from the other room. Paula would have had a hard time getting rainbows and unicorns into her critique of that performance.
  • Only 30K votes (out of 30 million) separated Anoop and Scott on the bottom two rungs of the Idol ladder. Scott got the axe and didn't get saved even though he delivered a tender rendition of Survivor's "The Search is Over.
One more minor prediction: Anoop will be the next to go. Sorry, A. Peevie.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Please take a sec and vote in the AI poll to the right, because it's so fun to have a little blog interactivity. Thanks!

UPDATE#2: I'm trying to get the poll to work. Any ideas?

UPDATE #3: I never could get the poll to work, so I took it down. I'll try to put up a new one soon. 4/14/09

Monday, April 6, 2009

My Downward Spiral Into Probably Fatal Lung Disease, or Maybe Just Self-Pity

I learned a new word today: spirometer. Those of you with lung disease or asthma will know what I'm talking about. It's a device to measure the amount of air you can push out of your lungs in one deep breath.

As you may be tired of hearing, I have been having a little trouble in the lung department ever since my overly generous son A. Peevie shared his flu with me three weeks ago. My illness developed into bronchitis that makes my chest feel like a prop on Million Dollar Baby. You know, a punching bag. Did I really need to explain that?

I've been calling my doctor about every four or five days, complaining about the cough and the chest pain, and she keeps telling me it's a virus, it's going to take time, chillax, mon. I bullied her into giving me some prescription cough medicine the first week, and the second week she finally gave up some antibiotics.

(BTW, this is my normal MO with doctors. You can't just take their word for stuff, and wait for them to give you what you think you need. You need to be proactive and assertive. Essentially, you need to manage your own health care--and, IMHO, a good doctor will listen to you, and encourage this kind of participation in your own health care management. Sermon over.)

But four days after starting the antibiotics, I was still feeling the hurt, still making myself puke with coughing fits that made people in the grocery store herd their children away from me because I was probably contaminated with an airborne bio-agent that would soon be sweeping the country.

I called her AGAIN, thinking maybe this time, she'd take pity on me and pull the plug. But no. "More waiting" was her prescription, although she did offer to write me an order for a chest X-ray if I wanted one.

"If I want one?" I said. "What does that mean, if I want one? I'm not the doctor here. What I want is to know what's going on. What I want is to get better. Are you recommending that I get a chest X-ray? Do you think I need one?"

No, she said, your lungs sound clear and I don't think you have pneumonia. But if you want a chest X-ray to rule it out, I'll give it to you. Well, I didn't want to pay the co-pay for an unnecessary chest X-ray, so I said I'd wait it out.

But a few days later my friend Roseanne gets on my case, along with a bunch of my other friends, telling me stories about people dying from not taking care of their coughs, and she made me promise that I'd get an X-ray Monday if my chest still hurt and I was still coughing.

So, still coughing, still clutching my achy-breaky chest like Jack Bauer after dying from too much torture and being brought back to life with an adrenaline shot and electric heart-starting paddles (24: Season 1), I called my doc, but ended up seeing her on-call colleague, Dr. Kim. She listened to my lungs from about 25 different spots on my chest, sides, back, thighs and butt, and said they sounded clear.

Then she pulled out the magical measurer of lung function, the spirometer. "Take a deep breath, put your lips around the tube, and breathe out as much as you can," she said. I did so, and the little red marker on the spirograph barely moved.

I looked guiltily at Dr. Kim. Dr. Kim looked at the red marker, looked at me, and looked back at the red marker. "Are you even alive?" she said, hilariously. "Try again." The marker had gone up to about 200, and according to Dr. Kim, a woman of my age and height should easily push that marker up to 450 or 500.

The next time it hit 280, and then 230. "Let me try again," I said, feeling my competitive spirit kick in, "This feels like a test I'm flunking." This time it was 220. There is no fooling the spirometer.

What does it all mean? I've been doing research on spirometry, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and bronchitis, but I'm not ready to propose a firm diagnosis. No one really knows what's going on, but before I go for the promised chest X-ray, I'm starting a week of tapering steroids to chase the suspected inflammation away.

Oh, goodie: steroids. Those immuno-suppressing, face-puffing-up, rage-inducing clever little pills. Everybody better stay the hell out of my way.

Oh, and happy Holy Week!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm Done With the Shallow Life

Have you been enjoying 24 this season? Well, I haven't.

In fact, I've been completely disillusioned with the ridiculousness of it all. I mean, come on: one guy who's not even a superhero; who dies and gets resurrected more than once--but isn't actually Jesus; who makes the world safe for democracy over and over again; and who makes blondes, red-heads and brunettes fall in love with him with seasonal regularity--this guy who's so short you can store him up on your mantle, is not even super-great looking. I mean, I want a little more dish in my action heroes, don'tcha know?

Think Jason O'Mara.

And speaking of Jason O'Mara, I've heard that his show, Life on Mars, has been cancelled. They finally get a clever show with a supernatural twist and interesting, believable dialogue (unlike, say Lost, where they talk past each other like characters in two completely different plays), and a hot, HOT lead actor--and they cancel it. It figures.

It's enough to make me stop watching TV altogether. In fact, that's what I'm going to do. Starting today, I'm going cold turkey. No more Vincent, no more stupid Dancing with the Stars, no more Judge Alex. Cold turkey, man.

Oh, and no more American Idol, because Simon is too mean and Paula has too many unicorns dancing around in her cleavage; and also? No more Reno 911, because it's just too crude.

Seriously. What good is TV anyway? Does it help me love Jesus more? No. Does it improve my brain at all? Not really, except I really do feel that I learn some good stuff about rental laws and laws about whether you have to return the engagement ring if your wedding falls through from the judge shows, which could be very useful.

I'll use my new-found hours to better myself. I'll start exercising, I'll stop eating Pringles and Diet Coke for breakfast, and I'll read more. I've been reading Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain for about five weeks, and I'm only half-way through. Without TV, I will become a better person, I will finish The Seven Storey Mountain, and I will blog about the Important Spiritual Lessons I learned, and I will make the world a better place.

I'm done with the shallow life. Stay tuned.