Saturday, October 31, 2009

Top Ten Reasons I Love Halloween

Yay! My favorite holiday--next to my birthday, of course, which some people oddly do not consider an actual holiday. Here's why I love Halloween:

10. It falls during my favorite season, the days of scuffing through dry leaves, admiring beautiful autumn colors against the sky, and pulling on a sweater against a not-unwelcome chill in the air.

9. Haunted houses. I do love a manufactured scare now and then.

8. Pumpkin patches. I'm so glad that our world includes the color orange. A field with hundreds of pumpkins dotted around is a thing of beauty and happiness.

7. Candy. How can you not love a holiday that is all about the candy? I'm not saying it's good for my girlish figure or anything. I'm just saying, sometimes a person is only a Heath Bar away from a really good day. And it's probably not a coincidence that "heath" is only an "l" short of "health."

6. Jack-o-lanterns. See photos. Scooping out the seeds and pulp, cleaning and scraping the inside smooth. Choosing the perfect, not-too-difficult carving stencil. Poking, cutting, carving--until finally you have a glowing work of art! And when it's a family affair--all the better.

5. Toasted pumpkin seeds. Yum. Boil 'em in salted water--or not; dry 'em out in a low-heat oven--or not; toss 'em with oil and salt, and bake at 300 degrees until toasty. As I mentioned: Yum.

4. Parties. Before we had kids, Mr. Peevie and I had a costume party for adults. We fostered the competitive spirit, and our guests did not disappoint. We had Moses, Boy George, Julius and Esther Rosenberg, Diana Goddess of the Hunt, a member of the Lollipop Guild, the Sears Tower complete with flashing lights, Peter Pan, Pepe le Pew, Aladdin, Gumby, the National Debt, the Frugal Gourmet, Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella, and many more honored guests at our annual gala.

One year the doorbell rang, and when I answered it, the American Gothic man and woman were standing on my stoop. I looked, and looked, and FINALLY I realized that it was Mr. Peevie's mom and dad--totally unexpected! They won first place in the costume contest.

3. Trick-or-treating. I mostly love my memories of trick-or-treating, in neighborhoods that seemed to be miles away from my own, with no adults supervising, walking for hours and ringing doorbells of houses of total strangers, and coming home with pillowcases bulging with full-size candy bars which we'd sort and hoard for weeks.

2. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! I'm pretty sure I have watched this every year since I was five years old. Poor Charlie Brown, getting rocks in his pillowcase. Poor Linus--waiting and hoping in vain for the Great Pumpkin. Oh! The deep, spiritual poignancy!

Even when the GP doesn't come, and Charlie Brown commiserates with Linus, Linus is outraged by Charlie Brown's insinuation that waiting for the Great Pumpkin is stupid. "Stupid? What do you mean, stupid? Just wait 'til next year, Charlie Brown. I'll find the pumpkin patch that is real sincere and I'll sit in that pumpkin patch until the Great Pumpkin appears."

What does it mean? I can't say for sure--but here is a really astute observation and analysis of the art and meaning of Charles Schulz's "depiction of the struggle between existentialism and religious determinism."

1. Kids' costumes. What a great opportunity for kids to use their imaginations and creativity. My kids love to play dress-up, but on Halloween, they really take it to the next level.

Some years I bought ready-made costumes from the store, but the best costumes are the ones made from things around the house, or pulled together from useful purchases and with minimal cost.
This year, A. Peevie's Luigi costume cost about $20--but most of that was for a t-shirt and a baseball cap that he will wear for the rest of the year. M. Peevie's costume, including her magnifying glass, cost about the same--and I'm pretty sure she'll get her money's worth out of wearing the hat as an everyday fashion accessory.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Flarp, Luigi and Smelly Cheese

"How will I know what's going on if you don't post?"

This from Mr. Peevie, who actually lives in this household. The rest of you, who live several zip codes away AT LEAST are probably FREAKING OUT by now.

So, in a lame attempt to jump-start my blogging mojo, and in order to get everyone up to speed on the Peevies, life in the Windy City, and Everything Else That Matters--here's what's been going on lately:

1. C. Peevie got his giant cast sliced off and replaced with an adorable, below-the-knee red cast. When I drove him to school that morning, I noticed that the car had an odor of old, smelly CHEESE. It was his leg. Gross.

2. It's three days before Halloween, and my kids don't know what costumes they're going to wear yet. This happens every year. I start trying to get everyone going on costumes in mid-September, we plan to get great deals on Ebay, the kids change their minds, we go shopping at the costume stores, we don't find anything, and here we are--three days to go, and no costumes.

One year A. Peevie employed his vivid imagination and his apparent lack of peer influence, and came up with a homemade costume he cleverly called Box Head With Knife and Gun. He cut a narrow slit in a regular cardboard box and put it on his head; and he held a rubber Bowie knife in one hand and a gun-looking sort of metal thing in the other hand--and that was his costume.

Lately he's been wearing Flarp on his hands and arms for no apparent reason, and I suggested that he could be Blob Boy, with Flarp covering his exposed skin. Of course that suggestion was met with much ridicule, and A. Peevie is back to wanting to be Luigi, his first choice. But of course it's too late to buy the costume on-line, and the stores are out. Anyone have any size 12 overalls, green turtleneck, and a green beret?

M. Peevie has gone from wanting to be a karate girl, to a ninja, to a detective. So now I have to find a Sherlock Holmes hat, brown pants, a trench coat, and a "real magnifying glass."

3. Tonight I saw my first preview for Season 8 of 24, that train wreck of a TV show that I love nonetheless, with its hot mess of a main character. I will be posting my predictions soon for S8, but just to titillate your TV taste-buds, here's the first one: Spawn (Kim) will be in DANGER sometime during the season.

And here's a bonus prediction: Spawn of Spawn (SoS)--Jack's granddaughter--(I KNOW!) will be in DANGER sometime during S8 also.

4. Someone stole one of our pumpkins right off our front steps last week. I mean, come ON. We live in one of the most densely-cop-populated (ooh, ouch--that almost came out wrong!) neighborhoods in the city of Chicago, and my PUMPKIN is not even safe on my stoop? SERIOUSLY? People are just rude.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What Will He Remember?

One more week before (fingers crossed) the big cast comes off and is replaced with the walking cast. Now that the pain is gone, C. Peevie's biggest broken-leg-related problem is the under-the-cast itching, which we treat with Benadryl and a fly swatter.

Oh, it's not clear how a fly swatter can cure itching? It turns out that a fly swatter is the perfect common household implement for scratching an itchy leg under a thigh-high cast. He tried other re-purposed scratchers--a ruler, an unbent hanger, a pen--but they were either too short, too inflexible, or too thick to fit between his leg and the cast.

Now that he's nearing the end of his short-term disability, I'm wondering what he will remember about this episode 30 years from now?

Will he remember WillDad and HarDad splinting his leg so well that the ER staff at Door County Memorial Hospital thought he had been field-dressed by a physician?

Will he remember his pain during the first three days that made him aaaalmost cry, and definitely made his mother cry? Will he remember fidgeting and moaning and shifting and adjusting his pillows at night, trying to find a comfortable position, until his breathing grew even and finally, he slept?

Will he remember falling in the bathroom, shaking and whimpering from fear and pain for about 45 minutes after we got him safely back on the couch?

Will he remember the Buckeyes chocolate candies and the Costco-size box of individual bags of M&M trail mix that my peeps brought him?

Will he remember that he missed his first two weeks of high school? Will he remember navigating the halls in a wheelchair, and refusing to eat lunch in the cafeteria because he didn't want to ask for help?

Will he remember the kindness and support of his teachers and counselors, who helped him navigate the physical and emotional challenges of the first messed-up weeks of school?

Will he remember getting progressively better on his crutches until stairs barely slowed him down? Will he remember doing wheelies in his chair, and me yelling at him to knock it off before he broke his skull?

Will he remember the stories people told him about their own broken bones and assorted traumas?

What will he remember?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bosses Don't Have to Suck, Part II

Read Part I here.

It took five jobs, seven bosses, and 18 years--but I finally landed a boss that knew how to lead, motivate, manage, and inspire. I would follow her to the ends of the earth, professionally. If you are a boss, and you are not sure if your direct reports would describe you this way (or you're pretty sure they wouldn't!), here's your chance to pick up some pointers.

In the four-plus years that I worked for DellaRella, I never felt anxious about unreasonable or unclear expectations; I never worried that I would be treated unfairly; I never felt the need to vent about the ridiculous antics or seditious attacks of a demented supervisor. Instead, I always knew and understood the expectations and timelines of my work tasks, and if I ran into trouble, I knew I could go to her and she would help me figure out a solution.

In our first telephone conversation, before we had met in person, DellaRella used some jargony-type language that instantly raised red flags; so I went into the interview wondering if this would be another in a long line of double-speaking Animal Farm-esque manipulators. (Yes, I am very quick on the draw with the Harsh and the Judgy. I'm working on it.) We worked out a contract arrangement, and I started working for her as a part-time independent contractor.

My initial doubts proved unfounded. Instead of finding myself in a position of linguistic and professional superiority, I discovered that rarest of breeds: a boss both knowledgeable and humble, both able to lead and willing to learn, having both personal warmth and professional boundaries. She was confident, but not arrogant. She was smart and experienced, but not a know-it-all.

I pinched myself often.

I did my best work while I was reporting to DellaRella, and here's why. She

  1. Had clear and reasonable expectations.
  2. Met with me often to check in on work in progress and adjust goals.
  3. Carefully and thoroughly planned the entire year, with input from her whole team.
  4. Allowed me to make mistakes, and worked with me to fix them.
  5. Encouraged me frequently.
  6. Gave me the support and resources I needed to get my work done. I didn't have to ask twice.
  7. Modeled a healthy work/personal life balance.
  8. Was reflective about her own strengths and weaknesses.
  9. Never spoke disrespectfully to me.
  10. Carried the burden of responsibility for a large office herself, but generously shared the credit for success with the team.

It wasn't just me who tightly bonded with DellaRella. Everyone who worked with her felt the same way--even when DR called them on the carpet.

"I can't be mad at her!" her assistant said to me once. "She's very tough on me--but she's right. I screwed up."

DellaRella has moved on to another life in another state--but if I got a call from her today asking me to work with her, I would not hesitate. And once I signed on to her project, I'd make sure that I exceeded her expectations--because a boss like that inspires you to not disappoint.

So here's my challenge to you bosses out there: Examine your boss-style honestly. Do you inspire DellaRella-esque loyalty among your team members?

It's something to aim for.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Which I Save A. Peevie's Life. Sort Of.

I saved A. Peevie's life tonight. Kind of.

It was nothing, really.

I went to Walgreen's to pick up one of his prescriptions, and before I left the store, I checked the 'scrip as I almost always do, to make sure I was getting the drug that I needed--Verapamil--and not one of his many other prescriptions. You remember Verapamil, right? The one that he accidentally overdosed himself on a few months back? Yes, that one.

The label on the pill bottle said "Verapamil," and that was good enough for me. Apparently, I should have looked a little closer, because when I got home and started to give A. Peevie his medicinal cocktail, I realized that they had given me 120 mg tablets instead of 120 mg time release capsules.

I briefly considered giving him the tablet, and then I realized that with the tablet, he'd be getting his 24-hour dose all at once. "Hmmm," I thought. "That might actually stop his heart. Bad idea."

As I climbed back into the Minivan of Salvation and drove back to Walgreens to make the exchange, I worked on my Indignant and Horrified Expression and my Speech of Potential Death Averted, No Thanks To You, Walgreens. What if I had been just tired and distracted enough to not think twice about giving him that pill? What if I hadn't been home, and Mr. Peevie was in charge of meds, and he didn't know the difference? Or if a babysitter had been in charge, and wouldn't know by looking at the pills that they were wrong?

At the pharmacy counter, I mentioned the itty-bitty problem of the Right Medicine, Wrong Dose/Delivery to the concerned but powerless pharm-tech.

"This dose might have killed him," I said gently but firmly. "The pharmacist needs to know that someone made a serious mistake."

"Oh, did the doctor write it wrong?" she said innocently.

"Um, no," I said. "This was a refill of a long-standing prescription that my son has been taking for years. Someone here made a mistake."

"I'm very sorry," she said sincerely, "I'll speak to the pharmacist about it." A few minutes later she reassured me that they were getting right on it, and would have the correct pills ready quickly.

Tick-tock, tick-tock. Customers came and went. I played Sudoku and finished solving a medium-difficulty game. Finally, after 15 minutes had gone by with nary a word, I stood at the counter again.

"Can I help you?" asked a boy pharm-tech (BPT) with a bored expression on his face.

"Yes," I said firmly and with a skosh less gentleness than the last time. "I'm waiting for a replacement on a prescription that was filled incorrectly the first time. The tech told me it would be ready in a few minutes. It's been 15." There was talking, scurrying, and PA announcing for an "exchange in pharmacy." Finally, BPT handed the new bag of pills over to a store manager, who began punching buttons on his register.

"That will be $4.78," he said.

"Noooo," I said, "I already paid for the prescription once. I don't believe I owe any additional money."

"Ah," he said, and punched a bunch more buttons on his register. The whole Accidental Death Averted Situation seemed to be a non-starter, and I was nonplussed. I prayed a quick prayer asking for wisdom, and then I started kicking ass. Nicely.

"I don't want to be difficult, here," I said, "but this was a pretty serious mistake that was made, and everyone seems to be pretty casual about it. This dose could potentially have killed my son."

Well, didn't that get his attention! Store Manager stopped punching buttons and looked back and forth at the two prescription bags in his hands. I waited.

"They're both the same medication," he said, confused.

"Yes," I said, "But one is time-release capsules, and the other is a full 120 mg dose tablet." He looked back and forth at the labels again. "He would be getting the full dose all at once," I explained. "My son weighs 75 pounds. It would be a serious overdose."

One beat. Another beat. Then: "Ahhh. Time-release capsules," he said.

"As I said, I'm not trying to be difficult, here," I reiterated. "I just want to make sure that everyone understands the potential seriousness of the mistake so that it doesn't happen again."

"I will definitely talk to the pharmacist," Store Manager said. "And I'm very, VERY sorry for the mistake and for your trouble. Very, VERY sorry."

That was more like it--and that's all I wanted, really--someone in charge, someone with actual responsibility to acknowledge that a very big and potentially very dangerous mistake had been made. Store Manager started punching more buttons on his register; he popped open his drawer and took out some money.

"I don't think I get any money back," I said stupidly--why am I turning down cash? "I didn't pay too much for the prescription."

"No," said Store Manager, handing me $5 and change, "It's because of our mistake and your trouble. We're covering the cost of the prescription."

Oh. Well, then. I accept.

But I'm still going to call the cardiologist tomorrow and find out what would have been the expected outcome if we had accidentally given A. Peevie the tablet instead of the prescribed capsule.

And then I might be writing a letter to Mr. Walgreen himself.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bosses Don't Have to Suck, Part I

In honor of National Boss's Day on October 16, this two-part post is dedicated to the one boss I have had who knew how to be a great boss. Before I tell you about her, though, let me tell you about some bad bosses I have had.

Bad Boss #1 (not necessarily in order of appearance in my employment career): BB1 was the kind of person that makes you think she is evolved, fair-minded, even-handed, and capable, but if you get on the wrong side of her, you will quickly learn that you should not turn your back on her. She was also a lunatic.

Every year we planned and organized a huge fund-raising event. Everyone in the office had a role to play, but I was the lead staff member. On the night of the event, one of our staff members--I'll call her Monday--never showed up, and never called. We scrambled and re-assigned volunteers at the last minute to cover for her, and worried about her safety.

The following Monday, there was Monday, sitting at her desk, apparently oblivious to the inconvenience and concern she had caused. I asked her what happened, and she said she had gone to get her hair done, and it had taken longer than she had expected. By the time she was done, the event was mostly over.

As a white woman, I understand that I am almost completely clueless about the intricacies, politics, and meaning of a black woman's hair.

However. To blow off the biggest fund raising event of the year, planned months in advance, because you couldn't schedule your hair appointment around it? Unacceptable. I spoke to my colleague in an honest and respectful way, and she acknowledged my personal and professional disappointment and appropriately offered a heartfelt apology. We had a good relationship both before and after this incident.

But when I spoke to my boss about it later, she gave this jaw-droppingly lametastic, white-guilt-fueled response (slightly paraphrased): "Her behavior can be excused because of 400 years of oppression." She said I was wrong to call Monday on her lapse of judgment, and that I should have just let it go.

I...I...I got nothing.

BB1 eventually fired me, ostensibly because I was a poor writer, and dishonest. She took a sample of my writing to an editor-friend of hers, she said, and the editor-friend said it was filled with grammatical errors. She also accused me of trying to torpedo a direct mail campaign in order to make her look bad. I did have a hard time managing the direct mail project because we were rolling it out at the same time that I was dealing with a high risk pregnancy and the subsequent death of my daughter--but it doesn't even make sense to suggest that I would purposely fail at my own project, hurting myself and my own work record more than hers.

As I said: lunatic.

I think the real reasons she fired me were that a) I let her know that I felt that it would not be appropriate for a social service agency to receive funding from The Playboy Foundation; b) I questioned the methodology we used in creating budgets for proposals to make them look less like general operating requests and more like specific program requests; and c) I was starting a family.

Another bad boss was an incessant micro-manager who had a predilection for telling me not just what to do, but how to do it. She had the irritating habit of sending me emails saying, "Call me!" instead of picking up the phone and, well, calling me. Because of her borderline personality and bipolar disorder, her expectations and moods were constantly moving targets, and it was almost impossible to predict whether she would love me or hate me. It kind of depended on whether her other direct reports were in or out of favor at the moment.

At one point, I was venting to Dr. PS about the constantly frustrating and emotionally unstable work environment (at times, she literally danced on tables, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, there were times when she'd be sobbing in her office), and she gave me wise advice.

"You are dealing with too many borderline personalities," she said, mentioning a close friend and a family member who were both exacerbating my stress level. "You need to get rid of them." Well, I couldn't change families; and I didn't want to give up my job.

Fortunately, the friend took herself out of my life, and the situation with the family member subsided into occasional fits of dysfunction, so I was left only dealing with one borderline personality. Eventually, I traded up to the best boss ever--ME!-- and entered the (ahem) lucrative business of freelance writing.

Which I would not trade for a real job, even if said real job paid < Austin Powers voice >One Meellion Dollars < /Austin Powers voice>.

Unless Mr. Peevie insisted.

Which he wouldn't do because he loves me too much to want me to GO INSANE.

But I digress. Let me tell you about the really great boss, and what makes the really great boss really great.

Tomorrow. That will give you time to get out pencil and paper so you can take notes.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What To Do About a Lying Child

We were in the car on our famous South Dakota vacation. The kids, for the most part, were very well-behaved; but there were occasional spats and brawls. At one point, A. Peevie started crying and screaming as though he were suddenly missing an important body part, and I turned around in the front seat, ready to smack the perp who maimed him.

"M. Peevie clawed me!" he wailed. "She dug her nails into me and clawed me! I'm bleeding! Aaagggghhhh!"

M. Peevie quickly and loudly denied the accusation. Her huge honey-brown eyes became huger and her eyebrows scootched up to her hairline, emphasizing her innocence.

"I didn't touch him!" she screamed. "He [kickedmepulledmyhairstolemyCodycoyotelookedatmewithameanlook]," she counterclaimed (I can't remember the actual accusation), "and I fake-punched him, but I never touched him!"

"I saw her," said E-dude. "She scratched him."

"Show me your leg, A.," I instructed. He did, and sure enough, there was a visible mark on it.

"M. Peevie," I said sternly, "There is a mark on A. Peevie's leg. Do you have something you want to say to me?"

"No, Mom," she said earnestly. "I didn't touch him! I promise, I didn't!" Meanwhile, A. Peevie was still crying, and the mark on his leg accused her more loudly than his screeches.

Apparently, my daughter is a liar.

The boys have been accusing her of this for a long time, but I didn't want to believe it. I hate lying, and I value honesty above almost any other virtue, except perhaps kindness--but they often kind of go hand in hand.

The evidence at this point was overwhelming, and it broke my heart.

Another incontrovertible incident happened this summer as well. I had told M. Peevie to do her math sheet, and she told me she didn't know where it was.

"It's on the Barney Chair," I told her. (The Barney Chair is, obviously, a big, overstuffed, purple chair in our living room.)

"It's not there, Mom!" she called from the living room. I sighed loudly, got up from my Scramble match, and went out to the frunchroom.

"M. Peevie, it was right here on this chair," I said firmly. "Did you move it?"

"No, Mom, I didn't," she said with earnest sincerity. "I never saw it." I knew at that moment that she was lying, because I had seen the paper in that spot 15 minutes ago with my own eyes, which, though aging, are still fairly reliable. We don't have a poltergeist. No one else had entered the room; the window was closed and the wind did not blow it away. No one else could have moved it.

We went back and forth for about five minutes, with me asking her in different ways if she had seen it, moved it, covered it, or eaten it, and her earnestly and adamantly denying any such miscreance. Finally I told her that I would not be able to trust her anymore, and that that would have serious consequences to our relationship and to the activities she would be allowed to do.

"The best thing for you to do here, M. Peevie," I said gently but firmly, "is to tell me the truth. I won't be angry at you for telling the truth." She hung her head.

"I did it, mom," she said in a small voice. She removed a pillow, a throw, another pillow--and lo and behold--there was the missing paper.

What's a parent to do about a lying child? Panic? Punish? Pray?

I did some research, but the Internet did not offer much in the way of child development expertise on lying school-age children, at least from known and trusted sources. Much of what I found deals mostly with younger children. Here's what I did find:

An article on suggests that "the most serious type of lying occurs when children lie to avoid punishment." Great. That is exactly what we've got going on here.

Frances Stott of the Erikson Institute discusses how lying evolves in young children, and reassures parents that when your child lies, it is not a "crisis of morality." Our job as parents is to help our children "develop morality and responsibility for [their] actions over the long haul." She offers five strategies for promoting truthfulness, including modeling it, communicating calmly, and pointing out the logical consequences of lying.

It has always been my goal to have all of my children in therapy by the age of five; and although I have missed the boat with M. Peevie (two out of three ain't bad!), it seems possible that we might be headed there, particularly in light of past concerns, and now the whole lying thing.

M. Peevie and I had a conversation about the lying in which I told her that one consequence was that I would not be able to trust her in other situations if she kept lying to me.

"I won't punish you for lying, M.," I said, "But there are natural consequences." ("Consequence" was one of her first words as a young child.) "When you tell a lie, it puts a brick between us," I continued. "If you keep telling lies, you will build a wall between us, and then we can't talk to each other or help each other. You don't want that to happen, do you?"

"No, mommy," she said seriously, with a tear in the corner of her eye. "I will never lie to you again." She will, though.

We all get tempted to tell lies, I told her, because at the time it seems like it will make things better for us. You will get tempted to lie again, honey, I told her. If you slip and tell a lie, the sooner you confess, the better it will be.

What have you done about a lying child?

Another Weird Neighbor Story

Here's something weird and...well, just weird. I have a weird life. Weird neighbors, weird relatives, weird colleagues. Maybe that's just the human condition.

Anyhoo, here's what happened tonight, just now, at midnight: I'm down in the basement, switching back and forth between Angel DVDs and Saturday Night Live, and suddenly I hear "squeak, squeak, squeak!" It sounds like the faucet on the outside of the house.

I get up and go upstairs to the front door. I open it quietly, step outside, and peek around the corner. Lo and behold! A garden hose snaked its way from my own outdoor faucet to my neighbor's backyard.


Seriously. Who hooks up a hose to their neighbor's faucet in the middle of the night, to fill up buckets of water on his back deck?

My neighbor, that's who.

Shortly after I wrote about his backyard jungle, his current girlfriend showed up. She was hacking down the two-story weeds in his yard. By herself. At night.

"Hey, girlfriend," we said, introducing ourselves. "Where's The User?"

"He's home. Sick," she said, chopping down a 40-foot Giant Hogweed with a chainsaw.

"Wow," we thought. "How does he keep finding girlfriends to do his manual labor for him? He does not look like he is all that."

So now the weeds have been manicured, but apparently, he still needs assistance cleaning out the rental property. So he showed up tonight with a couple of friends and helped himself to our water. They filled up buckets of water and carried them indoors in the wee hours like confused vandals.

Not that his taking our water actually costs us anything. In Chicago, we still get semi-annual water bills based upon a nebulous and mysterious figuring that does not relate to the amount of water we actually use.

But still. If you were going to hook up a hose to your neighbor's house, wouldn't you at least ask them for permission first? I'm not so much of an Obamocialist yet that I don't care whether my neighbors are helping themselves on my property without so much as a how-de-do, you know?


As I watched from my darkened kitchen my neighbor and his pals fill up buckets with contraband water, I wondered what I should do. Should I confront the nefarious water-stealing neighbor? Because I will totally confront dudes in the middle of the night. When C. Peevie was a tiny, sleeping baby, we lived in a neighborhood where people thought it was appropriate to drive up to a house and honk their horn in the middle of the night. I would get out of bed, throw on my robe, stalk across the street and accost the idiots who did not realize that the simple act of getting out of the car and ringing the doorbell would allow a sleep-deprived new mother to avoid going INSANE.

Mr. Peevie was sound asleep, getting his beauty rest in advance of running the marathon tomorrow. It didn't seem like a true emergency, so I let him sleep. I watched my neighbor for a few more minutes, but I decided in the end that it was just a case of Neighbor Lacking Appropriate Social Boundaries, rather than Neighbor Doing Nefarious and Harmful Bad Stuff; and I let it go.

It's very strange and boundary-crossing, don't you think?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Premature Adjudication

I'm a big fan of the guy--that's no secret.

But to give Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize because they want to "promote what he stands for" seems premature, with the unfortunate effect of minimizing the global importance of the award.

This article in Huffington Post said the committee "praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease American conflicts with Muslim nations, and strengthen the U.S. role in combating climate change." I'm sorry to sound like a nabob of negativity here, but come on. Anyone can make pledges--but shouldn't the Prize be given to someone who has actually done more than make pretty promises?

Previous winners include former president Jimmy Carter, Doctors Without Borders, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel, and Mother Teresa--all of whom worked for years on issues of peace and social justice, with measurable, admirable results.

Obama took office less than two weeks before the nomination deadline, which casts a further shadow on the politics of the Prize. Predictably, Repubs have come down hard on the decision, some hilariously.

Those who are scornful, angry and/or cynical about Obama getting the top peace prize include Rush Limbaugh, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, former Polish President Lech Walesa, Hamas, the Taliban, William Kristol, pretty much everyone else at the Washington Post as well, and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson.

Those happy and supportive about Obama receiving the award include John McCain, Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Al Gore, and Afghani President Hamid Karzai.

I do like Obama's acceptance speech, which is appropriately humble and gracious. He said,

Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize, men and women who have inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

OK, I can live with affirmation and momentum. I wish they would have waited a year or two or three, to see what the outcomes will be; but in the meantime, I am proud and relieved that we have a leader who inspires hope and respect, and is reshaping the image of the United States around the world.

It's a good feeling, for once.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bleah. (How's that for a title?)

Don't you hate it when you just feel bleah?

I feel bleah. For no reason. Just...bleah. Tired, enervated, aimless, disinterested. A little wobbly, emotionally, like a small wind could push me over into depression.


I know there are strategies for coping with the bleahs, like Gratitude, and Remembering, and Doing Kind Deeds. I'm trying to work up the energy to try one of them--but in a vicious-cycle kind of way, the bleahs have drained me of the energy and effort it takes to employ those strategies.

I had this conversation when I dropped off the youngest Peevies this morning:

Mrs. Pitt: How are you?
Me: Bleah.
Mrs. Pitt: I'm sorry.
Me: Yeah.
Mrs. Pitt: Your hair looks cute!
Me, laughing: Thank you. I haven't brushed it in three days.
Mrs. Pitt: At least you're smiling now!

The Peevie household is no longer in crisis, so that's not the problem. We're coping with the thigh-high cast for another week, and hoping that the doc will switch C. Peevie to a weight-bearing cast after that.

We're coping with homework times three. I'm working on a couple of small projects, trying to dig up some new business, and nagging my non- or slow-paying clients to pay up.

Mr. Peevie is five days out from Marathon Day, and is feeling pretty good about his chances for winning the whole thing. Go, Mr. Peevie! I'm proud of him for being so committed; and also? In the throes of my self-centered bleahtitude, I can't wait for it to be over.

But nothing in our lives is hugely disturbing; there's really nothing to complain about, in relative, Western terms. My bleahs are not even hormonal, I don't think--at least, not this week. It's just one of those hopefully brief seasons of bleah. I probably just need a salty, crunchy snack.

OK, that's enough self-absorption for one day. Stay tuned for slightly more edifying posts about critical thinking, bosses, and a lying child.