Sunday, December 26, 2010

Drama in Real Life: The Blizzard of Aught-Ten

It was a blustery, blizzardy day--as the weather prognosticators had warned us it would be.

The night before, when the country club unilaterally cancelled its brunch seating, we were all, "Oh, yeah, right! A blizzard! Bet we don't get more than an inch or two of accumulation. Babies!" We had the flat-screen tuned to the weather channel all evening, and the reports were ominous--but we still refused to believe that we'd be home-bound.

"Where do they think we are, Mississippi?" we cracked. "This is Illinois! We can handle a little old blizzard."

We stayed up late on Saturday night, playing ping-pong, drinking cheap wine, and de-bloating from our earlier 12-course feast.  We decided to replace our country club brunch with a homemade brunch of French toast, scrambled eggs with ham, and home fries. Alternatively, if it did look like a major storm would hinder our travel, we'd skip breakfast, and get out of town early.  Either way, we weren't worried.  We drive a Toyota mini-van, and that seven-seater-chick-magnet has four-wheel drive!

Sunday morning dawned clear and bright.  Not.

No, it really was blowing out there. Snow whipped sideways across the second green, and a red squirrel who dared to leave his nest pulled his tail around himself and hurried to his next appointment. 

When we told the kids that safety trumped breakfast, and we'd be leaving right after saying goodbye to our sweet blond cousins, tears welled up in M. Peevie's eyes and dripped into her Lucky Charms. "Please, Mommy," she said, "Can't we just have French toast with RK and T-Bone, and then leave?"

I wrapped my arms around my sad baby girl and told her no. "I know you're sad, honey, but we need to leave now before the weather gets even worse." The tears continued to fall, and she tried one more time to change our minds.

"Oh, there's nothing to cry about," MIL said briskly. "I'm sure you'll get over it." As lovely and generous as she is, true empathy is not one of her strong points. I resisted the urge to deliver a sharp correction, and instead I upped my own empathy. M. Peevie pushed my hand away, though, preferring a moment of wallowing in her grief.

We packed up the Christmas gifts and the dirty laundry and the gameboys, hugged the cousins, and headed out into the capital-E-Elements. Very little new snow was falling, but the fierce wind swept up the layer of snow from the ground and slammed it across the fields like a manic modernist hurling white paint against a giant canvas. I drove slowly, so as not to outrun my 15 feet of visibility.
"Are you scared?" I asked Mr. Peevie, who has been known to back-seat drive when I'm behind the wheel and not keeping strictly to the two-second rule.

"Nope," he said. I was surprised, but I believed him. Apparently I could pull out the defensive driving when the situation particularly called for it.  Who knew.

Suddenly 15 feet of visibility completely disappeared, and I was driving into a white wall. I slowed to a stop on the two-lane road, wondering if we'd get rear-ended before I was able to drive again. When a few feet of road re-appeared, I started to drive again, slowly, hoping everyone else on the road was navigating as carefully as I was.

"Mom," came a voice from somewhere behind me. "Mom? I can't see anything. How do you know where you're driving?"

"Stop talking, guys," Mr. Peevie said over his shoulder. "Mommy's trying to concentrate." The white wall went up again, and I slid to a stop. We held our breath for 30 seconds, maybe a minute, and when the opague wall lifted, I saw that I had somehow started to cross the yellow line.

"This is an accident waiting to happen," I said to Mr. Peevie. "I think we should go back to your parents' house and wait it out."  We drove, stopped, and drove while the white sheets alternately blasted across our windshield and lifted to give us five or ten feet of visibility. We turned around in a farmyard driveway--briefly considering inviting ourselves in--and headed back to Grandmom and Granddad's house.

Drive. Stop. Drive. Stop. Drive. Breathe. Finally we pulled into the driveway and piled out of the car and into the house. The grandparents were so happy to have their house filled with the joyful noise of grandchildren for one extra day! Or that's what we told ourselves, anyway.

I looked out the floor-to-ceiling great room windows across the golf course, rendered white with sideways snow; and settled down for a long winter's nap. Literally.

That's what I call a silver lining!

The next morning dawned clear and bright--for realz. The blizzard adventure of aught-ten closed its doors behind us as we headed north, back to home, school, work and--oh, joy!--four inches of snow waiting to be shoveled from the walk and steps.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Double-Digits

M. Peevie here.

It's really weird, but being a double-digit age does not feel any different from being a single-digit age.  I mean from yesterday to today:  no difference.  I have been feeling more grown-up lately, though.

Do you like how my blog post title is just like my mom's last post about me--only she wrote Double Wides and I wrote Double Digits?  Hee.  I did that on purpose.  It's called a literary something--something that means both sides the same.

[Mom's note:  Parallelism, M. Peevie.  Parallelism.]

My mom teaches me words like that--like "literary something"--only she uses the right word, and then I don't know what she means, and I say, "What does that mean?" and she explains it; and then I get bored and change the subject, and then I forget the word anyway.  I don't know why she uses big words with me when I am just a kid.

So I was saying that I feel more grown up lately.  I think it's because I am now in fourth grade, and clearly fourth grade is WAY HARDER than third grade or any other grade that came before.  (Last year when I was only nine, I said some jokes about third grade being hard.)  Our teacher, Mrs. WarmAndFuzzy, is very tough on us, like she expects us to be as smart and organized as grown-ups or something.  I feel nervous a lot of the time in her class, and I feel my forehead coming down over my eyes.

I think maybe I also feel more grown-up because I have to do SO MANY MORE CHORES in my house.  My mom started going to work every day, and so she says that us kids have to help out more around the house.  I call bogus.  I am just a kid.  I should not have to spend every Saturday morning doing chores, PLUS have to do chores during the week also.

I had my birthday party on Friday night, three days before my real birthday.  It was a "late-over"--which is like a sleep-over, only the guests go home late instead of sleeping over.  Get it?  Ten girls--eleven including me--came to my party.  Those girls can really shout some decibels, if you know what I mean.  Decibels means how loud something is.

We had pizza and cake and tiny cans of Pepsi and rootbeer and Dr. Pepper.  For a craft project, we got to decorate white pillow-cases with bright-colored Sharpies.  That was my idea, and my mom said it was a really good one.  We also played Twister, had a scavenger hunt, and watched part of a movie.  It sort of seemed like no one was sticking to my List of Things To Do At My Party, but my mom said that the girls had fun anyway, and that that was the most important thing.

I think the most important thing was that we follow the List of Things to Do At My Party, because it was, you know, my party, but whatever.

Oh!  I almost forgot to say that I got to open cards and presents, which I REALLY enjoyed.  My mom took a picture of me and each girl, with me holding up the present they gave me.  My mom said maybe I could ask the girls to bring a present or a book for a kid in a homeless shelter, instead of a present for me; and I did not say this, but I was thinking, "ARE YOU INSANE?!  I LOVE PRESENTS!"

(And plus, she should know better, because I know for a FACT that she loves presents, too.)

Anyway, enough about my party.  A lot of stuff has happened in my life since I turned nine.  I broke my leg, for one thing, right before our Christmas trip to Pennsylvania to see my grandparents.  My dad took my brothers to see the Liberty Bell, and I did not get to go.  I was not pleased.

But there is one more new thing I have to tell you about:  I am playing saxophone in the band!  My daddy bought me my own saxophone, and I can already play "Ode to Joy" and "Jingle Bells" by heart.  Sometimes C. Peevie and I play duets in the living room, until my mom says her head hurts and can we please go down the basement.

I am thinking that I will now ask my mom and dad to please please please let me open my presents because it is now nine o'clock at night, and I am tired of waiting.  So I will talk to you next year.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Double-Wides

My daughter is a very special girl.  And by "special" I mean "stubborn" and "expensive" and "opinionated."

M. Peevie has always known exactly what she wanted, from the time she was a tiny baby.  She refused to take a bottle, no matter what was in it.  No brand of formula, not even breast milk.  Not even breast milk spiked with coconut rum.  She would sob and cry until her eyes looked like she was having an anaphylactic reaction.  I was chained to her nursing schedule until she was four months old and learned to drink from a cup.

So now she's nine, almost ten.  She is the whole package--beautiful, smart, talented.  But she has one debilitating flaw (besides the stubbornness):  she has the widest feet known to mankind.  Girl-kind.  Whatever.  This presents problems with regard to her sense of high fashion.  She loves grown-up shoes--no Mary Janes for this fashionista. 

But forget about Payless, forget about Famous Footwear, forget about the department stores.  Only a real shoe store will work for the Divine Miss M.  Waxberg's Walk Shoppe, to be precise.  Their motto is "If we can't fit you, nobody can."  I started to feel hopeful the minute we walked through the door.

The saleslady, Trudy, measured M. Peevie's right foot at 7.5E and her left foot at 7EE.  She brought us a few pairs of mom-approved styles, and when M. tried on the first pair, a beautiful pewter-colored Mary Jane, we asked her how they felt.

"Better than any other shoes I have ever worn!" she said appreciatively.  I was ready to buy the MJ's and leave, but M.P. had her eye on some other, more fabulous styles.  Like Finn Comforts ($264) and Kumfs ($179) and Helle Comfort ($203).  Mr. Peevie and I had our eye on brands that delivered slightly less hurt to the wallet, and after about six hours of shoe-trying-on, M. Peevie narrowed her choices down to an adorable red sweater-top slip-on, and a hideously plain pair of brown Birkenstocks.

Guess which pair she picked?

So we ended up paying $130 for a swath of suede stitched to a bumpy slab of cork.  Crazy.  (I don't pay half that much for my own shoes.  I typically wear a pair of five-year-old Land's End all-weather mocs that cost about $25.)

And then it turns out that the girl is not even allowed to wear the Birks to school because they have no back.  They're not safe enough.  I ask the principal for an exception for our hard-to-fit daughter, and she respectfully declines, after watching M. Peevie walk around in the room-to-grow shoes.  I don't really blame her, but now I have to face M. Peevie with the news.

She cries and cries.  "What about those cute red ones you liked?" I remind her.  

"I hate them!" she declares, determined to be miserable; so I tell her we will go back to Waxberg's and try on every pair of shoes in the store until we find a pair that's a) under $150 and b) acceptable to her school and c) acceptable to M. Peevie's finicky sense of fashion.  We put the Birks back in the box to be returned to the store.

A few days later, M. Peevie is dressed for church, and as she's tying the laces on her sneakers, she says, "I sure wish I had those Birkenstocks to wear with this outfit."  I looked at Mr. Peevie, and he looked at me and shook his head.

"Please!" I mouthed, and he reluctantly agreed. 

"M.," I said, "Daddy and I have a birthday present for you, and we're thinking of giving it to you a couple of weeks early."  Her face lighted up.  "Do you know what it is?  Do you want your present early?"

"Yes!" she said happily, "and I think it might be those special shoes!"  It was.  I handed the box to her, and she put the shoes on, and ran over and bear-hugged me until I was concave.  "Thank you, Mommy and Daddy, thank you!" she said, over and over.

So now M. Peevie has an expensive pair of shoes that she cannot wear to school.  And we're still facing another trip to the shoe store to fit those double-wides.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Sometimes I tweet (follow me @EPeevie) political links or comments, and then my conservative friends and family reply, and then we get into these long debates in which we talk past each other without making any progress toward mutual understanding or consensus.  Take this dialogue, for example:

EPeevie:  Why are so many middle-income folks so intent upon preserving the inordinately low tax rates of the super-rich?


TeaPartyPolly:  Because I think we should all pay less taxes as it is.  Again, I'll cite the IRS statistic: The top 1% of tax earners already pay 39% of the taxes; the top 25% of earners pay 86% of all taxes; the top 50% pay 97% of the taxes.  When will enough be enough?

EPeevie:  So what if 1% pay 39% of the taxes? That figure is meaningless out of context. Maybe they pay 39% of the taxes, but they make 90% of the income.  I'm not saying this is true--just that context makes a difference.

I still don't get why middle incomers oppose Buffett's proposal that taxes should be reduced for most people but increased for the super-rich.  Buffett himself says it would have no impact on entrepreneurism--and I guess he should know.

TPPolly: My reference is the Constitution and the writings of the founders of our country who envisioned a place where people are free to work as hard as they are motivated and the government gets out of the way as much as possible.  The things that people want to increase taxes on the wealthy for are not things that the Constitution/founders envisioned government taking a role in.

ReverendP: Hitting those with inomes over $250K is hitting small business, as I noted in my previous post.  Small business persons invest in widgets, widget machines, and hire widget makers and widget sellers.  It is called employment. Why do you suppose K. Marx was committed to a graduated income tax?

OfficerFriendly: Those are the people who create the jobs.  The government takes money, and while government helps a small percentage of people, it wastes far more money than it puts to use.

BTW, I'm middle income, and my taxes went up this year, and if the Bush tax cuts don't get renewed, my taxes will go up this year by $4,000.  Also, they've delayed our property tax bills until after the election because they raised the multiplier.  That means that even though my house gets water every time it rains, and is worth half as much as it was five years ago, my taxes continue to rise every year.

And we'll have to pay the taxes at Christmas.  The only reasons politicians talk about "the rich" is to get you to look up so you don't see the uppercut to the chin coming.  We should stop worrying about how to hurt other, rich evil people and start worrying about what they are doing to us.

TPPolly:  The class envy card that liberals play is so subtle that it's powerful.

EPeevie:  Somehow I don't think Warren Buffett is motivated by class envy.

Warren Buffett was talking about increasing the tax rate for the super-rich, not small business owners.  100K, as you mentioned earlier, and even 250K, do not qualify.  Think hedge fund managers, with multi-million dollar bonuses.  The lowest earning hedge fund manager in 2004 made $65 MILLION DOLLARS.

And finally, I believe that the Constitution did not envision many things that we are dealing with today.  It is a great document, but "Constitutional idolatry" takes us down the wrong road.

I totally agree that the federal government is bloated and often wasteful and ineffective.  But I don't agree that the first place we should look to de-bloat is social programs that help the poor because the Constitution, written by aristocrats, didn't address the problem.

OfficerFriendly:  You are falling into the trap laid for you, namely that the only choices are to raise taxes or hurt poor people.

TPPolly:  Warren Buffett is not motivated by class envy because he's not a politician seeking re-election on the basis of "vote for me and I'll soak those rich people and give you their money."

I would also say where the Constitution is wrong then let's change that...otherwise we must play by the game rules we've been given and not cheat against our agreed-upon rules by running around the end and undermining the Constitution.

RevP: I think Warren Buffett, Obama, O'Biden, Kerry and George Soros should volunteer to make larger contributions (taxes).  But why should the government put a gun to our heads (the tax system) in order for them to determine who gets their handouts of my money?

OfficerFriendly: How come everybody quotes Warren Buffett when he says that the government should raise taxes on the super-rich, but then conveniently forgets to quote him on the second half of his comment.  Context works both ways.

EPeevie:  Which part, OF, the part where he says raising taxes on the super-rich won't inhibit entrepreneurs, or the part where he says that taxes should be reduced for people at lower incomes?

OfficerFriendly: Taxes should be reduced on middle and upper middle income.  That part is never talked about by politicians.  The debate now is whether to raise our taxes or leave them the same--not reduce them.
TPPolly: It is simply not the government's place to decide an arbitrary number at which anyone has "made enough."  We don't know what they do with that money--they may want to give large amounts to charity.  Frankly, it isn't anybody's business what people do with what they make.

How frequently must we say it...ours is not a nation founded upon socialistic redistribution of wealth.  If that's what we want, then let's change the Constitution to look like North Korea's.

OfficerFriendly:  Plus, if there is a ceiling above which you cannot rise, no matter how hard you work or how lucky you get, then people would stop trying hard or taking chances.

EPeevie:  Yes, I'm going to stop trying hard or taking chances if the government taxes me at above 17 percent once my income reaches ONE MILLION BAJILLION DOLLARS per year.

...
At this point, I interrupted the debate to ask permission to use the conversation in a blog post because "I think it is a brilliant example of how "liberals" (I know that's how you think of me, even though I don't think of myself that way) and conservatives talk past each other."  Everybody agreed, and TPPolly added a bit of what I saw as irony:

TPPolly:  I don't think I'm talking past anyone...I'm making points, but they are not being responded to.  Specifically, you seem unable to get past the issue of our Constitution.

RevP had the last somewhat off-point, unsourced last word in the FB discussion:  Well, you have to love ObamaCare, presided over by a President who smokes, supervised by an obese surgeon general and financed by a treasury secretary who cheated on his taxes.  Billionaires will not risk their big money if they only get to take home 15% of it or less.  Right now most billionaires are keeping 75% of their wealth out of taxable areas...like hiring and investing business.

What do you think?  Were we talking past each other?  That's how I see it:  I raised a question about taxing the super-rich, and the conversation turned to the straw-man arguments of income ceilings and local property taxes and whether or not the Constitution allows for graduated income tax.

Clearly, my friend TPPolly did not see it that way.  For him, the Constitution question was integral to the discussion of tax rates; and whereas I felt like I had addressed the issue, he believed I avoided it. 


Is this little FB debate a microcosm of the national political debate?  Is there any hope for political consensus, or even compromise?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vagina Dialogues, Revisited

I stopped at Trader Joe's to pick up some wine and noshes on Friday, before heading out of town with my girl peeps.  "Have fun, and behave yourself!" said the cheerful clerk.  (They're always cheerful at Trader Joe's.  It's part of the job description.)

"Make up your mind," I said hilariously.  "Have fun, or behave myself?"  Aaahhh-hahahahaha.  I do love my own sense of humor.

This group of peeps has vacayed together before; the stories are recounted in Vagina Dialogues I, II, III and IV.  This trip we were down three members (four if you include L-Tiny): Vespinator moved to Germany (how rude), Rock Star is promoting her new CD on a 10-day Midwest tour, and the Professor is re-prioritizing.  

We navigated Friday night traffic, met up with peeps along the way, and came up with the first catch-phrase of the weekend:  "This trip is a well-oiled machine," J. Cool kept saying, "Well-oiled machine.  Everything is under control and running smoothly."  This, after she spent an hour-and-a-half driving less than ten miles from her house to my house.

We finally arrived at the cabin in the woods around 10 p.m., and we were more than ready to tip a glass of wine or two.  Somehow we stayed up well past midnight--two of us until 3 a.m.--eating cheese and drinking wine with labels like Pirate Booty and Evil Twin.  Our conversational topics included boyfriends, movies, kids, jobs, house renovating, and the pronunciation of "gor-GON-zola" and "PAP-ricka."

We also discussed our plans to go kayaking the next morning, which ONE OF US had spent HOURS researching and planning.  After the long drive and several glasses of wine, the thought of spending a couple of damp hours testing our upper body strength against a swift current did not sound appealing to one or two group members.  Actually, all of them, except me.

The next morning we again debated the merits of going kayaking on the scenic Pigeon River.  The day was overcast and chilly, and the stakeholders were sort of inclined to noodle around antique shops and go to wine tastings rather than getting in touch with their inner outdoorswoman.

"It's so gloomy," one whined.

"My broken rib still hurts," complained the accident-prone one.

"I hate nature," said a third.

"Two-and-a-half hours?" they chorused.  "My muscles are sore just thinking about it."

We put Skip, the cheerful and obliging shop-keeper at Kayak-Kayak in Holland, MI, on speaker-phone.  "Tell you what," he said tinnily.  "Come on over to the shop, and I'll drive you down to the river.  If it's raining too much, I'll refund all your money."  This was a more-than-reasonable offer, and we headed up to Holland.  (Or is that down to Holland?  I'm bad at geography.)  It started drizzling, then really raining on the drive up, and Bob the Builder could not let it go.

"Here, E. Peevie," she said helpfully, "you can borrow my sunglasses."  Beat.  "They'll keep the rain out of your eyes."  Squeak, squeak, swish, swish went the wipers as we followed Skip and his trailer of brightly colored kayaks down the highway.

"I'm just going to close my eyes and imagine I'm sitting by a fireplace holding a glass of wine," Bob said.  I threw a Look at her, but even I was starting to wonder if maybe this was not a great idea after all. 

"How far away is this place?" we wondered, as the miles blurred by; and the rain kept coming.  We had thought it was a mile or two up the road, but--maybe because of the rain, and because of Bob the Builder's unrelenting teasing--it seemed like we were traveling to another state.

Finally, we pulled over and bounced down a rutted road.  Skip backed his trailer up against the shore and started unloading kayaks.  A tiny sliver of blue sky appeared, but the clouds kept drizzling, and we pulled our hoods and hats down over our faces.  Skip pointed us to the life jackets, but reassured the hydrophobes among us that the river would rarely be more than a few feet deep.  He pulled a blue tandem kayak off the trailer and dragged it to the water's edge.

"This one's ours, J.Cool," I said.  The others were all taking singles, but J.Cool has back issues, and I had volunteered to be her chief paddler. We climbed in, and Skip pushed us off the shore.  We paddled out into the middle of the gentle current and waited for the singles kayaks to join us.  Spike found a rhythm easily, and quickly turned out into the current; BrokeGirl wasn't very far behind.

But Queen and Bob the Builder, OMG.  They spent some time talking over paddling strategy with Skip, and then he pushed them away from the beach.  Bob headed straight into the weeds on the opposite bank; and Queen paddled in circles.  Bob freed herself from the river flora, turned herself around, and paddled back across to the other bank; and Queen paddled in circles.

J. Cool and I drifted and watched the unfolding drama of Urban Girls v. Pigeon River, periodically calling out to them supportively.  And by "calling out to them supportively," I mean "laughing hysterically."

"Shut the eff up!" Queen yelled, somehow switching from clockwise circles to counter-clockwise circles.

Eventually, the comedy portion of the kayaking expedition ended, and our group meandered down the Pigeon River.  The sky drizzled, stopped, and drizzled some more; the sun made occasional promises, but failed to deliver.  We disturbed a great blue heron, who lifted up from the shallows and spread his blue-gray wings against the gray-blue sky.  A hundred yards further down, we startled his mate, who also flapped languidly away.  A pair of wood ducks floated in the weeds, barely glancing over as we paddled by.

"This is my new favorite sport!" Bob the Builder allowed, and I maturely resisted saying, "I told you so!"  
Until now.

After an hour or so of paddling, drifting, and floating downstream, we headed back upstream to our beachhead, where Skip was waiting to pull us ashore.  I think he was a little surprised that we had stayed out as long as we did in the not-so-accommodating weather; or maybe he expected one or more of us to die a watery death and not return at all.  

"Way to go, ladies!" he called out cheerfully as we approached the beach where he waited in the shallows in his shorts and Keens.  "I'm so proud of you!  Next trip you get half off!"  He clearly enjoyed putting people on the river.

"I'll bet he's a retired bond trader who left the big city and opened up the little kayak shop that he had always dreamed of," profiled BrokeGirl.  Sure enough, when we asked him, he said he had retired from Goldman Sachs and moved from New York a few years earlier.

I love my peeps, and I could not be more grateful for their friendship and the opportunity to hang with them, away from the chaos and responsibility of real life.  But as it often happens, I was also grateful to come home to my little family, to eat grill-marked hotdogs with them, and to listen to my delicate flower of a little daughter belting out Bon Jovi's Shot Through the Heart in the shower.

NOTE:  I borrowed the heron photo from NJ Bird Photos which has hundreds of really fabulous photographs.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Transitions

I gave up my bon-bon-eating, People's-Court-watching, freelance-writing life of leisure, freedom, and flexibility; and I have acquired gainful employment.  Full-time gainful employment.

I will not miss the broke-ness of the last two years, when new clients and new projects were few and far between.  I will not miss the narcissism and personality disorders of certain clients.  I will not miss having to fight for every dollar on every quote.  I will not miss clients who pay me late, even after agreeing to a contract which stipulates the terms of payment QUITE CLEARLY thankyouverymuch. I will especially not miss clients who ignore my invoices and don't pay at all.  (How do they sleep at night?)  And I will not miss being asked to work for free, on spec, on commission, on percentage, and other euphemisms for slavery. 

I will miss the bon-bons, Judge Marilyn, the flexibility, and the afternoon naps.  I will especially miss the thrill of landing a new client, and the intellectual and creative stimulation that comes from having a variety of projects from a variety of clients.

But I'm happy to be making this transition at this stage in my life and my career.  I like having an office to go to--especially one that is only 3.2 miles from my home!  I like having colleagues nearby, and camaraderie of the workplace.  I like not having short people follow me into the bathroom, and I like getting a regular paycheck.
I got my first paycheck on Wednesday, and spent a third of it on Friday getting two new tires after getting a flat on the way to work in the morning.  (Because they say, you know, that you can't just replace one old tire.)  Apparently, I ran over a jagged piece of metal (I heard the pop!), which did not play nice with the Bridgestone.  This was my third punctured tire in eight months.  Is the Universe trying to tell me something?

The young Peevies are adjusting well so far, ten days into the new schedule.  They are excited that their allowance will soon be reinstated, and that they get picked up by friends most days after school.  They are getting quite good at making their own breakfast and lunch--although I recently learned that A. Peevie has a tiny forgetting-his-lunch problem.  Fortunately, Mrs. LunchLady takes care of him.

Now I just need to complete my own transition adjustment, so that I can continue to regale my loyal Green Room subscribers with frequent tales of hilarity, woe, and the occasional bit of political propaganda.  I'm working on it, people.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sisterhood of the Traveling Purse

A few years ago I bought a cute purse at a resale shop.  It was sort of blue-jean blue, with gold threads interwoven throughout the fabric.  I paid about $10 for it, or maybe $12.

I brought the purse to a gathering of a few friends; and one friend in particular, BrokeGirl, admired it a great deal.
 
"Here, have it," I said spontaneously, dumping out the contents and handing it to her.  "I'll just put my stuff in a plastic bag until I get home."  It didn't feel like a big deal to me, but she was touched, which in turn gave me warm fuzzies.  As Friend Phoebe figured out, there is no such thing as a selfless good deed:


Phoebe: [on phone] I have found a selfless good deed. I went to the park and let a bee sting me.
Joey Tribbiani: How is that a selfless good deed?
Phoebe: It makes the bee look tough in front of his bee friends. The bee's happy and I am definitely not.
Joey Tribbiani: Uh, Pheebs, you know the bee probably died after it stung you?
Phoebe: [stares blankly] ...Dammit.
[hangs up]

The story doesn't end with BrokeGirl.  Many months later, BrokeGirl was visiting with our mutual friend Catosa, and Catosa admired the purse.  BrokeGirl decided that the well-loved purse should continue her soon-to-be-epic journey, so she dumped out the contents and gave it to Catosa.

Subsequently, Catosa, who lives in Estes Park, Colorado, gave it to C-Rey, who held onto it for several months before giving it to a "darling, sweet woman" from her church, JaMo.  At the moment, the Traveling Purse is living happily with JaMo in Denver, Colorado--as far as I know. 

I feel sort of proud to be the first donor of the traveling purse.  If I had any inclination that the purse would become such a symbol of friendship and generosity, I would have taken a photo of it hanging over BrokeGirl's shoulder--but alas.  I had no prescience, no foreknowledge, no psychic abilities.

But if you admire a cute blue fabric purse, and its owner says, here, have it!--please send me a photo, and let me know how long you hang on to it before you feel compelled to give it to another admirer.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happiness Is...

..sleeping until you wake up naturally, with no alarm clock.



...eating something sweet for breakfast.



...hiking on the Kal-Haven trail


...taking photos of bright blooms and butterflies on the Kal-Haven trail.


...a covered bridge.


...waving to a kayaker on the Black River.




...when the Black River kayaker interrupts his paddling rhythm in order to wave back.


...sharing a giant bag of pink and blue cotton candy.


...having dessert first.  At this place.


...reading a book on the beach.


...a perfect frisbee throw.


...grilling the perfect burger.  And then eating it.


...a whole day of no kid-bickering.  Not that I would know.  I'm just sayin'.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Young Sociopaths Next Door, Part 2

So, I was telling you about the pre-pubescent sociopaths next door, BUT.  There is more.

"Mom," A. Peevie said, "Curly (formely known as A.Boy) took C.Peevie's game and M.Peevie's game, and he won't give them back."

I am starting to get tired of conversations that begin with, "Curly took..." or "Curly did..." or "Curly said..."

"How do you know Curly took them, A. Peevie?" I asked.

I just know, he insisted, so I suggested that he tell C. Peevie and M. Peevie to go to Curly and ask for the games back.  Less than an hour later, he was back.

"Mom," A. Peevie said, his eyebrows crawling toward each other other below a line of worry on his forehead, "Curly gave the games back." 

"Well, that's good, right?" I said.

"Not exactly," he said. "He said he found them in the grass.  He lied, Mom. He stole them, and then he lied about finding them in the grass."  The heartbreak of betrayal and disillusionment spread across A. Peevie's face.  Again.

"Wait just a cotton-pickin' minute," I said.  "He said he found BOTH games outside in the grass?"  That was enough to trigger my inner closer, and I headed over to confront the little miscreant.  He was standing on his porch next to his mother.

"Curly," I said, trying not to sound like a Guantanamo interrogator, "A. Peevie told me that we were missing two DS games, and that you found them in the grass.  Is that right?"
"Uh huh," he agreed, looking away.

"Curly, look at my eyes," I said, "C. Peevie's game was missing, and you found it in the grass.  M. Peevie's game was missing and you found it in the grass.  You're telling me you found two game boy games in the grass?"

He looked into my eyes briefly, but couldn't hold his gaze there. "Yeah," he said, unconvincingly.

"Where did you find them?" I asked him, figuring that the more lies he had to tell, the easier it would be to trip him up.

It didn't work.  "I found one over there by the street, but in the grass," he said, still not making eye contact, and pointing to the curb, "and the other one here, by the garden."

"Hmmm," I said.  I looked at him.  He glanced at me, and looked away.  "Curly, are you sure you didn't borrow the games without asking, and then you said you found them in the grass because you wanted to give them back?"

"No," he said.  "I didn't borrow them."

"OK," I said.  I was out of gas, and my career as an interrogator was going down the toilet.  But then his mom saved me.

"What do you say, Curly?" she asked him.  I was a little taken aback.  Why did she ask that question?  But Curly fell into her inadvertent trap.

"Sorry," he said softly, looking at his shoes.

"What are you sorry for, Curly?" I said, my new career back on track.  "Are you sorry that you borrowed the games without asking?  If you tell me the truth, I won't be angry with you."  Well, ironically, that last bit was sort of a lie.

"Yes," he admitted.  Then we had a little conversation about not "borrowing" things without asking, and about if you do something wrong, you just make it worse if you lie about it.  The fact that Curly could barely make eye contact during the whole conversation is a good sign, I think.  Perhaps he is not (yet) a sociopath.  But his mom better start taking this stuff seriously, or he is going to end up in jail whether he is a sociopath or not.

The most disturbing thing about this whole situation is that Mom was sitting there the whole time, and even at the end, she never said anything to me about her son stealing our stuff and then lying about it; and as far as I know, she never gave him any consequences for his antisocial behaviors.

And now I wonder if C. Peevie's mysteriously missing $80 baseball glove is upstairs in Curly's room.

First Fruits

My first harvest, from my little city garden.  It makes me so happy.

I posted about my favorite salsa recipe before, but when I went back and clicked on the link I provided, it was sort of lame.  You had to search the Cuisinart website to find the recipe--and this blog believes in keeping things simple.  Hence, here's the recipe for the best salsa this side of Mexico, slightly modified from the Cuisinart cookbook:


Fresh Tomato and Corn Salsa


Makes 2 cups (it's so good you'll want to double this recipe)


1 small onion peeled, cut into 1" pieces
1/3 c. fresh basil (or cilantro, if you like that soapy-tasting stuff)
1 medium salsa pepper, seeded, cut into 1" pieces
  (or jalapeno, or whatever kind of hot pepper you like)
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1" pieces
1.5 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2/3 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Place onion, basil and pepper in work bowl.  Process until finely chopped, about 5 second.  Scrape work bowl.  Add tomatoes and lime juice.  Pulse until tomatoes are coarsely chopped, about 5 to 7 times.  Add corn and salt; pulse once or twice to combine.  Let sit for 1 hour before serving to allow flavors to develop.  

That is, if you can stand it.


If you use fresh ingredients from your own garden, you will feel like Martha Stewart on steroids, and everyone who tastes the salsa will bow down and worship you.  And then they will ask you to make more, because it got all gone.

Anti-Logic

I just had a conversation with a government employee that made my brain bleed, and might possibly cause me to become a Libertarian.

I'm working on a government grant application, which all by itself is enough to cause spontaneous combustion. (Is that an oxymoron--"cause" and "spontaneous"?  Educate me.)  But today I had to call the Housing and Urban Development programmatic information help line--and I use the word "help" so loosely that it might fall right off the page.

My client had been told that a certain percentage should be allocated for salaries, and I wanted to confirm the percentage and clarify whether the salaries should be a certain percentage of the total grant request, or of the total budget?  Simple enough, right?

Except not when you're dealing with a civil servant.  Pardon my cynicism.

First, she referred me to a completely irrelevant section of the RFP, and was reading to me about conflicts of interest and partnerships. "This has nothing to do with my question," I pointed out, but she insisted that it did.  She patiently "explained" it to me, over and over again, as though repetition would make it more relevant.
I think that's "magical thinking," government employee-style.

Finally, something I said got through to her, and she realized that she had been looking at the wrong section of the guidelines.  Phew.  I thought my troubles were over, and that I'd soon have the information I sought.  "Hahaha," laughed God.

The actual relevant section of the guidelines stipulated that we must "indicate what percentage" of our award would be spent on salaries and benefits, and I said, "So what is the percentage you're looking for?"

"We can't give out that information," she bureaucratted.  "It's based on a scale that we don't give out."
"Wait, what?" I protested. "But we will lose points if we don't have the correct percentage!"

"That's right," she agreed.  "If we told people what our scales were, they would always pass the rating factor.  They'd adjust their budget to fit the scale."

I am not even lying.

"But isn't that the point," I argued fecklessly, "for us to complete the application in the most acceptable way possible?  How can we aim for the right percentage if you won't tell us what the percentage is?"
"You just put down what your plan is, and we'll tell you if you got it right," she said.

"You are fucking kidding me!" I almost said, "that is the most ass-backward thing I have ever heard!"

Pardon my French.  But seriously, isn't it just about enough to make you want to vote for Ron Paul?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Young Sociopaths Next Door, Part I

My tender-hearted middle son is learning a very difficult life lesson:  people suck.  They lie and they steal and they hurt you--and some can do it without even blinking.  It is breaking his heart, and consequently, it is breaking my heart as well.

We were so happy when our new neighbors moved in, because they have two young boys for A. Peevie to play with.  He was too shy to introduce himself when we first saw them, but within two days the three boys were practically inseparable.  A. Peevie could barely bring himself to come in and eat dinner when M.Boy and A.Boy were around.

The BorrowersAnd then things started disappearing.  We imagined at first that we had Borrowers--that Pod and Homily and little Arrietty had moved into our walls and had suddenly found an unexpected use for video game cartridges and Pokemon cards. 

One day, when M. Peevie was frustrated about her missing cards, she picked up her gumption and marched right next door and rang the bell.  "A.Boy," she said firmly, "Do you have my Pokemon cards here?"  He did, and she got them back.  I was sort of impressed at her resolve.

Another time, A. Peevie was fiercely upset that M.Boy had stolen a really good card from another neighbor boy, K-Pup.  He was actually crying and sobbing about the injustice of it all.  "Why would M.Boy do that?" he asked, not entirely rhetorically.  "Why won't he give it back?  It's not right."

Then he became the Avenging Angel.  "I'm going to get K-Pup's card back," he said firmly, wiping his tears and putting on his red cape.  "I'm going to tell M-Boy that he has to give K-Pup his card back, and I'm gonna keep on nagging him until he does it."  He approached M-Boy several times about the card, but M-Boy had a different excuse every time.  The last time, A. Peevie told me, M-Boy said he wouldn't give it back because, he said, "I'm evil."  I am not even lying.

Not only did things disappear, but we also learned that the A/M-Boys were trying to obtain our wireless password so that they could have wireless access without paying for it.  "Our mom needs it because she needs to pay bills," A-Boy told A. Peevie disingenuously, and repeatedly.  

"Did you give it to them, A.?" I asked.  

"No," he said, "And plus, I know they're lying."  He had asked A/M-Mom whether she had asked them for the wireless password, and she knew nothing about it.  Again, this broke A. Peevie's heart, and he wept because his heart felt betrayed.

Check in tomorrow for Young Sociopaths Next Door, Part II, in which a young sociopath gets totally busted

Monday, August 16, 2010

South Haven, Reprised

Three-fifths of the Peevies returned to South Haven last week, accompanied by our friends the Dr. and Mr. Paradigm Shift and their two kids, SamWise and E-Dude.

We staked out our beach claim, and headed out into the warm-for-Lake-Michigan water.  While we were far out from the beach, on the sand bar past the over-our-head water, we noticed a blond-headed kid swimming toward us.  As he got closer, I thought to myself, "Hey, that kid looks a lot like Type A, A. Peevie's good friend from school."  But that would have been ridiculously unlikely, so I turned away. 

He kept coming, invading our swim-space, but before I could get annoyed, I realized that it was, indeed, Type A, who lives a mile or two away from us in the city, but who somehow found us 130 miles away, in the middle of Lake Michigan, without pre-arrangement.  I would like to know, if any of my readers have the statistical savvy and inclination to do the calculation:  What are the odds?

The kids found a huge log, which they spent hours moving around the water.  They used it as a flotation device, as a boat, as a king-of-the-hill prop.  We could not have purchased a better beach toy.  While they logged time lugging the log, the grownups sat on beach chairs, getting skin cancer, drinking carbonated beverages, reading Brave New World (Dr. PS) and The Second Civil War (me), and chatting about how perfect our lives were at that moment.

We played 500 off the deck with a soccer ball.  We watched shows like People Getting Their Arms Bitten Off By Sharks and Jobs That Make Normal People Throw Up. Plus--bonus!--I got to watch my boyfriend Vincent in the season seven finale and season eight opener of Law and Order: CI.  Sigh.

I miss you, South Haven.  See you again in a couple of weeks, I hope.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Trade-Off

I might be leaving my life of bon-bon eating leisure to work full time.  This will be a huge adjustment, not just for me, but for the entire family.  It will be nice to have a steady paycheck--but we are all realistic about the trade-offs.  

"Can we order pizza tonight?" A. Peevie asked.

"How about if I make pizza instead?" I suggested.  "We're sort of cash poor at the moment."

"We're always cash poor," C. Peevie observed.

"Well, if I get a full-time job, we won't be cash poor any more," I said.  "But we'll be time-poor."

"And Mommy-poor," said M. Peevie, neatly summarizing the primary drawback to the new plan.

My heart broke just a tiny bit.

Monday, August 2, 2010

No Stories, Just Pictures

My muse has departed.  I have stories flitting around in the back of my head, but my words are failing me.

More on this later, but for now, I just feel like posting a few photos of Paradise.

Sand boy, AKA A. Peevie
Cousin T-Bone, airborne, watched by C. Peevie.
A. Peevie, C. Peevie, and Cousin Ri-Ri over there in the right corner
A fierce predator, sculpted by J-Sell.


Happy Girl, M. Peevie, expressing her joie de vivre




Cousin T-Bone and C. Peevie
Old-fashioned fun.
Sleepy Hollow, 11A.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sleepy Hollow

Arrived Sunday at 4:30.  Unpacked car, ate subs and pizza, and headed for the beach by 6 p.m.

Waves so big, thought we were in Ocean City, NJ.  Heard rumors of riptides; kept eagle eye on M. Peevie who apparently has no fear of waves or being carried out to sea.  Kept calling her to come closer to shore.  Agreed with SIL that both of us were strong enough swimmers to rescue her.  Agreed with BIL that neither of us felt like going for a swim at the moment.

A. Peevie's anxiety kicked into gear, and he hollered at M. Peevie over the breaking waves and stiff breeze to come in closer.  "You're going to drown!" he screamed helpfully, and looked over at me with a worried expression on his face.  I walked down to the wet sand and waved her in. 

"M. Peevie," I instructed, "You must stay near the boys.  Don't go out any farther than they go out."  The boys were fairly safety-conscious, having learned a new word (riptide) in the last hour.

"But mom," M. Peevie said, "It's not even deep!  It's barely up to my waist!"

"M. Peevie," I said sternly, "Either come in out of the water, or stay near the boys.  Your choice."  Fine, she harrumphed, and waded back out into the crashing surf.

Now it's Wednesday, and I fully admit:  I could get used to this: hanging out at the pool, hanging out at the beach, playing tennis, taking naps, drinking adult beverages, and reading.  Oh, and I got to watch several epis from a L&O:CI marathon featuring my boyfriend.  Now that he's on cable, I don't get to see him as often as I used to.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Suffrage

An unexpected Facebook friend request showed up in my inbox today--from my Dad.

"Peevie Daddy wants to be friends on Facebook," the subject line read.  My jaw dropped, but I immediately hit "Confirm Friend."  Then I logged into my FB account and posted as my status, "I wonder how many nonagenarians have Facebook accounts?"  Just curious.

I wanted to know what prompted dad to join FB, so I called him.  My dad answered, but quickly handed the phone over to mom before I could get to the crux of the matter.  (He was busy watching the Phillies lose to the Cubs for the second time in a row.)

"Mom," I said.  "Guess what?  Dad just friended me on Facebook!"

"That was me," she said.

"But it said 'Peevie Daddy wants to be friends,' not 'Peevie Momma,'" I said.

"It wouldn't let me put two names down," she said.

"Riiiiight," I said, "But why did you put dad's name and not your name?"

"Oh," she said, "I thought I should put dad's name down."

"Hmm," I said, "and why did you think that?"

"Because he's the daddy," she said with a simple, anachronistic non-sequitur.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Foray Into Fiction

Desperation
She left on a Tuesday morning.

The kids were fine--they loved the sitter; they knew their routine: lunch at noon, naps for the younger ones at one, videos for the older kids; mom back by three so the sitter could get to her other job in the coffee shop by four.  But today she'd be late.  Ronnie would be too responsible to leave the kids alone.  She'd call the cell phone and leave a perplexed message:  "Um, Janie, this is Ronnie.  I'm just wondering if you'll be home soon.  I was supposed to leave at 3 today.  Um, OK.  Bye."

But the cell phone was turned off.  She'd dropped it into the laundry basket, where someone would find it eventually.  Paul, maybe, or maybe even a cop, when he eventually called the police.

Ronnie would try Paul at the office, but she'd probably get voice mail there, too.  He'd pick it up and call her right back.  "She's not there?  Did she say where she was going?"  They'd go over a few unlikely scenarios, but in the end, he'd pack up his work and leave early.

He'd swear under his breath as he powered off his computer and arranged the papers on his desk into orderly piles.  He'd get mad first, and worry later.  He would load files into his briefcase like he did every night--files with names like STAT PROG and CHECK CODE--but tonight he wouldn't get to them until well after 9:30, after the last pajamaed child padded out for the last hug and the last glass of water, wondering my Mommy didn't come in to kiss him goodnight.

Checking the calendar on the refrigerator, Paul wondered if he had forgotten girls' night out.  It had happened before: Paul was supposed to be home by five to give her a chance to change clothes and put on makeup.  He knew that some days she didn't even make it into the shower before 11 a.m.; some days, not at all.  He couldn't really imagine what it was like, taking care of four young children all day, all alone--but he tried, and he tried to make sure that he helped out when she asked, and came home early when she needed him to.  He didn't even mind the expense of the sitter two days a week, to give her a chance to run errands, have some down time.

"Shit," he said, falling back into the butt-shaped divot on the leather couch.  "Where the hell is she?"

Janie was driving across Oklahoma in a beige Toyota--she'd sold her own car in Missouri, and bought this one with cash--carefully observing the speed limit and listening to Josh Turner asking why don't they just dance.

"I'm not a big fan of country music," she said out loud, looking over at the empty seat as though he were there.  "But if I listened to you for very long, I think I might just change my mind."  I'm going to be changing a lot of things, she thought, starting with my name.

Amanda.  Jenny.  Kate.  Janie ran through the names in her mind, seeing how they matched up with the new life she was envisioning for herself.  It wasn't a glamorous life--she didn't need Roberto Cavalli sunglasses or a Hermes handbag.  She needed to be a real person, to feel true, to experience a life that made her eyes open wide and her breath catch in her throat.

She'd felt that way once, when Mattie was born.  She couldn't get enough of his smell, his softness, his tiny perfection.  But the sweetness of those moments had faded with sleep deprivation and the intensity of day-in and day-out parenting.  Soon the other three kids joined him.  The fourth, Boo-Boo, was an accident--Janie already knew that three kids was tipping her over the edge--and the last traces of her identity circled the drain and disappeared like that blue Polly Pocket shoe last week.

Her friends all laughed over margaritas, and commiserated with one another--"I just can't wait until I can pee without someone watching me!"--but Janie knew that only drastic action would save her.  Hence, Oklahoma, the Toyota, the soon-to-be-chopped-off-hair, the new name.

"Kate," Janie decided.  "I'm going to be Kate.  I'm going to work at a bookstore during the day, and play guitar on weekends."  Under the vast night sky, she drove toward Texas; and she wondered if Paul remembered to give Boo-Boo his antibiotic.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Meeting Forrest

I introduced M. Peevie to Forrest Claypool at a party this weekend.  "Forrest," I said, "This is one of your youngest campaign volunteers, my daughter, M. Peevie."  He smiled and reached out to shake her hand.  She looked confused.
 
"You remember waving signs from the overpass a couple of years ago when Forrest ran in a different election, M. Peevie?" I reminded her.  She tipped her head to the side and looked him up and down.

"But I thought we didn't know him," she said.

"You don't," I said, "but I do."

"But I thought he was famous or something!" she said, and he laughed.  "Only in certain circles," he said.

Later, at home, M. Peevie picked up one of Forrest's flyers for his independent candidacy for Cook County Assessor.  She pointed to his photo.  "Oh," she said, "That really was Forrest Claypool."  Because without independent verification, she might not be able to trust that we were telling her the truth.  That her mother was telling her the truth.

What is up with that?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Three LittleThings That Bug Me

I don't want to sound like a giant crankopotamus here, but certain things bug me.  I'm going to get them off my ample chest here and now, and then I'm going to Choose to be Cheerful again.  K?

1.  I hate getting emails with a subject line that reads "Re:".  Just "Re:".  Re: what?  People:  are you really SO BUSY that you can't take the time to write even ONE WORD to identify the content of the email?  ONE STINKING WORD?

An email without a subject line is like a canned good without a label--open at your own risk. It's also a missed marketing and communications opportunity.  Q:  Are you listening?

2. "Lol" tacked onto the end of texts, FB comments, and emails to show that you have just made a joke.  If we can't tell it's a joke without you including a virtual laugh-track, then it's certainly not laugh-out-loud funny.  So knock it off.

3. OK, I can only think of two things that bug me at the moment.  That's a good thing, right?