Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Things Kids Worry About, and Why I Can't Stop Laughing

"Mom!" said C. Peevie, charging into the bedroom. "Mom! I need to check something!"

He's always charging around in his half-man, half-boy body; that's nothing new. But his voice held a teeny bit of urgency, as though he had grown an extra nipple or accidentally shaved off an eyebrow.

He ran over to me, leaned in until his nose was thisclose to mine, and stared into my eyes for four seconds. I stared back.

"Phew," he said, letting out his breath. "You have hair under your eyes. It's normal."

I blinked. "Yes, C. Peevie," I said. "They're called eyelashes." I was confused, because he is normally quite bright.

"I thought eyelashes were only on the top of your eyes," he said.

"No, C.," I reassured him. "Eyelashes are on both the top and the bottom."

"Well, I didn't know that until just now," he said, with no trace of self-consciousness. Sweet, funny, occasionally-feeble-minded child. Adorable, no?

"What did you think was going on?" I asked, remembering his anxiety.

"I don't know," he said. "It might have been hair cancer."

Maybe I'm a bad parent, but this made me laugh so hard I peed a little in my underwear. I love being a parent. I especially love being a parent of this particular man-child, who never stops bringing the funny. Inadvertently.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

One Man's Trash

I accidentally broke my pledge.

It really was an accident, I swear. There was this flea market at school, and there was this bottle, and I thought it was beautiful, and I bought it without even thinking.

The church ladies had been setting up tables covered with old crap donated by other church ladies. They were carefully putting prices on lace tablecloths, vintage costume jewelry, and tiny plaster figurines.

The bottle caught my eye: cut glass, with a huge, hollow glass stopper, and a slightly-scratched-up metal label that read "I.W. Harper Bourbon." The cork--darkened, dried and cracked--wrapped around the glass neck of stopper, flanked by two dingy plastic rings. The bottle had no cracks or chips, but the glass under the label on the inside of the neck of the bottle itself was discolored with whimsical brown stains.

"I like this!" I told my friend NurseLady. "I think I might buy it."

"You should," she said. "It's pretty." So I plopped down my money and collected my new treasure. It wasn't until a half hour later that I realized that I'm supposed to be having a purchasing moratorium.

When I showed it to my friend Abba, she was underwhelmed. "You bought that nasty old thing?" she asked. "Why?"

"Because I think it's cool," I said.

"Let me see it," she said. She popped the stopper off and peered in. It was a teeny bit brown around the edges, and the cork had seen better days. "Ew," she said. "Just...ew. It's hideous. How much did you pay for it?"

"Ten dollars," I told her.

"TEN DOLLARS!" she screamed. "You are kidding me! A DOLLAR, maybe! But TEN! WHAT were you THINKING?"

"Um, I like it?" I said.

"You can't put anything in this, you know," she said.

"Why not?" I said. "It's clean."

"NO!" Abba screamed again. "You CANNOT put anything in this. It has someone else's disgusting yuck in there!"

"You just have no appreciation for beauty," I told her. "This bottle is an object of beauty."

Abba handed the bottle to LunchMom. "Mom," she said, "Look at this. Would you put anything in there?" LunchMom tilted her head and squinted at my new treasure. "Bleah," she said succinctly. "It's disgusting. Throw it out."

"E. Peevie bought it," Abba told her mom. "Guess how much she paid for it?"

"A dollar?" said LunchMom.

"TEN!" said Abba. "Ten DOLLARS! Can you believe it?"

"No way!" agreed LunchMom. "That thing belongs in the trash."

Well, I like it. I brought it home, and Mr. Peevie thinks it's cool, too. So it's going to have a place of honor on the bookshelf in The Green Room--the actual, literal green room.

C. Peevie picked it up and looked it over.

"What's this?" he asked.

"I bought it the other day," I said. "What do you think?"

"It's old," he said, "...and disgusting." What does he know? He's 14.

Whatever. I like it. I might fill it with colored water, a different color, depending on the season, or holiday, or time of year. I might fill it with marbles. I might keep it empty.

You know what they say: One man's trash is another (wo)man's treasure.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Solving the CTA Crisis

I suspect that the CTA problem is more complicated than it looks on the surface--but it seems fairly obvious that the CTA union bosses are not helping their members by insisting on keeping their raises in place and disallowing unpaid furlough days.

Even other major labor leaders have urged the CTA union to give up the raises in order to save the jobs. Almost 1100 CTA workers will be laid off to make up for a $95.6 million budget shortfall. I bet many more than just the guy in this article would be happy to give up their raises in order to keep their jobs. The omnipresent Father Pfleger stood by CTA union workers asking the union to back the smack off.

It stinks to not get a promised raise, and it's rotten to have to take unpaid furlough days. But that's what many of us are going through these days. Many of us not only have not had raises, but have experienced economic hardships in the form of less overtime pay, fewer clients, lower wages, and unpaid vacation days.

I'm confident that CTA management is not without fault in the matter. As of a year ago, according to the Chicago Sun Times, 150 CTA managers make more than $100,000 per year. The head of marketing makes almost $200k. The CTA union president claims that the number of managers at each bus garage has increased from five in 1994 to 20 today. I have not been able to verify this claim, but if it's true, or even mostly true, then it does seem like bloated management is a big part of the problem.

Meanwhile, it's not just the 1000 laid-off workers that are paying the price. So are students and commuters across Chicago; and in some cases, minority and low-income communities are feeling the biggest hurt. Six of the nine eliminated express routes serve low-income neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

Here's my idea: Get an independent arbitrator into the room with the CTA bosses and the union bosses, with a table but no chairs. No one sits and no one leaves until the problem is solved.

I volunteer. I will need lots of Diet Coke, my brother (who can help me understand and crunch the numbers), a dry-erase board and markers, a bunch of yellow pads, and several boxes of multi-colored Ultra Fine Point Sharpies.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Twitter, Twitter, Tweet.

Do any Green Room readers Twitter?

I do. But I don't really know why.

Why would anyone care what I have to say in 140 characters or less? Who cares if I am trying to decide what kind of bread I will make with my KitchenAid stand mixer? Or what I think about John Hamm from Mad Men hosting Saturday Night Live? Or whether I don't really care to watch grown-ups sledding, no matter how fast they're going?

Twitter seems like a useful and fun tool if you already have a following, or if you have a business to promote. But what if you're just a fame-whore like me? It's just a silly vanity.

But you know me by now. I'm totally on board with silly vanity. I have five--no, six now!-- followers on Twitter. Six people ostensibly care about my minutest random thoughts. My most recent tweets were about Dick Button's shoes (that make him look like a Rescue Hero), the implicit irony of trash-talking in men's figure skating, and Jason Mraz night on American Idol.

Doesn't that make you want to set up a Twitter account and start to follow me right away?

My friend K-Squared, a brilliant entrepreneur and social media maven, gave me a copy of Twitterature, which brought me literally minutes of entertainment and hilarity. The authors rewrote literary classics (and some definitely-not-classics, like Twilight and The Da Vinci Code) "for the twenty-first-century intellect," in 20 tweets or fewer. It's not for young kids, because there is colorful language; but it is sort of brilliant.

Here's a sample, from Paradise Lost, by John Milton:

FALLING UNTO THE ABYSS!!!!! I'll talk more about why in several hundred pages to avoid any confusion.


'Tis Pandemonium down here. Would ROFL but it's very hot.

I'm bored. I'm the chairman of the board. My compatriots are r-tards. Inaction? Is that the best we can do? We are fucking demons!

Sitting on our asses waiting for an apology from G-d isn't exactly renegade. Pussies.

OK, that's enough for now. Pick it up at the bookstore, read it while you're on the El, and then hand it to someone as you leave the train. You'll make her day. Or offend her, if she's profanity-sensitive.

Follow me on Twitter @EPeevie!

Psychotic Hilarity

I was sitting on my chair in my BEDROOM, in my PJs, ready for bed, with the laptop on my lap and my bare legs hanging out, when my oldest and most boundary-aware child came into my room. Apparently he thought I was not fully clothed, and he was slightly horrified.

"I'm going to take a shower," C. Peevie said, looking decisively away from me and focusing his eyes on the wall four feet in the opposite direction, "and then I'm going to come in and say your upper half."

HAHAHAHAHA! He said this to me as I'm sitting in my bedroom IN MY PJs, ready for bed. He was afraid to even think about what might be on the bottom half. HAHAHAHAHA!

I love being a parent. There are so many laughs, so many moments of psychotic hilarity. That child is going to need years of therapy. I mean, even more years of therapy.

But he's going to have to get it on his own dime.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Praying Over Sewers, Liquor Licenses and Variances

The Freedom From Religion Foundation recently targeted Wheaton, Illinois, urging officials to discontinue their practice of offering a prayer at the beginning of city council meetings.

My first thought on this is, Why does a national group with its headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin, need to insert itself into the affairs of a small Illinois town? Shouldn't they trust the citizens of Wheaton to make decisions for themselves?

So I looked into the archives of the FFRF, and discovered that the complaint actually originated with a Wheaton resident, who wrote a letter asking that the invocations be discontinued. So that's a different story, right? He has a right to complain, because it's his city also. He didn't get satisfaction: the Mayor said, "No one has ever complained before!"--which is not an answer. When the complaint comes from one of your tax-paying residents, you have to deal with it.

In response to the FFRE complaint, the city has tweaked its policy about prayers during council meetings. The invocation will be given before the mayor officially bangs the gavel to start the meeting. This is not good enough for the FFRF, whose spokesperson Annie Laurie Gaylor said, "Why do they need to pray over sewers, liquor licenses, and variances?"

Tomes have been written about prayer by ancient church fathers, Reformation-era leaders, and contemporary teachers and theologians, and I won't attempt to give a thorough treatment here. But the short answer is: Prayer is conversation with God, and we pray because we believe God hears our prayers.

The God of the universe hears and answers our prayers! And not just our prayers about so-called spiritual matters, because this dichotomy between sacred and secular is false. Jesus, we believe, is Lord of all things, not just Lord of churchy things. And that's why we pray over sewers, liquor licenses and variances.

But even though the question about praying over variances has theoretical appeal and practical value, it is irrelevant in these circumstances. The issue for Jesus-followers in this situation is not whether it is legitimate to pray about city business, but whether it is a matter of Christian principle to insist upon doing so. The guiding principle, I believe, comes from Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

There is no need for the believers on the city council of Wheaton to insist on their legal right to pray at the meeting, whether before or after the gavel. It's not connected to any Biblical mandate, and it doesn't accomplish anything that prayer at a separate time and place wouldn't accomplish. Insisting on praying at the meeting appears to be more of a flexing of political muscle than a demonstration of Christlike humility and a desire live at peace with everyone.

We'll give Dietrich Bonhoeffer the last word:
The followers of Christ have been called to peace. . . . And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods. . . . His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they over-come evil with good, and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate. (The Cost of Discipleship)
What do you think?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

One for All and All for One

We took two out of three Young Peevies to see DePaul's production of The Three Musketeers at the Greenhouse Theater Center tonight. The show started off with a bit of ostensible technical difficulty, but quickly evolved into an action-packed adventure with dramatic fight choreography and some creative use of ladders.

The Alexander Dumas story, cleverly adapted by playwright Ken Ludwig, offered real gunshots, plenty of swordplay, kissing, double-crossing, and hilarity. Twelve-year-old A. Peevie appreciated most of the humor, and really, really appreciated the testicular humor.

Credit set designer Vanessi Fusi for an amazing use of space. The stage at Greenhouse is tiny--not more than about 40'X20', and probably smaller (because I stink at estimating square footage). But they made use of every bit of space, including the aisles and the stairs, and they even involved the audience in a couple of hammy bits. The minimalist set design involved bendable, retractable ladders that also served as seats, weapons, tables, walls, and hiding spots.

There were not more than four or five children in the audience, and one little girl let out a loud, well-timed "Eeeewwwww!" at the moment D'Artagnan first smooched his doomed love, Constance--and the entire theater audience roared. I don't know how the actors stayed in character and continued their scene--but to their credit, they did.

Seeing this play reminded me how much I love going to the theater. Mr. Peevie and I used to go frequently in our child-free youth, but now that we are encumbered/blessed with three kids and their ridiculous schedules, we rarely make theater-going a priority. That must change, I decided. That must seriously change.

During intermission, when I took M. Peevie to the restroom, I overheard an audience member say to her date, "This is better than the Superbowl!"--and I have to agree.

The Three Musketeers is playing through February 21. It's free (but they do recommend that you call to reserve your free tickets), and boy is it fun.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Miracle on Moody Street

My drains have identity issues. They get confused. They think they're supposed to hold the water in rather than let it out. They collect bodily detritus and dinner debris, and pretty soon we're showering in six inches of water and tadpoles have sprouted in the standing sink water.

In the past, our solution to these drainage problems has been to call a plumber who charges us eight million dollars for the first 30 minutes and $30 million per hour after that just to rod out the disgustingness and open the drains.

But I have discovered a household miracle--or rather, Mr. Peevie discovered it. It's the Drain Claw, a slender, flexible, plastic-coated rod topped with a mascara brush. You wouldn't think this skinny, bendy, cannula would have miraculous powers, but I am here to testify--say Hallelujah!--that it has changed my life. The Drain Claw is the Rod of Release, the Opener of Obstruction, the Penetrator of Plugs.

For $6.99 plus tax, you will never have to call a plumber again just to unclog your slow, tired drains--and you won't have to dump toxic chemicals of death down your drains, either. Bonus for the environment!

The first time I used this little environmentally friendly device, I pulled a hairball out of my shower drain the size of a large squirrel. I would post a picture of it, but you would be so grossed out that you would throw up on your keyboard, and then you wouldn't be able to visit the Green Room any more, so it would not be in my best interest. But trust me. That thing looked like Toonces after he visited Niagara Falls.

If you have drains, you should have at least one Drain Claw in your possession. You can get it online or at a hardware store.

As always, this is an unpaid endorsement, but I would not turn down a lifetime supply of DrainClaws, or cash.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Deep Thoughts

I was having some deep thoughts in the car this morning. I thought I'd share.

1. Nothing is linear.

2. Except lines.

3. Everything is a back-and-forth, up-and-down, side-to-side process. Sometimes this feels a little bit like mental illness. Sometimes it IS mental illness.

4. You spend your life trying to get from here to there, and you think, OK, all I have to do is put one foot in front of the other, and I will get where I'm going. And then you end up somewhere else. And you don't know where the hell you are.

5. Or what you're supposed to be doing. Or why you're doing it.

6. Then you start to get depressed. Or angry, which is really the same thing.

7. Eventually, you go to see a therapist, who confirms what you've known all along: Yes, you are mentally ill. You are probably one meltdown away from being institutionalized.

8. Some days you feel like a reasonably functional human being. You take a shower and bake some bread. The smell of fresh bread makes you weep with happiness.

9. Other days you feel like an undiagnosed schizophrenic, living two or more secret lives, with a tenuous hold on reality.

10. But your therapist reassures you that you are not really schizophrenic, or bipolar, and you don't really have obsessive-compulsive disorder, although you might, indeed, have a tiny case of ADD.

11. But the real problem is this existential angst (see numbers 4 and 5), which is essentially the human condition.

12. What to do, what to do? Think. Talk. Become more aware of your interior life, so that you make intentional choices which are driven by meaning and purpose. It's a process.

13. This process takes time.

14. And it is not linear.

I just thought I'd share.