Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Aloha, owwwiieeeee

Have you ever lived under the illusion that you were better than you really are? Or have you found yourself assuming you can still do the things you were adept at when you were, say, 18? Have you found that some physical movements that were once common place, now often result in a trip to the chiropractor?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, take heart … I am right there with you, my friend.

Our 12-year-old daughter has taken up hula dancing. I, fancying myself the spry teenager of the late ‘80s, would sit and watch her rehearsals and think to myself, “I can totally do that.”

Ah, sweet delusion. How was I to know where you would lead me?

When my daughter brought home a few DVDs of the dances she was learning, I stopped making dinner one night to join her in the living room to practice. You know, throw the kid a bone.

Back in the day, I could watch any kind of dance move and mimic it no problem. Of course, there wasn’t much skill to the zombie dance moves of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, but that wasn’t all I could do. I could also imitate the entire Bangles video for “Walk Like an Egyptian,” so I had that going on. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my moves were multi-faceted.

So in my mind, I’m thinking, “This will be no sweat. Let me run through it once with Lily and show her how it’s done.”

The video started and her teacher, a Roseburg woman who’s been teaching hula for years, popped up the screen and started dancing. We were barely two beats in and I was already behind. “No problem,” I told myself. “You’re just rusty after all these years. Muscle memory will kick in anytime now, pal.”

Next thing I knew, Lily was onto another move and I was still getting my arms to do the side-to-side move that hula is known for.

“No, mom!” said Lily. “Don’t move your fingers like that! Move them like this!”

Hold up. Why is my 12-year-old daughter telling ME how to move? Clearly she doesn’t know who she’s dealing with. Has she not seen me dance along to “Dancing in the Dark” by The Boss?

The next move was something with our hips that is not humanly possible. I seriously don’t know when my hips became disjointed, but I resembled Bambi the first time he tried to walk.

By this time, Lily was doubled over laughing. At me. The original (self-proclaimed) ‘80s valley girl.

What kind of lunacy is this?

By now I was completely out of sync and so far behind, that this particular Soul Train was ready to run right off the tracks. Plus I was out of breath and sweating. After 60 seconds of hula.

My how the mighty have fallen.

At that point, I grabbed my apron and went back to making homemade pasta e fagioli, something I truly am still good at. But just to show I was still cool, I turned on the Bangles Pandora station while I cooked and danced a little while I stirred.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Don't fence me in

Last weekend we celebrated 22 years of marriage with a spontaneous overnight trip to the Rogue River. As luck would have it, both kids were invited to friends’ houses for the night and we were able to leave after work Friday and head south.

As we pulled together the plan Thursday night, everything was falling into place. I had booked a cabin, I had the directions to the lodge, and we had packed up everything we needed to hit the road. Sometime around 9 p.m. Thursday night, however, both Craig and I looked at each other in alarm and gasped, “What about Angus?”

Angus the Wonder Pup is our cute one-and-a-half year-old Scottish terrier who needs constant supervision except during those moments when he’s sleeping or eating. (The keyword in the preceding sentence is CONSTANT.)

He’s a good little pup, but he is busy busy busy and likes to eat inedible items, tear around the house with someone’s sock, eat every flower off the hydrangea plant we put in the ground not 10 minutes earlier, and piddle in the corner, so we have our work cut out for us during his waking hours.

And we had not arranged for anyone to stay with him like we usually do.

“You know what this means,” I stated, more than asked, my husband. “It means we’re going to finally try out a kennel.”

“I’ll call in the morning,” said Craig, realizing that the only thing standing between him and the Rogue River was this cute little black ball of fur.

Halfway through my workday I got a text from Craig that read: “Kennel is lined up and ready to go. We can drop him off on our way out of town.”

Now, just getting Angus in the car is a feat. Not to mention, the only time he gets in the car is to go to the vet or the groomers. You can imagine how much he dislikes going to the vet, but he’s not a huge fan of the groomers either. He gives me this look when I pick him up, all trimmed, smelling good and wearing a jaunty scarf. The look says, “You have no idea how emasculated I feel right now.”

The kennel itself is a lovely place that came highly recommended by our vet, so we were confident Angus would be happy there. Plus the people who worked there were so nice. They took one look at Angus and said, “Oh, how cute is he?” which showed us they are discerning folk.

But once we pulled out and passed Angus in the fenced-in area he gave us “the face.” Those pitiful eyes seemed to be saying, “Hey people, I haven’t peed on the carpet in a few months now. Is this really necessary?”

Needless to say, he was more than ecstatic to see us on Sunday when we picked him up. If licks can be interpreted, I’m pretty sure he was saying “I promise to never eat another hydrangea plant again … at least for a week.”

I keep waiting for a call from the kennel staff, complaining about their own hydrangea plants, but so far so good.

What a good little puppy.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Small moments add up to big changes in our children’s lives

I’ve written some version of this article every year around graduation time, especially the last few years as I’ve watched our friends’ children reach the age where they are graduating from high school. This year is especially poignant as we send our oldest off to college in August.

I still remember the day four years ago when Natty gave me a hug and I realized he had passed me in height. I was completely caught off guard. When did this happen? Just yesterday he was shorter than me, but like Jack’s beanstalk, he just took off without warning.

It wasn’t the fact that he grew taller than me that got to me; it was the fact that I didn’t realize that the day before was the last day he’d be smaller than me in every way.

There are so many events in our lives as parents that are milestones, and their celebrations mark their passing: birthdays, graduations, driver’s test, a kid’s last summer home before college …

But there are equally important milestones that come and go without fanfare, which makes the passing a little harder for me to handle. I think it’s because they lack a sense of closure, a rite of passage.

For example, I still remember the evening not long ago when I realized that our sleepy seven-year-old daughter was too big for me to carry from our bed to her own bed. I wish someone would have caught me the night before that and whispered in my ear, “This is the last time you’ll ever carry her in your arms like a little girl again. Enjoy every minute of it.”

Natty used to reach out and grab my hand as I walked him into his elementary school. One day it just stopped without warning, as it should, but had I known that that was the last time we’d hold hands on the way into school, I would have squeezed his hand a little tighter and longer.

I truly believe that the less our kids need their father and me as they get older the better job of parenting we’re doing. All I’m saying is that I wish there were an early warning system in place that would notify me, “This is the last diaper you’re ever going to change because she’ll be fully potty trained tomorrow” … “This is the last day with training wheels because he’s going to learn to ride without them after dinner” … “This is the last bottle you’ll ever prepare because she’s graduating to a sippy cup” … or “This is the last time you’ll read ‘Goodnight Moon’ (even if you’ve already read it 4,520 times) to this little person on your lap who calls you ‘mommy.’”

Time marches on and in between the hours great changes are occurring in our children. I simply want to learn to embrace those in-between moments more, because I don’t know if they’ll ever come around again.

I love what C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “The Four Loves” and I think it’s applicable to the love I feel toward my kids: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken."

So, as I move forward with birthdays, holidays, high school graduations and college Parents’ Weekends, I hope and pray that my heart stays soft, even when it feels like it might break at the loveliness of it all. Carpe Diem … seize the day.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can contact her at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, May 9, 2014

I can't be trusted with a DIY project

I am not cut out for do-it-yourself projects. Never have been; never will be. I’ve heard it said that the healing process can begin when you admit your shortcomings, so I’m going public with my admission.

My inability to do-it-myself once again became crystal clear while designing my own graduation announcements for our oldest child’s graduation in June. I saw the prices for the announcements through the school’s vendor and thought, “That’s too expensive! I’m creative, I can do this myself.”

That statement, right there – “I can do this myself” - is the slippery slope that leads me to the DIY trash heap, resulting in wasted money, time and effort.

Here’s what happened. I scanned pictures, I placed the pictures using the handy online tool and chose the kind of card stock I wanted to use for the invitations. I added the information about the graduation party we’re planning with three other families, and clicked ORDER.

Then two days later I realized I had ordered 75 invitations for the WRONG DAY.

Forty-eight dollars later, I placed my re-order for the very same invitations with the correct date. See how I saved us some money there? Yeah, me neither.

I wish I could report that this if the first instance of my DIY projects going awry, but my son would be the first to tell on me and my history of DIY nightmares. Sadly, he’s been the brunt of most of these.

Exhibit A: The Great Home Haircut Nightmare of 1998: By the time Natty turned two, he already needed monthly haircuts, which added up quickly. It was a simple haircut, so I naively assumed “I can do this myself!” and bought some hair clippers at WalMart. I didn’t read the instructions because “I don’t do instructions” (another article altogether) and instead pulled out the clippers and started “trimming.” Instead, I shaved a strip on the back of his head bald before realizing that there were attachments for how many inches you want to cut off. Craig came home, gently took the clippers out of my hands, and said, “Please just pay for the haircuts.” I’ve never seen those clippers again.

Exhibit B: The Great Halloween Costume Debacle of 1999. Natty loved the Veggie Tales videos as a child, so for his third Halloween I decided he would go as Bob the Tomato. Sure, they sold costumes, but they were ridiculously overpriced and we were on a tight budget so I thought “I can do this myself!” I found an orange felt pumpkin costume on clearance at Kmart and bought some red spray paint. I decided I would spray paint the orange pumpkin to make it red, put some cut-out felt eyes and mouth on it and – voila! –our very own Bob the Tomato costume. Well, I’m here to tell you that spray paint does not go on felt smoothly, which made him look a little like Bob the orange/reddish squash. Then it started raining while we were trick or treating, so the paint started running down Natty’s legs. The next year, I bought a costume.

Exhibit C: The Great Birthday Cake Apocalypse of 2002: I’m one of those people that see a picture in a cookbook and think “I can do this myself!” True, most of my baking does TASTE good, it just ends up not looking even remotely close to the picture. I tried to do a Star Wars cake for Natty’s sixth birthday and … long story short … ended up at Fred Meyer Bakery that morning buying a sheet cake in time for his party.

In a few short weeks, Natty will be picking up his graduation gown and mortar board, but I’ve been thinking that those would be super easy to sew myself. I mean, I took a sewing class in the seventh grade, so how hard could this be?

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Say Yes to the Tux? Maybe not

Our son is a senior this year, which means the year has been swallowed by college visits, college applications, scholarship applications, FAFSA forms (also known as the ninth circle of hell), graduation party planning and, this weekend, prom.

And prom means one thing is certain: We will be forking over an unholy amount of money to rent a tux for one single night.

On a trip up to the college of his choice last weekend, we had the TV on in the hotel room and it happened to be tuned to the show “Say Yes to the Dress” on The Learning Channel.

For those of you who don’t know what this show is, let me give you my best synopsis. It’s about a bride, her mother, and her bridesmaids shopping for the perfect wedding dress (hence the title). And it doesn’t paint women in the most flattering light. Seeing that it’s a reality show, of course it capitalizes on hissy fits, power struggles and ridiculous one-liners such as “You don’t like my dress because you’ve never liked me!” or “Does this make my shoulders look fat?”


I sat in the hotel eating breakfast, mouth agape as I watched the horror show of catty women in search of a dress that helped reflect their genteel, kind and feminine side. Oh, the irony.

My son Natty sat next to me for a few minutes, watching the train wreck as it happened, and said, “You know, it would be funny if they had a show called ‘Say Yes to the Tux.’ My best guess is that it would last a whole three minutes.”

We discussed how the show might play out: A tuxedo store clerk would bring out the first tux.

Natty: “I’ll take it.”

Tuxedo clerk: “But it’s only the first one, and it’s black. We have many other shades of gray, charcoal, slate, brown, taupe…”

Natty: “Wrap it up. That’s the one.”

Tuxedo clerk: “Okay, just give me a second to get my measuring tape and we’ll take some measurements.”

Natty: “Not necessary. I’ll just take that one. It looks just about right.”

Tuxedo clerk: “That’s not how this works, sir. I show you a tux, you choose the one you like, and then we measure you for the perfect fit.”

Natty: “There’s where you’re wrong. I don’t care about a perfect fit; I just want the cheapest tux in the shortest time possible.”

You can see how TLC might not think this would make for riveting, juicy programming.

To stretch it out, they could follow the male customer into a floral shop to help him pick out the corsage, but our guess is that might take less than a minute.

Floral clerk: “Can I help you?”

Natty: “Do you have red roses?”

Floral clerk: “We have many roses in various colors, along with other lovely varieties of flowers.”

Natty: “Yeah, that’s not necessary.”

The End.

If this is what a career in reality programming looks like, I think I’ll keep my day job, thank you very much.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Blended with love

I’m not sure if the makers of my blender ever imaged the concoctions I came up with a couple of weeks ago, but necessity is the mother of invention. And when your teenage son gets his wisdom teeth removed and can’t eat anything solid for three days you get really inventive – quickly.

I should have my own show on the Cooking Channel, although I don’t know that anyone would watch. I could barely watch what I was doing myself. Some foods were just never meant to be pureed.

Granted, food preparation can be a bit gross at times in normal circumstances (raw chicken, anyone?) but there are certain foods you just never want to see blended, let alone eat. Let’s just say I think I’ve ruined Ramen noodles for Natty forever. (Which is fine by me: Have you examined the sodium amounts in those deceptively tiny packets?)

When Nathaniel’s friends from school stopped by with ice cream, I made some milkshakes, but noticed my son eyeing the chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven. Have you ever blended chocolate chip cookies before? Neither had I. But it is blended heaven, I tell you. A Dairy Queen blizzard has nothing on this concoction.

Of course not all experiments were winners. During one of the rounds of milkshakes, I accidentally left the spoon in the blender before pressing the “on” button. I don’t think my ears (or the spoon) will ever be the same. I let it go for some time, frozen trancelike by the screeching metal sound, until one of my son’s friends simply yelled out “spoon!” and jolted me out of my stupor.

Another time I left the lid off and sent the contents flying through the air onto my window, cupboards and toaster. I’m here to tell you that fruit smoothie is downright tricky to clean out of a toaster.

I’m just thankful I didn’t leave the spoon in at the same time I left the lid off, creating a projectile object hurtling through my kitchen. Perhaps that’s why Nathaniel and his friends stayed a safe distance from the blender at all times.

As you can see, I had some kinks to work out, but by the end of his recovery I had this blending thing down. Therefore, if the Cooking Channel is interested in a 30-minute show starring me and my blender I already have some name suggestions:

• For a simple, to-the-point title that encapsulates the disgusting dishes I can create I give you: “Iron Gut.”
• For a motherly-centered show I propose: “Blended with love.”
• For a more literary reference I offer: “But soft, what food from yonder blender make?”
• And to go head-to-head in competition against “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” I suggest “Blenddown with Eileen B.”

I’m flexible on the title, mind you, but I think the promo should read something like this:

Join Eileen as she helps you make one of the milestones in your child’s life the tastiest. When the time comes for your progeny to undergo the coming-of-age wisdom teeth removal, follow her steps so that you’re armed and ready to create some liquefied goodness, or turn them off their favorites forever.

Bon appeteeth.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Parting shot produces pungent after life

Dear Skunk:

After two weeks, I am waving the white flag. You win.

Until we met 14 days ago, I would listen to people talking about how their pets were sprayed by skunks and be ever grateful that I had never had to deal with such a stinky mess. Then I accidentally ran over you on Garden Valley.

Granted, running over a skunk isn’t the same as getting sprayed by a skunk, right?

That’s what I thought. I was so very wrong.

I assumed you sprayed me at the last minute, before my headlights overtook you (again, my deepest apologies). But when I mentioned this theory to my friend Julie she laughed out loud. Did I really think you had time to aim and fire as I was barreling upon you at 50 miles per hour, she asked.

Turns out Julie used to work for a company that cleans up messes in homes after a catastrophe occurs, including a skunk coming inside and spraying the interior. She gave me the low-down on what really happened.

Apparently, when I hit you I ruptured your scent sack (who knew?) which, put simply, means the joke’s on me. Not only do you have my full attention, but my deepest respect; I had no idea the wrath you were capable of unleashing.

I had to park the car in the driveway outside of our attached garage that first night because the stench was permeating the entire household. My son, who was a passenger to this joyride of death, inadvertently left his clothes on the floor of his room, and refused to sleep in there two days after the clothes were washed. This was the time it took for your stench to evaporate. According to Wikipedia: “The smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness, and is sufficiently powerful to be detected by a human nose up to a mile down wind.” I am here to say “true that.”

A few days after I hit you I had an appointment in Eugene. It was raining that day so I thanked my lucky stars and assumed that the rain water would wash away any lingering proof of my crime against the Garden Valley Skunk Gang. Silly me. Again, Julie explained that skunk spray is an oil-based substance, and had I ever noticed how well water and oil mix?

In retrospect, I do believe Julie was having fun at my expense.

So I headed over to Champion Car Wash and asked them to give me an underbody wash. The guy taking the money acknowledged my predicament by admitting that he wasn’t breathing through his nose. Unfortunately, the guy at the end of the car wash, the one who’s there to dry off the car, was not breathing through his nose either.

Again, from Wikipedia: “Frequent encounters with dogs and other domestic animals, and the release of the odor when a skunk is run over, have led to many myths about the removal of skunk odor. Due to the chemical composition of the spray, most of these household remedies are ineffective.” NOW you tell me.

Finally, after day 14 we are able to park the car in the garage, but it still stinks to high heavens when you walk out of the house into the garage.

I’m not sure where I’ll send this letter, especially given the fact that you’re dead, but I had to write it to pronounce you the victor of our competition. I admit the error of my ways, and I tip my hat to you and your kind.

The Stinky Burmeisters

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can reach her at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.