Saturday, June 25, 2011

Signs you might be turning forty-something-or-other

As I write this, I am quickly approaching my forty-something-or-other birthday. The more I think about what I want for my birthday, the more I have to be honest and say I’d really just love a nap. That, my friends, is a sure sign you have reached the top of the proverbial “hill” and are rapidly beginning your descent on the other side.

I know I should care, but frankly I’m just too tired.

And where would caring get me anyways? No matter how much I kick and scream, it’s really no use. Age catches up to me whether I like it or not. As the ever-philosophical Dolly Parton once said in “Steel Magnolias:” “Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it is marchin' across your face.”

Preach it sister.

Sure, there are the physical signs that give away the fact that I’m aging, but they don’t bother me half as much as the other signs.

The following are grim realities that attest to the fact that I am forty-something-or-other:

• I can’t hear anything my kids say from the back seat of the car anymore. When did this happen? What?

• My favorite songs from the ‘80s are now being played on “oldies” stations. These are songs that encapsulated the angst of my teenage years, songs that I played at decibels that only teenagers and dogs could hear. (Now that I think about it, there may be a link between this bullet point and the one preceding it.)

• I can’t see anything more than one foot from me. My friends told me, “Oh, wait until you hit 43 … overnight you’ll lose the ability to focus on anything.” Stupid friends. I need some new friends. The problem is that in a room full of people, I can’t make out if these people are my old friends or potentially new friends because I can’t see them from across the room.

• When deciding between going to a matinee and taking a nap, it’s really no contest.

• I don’t understand Lady Gaga. At all. In fact, she scares me a little bit.

• I find myself needing to reign myself in before blurting out the following phrases at kids these days: (1) Get out of my yard! (2) Pull up your pants! (3) Slow down! (4) Take those things out of your ears!

• I use phrases like “kids these days” (see above).

I have to admit, it’s refreshing to see folks my parents’ age reach a place where they don’t reign themselves in anymore – they just let it fly. My personal theory is that they simply don’t care, which must be freeing to those of us “youngsters” who still put a lot of stock in how we appear to those around us.

Here’s one of my favorite stories that illustrates this point. My friend’s son was flying to Oregon to visit his parents. An older gentleman was sitting next to him on the plane. Her son put his ear buds in and settled back to listen to music for the trip. The older gentleman had questions, however, such as “How do I tilt this chair back?” So instead of tapping the young man on the shoulder, he reached up, yanked the ear buds out and shouted the question at him.

I think it’s safe to say this gentleman’s reigning-himself-in train has left the station.

Okay, so I’m not quite there yet, but I can tell I’m getting closer. Sure, this year’s birthday is sure to include eye exams, hearing tests and a new package of ear plugs, but it also will include (fingers crossed) many blissful naps.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and listens to oldies ‘80s music (at a much lower volume than before) in Roseburg. She can be reached at

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Poor Woman's Wine Tour

I have loads of hoity-toity friends who do some pretty swanky stuff. It’s not uncommon to hear that they’re off to a dinner at the Camas Room, or jetting off to Italy to go to a spa, or taking a wine tour through Napa Valley. And they never ask me to join them.

Not that I’m bitter. I mean, I’m capable of making my own fun wherever I go. In fact, when I was not invited to join a friend’s book club I thought to myself, “To heck with them, I’ll start my own book club and we’ll read books like ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ while they read Proust or Hugo or some other totally incomprehensible Frenchman.”

So I started the book club with a friend and we’ve been meeting for over five years now. And we’ve even worked our way up to a few incomprehensible Frenchmen, so there.

So when I wasn’t invited to tag along on a wine tour, I decided to organize my own. One problem, however: I don’t drink wine.

But I am addicted to Diet Pepsi. And I loved the idea of traveling with good friends, drinking our favorite beverage with a tour map in our hands, finding our way to the best places in town for on-tap soda. Once I had reviewed the wine-country movie “Sideways,” I figured I was good to go.

Gas prices being what they are, we decided to stay in the greater Roseburg area, seeing which local fountain offered the best on-tap D.P. (D.P. is the street name – cool people know this).

Next I asked myself “Who should I invite?” So I grabbed my friends Kathi and Julie, two of my favorite drinking buddies, and Julie’s friend Sharon visiting from San Francisco. Sharon doesn’t drink soda or eat sugar (I secretly hate Sharon for this), but she was willing to be the clean, objective palate on board. Plus, she doubled as our designated driver just in case we got carried away during our D.P. bender.

We created an ad hoc rating system. The place of business was rated for ambiance, background music (cause D.P. always tastes better with great ‘80s music), cleanliness and accessibility. We rated the D.P. on carbonation-to-syrup ratio, temperature and full-bodied taste (or lack thereof). Oh, and I had heard that many wine tours offer refreshments along the way, so I picked up a jumbo bag of Twizzlers to offer to my D.P. tour attendees.

Our first stop was a drive-up window on Garden Valley. The first thing we detected was a strong ammonia smell wafting out the window, though the first sip made me forget the smell. Everyone agreed — this soda stop offered the true flavor of D.P.

Next we headed down Garden Valley and turned on Stephens to another mart. This store doesn’t provide a drive-thru window (subtract 5 points), played country music overhead (down another 10 points), and the man in front of me in line had handcuffs hanging out of his back pocket (loss of 15 points). Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m on a mission for D.P. I like to (1) stay in my car, (2) listen to my own music, and (3) not fear for my life. Plus the Diet Pepsi had a little Dr. Pepper added in. This is never good.

We headed down Stephens and took a left at Diamond Lake Boulevard. Again, the store required me to walk in, THEN (adding insult to injury) made me pay for my drink before I could even get a cup and head to the fountain. Sure, they were playing The Cars overhead (add 10 points), but the fried food mingled with the D.P. (and my clothes) and ruined the taste for everyone.

Next, we drove through downtown, crossed the bridge and got on Harvard. This place had a drive-thru window, KISS FM overhead (we asked) and friendly service (add 10 points for each). The ice-to-soda ratio was perfect, the taste was full-bodied, the bouquet was magnificent and we all agreed – hands down — T-Mart reigns as the best on-tap D.P. in town.

Now that that’s been decided I’m trying to figure out what we’re going to do for our poor-woman’s spa week in Italy. Of course, none of us can afford a trip to Italy, so I may call the Holiday Inn. I think they have a hot tub.

When she’s not busy terrorizing the greater Roseburg area on one of her storied Diet Pepsi benders, Eileen Burmeister is a mild-mannered corporate communicator by day, columnist by night, and a D.P. drinker 24/7.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be drivers

Life used to be so easy as a parent. The days were pretty much the same: Wake up, feed the baby oatmeal, give the baby a bottle, and put him in the playpen to play for 30 minutes to play. Contained. Surrounded on four sides by protective netting.

Today, the playpen is long gone, and in its place, some misguided government employee at the DMV decided to give my six-foot “baby” a learner’s permit. To drive. Uncontained. Without protective netting.

Actually, Nathaniel is a very good driver, and always has been. By that, I mean he used to navigate his battery-operated Jeep around the ‘hood with both hands on the wheel. And when his little friend Chase got behind the wheel and started driving all crazy-like, five-year-old Nathaniel yelled, “Both hands on the wheel and look forward!”

But there’s always the unexpected situation waiting around the corner. And these are the situations that make me a tad uneasy when I see my baby/toddler/teenager get behind a hunk of steel with the madcap intention of propelling it forward upward 65 miles per hour. Seriously, whose idea was this?

Someone remind me: What exactly was so bad with the whole horse and buggy mode of transportation?

There was one thing my mom did growing up that I swore I would never do - the protective straight-arm-into-the-chest maneuver. You know the one … you’re driving down the road, the light turns yellow and your mom decides to stop suddenly but not before throwing her iron fist of mother-bear strength into your chest, as if she, not the industrial-strength seatbelt, is the only thing that’s going to keep you out of harm’s way.

Yeah, I promised I would never do that, and broke that promise in the passenger seat with Nathaniel driving. He wasn’t slowing down quickly enough for my comfort level, rapidly approaching the stopped car in front of us, so I reached out and did what mothers have been doing for decades – I straight armed him in the chest. In retrospect, there is probably a better method of communicating STOP NOW, but I fell back on instinct in that second, and he was left rubbing the bruised area of his torso and looking at me as if my hair was on fire. Bottom line: He stopped.

Maybe my mom did know what she was doing after all.

A few days later, Nathaniel was at the wheel while we drove his sister to soccer practice. As we passed our neighbor Gretchen, Nathaniel decided to wave, and simultaneously drove up on the curb of the sidewalk next to the road. When I screamed, he reasoned, “Well it would be rude not to wave at our neighbor, right?”

Nicely played, young man. Throwing the good manners card was masterful.

I enjoy our times in the car, winding our way through the Umpqua Valley’s country roads. We talk and I heap my driving wisdom on him (they’re brief conversations, mostly). Here’s one such conversation:

Nathaniel: Mom, did you ever hit a bird when you were driving?

Me: No, I don’t think I did, but I think I may have hit a squirrel once. Or maybe that was your dad.

Nathaniel: You hit DAD?!?

Good thing comprehension isn’t on his maneuverability test.

So now he starts driver’s education for the summer, and someone else gets to take over the role of training my child to become a safe and responsible driver.

I just hope that person has a strong arm and instincts like this mama bear.

Mama Bear

Over the years, my kids have teased me when I’ve thrown my arm across their chest anytime I brake hard in the car. You know what I’m talking...