Sunday, November 27, 2011

One too many pet rocks makes some of us bah humbuggy

The other night after taking my nine-year-old daughter to see “A Christmas Carol” at UACT, I was explaining the concept of Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present and Ghost of Christmas Future. They are reminders (or foretellers) of what has occurred and what is to come, warning to make a different choice and change the path of our future.

I think there should be a Ghost of Past Christmas Presents who haunts us annually, reminding us that we should never purchase another Ronco/Home Shopping Network/NASCAR item again.

Sometimes we get it right, and more often we get it wrong. Like the time I bought new underwear for my husband for Christmas. In my defense it seemed so right at the time.

But alas, it was oh so wrong, as are many gifts I’ve given and received. Here are my top 10.

10. Potty Putter: For the person who runs out of books and magazines while “doing his business” I give you the Potty Putter. Here’s the sales pitch from Amazon: “The Potty Putter comes complete with a putting green made from the same professional carpet found at miniature golf courses, a cup with a flag, two golf balls, a putter and a "Do Not Disturb" door hanger.” You know it seemed really tacky until I got to the “Do Not Disturb” part – nicely done Potty Putter.

9. Big Mouth Billy Bass. This faux mounted fish sings a song and wriggles its lifeless body with the push of a button. Nothing says Merry Christmas like Billy’s rendition of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” or his ironic version of “Take Me to the River.”

8. Chia pets (all versions): The message is clear. This gift says, “When I think of you I think of hard clay with moldy grass growing out of it … from seeds … which you need to plant and water by the way.” So basically someone gave me a job for Christmas – at the age of eight. Good times.

7. Pet rock: As a kid in the ‘70s pet rocks were inexplicably a big craze. The thought was you’d water it, take it for a walk, and pet it, providing you with hours of enjoyment. I lost mine within days, a predictor of the kind of pet owner I’d become in the future.

6. Green socks: One year our budget was $10 or under (year two of marriage when we were starving college students). I got green socks. It was sad, but well deserved (see my gift of underwear above).

5. Rock polisher – My in-laws got this beauty for our son about seven years ago and the instructions said to put the rocks in and leave it running for 10 hours. Of course Nathaniel decided to start the process after dinner, so we went to bed with the clunk clunk clunking of rocks. We put the polisher two stories below us to muffle the sound, but my husband stomped downstairs around midnight to make it stop. I’ve never seen the rock polisher again, and, not surprisingly, no one has ever questioned its whereabouts.

4. Ice cream maker – Show of hands, and be honest. How many people who own an ice cream maker have actually used it in the last year? Uh huh … that’s what I thought. Work for an hour for one scoop of ice cream? That’s what Umpqua Ice Cream is for.

3. Snuggie – Each time I cocoon myself in my Snuggie I can’t help but obsess: “I’m willingly entering a major firetrap right now. If I even walk by a candle I’m likely to go up like a Roman candle on New Year’s Eve.” Sure, I want to be warm; just not THAT warm.

2. The Clapper - General rule of thumb: Never buy someone you love a gift from a late-night television commercial. You’re just going to have to trust me on this.

1. Scale – If your goal is to live through the New Year, ALWAYS walk away from this purchase.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and shops in Roseburg, Oregon. She can be reached at

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Even high mileage vehicles need a tune up

You know how cars get to a certain point where everything starts to fall apart? That’s usually the moment when you start thinking, “I need to replace this car.”

Well, apparently, I’ve reached that certain “mileage” in my own life. The bad news is I’m stuck with the original model for the duration. And it seems to be breaking down quite a bit lately.

It started back in July when I simply reached out to lift something heavy and a muscle pulled in my shoulder. I babied it for a few days, assuming it would go away like most aches and pains.

Little did I know that the It-Will-Go-Away-Like-Most-Aches-and-Pains Ship had left the harbor, never to return again. (Take note: It happens at 44 years and 8 days. Don’t say you weren’t warned.)

What used to take a few days to feel better now requires a physician, massage therapist and physical therapist.

I started with massage therapy. During the first session, the massage therapist asked me “Did you dislocate your shoulder as a child?” I hadn’t, that I could remember, but figured that was something I’d remember. A few minutes later she asked, “Is this shrapnel?” when she saw an odd birthmark I have.

Seriously? What the heck happens when I’m asleep? Am I sleep walking down the street to the park and dangling recklessly from monkey bars by one arm? Am I involved in combat of which I am not aware?

And I know why she asked about the dislocated shoulder. My right shoulder hangs a few inches lower than the other. This situation elicits a fear in me that one day I’ll be known as Monkey Girl when I finally start dragging my knuckles of the right hand along the ground while the left shoulder remains as perky as ever. Believe me, my mind has been taking me places that are the stuff of nightmares lately.

Anyone remember the Sea Hag character from Popeye? She was the one on Goon Island who was hunched over, cackled, and had a hump for a back. (She also had pronounced chin hairs, which haven’t shown up yet, but really, it’s only a matter of days.)

Yep, the Sea Hag is pretty much what I imagine myself become, slowly but surely.
I started physical therapy after the massage therapist suggested I might need a little more than she could provide. The physical therapist thinks I have tendonitis in my rotator cuff and an impingement behind my shoulder. I have no idea what an impingement is, but my husband often tells me I’m tightly wound, so it probably has something to do with that.

The physical therapist also added that I had inherited a dowager’s hump from my mom (see: “hump for a back” in the Sea Hag description above). I told him that “dowager’s hump” is an awful term, and asked him if we could call it something else.

“Well, it’s technically degenerative arthritis. Do you like that better?” he said with a smirk.

I don’t think I like my physical therapist very much.

But he’s only there to help me deal with the physical pain and it’s so much more than that. It’s the lack of independence. I now have to solicit the help of my family members in every little task. I can no longer go to Costco on my own without the help of my husband to lift the 98-pack of Diet Pepsi into the cart. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but seriously…does Costco think we are feeding entire armies in our homes? Instead of carts they should issue each shopper a forklift. I’m just saying.)

This lack of ability to fend for myself is taking its toll on my psyche and weighing heavily on my dowager’s hump.

In fact, just last weekend during our Costco excursion, while Craig was hoisting another 80-pound item into our cart, our daughter Lily pointed out, “It’s like Dad is Superman and you’re his little sidekick.”

Sigh. As endearing as that is, I’m seriously losing my street cred as an independent woman.

But what else do you expect from a Sea Hag with Monkey Girl tendencies?

Eileen Burmeister lives, writes and drags her knuckles around Roseburg. She can be reached at

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