Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cure for sass is on the tip of my tongue



When my son was little, I was trying to figure out a creative way to get him to speak respectfully instead of talking back. I was discussing this with my friend Kathie in Indiana at the time and she asked, “Have you tried bossy sauce?”

“What is bossy sauce?”

“It’s just a bottle of hot sauce I keep in my refrigerator and when my daughter gets sassy, I’ll ask her if she needs bossy sauce. When I put a drop on my finger and she tastes it, she winces and recoils from the taste, and then I can use it as a teaching moment when I say, ‘That’s how your words sound when you talk like that.’”

I thought it was a brilliant idea, and like most of my best ideas, I stole it.

I purchased a bottle of Smokin’ Hot Tony’s BBQ Sauce and placed it right inside the refrigerator door, right at Nathaniel’s four-year-old eye level. Whenever he started talking back, I’d ask him if he wanted bossy sauce. His eyes would get big, he’d snap his mouth shut and shake his head no, real solemn-like.

The mere mention of bossy sauce put the fear of God in him so effectively that I thought I had found the magic behavior management tool.

Then along came his sister.

Let me just say here that it never ceases to amaze me how two parents can produce children FROM THE SAME GENES who turn out so remarkably different. Those “switched at birth” scenarios really got me thinking one time, until I looked at my children’s physical characteristics and realized there’s no denying that they’re related. No, the sad reality is that she inherited this strong will … from her father.

When Lily started into her terrible twos (which are really terrible threes if we’re being honest here) I resurrected the bossy sauce trick, using the same crusty bottle. After all, why buy new sauce when I never needed the first bottle, am I right? I mastered this the first time, so it should be a piece of cake this time around.

One day, Lily started talking back and I asked her, “Do you need some bossy sauce?”

Lily cocked her head to the side, thought for a minute, and asked, “What is it?”

I pulled out the bottle and showed it to her. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Let me try it.”

This was unprecedented. I froze. I expected her to be just like her brother and simply snap to, but she was going to challenge me on this. The question was: Am I going to really open a bottle that is six years old and offer it to my daughter?

I did. She did. And she said, “Not bad.”

And I was on to Plan B. Problem was, I didn’t have a Plan B. But we muddled through and I came up with a behavior plan suited to Lily’s temperament.

A few years later, I was having a horrible, no good, very bad day of my own. I had overslept, wasn’t feeling well and was impatient with everyone. At one point, I realized how nasty I was being and said, “Lily, honey. I want to apologize for being so impatient with you today. I’m sorry if something I said sounded unkind.”

She walked over to me, touched my arm gently, and said, “Mommy, do you need some bossy sauce?”

Thank goodness I had thrown it away by then.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Merry Cucumber and a Happy New Yam

Six years ago, I was driving with my daughter, then 4, who asked from the back seat, “When can we go to the vegetable of lights?”

“What vegetable?” I asked, confused.

”You know, the place where we drive through and see all of the Christmas lights.”

Then it dawned on me that she was, in fact, referring to the annual Festival of Lights. And I didn’t correct her because, well, how cute is that? So to this day, our family refers to the annual show at River Forks Park as the Vegetable of Lights.
And the kickoff to the Vegetable of Lights is “The Nutcracker.” One time, before the ballet began, the Festival of Lights chairman came onstage and encouraged everyone to come check out the nudist plays at the event. Whodowa? I gasped. Then I took a few minutes to rewind what he was saying and realized he had actually said NEW DISPLAYS, not nudist plays. So apparently my daughter comes by this misinterpretation gene honestly.

When she was just 2 years old, I began taking Lily to see “The Nutcracker” at Umpqua Community College, and she did great until the rats come onstage. I think it may have been the larger-than-life dancing rats, coupled with the red, beady eyes and the scary music that sent her into a meltdown. I had to carry her out of Jacoby Auditorium as she screamed, “I no likin’ the rats! I no likin’ the rats!”

My first attempt to calm her backfired. I tried to tell her that the rats are really pretend, just like Mickey Mouse. Except Mickey doesn’t carry a sword ... or have red, beady eyes ... or a scary soundtrack behind him. OK, scratch that, I mumbled, trying desperately to regroup. But by this time she was wailing and I was failing miserably as a mother.

The next year was marginally better. She simply buried her face in my hair and only asked, “Is it done yet?” about a dozen times before I could most assuredly say, “Yes” and peel her fingers, one by one, from the stranglehold around my neck.

But as I watched the ballet I started to realize that aside from the incredible dancing, the rest of the story is quite alarming.

First of all, Fritz is a holy terror. I mean, what kind of kid takes his sister’s new doll and whacks its head off, resulting in nothing more than a finger wag and an “Aw, shucks” shrug from his dad.

Secondly, Herr Drosselmeyer, the toymaker, is about as creepy as they come. Seriously, a bow-legged man with wild hair and a patch over one eye? And this is the best they can do for the magical character in the book? I wouldn’t let this guy give me a ride if I was stranded on a deserted road, let alone invite him into my house for Christmas Eve.

But then heroine Clara falls asleep (a welcome respite from the ghastly Fritz, I’m sure) and goes to dreamland. Here’s where the ballet truly becomes amazing.

And it’s not because the nutcracker turns into a real man, and it’s not because of the incredible talent displayed by the Eugene Ballet. No, it’s because of the transformation that happens to dozens of young people from Roseburg each year, right before our very eyes.

During my 16 years in Roseburg, I’ve seen a neighbor girl who baby-sat my children be transformed from a lanky teenager to a graceful party guest, pirouetting her way across the stage. I’ve seen my son’s friend, Emily, the same baby to whom I fed strained peas in a highchair, become a graceful angel, winging her way dancing for Clara’s pleasure. And a few years later I watched Gretchen, a friend’s child I held just days after she was born, dance with the other baby mice on stage.

It’s nothing short of miraculous.

And that’s when I want to say to Herr Drosselmeyer, keep your magic dust. These young lives transformed on the stage, even if for just one night, are magic enough for me. And it’s a time when all of us in Roseburg can be transformed, even if for just one night, and become a little bit more of the amazing creatures we were created to be all along.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester. You can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister or email her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Black Friday indeed

Dear Woman in the Bathroom at Ross:


Last week, I was in the stall next to you. Perhaps you didn’t hear me, or see me, or notice my shoes under the stall. I really want to give you every benefit of the doubt.

It’s holiday season, after all, and maybe you needed to beat someone else to a clearance pillow case that you spotted moments before nature called.

And I know we women tend to be creatures of habit. I understand the impulse to close an open door, shove a drawer closed, or open a public restroom door with a paper towel. Truly, if ever there was a sister who gets habits, it’s me.

But really, could you have maybe stopped for one second and thought before turning the light off when you left?

I don’t know if you noticed, but there are no windows in the bathroom at Ross, which means it’s REALLY dark when the lights are off. I mean scary dark. Like I wish-I-had-never-seen-the-commercial-for-The-Blair-Witch-Project dark.

Trust me, I know that of which I speak.

At first I thought to myself, “Is this what going blind feels like?” I had just that morning been to the eye doctor for my exam, and wondered what he had used in those eye drops. He did say my eyes were aging, but surely he that didn’t mean that I might go completely blind at any given moment.

Then I realized that, no, I had never heard of anyone going blind instantaneously … in a Ross bathroom. This made me start laughing out loud in the dark, because really, why do these things happen to me?

I’ve heard it said that women are their own worst enemies, but a public bathroom does not seem like a fair battle ground. Talk about a vulnerable opponent.

Then I realized that I was the same woman who had given birth to two babies, changed diapers one-handed when necessary, and sat up all night with sick children. Surely I could get myself out of this personal Hades, right?

The first part, getting out of the stall, wasn’t too hard. Because really, we can do this with our eyes closed. But then I had to remember where everything was positioned in the room. Was I in the end stall or has I passed a few? Was I about to walk into the sinks? Was the door on the right-hand side or the left-hand side? Where exactly is the light switch?

When I was recounting my travails at dinner that night, my 16-year-old son said with a smile, “Why didn’t you use the light from your cell phone?” NOW he tells me! He can be a punk sometimes.

But that’s not the point, is it? The overriding question remained: What kind of women turns off the light to a public restroom?

So dear Woman in the Bathroom at Ross (may I call you WITBAR for short?), next time you choose to cast me into total darkness before going to browse the clearance pillow cases, please consider tossing me a bone. Maybe roll a flashlight under the stall before you leave?

Help a sister out.

Friday, November 9, 2012

No 'Keeping Up With the Fezziwigs' from this mom


Okay, I’m putting it in writing before I have a chance to become insufferable: I will not become a stage mom. You have my word on it.

Never mind that I was as excited as my 10-year-old daughter when she found out she got a part in the upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol.” Never mind that the four-day waiting period to hear if she had made the cast was completely unnerving (and she was a little stressed too).

No, I am completely in control and refuse to become another clichéd stage mom, a la the mothers of Honey Boo Boo or the Kardashians. I pinky swear.

And just to ensure that I will not go down that dark path, I have come up with the following Rules to Keep Me from the Slippery Slope that is Stage Momdom (or RTKMFTSSTISM for short).

• I promise that I will not wear a t-shirt that reads “My daughter totally rocks Act 1, Scenes 2, 4, and 7.” In fact, I will wear it only as pajamas from here on in (or maybe under another shirt on performance nights, like Superman).

• I promise that I will not start a standing ovation mid-scene immediately after my daughter delivers her one line in Act 1, Scene 7. However, if YOU can’t help but stand and applaud, I will gladly join you.

• I promise that I will not say my daughter’s line aloud with her while she’s on stage and I’m in the audience. Still, mouthing the line with her is not off the table.

• I promise that I will continue to keep it real by calling her by her given name instead of referring to her as Fezziwig Daughter No. 2 for the next three months of rehearsals.

• I promise that I will allow her to speak in her usual voice at home. However, I think it’s entirely normal to require the entire family to speak in British accents on rehearsal days. I’m confident that my family will happily get on board with this plan.

• I promise that if this acting thing works out, I will never ever let my daughter be on any Disney show whatsoever. I think we’ve seen how most of those careers shake out (I’m looking at you Ms. Lohan).

• I promise that I will not make any odd requests for my daughter’s dressing room prior to performances, such as Perrier water at room temperature or M&Ms with the shells peeled.

Of course I’m joking (kind of) but let’s be real here. It’s pretty darn hard as a parent to NOT get excited when you see your child doing something he or she loves. From her first steps, to her first ballet recital, she really is the best thing since sliced bread. From his first word (Dada, of course!), to his first karate kick, he is the coolest kid you’ve ever met.

So in essence, we all star in our own little plays that we call “life.” And I plan on applauding the loudest for the entirety of my children’s lives.

Bravo!

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.



Friday, October 26, 2012

The wind beneath your wings shouldn't hiss

I have this chair at work that is an exercise ball balance chair. It’s one of those Pilates balls that sits in a base with wheels, and it’s supposed to be more ergonomically friendly than your standard Mad-Men-era office chairs. (Between you and me, until this thing starts making my coffee when I get to work first thing in the morning, the jury’s still out on how much friendlier it is.)


I inherited the chair from my predecessor in the office, a yoga instructor who swore by the healing properties of the exercise balance ball. Seeing that my existing chair was torturing my sciatica on a daily basis, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

The problem is that the chair has a tendency to whirl when you least expect it to, making the promised “balance” seem like a wished-for dream. One time I bent down to tie my shoelace and almost ended up in the office next door. Through the drywall, that is.

Plus, my reaction time is slower since I have to take into account the physics of the chair. Let’s just say jumping out of my chair isn’t really an option.

Which is where I was three months ago when a loud, hissing noise was coming from the hallway outside my office. It sounded like a very large snake was warning someone that he had gone too far … not a comforting sound on your average day at the office. It startled me so much that I jumped out of my chair, propelling myself off balance from the balance chair (oh, the irony!) and nearly stumbled into the hallway to figure out what was wrong.

Other employees were out in the hallway as well, trying to discover the source of the hissing. Turns out it was a loose valve of the AC unit in the conduit hoochamajig. (This is why I majored in English and not engineering.) Bottom line, the hissing stopped.

But wouldn’t you know it, it happened again a few weeks ago. As the loud hissing started anew, I sat still this time, learning my lesson from before.

But the strangest thing happened. No one else started to congregate outside my office in the hallway. The hissing was as loud as ever, but no one seemed to mind except me.

Then I noticed something odd.

As I was looking out toward the hallway over my computer screen, the screen kept getting higher and higher as the view of the hallway disappeared. Was my desk rising? Was I melting?

Finally, I looked down and realized that this was no AC valve gone awry. No, my exercise ball had sprung a leak and my hopes of balance were rapidly deflating before my very eyes.

I took the ball home, sad and deflated of any balance it ever offered, and pumped it back up, all the while laughing over how long it took me to figure out what was going on.

I’m back on my perch, so to speak, but I realized that the exercise balance ball is a metaphor for life.

I’ll be sure to let you know what it is the moment I figure it out.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Ore. You can email her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

No exercise balance balls were harmed in the writing of this article.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chevy Chevette ... it'll (not) drive you happy!

Our 16-year-old son recently bought a car from a trusted family friend. Sure, the car has over 250,000 miles on it, but this 1996 Honda Civic runs surprisingly well. Granted you might point out the dent in the hood from the past owner’s run-in with a deer, or the faded paint on the roof, or the crack in the window. But as far as first cars go, this one is a winner.


At least my husband and I can see that it is a winner, especially compared to the sorry jalopies we’d owned over the years (kids, ask your parents what a “jalopy” is). Of course our son, Nathaniel, wasn’t around when we owned these cars. Ever since he’s been old enough to remember we’ve had sensible and reliable family cars, and we’ve been blessed to be able to afford to get them fixed when they need it. 

He wasn’t around when we were newlyweds, poor as dirt, living in a 600-square-foot apartment and happily accepting day-old bread off of the Safeway truck. We were graduate students in love, and living from paycheck to paycheck. Macaroni and cheese made a complete meal, and date nights consisted of the $1.50 cheap theaters in Denver.

Before our marriage, I had a penchant for truly horrible car decisions. While I was paying my way through college, I grew tired of the beater cars that kept breaking down. As a commuter student, I needed a reliable car to get me to and from the university, so I decided to bite the bullet and buy a brand new 1986 Chevy Chevette. But wait! Why buy one when you can lease one for $10 a month cheaper and save yourself a full $120 a year? (At least that’s how the sales guy put it). Being young, thrifty and foolish I signed on the dotted line and leased myself a Chevette. For five years. With no option to own. Ah, youth!

The car, although brand new, went through three alternators in those five years. At one point, the driver’s-side door stopped opening, forcing me to climb over the console and exit out the passenger door. Then right about the time I was finishing up college, the passenger-side door stopped opening as well, forcing me to crawl through the hatch and hoist myself over the two seats. This was neatly timed with my student teaching at an area high school, making for an interesting entrance and exit each day.

After the “Chevette Lease Debacle,” I got smart and bought a used but reliable Nissan Maxima which I loved. I then started dating my soon-to-be husband. I heard through the grapevine that his last car was a VW van with carpeted ceilings and fuzzy dice. It was a match made in heaven.

Since then, we’ve made some wiser choices, learning from our many mistakes, but we realize that we’re only one step away from a really bad car choice. In fact, I recently passed a Chevy Sprint that had the back hack-sawed off like an El Camino wannabe, and I muttered, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

So now it’s time for our son to learn the hard way how first cars have the power to make your spirits soar and break your heart, all in the same afternoon.

Full disclosure: The Chevette was my SECOND car. My first car was even worse – a ’74 rusted out Dodge Dart. But that’s another story…

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer and reliable car owner, despite the dent in the back panel. She claims a deer ran into the car. You can email her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ode to the Ellipses

In honor of National Punctuation Day, which was earlier this week, The News-Review is re-publishing this column from 2009.

Going cold turkey on National Punctuation Day

I know it’s wrong to use it in such a way, and I know that it’s become a crutch, but I must admit that I’ve been having an illegitimate love affair with the ellipsis for years now. Surely, I thought, I could find a support group among the many writers who have been similarly led down this particular primrose path of pauses, but alas … none existed.

Not to be dissuaded, I set out and started my own support group called “Ellipsis … Anonymous.” I invited everyone to my house at 2000 W. Maple … a place, I must confess, I bought for the address alone … and I served M&Ms in batches of three.

However the people who showed up tended to trail off midway through their stories, or stopped abruptly before staring off into space, which seemed appropriate but really stymied the healing process. It was … daunting.

I found myself wandering the streets that night, talking to myself, binging on one story after another without end, drinking deep from the nectar of incomplete thoughts until … I hit rock bottom.

It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t pause for breath in my prose without automatically hitting dot-dot-dot. I was ravenous … a wild animal on the prowl for a pregnant pause, a thoughtful moment or a half-baked idea so I could swoop in and get my fix. I was putting ellipses where commas would suffice … ellipses when em dashes would do the trick … ellipses when a yadayadayada would convey the same idea. It was all too much and I collapsed under the pressure.
I woke up the next morning in the gutter outside of a Barnes and Nobles, gripping my beat-up copy of “Love is…” poems and staring in the face of one harsh reality … I needed help.
I got up out of the gutter, flipped open my laptop and started writing … hair of the dog and all that jazz. What I was after was a mantra to get me through the tough spots, those times where it’s just so … tempting to use that one, single punctuation, albeit incorrectly. I needed a higher power to see me through, and … amazingly … this little beauty fell out of the sky like a penny … or coin … from Heaven:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the proper uses for the ellipsis;
Courage to use it when I should and deny myself when I shouldn’t;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Doesn’t it seem appropriate, then, that today, National Punctuation Day, would be my quit day? I have decided to go cold turkey. No more ellipses for me. I’m clean and sober starting now of course that means I can’t use any punctuation for fear that the pause in and of itself would throw me headlong into a full blown relapse from which I might never recover until I could once again use my beloved and reliable ellipsis just saying the word makes this all the more harder until I simply … break … down.

They say that admitting the problem is half the battle, and I’m counting on that to be true. But right now, I have an inexplicable desire to learn Morse code and eat M&Ms. And besides, as my friend Scarlett once said … “Tomorrow is another day.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

Here's hoping cottontails are allergic to bananas

Our 10-year-old daughter Lily is volunteering at the Saving Grace Animal Shelter. Which is good and bad: Good because it’s giving her an important lesson in volunteerism; bad because she comes home each week wanting to adopt another dog.

Clearly she doesn’t remember our last foray into dog ownership: Puddy, the border collie/beagle mix. We adopted Puddy about six years ago. We named him after David Puddy, the Seinfeld character who played the witless boyfriend of Elaine – a man who was equal parts lovable and stupid. What could go wrong, right?

Within days we realized just how ill-equipped we were to own a dog.

The signs were many. It started out that when I found him on top of the kitchen table, covered in blue ink, munching on a magic marker of the same color. And to add to my infuriation he simply looked at me, head cocked, as if to say, “What’s up?”

Another time I found Lily’s Ken doll (from the storied Barbie/Ken romance) splayed across the rug in Lily’s room with both hands gnawed off well past the wrists.

And it wasn’t just toys and art supplies that drew Puddy like bees to honey. One night I made some homemade banana bread for the next day’s breakfast. I left it to cool overnight on the counter, out of Puddy’s reach.

The next morning I found it on the floor, covered in dog hair, gnawed around the edges. At first I thought my husband Craig had gotten his hands on it, but then I remembered that his hair was different than Puddy’s (thankfully). When I finally spotted Puddy he was curled up in a tight ball, trying desperately to avoid all eye contact. Oh, yeah, he was as guilty as sin.

We tried every trick in the book with Puddy but could not tame the beast. In the end, a friend of ours adopted him from us and then proceeded to move to Cape Cod. We try hard not to read into the fact that Puddy moved as far away as doggedly possible without leaving the country.

Still Lily is a lover of all animals, especially dogs. The day we gave Puddy away, we drove out to Saving Grace Animal Shelter and adopted a kitten named Sabrina. We’ve had her for three years and adore her. Except when she’s spitting and hissing; this is mostly directed at Lily.

We’ve tried to explain to Lily: “When you try to: (1) dress a cat in doll clothes, (2) try to paint a cat’s nails, or (3) braid a cat’s hair … well, let’s just say she’s not going to purr.”

Then Lily reminds me (as she’s shoving Sabrina’s leg through the arm hole of a doll party dress) that I once tried to bathe the cat, resulting in a ripped shirt and claw marks up and down my arm. Touché, Lily. Touché.

So since Sabrina is not willing to act like a dog, Lily persists in asking for a dog. Of course we want to give in, but we are reminded of the debacle that was pet ownership with Puddy. As a result, we’ve encouraged Lily to look toward adopting other, gentler animals to satisfy her desire. And I think we settled on one: a bunny.

Thanks to all of the bunnies at the Douglas County Fair this summer, Lily now has a bunny fund on her dresser, quickly filling with any spare change and allowance money she can earn.

I’m hopeful, but realistic. I’ve read enough Peter Rabbit to realize that our neighbors’ gardens may be in for a treat.

I hope they like bunnies in Cape Cod.

Eileen Burmeister lives in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.













Friday, August 31, 2012

Oxford Dictionary's new words are simply ridic

It’s that time of year again. No, I don’t mean back-to-school time. I don’t even mean college football season. Of course I’m talking about the time of year when Oxford publishes its list of words added to the online dictionary.

And once again I am left sitting at my desk, head in my hands, weeping for the future of the English language. You think I’m overreacting? Tell that to the tweep with the ridic soul patch who has a hella nerve asking for a group hug. Yes, all of those words and phrases in that preceding sentence are now part of our lexicon at oxforddictionaries.com.

Sigh.

Let’s take them one at a time:

Date night, n.: “A prearranged occasion on which an established couple, especially one with children, go for a night out together.” Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure we’ve already cemented the meanings of “date” and “night.” So couldn’t we have figured out the meaning of that compound word using nothing more than our wits?

Hackathon, n.: “An event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.” So it’s like a dance-a-thon only easier on the feet. And less festive.

Hella, adv.: “Extremely; a large amount.” For example, that’s a hella stupid word you’re adding to the dictionary.

Inbox, v.: “Send a private message or an email to someone.” Fair enough. We all use it when we’re talking about our email, so I see how this should become part of the dictionary. Well played, Oxford.

Lifecasting, n.: Defines “the practice of broadcasting a continuous live flow of video material on the Internet which documents one’s day-to-day activities.” I think we call that “Jersey Shore” and “The Kardashians” and they’re horrible. Why encourage more of the same by giving them an official word? If it’s a word or phrase you’re after, I think the more appropriate would be “train wreck.”

Lolz, pl. n.: “Fun, laughter or amusement.” It was depressing enough when they added LOL (laugh out loud) a few years ago, especially because an entire generation of senior citizens thought it meant “lots of love.” This lead to disastrous misunderstandings, such as sympathy cards that were signed “I’m so sorry for your loss. LOL.”

Micro pig, n.: “A pig of a very small, docile, hairless variety, sometimes kept as a pet.” Um, haven’t we successfully described that as a “small pig” for years?

Mwahahahaha, exclamation: “Used to represent laughter, especially manic or cackling laughter such as that uttered by a villainous character in a cartoon or comic strip.” I have no words.

OH, n.: “A person’s wife, husband, or partner (used in electronic communication).” This one is wrong on many levels. First, as an Ohio native, it’s just confusing. Second, what does OH stand for? It doesn’t say in the entry. Old hag? Ornery hooligan? I’m left with more questions than answers.

Photobomb, v.: “Spoil a photograph by suddenly appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken, typically as a prank or practical joke.” In my day, we simply called that “Cousin Jerry being a jerk again.” Now I know the appropriate word to use.

Ridic, adj: “Ridiculous.” So let me get this straight. Instead of saying “laugh out loud” you say LOL (which is still three syllables, so you’re not making life any easier, I might point out). And instead of saying something is ridiculous, you get the first part out and just stop. Are you so apathetic that you don’t even have the energy to finish the word? Whatev.

And there are more. I just can’t bring myself to go on. You can see the entire list at oxforddictionaries.com if you can stomach it.

Why do I revere the dictionary so much that these additions make me cringe? Because my mom treated it like the Bible. Growing up, if we asked my mom what a word meant, she’d say, “Look it up in the dictionary” in her best Moses voice. It was most-used book in our home. The dictionary held all sorts of meanings, universes, ideas and helped explain the world around us. And I’m not seeing how “mwahahahaha” helps further explain the world around us.

In fact, I think it’s ridic and it makes me LOLZ.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.





Saturday, August 18, 2012

Circle of Death turns into a top-of-the-world experience


As a kid growing up in Ohio, there were a surprising number of amusement parks to choose from for a state in the middle of nowhere: King’s Island, Geauga Lake, Sea World and Cedar Point.

It was during my youth that I started my life-long decision to avoid all rides that made me (1) convinced of the effects of gravity as I plunged to my death, (2) dizzy, and/or (3) want to (how shall I put this delicately?) return the corn dog and fries I had just eaten.

Okay, I may have tended toward the dramatic as a child, but a number of these rides had you spinning, going in 360-degree loops and dropping 300 feet in six seconds. I am not a fan of any of these activities, especially when all I have to separate me from the concrete below is a nylon belt over my shoulder and a wildly insufficient bar across my lap.

What did they take me for, a 10-year-old fool?

So, instead I hit the bumper car circuit with the all the other people – mostly grandmas.

Now fast forward a few years to last Saturday, the last day of the Douglas County Fair, and my own 10-year-old Lily had not yet attended. She couldn’t stop talking about going to the fair so she could experience the same things I did as a kid.

I’m not proud to admit that I had planned to avoid the fair completely by not driving past that area with Lily in the car for, oh, say two weeks. But I can’t control where her father drives with her in the car…

She kept asking to go, and I kept finding reasons to not go, and then she pulled out the “I’ve-never-been-on-a-Ferris-wheel-and-I’m-ready-now” card. The icicles around my hard heart melted and I agreed to take her first thing Saturday morning.

Here’s the deal, though: I had never been on a Ferris wheel either. Ever. (See bumper-car-only rule above).

The conversation in my head went something like this, “Eileen, it’s been long enough. You’re an adult now and have made it through far worse events in life than a possible death from Ferris wheel. Woman-up and take your daughter to the fair.”

So we went. And my plan was to pay for us to get in, pay for one trip on the Ferris wheel, go see the animals in the barns and avoid all other rides.

But when we got in line for the tickets we discovered it was bracelet day, which meant that for $23 we could ride all of the rides we wanted until our hearts were content or we lost our lunch. Huzzah!

So, we got the bracelet and lined up for the Ferris wheel. As we approached the line I got excited when I saw that you had to be a certain height in order to ride the Ferris wheel. Could it be possible that I didn’t yet meet the height requirement? Fear leads to fanciful thinking, apparently.

I blew away the height requirement and stepped into the line. The next 10 minutes were a blur as I talked non-stop to calm my fears of getting on the death trap. Poor Lily nodded, while looking at me quizzically, wondering where her usually-sane mother had gone. (Those of you who know me please stop laughing).

Before I knew what happened we were getting into a gondola THAT ROCKED and heading upward. Let me clarify: We were not only going around in circles, but rocking back and forth. “This was not in the brochure!” I wanted to yell.

Instead I pulled out my phone and started snapping pictures of Lily to keep my mind off our impending death. At one point I realized we were at the tippy-top when Lily said, “Look how pretty it is from up here.”

She was right. It was gorgeous. The views were breathtaking, but in a good way. More importantly, I was at the top of the world with my favorite little girl.

Every rotation found me calmer and calmer until I was …. wait for it … moving about the gondola to get a better camera angle. Yeah, we Burmeister girls totally rocked the Ferris wheel.

And after that? I followed Lily on every ride she wanted to go on. We spun, we flew sideways, we slid down a huge slide, and we created a wonderful memory. Me and my girl.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at Eburmeister.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Heading to Rio in 2016, with a quick stop in Bermuda

My sister Peg, a high school English teacher from Ohio, came for a visit during her time off this summer.

This year, her trip coincided with the Summer Olympics. So in between road trips to Seattle, evenings on the river, and drives through the 100 valleys of the Umpqua, we’ve been watching a lot of Olympic events with the family.

The other night we watched the U.S. Beach Volleyball team of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor. There was one point where Misty dove to save a ball and missed, and I said, “I would have gotten that ball.”

After their win, the interviewer asked them both how they felt about being older. Kerri quickly said, “I’m 33 and Misty is 35, so I don’t think of us as old.”

“See?” I said to Peg. “It’s not too late for us. We could totally do this event in the 2016 games in Rio.” Granted, we are a little bit older, but still. Just last week we hiked to the top of Multnomah Falls. Yes, it took us two hours but WE DID IT. Plus, Peg played volleyball in grade school and I played three years in high school, so, you know, we know our way around a volleyball court.

What I’m trying to say is we’re qualified.

Never mind that we were sprawled out on a sectional couch eating a bowl of cherries during this conversation. We knew in our hearts we could be ready at go-time.

Our main concern quickly became the volleyball uniforms. They would have looked good on us in, say, 1985, but today … not so much.

However, after thorough research (Wikipedia), I found out that the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball allows female beach volleyball players the option of playing in shorts or a one-piece swimsuit. We’re going with the shorts option, and make them Bermuda shorts, thank you very much.

Seeing that we had only played indoor volleyball, I checked on the differences between indoor and beach volleyball. Here are some of the distinctions between the two, and my response to those differences.

1. Playing surface is sand rather than hard court. Well, growing up in Ohio, we are no strangers to sand because of all of the beaches…Okay, so we spent some time in sand BOXES, which totally count.

2. Team size is two rather than six, with no substitutions allowed. That’s okay; we don’t play well with others anyways.

3. Open-hand dinks are illegal and hand-setting standards are tighter in the beach game. I don’t even know what “open-hand dinks” are so we’re good.

4. Coaching during matches is not allowed. Which means you have to be quiet, Mom.

Now the distance between Ohio and Oregon could pose a problem for our training, seeing that we live 2,600 miles apart. But I’m pretty sure that if we commit ourselves to doing the Jane Fonda Workout video a MINIMUM of three times a week, we’ll just need a week or so together before the games in Rio to find our groove.

If you or someone you know is interested in sponsoring us, let me know. After all, we’ll have more than enough clothes covering us, giving your logo plenty of air time.

And just FYI, Peg and I are big fans of Starbucks and Diet Pepsi, respectively, so send those sponsorship dollars our way.

After all, nothing says “athlete in training” like Starbucks and Diet Pepsi, right?

USA! USA!

Eileen Burmeister lives and writes in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chain emails: Roadkill on the information highway



I love email. I really do. It’s truly amazing to think that I am able to keep up with family and friends all over the world on a daily basis.

But for all the things I love about email, I also have one bone of contention: chain emails. You know the ones I’m talking about…the ones that say “Answer these 40 questions and then forward your answers to 10 of your friends in the next 10 minutes and then something wonderful will happen.”

So I did the first time, painstakingly answering minutiae about my life, my favorite color, and my favorite brand of toothpaste. And when I finally finished I sat back and awaited my prize. An animated girl holding flowers walked out on the screen and blew kisses at me in the form of bubbles.

Whodawa? That’s “something wonderful?”

I don’t know about you, but when I think of “something wonderful” I’m imaging a gift certificate to my favorite restaurant, or a trip to a tropical island, or Ed McMahan showing up at my house with a ridiculously large check. So you can imagine that “bubble kisses on my computer screen” ranks pretty low on my “something wonderful” scale.

At that moment I made a decision: I would no longer take part in this silliness. I banned chain emails. As if chain letters in the mail weren’t obnoxious enough, now friends were filling my inbox with demands to forward to 10 people or all manner of chaos could unleash itself. My technique is terrible and swift: delete, delete, delete. And alas, I’m still here to tell my tale.

So last week, my friend (who will remain nameless because it was her email that spurred this column AND she knows I hate these chain mail things AND I believe she does this just to DRIVE ME AROUND THE BEND) sent me a chain email and I decided to fight back.

1. What is your occupation? Writer.

2. What color are your socks right now? Really? What could you possibly learn about my personality based on the color of my socks? They’re white, by the way.

3. What are you listening to right now? My head banging on my desk in frustration.

4. What was the last thing that you ate? If you must know it was a mixture of Twizzlers and pistachios. Together, they didn’t sit well the first time, but the horrifying truth is, I would eat them together again.

5. Can you drive a stick shift? Yes, and quickly. In fact, the last time I robbed a bank, I drove the getaway car and no one complained. I even nailed the tight corners.

6. Last person you spoke to on the phone? My parole officer and he wasn’t happy with me. (See previous question.)

7. Do you like the person who sent this to you? I used to like her a great deal, but if she insists on continuing to ask what color my socks are I might just change my mind about her.

8. Cherries or Blueberries? Again, I’d really be curious to know how this answer will shed light on the real “me.” If I choose cherries, am I an “upbeat, happy-go-lucky kinda gal?” And if I choose blueberries, am I a “sad-sack Eeyore who doesn’t enjoy life?”

9. Do you want your friends to e-mail you back? No, but because I enjoy KEEPING my friends rather than enraging them, resulting in them gleefully deleting me from their address book.

10. When was the last time you cried? I started around No. 3 and haven’t stopped yet.

11. What inspires you? Inspirational things.

12. What are you afraid of? Another email like this.

13. Favorite dog breed? Any dog that doesn’t have the audacity to ask me if I was a color what color would I be.

14. If you were a color what color would you be? You’ve got to be kidding me.

15. What states have you lived in? The state of confusion over what the goal is of answering these questions.

See? It’s not hard. And it’s incredibly cathartic. The next time your email gets clogged with these silly emails, join me in my fight to return email to its pure original intention.

And when that sweet day arrives, I know I’ll be celebrating with Twizzlers and pistachios.



Eileen Burmeister lives, works and writes in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Advice to first-time mom: Stay away from "Mommy and Me" classes

I recently attended a baby shower for a first-time mom, and the hostess asked us to write down one piece of motherly advice to share with my friend.


Shortly before the baby shower, I had been looking through a photo album and had come across a picture that left me with more questions than memories. In the picture, I’m standing on a diving board at the local community college, dangling my then 10-month-old baby girl over the deep end of the pool.

Sound like a good reason to call child protective services, right? No, it was just me and Lily taking a “Mommy and Me” swim class 10 years ago.

So here I was at the shower, and I couldn’t let my words of advice be “Never take a ‘Mommy and Me’ swim class or you might find yourself in an ill-fitting swimsuit on a diving board dangling your precious baby over the deep end.” Because that just sounds crazy (not unlike me, when I signed up for the class in the first place).

What the heck brought me to that place, you might ask? I think the deeper question is who is the bozo that came up with the idea of a “Mommy and Me” swim class?

My theory? It was the brainchild of a single, childless man.

Here’s how I imagine the brainstorming session went when the class was created …

Single, Childless Man (henceforth known as SCM): “I think we should have a swim class that targets new moms.”

Reasonable Woman (RW): “Hang on there, Spanky. Have you ever seen someone make a pizza? You know how they pull and tug that pizza dough until it can’t stretch any further? That’s pretty much how these women have felt for nine months. Now, let me ask you, have you ever seen pizza dough snap back into a little ball again? Yeah, me neither. Now, let’s take this one step further … you are going to ask these stretched-pizza-dough-new-mommies to put on a swimsuit and go out in public?”

SCM: “Well, yes. I suppose they would need to, seeing that it’s called ‘Mommy and Me.’”

RW: “Tell me, have you ever been swimsuit shopping with a new mom? Because it is not pretty. You can almost hear the crying and weeping clear out in the parking lot. That, my friend, is the sound of the realization that your body will never be the same. Are you sure you want to continue down this path?”

SCM: “Yes. I feel that it’s critical that these babies learn how to swim, and who better to teach them than their mommies?”

RW: “But isn’t that why we have swim instructors in the first place?”

SCM: “Well, I think it’s safer for the babies to have their own moms teach them while the instructor leads the class.”

RW: “Safer? These women have not slept more than three hours at a stretch in a year and THEY are the people you’re building your safety argument on? They can barely finish brushing their teeth at this point in life. I knew one new mom, a respectable, professional woman, who was so strung out from lack of sleep that she left an entire grocery cart full of food in the parking lot and didn’t realize it until she got home. You still want to play your safety card, my friend?”

SCM: “Yes.”

At this point in my imaginary story, I believe the reasonable woman threw up her hands and left the room.

The moral of the story: When the reasonable woman leaves the building, terrible ideas come to roost, e.g. “Mommy and Me” swim class.

I have pictures to prove it.

In my defense, I wasn’t thinking straight back in those sleep-deprived days. In fact, just a few days prior to the point where I had willingly dangled my baby from a diving board, I had left my entire cart of groceries in the parking lot and driven home.

What? You think I make this stuff up?

Eileen Burmeister lives in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Warning: Reactions to this column may include fear of ever opening another bottle

As I age, I must admit that my reliance on medications has grown as well. It used to be I was living footloose and fancy-free, periodically taking a Tylenol for a headache.


Today, however, I have a few meds I take for things like … you know … breathing, walking and calcium depletion (which I didn’t even know was a thing until I started shrinking). Oy vey!

See? I’m already talking like an old woman.

So I broke down and bought a plastic organizer for my medication drawer. Yes, I have a drawer dedicated to medication. In days gone by I used to have a drawer for all my Barbie doll clothes, and in college I had a drawer for all of my pens and highlighters. But nowhere in the brochure of my life did I see a medication drawer advertised, so you can imagine my surprise.

Let me be clear: I am not at the point where I’m going to enlist the multi-colored, days-of-the-week pillboxes, making my transformation into my mother complete, but I’m one antihistamine away from going there.

So when my doctor suggests yet another medication, everything in me wants to say, “Sorry, my pill organizer is full. You’ll have to get on the waiting list.”

Besides, have you seen those commercials for medications on TV? The side effects are enough to make me cancel cable.

You see, one of the curses of being a “creative type” is that when I hear a list of side effects, I actually start to HAVE the side effects. It’s gotten to the point where my husband has taken the side-effect information sheet from my hands and shredded it before my eyes. At one point, I even started thinking I was experiencing prostate issues, signaling that I had nearly rounded the bend.

It’s crazy, really: A commercial comes on with a beautiful older woman riding her bike in slow motion. Cue the soft piano music. A narrator starts to talk about how her medication has halted her osteoporosis. Lovely, right?

Then that same soothing voice launches into, “Side effects may include insomnia, nausea, weakness, yawning…”

And I start talking to the narrator, “I’m wondering why you’d be yawning if you can’t fall asleep, but whatever.”

“…anxiety, nervousness, tremors…”

“You’re doing a pretty good job of making me feel all three of those with this list, honey.”

“…flushing, constipation, abnormal dreams…”

“You mean, in addition to the nightmare you’re painting for me right now?”

“…hearing voices of narrators in your head, gremlins, talking back to the narrators in your head…”

See “creative type” above...

Yes, I understand that for legal reasons, the FDA requires pharmaceuticals to trot all of these side effects out to us, the unsuspecting buyers, but there are some things I’d rather not know.

I did discover that the mass marketing of pharmaceuticals to users is banned in over 30 industrialized nations, except the United States and New Zealand, where we are all certain our hearts will explode after taking an aspirin, thank you very much.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I say ban away. And until then I am content with the fact that I will continue to shrink in stature. After all, the alternatives are too terrifying to even contemplate.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and continues to lose vertical inches in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Let’s not be careless about caring less, grammatically

It is a truth universally acknowledged that grammar is important. By me, at least. And if by “universally acknowledged” you mean that all of the voices in my head are in agreement, then yes, grammar is important.

Of course there are those of who are reading this and saying, “Correct grammar? Important? Why, I could care less.”

Ah, but you’re wrong. And that’s why it’s important. Are you saying “I could care less” or “I couldn’t care less”? The answer makes a big difference.

As one popular Facebook meme reminds us, correct grammar saves lives. It’s as important as the distinction between “Let’s eat, Grandma” and “Let’s eat Grandma.” What started as a call to a meal could end up as a cannibalistic Thanksgiving dinner. This is important stuff here people!

But I couldn’t care less about Grandma (see what I did there?), so let’s get back to the matter at hand.

“I could care less” is a creepy little phrase that has not only slithered its way into our lexicon, it is actually fluffing up pillows and settling in for good unless we do something about it.

Of course, I’m up for the challenge, and my first line of attack is always my family.

My poor daughter Lily was in the passenger seat of the car discussing how someone received something at school that she didn’t get. When I asked her if it bothered her she said, “No, I could care less.”

I actually gasped.

“What?” she asked.

“You mean you couldn’t care less, right? Because the way you said it means you have more care to give. There is a level of care, and you could go lower, but for now, you’re just a bit ambivalent.”

At this point her eyes have glazed over and she’s staring out the car window and dreading that she ever said a word when I asked her how her day was.

I get that look a lot from all three family members.

But apparently the mini in-the-car grammar lesson stuck because a few days later she was sharing another story over dinner and started to say, “I could care … wait … no, I mean I couldn’t care less.”

She smiled sweetly at me across the table while I beamed. Craig rolled his eyes.

I get that look a lot too.

Michael Quinion, a British etymologist, writer, and linguistics devotee (what’s not to love?) says this on his blog World Wide Words: “The form I could care less has provoked a vast amount of comment and criticism in the past thirty years or so. Few people have had a kind word for it, and many have been vehemently opposed to it (William and Mary Morris, for example, in the Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage, back in 1975, called it “an ignorant debasement of language”, which seems much too powerful a condemnation). Writers are less inclined to abuse it these days, perhaps because Americans have had time to get used to it.”

Americans, I beg of you, don’t get used to it.

It’s simple: The only time you would EVER say “I could care less” is if something that is happening is tolerable and only mildly irritating, and you have more care to give.

But if you’re fed up, and simply not going to take it anymore, then you want to use “I couldn’t care less.”

Go ahead. Say it out loud a few times and practice it.

See, my goal is to make you over-aware of the right phrase so that the wrong phrase will sound like nails on a chalkboard from now on. (Kids, go ask your parents what a chalk board is.)

I’m so excited for my next article, where we’ll tackle the difference between there, their and they’re. And if you don’t want to hear it, well, I couldn’t care less.

Eileen Burmeister lives, writes and corrects grammar in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.



Friday, May 25, 2012

Urgent care prompts Rx for maternal fervor

This past Mother’s Day, our youngest child was one little sick puppy.


It was the weekend of our move to a new home, and to be honest, I didn’t realize just how sick she was amidst all of the packing, unpacking, lifting and cleaning. Then Saturday afternoon, after a houseful of friends had helped us unload and unpack boxes, I noticed a little bundle of blankets on the couch. I assumed it was just that – a pile of blankets – but upon further investigation, I discovered our 10-year-old daughter under the blanket, fast asleep, the same girl who hasn’t willingly taken a nap in over 7 years.

Something was up.

Let me state here that I’m not proud of the fact that it took me over 36 hours to realize my child was sick. And yes, I did realize that my position in line for Mother of the Year was seriously in question, as usual.

The week earlier she had a high fever for two days straight without any other symptoms. We kept her home from school and sent her back to school Friday after her fever broke. Apparently the fever was just a precursor to the REAL illness which was now manifesting itself in our little girl.

I feel a total lack of control when my kids are sick. I can give them Tylenol, treat their sniffles, but ultimately it’s a waiting game until they regain health and strength. For someone who thrives on control (not naming any names here) this utter loss of control over the outcome is a tough pill to swallow.

I gave her another day to see if she could bounce back, but after another lethargic 24 hours I decided it was time to visit the doctor. Of course it was Sunday, because (little known fact) all children wait until the doctor’s office is closed to get really and truly sick. It’s uncanny how that works.

So we headed to urgent care to get her checked out, and it was then that I remembered that it was Mother’s Day.

What a great Mother’s Day, I thought sarcastically, as I filled out the paperwork and wrote a check for the co-pay.

And so we sat, and waited. After a few minutes Lily cuddled up next to me on the couch as we watched some mindless show on the television in the waiting area. This little girl who rarely if ever sits still, put her head on my lap and let me stroke her hair to take away a little bit of the pain she was experiencing. And it worked. I had a part in helping her relax and get her mind off the fact that her throat felt like broken glass at that moment.

It also got me thinking back on the last 10 years with her: Rocking her to sleep, pushing her in a swing, taking her to her first day of pre-school, watching her first dance recital, walking hand-in-hand.

At that moment I started chuckling because I realized, finally, that there was no better way to spend Mother’s Day than caring for one of my children. I mean, this right here is why I signed up for motherhood in the first place. It’s better than any other role I play in life. What a privilege.

The diagnosis was tonsillitis, which of course, can only feel better with frozen yogurt, right? And you can bet we partook of that remedy together.

What a great Mother’s Day, I thought.

But this time I truly meant it.

Eileen Burmeister lives and works in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.







Friday, May 11, 2012

If you can read this headline, that means it didn’t fit in the box

I think my family may be plotting my death, so I wanted to publicly say something here in case anything weird happens. Wait, let me clarify: weirder than usual.

Why are they angry? Well, now that we’re moving, it’s been brought to my attention that I may have gone a little bit overboard on the packing. As you’re home reading this Sunday morning over coffee and a donut, my family will be unpacking box after box of items that we moved yesterday into our new home.

Now re-wind to last weekend. In an effort to help with the move, I took advantage of a full day home alone to pack everything that wasn’t moving, currently being eaten, or presently being worn by a family member. This resulted in a quite a bit of confusion when the other three members of the family returned home.

It was late, and Lily was getting ready for bed when she called from her room upstairs, “Mom, where are my pajamas?”

“Um,” I stalled. “I think they’re in your bottom drawer.”

“Nothing’s in my bottom drawer,” she replied.

Of course she was right. I had packed all but one drawer of her things, leaving her just enough to get her through the week of school before moving day. But did I take into account the need for sleeping attire for the upcoming week? Notsomuch.

Then my son, who has medication that he needs on a daily basis, woke me up Sunday morning and asked me if I packed his medication because the cupboard where it’s usually kept was bare. Before I could even answer in the affirmative, I was out in the garage searching through boxes in the bright morning sun.

A little later that morning while getting ready for church my husband yells, “Has anyone seen my cologne?”

“I may have packed it?” I said weakly, more a question than a statement. When he looked at me accusingly I said, “Okay, I did pack it.”

“Seriously?” he asked. Sadly, yes. But in all fairness, I packed my perfume too, so I tried to cheer him up by telling him we could be smelly together. He wasn’t buying it.

Even our cat seems mad at me, since I refuse to change her cat box until we move to the new house. Why open a new box of litter when we only have days to go, right? Instead she gives me a harsher-than-usual glare; something I didn’t think was possible.

I overheard my husband say to the kids, “Hold on to your pillows or your mom might pack them before Saturday.” Everyone’s a comedian around here.

Okay, I’ll admit it … I’m an over-eager packer. On the upside, I did uncover some items in a basement closet that hadn’t seen the light of day in over a decade. My favorite find was our Y2K stash (kids, go ask your parents what Y2K means). Thankfully, nothing came from the Y2K threat, or we wouldn’t have survived for long on our two, one-gallon jugs of water and one can of peaches. Apparently, my house packing is way better than my apocalyptic packing, which may have kept us alive through Jan. 3 of that year. Maybe.

So as it stands today, I may or may not be allowed to stay home on my own from here on in. I’m still waiting to hear the final word from the jury (my family). Yeah, I’m not holding out much hope either. They’re a tough crowd.

Eileen Burmeister works, packs and now lives in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sometimes, parental supervision is not enough

You know, for as much training as Craig and I have received in parenting over the years, we have not always used sound judgment in choosing movies appropriate for children.

Now, I’m not talking about overly violent or sexual movies, which are clearly inappropriate for children. Instead, I’m talking about those movies that we adults would categorize as “classics,” but turn out to be the stuff of nightmares for our poor kids.

Exhibit A: “E.T.”

Now “E.T.” is a great movie and should be viewed by everyone OF A CERTAIN AGE. Five is not that age. Craig and I once showed this movie to a friend’s five-year-old son while we were babysitting (we were, of course, obliviously childless at the time). The boy sat there rapturous for the first half. But once things turned south and E.T. was dying in a glass tomb, poked and prodded by scientists, the little boy started to cry and shouted “My heart hurts!” I think that roughly translated to, “I’m five, this is way too adult for me, and why did my parents leave me with the two of you?”

Great question.

Exhibit B: “The Wizard of Oz”

Now this one was all Craig’s fault, simply because I flat-out refused to watch it after my first viewing 35 years ago. Seriously, those flying monkeys nearly did me in. Truth is, I can barely stand to look at the monkeys at the zoo, half expecting them to turn into maniacal winged instruments of death. I know, Curious George is cute, but inside he’s on the Wicked Witch of the West’s side. You can see it in his eyes.

After Craig had him watch “The Wizard of Oz” at age six, our son had nightmares about tornados for months AND he’s never once asked for a monkey as a pet.

See what I mean?

Exhibit C: “Signs”

I’ll take credit for this total lack in parental judgment. Craig was out of town, and I thought it would be fun for Nathaniel and me to watch something once I put his baby sister down for bed.

I had read about M. Night Shyamalan’s movie and was intrigued, especially by this blurb: “In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a five-hundred-foot crop circle is found on the farm of Graham Hess, the town's reverend. The circles cause a media frenzy and test Hess's faith as he journeys to find out the truth behind the crop circles.”

I checked the rating and it was PG-13 for some frightening elements. Our son, age nine at the time, had already seen “Star Wars,” so I figured we were good to go.

But by the time the aliens started creeping around the reverend’s house, forcing the young son to walk around with a baseball bat in order to protect his siblings, Nathaniel stared in horror and yelled, “WHY ARE YOU LETTING ME WATCH THIS?”

Recently, as we laughed about this horrible display of judgment, Nathaniel said, “You’re just lucky I didn’t wear a tin foil helmet to school after that to protect myself from aliens.”

Yeah, not my best parenting move.

Which brings us to present day, with “The Hunger Games.” Nathaniel had read all the books in middle school, and insisted I read them as well. I finally sat down to read them a year ago and blew through the entire trilogy in a week’s time.

So of course I couldn’t wait to see the movies, and I was not disappointed.

But as I sat there in the dark theater and watched the story unfold, I caught myself thinking, “Yeah, this isn’t appropriate for our 10-year-old to see.”

Could it be that I’m finally growing up as a parent?

Fingers crossed, by the time our kids leave for college, I’ll have this parenting this down.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and attempts to parent well in Roseburg. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on twitter @EBurmeister.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March Madness, indeed

I don’t get men and sports.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’m the youngest of four girls, and spent most of my formative years ENJOYING sports, but not memorizing players’ stats, buying playing cards in search of that one coveted Nolan Ryan card, or sitting through an entire boxing match without asking, “Why are they hitting each other?”

Over the years various men would try to explain how boxing is a sport, and they’re not really “hitting” each other, but there’s an art to it yadayadayada. See? I don’t get it.

So last weekend, when Craig asked if I wanted to go with him to meet some guys to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes play the Syracuse Orange in the Big Dance, I said, “No, but you have fun.”

Sure I wanted to watch the game, seeing that we’re both Ohio natives, and by default, life-long Buckeyes fans (I’m pretty sure it’s in our DNA). But did I want to go sit for three hours and watch grown men become rabid over a slam dunk?

Notsomuch.

And yet Craig persisted, and being a dutiful and loving wife (quiet!) I agreed to tag along.

We met up with two of his friends and my plan was to sit by quietly, allowing Craig to watch his alma mater play. But I don’t do anything “quietly” for very long.

That’s because it started: The stats came out.

“Check me on this,” said Sports Fan #1, pointing to Craig, “…didn’t Wyoming win the NCAA championship in 1943?”

Craig, taking out his iPhone, furiously tapped in the information and pulled up the stats, declaring that Sports Fan #1 was indeed correct.

“And didn’t Oregon win the very first NCAA championship title in 1939?” asked Sports Fan #2, not to be outdone by Sports Fan #1.

Once again, Craig punched that factoid into his iPhone and discovered that, low and behold, Sports Fan #2 was right as well.

I was trying to sit by quietly and listen to their conversation, but the irony was killing me. We’re talking about men who can’t find their keys from one day to the next, and yet they remember who played in the NCAA championship in 1943? So I asked Sports Fan #2, “Quick, how much did your daughter weigh when she was born?”

He took a few seconds before he asked, “Which one? I have three. But I’m pretty sure they were all between 7 pounds 5 ounces, and 7 pounds 11 ounces.”

I had to admit, this guy was impressive if even baby stats made the cut.

I went back keeping my thoughts to myself. The conversation then turned to their picks for the Sweet 16. Sports Guy #2 began, “Well, when it comes to bracketology, I like to choose my teams based on …”

I couldn’t stand it: “Excuse me? Bracketology? I’m pretty sure that’s not even a word,” I said smugly.

Craig, immediately punching into his portable brain device (see: iPhone), said triumphantly, “Yes it is!” as he showed me the Wikipedia entry.

Show of hands, ladies … when is the last time you used the word “bracketology” in a sentence, in context?”

Exactly.

This is why I don’t get men and sports. They have their own language, not unlike Klingon, which we can all agree is very unsettling.

There is, however, a very definite upside to last weekend’s experience. I don’t think Craig will be asking me to tag along to these sporting events again anytime soon.

Score one for me.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and writes in Roseburg. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Charm school grad does an about face on inner, outer "beauty"

What comes to your mind when you hear the words Montgomery Ward? Charm, grace, poise, manners and respectability?

Yeah, me neither.

This is why I’m still scratching my head at the fact that my mother paid good, hard-earned money for me and my sister Kate to attend the Wendy Ward Charm School in 1979 at the Montgomery Ward in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

My childhood friend Carol reminded me that she, too, took the class with Kate and me. She recalled the pink book that became our guide to beauty. Here is one excerpt: “Being beautiful means many things … It’s not just something you do with your appearance. It’s you! The total you! The way you look and talk … the way you move …the way you treat others … the way you feel about people and things … and yes … even the way you think.”

Seriously?

There is so much to criticize it’s hard to know where to begin, but perhaps I’ll start with the use of exclamation marks, which are really just punctuation marks that are simply trying too hard. Not unlike the attendees of the Wendy Ward Charm School, I might add.

The classes themselves were equally awful, expounding on the little “truths” found in the pink book. We had lessons in makeup application, how to set a table properly and how to walk gracefully.

One exercise that sticks out in my memory is the one where we had to walk in front of the entire group, stopping on a mark and pivoting to walk back. We were then critiqued on our style, our pivot, and even the way we held our arms. Carol remembers, “They even taught us how to hold our hands so the veins wouldn’t show.”

Because you know how offensive veins can be.

I vividly remember my sister Kate and I practicing our pivots at home, displaying our graceful stylings on the living room carpet for our mom.

Now, in my 30+ years on this earth (wink), I have been known to turn on my heel and run, but never – ever – have I used that pivot move. But just knowing I have that in my arsenal makes me feel special! (Note exclamation point, which communicates my sarcasm!)

Another page in the pink book advises us to “Give up moods, tempers and tears.” Um, you’re telling this to pre-teen and teenage girls? And how is that working out for everyone?

The Wendy Ward Charm School culminated in a fashion show, complete with borrowed clothes from Montgomery Ward (jealous yet?) which we had the option to buy for 20% off! (Sarcastic exclamation strikes again!) Mine was a gray and white jacket that zipped up into a cowl neck. That jacket, along with some fancy parachute pants and my Farrah Fawcett tube curls down the side of my head completed the look. Yes, it is as charming as it sounds. Overall, I was underwhelming, and underwhelmed.

Maybe it was just me. Maybe I just had a bad experience at my particular Wendy Ward Charm School and others learned life skills which served them well in their adult lives. I Googled “Wendy Ward Charm School” and an article from the Chicago Tribune popped up. “See?” I thought. “Someone reputable graduated and ended up in an article in the Trib.”

Instead this is what I read. "I'm not stupid. I went to Wendy Ward Charm School at Ward's when I was 13, excuse me. I know how to walk, how to get in and out of a car without showing the world everything." The person quoted? Terry Ventura, wife of Gov. Jesse (the Body) Ventura.

And we’re back.

After 20 years of marriage to Craig, tonight was the first time he had ever heard that I attended a charm school. “How long did you attend?” He asked, incredulous, suggesting that maybe I was “half-baked,” so to speak.

I gave him a dirty look and pivoted before exiting the room.

Eileen Burmeister lives, writes and can pivot with the best of them in Roseburg, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

If it doesn't include red Solo cups and paper plates, it's not dinner at the Burmeisters

After 13 years in our existing house, we’re feeling the itch to move on to greener pastures, quite literally. That is, if by “greener pastures” you mean property that abuts someone else’s land, where THEY take care of the horses, cows and pigs. Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for.

We’re realizing that in order to continue to live the way we want to (i.e.: eating our cereal on the deck in our pajamas) we should really move somewhere with more privacy. That sound you hear? That’s our neighbors collectively cheering.

The day we moved into the neighborhood in 1999 our then 2-year-old son was newly potty trained. One of the less traditional methods I used to accomplish potty training was letting him go outside if he was outdoors at the time. Call me a horrible parent, but it got us out of Pull-Ups, and you can’t argue with that kind of cash savings.

So as Craig and I were busy unpacking our belongings into the house, our son was standing on the corner of our property waving to cars as they drove by. I was careful to make sure that he realized he wasn’t to go INTO the street, but stay safely in the grass. He nodded solemnly and went back to greeting our new neighbors.

However, on one of the many loads I noticed that he was standing waving to cars WHILE relieving himself in the rhododendron bush. Apparently I hadn’t verbalized that rule: No urinating in the front yard. Lesson learned.

I can only imagine what our neighbors were thinking as they drove by in that moment: “Well, there goes my property value now that the Beverly Hillbillies have arrived.” And with that, the Burmeisters moved into the ‘hood.

It’s bittersweet now to consider moving, especially since this is the only home our kids have known. But we’ve been feeling the draw to the country for some time and we’re ready.

First off, we have to sell the house. And that’s where things have gotten interesting. You see, we have to make sure the house is clean, the yard is pristine, and the rooms are all “show ready” on any given day.

For those of you who know my family, you know there’s nothing “show ready” about us. This has presented us with quite a dilemma: Do we continue to be true to ourselves and live the way we always have? Or do we pull ourselves together and fake it until it sells?

So, yeah, we’re faking it. And not very well.

Our realtor (bless her heart for she knows not what she’s gotten herself into) has encouraged us to see the house not as our own, but as a box of cereal on a grocery shelf that is being sold. So now, Craig will randomly yell out “cereal box” whenever we start to settle into our home at all. It’s his friendly reminder that we cannot be ourselves, for we are messy by default.

The realtor also suggested that we make up the dining room table “as if we were ready to sit down to a formal dinner.” My husband and I chuckled, looking at each other in a way that conveyed the same message: “That’ll be a first.” Later that day, Craig said, “If it doesn’t include red Solo cups and paper plates, it’s not dinner at the Burmeisters.” Sad, but true.

The good news? We did it. We purchased a table cloth, a centerpiece, a candle and even found matching flatware in our own drawers. I’m CAPABLE of keeping a house as fancy as a museum or a Pottery Barn showroom; it’s just that I’d rather take a nap instead. There’s really no competition.

Another recommendation was to eliminate any clutter. Bahahahahahaha. The only way the Burmeisters will eliminate clutter is to move to another home entirely.

So we’ll see what happens. We’ve come a long way in 13 years. Every room has been redecorated, a new roof was put on last summer, and (fingers crossed) we’ve all mastered using the indoor plumbing, so we just might pull this off.

Eileen Burmeister works and lives (for now) in Roseburg. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Meltdown on Aisle 3

Dear parent at Fred Meyer:

If you want to keep up the façade of being the perfect parent, DO NOT take your young child to Fred Meyer.

Trust me … I know that of which I speak. I’ve been the mom with the little girl arching her back, making it nearly impossible for me to pick her up off the floor where she’s throwing a first-class hissy fit. I’ve been the mom with the sobbing toddler in the check-out line who is lunging for the candy within his little grubby grasp.

Forget the fact that it’s impossible to go to Fred Meyer without seeing someone you know … I once had pneumonia, looked like the Bride of Frankenstein’s evil step-sister, and could only find clean pajama bottoms to wear out in public (sorry mom). But really, all I had to do was pick up one little, tiny prescription. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. Instead I saw three people, three people who didn’t observe my total lack of “holding-it-togetherness” and let me slip by. No, they wanted to chat and ask me how I was. I nearly screeched mid-sneeze, “Is that a rhetorical question?”

But even that personal shame can’t hold a candle to the parenting shame brought on by a terrible two year old who decides to go all primal in the cereal aisle.

About five years ago, my 4-year-old daughter Lily was already in trouble for lying earlier that morning, so she was not going to be getting her free cookie at Fred Meyer. Let’s just say she was less than happy about that fact.

I tried to explain my decision by offering an example from my own youth: “When I was little and I lied, it wouldn’t have made sense for Grandma to give me a treat, would it Lily?”

“No,” she admitted.

“Okay,” I said, “So get your shoes on and let’s get into the car.”

“Why?” she wanted to know. Mind you, this is about the 346th “why” of the morning and it was only 9:30.

Tempted to holler, “Because I said so!” I instead took a deep breath and said, “Put your shoes on and meet me in the car. If, when you get in the car with your shoes on, you’re still curious as to ‘why’ getting your shoes on was necessary, you can ask me then.”

Brilliant parenting, I thought smugly. I took a deep breath, put my seat belt on and headed to the store.

When we got to Fred Meyer she wanted to walk instead of sit in the cart. I’d personally rather have her corralled at all times, but I gave in begrudgingly. I headed to pick up some computer paper, but by the time I turned around she had paints, markers and Barbie stickers in her hands.

“What are you doing?” I asked patiently.

“I need these,” she whined.

“No, you have all of those things at home,” I said, prying her fingers from the Barbie stickers and putting them back. Crisis No. 1 averted.

Then we headed to pick up juice, but along the way she pilfered some Strawberry Shortcake fruit roll-ups.

“No,” I hissed, “Lily, you can’t take things as you go. Do you need to get in the cart?”

She just shook her head no.

Then we headed to the deli for turkey and ham. As I was ordering, she disappeared, only to be found on the rack under the cart giggling and singing, “You can’t see me.”

At this point, my blood pressure was rising, my deep breathing was turning into little quick breaths and my patience level was entirely depleted. So I steered toward the checkout.

Before I could unload my three items, Lily had gum and a candy bar in her little, dimpled hands. I grabbed them from her and bent down to return them. While I was bent down I took a deep breath and whispered, “No, Lily.”

She then bent down too, met my eye, and whispered, “Why are we whispering? Are we playing a game?”

I said, “Because if Mommy doesn’t whisper right now she’s going to start screaming.”

She held my gaze for a few seconds and seemed to understand. Then I looked up and saw everyone behind me in line listening to our conversation and smiling.

Today, dear friend, I’m the mom behind you smiling. Just so we’re clear, I’m not laughing at you. Oh, no. I just recognize myself in you. I “get” you. And I hope you have a nice long nap planned when you get home, because, honey, you deserve it.

Eileen Burmeister lives, writes and works in Roseburg. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter @EBurmeister.

Friday, February 3, 2012

It's hell getting old

Because I’m (ahem) getting up there in age, my physical ailments seem to be taking longer than they did in the good old days, and my right shoulder is no exception. A few months ago I wrote about some physical therapy I was doing due to some tendonitis and an impingement in my rotator cuff.

The good news? I finished my physical therapy, and right around Christmas I was released and sent home with a plan to continue therapy on my own.

The bad news? Apparently my rotator cuff’s idea of “continued therapy” did not include parking myself on the couch to watch “A Christmas Story” for the third time in front of a roaring fire. Who knew?

So I had two options: I could either (1) go back to physical therapy, or (2) sign up for a gym membership, continuing with the strengthening exercises I had so happily given up over the holidays. I opted for No. 2 and joined the same gym that my friend Julie belongs to because I like Julie.

Or I did like Julie, until she asked me join her for her Piyo class.

Here’s how it went down:

Text from me to Julie: “Hey! I just joined your gym!”

Julie’s text: “Cool. What days are you going?”

Me: “I’m headed there today.”

Julie: “Want to join me for Piyo at 12:15?”

Me: “Whodawa? Piyo? Please advise.”

Julie: “It’s a combination of Pilates and Yoga.”

Me: “What the heck? I’ll be there.”

Because, really, my philosophy has become, “That which does not kills me, makes for a great column.”

So I showed up, and placed my yoga mat right next to Julie. I figured, “If I go down, I can reach out and take her down with me.” We’re good friends like that.

The instructor bounced into the room ready for action, and I was out of breath just from unrolling the yoga mat. This discrepancy was unnerving, to say the least.

The next 30 minutes were a blur of leg kicks, downward dogs and windmill stretches. Although difficult, I completed the whole session without injuring myself or anyone else (see: Julie), which is growth for me.

Yes, my rotator cuff and I were feeling pretty good about ourselves.

A few days later I headed back to the gym to do some weight therapy on my shoulder and heard about a Pilates class that was starting in 10 minutes. Pilates is one half of Piyo, I reasoned, so it must only take half as much energy. Without the “yo” it’s only half a workout, right?

This, I could do.

Until it started. And it was hard. And it was 45 minutes, and I’m a big proponent of the 30-minute-limit to all workouts.

We did 10 reps of each exercise, which is a bit much if you ask me. At one point the instructor yelled, “You guys are doing great.” (At that exact moment, however, I was collapsed flat on the yoga mat from exhaustion after doing three out of the 10 reps of in-the-air scissor kicks. I’m pretty sure she and I have differing definitions of the word “great.”)

There are countless clichés about getting old, but for each one I hear I can punch holes in the wisdom:

• “You’re only as old as you feel.” Well, I feel like crap, so now what?
• “Old age isn’t bad if you consider the alternative.” Not if the alternative is ice cream.
• “Youth has no age.” Ah, but my rotator cuff does.

But then I hear my plainly-spoken mom, 80, wisely state: “It’s hell getting old,” and my only rebuttal is “Amen, sister.”

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and writes in Roseburg. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter @EBurmeister.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Missing factor in homeschool equation

For all the ranting and raving I do over the lack of correct spelling and grammar, there is a much darker reality at play: I stink at all the other disciplines traditional to the education process.

True story: While acing my honors English classes in high school, I was sweating through Geometry and barely eking out Cs and Ds. My sister, Kate, who went on to earn a master’s degree in polymer chemistry, didn’t understand me at all. “Why is this so hard?” she’d ask, looking at an equation that I had brought to her. I wanted to say, “Oh yeah, Miss Concrete Thinker, let’s see who can write a sonnet quicker, shall we?” But of course I kept that thought unspoken because, let’s face it, I needed her help.

And now, I am the butt of jokes with my own family. My teenager will ask if I need a calculator when I’m doubling a recipe. My husband will hear me talking to myself “Let’s see … $35 plus $25 is $50” and say, “Tell me you’re joking.” Sadly, I’m not.

But our nine-year-old angel, Lily, has always been my buddy, seeing as I was still smarter than her in this arena.

Until now, that is.

Last week, I was working a puzzle at the dinner table while she worked on her fourth grade math homework. “Mom?” she asked as I searched for a border piece, “is six times nine 54?”

Maybe it was the exertion of working the puzzle, or the exhaustion from the lovely dinner I had just prepared, or maybe the creative side of my brain was overpowering the … other side (what IS that side called again?) but I COULD NOT remember my multiplication tables to know what the correct answer was.

So it happened. Just as before with our firstborn, I swallowed my pride and whispered, “It’s time to go find your dad.”

Another chapter closed.

Fast-forward to tonight. We were in the car running errands with Lily, and she was asking what would happen if the economy got so bad that we had to close schools. Craig and I assured her that we aren’t anywhere near that yet, and then I added, “Besides, would it be so bad being home with me all day as your teacher?”

Silence.

It was dark out. Perhaps she had fallen asleep?

“Well….” She said, “at least I would learn English, since that’s the only thing Mom really knows.”

Excuse me? Yes, I used to be a high school English teacher and I have been writing for a living for 15 years now, but I know a thing or two about other stuff too.

Craig tossed me a bone by adding, “Well, she’s good at grammar and spelling too.”

Whodawa? That’s still English-related, mister. Tell her about all the other things I’m good at, I wanted to yell. Like … puzzles.

“Yeah,” Lily agreed, albeit reluctantly. “And I guess she could help me with math if she had a calculator right next to her.”

Seriously, go ahead and talk about me AS IF I’M NOT RIGHT HERE IN THE CAR, people!

I’m not taking it personally, however, because I know when honors English rolls around I will once again be the go-to parent.

But until then, I am grateful that my husband and Lily’s teacher are around, teaching my child what I am, allegedly, unable to do myself.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and struggles with basic math principles in Roseburg. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Banned words for 2012 - Do you agree?

I've always thought that banned-book lists were silly. You can't control what someone reads, right? And why would you? They're not hurting anyone by reading "Catcher in the Rye" for the 27th time.

But I may be changing my tune. I just caught wind of a list of banned words and phrases that are no longer to be uttered in the new year. Huzzah! (That's not one of the banned words, just my getting behind this effort.)

Lake Superior State University in Michigan announced the list just before New Year's Eve.

Now, as a native Ohioan, I have sworn to love my state and hate everything from Michigan. (I believe it's in the small print when you sign to get your license or something.) So you can imagine my surprise when I read an article from a university in Michigan and said, "Wow, they got that right!"

Each year the school proclaims its List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse. (They're in America, so I'm not sure which queen they're referring to—maybe Latifah?)

Apparently, the list is compiled by the school from nominations from around the globe. It started on New Year's Day 1976 as a publicity stunt by the school's public relations department. Since then they have received tens of thousands of nominations.

How did I not know about this? The thought of ranting to someone who actually cares is beyond exciting. (Not to mention how thrilled my husband and kids will be that I have an alternative outlet for said rants.)

So what's on the list? Here are a few of this year's banned terms:

1. "Occupy." My husband teased me that I should start an Occupy My Couch movement in which I take one exceedingly long nap to bring attention to something. (I'm still working out the details, but it's something really important).

2. "Amazing." Just take a look at a teen's Facebook wall or Twitter feed and you'll see why this word has to be banned immediately. No, your new boots from Christmas are not "amazing"; they're simply kind of cute. Be more accurate!

3. "Trickeration." A term popularized by sports analysts to describe a tricky play—most likely learned at the George W. Bush School of Sports Broadcasting.

4. "Man cave." When I've had occasion to actually see a man cave, I've been horribly underwhelmed. I believe "man cave" is a euphemism for "I don't have to pick up after myself in this area." Nothing good comes from this line of thinking.

5. "Ginormous." It's a blend of gigantic and enormous. Not to be overly dramatic, but I believe it's evil and must be destroyed. It's ridicusurd.

6. "The new normal." This phrase was created by those in denial, those who believed we were ever normal before.

7. "Thank you in advance." You haven't done it yet. You don't want to do it. But I'll pressure you into doing it by thanking you up front, and now I can wash my hands of this request. Nicely played, me.

8. "Win the future." No pressure there. Not only do you have to take one day at a time, you must win the entire future. What does that even mean? As an Oregonian, if I hear the University of Oregon Ducks' motto "win the day" one more time I might have to poke someone's eye out with something sharp. Consider yourselves warned.

What's the big fuss, you ask?

University Spokesman John Shibley put it this way in USA Today:

"A lot of people can take this wrong. We don't mean any malice when we publish it. If it makes you angry, it gets you thinking about language. If it gets you laughing, it gets you thinking about language. It's done its job—to get you to think about how you express yourself."

Now that's a movement I could occupy for some time.

Eileen Burmeister is a corporate writer and humor columnist who lives, works and writes in Southern Oregon. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com, or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.