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 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 or you can follow her on Twitter @EBurmeister.

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