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?


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?”


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 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.”


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 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 or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

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