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 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 or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

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