Saturday, December 21, 2013

Effects of Snowmageddon will melt into July

It’s not often that I’m made to sit still for days on end, save a bout of pneumonia or bed rest. The rest of the time I can be a little Type A. (Okay, a lot Type A.)

That’s why this recent snowstorm threw me for a loop, forcing me to stay home for a solid 60 hours.

Let me say up front that as my friends and family in Ohio read this, I know they are scoffing at how soft I’ve become. I posted a picture on Facebook of our street, a hill which had iced over, and wrote this caption: “This is the ice rink that is our road this morning.”

My friend Chuck in the Midwest commented: “Do you know what we call that here? Winter.”

So I know I’ve become a winter wimp over the last few decades. After 17 years in the mild Pacific Northwest, I don’t even own a snow shovel … or a sled …or snow pants ... or mittens. If the end of the world occurs via snowstorm, I’ll be the first to go down.

But my kids were raised in Oregon where snow is a uncommon, so they were ecstatic to have a snow day on Friday. Our youngest went outside to sled with the neighbor kids and didn’t show up again until dark, showing off her bruise she earned on a wicked ride down the hill across the street from our house. She was in heaven.

Our oldest son pretty much wore the same sweatpants for the entirety of Snowmageddon, which was heaven – for him at least.

My husband and I both worked on Friday, but then settled in for a good 60-hour hibernation period after that. I can’t tell you the last time our family has all been home with nothing to do but hunker down and spend time together, and I have to say, I kind of liked it.

I re-discovered how relaxing it is to sit at the table and do a puzzle for hours.

We napped whenever we felt like it.

We listened to hours of Christmas music while we made pots of homemade soup, cookies and hot cocoa.

We sat in front of the fire and watched more movies than I can count.

We cleaned the house from top to bottom (see Type A above. Well, I couldn’t just SIT there for 60 hours!)

In retrospect, the 60-hour forced house arrest was the most relaxing time we’ve spent in a long time.

Have you ever noticed how quiet it is after a snowfall? Almost like it’s tamped down all the noise and activity, leaving behind a tangible calm. I felt the same peace after those 60 hours.

As I drove home from work on Monday the snow was already melting and I must admit I was a little bit sad.

Sure enough, we’re back into the swing of a busy schedule: meetings, school concerts, shopping for Christmas. But one thing I’ve learned: Snow or no snow, we need to take more “snow days” any time of year.

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



Saturday, December 7, 2013

Taking a businesslike approach to CEO Claus and Co.


Last year, I asked our kids to write a letter to Santa, and this was what our then 16-year-old son wrote. It came too late to publish last year, so I saved it for this holiday season. I hope you enjoy it as much as his father and I did. -EB

Dear Mr. Claus,

Let me start off by saying I am a huge fan. I’m very familiar with your work; you pull off your duties somehow, year after year. I very much so appreciate the previous two years in terms of my gross present-able income via your workshop, and I’m pleased to inform you that I intend to do business with you yet again, as opposed to your competitor (Steve Jobs).

Before I place any orders, I do have a few questions about your form of evaluations. “Naughty” or “nice?” Are you sure that a mere two classifications prove effective enough to distinguishing individuals in today’s complex society? Have you ever considered adding a few more possibilities, like “generally obedient,” “average,” or “disturbed?” How does your grading system work? Is it on a point scale? Do you use a common numbering system, or perhaps letters? Have you ever considered that some extremely “naughty” fossil fuel CEOS might, indeed, be pleased to receive a stocking full of coal? I mean, sure, your reindeer fall under that “green” category, but your carbon footprint must be caked with coal dust by now.

But that is mere food for thought: I am but a simple high school student, and your product in the last 17 years of our joint operations has proved to be above and beyond the CALL OF DUTY. I, myself, have been exceedingly “nice” this year, and therefore it’s time for me to balance my moral checkbook and send in my order form.

I’ve organized my list in an orderly, easy-to-read format, and I’ve taken the liberty of listing the average market price. I hope you’ll be pleased to hear that instead of purchasing a new iPhone from your competitors, I’m instead inheriting my father’s old one. I know you and Steve Jobs never did get along, even towards the end of his life. (P.S. Did you do that? Never mind, it’s none of my business.)

Always a pleasure,

Nathaniel Burmeister

Christmas order form

Nintendo DS
Average price: $75-150 USD
To pass the time. Can be a used model, I have no preference, and you must already have a recycling program. If not, you might consider adding one.
iTunes card
Average price: $15-100 USD
I know, it’s an Apple product. Just think of it as a piece of plastic. Send an elf.

Fuzzy dice
Average price: $1-5 USD
Simply for the added SWAG factor in my car.

Assassin’s Creed III (Xbox 360)
Average price: $50 USD
Fantastic game, fantastic franchise. Keep in mind, this game takes place in colonial times, making it educational. I know it’s probably confusing for you in your advanced age, but you’ve done well so far.

Total (approx.)
$175-385 USD
+ 15% gratuity
$442.75 (high approx.)
$201.25 (low approx.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Leap of faith

It’s been a long time since I let peer pressure get the best of me, but last weekend, I took a leap off of a 30-foot platform because of peer pressure from a bunch of teenagers.

I went zip lining.

Let’s get this straight: I had no intention of going zip lining when I agreed to go along on the youth group retreat to Kellogg Springs Camp in Oakland. I was there to help coordinate gym games, make some s’mores, and keep wiry teenagers in line (I’m looking at you, freshmen boys).

So how did I find myself willingly climbing a 30-foot ladder to a small wooden platform?

Peer pressure. That, and the philosophy of YOLO.

What is YOLO, you ask? YOLO is a ridiculously catchy phrase that teenagers have been using for a while that stands for “you only live once.” They throw this term around as they jump into wildly unstable conditions (i.e. a zip line) and chalk their stupid decisions up to YOLO.

However, as one astute 12th-grade girl pointed out on the retreat, “You hear people say YOLO as they do something that might kill them, so it really should stand for ‘you ought to look out.’”

Excellent point. And yet I did not heed it.

Instead a stepped into a harness that fit snugly around my waist, attached a rope to that harness, and grabbed a hard hat to start my 30-foot climb up a ladder.

And why? Because my 17-year-old son said, “Mom, you should try it.”

Here’s how my thought process went: He’s 17. He’ll be away at college next year, making this his last fall retreat and my last year chaperoning a retreat that he attends. This got me teary just thinking about it, so all rational thinking flew out the window. Next thing I knew I was thinking about him one day telling his children, “Did you know grandma once went zip lining through the Oregon forests with my youth group?” YOLO, indeed!

And with that, I put on my hard hat and started climbing.

As I climbed up the ladder I forced myself to not think about anything. I also refused to look down, only looking at each rung as I climbed higher. As I reached the top of the ladder, the camp employee told me to step on the platform with him as he tethered me to the zip line. I still refused to look where I was going and when he said “go” … I just jumped … eyes closed, of course, and screaming like a banshee.

I’m hoping that last part isn’t part of the story my son tells my grandkids, but judging from the photo he took at that moment, I’m not sure I’ll ever escape that part of the plot line now.

About halfway through the ride, when I realized I had not smacked into a tree, or lost control of my bodily functions, or fallen to the ground, I finally opened my eyes and was flying through the trees. It was magical, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

As I walked back up to meet the kids at the top of the hill, they were already planning their next move: the giant swing. “What’s that?” I asked. Found out it is a swing where you start swinging from a perch 75 feet up, and the swing pulls you about 65 feet up in the air.

I reasoned that YOLO, not twice, and settled on taking a nap in the cabin instead.

Plus, I figured I’d save the giant swing for when our daughter is 17 and it’s her last year at camp. After all, YOLO!

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can reach her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

And you thought vampires flew home after Halloween

We have fleas. Well not us, personally, but our pets.

And Angus is a black Scottish terrier, so we had no idea he had fleas until the fine people at Bailey’s Grooming gave me the good (?) news at his last grooming. It went something like, “Your dog is so cute … aaaaaand he has fleas.”

This was not in the brochure, I might add.

I had visions of dog ownership a la Benji or Lassie or Old Yeller (okay, maybe not Old Yeller) and those dogs never had fleas. Had there been a “Little House on the Prairie” episode where Jack had fleas, I might have followed Ma’s lead as she vacuumed all the carpets and bug bombed the cabin. But instead we found ourselves at the mercy of the vet and Google to come up with a plan of attack.

First off, we needed to vacuum every square inch of carpet and put the vacuum bags in a sealed bag in the garage, or else the fleas will crawl back down the hose and grow into dinosaur-size flesh eating monsters. Or maybe it was that they would lay eggs. I can’t remember which, but it was nasty.

Then we had to clean all of the bedding for the dog and cat, but here’s the thing … our cat Sabrina chooses one of our beds as her own depending on the day, her mood and the temperature in the room. Yeah, she’s that kind of cat. Are there any other kinds?

So as I started the first of seven loads of laundry for the bedding, I sent the entire family and both pets out for a few hours as I sprayed the carpets, floors and upholstery throughout the entire house.

Once they were cleared for entry, I grabbed the cat to give her a flea bath. Do I even need to describe the debacle that is a bath for a cat? I didn’t think so. Let’s just say if an animal can swear using only her eyes, our cat unleashed a stream of profanity that would make a sailor cry.

One last recommendation from the vet: Give this pill to your cat. Ummm, have you met our cat?

“What are you doing?” I asked my husband as he sat on the kitchen stool, watching something on his I phone.

“I’m watching a video called ‘How to pill your cat,’” he said, not the least bit ironically.

This is what 21 years of marriage looks like, ladies and gentleman. I remember when we were dating … going out to dinner and seeing “When Harry Met Sally” at the theater. Now, we grab pizza and watch “How to pill your cat.”

My part in this process? To hold the cat while Craig “gently placed” the pill into her throat until she swallowed it.

Thankfully we had learned something from parenting two real human babies, which is why we tortilla-wrapped the cat in a blanket (claws inside the blanket – remember, I had bathed her the day before). Then Craig “gently placed” the pill in her mouth. Again with the cussing eyes (the cat, not my husband). But huzzah! The pill went down the hatch!

Another tip I learned from Google is to put on a pair of white socks and walk around your carpet the fleas will jump on like lazy hitchhikers and you can spot them instantly. Suffice it to say, I have walked a mile in our house over the last week, head down, eyes straining to spot the fleas, and I’m even starting to creep myself out.

Craig spotted me one night and asked, “Are you looking for fleas again?”

To which I replied, “Maybe.”

The battle continues, but the warriors are fierce. We will win this, just like Ma and Pa Ingalls won every battle on the prairie. I just wish I knew what brand of bug spray Ma used on the carpets. Does anyone know which episode that was?

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can reach her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Here’s the real reason every show wants a strong cast

Last weekend, I was headed to Umpqua Actors Community Theater to see “Little Women.” A few of my friends were involved in the production, so I sent them a quick “break a leg” note of encouragement on Facebook.

Then I stopped and thought about what a weird phrase that is. If I’m trying to encourage someone, why would I wish them harm?

There are phrases like this that I say and think I know what they mean. At least I know what they mean in today’s culture, but after a little research, I discovered that they started off meaning something quite different.

For example, in the instance of “break a leg,” it turns out that actors are traditionally superstitious and think that a “good luck” will have the opposite effect. So, by wishing someone bad luck (a broken leg), the hope is that something good will occur.

Speaking of legs, another strange idiom we use is “pulling my leg.” My son has a friend who was raised in a bilingual home, so there were times that messages were lost in translation on Erick, especially when he was young. In fact, one day I was giving him a ride home from pre-school and he was telling me some story about dinosaurs and pterodactyls, and I said, “Are you pulling my leg?”

Silence. He leaned forward from the back seat, craning his neck to see me in the front seat before declaring, “I’m nowhere near your leg!”
The kid had a point.

Turns out that phrase began in the 1800s in London. Criminals would trip someone (by pulling their leg) in order to disorient and confuse them, allowing them to be easily robbed. The idiom is used primarily in English-speaking countries, but in Spanish speaking countries they say “Are you pulling my hair?”

Another phrase that has baffled me over the years is “raining cats and dogs.” Obviously, there has been no record of rainfall where cats and dogs fell from the sky, so what gives? There are many theories on this phrase, but one is the most accepted explanation. In 16th Century Europe, many houses were built with thatched roofs. Animals reportedly sought shelter under the thatched roof in inclement weather to protect themselves from the elements. During heavy rain falls, cats and dogs would literally fall from the rooftops.

There’s one phrase I’ve used to describe my own children when I say they’re “cut from the same cloth” as their father. Of course I realize it means that they are very similar, strikingly so, whether in appearance or manner. But the real meaning goes beyond that. Back in the day when women sewed clothes for their family, it was often more economical to buy a lot of the same fabric, so their clothes were actually “cut from the same cloth.”

When I hear that someone has a “chip on his shoulder” I understand that to mean that he has something to prove. The original meaning was quite literal: In the 19th century, when someone was looking for a fight, he would walk around with a chip of wood on his shoulder, daring others to knock it off. If you were interested in fighting, you would simply walk up and knock the chip off the person’s shoulder and the fight would begin.

Suffice it to say, language is interesting … almost as interesting as the people who speak it. Whether we’re “pouring salt in the wound,” “tying the knot” or “buying the farm” I never tire of the way we use words to paint pictures of life.

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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Killer savings prompt ‘Veni, vidi, vilse’ at IKEA

If you’re anything like me, you love a bargain. And sometimes that means getting home, unpacking your bags to brag about how much money you saved, then asking yourself, “Now what was I thinking when I bought that?”

“Oh, yes, it was $64.99 marked down to $4.99! How exciting.” I answer myself.

Begs the question: Will I ever wear it? Chances are I won’t, but I did save myself 60 bucks right there, and to me, that’s better than having a wool jacket from Old Navy that will sit in my closet only to be brought out at opportune times to exclaim “Look what I got for $4.99!”

Periodically, some lucky family members are the recipients of my deals, impulsive decisions made based on the sheer savings. I happily wrap the presents while whistling a merry holiday tune, and I imagine my sister in Ohio opens the present Christmas morning and mumbles to herself, “Now why does Eileen think I need a combination mustache/ear hair trimmer?” Little does she know I saved her 75 percent from the asking price, for which she’ll thank me later, I’m sure.

And that’s what found me walking the aisles that are IKEA in Portland.

If you haven’t been to an IKEA before, it’s a little like entering Alice’s rabbit hole or C.S. Lewis’s Wardrobe. Put simply: Once you enter, it’s tough to return. And you leave something of yourself behind every time.

The maze-like layout is confusing, abruptly dropping you in a corner by yourself, not knowing when or how you got there. In situations like these, our family utilizes the ever-scientific Marco Polo technique: The lost person yells “Marco” while the person-who-was-smart-enough-to-not-wander-off replies “Polo.”

We started off together, one big happy family. But somewhere after looking at light fixtures together and examining the length of window treatments, I found myself looking at toilet scrubbers (two for 99 cents!) alone. Utterly and completely alone. I let out a weak “Marco?” but no one was around to answer “Polo.”

I know, I thought, I’ll use my cell phone to call Craig and see where he is. Now this is a technique I usually abhor, especially when I’m in Roseburg, at Ross, and someone calls their spouse/friend/child to shout “I’M IN THE SHOE SECTION. WHERE ARE YOU?” And I want to yell back, “Seriously? That’s worth making a cell phone call? You can’t walk around this store, which isn’t huge by the way, and see if you can locate this person?”

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and I was lost in a Swedish labyrinth of rock-bottom prices, surrounded by signs with unpronounceable Swedish words, and a sea of unfamiliar faces. So I pulled out my cell phone and dialed Craig. And immediately after pressing send the message came back: “Call failed.”

I was not getting reception in this wonderland of savings. I was vilse, vilse, vilse (that’s Swedish for “lost”) and I couldn’t find my way to the entrance if I tried, making me feel like a trapped Swedish prisoner-of-war (are there such things?) who would never again find her homeland, let alone her husband.

The only thing I was sure of was that the terry cloth bath towel I was gripping was a steal at $1.99, but everything else was a blur. I may have even signed up to become a Swedish citizen at one point, but I’m not certain.

So I did the only thing I knew that would eventually lead me to my family – I went to the in-store cafeteria. And there we met, and we reunited over a plate of Swedish meatballs, potatoes and ligonberries ($4.99 with drink!)

Crisis averted, we headed home, only $60 poorer. And IF I ever go back, WHEN I get lost again (this is a certainty) I will keep a few useful Swedish phrases in my pocket. First and foremost is “Var finns toalett?” There’s nothing worse than being lost in a maze and finding yourself in dire need of a toilet.

But one phrase that I hope I never have to use is “Jag har faktiskt blivit svensk medborgare.” This translates to “I've actually become a Swedish citizen.” I’m telling you, it’s times like this that make Craig shake his head and say, “I can’t take you anywhere.”

But as I wait, checking the mail to see if a letter from the Swedish Embassy arrives, I must find something to do with my four toilet brushes that were simply too cheap to pass up. Maybe I’ll hang them in the closet next to the coat from Old Navy, you know, the one I got for $4.99.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dog owners' annual review: Angus turns one

Our puppy turned one last week, and celebrated by ingesting the stuffing out of our daughter’s volleyball kneepad.

Had it been my birthday, I would have gone with a cheesecake, but that is just one of the differences between me and Angus.

This little Scottish terrier stole our hearts the moment we met him seven months ago, and he’s been digging his way into our hearts ever since (not unlike the way he’s digging his way through our newly planted flowerbed).

When it comes to Angus and his many misdeeds, I realize he’s an active illustration of grace. In fact, I can’t believe how much grace we give him, solely on the fact that he’s cute, cuddly and kisses us every time he sees us.

So we continue to forgive him when he shreds the mail, masticates the ear buds, and piddles on the carpet based solely on the fact that he sure is cute.
He does have a tendency to eat some things that make no sense whatsoever. I’ll be the first to admit that there are times I find myself eating something and have to stop and ask, “What am I thinking? This is disgusting!” (I’m talking to you Flaming Hot Cheetos.) But I hopefully learn from my mistake and avoid that food from there on in.

But Angus loves pencils. And cotton balls. And Post-It notepads. And he keeps going back for seconds.

In the last few months I have found the following items chewed into pieces and stuck in the carpet:
• An electric thermometer
• A piece from the board game SORRY (A cry for mercy, perhaps?)
• A newspaper section (It may have been the one with Putin on the cover)
• A sock monkey doll whose button eyeball was dangling from a string (which is a creepy sight to wake up to in the morning)
• A crayon
• A pack of spearmint gum (although our son pointed out that his breath was “minty fresh”)

We had a friend tell us that they once spent $5,000 to have an object removed from their dog’s intestine. Craig heard that and gave me the look. That look says, “I love this dog, but if we’re looking at dropping $5,000 to dislodge a SORRY game piece, he’s on his own.”

And before you start sending hate emails to me regarding my husband’s hard heart toward Angus, rest assured he’s joking. I think.

For me, I’ve learned to love Angus in spite of his penchant for eating items throughout the house. That is, until last week.

I was carrying groceries from the garage into the house and left the door open. Angus wandered out in the garage, which he typically doesn’t do. Next thing I knew, our daughter was out in the garage yelling, “No! No! He’s eating the cat poop out of the litter box!”

At that point I started chanting, “Just go to your happy place. Just go to your happy place.” As I walked out in the garage, scooped him up and brought him back in.

We sat and stared at one another, him and me. I tried to rationalize it, but was unable to make any sense of it. I mean, there are Flaming Hot Cheetos and then there’s THIS. In comparison, Flaming Hot Cheetos is clearly winning that competition. And Flaming Hot Cheetos are disgusting.

I stared at him a little longer. He gave me the head cock that says, “Aren’t I cute?” but I just shook my head no. He tucked his tale, sunk to the floor and slept, full belly and all.

Of course all was forgiven by the day’s end and we were one big happy family again. I even went out and bought some Nylabones which a friend recommended. He chewed on those happily and I thought our problems were solved.

Then, a few days later, I came in the room and discovered our new Ohio State Buckeyes baseball cap on the floor with the brim half eaten. Mind you, the cap was RIGHT NEXT TO THE NYLABONE, which was right next to Angus, who was giving me his best puppy eyes.

Did I mention he’s cute?

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer. You can reach her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ode to the ellipsis

I know it’s wrong to use it in such a way, and I know that’s 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.”

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I think it may be time to marry Ben Dover

It’s official. I’m off-kilter.

I’ve had a hunch for some time that things didn’t measure up, but I have never had absolute, medical, scientific proof until now.

It started a few years ago on a visit to see my sister Kate in Phoenix. The first morning of my visit she woke me up early and surprised me with a gift: a trip to her gym and a free session with her personal trainer.

Some people give flowers as a gift. Others give a gift card to Starbucks. Not my sister. Could it be I did something wrong in our childhood that I am paying for now?

Regardless, she shuffled me half-awake into her car, dropped the kids off in the play area at the gym, and grabbed a towel.
I was abruptly introduced to Mark-the-Trainer, a drill sergeant in running shoes who critiques, contorts and wreaks havoc on people’s bodies for a living.

Mark-the-Trainer started by asking me to lift free weights above my head, an act that has always struck me as somewhat dangerous, resulting in me never doing it (for safety reasons, of course). But here I was, being told to pull in my abdominal muscles and bend my knees. Then the worst part was when he came up and touched my stomach, UNANNOUNCED, to make sure I was holding my abs in. Now, I’m thinking if I need someone to touch and see if my abs are in, I’m already behind the eight ball in the abdominal department. I thought long and hard about kicking him, and I would have, had I the balance at that moment to actually lift my leg.

After the weights, Mark-the-Trainer asked me to stand still with my arms hanging down at my sides. He stood behind me and said “hmmmm” over and over, as if trying to work out a puzzle. Not exactly the reaction you want, am I right?

Once he broke the silence he said, “Here’s the problem, you’re crooked.” He showed me that my right hand hangs lower than my left hand, pointing out that I am just begging for a slipped disc any day now. Encouraging, eh? I’m beginning to feel like Cro-Magnon Monkey Girl, and I can almost feel my right knuckles scraping the gym mats as I walk.

Ever since that trip, I have noticed how much my right shoulder droops down in comparison to my left. It’s not like a landslide, but it’s obvious to me. And, not surprisingly, I’ve had continual back and shoulder issues as well.

I’ve had my share of visits to orthopedic doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists and physical therapists. And no matter how well seem things seem to be aligned, everything seems to slip back into Cro-Magnon Monkey Girl mode within a few weeks.

Finally, I had a doctor suggest an x-ray that measures both leg bones and compares the measurements against one another. His theory? That the right leg is not as long as the left leg, resulting in back, hip and shoulder pain, a medical condition now officially termed “Monkey Girl” in the medical books. (You can look it up, however, I don’t remember the actual title of the medical book.)

And the results came back yesterday. I have one leg shorter than the other.

The best part out of all of this? I can finally fully live up to my first name, Eileen.

Think about it. I’ve become a joke unto myself.

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Time to shave ties with big-hair bands

I have to admit, there are times that I do something simply so I can write a column about it. Trust me; it makes for an interesting existence.


Last year, I agreed to ride the Ferris wheel at the fairgrounds with my daughter – something I hadn’t done before because of my fear of carnivals/clowns/rides and everything else that can be found in Stephen King’s horror novel “It.” But I did it, and I loved it, and we built a memory together that we’ll share forever.

This year some co-workers invited me to the Whitesnake concert at the fair. I immediately said no, seeing that my proclivity toward ‘80s music is more towards Thompson Twins and The Bangles rather than hard rock. But then I thought about it and said, “Wait … As long as I can write about it I’ll go.”

My 11-year-old daughter asked, “What kind of band is Whitesnake?”

“It’s an ‘80s hair band,” I explained.

“What does that mean,” she asked, understandably.

“It means they all had big hair and played really loud music.” Then I Googled a picture of the band from the ‘80s and showed her.

“Oh,” was all she said. She was underwhelmed to say the least, a foreshadowing of things to come.

My group of friends parked at the courthouse and took the bus over to the fairgrounds. One fella sitting next to me was clearly excited about Whitesnake, as opposed to me, who was going as a lark. He also seemed to have attended every single concert the fair offered over the last decade, offering a running commentary on every show he had attended to anyone who would listen. “Eddie Money was great! He jammed some Hendrix, dude, like sickly.”

It took everything in me not to correct his grammar, but I miraculously kept my mouth shut.

Saturday at the fair was rainy, which totally dampened my attempt at big hair for the event, dude. Apparently the boys in Whitesnake had sprayed their hair within an inch of its life. Their big hair remained amazingly buoyant throughout the set.

The crowd, made up of mostly 40-somethings like myself, who listened to these bands in high school, had varying degrees of hair. And the guys wearing mullet wigs got points for creativity. (At least I hope they were wigs.)

When the band came out, I couldn’t see them very well because we were way back near the bleachers, but I could hear them. My ears were ringing for hours afterwards. I couldn’t make out a single word they were saying, and all of the songs sounded the same. In that instant I recalled my mother saying the same thing to me when I listened to this music in 1985.

I leaned over to a friend and said, “I’m too old for this. And I’m really okay with that.”

Finally at the end they played the one song I remembered from my youth and I stood with the others to dance and do some head banging.

As a result of that head banging, I’m writing this in between applications of heat and ice to my back and neck. That’s right, the following morning my back and neck muscles went into spasms, relegating me to the couch for the next 48 hours.

I’m sooooo glad I went.

That’s what I get for going to see a band I don’t care for in the first place. I call it “Whitesnake Karma,” which sounds like a Stephen King novel. I’ll bet there are clowns with big hair in it too. Shudder.

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

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mickey, hand over the two extra buns and no one gets hurt

Have you ever had one of those days where you clearly woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and anyone who gets in your way is in big trouble? Me too. But sometimes the person you want to give a piece of your mind to is not immediately accessible. That’s where a letter comes into play.

(Kids, if you aren’t clear on what a letter is, go find a parent or grandparent, and ask them to tell you the “Fable of the Handwritten Letter.”)

Sometimes I write letters in my head in lieu of screaming these thoughts at the top of my lungs to no one in particular. And some day, if I could just remember where I put our stamps, I just may mail them.

Here are just a few letters I’ve composed in my head:

Dear Unsubscribe Button Makers:

When I click on you it means I no longer want to receive emails from you. That being said, I’m not sure how sending me ANOTHER email to let me know that I’ve been unsubscribed would result in anything but hostility on my part toward you and your organization. Perhaps changing the button from “unsubscribe” to “obliterate from my inbox” would make it clearer?

Think about it.

Dear Disney Channel:

Consider testing every stupid product you advertise on your station before airing the commercials. You realize that my 10-year-old child is unsophisticated in the way of advertising and believes that she can simply “add water, salt and milk to a cup and shake it to make ice cream.” Oh, and if you need an ice cream maker to test before you re-air the commercial, you can have ours for free BECAUSE IT DOESN’T WORK.

P.S. As a result of the Disney Channel’s advertising hijinks, I’m starting to hate Mickey Mouse, something I never thought possible.

Dear Credit Card Machines Everywhere:

How about if you all sit down and make a universal credit card swiping machine so that all grocery stores/gas stations/retail stores have the same machine. That way we don’t have to re-learn the unique 15-step process at each and every store. My favorite: (1) Swipe your card, (2) enter your four-digit code, (3) Is this total correct? (4) Would you like a receipt? (5) Are you SURE that total is correct.

I’m not sure what steps six through 15 are because I’m too busy banging my head against the store counter at this point.

Dear Grocery Store Cash Register Makers:

When I come in for a gallon of milk, why do I leave with enough receipt to TP someone’s front yard? The milk is $2.50, and yet you’ve used enough paper and ink to discount that price to $2.25. And no, my rage is not subdued by the fact that I now have coupons for Sara Lee strudel, Gala paper towels, Chex Mix and Meow Mix. Seriously, people, I just want my gallon of milk.

Dear Hot Dog Bun Packagers:

Why? You know what I’m going to ask, because it’s been asked for years, and yet you continue to give us eight buns when hotdogs are sold in groups of 10. You are seriously messing with the balance of the outdoor barbecue universe, and you don’t even seem to care. You and your shenanigans leave two perfectly good hotdogs naked EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Honestly, I don’t know how you sleep at night.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives, writes and rants at no one in particular in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rain, rain go away, fall again some autumn day — except Nov. 29

Dear Mother Nature of Oregon:


I know we’ve had a love/hate relationship ever since I moved here 17 years ago, but you’ve really gone too far this time.

I thought we had an arrangement: I will put up with the nine-plus months of solid rainfall (not unlike the rain in which Noah built his ark, I might add) if you will deliver three solid months of sunshine in the summer.

We have sustained this relationship these 17 years without a hitch, but something happened this morning and I’m confused. I left the house at 7 a.m. to drive to work and realized I needed to put my headlights on. As I pulled out of the garage I noticed liquid falling from the sky.

Was our roof leaking? I hoped. Maybe one of our sprinkler heads burst and I’m in the direct line of a renegade funnel of water? Did I accidentally hit my windshield wiper fluid?

No, it was RAINING.

Ummmmmmm.

Was it something I said? Was it the 145th time I screamed to the skies “I can’t take this rain one more day?” Or the time I shook my fist and yelled, “I hate Oregon weather!” You know that was the lack of Vitamin D talking, right? And the fact that once again as perfectly good hair day was ruined by you and your shenanigans.

I’m not sure what the deal is, but it’s not the deal we settled on.

Yes, Mother Nature, I realize that rain is good for the crops. And I know that the rivers are low and the rain will help with the water flow. But do you even care that I wanted to sunbathe today? I’m starting to realize one of us is only thinking of herself in this relationship.

But wait – I think we can work something out.

Now that you’ve disrupted our agreement, I believe it can be settled amicably. My demand is simple: In lieu of today (which was a gross mistake, I’m sure you’ll admit) I am strongly suggesting that Friday, Nov. 29, be a day of sunshine, warm temperatures and nary a cloud in the sky. I’ve chosen this date strategically, as it is the day after Thanksgiving. It will be the first-ever Turkey Bowl where we can play flag football on solid ground for a change, rather than the rain-soaked mud we’re accustomed to in November. It will give all of us who ate a bit too much stuffing the day before a well-deserved break in the weather to go for a bike ride, run or walk.

And the best part: I don’t have to do any Black Friday shopping because I’ll be sunbathing in the 77 degree sunshine.

Did you get that? Seventy-seven degrees. Not 80, and not 75 – 77. You owe me.

And if you can grab me a Diet Pepsi on ice as I’m sunbathing, I think we can call it good.

Thanks. You’re a peach.

Love,

Eileen

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.





Saturday, July 6, 2013

Relaxation, Burmeister style

Ah, vacation. Relaxing strolls on the beach, sipping cool drinks by the pool and riding bikes seven miles in 90 degree heat with 99 percent humidity.


What? That’s not your idea of a relaxing vacation?

Well, if you choose a trip to Florida in June, that’s your reality. We went to visit family this summer in Florida and Ohio, and one week of that trip was spent in Florida along the Gulf Coast.

Our condo was air conditioned, but we wanted to get out and see the sites. With one day left of our stay, we decided to go ahead and brave the heat by taking a bike ride to lunch. We didn’t know where we were going, but we spontaneously headed north and figured we’d find a place.

We did. It was called the Lazy Flamingo and we loaded up on fish and chips since we would surely sweat out all those calories on the ride home.

Most families on vacation would opt for a leisurely pace for the ride home, especially given the heat - unless you’re a Burmeister male. Then every activity turns into a feat of strength in which one person wins and lords it over the other for the rest of the day.

Relaxing family bonding time, right?

It began innocently enough. Bellies full, we headed back toward the condo. Craig and Natty took off a little quicker than usual and Lily and I stayed back.

“Why is Dad riding so closely to Natty’s bike?” asked our 11-year-old daughter, Lily.

“Oh, he’s probably just being obnoxious,” I said.

“Yeah, that’s how we show love in this family,” she said.

Yep.

Next thing I knew Craig sped around Natty’s bike on the grass, and took off ahead of him. Natty, not to be outwitted, got up out of the bike seat and pedaled toward his father at top speed. Mind you, there are families, strollers and dogs on the sidewalk, all trying to have their own relaxing vacation, but that didn’t seem to matter to the Burmeister men.

Natty was clearly ahead and was going to win when he made a major tactical mistake: he turned the wrong way. Craig was gleeful (like a good father) and said, “He sealed it there,” as he rocketed the opposite way toward the condo.

As soon as Natty realized his mistake he turned around and headed back our way. Once Craig realized he was back in the race he picked up the pace so abruptly that his chain popped off. Jumping off of his bike quicker than I’ve seen him move in years, he dropped to his knees and started fixing the chain.

Natty rode by, smirked, and simply said, “Bike problems?”

Can’t you just feel the love?

As I rode past Craig, he was mumbling to himself, “I just HAD to push the envelope. I flew too close to the sun.”

I left Craig on his own and headed back to the condo just in time to see Natty sitting outside the door in the heat.

“Forget your key?” I said, enjoying myself. “Karma stinks, doesn’t it?”

Ten minutes later, Craig came around the corner, looked up at me, Natty and Lily sitting outside the door and said, “Hot enough up there?” And then he laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

When he finally opened the door, Natty was checking his phone for a text and the door shut before he came in, once again locking him out in the heat. He knocked gently and Craig stood on the inside and asked, “Yes? Can I help you?” through the closed door.

And THAT, my friends, is how we Burmeisters have a relaxing family vacation.

Natty 0, Craig 0. The competition rages on.

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.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Don't expect to understand mom until you are one

My last column included my wish that there was an early warning system for when your child is about to do something for the last time … last time he’ll willingly hold your hand when you pick him up from school, last time she’ll ever need a bottle, last time he’ll be small enough to carry to bed. Because without these early warnings, these events come and go before you realize what happened, and then they’re gone forever.


This week, I had the privilege of speaking at the Mother-Daughter Tea at Roseburg High School, an event that is held for graduating senior girls and their mothers. The organizers asked me to speak on the relationships between mothers and daughters. The idea of the early warning system was still fresh in my mind, and I got to thinking of the things I wished I knew at 18 that I know now.

Like the fact that my mom was not trying to ruin my life when she said “no” to certain things. In fact, she was trying to preserve my life. Of course I didn’t come to this realization until I had children of my own.

I wanted to give the graduating senior girls an early warning system of their own so I asked some friends to share what they wished they knew about their mothers when they were 18 that they understand now as moms themselves.

Here’s what they had to say:

• I wish I had seen how much my mother loved me despite her faults. I wish that I had known that there are few people in the world that will support you completely each and every time you need it without fail, no matter what. I didn't realize that then and I wish I had been more grateful.

• I didn’t realize how truly worried about me she was when I stayed out late with friends. While I was a good kid, I would have communicated better and more responsibly communicated knowing how much my own mommy heart worries about my own kids ... and they aren't even driving yet! To realize the vulnerability of a mommy heart before becoming a mommy, that is what I wish I known about her.

• I understand now why my mom so easily cried all through my teen years. Menopause is a very real thing.

• My mom just didn't know how to deal with a teenager whose personality was so different that her own. It was the trying that mattered.

• I didn’t realize then just how overwhelming trying to "do it all" can be.

• The basic issues of teenage years are the same for you and your mom: self-esteem, body image and figuring out your future career path. We all struggled with those as did our mothers.

• I think girls need to realize that they will eventually, in part or in while, become their mothers. They will misstate the titles of songs and movies. Apparently, Justin Timberlake's song is "Suit and Tie" not "Shirt and Tie". They will irritate their daughters when they text in full sentences or try to use “lol” or “brb.” And they will readily lay down their lives to ensure the happiness of their own daughters because being a mom of a daughter is one of the greatest gifts this world has to offer.

• I understand now that we all view life through a different lens. No view is necessarily right or wrong, just viewed through our own perspective and experiences. Allow a lot of grace when you don't always agree.

• When I was 18, I thought that my mom (then 46) was practically perfect. While the process of taking her down from the pedestal I'd built was unsettling, I can see her more fully, now.

• As an adult, I realize that every person loves from her own prison, be that large or small. As much as I adore my daughter, I love her from my prison, just as my mom loved/loves me from hers. I want to be thankful for the good, to honor what can be truly honored and to honor that well, and to allow myself to grieve and grow from the areas of shortcomings.

• Don't hold yourself back and always get your seat at the table. Don't let anybody tell you that you are not good enough.

• I wish I would have realized that the things in my life that seemed like a big deal when I was 18 were really so trivial and seem silly to me now.

Girls, I give you your early warning system. Now go and continue becoming the great, wise and beautiful women that you were created to be.

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.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Small moments add up to big changes in our children’s lives


It happened overnight, without warning. Our 11-year-old daughter’s feet grew one size bigger than mine. When she told me she needed new shoes we went to have her feet measured, and when the woman announced the size I immediately told her that she must be wrong. (Bless her heart … she has to put up with crazy moms like me every day, I’m sure.)

I was completely caught off guard. When did this happen? Just at Christmas she was wearing a size smaller than me, but in a few short months’ time she now surpasses me in shoe size.

It wasn’t the fact that her feet grew bigger than mine that got to me; it was the fact that I didn’t realize that the day before was the last day she’d be smaller than me in every way.

There are so many events in our lives as parents that are milestones, and their celebrations mark their passing: birthdays, graduations, driver’s test, a kid’s last summer home before college…

But there are equally important milestones that come and go without fanfare, which makes the passing a little harder for me to handle. I think it’s because they lack a sense of closure, a rite of passage.

For example, I still remember the evening not long ago when I realized that our sleepy seven-year-old daughter was too big for me to carry from our bed to her own bed. I wish someone would have caught me the time before that and whispered in my ear, “This is the last time you’ll ever carry her in your arms like a little girl again. Enjoy every minute of it.”

On Mother’s Day a few years ago we went on a hike up the Umpqua Trail. In each family picture that day, our son had his arm around the top of my shoulder, forcing me to admit that he was officially taller than me. And yet we don’t throw a party and bake a cake celebrating “The day Nathaniel reached 5’8”!”

I truly believe that the less our kids need their father and me as they get older the better job of parenting we’re doing. All I’m saying is that I wish there were an early warning system in place that would notify me, “This is the last diaper you’re ever going to change because she’ll be fully potty trained tomorrow” … “This is the last day with training wheels because he’s going to learn to ride without them after dinner” … “This is the last bottle you’ll ever prepare because she’s graduating to a sippy cup” … or “This is the last time you’ll read ‘Goodnight Moon’ (even if you’ve already read it 4,520 times) to this little person on your lap who calls you ‘mommy.’”

Time marches on and in between the hours great changes are occurring in our children. I simply want to learn to embrace those in-between moments more, because I don’t know if they’ll ever come around again.

I love what C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “The Four Loves” and I think it’s applicable to the love I feel toward my kids: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken."

So, as I move forward with birthdays, holidays, violin concerts, family vacations and high school graduations, I hope and pray that my heart stays soft, even when it feels like it might break at the loveliness of it all. Carpe Diem … seize the day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Please pass the pepper down to Cellblock 99

In an attempt to become even more organized than we already are – which is hilarious because I can NEVER even find the scissors - Craig decided to organize our file cabinet which holds all of our documents, taxes, letters, photos and operating instructions from the last 21 years of marriage. I agreed it was a good idea, as long as he was the one organizing while I read a book on the back porch. Drinking a cold soda. And napping in between.


Which is exactly what I was doing last weekend while he and 11-year-old Lily were upstairs sitting amidst a huge pile of papers, organizing.

I’d come in periodically to get a drink and overhear, “Is this a LOVE LETTER from you to mom? Ew, gross!”

Or “Did you really dress like that when you were a teenager?”

But one conversation took me completely by surprise. I had slipped in quietly and my presence in the kitchen below was unknown to either of them. Here’s what I overheard.

“When was mom arrested?” Lily asked.

“What?” asked Craig, in a voice that was, I’m sad to say, not startled in the least.

“Why does mom have a mug shot?”

“Oh, that’s from mom’s darker years during her time in jail.”

WHAAAAAAAAAT?

I instantly ran to the bottom of the stairs and screeched, “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?”

Craig, laughing, yelled down, “Lily found your ‘before’ picture from the orthodontist – you know, the one they take so they can take the ‘after’ picture when you get your braces off? Well, she thought it was a mug shot. She knows I’m joking.”

Does she? DOES SHE?

Because now I’m wondering how many other “stories” this man has told our children over the years when I’ve truly been out of earshot.

They already know the embarrassing parts from my own self-deprecating story telling:

• Mom was once a singer in a garage band in high school. (We actually practiced in a converted car port, but it’s not very cool to say, “Yeah, I’m a singer in a converted car port band,” is it? Not a lot of street cred there.)

• Mom had Pat Benetar hair in high school.

• Mom once asked her own mother if she could legally change her name from Eileen to Pepper after the main character on “Police Woman,” Angie Dickinson. Because Pepper is most definitely cooler than Eileen, right?

• Mom was once a member of the Tiger Beat Scott Baio fan club.

Besides, does Craig really want to go down the path of telling stories on one another? Because I have a mullet, VW van and a pierced ear that says he doesn’t.

The most disturbing thing is that this occurred while I was at home, albeit outside. What happens when I leave town for work for a few days? He could be telling them all kinds of tales.

What if I come home from a trip and Lily eyes me suspiciously before asking me if I’ve ever been friends with a band of pirates?

I think I’ll just answer, “Oh sure … when I was in prison.”

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, April 12, 2013

Forecast calls for mild droop in nether regions

The late Bette Davis once said, “Old age is no place for sissies.”


Amen, sister.

I have come to the realization that I am officially middle age. I frolicked through my 30’s, buoyed by the fact that I wasn’t yet “middle aged.” Then I turned 40 and started spouting such nonsense as “Forty is the new thirty.”

And then my body systematically began to fall apart, and I am now willing to admit that I am middle-aged.

I know this because of my kneecaps.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a middle-aged woman in possession of a failing body must be in want firmer kneecaps.

Or something like that.

I woke up one day last week, startled by the realization that my kneecaps had started sagging south. This epiphany hit me like a ton of FiberCon (which I highly recommend, by the way).

I foolishly thought that perhaps I was suffering from some gravity disease where my body was being pulled toward the ground in an unnatural way and all would be set aright when I woke up the next morning. Couldn’t it be that it was just a blip in time that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, like a Kardashian sister?

But the next morning, I awoke to the same kneecaps. I searched Google for inspiration and found this quote from Satchel Paige: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe as old as it takes start losing control of your kneecaps? Call me crazy, but I don’t know any 25 year olds who have runaway kneecaps.

And let’s be honest here folks, it’s not just my kneecaps. Oh that it were.

• I’ve noticed that routine checkups have turned into “procedures.” Many of these procedures require sedation and a responsible driver to get me home, so I’m not feeling all springy-in-my-step in that arena.

• I have no idea what color my hair is anymore. None. And to be honest, I don’t think I want to know.

• I’ve started telling stories about my childhood like my parents did. “This snow is nothing, kids. I used to walk a mile to school EACH WAY in the snow. We didn’t get rides to school from our parents. We just TOUGHED IT OUT.” (And yes, the ALL CAPS are because I’m typically yelling that part.)

• I’m strangely drawn to The Weather Channel, and find myself watching it for far longer than necessary.

• Nowadays, when my husband and I have an argument, we get tired halfway through and forget what we’re fighting about. And then we start laughing. Surely this is the early signs of something.

• Naps have become a religion unto themselves.

• I can’t see a darn thing. I wave at people at Costco because they wave at me, but I have no idea who they are. True story.

• I can’t see a darn thing.

• I start repeating myself.

But it’s not all bad. Growing old has afforded me the pleasure to simply not care what people think anymore, something my teenage self would have never understood. In fact, one of the quotes I came across by baseball player Chili Davis nailed it: "Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional."

Amen, Chili.

So I will press on, sagging knees and all.

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



Friday, March 15, 2013

Flying the not so friendly skies

Did you happen to read about the bomb scare at the Eugene Airport last week? No? That’s because the TSA agents were on top of their game at 5:30 a.m. and intercepted me before I could do some real damage.

Let me back up.

When I travel, I make sure that I wear the perfect outfit for skating through security. I usually wear sweat pants so I don’t slow down the process by being forced to take off a belt. Then I have a long-sleeved t-shirt on without a jacket (I’ve already thrown that in my carry-on bag which is being scanned at this point because I’m a ninja packer). I keep all jewelry in my suitcase so that my huge diamonds don’t set off any alarms (kidding … I meant to say sterling silver).

And to top off this outfit, I usually wear flip flops so I can slip in and out of my footwear before you can say, “Ma’am, can you please take off your shoes?” Have I mentioned I’m like a ninja when it comes to airport security?

But not last Tuesday. Last Tuesday was entirely different.

Let me back WAY up now to my birth.

I inherited a head with a ton of hair atop it. I’m not just talking a good amount of hair; I’m talking circus freak proportions of hair. Just ask my hairdresser, who is regularly thinning it out for me just so I look normal (okay, somewhat normal). Left to nature, my hair resembles Rosanna Rosanna Dana on a bad hair day. As a result, my flat iron is my most important hair tool.

But a 6 a.m. flight doesn’t exactly constitute a flat iron kind of morning, so instead I threw my crazy hair in a messy bun atop my head and was off.

I checked my luggage, got my ticket, and headed to security where I would glide through as usual. Just as I was sending my flip flops through the scanner, I heard, “Ma’am, can you please come over here? We need to pat down your hair.”

Whodawa?

So after standing with arms akimbo over my head while they electronically scanned my bladder, pancreas et al, I had to have my hair “patted down” by a gloved TSA agent who has no respect for hair self esteem.

Never before had this happened.

Just days before the country was freaking out over sequestration, which would surely result in cuts to schools, governments services and airport security. Well, let me assure you that the Eugene TSA members are no worse for the wear at this point. In fact, they seem to be upping their game.

Looking for a little sympathy after my harrowing experience, I texted my husband: “You know you have big hair when you get pulled aside by the TSA agent for a ‘hair pat down.’”

His response? “Did you have the hair bomb on you or is it still at home?”

Everyone’s a comedian.

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



Friday, March 1, 2013

Welcome to the family Angus the wonder pup


After our unsuccessful attempt at dog ownership with our last dog, our daughter Lily has been doggedly after us to get another. We’ve held her off for three years, setting impossible targets that we couldn’t imagine she’d ever meet in order to get the dog. One target we set was that she had to save up the money to buy the puppy.

At the time that we set this target she was seven and spent money just as fast as she could get it. There wasn’t a stuffed animal or lollipop that she could say no to. We were safe … until she caught on to use and actually started saving money. I’d go into her room to clean and find dollar bills stashed in her jewelry box, a wad of cash that grew and grew with each passing week. Finally at Christmas, after getting some grandparent money (thanks grandparents), she came out with about $200 dollars and said, “Now, can we please get a puppy?”

We spoke to our teenage son and he too admitted that he’d wanted a dog since the day we gave our last one away.

We were frankly not in the position to bargain any more. Plus, both kids aren’t getting any younger. My husband and I finally said, “Look, our kids are only going to be home for a few more years, so let’s buck up and get a dog.”

Enter Angus, the wonder pup. He’s a purebred Scottish terrier, black with a little brindle sprinkled in, and he’s stolen our hearts.

As a result, I have become one of those “dog people” that I have always made fun of, until now. A picture of Angus is my screensaver on my computer and my cell phone. I take pictures of him sleeping, eating and running and post them on Facebook as if the entire world is richer for knowing how my dog spent his day. In short, I’ve become that crazy pet lady.

But in spite of my own personal unraveling, there are a few things I have discovered about owning a puppy:

1. The joy that a puppy brings to a family is unmatched.

2. When the puppy is asleep next to me I can feel my heart beating slower, my blood pressure lowering, and my good cholesterol increasing. I have no scientific proof of this, but I have a pretty good hunch that it’s true.

3. There is nothing cuter than a puppy dreaming. Nothing.

4. When the puppy licks my face I am surprisingly not disgusted.

5. A puppy loves you unconditionally and is incredibly demonstrative in that love.

6. A puppy is the only member of my family who can pee on the carpet and get away with it.

I’m sure there will be those days when he will make me want to pull my hair out, but for now, we couldn’t be happier with our wonder pup.

And Lily, I’m so glad you pushed us to make our lives better by adding him to the family.

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





Thursday, February 14, 2013

In defense of a love that is found in surprising places


It’s the season of valentines, and to be honest, I kind of don’t care.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of love. It’s just that my understanding of love has evolved over the years to the point that Feb. 14 is just another day.

In my elementary school years, love was getting that special valentine from the boy who sat next to me in arithmetic. Those were the days when we created mailboxes to sit on our desktop, and we’d walk around the room and put our valentines in each box. My mood would rise or fall based on what that certain valentine did or did not say.

Teenage years weren’t much better as I eagerly anticipated receiving a mixed tape with all those great love songs of the ‘80s (they seemed great at the time). Plus I watched “When Harry Met Sally” and “Say Anything” which pretty much set me up for years of unrealistic expectations when it came to love.

College years were all about scorning traditions with snarky sarcasm, declaring Valentine’s Day as just another way for “the man” to keep us down through the marketing ploys of Hallmark.

Then I met Craig when I was 23 and once again love became pure, made up of walks in the woods, gazing at stars and sharing an ice cream cone. The simplest activity seemed to carry all sorts of meaning, further convincing me that I was indeed falling in love. And Valentine’s Day? It was the most significant of days.

Fast forward five years to Valentine’s Day 1996. Craig and I had been married for four years, and we had just given birth to our first child two months earlier. We were averaging about four hours of sleep a night (in two-hour chunks). During that season of life, taking a shower equated to “really tackling the day.” Put simply, my bar was pretty low when it came to Valentine’s Day.

So when Craig woke up in the middle of the night and said, “Let me give the baby a bottle and you sleep” it was better than receiving a four-carat diamond from Tiffany’s.

Valentine’s Day six years later found me mid-way through a six-week stint of bed rest during the tail end of my second pregnancy. I wasn’t allowed to do anything, and so Craig was doing laundry for the family while making dinner and helping our son with his Kindergarten reading. There were no cards, no flowers, no night out on the town, but the love was an active, living thing that day.

A few years ago, we found ourselves with a free night at home on Feb. 14, and Valentine’s Day became the whole family cuddled on the couch watching “Fantastic Mr. Fox” while sharing a bowl of popcorn. I believe Craig and I exchanged cards that year, but the real joy was in being together, all four of us.

It’s not that we’ve given up on romance. We still have our regular date night, we still take walks in the woods and I’m constantly eating his ice cream. It’s just that we’re discovering that there are many layers to love.

When we were married just a year, an older friend and mentor told me that real love is getting up in the middle of the night to get that person a drink of water when needed. She explained how that one simple act expressed selflessness, compassion, commitment, devotion and love.

At the time, I thought that seemed too simplistic.

But the longer we’ve been married, the more I see that my mentor was right. When you’re looking for love you’ll find it in the oddest places, but it’s there … in the middle-of-the-night feedings, the loads of laundry or the cup of water … and it’s in those moments that happen year-round when we truly have reason to celebrate.

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Manchester’s bangles deliver a painful sting

I know we Burmeisters are late to this technological party, but we now have Sirius XM satellite radio in our new car. This service offers dozens of stations catering to every niche interest in music, entertainment and news. Want to listen to news without commercials 24 hours a day? It’s there. Can’t get enough reggae music on traditional channels? There’s a station for that. Imagine: Reggae music … all day … all the time. I know, it sounds like torture to me too, but to each his own.

I wanted to pre-set our six buttons to my favorite stations, but had no idea where to start, so I enlisted our 17-year-old son Nathaniel’s help. What would have taken me 10 hours of reading the manual and still getting it wrong took him five minutes to pre-set all six stations. I tossed him a bone and let him choose his own station on the #3 button. He chose Alt Nation. I think “alt” is short for “alternative,” but I didn’t ask, just nodded like I was cool with that.

My favorite channel is ‘80s on 8. It plays all genres of ‘80s music (where Flock of Seagulls meets Rick Springfield meets Alan Parson’s Project). Let me just go on record and admit that I LOVE this musical train wreck of a station.

But the real test came when I was driving with Nathaniel in the car and our different musical generations were clashing. We were listening to Alt Nation and one of the songs was actually pretty good.

“Who is this?” I asked.

“Young the Giant,” he said.

“You mean ‘Young and the Giant?’” I asked.

“No,” he said patiently, “it’s Young the Giant.”

“So you’re sure it’s not ‘Young is a Giant?’ It can’t be Young the Giant because that structure is awkward, and it doesn’t make sense. Is the giant’s name 'Young?' I’m so confused."

Then I switched the station because I’m the mom and, well, who was making the payments on this car anyway?

When we hit ‘80s on 8 a song from the Bangles was on. “Oh, I love this song!” I squealed. “’Walk Like an Egyptian’ is a great song. Now this is how you write music, son.”

We sat quietly and listened to the lyrics … the terrible, ridiculous lyrics.

“Great lyrics, mom,” Nathaniel said, and I could hear him smirk in the dark of the passenger seat.

How could I defend this drivel?

All the school kids so sick of books
They like the punk and the metal band
When the buzzer rings (Oh-Way-Oh)
They're walking like an Egyptian

How did I not really listen to these lyrics in 1985? It was embarrassing how bad this was. I was so relieved when that song ended and The Police came on. I mean, how can you go wrong with Sting?

“Here we go,” I said triumphantly. “That last one was a mistake, but we’re talking Sting here.”

Once again, however, we were on lyrical ride to disaster.

Every breath you take
And every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take
I'll be watching you

Soooo, Sting was a stalker. This was not going well.

Thankfully, Nathaniel was gracious enough to bite his tongue, but he did take the liberty of changing the channel back to Alt Nation, and I didn’t argue.

A few days later, my husband came home from running errands with our daughter and asked, “Have you ever listened to the lyrics Melissa Manchester’s ‘Don’t Cry out Loud’ on Sirius XM?” And then he stated them aloud:

Don't cry out loud
Just keep it inside
Learn how to hide your feelings
Fly high and proud
And if you should fall
Remember you almost had it all

Really, it’s a wonder that any of us reached the ‘90s intact.

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



Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mother cited for failure to yield control in vehicle


Our teenage son has been driving for a year now. He drives to school, drives to practices, and runs errands for us. Although he is a very skilled and safe driver, he has not had much highway experience.

That’s why today was a test for me as we traveled to Portland and back with him in the driver’s seat.

I always thought I’d be that hip parent, the one who is as cool as a cucumber, the mom who doesn’t get worked up over every little thing that could possibly go wrong. Put simply, I was NOT going to be my mom, who was decidedly un-cool in that area.

And then I had a child.

The moment I brought him home, I abruptly stopped sleeping through the night, waking up every time he so much as rolled over in his crib. I made everyone within a foot of him wash their hands before handling him. In the summertime, I still had him sleeping in long-sleeved footie pajamas in case of a chill.

Yeah, I was totally cool.

As he aged, I got a little bit better. I even threw caution to the wind once in a while and let him play with other kids who had not washed their hands. See? I was really letting go.

And then he had the audacity to grow up and get a license. Did he not realize this might entirely push me clean over the edge?

So I realized that something drastic had to be done before we drove for hours on end up and down I-5. Based on past experience, I came up with three basic rules:

• I will not utilize the “mom brake.” You know what I’m talking about – the arm slammed across your chest in the passenger seat as your mom slams on the brakes. Although I swore I would never do this, I truly believe this is instinctual in every mother. It’s like putting on mascara with your mouth open – it just happens whether we want it to or not.

• I will not slam my foot on the floorboard as a message to brake – now! This maneuver was used by my own mother and usually resulted in an eye roll from me. I can’t see Nathaniel’s eyes when I do slam my foot on the floorboard, but my guess is that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

• I will not be a backseat driver. My mother was notorious for this. “Eileen, if I were you I’d put my blinker on now … now … NOW!” I promised myself I would never do that to my own child, so imagine the horror when I caught myself saying, “Nathaniel, you might want to move into the other lane since that car up ahead of you can’t be trusted.”

Oh, honestly! I simply can’t un-momify myself.

I’d love to say that I succeeded and being the cool, hip, ever-patient parent on the drive to Portland, but then I’d be lying. Besides, that car ahead of us really couldn’t be trusted.

And Mom, you know what? I have a confession to make. I’m as un-cool as you were. Okay, maybe even more.

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.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Some words and phrases need to be kicked over the fiscal cliff for good

I don’t know about you, but in 2013, I hope I never have to hear the words “YOLO,” “trending,” or “fiscal cliff” again. Apparently, I’m not alone. In fact, Lake Superior State University has just published its 2013 List of Banished Words and all three of these words make an appearance.


Yes, I’ll admit that it’s a bit nerdy of me to look forward to a list of banned words each New Year instead of ringing in the New Year in more traditional ways. But how much fun is a New Year’s Eve party when you can rail against the overuse of the term “spoiler alert?”

Thank goodness that the folks at Lake Superior State University have their finger on the pulse of all that is obnoxious in our spoken language. Here’s how they do it: They accept nominations for words (or phrases) that simply need to go away before someone starts screaming each time she hears it. Sorry, was that too autobiographical?

The university has included nearly 900 words or phrases over the 38 years it’s been publishing the list. To that, I say “huzzah!” Keep up the good work, my word nerd friends.

So what are this year’s additions, you ask? Let me hit the highlights for you:

I’m not going to assume that everyone knows what YOLO means, especially since I didn’t know what it meant until I asked my 16-year-old son. My favorite version, however, is a popular meme making the rounds. It’s a picture of Yoda from Star Wars with the letters OOYL under him. The following line reads: “Only once you live.” Word.

Fiscal cliff has become the new “at the end of the day,” a phrase that has been so overused it has become meaningless. Let’s break it down, shall we? “Fiscal” means money; “cliff” means death (we’ve seen Roadrunner). We get the picture. Now make a decision already!

Kick the can down the road. I just heard this phrase this very morning as people at work were talking about … wait for it … the fiscal cliff! Gaaaa! Until now, “Kick the Can” was a game we played as kids until the streetlights came on, signaling it was time to head inside. Apparently, it now means that Congress refuses to play well with one another at all. Sigh.

Double down is a blackjack term that is now being used to mean “repeat” or “reiterate.” Begs the question, “Why not just use ‘repeat’ or ‘reiterate?’” Answer: Because blackjack seems cooler.

Spoiler alert is a way for pop culture aficionados to prove that they have useless information that you don’t yet have. Like who was voted off of “Survivor” last night. As if I care.

Bucket list has been around for many years, but is finally getting the ol’ Michigan heave-ho from Lake Superior State University. Well played, Michigan (and I don’t say that often, being an Ohio native and all).

Guru has taken over as the replacement for expert. No longer are you an expert in automotive repair, you are a “car guru.” I’m sorry, but unless a mechanic is teaching transcendental meditation while replacing my radiator, he isn’t a guru. Not to mention how hard it would be to find your “center” in the middle of a radiator.

Superfood is just ridiculous. As Jason Hansen of Frederic, Mich., wrote on the Lake Superior State University website: “It’s food. It’s either healthful or it’s not. There is no ‘super’ involved.”

There were three other words added, but I’ve not eaten enough superfoods to kick that particular can down the road. Rest assured, however, you won’t be finding any of these words or phrases in my columns in 2013.

I remain, your humble grammar guru. (See what I did there?)

Eileen Burmeister lives, writes, and obnoxiously corrects other people’s grammar in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister (where she will never be TRENDING).