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 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 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 or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister (where she will never be TRENDING).

Mama Bear

Over the years, my kids have teased me when I’ve thrown my arm across their chest anytime I brake hard in the car. You know what I’m talking...