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 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 or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

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