Sometimes, as you drift off to sleep, you get an idea. In the still of the night, with your brain in that place where reality begins to commingle with dreamland, thoughts flow through your mind and, occasionally, inspiration strikes.
Usually, in the light of day, those ideas are revealed for what they are- nonsensical workings of a tired brain.
There are times, though, when those thoughts stick with you long after the rooster crows (or in my case, long after the crows begin cackling outside my bedroom window.)
The new title and look of my blog is the result of one of those near-slumber moments: Welcome to Burnt Ends.
Last Friday night I was the kind of tired that, even as a busy wife and mom of 4, I rarely experience.
Zoe had a three day tournament in a city 38 miles to the south of our home. On a light, no-traffic day the drive can be made in around 45 minutes. However, her first game required her to be on the pitch at 9:30am, which meant driving through morning rush hour.
It took over an hour to get to the field, and as we made the last turn I told her to put on her cleats.
It was at this moment she discovered that she had left her cleats at home. Because, of COURSE she did.
I dropped her off at the field and the very nice man directing the parking lot traffic gave me directions to a store nearby that carried soccer shoes. Parker and I made it back with her new shoes just 10 minutes before her first game.
We are currently experiencing unusually warm weather for our area, and by game time (just after 10am) the temperature had already reached 80 degrees.
There was a significant gap between her first and second game, but not one that justified going home and coming back. We set up camp in the corner of the field. There was talk of going across the road to the river, but all those years of hearing about the Green River serial killer killed any desire I have to put my toe in the water there. (While I’m sure the likelihood of a body part floating into my leg is extremely slim, I just don’t think I want to take that chance. )
With still 3-plus hours until her next game, and the sun beating down on us, my mother-in-law and I decided to take the kids into town for the street fair. Zoe chose to stay behind with her team, so we took Parker and two of his cousins.
Thankfully there was a fountain in the center of the festival area, so the kids were able to cool off and burn off some of the energy that had built up sitting around at the soccer field.
We walked around the fair and their clothes were dry in mere minutes. It was a scorcher.
Ice cold lemonade, elephant ears, fresh roasted and glazed cinnamon nuts, cotton candy- we had it all.
We made our way back to the fountain where the kids soaked themselves again and then walked back to the car.
By the time we got back to the soccer tournament, it was only 20 minutes or so to the next game. I hauled our sport tent over to the sideline, opened up a chair and sat down.
I noticed that my eyes began to water, and I feared that in the heat, sweat from my forehead was dripping sunscreen into my eyes. I attempted to wipe them, but the stinging was getting worse. Soon tears were streaming down my face, and it wasn’t from the 7-0 walloping we were taking in the game.
And then it occurred to me- my eyeballs were sunburned.
The sunglasses I was wearing, while quite pretty, do not have UV protection.
Me with my mother at a concert the night before the tournament, wearing the lovely, yet virtually ineffective sunglasses.
Her second game ended just in time for the evening commute. I was virtually blind, and, as often happens when your eyes are injured, they kept trying to shut involuntarily.
I attempted to take Zoe and Parker to 7-11 for free Slurpee day, but the closest store’s Slurpee machines were “broken.” (They made a miraculous recovery on 7/12)
I drove further down the street and located a Burger King, because I knew they had Icees which are basically Slurpees. As my kids sucked down their drinks, I sat with my eyes closed praying that the burning would stop and I’d survive the drive home.
We loaded into the car and I closed both sunroofs to make it as dark as possible. I moved my sun visor to my side window, but because it was evening and I was headed north, the sun managed to shine directly beneath the visor into my left eye.
I am not proud of the fact that I drove for nearly 90 minutes in traffic with the partial use of one eye. I white knuckled it the whole way, praying that no one would change lanes or make sudden movements that required fast reflexes from me. Zoe said a prayer for safety, but both kids were so exhausted they passed out on the drive home and I was left to silence other than the radio.
I stumbled into the front door of my house 11 hours after having left, in near zombie mode; my sclera the color of the geraniums dying from dehydration on the porch.
I sat down on the couch and my husband asked if I wanted a hot dog. I think I mumbled something incoherently in return. He made a snarky comment and my response was to utter some profanity at his back and then climb the steps to my bedroom. I flopped onto the bed, semi-consciously devising angry retorts to any further provocation, should it come.
I woke up about an hour later to find him sitting on the end of the bed staring at me.
“You’re lucky I feel better. The things I was thinking about you before I fell asleep weren’t nice.”
He wisely left that statement alone.
As I started dozing off again later that night, my stream of consciousness began with thinking about how tired I was, and how burnt my eyeballs were. For some reason burnt eyeballs, combined with the episode I had just watched of “Diners Drive-ins and Dives” and a near-comatose state kept producing the same phrase in my mind over and over: Burnt Ends. Burnt Ends. Burnt Ends.
I thought about how I felt like I was burning the candle at both ends. I tried to imagine how that phrase ever came to be. And then I thought about the burnt ends you can buy at Famous Dave’s because I had fallen asleep without eating dinner and was super hungry.
Burnt ends. Those charred, overcooked chunks of goodness that most with a discerning palate would probably throw away. My guess is that burnt ends became a menu item the same way popcorn chicken did at KFC- someone was sitting around trying to figure out what to do with the leftover tidbits.
In my dreamy haze it occurred to me that burnt ends are a pretty good metaphor for my life. Sometimes burnt ends aren’t just a metaphor for my life, but the stark reality of my cooking. In the case of this past weekend, they are the metaphoric reality of my poor choices in eyewear.
And while I am typically a creature of habit, resistant to change and reinvention, Burnt Ends feels like the most natural next step for this blog; A newsletter- style recap of a week in the life of a wife and mother burning the candle at both ends, burning her dinners and burning her eyeballs while sitting for hours on the sidelines of her kids’ sporting events.
I like to think of it as the mom-blogger version of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Lake Woebegone Days.”
It’s still being formulated in my mind, but starting tomorrow I will publish my first weekly edition of “Burnt Ends.” I hope you like the new format and thanks for being patient with my somnolence-inspired experiment.