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The Other Mark Burnette
The Other, Very Silly, Mark Burnette
That Poor Man
"That poor man." That's how I remember my soft-spoken, southern mother-in-law describing a gentleman who lived down the road a piece. "After his first wife died and he remarried, his new wife would yell and yell at him until he finally up an' died one day. People brought by some food to her, but she's not a nice lady. No, not at all nice. That poor man," her southern drawl carried her thought into the dusty room of her dingy little house as she peered out the window over a neglected bush and down the street at the dead man's house.
At the time, I found myself looking over at my husband who might also be considered part of that dead man's category. Not dead, just as, "that poor man." It's become our family tradition to repeat his mother's phrase, always invoking her calm, North Carolina drawl, whenever I start bitching at my southern man about, well, whatever and everything.
My husband is Mark Burnette. But, he's the other Mark Burnette. Not the one who produces shows like "Survivor" or "The Apprentice." No, he's not that Mark Burnett. He does happen to work in television; has for more than 30 years. People send us Survivor audition tapes periodically, but no, even though he has won two EMMYs for his directing -- two EMMYs which stand in our home collecting dust and going unnoticed by most visitors who walk by and think nothing of them -- he is not the Mark Burnett known by Survivor fans worldwide.
My husband is a good man. A nice, southern man who maintains a cool composure in most situations. It's actually shocking when he doesn't get upset when everything around him is collapsing. (My crazy Jewish family is teaching him how to better express himself through "healthy yelling." That's what my mother calls it.) He's nice to most everyone he meets, has an odd yet funny sense of humor, my parents adore him more than they like me, he's a great father, a caring husband, but no... he's not that Mark Burnett with all that man's millions of dollars and various TV deals.
He hates it when I point out that he's not the wealthy Mr. Burnett. He won't even sit still to watch the credits roll following "Survivor" because he doesn't want to get "the look" when we see Mark Burnett's name fill up our massive TV screen. I know I can't be the only wife who can give her husband the look that says, "What the hell happened to the guy I thought I was marrying and all his possibilities for success?" Oh, whatever... I thought I was getting a guy who made a fabulous income and he thought he was getting a Marin County California girl and a Jewish princess heiress. Still, he knows it's all in fun with just enough envy expressed in my voice and eyes to remind him what a bitch he married. At our wedding, his best man offered him the keys to his car (yeah, thanks, Art), but he wasn't quick enough to take up the offer and escape all the drama that is my family.
I'm not a royal bitch like some of the girls I went to school with in middle school. The beautiful, outgoing girls who really did come from old money. The girls whose moms wouldn't dare purchase their children's clothes in a Sears or J.C. Penney's, rather opted for branded stores like Guess or Ann Taylor. They would shop at Nordstroms, or perhaps Macy's. These were the girls who spent winter break skiing and summer in the islands (this island, that island, what's the difference? My parents didn't have the money to take us to most islands other than Angel or Alcatraz Islands in the San Francisco Bay Area). The girls who treated most outsiders and shy, scrawny kids such as myself like shit any opportunity they got.
Regardless of my tortured beginnings, I can be a generous, caring person. No, really, I can. And I can even be nice to my husband now and again when I'm not exhausted from raising our two children. Don't get me wrong. We have quite a caring, loving relationship. As long as I get what I want, of course. Man, I'm really sounding like a wicked "Wife Swap" horror, but I know (and more importantly, Mark knows) aside from usual marriage issues (lack of money and disagreements over the kids), we have a strong relationship; one that is being thoroughly tested this year. (Surgery, surgery, surgery... ovaries, tubes and tits, oh, my! I'll get around to that in another story.)
Mr. Burnette sledding in Yosemite
Actually, one of my favorite parts of our marriage is that Mark has kept me laughing for nearly two decades. We can laugh so hard we'll be crying. Okay, I cry and he laughs harder. We have fun together. And when we get some private moments, we actually flirt with each other and remember some of our sexier times prior to having children.
Private moments. That doesn't happen much these days. Even when we're home together after the kids are off to school and before he leaves to direct the news, our lives are nearly separate and very active. It took some long discussions and much convincing for him to understand why I need a mommy-daddy-only vacation once in a while.
Because of his work, he doesn't see our children much during the week. No more than a few minutes in the morning before they go off to school. That means, when it comes time to planning vacations, he wants to get away as a family. Hmm. Maybe some camping.
I do enjoy camping and I love spending time with our kids (most of the time, maybe a little less some times... yes, I consider myself a shitty mother.). Still, I need a break from my life now and again.
I have become one of those hated stay-at-home moms. I used to work full time. Then, after our son was born, that turned to part time. Next, I thought I could be a better mom if I worked at home. I started an internet business that helped raise funds for severe burn survivor charities worldwide. I began building websites for other people, too. And I tried to keep up with my writing after having been a newspaper reporter for many years.
Sooner rather than later, I became so involved with my kids' activities and in their schools, I fell behind in the website design world and gave that up. I held onto my web business for more than 10 years (it was written about in a book, Mompreneurs Online: Using the Internet to Build Work@Home Success, by Patricia Cobe and Ellen Parlapiano), but eventually, I wasn't able to spend the necessary time developing it. After all, I had become a professional chauffeur and personal assistant to my children... music lessons (little Sophie plays the piano while Jesse plays guitar, trumpet and recently gave up the piano to spend more time preparing for his upcoming bar mitzvah), Hebrew school, swim team, bowling, tennis, acting class, skating, play dates and I'm sure I'm missing something. I knew there was a reason I got my master's from Stanford University!
According to my mother, that degree makes me qualified for any and every executive position. And I must admit, when I'm sitting at the bowling alley having another argument with my stubborn as hell 8-year-old about how to throw a bowling ball so she doesn't crack someone's head open or break off her own little arm because of the strange way she chucks the ball, I find myself frustrated and at a loss for any other words other than, "Whatever!" before turning my look away from her, sitting down on my uncomfortable chair and thinking, I can't believe I have a fucking Master's from Stanford and I'm having an argument with an 8-year-old about the finer points of bowling. What happened to my life?
I should be finding some better way of communicating with my daughter, I know, but sometimes she can be a real bitch. She's going to be a nightmare when she reaches her teens. Perhaps I should do what one of the other moms does and purchase a pint of beer as soon as the kids begin playing. She nurses the beer for the first 20 minutes or so as she watches the kids play. By the end of two games of bowling, I guess she's sober enough to drive her carpool.
I know I wouldn't be able to drive... I'm a light weight when it comes to alcohol. I'm Jewish... I eat, I don't drink. Recently, after having a few sips of wine while searching for the perfect bar mitzvah reception wines, by the time we left the Quivira Vineyards tasting room and I saw some chickens walking around, I was playfully clucking like a chicken during the drive to the next of three more wineries we had time to stop at. I was doing it to make the kids laugh. No, I was tipsy after drinking maybe a total of a small glass of wine. You can imagine how I was by the end... I needed food, but not before purchasing several bottles of wine that day.
From Quivira, I highly recommend their 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Fig Tree Vineyard. It tastes like summer. We also got their 2006 Syrah, Wine Creek Ranch. Yummy. Still, for a winter bar mitzvah, I think we'll be using the Dry Creek Vineyard's 2007 Fume Blanc. Buttery. Feels like you're wrapped in a blanket in front of a blazing fire staying toasty and warm on a cold winter night. If we had the funds, for our red, we would surely have A. Rafanelli Winery's 2006 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. This little boutique winery is one of our favorites. A bit pricey for a bar mitzvah on a budget, but worth at least three bottles during our visit. If you're ever in Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg, I highly recommend visiting this winery. Call ahead to make an appointment so you don't miss out on their wonderful wines.
Morning blogging with wine and cupcakes
We also bought an Alderbrook 2005 Wagon Wheel Zinfandel at the Terlato Family Vineyards. It was the end of the day for my drinking and the last stop before closing time, so according to my notes, I wrote down "earthy" and gave it extra stars. That's all I can tell you about that wine until we open the bottle. Their Zin Port is also quite good... taste it with chocolate covered blueberries. Yum!
Sorry, I got distracted by the shiny bottles...
Sophie's response to anything she wants to do and something I don't want her to do is, "It's okay, mommy." Then, she does what she wants anyway. I get endless shit from my parents for this one. Oh, like you had any control over us, I sneer at them. Mom would just yell all the time and was the "wait until your father gets home" style disciplinarian. Then, when dad came home from work and yelled at us kids for whatever mom was mad about, dad would get in trouble for yelling at her babies.
"No, Sophie, it's not okay." No impact at all. My son almost always listens to me, but not Sophie. (I always thought boys would be more difficult to raise... I was utterly mistaken) And yet, I am the one the kids go to when they want approval to do something or to find out the extent of their punishment for any transgressions. Daddy is good for getting suckered into going to Target for Jesse to purchase yet another Ben10 toy and Sophie to convince him to buy her another Littlest Petshop thingy to clutter her room. Sophie has him wrapped around her little finger.
As my identity increasingly melts into my children's worlds, the dangling carrot of having a vacation alone with my husband became a necessary function -- a bright shiny goal every few years. I told my husband, if I am to maintain what little sanity remains in my mom brain -- a previously reasonably intelligent brain that has turned to mush filled with forgetfulness and what should be considered as displaying the onset of early dementia -- I need these few "sans children" getaways so my mind and spirit can recover like an athlete taking a day off from their strict regimen to allow muscles to heal from strenuous workouts.
Camping in a cramped, dirty popup trailer for two weeks? No, honey, this isn't my idea of regaining my sanity enough to last another year or two of bickering children and all the crap that goes along with being a not-so-perfect mommy. A cruise. Hawaii. Snorkeling in the Grand Cayman Islands. These are getaways... more on that later.
Is my other Mark Burnette a keeper?
Here's the book my business is in. Thanks Pat!