Georgia didn’t pee on me.

Somewhere 11,000 feet above sea level, Scott is stalking an elk on a mountain in Colorado.

The air is thin.

He sleeps in a tent he carried on his back. A fire and the company of two friends keep him warm at night. He does not take a shower other than rinsing off in a mountain stream. The streams are also his source of drinking water. His restroom is a hole he digs in the ground. And flushing is a pile of leaves thrown on top. The moon is his nightlight.

Somewhere 738 feet above sea level, I got pissed on at a concert in Georgia.

Scott and I have little contact with each other during the ten days he’s in Colorado. He has an emergency texting device. It’s to be used in emergencies.

SCOTT – I GOT PISSED ON AT THE BRUNO MARS CONCERT.

I can’t imagine what Scott thought when he saw the rage text come in. Did he laugh? Was he horrified? Did he go back and make sure he definitely put leaves down over his own shit in the woods? Maybe I reminded him. I don’t know. Scott won’t be home until next week.

I always have a story for him.

I booked a flight to Atlanta, Georgia to attend a two-day music festival, called Music Midtown. My friend (and cousin-in-law), Emily, joined me. Scott and her husband are cousins. I claimed her as one of my best friends upon meeting her years ago.

Meet Emily. She’ll be your best friend too.

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Music Midtown featured Weezer, Collective Soul, Young the Giant, Bastille, and Blink 182. Mumford and Sons took the Sunday night headliner. And Bruno Mars took the Saturday night headliner.

Saturday night.

The moon shined in a crescent that night. Bruno Mars was about to start. The September Georgia night air was thick and warm. It got even warmer with a spray down the back of my thigh. A hot stream, really.

Beer is cold. Whiskey is cold too. Even the moonshine isn’t that warm. It took less than one second for me to realize the only liquid hotter than a Georgia night is a 98.6 degree one.

Urine.

I turned around.

“Did you just piss on me?”

“NO.”

I twisted to look at the back of my thigh. A stream of liquid ran down to my ankle and landed on my sandal. Emily whipped out her iPhone on 2% battery. She shined her flashlight on the flailing penis inside a pair of unzipped jeans. The man froze. He didn’t even cover himself.

“GROSS! YES, YOU DID! YOU PEED ON HER!”

“I did not.”

He stared forward, avoiding our eyes.

My hand clinched my drink, ready to throw my whiskey in his face. I stopped. I didn’t want to lose my whiskey.

“YOU are ABSOLUTELY disgusting, YOU PIECE OF SHIT. Let’s go, Em.”

Emily and I pushed our way through the crowd to another spot in the grass. My whiskey remained intact. We didn’t have napkins. There was no way in hell I was going to wipe my leg with my hand. Pee dried on the back of my leg when the stars disappeared and the fireworks come out. Bruno lifted my anger towards men. Bruno restored men everywhere.

I sang with Bruno Mars – the real Bruno Mars – not the Bruno Mars on the radio or iTunes. Bruno Mars probably used the restroom before he began his concert like a normal person.

And then he shook that penis so hard and we danced. 

 

I’m not mad at Georgia. I’m mad at a boy with a weak bladder and horrible aim that peed on me. But, no, I’m not mad at Georgia. Georgia didn’t pee on me. Georgia introduced me to cajun boiled peanuts and my first sips of Georgia moonshine.

Georgia also gave me a flushing toilet. Even Scott can’t get that.

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Dear Scott, part 2.

Dear Scott,

By the time you read this, you made your way down a mountain.

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Welcome home! You’re alive!

You have stories to tell, of course. You have real mountain man stories to tell around suburbia’s fire pit of cushioned chairs and small decorative pillows. You found a handgun on a trail in the wilderness. You returned to camp greeted by two sets of eyes staring at you. The scratches on your face are from walking into trees in a pitch black downpour. Lightening cracked and exploded trees in front of your eyes. Temperatures dropped to below freezing. You only had a small fire to dry out your cold, soaking clothes. The earth shook below your feet when an elk bugled nearby.

While you lost the battle to bring home an elk, you still lived to tell the tales of your stay under the care of mother nature.

Oh, I have tales too.

I don’t want you to miss out on our adventures. Like how the dog’s antibiotics disappeared one morning. I figured I’d come across it at some point. I did. It was busted open in the backyard. For every pill that was missing, a diarrhea pile was in its place.

Or how Kate put my back against a wall and insisted on shaving her legs. Scott, she chased me around the house with a razor, screaming, “look at my hairy legs!”

But those are mere bedtime stories. I can handle being a solo parent. I reign when you’re away. I reign when you’re home too.

Scott, sit down. I have story for you. It involves my poor decision-making skills. You were indeed heroic in your efforts to provide the family with meat. You faced a hell most people would never attempt. I faced a hell too and I need a hug.

It all begins on your first night on the mountain.

While you were trying to figure out how to hang food in a tree and rub two sticks together to make fire, I was standing in our kitchen. I debated whether to treat my solo parent self to ice cream or wine. And do you know what I picked? Of course you do because you’ve been sleeping with me for 12-13-14 years now. Ice cream, of course.

And all mothers around the world gasp.

On that first night, the stars were 11,000 feet closer than you’ve ever seen them. You saw a sight that’s rarely photographed well. Mother Nature is a beautiful woman, Scott. And you of all people know behind every beautiful woman, there is a little bit of psycho.

You struggled to breathe. The hike up left you aching. The temperature dropped to below freezing that night. You didn’t sleep much because the cold made its way into your sleeping bag. Cuddling with Hunter for warmth wasn’t an option because you would never hear the end of the *Brokeback Mountain* coughing from me when you got home. The only thing on your mind that kept you going was your prize – a bull elk.

11,000 feet down and 842 miles to the east, I sprawled out in the middle of our king size bed with a small dish of my favorite ice cream, Baskin-Robbins mint chocolate chip. I was rounding up the last scoop when I felt it – crunch.

Well, that’s a big chocolate chip. 

Crunch. It wasn’t chocolate. It was poor decision-making.

My tongue pushed the hard piece forward and my fingers pulled it out. I examined it under my bedside lamp.

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It can’t be. But it is.

A fingernail.

The fingernail most likely belonging to a member of that sweet, Middle Eastern family that owns the Baskin-Robbins. I mean, other than in between my molars, I don’t know where this fingernail has been. They probably scrubbed shampoo onto their head with this fingernail. Or stroked their spouses back. Or stroked their spouses oh God. Or maybe it was the teenager. Maybe the teen picked a huge booger with this nail. Maybe they put in contacts that morning or popped a zit. Everything this person touched was in my mouth, ground down with my back molars and touched by my tongue.

There is no doubt this fingernail wiped its own ass, Scott. Everyone wipes their own ass. A member from the sweet, Middle Eastern family’s ass was inside my moist mouth – oh yes, I said moist.

I learned an important lesson while you were sleeping on a mountain, Scott.

Wine doesn’t have fingernails.

XOXO,

Bug

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Dear Scott, part 1.

Dear Scott,

Here we are. Day 4 into your wild backpacking adventure in Colorado. I wonder if you found your prized bull elk yet. I can’t wait to watch you provide for our family by filling our freezer with elk meat. Also, an Instagram picture for you to reminisce with our future grandchildren.  I already have so much to tell you when you come down to the real world with wifi, cell signals, and my honey-do list.

But don’t worry about that. That’s part 2.

This is part 1.

We’re fine, Scott. We’re fine. 96 hours of single parenting later, I am a completely sane individual.

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I can’t complain, really. The kids are at school for seven hours a day during the week.

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It’s not hard. I drive to the school. I drive from the school. I drive to the school. I drive from the school.

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I have the dogs to entertain me during the day.

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And I found a good book to keep me company at night.

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I hope you and Hunter are on speaking terms since you two are stuck with each other for a good 10 days. I hope you’re healthy and drinking enough water. Is your pee clear, Scott? That’s important.

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The weekend was hectic. I had to entertain the children all day. We all know I’m not the “fun” parent. I made them watch football all weekend. To catch you up – FSU lost, North Dakota State beat Iowa, and K-State won huge. It was like watching the ‘ole glory days in Manhattan, Kansas. Our house waved that flag with such pride.

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The Kansas City Chiefs had turnover problems. They lost. This killed me, Scott. Killed me.

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With all the estrogen flaring up and screaming at each other, you don’t need to worry about anyone breaking in at night. This house sits all night locked and loaded.

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Thank you so much for the flowers you secretly sent us before you left! I was shocked when the flower lady stopped by! I mean, I’m right when I say you ordered them before you left because you can’t send flowers from a mountain with no cell phone service. I just hope you’re not dead from falling off a cliff or something because then these flowers would be extra creepy because they’re flowers sent from the grave.

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So anyway, don’t worry about us. We’re fine. It’s day 4 out of 10. I’m 40% all there. 144 hours to go. I can’t imagine anything dramatic happening to me, our two daughters, two female dogs (who are complete bitches, by the way), and a female cat.

See you on part 2.

XOXO. Your wifey,

Bug

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An elk runs my fitness routine.

There’s an elk roaming a mountain in Colorado right now.

He’s 11,000 feet above me.

It’s a bull elk. His antlers tower four feet above his head. He eats grass and flowers. He drinks from the clear, cool mountain streams. His surroundings are majestic, a wilderness untouched by man. There are no roads. No trails. He screams a bugle into the thin mountain air, challenging another male for his prize of getting laid. They always want to get laid. 

This elk runs my fitness routine.

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I will never see this elk, not alive anyway.

I don’t have the desire to shoot an elk. I’m content with killing my meat with a swipe of a debit card at the grocery store.

Scott will see this elk. He’ll lure this elk to him with his come-hither calls. He will pull back his bow and close one eye. And he’ll release. That’s what happens when the only thing on your mind is getting laid.

Scott is an outdoorsman. That’s what they call a man like him in 2016. But back in, oh I don’t know, 1870 circa Little House on the Prairie – Ma and Pa Burton would be chatting it up with Ma and Pa Wilder while gnawing on a turkey leg.

A turkey shot by Pa Burton. His survival instincts are incredible.

Fast forward to 2016 – the era of selfies in a cornfield. The hunt Scott is about to embark on is for elite fitness levels. Imagine carrying your house for the week on your back. Now imagine you’re carrying your house on an incline, not a smooth treadmill incline but a rugged incline. You’re going 6,000 feet up. You will be whacking down tree limbs, crossing streams and losing oxygen.

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And that’s just the ascent.

If successful, descending will be brutal. Add 100 pounds to the house on your back and stumble back down the mountain. And then you do it again because elk meat weighs more than 100 pounds.

Scott will be accompanied by his friend, Hunter. They will not have any communication with the world, not even a nagging wife text. Scott and Hunter will be hunting an elk but they will also be surviving whatever mother nature decides to throw at them. A mountain lion. Freezing temperatures. Wounds that require stitches. I know how it sounds. It’s hunting at the highest level. It’s insanity.

It’s Pa Burton.

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Scott’s workout routine at the gym includes a weighted vest and hiking boots. He spends hours on the stair stepper. He hikes in local parks with rugged terrain. He hikes with his backpack filled with 100 pounds of corn on the weekends. He drags me into the oven of 110 degree heat index. We don’t hunt together but we do workout together.

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“I’m hot and this is bullshit.” – Ma Burton
Scott is training his body to handle the extreme and unexpected. And I am choosing random times to sprint towards Scott – BOOM! – to see how fast his reaction is to an angry bear. Have you seen The Revenant? He could die if he’s not prepared.

There’s an elk roaming a mountain in Colorado right now. He’s taking me to levels of fitness I’ve never felt before.

 

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A hard-working vacation.

This is a hard post to write.

Vacations are always hard to write about because no one can relate.

But oh, the guilt.

Guilt is dirty. It’s right up there with shame, worry, and jealousy. They are the emotions that make us ugly people. The better you are at brushing these feelings off, well, I don’t really know because I’m a little pig rolling in the mud.

I travel a lot. I wish I could validate this statement by saying it’s for work. It’s not. The second I walk into Kansas City International Airport, I feel it – travel guilt.

Money guilt  The cost of this plane ticket and hotel could go towards paying off our credit card, the retirement fund, the kids’ college tuition or anything synonymous with the word adult.

Kid guilt  “No, mommy! Please don’t go!” The dagger.

Jealousy guilt  “That bitch went on vacation again?!” I can hear your thoughts.

Friendship guilt  Scott planned the trip with his friends and that included who we shared hotel rooms with. If it was up to me, you’re all invited.

 

We traveled to Breckenridge, Colorado last weekend. We visited the Rocky Mountains for pleasure.

Oh, wait. Let me say that again – for “pleasure.” 

Ah, Breckenridge. A sight for the eyes because no picture can do it justice. The air is thin. Snow is powder. Everyone is high. Well, yes, some are that kind of high but we’re all high-high. It’s 10,000 feet above sea level. A height where we’ve heard it all before – “it is now safe to turn on all electronic devices.”

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We traveled with the friends that turn on their electronic devices when I FALL OFF A LIFT. They missed the part where I scream at Scott.

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I screamed at Scott here, too. This was all his idea.

“It’ll be fun, Bug! We can ski all day, sit in the hot tubs at night, maybe enjoy a couple breweries.”

“Oh, sure. Ok, I can be a snow bunny!”

I’m not trying to impress anyone. I’ll say it – LIES.

I don’t get it. Maybe my parents should have taken me to the mountains as a child. I didn’t hear one kid scream like I did. Ski lessons at Breckenridge must include a lesson in bravery.

I know for a fact that my lungs want to fail at altitude. I came prepared with a can of Boost Oxygen. It works wonders when my body’s response to anyone skiing within five feet of me is hyperventilation.

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Or maybe I’m not athletic enough. I’m comfortable under a bench press. I’m not comfortable raising my heart rate. Multiple falls from 5 feet, 9 inches is hard on my old bones of 34 years. Look at my friend, Kathy. She busted her ACL and MCL on the first day of skiing.

And I grew a mustache to keep warm.

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Scott got felt up on the second day because mountain men taking selfies are dangerous too.

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And then Scott landed in a tree on the third day. Look hard. He’s in there, Waldo.

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I eventually stuffed a ski up Scott’s ass on purpose and followed directions from his friend, Hunter. I couldn’t yell at Hunter for cheerleading me down a mountain. We don’t have that special husband and wife bond. Hunter taught me how to zig zag down the hill of death. He taught me to relieve pressure off one leg to turn. It started to make sense. Everyone falls.

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I realized if I was going to survive, I would have to do it myself. No one can help me but me. A nurse once told me that years ago while I was pushing a tiny human from my body.

By the end of our trip, I could ski on the easiest ski runs.

This trip wasn’t for cocktails and umbrellas. You could say it was for work – the hard, physical kind of work. The travel guilt is always there. This time I came home with the pleasure knowing I made it down alive.

Are you comfortable skiing? Do you prefer mountain vacations or beach vacations? Do you feel guilty when you travel? What kind of guilt do you feel? I swear my vacations are over for now. I’ll be in Kansas, at sea level.

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Burton.

Burton.

It’s a good, strong name. You don’t have to spell it out to anyone. It’s easy to pronounce. Crossing the T with a swirl is always fun. And well, any baby with the last name Burton sounds as cute as a button.

There’s the director, Tim Burton. And the actor, Richard Burton.

And then you have this guy –

Jake Burton.
Jake Burton – founder of Burton Snowboards.

Most people know him by his snowboard brand.

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And then you have me. Julie Burton. An embarrassment to the name scattered all over Keystone, Colorado.

The expected happened – I went crazy on top of a mountain.

I did try.

I screamed at Scott. “I’m in hell” was my standard response when the ski patrol asked if I was ok. I fell. I fell again. My knees buckled. I was cold. I was hot. For once in my life, I felt all of my old bones of 33 years. Newborn babies straight from the womb sped around me. I walked down the mountain. I got a cramp in my leg. I sat in the snow and cried. I hyperventilated. I crawled to a terror-stricken woman sitting in the snow. She said she was from California and has never skied before. We rode the lift down from a green. We got laughs but hey, the lift ended at a bar. We waved back.

The ride of shame.
A Burton on the ride of shame.

That was my first and only attempt at skiing. The mountains took my breath away.

They took my breath away to an 85 percent oxygen level. I started my rapid decline to death caused by the flu made worse by altitude sickness. That’s what the doctor said after he laughed at my last name.

A Burton needs oxygen.
A Burton walking with an oxygen tank.

I spent the next two days in my hotel room, drugged up with a fever and chills. Scott said I cried and talked in my sleep. He kept medicine in me in between his ski runs and hot tub time with our friends. I don’t remember any of it.

I cried at the airport. I was asked if I had ebola. I was asked if my real name was, in fact, Burton. I was asked, “what year is it?”

I’m typing this from my death bed in Kansas. I don’t require an oxygen tank anymore.

If I make it out alive, I will start a women’s fishing apparel line named Burton.

I’m bringing this name back down to sea level.

Have you ever gotten sick on vacation? Have you ever gotten altitude sickness? Have you ever spent a vacation crying the whole time? I hope Jake Burton never reads this. Sorry, Jake. I tried.

I don’t believe in cold vacations.

Call me ignorant. Call me uneducated. Call me hard-headed. Call me what is that crazy-ass woman screaming about and who is Scott?

In four weeks, my crazy will be showing on top of a mountain.

Scott is taking me skiing in Keystone, Colorado. He will push me down a mountain and expect me to lean forward like I’m on some sort of suicide mission.

Scott’s current annoyance level with me is at a “fine, screw it. I’ll hire private lessons for you on the first day. I’m not dealing with this.” Whatever level that is.

We took the family to Dick’s Sporting Goods to get snow skiing gear.

Kate: I know how to spell dicks! D-I-C-K-S! Dicks.

Emma: Kate, you’re just copying the Dicks sign.

It was Scott’s last laugh.

I don’t know, the words just came spewing out of my mouth and now Scott isn’t talking to me anymore:

Scott, I’ve never seen a mountain. I went to Denver once but it was cloudy.

I told you. I don’t believe in cold vacations. All of my beliefs are traced back to my parents. Don’t blame me on how I was raised.

What do you expect? My mom is Mexican.

I was raised normal, Scott.

What happens if I don’t want to get off the ski lift? Can I ride back down?

What happens if I don’t want to go down once I’m pushed off the lift?

Can I ride on someone’s back and close my eyes?

Can you pull me on a sled and I’ll close my eyes?

All I’m saying is I’d much rather be three quarters naked on a boat.

Yeah, well fighting a 200 pound fish is a workout too.

How many layers of clothes? How is this even considered a vacation? Vacations are meant for as little clothing as possible.

I swear, if you take off with your friends and leave me on top of a mountain by myself, I will click off those skis and walk sideways down the mountain. I will find you and strangle you.

Given the choice of looking crazy or rolling down a mountain in a ball of snow, I’ll take crazy.

Oh, I can’t wear those ski pants. I’m only shopping for Burton apparel.

Yes, I plan on telling people that my last name is Burton so yes, people will know.

How is that embarrassing?

Hell no, I won’t try snowboarding! I’d rather walk sideways.

What are the ski stick thingies for? Is it a brake?

Why would I need zippers on my pockets? Oh, so you do take your phone with you when you ski. I don’t like that idea at all. I wouldn’t want my death put on YouTube.

I went skiing once in 5th grade on a hill in Kansas or maybe Missouri. It’s called Snow Creek. My friend’s parents took me with their family. All I remember is cold and where’s my mommy.

Is Keystone like the cheap-y economy style skiing resort? You know, like, the beer?

How am I acting like a child? Oh, worse than a child? Because I’m arguing about scenarios that haven’t even happened. That makes complete sense.

Avalanches are a real thing.

Frost bite is a real thing.

Mountain lions are a real thing.

Me getting my tongue stuck on the bar lift on purpose so I don’t have to go down a mountain is a real thing.

Uh, can totally see you sneaking off the side of the mountain to go shoot a mountain lion.

I’m not dumb. I’m just realistic.

Well, maybe I can hang with you and your friends on the double black diamond. You don’t know. Maybe I’ll be a natural.

Don’t tell me I’m not allowed on the double black diamond, Scott. You’re not my father.

Then send a helicopter.

Yeah, I’ve seen pictures of people smiling during their skiing trip. I feel sorry for them. They look cold. Teeth chattering makes a natural smile.

How is preferring warm weather being judgy?

So it’s going to be the exact same temperature as here? Great. I’m frozen.

No, I didn’t bring a coat. I don’t need it running in and out of a store.

Yes, I still want to go.

Why would you cancel it?

I promise, Scott. I won’t be the crazy wife.

 

Have you ever been snow skiing? Do you prefer skiing over a warm vacation? Has your spouse quit talking to you because of your hard-headedness? Am I the only person to never see a mountain? Any advice is welcome! I’ll listen to you, just not Scott.

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