Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

It's that time of year again when people follow the time-honored tradition of making resolutions for the New Year.  There seem to only be two sides to the New Year's resolution debate:  to make a resolution, or to resolve not to resolve. 

Resolutions, Change

Last year, after many years of failed resolutions, I chose to make no resolution whatsoever.  With this choice came a great sense of freedom.  Freedom to do what I wanted, if I wanted, without worrying about whether or not I was going to have regrets at the end of the year.

With the new year beginning in a few hours, I have taken a hard look back at the past year.  Instead of having resolutions which urged me to diet and exercise to lose a few pounds, attempts to stay organized, and half-hearted efforts to do daily devotions as I have done in years past, this year I look back and see................... nothing.

Apparently for me, having no resolution makes me quite the overachiever at........... not doing squat.  Yes, I started this blog, but technically that was under duress and more to pacify certain unnamed individuals.  Who knew I'd actually have fun doing it?!  But, it still doesn't count because I didn't actively seek to do it.  I also lost some much needed weight.  But again, that was because I got sick in the summer and not because of a great exercise and diet routine.

So, as we get ready to ring in the New Year, I am not going to make a resolution again this year, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to do something.  To quote Tony Robbins "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten...".  With that in mind, in this New Year I am choosing to work on things within me.

I read about one of my friends who chooses a single word which describes how they are going to handle life in the New Year.  I like that idea and will definitely be incorporating it into my plan.  As a matter of fact, I liked it so much that the single word I will be using hit me instantly.  For 2014 my outlook towards situations will be "Faithful".

With being faithful, I also recognize a couple of things that I want to work on.  Notice I'm not using the word "change"?  With the idea to do things differently means I don't have to be perfect.  I don't have to lose 3 dress sizes, or eat vegetables more than I eat chocolate.  No, what I'm going for this year is recognizing my imperfections, embracing them, and creating workable solutions around them.

I haven't quite figured out how this is going to work out but I can tell you that for me, a life without some form of goal, is a life of complete laziness.  And that is just not how I feel I should be living.  As Thomas Edison said so eloquently "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."  I have given up on things way too many times and it's time to get off that train's tracks.

I have a fire burning inside of me and I'm not quite sure what sparked it or how long it will last, but hang onto your hats because for 2014, I'm letting go and coming unleashed from the ties I've allowed to bind me.  Yes, 2014 will be the year that I am not going to give up.  This may be an interesting ride..........

Christie Bielss

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

12 Days of Christmas

For Christmas last year my children decided they wanted a puppy.  They promised to take care of her, tend to all of her needs, and love her and protect her.  For the most part, they have done a fabulous job.  The dog is alive and healthy, so in my way of thinking, that counts as a success.

Holidays, Pets, Gifts

For Christmas this year, they both decided they were ready to take on more pet responsibilities.  My husband and I haven't been so excited about turning our home into a zoo, but agreed to it nonetheless.  After doing quite a bit of research, we found a few pets who are a bit less maintenance than a dog ..... and pets that we would be willing to accept responsibility for if they actually lived until my kids hit college.

With a new animal being added almost daily to our household, it has kind of reminded me of the Christmas song "The Twelve Days of Christmas".   So, in honor of my new zookeeper status and the Christmas season, I have rewritten the lyrics to this most popular Christmas tune so as to find the humor amongst the barking, glub-glubbing, pig-squealing chaos.

"On the first day of Christmas my children gave to me, a dog who really likes to pee ....everywhere. 

On the second day of Christmas my children gave to me, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who really likes to pee....boy is it everywhere.

On the third day of Christmas my children gave to me, 3 veterinary bills, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who really likes to pee ..... on the furniture.

On the fourth day of Christmas my children gave to me, 4 different lizards, 3 veterinary bills, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who really likes to pee ......no place is safe.

On the fifth day of Christmas my children gave to me, 5 neon Tetra fish..... 4 different lizards, 3 veterinary bills, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who really likes to pee.......... argh, not the sofa!

On the sixth day of Christmas my children gave to me, 6 broken fish tank pumps, 5 neon Tetra fish..... 4 different lizards, 3 veterinary bills, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who really likes to pee ........and now poop.

On the seventh day of Christmas my children gave to me, 7 days of guinea pig medicine, 6 broken fish tank pumps, 5 neon Tetra fish.... 4 different lizards, 3 veterinary bills, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who really likes to pee ......and poops on my magazine.

On the eighth day of Christmas my children gave to me, 8 leashes to walk their critters, 7 days of guinea pig medicine, 6 broken fish tank pumps, 5 neon Tetra fish.......... 4 different lizards, 3 veterinary bills, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who really likes to pee ......good heavens what are we feeding this dog?!

On the ninth day of Christmas my children gave to me, 9 special animal foods to purchase, 8 leashes to walk their critters, 7 days of guinea pig medicine, 6 broken fish tank pumps, 5 neon Tetra fish.......... 4 different lizards, 3 veterinary bills, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who really likes to pee....... oh lordy, it's getting deep.

On the tenth day of Christmas my children gave to me, a 10 gallon fish tank, 9 animal foods to purchase, 8 leashes to walk their critters, 7 days of guinea pig medicine, 6 broken fish tank pumps, 5 neon Tetra fish........ 4 different lizards, 3 veterinary bills, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who really likes to pee....... I'm swimming here.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my children gave to me, 11 pooper-scoopers, 10 gallon fish tank, 9 animal foods to purchase, 8 leashes to walk their critters, 7 days of guinea pig medicine, 6 broken fish tank pumps, 5 neon Tetra fish.......... 4 different lizards, 3 veterinary bills, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who really likes to pee and poop........ I may need a bulldozer.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my children gave to me, 12 cages to clean, 11 pooper-scoopers, 10 gallon fish tank, 9 animal foods to purchase, 8 leashes to walk critters, 7 days of guinea pig medicine, 6 broken fish tank pumps, 5 neon Tetra fish....... 4 different lizards, 3 veterinary bills, 2 guinea pigs, and a dog who has drowned me in pee......... and poop.

From my crazy zoo to you, The Redhead Sez wishes you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you!  May your days be blessed and may you feel the love, joy, and comfort of the season.

Christie Bielss

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Spirit

"Patience is a virtue".  How I hate that phrase.  Whenever someone says it, all I want to do is scream "HELLO?!! I'm a redhead!  I have ZERO patience!".  There have been so many times in my life when I have wished God had gifted me with patience, but, for whatever reason, He didn't. 

Christmas, Magic

Since patience seems like it could be something you can pattern into your psyche, I made the decision to try and practice it when I'd rather scream and rant.  I figured it may not take completely but if I could knock my stress level down a notch or two, that could be considered a moral victory.  I'm pretty sure God, having a great sense of humor, said "Yeah, right!  Let's see how committed you really are!" and immediately tested my level of commitment within moments of me making that proclamation.

My daughter and I were in the car headed up to the grocery store to restock my pantry since my son has been eating us out of house and home.  Driving around our city on a good day can be aggravating with our great diversity of horrendously bad drivers on the road, but during the holidays it seems like these people drive even worse (if that's even possible) and there seem to be lots more of them.  When you combine these terrible drivers with all of the out-of-town drivers who don't know their way around, it's a recipe for serious aggravation and road rage.

So, as we were making our way down a multi-lane road, we kept having to go around drivers who were doing 25mph in 40mph+ speed zones.  My jaw was set as I was determined to just go about my errand and not be cranky.  Apparently I wasn't doing that great of a job controlling my aggravation since my daughter patted my hand and said "Hmmmm, there seem to be a lot of slow drivers out today Mom.  We'll get there".

Not sure how many times I've said those last 3 words to my daughter when she's running full-tilt to get to something she's excited about, but it sure does stink having it spit back at you.  I inhaled deeply and forced myself to relax.  We finally made it to the stoplight where we turn right.......... and sitting smack-dab in front of me is an out-of-stater who is wanting to go straight....... in the right turn only lane.

Grrrrrrrrr!!!!!  I started thinking "Christmas spirit........... Christmas spirit............ Christmas spirit.........".  I guess I was thinking it so hard, I actually said it out loud.  My daughter looked at me and started cracking up.  She then leaned over and kissed my hand and started rubbing my shoulder as she said "That's right Mom!  Smile and get the Christmas spirit!  At some point the light will change and then somebody from the other lane will run him off the road as he tries to weasel his way in from the wrong lane.  See!  Happy place!".

Now she had me laughing since that was pretty darn close to what I was thinking!  The light finally changed and as we (and 20 cars stuck behind us) turned right, we could hear the cars honking with great gusto at the person who had been in front of us as they did the bumper shuffle to see who would let the out-of-stater into their lane.  We giggled to ourselves as we made our way up to the next stop light so we could turn into the grocery store.  This time though we were turning left.

As the light changed and we started turning, out of nowhere the car from the middle lane decides that he needs to grocery shop and nearly side-swipes us in his zeal to replenish his milk and bread reserves.  As I laid on my car's horn and expertly dodged this moron's vehicle, my daughter yells at the other driver "Hey!  You can't turn from there!  Can't you read?!"

Laughing hysterically, I looked over at my daughter and patted her hand as I said "Christmas spirit, dear!  Christmas spirit!".  She smiled broadly as she said "Not when it's on my side, Mom!"........

Christie Bielss

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Giddy-Up!

When I was a kid I was so excited for the day I would finally learn to drive.  Driving would give me the freedom to get to where I needed to be on time, with the added benefit of being able to hang out with my friends whenever, and wherever, I wanted.  Oh how the elation and sheer excitement coursed through my body when I was legally able to register for Driver's Ed!


Driver's Ed
Photo copyright:  Ildar Sagdejev


My Driver's Ed course was taught through my high school.  My instructor was the incredibly fabulous and famous, Mr. Pursel.  He had the greatest sense of humor and was, quite honestly, one of the bravest men I've known.  Considering the number of cars he got in which were being driven by scores of horrendously awful and grossly over-eager 15 year olds, the man probably should've received the Medal of Honor. 

Of course, Mr. Pursel did have a chicken break and extra steering wheel, so in the event he started to see his life flash before his eyes, he could retake control and prevent his own premature demise.  He never had to use either of those when I was driving though.  I was a very good driver........ for the most part.  Now the other 2 young ladies I was paired up with (who were also very good friends)...... well, let's just say they gave us memories to cherish for a lifetime, although I think  psychologists would say the clinical definition of these memories are "flashbacks".

I was wishing I had my own chicken brake and steering wheel in the backseat when my friends drove.  One of my friends liked to get to her destination early.............. very, very early.  My other girlfriend and I would be sitting quietly in the backseat with eyes as big as saucers and holding onto anything we could grab hold of as we'd hear Mr. Pursell speak in progressively louder tones "Now, you're going a bit too fast and need to slow down here.  Ok, it's time to slow down.  Slow it down.......SLOW DOWN!!!!!!!!  And that's when Mr. Pursel would pull the chicken brake sending us into a fishtailing slide.

My other friend didn't have a speeding problem, it was more of a directional issue.  She liked to drive straight........... even when the road curved.  Yeah, apologies sent to the many homeowner's yards and landscapes which were rearranged by her great desire to make her own path through the bends in the road.

As for me, well, my problem was always the same:  a manual transmission car at a stoplight.........on a big hill.  I am pretty darn sure Mr. Pursell had a clicker which changed a certain blasted stoplight to red EVERY.SINGLE.TIME I got anywhere near it.  I'm not quite sure how many hours we spent on that hill, but suffice it to say there were many drivers who had to back up and go around us at that blasted stoplight.  Heck, we spent so much time on that hill my friends were asking Mr. Pursel if they could get out and walk over to the Jack in the Box to get us all a soda and walk back.  They were that sure we weren't going anywhere any time soon.

Looking back on these experiences though isn't really much different than what my Great-Grandmother experienced the very first time she got behind the wheel of a car.  She grew up with a horse and buggy and that's what she "drove" for most of her life.  Then one day in the early 1900's, one of my Great Uncles came home with their first car.  He put her behind the wheel and my Grandmother said you could see the excitement all over her face.

She courageously got behind the wheel of the car and they showed her how to make it go.  As she stepped on the gas pedal, she yelled "Giddy-Up!" and wouldn't you know, the horses under that hood got going!  They said you could hear her giggling and laughing all the way down the drive and out onto the street.

What they forgot to show her was how to stop.  As she went down the street and was ready for this contraption to stop, she couldn't figure out what to do.  In a panic she did what she'd been taught to do all her life:  she pulled back hard on that steering wheel and started screaming "WHOA!  WHOA, I SAID!".  After my Great Uncles picked themselves up off the ground from laughing themselves silly, they chased her down and showed her how to stop.  I'm guessing this is when the chicken brake was invented.........

Christie Bielss

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Self-Destructing in 3.....2......

I have a love-love relationship with computers. I love them when they are working and I'd love to take a sledgehammer to them when they aren't.  As you might have already guessed, with this kind of relationship my luck with computers has generally been not so wonderful.


That streak continued on the Friday before Thanksgiving when my computer self-destructed.  I got up that morning and pushed the power button to start the computer up.  I saw the blue light blink itself awake and heard the fan start up.  Knowing my computer would take the better part of 30 minutes to completely power up, I stepped back into the kitchen and made myself breakfast.

Yes, I know.  For a computer to take 30 minutes to boot up means my computer was having issues, however, I really didn't want to think about having to purchase a new system.  No, I was quite happy to keep my head firmly implanted deep in the sand and just think of my computer as getting old and a smidge persnickety.  In reality, it was a worn out bucket of bolts so antiquated it was starting to fossilize.

I took the computer in for repairs and they discovered the motherboard, graphics cards, power supply, cooling fan, and external ports, were all toast.  The computer had self-destructed.  The techs looked at me with great sadness and said "Ma'am, we're sorry, but it's gone.  It's not cost-effective to replace every single part of the computer".

It was like losing a pet. I was stunned and sad.  I really thought it just needed a new power supply or graphics card.  They told me they could recycle the computer but the thought of leaving it with strangers to be torn apart was just too difficult of a decision to make right then.  I carried my computer ever so carefully out of the store, gently placed it in my car, and sighed so many times my children stroked my back and told me it would all be ok.

Never having been one to willingly embrace the changes in technology, the thought of having to research and learn what the best processors, graphics cards, memory, and operating systems are was just too daunting, if not flat-out overwhelming.  The computer and tech companies seem to launch some new gadget every week.  How am I, just a normal non-tech saavy person, supposed to learn all of this information, retain it, and be able to converse with the highly tech-saavy salespeople in the computer stores and not look like a moron?

Determined to do right by my old computer, and with the theme from Rocky playing in the background, the first thing I did was do some research online.  There was so much information on the web with so many reviews, it made my brain hurt. With all of this information swirling around in my brain to the point that I didn't know "sick-'em" from "come here", I decided that the best course of action was to go to Sam's Club where there's never a salesperson to wait on you and read the little info cards they have attached with each computer system.  I wanted to see if I could attach all the information swirling around in my head with an affordable computer system.

As I walked around Sam's I was getting so overwhelmed that I was ready to give up.  It was then that I decided it was time to bring in the big guns.  I was going to use my "phone-a-friend" life line.  Thankfully my friend is also a redhead, so he understands my eccentricities and knew to expect a vast array of questions......... and I'm sure I lived up to my redheadedness by driving him nuts with the five million questions I asked.

He quickly (although I'm pretty sure he would say "quickly" is not exactly accurate since it took me the better part of a week to settle on a computer) compartmentalized everything which was wandering aimlessly around in my head.  With great confidence......... and my cell phone in-hand so I could text him instantly ....... I walked into the computer store.  I was approached by the computer salesman and with a condescending smile he asked "So, do we know what we are looking for today?".

*Rant:  Starting off a conversation with a redhead, especially one which involves you making a sale from my tight-fisted little hand, and which begins with a condenscending attitude, will almost always get you a bit of redheaded attitude smacked upside your ignorant head. *End Rant

I replied, "Well.... if you are buying little old me a computer today, then I'd have to defer to what you think is best.  But, if you aren't actually purchasing me a computer and you are actually trying to make a sale and thus are asking me if I know what I am looking for, then yes, I do have an idea as to what I am interested in.  The question now is whether you actually know what I am looking for.".

I had picked up the gauntlet he had thrown down and slapped him across the face with it, signifying I did indeed understand some of today's technology and wouldn't need to be led around by the hand............ my friend had already been generous enough to do that in a very kind and patient manner, thank you very much.  The salesman then asked me what I was looking for specifically.

I smiled inside as I watched the expression change on his face as I said ever so sweetly, "I'm looking for a system which has ......" and spouted off all of the components I needed.  When I got to the end of my list, his eyebrows were raised and his condescending attitude had turned to one of respectfulness.  He immediately started showing me systems which had most of the components I asked for. 

He also tried to talk me into buying a new touch-screen monitor to go with the tower.  I explained to him that while that state-of-the-art technology is really nifty, as a photographer, having fingerprints on a monitor is not conducive to production as it will generally mean I try to clone out dirt spots on a photo for 10 minutes before realizing it's a smudge on the monitor and not the photo. Touchscreen technology and photography just do not mix for me right now.  In the end, the system the store had which would have met my needs was out of stock.

A lot of stores later (and many more text messages to my friend - bless his heart for not going insane with my hundreds of questions), I found a good computer.  Unfortunately, it came with Windows 8, which is a far cry from the Windows Vista operating system that I'd been using for the past 5 1/2 years.  Yes, Vista was a dinosaur but it was easy to learn! It has taken me the better part of 2 weeks to figure out Windows 8 enough to use it more than just to check my Facebook account, and it took me 2 days just to learn how to do that!

Yes, new technology is a beast to understand for those of us who are not quite tech saavy.  But, I now have a new computer (pictured at the top of the post) which is up and running in under a minute, and one I am hoping will last me another 5 years so I don't have to go back through all this mind-numbing tech-speak for quite some time.  But, I do have to admit that while Windows 8 was terrible, my computer just updated to the new Windows 8.1 and I like it.  Yes, it has a learning curve, but it's really, really cool.  I guess new technology isn't all bad.......... it's just the process of understanding it, purchasing it, and learning how to use it that can do you in.

Christie Bielss

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours. ~ Old Irish Blessing

On this last Thursday of November in America, we stop and give thanks for all of our many blessings, loved ones who are with us, loved ones who have passed, and all of our "neighbors".  Our country's first Thanksgiving wasn't just about celebrating life's blessings with our family, but extending a hand in gratitude to others.

To all of my Redhead Sez friends, I want to thank you for reading my long-winded musings and blatherings.  I wish each and every one of you a most blessed and joyful day.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

By:  Christie Bielss

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chickening Out!

Thanksgiving is next week, which begins our holiday season.  I always look forward to this time of year because of the memories that are made, the time we share with each other, and the overall joy of the season.  I also enjoy remembering holidays past and the stories passed down of my family's early holiday celebrations.

Memories, holidays, Thanksgiving

With the push for us to become more conscious of the food we eat, the memories of my grandmother and farm-fresh poultry keep flooding back into my mind.  Her great love of cooking with the freshest of ingredients has to be one of my all-time favorite stories.

My grandmother's father passed away much too early in life, causing my great-grandmother to have to find a full-time job so she could feed her family .  Because of this, the oldest children had to take on many responsibilities around their home since she wasn't able to be a stay-at-home mother any longer.  One of the responsibilities my grandmother was given was to prepare and cook meals for the family.

My  great-grandmother would pick up the fresh poultry, meat, or seafood from the local market and then my grandmother would prepare most of the meal.  Beef or pork was usually prepped by the local butcher, but poultry was exclusively prepped by my great-grandmother in their kitchen.  My grandmother watched many times as her mother would bring home a live chicken with a bag over its head, wring the chicken's neck, pluck the feathers, and give it to my grandmother who would have dinner cooking in no time at all. 

When my grandmother got married, she felt confident she could perform the task of preparing a chicken and decided to surprise her new husband with a fantastic meal.  She went out and purchased a live chicken complete with the requisite bag over its head.  She brought that chicken home and like an expert, wrung that chicken's neck just as she'd seen her mother do thousands of times before.  My grandmother laid the lifeless chicken down on her cutting surface and took a few steps away to retrieve some implements to assist with the rest of the prep work.  She turned back to....... nothing.  The chicken had disappeared!

With a quick glance around the kitchen she found the darned thing, and it wasn't dead like she'd thought.  That crazy chicken was running and flying in circles around her kitchen pecking anything that came near it.  That was one very angry chicken and it wasn't going down without a fight!

Not knowing what to do and being completed freaked out by this psycho-killer chicken, she did what any smart red-blooded Southern woman would do.......... she started screaming for my grandfather at the top of her lungs!

My grandfather came running ready to slay whatever dragon was trying to injure his new bride.  He came running with such speed that he slid around the doorway of the kitchen.  The sight which greeted him around that corner was not exactly what he was expecting.  My grandmother was running and hopping around the kitchen as the very angry and vengeful chicken chased and pecked at her with that hood still clamped tightly over its head!

Not being able to control himself, my grandfather started laughing hysterically.  He caught the chicken and took care of the task my grandmother hadn't quite perfected yet.  He slayed her dragon and was her knight in shining armor.  Ok, so it was just a chicken but I bet if you were being chased by one, you'd understand her fear and why she conveyed the title of Knight of the Realm upon him. 

From that day forward, my grandmother always made sure that whatever chicken she was getting ready to prepare was thoroughly....... deceased............ and my grandfather was stood by close at-hand in case she needed any back-up or rescuing from another psycho chicken.

Wishing you many happy memories as you prepare for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays.  And if you've got a fun memory, please feel free to share it!

by:  Christie Bielss

Thursday, November 14, 2013

If Only.......

3 years ago we moved back home to Texas and chose to live in an apartment so we'd have time to find the ideal home, in the ideal neighborhood, and in the ideal school district.

God, bullying

The apartment complex we lived in was very nice and we had relatively quiet neighbors.  We knew the apartment was a bit out of the way and away from shopping and family, so we expected some commuting to get to where we needed to go and other inconveniences.  What we didn't expect was a situation which rapidly spiralled out of control on my children's 3rd day in their new school and something which would turn our lives upside down for the next 2+ years.

My son was in 3rd Grade and was a very bright young man.  Not much passes by him without him noticing, unless the tv is on, in which case a freight train could pass next to his head and he wouldn't notice.  By the 2nd day of school, he was marked as a "smart" kid by 2 boys in his class.  These 2 boys were 10 and 11 years old in a class of 3rd Graders, who were 8 years old, and these boys didn't like "smart" kids.

The very next day at school, they "introduced" themselves to my son.  During recess and directly in front of a teacher, the 2 boys came up and punched my son in the head and face with all their might.  The teacher witnessed the attack and shoo'd the boys away from my son but did nothing else.

She did not report the incident to the administration nor did she send my son to the school nurse.  Because she didn't report the incident, I was not notified and his classroom teacher said she was not notified.

I pulled up to the carpool pickup line that day and my children climbed in the car.  When I asked how their day went, my son immediately broke down crying.  I pulled over and calmed him down enough so he could tell me what happened.  From the side of the road, I called my husband.  He had me drive home to the apartment and was in the parking lot waiting for us upon our arrival.

Have you heard the phrase "Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn"?  Well, I think it should read "Hell hath no fury like a Redhead's scorn when you mess with her kid"!  We talked with my son's teacher and the Assistant Principal (the Principal wouldn't meet with us, take our calls, return messages, or even emails).  We were assured they'd get to the bottom of it and discipline would be meted out.

Despite their assurances, incidents like this continued.  We debated whether or not to pull our son from school and homeschool him.  He hated going to school for the first time ever, and yet he loved seeing his friends.  It was such an emotional time for all of us as we were completely unprepared for this level of violence at his age and we truly did not know what to do.  Our son was scared of the boys but he wanted to be at school.  While we wanted to protect him, we also didn't want to do more damage by pulling him out of school and taking him away from his friends.

In an effort to bring him some level of comfort, we bought a special necklace for him.  It's what he wanted and he picked it out.  It was a chain with a cross hanging from it.  He said he wanted to be able to feel Jesus close to his heart when he got scared and to feel His power.  Our son knew we were working hard to help and protect him but he wanted, and needed, a little visual confirmation that Jesus had his back too.

The level of violence escalated 2 months later when the kids were on the playground right before the Christmas break.  The 10 year old bully cornered my son, again in full view of the same teacher, grabbed ahold of my son by the throat and lifted him completely off the ground while trying to choke him to death.  My son described the incident this way: I couldn't breathe, my feet were off the ground and everything started going dark like it was night.  I was seeing stars and flashes of light in my eyes.  I thought I was going to die.  I asked Jesus to help me and that's when all of the sudden I got the power!  I hit him.  I hit him with all my power.  I balled up my fist like Dad taught me and with every ounce of power in my entire body, I hit him in the ribs and stomach.  Mom!  HE LET GO!  He started coughing and crying and then I ran off and stayed far, far away.

Again we received no call or notification from the school and it was only when I picked him up from school that I heard about this violence.  I'd had more than enough and at this point, my anger was well beyond any controllable level.  My husband and I went straight to the school.  The Assistant Principal was assigned the task of meeting with us, since the Principal refused to acknowledge our existence.  I would love to say in an ever so lady-like way that I was angry, but in reality, I was enraged.  I was so livid I could have spit nails and framed an entire building without benefit of a nailgun or air compressor.  I was so angry that my husband decided that he'd just sit back and watch the fireworks light up that school from a redheaded mother bear fighting to protect her cub.

The school was put on formal notice right then and there that we would be pressing criminal charges against the school, the boys and their parents, the district, the administration, and every single teacher in the school who was around or had any contact with my son, as well as contacting every single television station and newspaper in the state.  We also told them we would be filing a lawsuit against the district, school, administration, and every single teacher and teaching assistant in the school if there was so much as 1 hair on my son's body ever touched again.

The very next morning as the teacher was clearing out the 2 bullies' desks, the class was told they "moved" away from the school.  My son's teacher told us a couple of weeks later that she didn't realize the stranglehold those 2 boys had over her class until they were gone.  The entire climate of the classroom changed and there was a collective sigh of relief and children started relaxing, laughing, and enjoying school.  To be honest, that statement pissed me off as much as the school's lack of reporting and reaction to these bullying incidents.  How could a teacher not notice a stranglehold of fear that's been placed on her classroom by 2 hoodlums?!!

My son finished out his school year there and we found a house quickly in a different school district so he would never have to attend that school ever again.  By that time though, the damage was done.  My son was forever scarred.  We thought that moving him out of that school and putting him in a great school would erase the incidents from his mind.  My how simple-minded we were.

For over half of his first year of 4th Grade, he secretly lived in fear.  He was afraid to get close to anyone at the school for fear that someone would try to hurt him.  He trusted NO teacher, classmate, administrator, or school personnel.  None.  The hurt still lingered and it was etched into his heart.

He did a great job of hiding his hurt.  We knew he was scared when he started that year but we didn't realize at that time how deep the fear ran.  In January of that school year, we still weren't seeing "our son", so we decided to seek counseling for him from both the school and our church.  Within a couple of weeks we saw signs of progress.  When we saw the first natural smile and real, unforced laugh from him in over a year, it brought us to tears.

For those who think a child that age will just "get over it", you're grossly mistaken.  3 years later he still remembers how he felt.  3 years later he still remembers the violence like it happened yesterday.  3 years later he still remembers the teacher doing nothing to protect him.  No, a child will never just "get over it".

3 years later I still remember how I felt.  3 years later I look back and see all of the things that I could have done better and earlier.  3 years later I look back and my heart aches as I say "If only I had......".  There are so many things I wish I would have done differently but the past can't be changed.  All I can do is acknowledge my failures and move forward with a new level of knowledge and commitment.

My son is now in middle school and doing well.  He continued to wear the cross necklace we'd bought him  as his touchstone.  For my son, that necklace became a symbol of Jesus giving him the strength to fight back with amazing force, with the will and strength of character to overcome the psychological effects of all he endured.

Last Friday that cross broke in half while he was at school.  My son told me it was almost like Jesus was telling him that that part of his life was over and it was time to move forward.  This weekend we are taking him shopping for a new cross necklace.  While the last cross was a reminder of protection, safety, and comfort, this new one will include hope, thankfulness, and a happy future.

If you or someone you know is being bullied, don't stand by silently hoping it will end.  It won't, it usually just gets worse.  Get help.  Tell someone.  If you're a parent of a child being bullied, scream loud and keep screaming until the violence ends.  Take it to whatever level you need to to stop the violence.  If you don't know what to do, go to the government's website www.stopbullying.gov.  There is a list of resources all the way up to the governmental level to help you end the violence.  It's time for this violence to end and for children to no longer be victims.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Salute


Today is Veteran's Day.  A day to honor all of those who have served or are serving in the armed forces to protect the freedoms, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in the United States of America.  The sacrifices endured by those who serve are tremendous.  Today, as I do everyday, I salute you!


My Grandfather


My Father

My Nephew getting his Blue Cord pinned by his Father

I am very proud of my family's long history of service to the United States military in times of both peace and war.  Dating all the way back to the American Revolutionary War, my ancestors have fought, and some lost their lives, to protect the freedoms we all so easily take for granted. While we have visions of Sugar Plum Fairies, they have memories of things that would make most of us cringe in fear. 

My grandfather was in the South Pacific fighting in WWII.  He was in his rest period trying to sleep in his tent when enemy forces started bombing them.  The tent next to my grandfather's was rocked by a bomb.  The soldiers, from 18 year olds to middle aged men, who were there resting were all killed.  That was a vision my grandfather never ever forgot.

My grandfather also remembers being part of the first group to arrive at their base in the South Pacific and being greeted by the women there............ all topless.  The commander, horrified, immediately ordered all of the women who would be serving on base to be given shirts.  The women all agreed to wear them and showed up the next day with the shirts on - but holes cut out for their breasts.  My grandfather laughed throughout the rest of his life over that scene.

My father served in the United States Air Force.  He met my mother while "getting jets" in Mobile, Alabama.  He drove a convertible and won her overly immediately.   Who wouldn't want a hot looking guy in a flight suit who drove a convertible?! They were married 6 weeks later just before they were sent overseas for a multi-year stint and celebrated 53 years of marriage this year.  While overseas, our nation experienced a great tragedy:  the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

While most everyone knows how horrified the people of the United States were, they aren't really aware of what that particular act did to our military.  Word immediately spread to my dad's base in England and they were immediately put on the highest level of alert.  My dad called my mother, who recalls those days as if they were yesterday, he said "He's dead. (alert sirens immediately sounded in the background) I'll call you if I'm able.  I love you." and with that my dad hung up the phone.

At that time, my parents had a 2 year old, 1 year old, and a 4 month old and my mother knew that my dad was climbing into his fighter jet, with a full arsenal of weapons and guns strapped on, ready to go to war.  For several days my dad sat in his fighter jet at the end of the runway ready to throttle up his engines and blaze a trail to whatever destination the United States military sent him to destroy.  As much as he wanted to be with his family during this uncertain time, he had a job to do and he had to stay focused on his potential mission.

My mom could not eat or sleep during this time because she knew that if my father was sent into war, there was a good possibility of him being killed in action.  To be in a foreign country having to care for 3 young children, and not show her concern or fear to her children, takes nerves of steel.  To continue caring for their family with her heart in her throat is beyond my comprehension.  But, if you've ever wondered where I get my strength from - my mother and my father are the source.

Earlier this year, my oldest nephew enlisted in the National Guard and graduated basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia.  While going through training, he suffered a painful fracture to his hip but, instead of taking a medical discharge, he pushed through the pain and graduated with his class.  Yes, that young man is tough as nails and is an asset to our country's military and I am honored to have him protect me and represent our country in service.  Obviously, the steel-like strength of my parents, grandparents, and ancestors blood continues to be passed down through the generations.

To all of those who have served, who are serving, and to the families of all of those: May God bless you now and always.

Dear Lord,
Today we honor our veterans,
worthy men and women
who gave their best
when they were called upon
to serve and protect their country.
We pray that you will bless them, Lord,
for their unselfish service
in the continual struggle
to preserve our freedoms, our safety,
and our country’s heritage, for all of us.
Bless them abundantly
for the hardships they faced,
for the sacrifices they made
for their many different contributions
to America’s victories
over tyranny and oppression.
We respect them, we thank them,
we honor them, we are proud of them,
and we pray that you will watch over
these special people
and bless them with peace and happiness.
In Jesus’ name we pray; Amen. ~ Joanna Fuchs


by:  Christie Bielss

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Memory Lane

As my children get older and I see them interacting with their grandparents, I stroll back in time to my childhood.  I loved my grandparents dearly and looking back at the time and energy they spent to teach me about life means more to me today than it did back then.

Grandmother, Mimi, Grandfather, Pawpaw, Papaw

Even though my grandparents have passed away, lately there have been many times when I can almost sense their approving presence.  Usually it's when either myself or my parents are in the middle of teaching my children something which has been handed down through the generations when the feeling becomes strong. 

There have been times when I thought if I turned my head, I might actually see them looking over my shoulder.  There have been other times when I can almost hear their voice and feel their touch as they instructed me so many years ago.  It is in these times when I feel so blessed to have had them in my life for the time God allowed them to be here on earth, and yet sad they aren't still here.

All of those years they lovingly schooled me in what they'd learned from their parents and grandparents.  There are many times when I wish I had listened more closely and asked more questions.  To have learned more tricks to sewing (like how to actually sew a straight line) from both my maternal and paternal grandmothers would be of such benefit to me today.  Oh, to have the opportunity to watch my maternal grandmother make her infamous gumbo just one more time would be the cat's meow.

I wish I would have appreciated my maternal grandfather more as he baited my fishing hooks when we'd go out fishing together.  Baiting hooks and tying hooks onto fishing line is definitely an artform.

 To have been granted much more time with my paternal grandfather is something I've longed for since he passed away when I was just 8 years old.  He was also a photography buff and oh the things I might have learned from him.  My memories with him though are of games, and tickles, and lots of horsing around.

As I look back through my life up until today, I think of all the people and experiences who have influenced me and made me the person I am today.  Unlike many who profess they are "self-made" men or women, I'm definitely not one of them.

No, I believe my life is a compilation of all those who have taken the time to be a part of my life.  When my grandparents were teaching me the things they knew, they were imparting a piece of them into me.  As I have grown up and matured, I have become like a puzzle whose pieces have fused together and created the zany, serious, introspective, light-hearted, God-fearing, crazy redhead I am today.  And I pray that I pass on a little bit of each one of them on to my children......

by:  Christie Bielss

Monday, November 4, 2013

Being Thankful

Pumpkin, Thankful
 
The month of November brings to mind the beginning of the holiday season here in the USA.  Last year on Facebook, as so many of my friends did, I posted at least one thing per day I was genuinely thankful for. 

This year, with all of the craziness and decidedly difficult circumstances my family and our nation have faced, I've decided to look at the 30 Days of Thankfulness on the lighter side of life.  So here we go:

* Day 1:  Thankful for Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars and for Hershey's continuing to make them in a peanut-free environment so I can consume them.

* Day 2:  Thankful for the clothing manufacturer who discovered how to discreetly incorporate spandex in denim.  I can now wear jeans and eat.

* Day 3:  Thankful for curling irons and hair styling products.  Without them I would walk around looking like a Q-Tip on a daily basis.

* Day 4:  Thankful to have a husband who, while sitting at a stop light, has no compulsion whatsoever about dancing in the car to the music of the car next to us and embarrassing our children so badly they duck down into the floorboard.

* Day 5:  Thankful to be able to connect with old friends on Facebook.

* Day 6:  Thankful to be able to unfriend old friends on Facebook.

* Day 7:  Thankful I have 2 children who were able to show me how to use my cell phone.

* Day 8:  Thankful for earplugs....... so I can sit in the house "undisturbed" while my husband watches his Dallas Cowboy football games.

* Day 9:  Thankful for the platypus - just because I like the animal's name.

* Day 10:  Thankful for my son learning to keep his sneakers in his room.  The aroma which eminates from the shoes have now made his room a completely pest free zone.

* Day 11:  Thankful for my daughter deciding to play hairdresser with my hair and then having a friend come to the door when I have 32 ponytails, 6 barrettes, and 3 headbands strategically placed all over my head and told me they thought I looked great.

* Day 12:  Thankful for Neutra-Air.  No further explanation is necessary.

* Day 13:  Thankful for Target Stores getting all new grocery carts that don't click or clack, veer off on their own, or have a wheel that wobbles enough to register as an earthquake on the USGS registry.

* Day 14:  Thankful I have very boney elbows which work quite well at deterring strangers from entering my personal space at Black Friday sales.

* Day 15:  Thankful for Hobby Lobby, Michael's, JoAnn Fabrics, and Hancock Fabrics.  I think many will understand with no further explanation necessary.

* Day 16:  Thankful for the person at the local gas station who made me feel like I was much less of a germ-a-phobe after witnessing them cleaning the gas pump handle with an antibacterial wipe.

* Day 17:  Thankful I have only confused the bottle of cinnamon with the cayenne pepper once since I learned to cook.

* Day 18:  Thankful for the "mute" button on the television remote control.

* Day 19:  Thankful for texting as it appears to be the only way some families communicate in the same house.......while everyone is in the house together.

* Day 20:  Thankful for the genius who invented dishwasher detergent packets.  Now if they could just invent a way for the dishes to move themselves into the dishwasher......

* Day 21:  Thankful for the F.D.A. requiring pharmaceutical companies to let me know during commercial advertisements if that particular drug will give me an undesirable side effect....... like rainbow colored urine or a black hairy tongue.

* Day 22:  Thankful for Legos.  Stepping on one and experiencing searing, life-altering pain running through my foot reminds me I still have feeling in that particular region of my body.

* Day 23:  Thankful for the school pickup/drop-off lines which allow me to practice my Kamikaze driving skills daily.  BANZAI!!!

* Day 24:  Thankful for deoderant made specifically for preteens and teens.  My nose is deliriously happy with the creators of this ever so necessary grooming component.

* Day 25:  Thankful for junk mail.  Without it spread out and completely covering every flat surface in my kitchen, I might actually have to dust.

* Day 26:  Thankful for Chinese food.  The one meal where I can feed my children all sorts of different vegetables and they don't complain or ask what it is.

* Day 27:  Thankful for makeup because without it, I'd be scaring little children daily.

* Day 28:  Thankful Lowe's and Home Depot stock gas cans year round and that I never have to wonder about how long one will last before deteriorating from old age at my house.

* Day 29:  Thankful for girdles.  Yes, I look like a stuffed sausage in them but they allow me to fit into those jeans that are just a wee bit too tight.

* Day 30:  Thankful for this blog where I have a place to write down all of my quirky thoughts and musings and people are actually enjoying reading them if for nothing more than to allow themselves to feel normal compared to me.


And that's my 30 Days of Thankfulness.  May you all enjoy the many quirks, idiosyncracies, and comedy that is before you not just for the month of November, but the whole year through.

by:  Christie Bielss

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Love One Another

I was in the fabric store the other day buying material to make my daughter a white angel costume for Halloween.  Apparently the stores have decided that this is the year for children to be the angel of death or the pink ballerina angel, but not a regular white heavenly angel.  Having my child dress up as the angel of death just didn't sit right with me so I tried talking her into being the pink ballerina angel at the store but all I got was an exasperated sigh and "Mooooom???  There's no such thing as pink angels in heaven". 

White Angel, Christians

It's pretty hard to reason with that logic and no amount of encouragement on my part could get her to start a fashion trend by being the pink angel.  After hitting 6 other stores plus Goodwill, I finally gave up and went to the fabric store to buy some plain white costume fabric and a simple pattern for my little angel's dress. 

As I sat there flipping quickly through the pages of several pattern books at the same time (yes, I'm talented like that) looking for something acceptable (i.e. super easy and cheap), I couldn't help but overhear a woman speaking to someone she recognized.  As hard as I tried to ignore her, I couldn't.  Her voice carried to such a degree she could be a color announcer for sporting events and never need a microphone.

Before I knew it, the loud woman was asking her acquaintance (a younger woman) what church she was attending because she hadn't seen her recently.  Put on the spot in front of a store packed full of women doing last minute Halloween shopping, the quiet woman tried to quietly explain that her family had moved and were attending a church closer to their new home.  The brash woman blurted "Don't tell me you're going to blah-blah church?  That place is like Six Flags Amusement Park! HA!  That place has a bunch of people who are just too into Jesus for me.". 

The younger woman just stared at her and there was an awkward silence between them.  The older woman then picked up right where she'd left off and continued berating her in front of a store full of people "Oh my gosh! You're going to that church?! How can you handle being around all of those kind of people?!"

At this point my redheaded self was getting mighty peeved with this woman and I knew it would have taken every ounce of control I could muster to keep myself in check.  After a long quiet stare, the quieter woman spoke "I don't believe I need to continue this conversation with you, nor do I need to justify my choice in houses of worship.  Have a nice day.".

And with that the quieter woman walked off.  The loud woman turned to the fabric cutting employee and said "Ooooooo! I must've touched a nerve!".  The employee had her back to me but I heard her terse reply of "and how much fabric were you needing?".

This encounter really set me on edge.  There are over 2 billion Christians on this planet and with those billions come different worship needs and desires.  What right does one Christian have to denigrate another person's choice in worship? 

Maybe you like organ music, someone else likes a guitar, another person like a full orchestra, another person likes the rock band style, and someone else prefers no music at all.  Who are we to judge how someone else choses to worship?  Isn't the Bible clear on judging others?  Matthew 7:1-3 (NKJV) “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?

As this woman demeaned the other woman in front of a store full of people, how many of those customers were non-Christians?  How many were just turned off from ever wanting to learn more about Jesus because of how rude, hateful, and judgmental this particular woman was?

I am by no stretch of the imagination perfect and make more than my fair share of mistakes daily. But people, we all need to stop and think before we act or open our mouths and do something injurious to another. Ask yourself "Is this what Jesus would want me say or how He wants me to act?".

There are enough things in this world for a Christian to get up in arms about, but someone's choice in a house of worship, as long as it falls in line with the Bible, should not be one of them.  Do you think this is how Jesus wants us to act not only amongst ourselves, but with others?  Is this why He allowed Himself to be beaten and crucified on a cross? 

Matthew 22:36-40
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

by:  Christie Bielss

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Me?! High Maintenance?!

For some inexplicable reason being a redhead automatically classifies me as "high maintenance".  I really think it's a bit of a stretch to call me high maintenance.  Ok, so I can sometimes, on a few rare occasions, be difficult, sassy, hard-headed, cheerful, temperamental, zany, and bewildering, all at the same time.  I don't think that classifies me as high-maintenance though.  I think I am more along the lines of............ animated.

Low Maintenance, Fashion

I'm definitely not like Meg Ryan's character Sally in the movie "When Harry Met Sally".  No, I'm usually a regular old "order it like it's on the menu" kind of person....... aka low-maintenance.  I don't even ask for dressing on the side of my salads. 

Now, as for some of you who call me high-maintenance but like to call yourselves low -maintenance?  Well, I got behind you at the Taco Bell drive-thru window the other day, and let me tell you, you were soooooo not low-maintenance.  Three separate cars who had 1 female driver alone in each vehicle (2 blondes and 1 brunette), and yet it took over 5 minutes per car to place their orders because of all the special requests and substitutions.

By the time the third car pulled up, I was ready to smack the woman with her "bean burrito, no cheese or onion."  When she got to: "a meat only Cool Ranch taco - which means no lettuce, tomato, cheese, or onion.  A large soda with half Diet Pepsi and half regular Pepsi and no ice. Did you get that?  No, you did it wrong.  I want a bean burrito, no cheese or onion....." I was wishing I had a Sherman tank to move her out of the drive-thru lane.

For myself, I ordered a burrito supreme.  The order-taker asked "Just a regular burrito supreme?".  Yep, a regular old mystery-meat supreme.  When I drove up to the window to pay, the person looked shocked that I was a redhead ordering something simple.  Really?!  They are going to give me that look when the real high-maintenance women, who weren't redheads by the way, came through the line before me?

This experience reminded me of my last experience at the M-A-C Cosmetics counter at Nordstrom's.  As I sat there and dutifully waited for the makeup artist to find the right type and shade of foundation for my whiter than a Saltine cracker skin, I listened to the woman next to me give the makeup artist her list of "wants".  She was searching for the "perfect" eyeliner.  I gathered from several remarks she made to her salesperson that she thought she was low-maintenance.

Well, Ms. Low-Maintenance wanted a waterproof eyeliner that could withstand sweating while working out but came off without eye makeup remover, and it had to be hypo-allergenic and not tested on animals.  The liner had to go on smoothly, had to be a different shade than her mascara but not make her look like a peacock, doesn't drop down under her eyes when she blinks because she doesn't want attention drawn to her under-eye circles, but it must smudge nicely when eye shadow was applied.  Oh! And she had to be able to apply it without stretching the skin of her eyelid in any way because she didn't want to encourage crow's feet.  But she's low-maintenance and I'm high-maintenance?

Ok, I will concede that I do like to keep my gray hairs dyed.  I guess in this area I am high-maintenance.  I guess my high-maintenance side doesn't appreciate  looking like a contestant in a beauty pageant for skunks. But in my high/low-maintenance defense, my family is quite verbal in letting me know that it's time for me to get my roots done.  Heck, there are days when my son purposely parts my hair just to see if he can spot my gray roots.  So in all fairness, I'm really going to the hair salon as a benefit, or even as my duty as a wife and mother, for my family.

And if I was truly high-maintenance then I don't think I'd have clothes in my closet that are so old and out of style that even Goodwill rejected them.  Not to mention my shoes.  I have had more pairs than I can count which have disintegrated into a puddle of material and leather on the floor of my closet due to old age.  Every time I find another pair which have self-combusted, I feel the need to say a quick prayer over them before I vacuum up their pieces "ashes to ashes and dust to dust....".

I'm no Imelda Marcos or Ivana Trump though.  I don't have people waiting on me hand and foot (although I wouldn't mind getting used to that), and I don't have multiple closets full of clothes............ anymore.  Yes, I used to have 3 closets full of clothes.  Having children moved me from high-maintenance to low-maintenance very quickly.  The number of clothes I wear in my closet now probably wouldn't fill up 1/4 of my closet.  It's a sad, sad low-maintenance wardrobe, to be sure.

But now that I think of it, what if people are actually telling me I'm high-maintenance in the hopes that I'll actually become high-maintenance because my clothes are so old?!  Wait.......... if I spend money on me, then I might have to reduce my chocolate budget.......... which could have the unintended consequence of weight loss.  Hmmmm.............. Which could mean I could fit back into some of those clothes in my closet.

Oh, this is going to be a tough decision.  High-maintenance or low-maintenance.  Which way will the pendulum swing??? ............. I guess we will have to wait and see which direction I go but now that I've thought about it this long, if I'm going to automatically be classified as high-maintenance, I do think I should practice giving people the high-maintenance redhead they expect.  Now, how did Meg Ryan order her food in that movie?????