Sunday, March 31, 2013


inspiring, weeds, Jesus, God, inspirational

Today, on Easter Sunday, my children went out and picked me a bunch of "flowers" out of our yard.  They were lovingly bunched together and presented with happy hearts, precious smiles, and loving hearts.  They had worked hard to scour our yard for these weeds because my husband does his best to prevent them from growing and being an unsightly mess.

As I helped the kids pick out a vase, fill it with water, and place the arrangement ever so carefully into the vase, it got me to thinking about the number of times I did this for my Mother when I was their age.  My brothers and I would pick "flowers" that were growing in a field owned by a local resident which was close to our home.  Never once did she say that we'd bestowed upon her a bunch of weeds that would make her eyes water, her nose run, and cause sneezing fits so frequent she'd require an antihistamine.  No, not once.  She lovingly accepted them and never brought up their past.

It occurred to me on this holiest of holy days, these "flowers" were not dissimilar from me.  I am that weed which is now a flower.  There were many things that I have done in my life which could be held against me but someone came along who saw me for my inner beauty.  Someone who could see what others discarded as being undesirable.  That person was Jesus.  He saw through my prickly points and my undesirable characteristics and spoke to my heart.  He picked me before something came along which would prevent me from blooming.  Just like the "flowers" my children picked for me today, my beginnings have been forgotten.  While my life before Him was that of an undesirable weed, because of His love I am now a bouquet.

by: Christie Bielss

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The School Pick-Up Line

back to school, transportation

While waiting for my kids to get out from school, I've noticed there are 4 types of drivers in the school pick-up line.  The First-in-Liner, the Waiter, the Slacker, and the dreaded Aggressor.

The First-in-Liner is the parent who is always at the school first to pick up their child.  The First-in-Liner arrives an hour early and can usually be observed taking a quick afternoon nap while waiting for the children to be released.  When you pull up behind them, they wake up just long enough to give you the perfunctory nod of approval in the rearview mirror for having become second in line.  It doesn't matter how early you get to school to try and beat the First-in-Liner, they always beat you to the punch.  It's like they have a 6th sense which notifies them of a potential interloper.  They will end their day especially early just so Sally-Jo can't usurp their place in line.

Then you have the Waiter.  This is not the person who serves you in a restaurant, it's the person who arrives early enough to be between 4th and 30th place in line.  These are the people that the Slacker and Aggressor find most annoying due to the vast amount of space they leave between themselves and the vehicle in front of them.  They are also the ones that park their vehicle and walk over to their friend's driver's side window and strike up a conversation.  Their conversation will continue, much to the Aggressor's annoyance, even when the kids have been released and the pick-up line is moving.  On many occasions, they are the ones who get honked at by an Aggressor because the pick-up line will have moved up 4-5 car lengths while the Waiter sits there oblivious to the world moving around them.

Next up is the Slacker.  This is the driver who, after the first week of school, has decided they do not want to wait through the pick-up line right at release time and are always the last ones to arrive.  This driver is the reason why so many notes come home from school asking parents to be "prompt" when picking up their kids.  The Slacker's kid is always the one you see sitting on the school steps with their head in their hands, grumbling about how every other parent can make it on time but their own.  When their ride does finally arrive, you can hear the child asking their parent "So, what made you late today?".

And last, but not least, is the Aggressor.  There are 2 forms of Aggressor and both are the most disliked drivers of them all.  First up is the one who drives around the cars in the pick-up line and finds the spot that one of the Slackers has left wide open.  With cat-like reflexes, they whip their vehicle into the open spot and then give a little wave in their rearview mirror thanking the Slacker for having given them a great spot in line while saying "Serves you right Slacker!".  The Slacker, and everyone behind the Slacker, is then left muttering under their breath about what kind of person would cut in line at their age. 

The other Aggressor is the one that everyone finds annoying.  This Aggressor will honk their horn and yell at the Waiter to get them to move their car forward 6 inches.  When this Aggressor gets up to the area for their child to climb into their vehicle, this driver doesn't even wait for the vehicle door to be closed before they floorboard the gas pedal while yelling for their child to put their seatbelt on and hold on because they've got to beat the "idiots" to the exit or, heaven forbid, they'll be stuck there for another 3 minutes.

As for me, I'm none of the above.  I've decided it's way more fun to watch these daily battles from the safety of my car, which is parked in the school parking lot.  Which one are (or were) you?

by: Christie Bielss

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Swimming Malfunctions

swimsuit, laps, swimming, malfunction, malfunctions

Recently I decided to take my doctor's advice and try swimming to get some low-impact exercise.  To be honest, I resisted the idea of swimming because it required the purchase of one major stumbling block - a swimsuit.

I loathe shopping for swimsuits.  To me, all store fitting rooms have trick mirrors which make me look like the fat lady from the circus.  I look 2 feet shorter, 6 feet wider, 30 years older, and with the horrid lighting in the fitting rooms, I can almost see a beard.  

And then I remembered I had an old swimsuit which might still fit.  It wasn't the prettiest thing, and it was a 2 piece, but it had a little skirt that went down to my thighs and it covered all the same areas as a 1 piece swimsuit does.  I thought "Sweet!  No circus mirrors!".  I could almost hear the department store mirrors taunting me "You haven't seen the last of us!  Just wait and see!". 

The next day I headed out to our local swim center and discovered they were having a water aerobics class populated with elderly women.  Yay!, I thought.  I'm not the only overweight, grey-headed, out-of-shape person in the entire swim center and, with the median age in here, I'm the youngster

I had set a goal of trying to swim 5-6 laps.  It seemed achievable at the time, especially since I'd been a very good, strong swimmer in my younger days.  So what if that was nearly 30 years ago.  I was certain I couldn't be that out of shape. 

I stuck one foot in the water and gasped.  That water was downright cold but, determined not to be swayed from my goal, I sucked it up and jumped in.  I quickly found an open lane to swim in, which just so happened to be between two elderly gentlemen.  After saying hello and watching these old birds steadily swim laps as I warmed up, I decided to show them how good of a swimmer I was.  

Remembering  all of my swim team training from years ago, I pushed off the wall with great gusto .......... and proceeded to spend the next few minutes retrieving my swimsuit bottom from around my ankles.  With a lot of struggling I got my bottoms pulled up, which wasn't the easiest thing to do since the pool is 10+ feet deep and I had to tread water while trying to pull the darn thing up.   Definitely not my most shining moment.  

I looked around to see if anyone had witnessed the incident.  The old guys were still swimming, the ladies were still aerobicising and, much to my relief, no one was laughing so hard they were drowning.  It appeared they all had missed my fiasco.

I started swimming as though nothing had happened and made it three-quarters of the way across the pool when all of a sudden I came across the most dreaded thing a person can encounter in a public swimming pool.......... a warm spot.  Oh dear heavens!  Considering the average age in the pool that day, I was a bit freaked out.  I pondered the possibilities of Depends making swim diapers while I made it the few remaining strokes to the pool wall.  As I was gasping for air, one of the gentleman next to me spoke and said "sure is nice to hit those heated water spots when you're getting close to the end, isn't it?".  Oh thank you Lord! Greatly relieved, I hadn't thought about the fact the pool could have a heater.  

After catching my breath, I pushed away from the wall, this time with one hand holding onto my swimsuit bottom.  Never thought about the fact that if one arm is against your side it will allows air bubbles into the top of the swimsuit.... giant air bubbles.

I was forced to surface from my glide due to the buoyancy of the top of my swimsuit.  This darned suit now had enough air in it to fill the Goodyear blimp and was  exposing enough skin that I may as well have just gone skinny-dipping.  I could almost hear those department store circus mirrors snickering at me for not having purchased a new swimsuit.  After releasing the air from my swimsuit top with a giant "swoosh" and putting the appropriate body parts back into the appropriate part of the suit, I finished the lap and decided not to push off the wall on the next lap.  

What I discovered as I started to try and swim was even more startling than the previous 2 swimsuit malfunctions.  The innocuous little skirt which hid my rather unsightly thighs, had taken on enough water at this point that the bottom half of me was sinking ever lower into the water.  This was causing enough pull and drag that I was now swimming at a steep angle and my head was sinking below the water line.  That little swatch of fabric around my thighs was like an anchor and quickly becoming the last step in my complete and total humiliation by possibly requiring me to be rescued by the 80 year old men swimming in the lanes next to me.  

Somehow I had to find the strength to out-swim the skirt's drag.  Out of pure self-preservation and redheaded determination, I made it to the end of the pool.  After spending 1.5 laps fighting swimsuit malfunctions, I decided that was enough exercise to equate to swimming 10 laps and left the swim center.
I returned to swim 2 days later with a new women's Speedo swimsuit.  Before returning, I had braved the darned old department store fitting room mirrors and even went so far as to cover their circus-like reflections with my clothes. After that swimming experience all I needed was a swimsuit that fit and was functional - no mirror required.

As I walked up to the pool, I was greeted by the same 2 older gentlemen who were there on my first swim.  One of the gentlemen teased "Looks like you've got a new swimsuit.  Does this mean you're going to actually swim a full 2 laps today?".  Oh, so you're a feisty old bird, eh?, I thought.  "Oh definitely!" I replied, "and this swimsuit should stay on while I'm swimming.".  Both men's jaws dropped and one of them muttered "Darn!  I knew I should've gotten the prescription swim goggles........".

by: Christie Bielss

Monday, March 25, 2013

Boy and Clothes

backward, clothes, backwards, boy, boys

Getting dressed is an every day occurrence and something you'd think that a child who is going to be heading into middle school next year should have well under control.  But, as some child psychologists have theorized, boys seem to mature later than girls.  

I would tend to agree as our daughter is quite capable of putting her shirt on with it facing the right direction.  With our son, it's a hit or miss proposition.  Some days he lucks out, but 9 times out of 10, he's coming in to breakfast with the tag and collar of the shirt directly under his chin.  I've asked him several times "Son, can't you feel how uncomfortable that is?".  His reply is usually "well, it did seem a bit odd.".  

Does a child really need to "mature" to understand which is the front and which is the back?  If this is indeed a fact, does this mean that my son will be in college before he learns that the side of his shirt with the tag imprinted on it is actually the back of the garment and thus, that side should be worn on the back?
I should've seen this coming though.  One day when he was 5 years old he decided he was old enough to dress himself without the help of Mom or Dad.  We backed off and allowed him this opportunity to grow and mature as all of the so-called "experts" suggested.  When he came downstairs dressed for Kindergarten with his blue jeans on backwards and his shirt not only backwards, but inside out, we tossed the child-rearing book in the trash and went with common sense.  Common sense says that if you have to zip and snap your pants using moves that were invented by Houdini, you might be getting dressed incorrectly.  
I do have to admit to using some of those moves back in the late 70's and 80's when skin tight jeans were all the rage.  Of course, they weren't really skin tight, they were much, much tighter than skin.  If they'd only been skin tight, I probably would've just had to suck in my tummy a bit.  With the tightness of the jeans back in the 70's and 80's, you would have one person hold the jeans open and then you would get up on your bed and take a running start so you could leap into the jeans while hoping that your weight would be enough to carry your feet all the way down the pants legs.  We'd heard that you could get stuck halfway and that would require a call to 9-1-1 and the thought of that conversation was almost too much.  We theorized the call would go something like this "9-1-1, What's your emergency?".  "Ummm, my friend was trying to put on her super-skinny jeans and has gotten stuck halfway".  And then the 9-1-1 operator would guide you through the many different treatment interventions which started with baby powder, then soap and before paramedics were called, they had you try baby oil.  If that didn't work then you ended up the paramedics with a pair of scissors and jeans that were now only usable as quilting quarters.  

When your friends weren't there to help, then you'd have to get a family member, like your mother, to hold the pants.  Kind of awkward having your mother holding your pants for you in high school or college, but the things we would do all in the name of fashion.  Once you were in the jeans there was no time to celebrate because then came the incredibly difficult task of actually fastening them.  

My personal favorite was to attach a wire hanger to that little hole on the zipper handle and then lay down on the bed, exhale all air from my body while simultaneously sucking in my belly and then yank, tug and pull on that hanger until I heard the telltale "ziiiipppp!" of it having closed securely.  Other people used pliers or screwdrivers.  Even heard of a few girls who put soap on their zippers so they'd go up easier, only problem with that was they would go down just as easily, but I probably shouldn't get into that.  And then the battle to close the snap or button began.  

Snaps were easier but had the nasty habit of coming unsnapped at the most inopportune times ......... like as soon as you tried to get up from the bed where you'd just spent 5 minutes trying to snap them to begin with! 

Once you got them snapped then it could take another 10 minutes trying to  get up off the bed using every means possible including trying to raise yourself up in a rigamortis pose, using the roll off the bed method, to holding your hands out for someone to pull you up. Anything to get up, so long as it didn't cause the jeans to unsnap. 

And later on, heaven forbid you walk through the cafeteria food line at school and see something you wanted to actually eat.  There was no room for food, beyond a bite or two, when wearing those jeans.  Nothing like being around 200 of your nearest and dearest high school classmates and have your pants come unsnapped because you had 3 or 4 bites of food.  Everyone would say "oh, poor Lottie.  She should've known she can only have 1 or 2 bites with those jeans on.  This is a really tough lesson to learn.".   The only thing worse than that was if they came unsnapped and unzipped due to the stress of the PSI they were under.  You weren't so much horrified that your pants came unzipped as you were that you didn't have a hanger with you in order to zip them back up.  After you and a couple of your friends would go to the bathroom and spend a fruitless 10 minutes trying to get your pants closed, you'd resign yourself to having to go to the school nurse and borrow a pair of pliers to get that sucker closed.

I always thought the school's custodian should carry a pair of pliers and watch for a surprised expression to come across some girl's face.  He could then discreetly walk over to them and hand them the pliers under the table, while acting like he was picking up/sweeping up someone's mess they'd made on the floor.  They could be slipped back to him just as covertly and none would've been the wiser......well, except for your friends who wouldn't say a word because they knew it was only a matter of time before they would be the one with the zipper issue.
All in all, I guess a shirt on backwards, and quite possibly inside out, isn't that big of a deal these day though.  I bet if I stand outside the school's doors at release time, half the boys would walk out with their shirts on backwards or inside out and their mothers are standing there probably sighing just like me and asking "Isn't that uncomfortable?  Didn't you notice?  I hope Mary Alice's daughter didn't notice or I'll never hear the end of it at book club."......

by: Christie Bielss

Friday, March 22, 2013

Kids, Husbands, and Chores

husband, vacuum, duct tape, kids

We have been undergoing a major kitchen renovation that we are doing ourselves.  In all honesty, we probably should've written in to the DIY network's show "Renovation Realities" and had them come film our progress. 

Because I've been the one doing the painting and such, Mike and the kids have taken on some of my weekly tasks to ease my burden.  Isn't that sweet?  Maybe, maybe not.  I've been noticing a build-up of dust on the floors and have repeatedly asked that they be vacuumed.  In the past couple of days when I ask, Mike will go and get the kids and after some whispered discussion, I'll hear the vacuum being run for a while.  Today, after being chased by a dust bunny the size of a Great Dane, I struck out in search of my vacuum.  The picture above is what I found.  Duct tape - it can solve any problem.........but only if you actually cover the hole you broke in the sucker hose in multiple places. 

Thinking I might just go out and buy a new vacuum, toss the broken one in the trash and act like the new one is my old vacuum - just to see how they react.  I'm betting I'll have some rascally houseguests:  Wasn't Me, I Didn't Do It, and I Don't Know.......

by: Christie Bielss

Kids and Cars - Oh My!

Yesterday seemed to be the day for kid trouble. From them waking up cranky, to coming home from school picking at their siblings, to driving their parents insane with the:
"He's touching me!"
"She started it!"
"I did NOT!"

The last time my kids drove me this close to the brink of having the men in little white coats take me away was right after our daughter was born and we drove to a family get-together several hours away. Being only a few weeks old, we were concerned with how well our infant would handle being strapped into a car seat for that length of time.  

Things were going along so well on the drive to the family function, our worries were for naught. To our great delight, the baby slept the entire way. If we hadn't been so sleep deprived, I think our parent spidey-sense signals might've alerted us to the fact that the baby wasn't sleeping innocently, she was taking a power-nap so she'd have super-human powers later to take over the world and suck all of our brain cells. 

Unaware of our pending doom, we relaxed and spent several hours enjoying being in the presence of family before it was time to load up the kids and head home. After lots of running and playing, we expected our 2 year old to be exhausted and sleep the whole way home. Our new baby had handled everyone holding her and had stayed awake for most of the visit, so we were confident she would as well. Our spidey-sense was lulled into complacency and we didn't know what was about to be launched our way. 

We didn't even make it 1 minute down the road when we heard the baby "Puh-tooey" her pacifier halfway across the minivan..... and that's when the drive from the most nether regions of the earth's core began.  She started crying and got louder by the second. We pulled over and fed her, and she fell asleep but as soon as the buckle snapped on her seatbelt, she awoke and started wailing again.  We decided to use the age-old wisdom of letting her cry it out.  I bet whoever invented that had a great pair of ear plugs - which we did NOT have in the car.  Mike asked "How long can a newborn cry when there's the constant motion of the car to soothe her and baby Beethoven playing as mood music?". 

We found out.  About 45 minutes later and with her wailing ever louder, Mike turned around in the front passenger seat, found the baby's pacifier and plopped it back in her mouth. He gave a victorious grunt and just as he was turning to sit back down, you could hear "PUH-TOOEY"....she'd spit the thing out again. With a grumble he turned around again, found the pacifier and plopped it back in her mouth. He no sooner took his hand away when she spit it out again and started wailing.  And then the 2 year old starts chiming in "Dada, make it stop!" 

As the battle of baby and pacifier vs. 40 year old grown man waged, the 2 year old saying ever louder "Make it stop!" and with as much willpower as I could to try to stop it, I couldn't contain a small fit of laughter that bubbled to the surface.  A dirty look and a cranky grumble to "drive faster" luckily were all I got in return.  Mike finally gave up trying to sit in his seat, or to even let go of the pacifier.  For the next 1.5 hours he had his knees in the front seat with his back hunched over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and with one hand was holding the pacifier in the baby's mouth, and using his other to brace himself so his head would quit bouncing off the car's ceiling.  With fits of grumbling erupting every so often and the constant battle of man vs. pacifier, I could not contain my laughter.  I started giggling which erupted into a full-fledged laughter when Mike shot me a look.  That really got me going. 

By the time we got home I had obviously lost all brain matter from listening to the battle that was waged and was laughing so hard I had tears running down my face.  If the men in little white coats had seen me, they'd have surely taken me away.  When we arrived home and I took the baby out of the carseat, she immediately stopped crying and fell into that long-awaited exhausted slumber we'd all prayed for on the drive.  It took Mike a good 20 minutes before he was able to unkink his back and get the circulation to return to his legs so he could exit the car.  And with a "next time I'M doing the driving!" he collapsed in his recliner.  We didn't do much travelling after that trip.....

by: Christie Bielss

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Sink Stinks

sink, cockroaches, home, house, cockroach, bug, bugs

We bought an older home (built in 1978) back in the mid 1990's which had a few cosmetic issues.  We thought those cosmetic issues were just your typical P/W/C (paint/wallpaper/carpet).  We were in for a bit of a rude awakening.

The first morning we lived in the house, both my husband (Mike) and I had to get up and go to work before dawn.  I was the first one dressed (who says men are the faster dressers?!) and headed into the kitchen.  I flipped on the light and to my great horror, the floor was a solid mass of the most dreaded of all kitchen bugs:  the cockroach.

Being a red-blooded American female, I did what all females do when they encounter such a sight:  I let out a blood-curdling scream and ran for my life!  My husband came at a full run thinking I'd been attacked by the boogie-man.  I jumped in his big protecting arms and was able to squeak out the horror I'd just witnessed: "BUGS!!!!!  They're everywhere!!!".  That big oaf actually started laughing

As my nerves calmed down I said "Oh, you think that's funny?  They covered the entire surface of the kitchen floor like a cockroach carpet!".  With a sarcastic "Yeah, ok Mrs. Drama. How many were there?  1 or 2?", and walked into the kitchen.  By the time he reached the doorway, the floor was completely bug free.  They'd all crawled back into the icky gicky void they must've come out from.  I walked to the doorway and could feel them staring at me.  I knew they were there, lurking in their dark, dank hideaway planning their next invasion.

Later that same day we were having a new dishwasher installed.  The installer noted that the cabinet bottom under the kitchen sink was very damp and rotted from where the old dishwasher had leaked for a very long time.  He advised us to replace the sink bottom ASAP.  A little later that day we also had an urgent, same day pest control treatment (I do NOT do bugs).  Since we were pulling out that cabinet bottom, the technician left us some chemicals to treat that area directly.

The next morning I took an extraordinarily long time getting ready so that my husband was first to turn on the kitchen light. He's a 6'1" broad-shouldered, barrel-chested ex-football player.  He's not afraid of any stinkin' bugs.  As he walked into the family room, I peeked around the corner to see his reaction.  He flicked on the kitchen light and jumped back several feet. The bugs were out in full force.  "You're not laughing....." I said as I peeked from behind the safety of my corner.  He watched as the bugs scattered and ran for cover.  He decided right then and there that his first order of business as soon as he got home from work was to rip out that rotten cabinet bottom. 

True to his word, he walked in the door from work and immediately jumped into action.  He laid all of his tools  within arm's reach of the sink area and even had the pest control chemicals primed and ready - just in case there were any bugs that tried to protest this repair.  He gave me the heads up that he was ready and that I might should find a safe spot to perch myself. 

Having a sense of what was going to come out of that cabinet when he started banging around, I grabbed our dog and headed out to the backyard.  I figured with his manly attitude of  "I'm not afraid of any bugs", this had the potential to become quite entertaining.  I positioned myself outside our kitchen's big bay window, which allowed me the perfect sight line to where he was going to be working, and waited for the show to begin. 

My husband started hammering, and the cabinet bottom started disintegrating on the second downward stroke.  He reached into the cabinet and pulled out the first large piece of rotten cabinet bottom.  He held it up for me to see while mouthing "Ewwww!  NASTY!". 

He sat back down in front of the cabinet and with great force, he hit the cabinet bottom again.  And then it happened.  Time literally stood still.  In what seemed like a scene from a horror movie, my husband started to pull that piece of cabinet bottom out only to discover it was the bugs' home..... and they did not like invaders! 

The bugs immediately went on the offensive and launched an all out invasion.  Before he could even take a breath, bugs were everywhere.  Freeze-frame here:  you know in the first "Home Alone" movie where the little boy grabs the tarantula and plops it on the burglar's face and the burglar emits the loudest, most high-pitched scream imaginable?  Hold onto that thought and let's resume.  All of the sudden, those cockroaches were going after him.   

He started frantically slapping and swiping at his legs and feet.  He wasn't making much headway against this coordinated offensive, so he grabbed the hammer and started smashing everything that moved with it.  As he was flailing around his legs and feet, he didn't notice the bugs had started crawling up his arms towards his face!  All of the sudden, he noticed a movement on his arm and discovered the nasty spawns of satan were nearly to his shoulder.  Before I had time to even blink, he emitted the "Home Alone" blood-curdling, completely horrified scream. 

He started hopping around in a complete frenzy trying to free himself from the bugs.  Standing in the backyard, I couldn't contain myself any longer and started laughing hysterically.  The more he jumped around, swatted and screamed, the harder I laughed.  I was laughing so hard I couldn't catch a breath, my legs literally gave way and I fell to the ground.  I couldn't take my eyes off the scene before me and through tears of laughter, I watched as he finally noticed the pest control chemicals.  He grabbed the chemical sprayer and started spraying wildly while screaming "DIE!!!!  DIE!!!!!!!".  Those giant bugs didn't have a chance against that chemical and died on contact. 

After several minutes passed, he regained control of the situation and looked out the bay window for the first time since having to fight against this invasion of thousands of miscreants.  He started to smile at me and give me the thumbs up when he noticed me laying in the grass laughing hysterically.  His smile froze and slowly faded into a pointed frown.  For some reason, he did not see the humor in the situation one tiny bit.  I guess I was lucky that his "thumbs up" didn't flip around and become a "you're #1"........

by: Christie Bielss

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Grill Incident

gas grill, fire, grass, st augustine, grill

It was late Spring in 1998 and my husband had gone to play golf with his buddy.  I had a rare day off work and decided to surprise him when he got home by having watered the whole yard.  For those who don't know my husband, he's a bit psycho about our yard.  He mows several days a week, picks or sprays weeds with great glee, and checks every shrub or flowering plant almost daily for disease, bugs, and whatnot. 

Things were going along great and, while I was at the grocery store, I came across some really beautiful steaks on sale. In addition to surprising him with a fully watered yard, I decided I would also surprise him with his favorite meal - a slab of cow. 

As the afternoon turned to evening, my husband called to say his golf game was over and he was on his way home. As I hung up the phone, I got the absolutely BRILLIANT idea that I would go ahead and grill his steak and have it ready the minute he walked in the door.  

I quickly went out to the patio and tried to light the grill with the "ignite" button.  No matter how many times I pushed that button, nothing happened.  With lots of propane gas floating in the air, I realized I needed to get this grill lit quickly.

I ran in the house, grabbed the lighter and one of those very long fireplace matches. Like a grilling master, I lit the match and stuck it in the little hole on the side of the grill. All of the burners came alive with a great big "SWOOSH".  I quickly checked to make sure I hadn't burnt an eyebrow off. 

Following what I had witnessed my husband do I many occasions, I tossed the still lit match into the bottom of the grill and closed the lid. We grill masters know you have to give the grill a few minutes heat up to the right temperature in order to get the perfect sear on the steak.  

I checked my watch and noticed it was time to move the water sprinkler out front one last time. I hurried through the house and out the front door. With moves that would rival a ninja, I was able to avoid getting sprayed by the sprinkler.  While moving the water, I noticed a funny smell but continued dealing with the sprinkler. 

Once I was sure the sprinkler was watering the correct spots, I turned back toward the house..... and saw tons of smoke coming up from the backyard.  I thought "Oops!  Need to go turn down the grill.".

I quickly headed back to the front door and expertly avoided the sprinkler spray again (Woot!). As I rounded the corner of the entry way into the family room where the big bay window overlooked the backyard all I saw were flames.  

Flames everywhere! "FIRE!" my brain screamed. I ran out the back door and immediately spied the sprinkler I had left running out back. 

The flames were so close to the house, I was afraid the house was going to catch on fire. I quickly leapt off the patio, somehow managing to jump past the flames, grabbed the sprinkler and started spraying down the fire.

Within a few minutes, I was able to knock down the fire. As I continued to douse the still smoldering areas, I surveyed the damaged.  The entire front half of the backyard was burnt to a crisp.  I mean totally.  Nothing left but dirt. And oh good heavens, it stunk.

My husband's prized grass St. Augustine grass was G.O.N.E.. "Well," I said to myself, "the best thing I can do at this point is cook my last supper before I am executed.". 

I dreaded my husband's reaction and took great care to grill those steaks to perfection. Just as I pulled the steaks off the grill, he was walking in the front door.  "Hey!" he said, "it smells like somebody's house in the neighborhood caught on fire.". 

"Ummm....... SURPRISE! I made steaks for dinner!".  His face lit up with a big smile. As he walked over to the plate of steaks I held, and in front of that darned old bay window overlooking the entire backyard, his mouth dropped open.  "You sure did," he said, "You know, you didn't need to use the grass in order to cook them over an open flame.". 

After having eaten the perfectly grilled steaks, he surveyed the damage. As he walked around he discovered the source of the fire......... that darned wooden match I threw into the grill. Apparently it had fallen out of a rusted out crack that had opened up in the bottom of the grill, which neither of us had known about. 

Every time it rained for the next year, the smell of smoldering ashes was thick in the air - and was a harsh reminder that I had been permanently banned from using the grill. 

The next summer, the grass came back greener and thicker than it ever had been and I was taken off the list of dangerous threats to the yard. I am, however, still permanently banned from using the grill. After having to put out that grass fire, I'm good with being banned from grilling.

Christie Bielss

The Garage Sale

garage sales, sales, sale, Jesus, God, inspiring, garage sale

You say the phrase "Garage Sale" and people visibly cringe.  With some people you can see the work, sweat, negotiating, and hours of sitting, flash before their eyes.  With others, their shoulders instantly droop and their facial expression turns to one of great pain.  For those crazy others, they instantly perk up at the word.  They start rubbing their hands together in glee and get a big thrill at selling off all their unused (and sometimes currently being used) belongings. 

I think I'm somewhere in the middle - I cringe and gripe but the thought of clearing more clutter out of my house is enough of a thrill to motivate me to get it gone.  We have garage sales regularly to try and help our kids clear the clutter out of their rooms and prevent us from stubbing our toes, or worse - stepping on a Lego barefoot.

Our garage sale in November of 2005 though was unforgettable.  We were preparing to move and there were a number of things we did not want to take with us, so this was an extraordinarily large sale.  The sale was going along well.  We were selling kid's clothes and toys by the boat load, knick knacks, and all sorts of other stuff were headed out at lightning speed as well.  In addition to all of that stuff, we had decided to sell our Christmas tree, lights, ornaments, and other tree paraphernalia. 

As we were winding down and the closing hour was upon us, a young father drove up in an older car with his 2 young children, around the ages of 4-6 years old.  They walked up and were perusing what was left.  The children were exceptionally well-behaved and from the quiet conversation the father was having with his children, we could tell that money was extremely tight.  Then the oldest, a girl of about 6, noticed the Christmas tree.  She quietly asked if it was for sale and we responded in the affirmative.  She turned and told her Dad she'd found what she wanted to spend her money on.  Her younger brother followed as she held her father's hand and led him to the Christmas tree and pointed to it.  The young boy's eyes lit up and you could visibly see the excitement dancing across his face. 

The father very quietly spoke to his daughter telling her there was no way she had enough money to buy that tree.  She pleaded with him to ask how much it was.  He relented and we told him $20.  Her face fell, she only had $3.  She pleaded with her father but he told her he couldn't make up the difference because he was out of work, their Mom was sick and they just didn't have the money.  The boy went over and put his arms around his sister and said these words that I will remember for the rest of my life "It's ok.  We'll just draw a picture of a Christmas tree like we did last year.  Mama really liked it.".  Embarrassed, the father was trying to quickly push his children out to the car. 

My husband and I looked at each other and we both had tears in our eyes and didn't even need to speak to know what we were going to do.  My husband ran after the father and stopped him as he was putting his kids in the car while trying to console his extremely sad daughter.  My husband told him the tree was theirs - for free.  The man refused.  My husband looked the man in the eyes and asked him to allow us to spread the love of Jesus and the joy of the Christmas season by giving them the tree. 

Both kids' expressions immediately changed to one of excitement as they looked up at their father with great hope he'd agree.  How could any father refuse those angelic faces?  The little girl jumped with glee and gave her Dad a hug first and then gave my husband the biggest bear hug you could imagine.   The boy hopped out of the car and immediately shook my husband's hand like a gentleman and set about "helping" load the tree onto the car.  The men quickly loaded the Christmas tree onto the car while I grabbed the boxes of lights, as well as all of the decorations, and started loading them into their trunk. The father thought he was only getting the tree and was shocked we were giving him everything.  

After we loaded all of that, I took both kids back to the garage and asked them if they liked any of the toys.  They each pointed out several items, which I put in a bag and handed to their father.  As they were leaving and with tears running down his face, the father thanked us and told us how much we had blessed his family.  With tears running down both of our faces, my husband told him that in truth he and his family had blessed us beyond measure.
Our thoughts on holding garage sales have never been the same since.

by: Christie Bielss

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Back To School

Went and ate lunch with my Dad today.  As my Dad was paying cash for his meal, he gave the young lady enough so that instead of getting a bunch of $1 bills, he'd get a $10 - and jokingly asked her if she could figure out the change without the aid of the computer.  With a good sense of humor, she smiled and said she was in college for a teaching degree for 4th-8th Grade Math/Science. 

Later, after we'd finished eating our lunch, she stopped by to check on us.  We were enjoying our conversation with her when I asked what she thought her most difficult subject currently was.  She said it was writing, not because it was difficult for her to write, but because her college professor was a bit on the "odd side". 

That took me back to the one semester I spent at the University of North Texas and had the craziest World Government professor I'd ever experienced.  Remember the Rodney Dangerfield movie "Back to School" where the plot centers around Rodney returning to college with his son to complete his degree and he has Sam Kinison as one of his professors. 

Probably one of the most memorable parts of that movie is where Sam is yelling at Rodney "SAAAAYYY ITTTTT!!!!".  That was my professor at UNT.  Our World Government class consisted of learning about Vietnam, and only Vietnam.  He was a veteran of the war and he told us with great theatrical presentation how "bombs were going off all around us!  KA-BOOM!!!!  And then the choppers and bombers would come in just above your head shooting their guns BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!, and you'd be running trying to avoid getting hit but then 10 feet over someone would hit a boobie trap and KA-BOOOOM!  PEOPLE, DIRT, SHRUBS AND ALL SORTS OF CRUD WOULD BE FLYING EVERYWHERE!".  The longer he'd talk, the more you could tell he was going into a full flashback.   And heaven forbid if he asked you a question and your answer wasn't immediate! 

He traumatized a lot of young college students as he'd start softly and build in crescendo until he was screaming at the top of his lungs "Say the answer.  You know the answer........ We've COVERED the answer...... Say the ANSWER!  YOU CAN SAY IT!  JUST SAAAAYYYYY ITTTTT!!!!".  If you got the answer right, he immediately calmed down and was back to a normal person.  If you didn't, he'd start throwing stuff around and pick someone else to answer the question. 

Not sure I learned much in that class but as long as I wasn't in the hot seat, it was very entertaining.  To this very day, when I watch the movie "Back to School",  I laugh until I cry at that part...........probably due to my own PTSD flashback.........

by: Christie Bielss

Monday, March 18, 2013

Old Men and Walmart

Grocery shopping at Walmart is a different experience every time I shop there.  From oddly clothed people, to people doing things they wouldn't do in any other store, to experiences you won't get at Central Market, Walmart really delivers on a vast assortment of experiences which would make Miss Manners faint. 

There weren't many people at this particular Walmart location except for a contingent of older folks from the local assisted living center.  When I walked through the doors, most had already completed their shopping and were waiting on their bus to return to pick them up.

I was happily shopping in the peace and quiet while enjoying seeing next to no one in the store.  As I started to head down the breakfast foods aisle an older man was at the far end making his way quickly toward me.  He was moving at a pretty quick pace and was obviously in quite a hurry.

He passed by me right as I was about halfway down the aisle........and then, it hit me. The smell.............. oh dear Lord, the smell. He'd either poo'd in his pants or he was so old he was rotting. 

The oxygen was quickly being sucked out of my lungs as I looked for the quickest exit.  Unfortunately, I was smack dab in the middle of the aisle with no quick escape. With the remaining oxygen I had left, I pushed my cart as hard as I could and sprinted down the aisle for safety.

Just as I made it to the end of the aisle, I nearly plowed into a couple with a small child who had just turned the corner. With tears running down my face and my lungs ready to burst, I only had enough breath to say these 4 words "old man passed gas! Save yourselves!". 

My self-preservation instinct had kicked into high gear and prevented me from stopping to see if they understood me.  As I rounded the corner and started sucking in sweet air free of horrific and toxic fumes, I could hear coughing, gagging and a small child's pitiful cries....... 

I returned a little while later to that aisle to check and see if the Walmart personnel had removed their bodies.......

by: Christie Bielss

Shopping Smart

This year I have been reading so much about "shopping smart" and "shopping with a plan/list" on the internet, in the paper, and hearing about it on tv, etc., that we made the choice to try to create, and stick with, a budget. 

Being a redhead, shopping "smart" or with a "plan" is generally outside my area of expertise, but always game to try something new I decided to give it a go.  Mind you, I LOVE organizing, and shopping like this is really just about being organized, but the thought of not straying off the "plan" for a bag of chocolate or a cute pair of shoes - well, the thought gave me the cold shivers. 

Recently though, both kids' child-sized clothing hangers have either been hanging up on the closet rod so long they've learned to pole-dance or their clothes have gotten too big for the hangers. If you so much as open the closet door, half of the shirts either drop a shoulder and hang there half on and half off the hanger, or the clothes hit the floor faster than a stripper's. 

Well today I finally decided to tackle the problem. K and I, armed with our "plan", went to Target and "shopped smart". We entered the "Home Organization" section (which, by the way, I've discovered is just a way of saying that everything is over-priced) and immediately saw the hangers sitting on the aisle endcap in a wide array of deliciously delightful colors - and then I noticed the price: $2.99 for an 18 pack. What?! It's PLASTIC! Are they made of some special non-breakable plastic or reinforced with steel?! What happened to a 12-pack for $1? 

After looking around a bit and having to search several aisles, we discovered the good old white plastic hangers tucked away so as not to readily draw attention. A 10-pack for $1.17 or 2 packs of 10 for $2.34 - a $.75 discount over the delightfully colored 18-pack. That seemed much more reasonable considering the thinness of the plastic and inflation over the past 30 years. So yes, much to K's misery, my childrens' closets are now full of new, plain white plastic hangers and not the delightfully colored ones. But now when I open their closet doors, the clothes have given up their partying ways and are hanging there with all the modesty of royalty......... and, I stayed within my budgeted allowance for this project..... maybe I'll celebrate this victory by looking at some shoe sales.....

by: Christie Bielss

The Dinner Party

beef tenderloin, silky terrier, terrier, dinner party

Today while waiting for my son to get out from choir rehearsal, I spent a few minutes talking with a friend. She was telling me how her husband had invited clients  to their home for dinner and it was the first time she had to do a "formal" dinner. It took me back to the first dinner party I'd had to do for my husband.

We lived in Little Rock, AR (technically Maumelle, AR) and my husband decided he wanted me to cook beef tenderloin. Knowing this was an expensive piece of meat and we were on a shoe-string budget, I got in the car and drove to the local Walmart located in Toad Suck, AR (yes, that is the name of the city) and got all the fixings for dinner.  I drove home and made the most beautiful, juicy beef tenderloin you'd ever seen with sides of homemade garlic mashed potatoes and fresh green beans.  A melt in your mouth dessert was also ready and waiting to finish off the perfect meal. 

My husband called to say they were running late, so I stuck the tenderloin in the oven to keep it warm until they called to say they were on their way.  Just before they pulled up to our home, I took that beautiful piece of meat out of the oven and laid it ever so gently on a cutting board.  I set my Lenox China serving platter next to it and proceeded to ever so carefully slice the meat and artistically display it on the tray. On the 3rd piece, and with the dog at my feet whining and drooling, a slice of steaming hot tenderloin slid off the fork I was using and before I could catch it, it landed smack dab on top of the dog!  The dog started yelping and took off running - with an EXPENSIVE cut of meat still stuck to her back. 

Hearing Mike's voice getting close to the door, I took off at a full run after the dog.  We needed that piece of meat or somebody wasn't eating!  Halfway across the kitchen I was able to catch her back leg which caused the meat to fall off her back.  I retrieved the juicy slice, which now had my dog's long hairs attached, before she tried to eat it .......and before they walked in. I ran to the kitchen sink and quickly picked and brushed all the dog hair off that slice of meat and served it for dinner. 

Everyone raved about how the meat was perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection.  I thanked them and told them I had used a new seasoning.  Tears were brimming in my eyes as I tried to stifle my laughter. And the dog? She was fine - and her coat look quite lustrous and had just a hint of the perfume:  Eau de Beef Tenderloin.


Taking a walk down Memory Lane, although these days it seems to be a shorter stroll......
It was New Year's Day and we'd just moved in to our Arkansas home the day before and had gotten blasted by a foot of snow. We had a little Silky Terrier, Lauren, who was much shorter than the depth of the snow, so in order for her to attend to her needs, we had to take her for a walk out onto our quiet snow-plowed street.

As we were returning from our walk and were remarking on the quiet stillness of the winter snow, we were suddenly, and without warning, pelted with snowballs. We aren't talking 1 or 2 throws here, we are talking about an all out ambush by the neighbors!! 2 families, who, from the number of snowballs in their arsenal, and the size of the snow fort walls they'd built, must've spent HOURS devising and implementing a plan of attack!

What they didn't know was that I'd spent 4 years in Buffalo, NY and could make snowballs faster than they could blink!  In my family I was the snowball maker while my brothers were the snowball throwers.  My parents, who were in town helping with the unpacking of boxes, heard all of the commotion and faster than Superman, my Dad came out to help us battle the villainous neighbors! Being from West by God Virginia, he was an expert not only at making snowballs, but with throwing them with great precision.

In the end, we won on more than one front that day. We beat those rascally neighbors at their own ambush but, more importantly, we established a friendship that has lasted over 13 years and withstood many moves on all of our families.

by: Christie Bielss

The Intervention

You may be wondering why I've started a blog when there are over 160 million people with blogs already.  Well, as the title of this post says, there was an intervention of sorts.

Last Tuesday, as I'd finished putting a coat of primer on half of our kitchen cabinets while my husband was trying to carry on some philosophical discussion, there was a knock on our garage door.  My husband stopped rambling and got a bit of an odd look on his face.  I looked over at my son who was playing in the leftover paint while our other child was giving the dog a bath, so it couldn't be either of them.  Who on earth was knocking on our garage door?

To my great surprise, my parents were stopping by after having a late lunch.  I thought they were coming to see the progress on our kitchen renovation.  I was wrong.  They were interested in the renovation but they really had an ulterior motive - they wanted to have a "discussion".  That's usually never a good thing. 

A million thoughts immediately ran through my head - none of them good.  All of those thoughts had to do with everyone else and involved illness, injury, or something someone had done wrong.  But all of those thoughts were for other people, not for me.  Why, it couldn't possibly be about me because my halo is usually just above my head and fully visible.......ok, so there is the rare occasion when the halo is held up by my horns, but there's a halo nonetheless..... ok, so the horns protrude on a regular basis but I'm the baby of the family, I could not have possibly done anything wrong. 

And then the words came out "We've talked with your brother (I won't name him here on the blog but he knows who he is) and he thinks you are like the Erma Bombeck of Facebook.".  Say WHAT?!!  What the heck does that mean?!   Is being called the Erma Bombeck of Facebook a good thing or is he calling me names like a bratty kid? Thoughts started racing through my mind.  My daughter, who was as wet as the dog and covered in so much dog hair I was having difficulty differentiating between which one of them was the human and which was the canine, was asking for help trying to dry the dog.

Then, as I noticed my son occupying himself by painting himself white with the last dregs of paint, the next punch came, "We all think you should be writing and should really think of compiling your current writings into a book...... but at the very least you should be writing a blog".  And before this sentence had even had time to sink in, my husband jumps in on the bandwagon and says he's been telling me to do this for a couple of weeks but hasn't convinced me.

So this is why the normally quiet and reserved man who is my husband was suddenly verbose and could talked the ear off a billygoat.  Oh yeah, you think I can't see those horns holding up the halo which just magically appeared Mr. I've-been-trying-to-convince-her-for-weeks-now?!  

And who are these people?  Have aliens come and taken over the bodies of my family?  Throughout my high school and college years, my parents would critique my writings as not being meaty enough.  My husband has always said I was too wordy and that I need to be more concise.  And now, out of the blue, these aliens are banding together telling me they like my writing?  And my youngest brother was in on this too?!

I was having some difficulty processing all of this and had to ask "So, when (insert my brother's name here) said I was the Erma Bombeck of Facebook, is he saying I need to quit rambling and that I'm sharing things I shouldn't?  Am I being one of those people?!".  "No" they said, "he thinks you're funny but need a better format to write, such as a blog, and that you should go after it.".  Go after what?!!

Well, I'd never thought much about writing other than it was my 2nd most favorite things to do when I was in school, with my most favorite being high school marching band in 110 degree heat with a wool uniform on, sweating until I thought my entire body had become completely devoid of all liquid matter and the sun had incinerated my brain.  (I really did love marching band though.)

For 15 minutes, as I cleaned the paint off my son and de-dog-haired my daughter, they hounded me until I finally agreed to think about it.  As my parents were leaving, my Mom said she'd think up a name for my blog while my husband interjected that he had already come up with a name for my first book - which, by the way was really funny.  "Y'all are just plain nuts", was my reply to all of this hullabaloo.  But, I had pacified them somewhat by agreeing to think on it and would let them know in a few days. 

In those few days, my husband continued to be "supportive".... for my parents idea.  I decided to shoot off an email to my brother to say "Hey Mr. Instigator!  Have you lost your marbles?" - to which came the ever-so-brotherly reply which pretty much said "shut up and do it".  Nothing like family to cut to the heart of the matter.

After a couple of days of thinking it over, I ran the family's idea past some friends who I thought I had stacked the deck with and would back me up and say "yeah, there are 100+ million blogs.  It's a waste of time".  To my shock (and utter dismay ....... and then fear!) they said "Do it!". 

So, after a couple more days of contemplating the pitfalls of writing and how stupid I could sound, I figured, oh what the heck!  I probably already sound that way to all of my friends and they still talk to me and acknowledge me in public, I guess I can try this whole blogging thing. 

So there you go.  That's my "short" story of how this blog came to be.  Maybe if this goes well, we can even make this into a reality show................ we could call it "The Looneys"........

by: Christie Bielss