Monday, May 27, 2013

Rollercoaster Memories

memories, rollercoaster

Right-side up.  Upside down.  Twists, twirls, turns, flips and drops.  Oh the fun, and terror, of the rollercoaster ride.  It gets the endorphins rushing through your body and gives you a feeling of exhilaration that's hard to replicate.

I used to love going to Six Flags Over Texas and riding the Judge Roy Scream.  It went fast .... super fast ..... for back in the 80's.  I liked how it felt to have the G-forces lift me up off the seat and press me against the restraining bar as the rollercoaster went hurtling down that first hill.  And then I grew a little older and a new sense came into play ........... the sense of impending death.

My husband and I were newly married and decided to go to Six Flags with another couple.  With a little bit of coaxing they got me on the Shock Wave, a ride with a double loop.  I loved going fast, but going upside down - twice - brought out that new sense.  I sucked it up, signed my Last Will and Testament, and boarded the ride.  We climbed a gigantic hill, went around a curve and then dropped like a rock down the huge hill leading into the double loop.  "Keep your head back" my husband yelled.  Too late.  My head was off the headrest just enough that the G-forces pushed my head so far forward  I could see every piece of gum hidden on the underside of all the seats.  At the end of the ride, my husband convinced me to ride it again with the promise that he'd help hold my head back.  The other couple thought that was a great idea and oh how I'd get to experience the fun of the ride this time.

Not wanting to miss out on anything fun, I agreed and we reboarded the ride.  We climbed the big hill again, rounded the corner and dove down the hill.  The next thing I know I've got my husband's gigantic, muscular, hairy forearm plastered to my forehead pressing my head back against the headrest.  It was at this moment that I realized having your head shoved between your knees far enough to kiss your derriere good bye was actually more entertaining than having a view of sweaty arm hair.  A plus to having your head shoved down is that you are already in the crash position should something dire happen during the ride.  There is no plus to a sweaty arm on your face.

With this coaster under my belt and the fact that I have survived, albeit with a little less dignity, the group coerces me into riding the Cliffhanger.  As we are standing in line and I watch what amounts to a construction elevator free-fall nearly 13 stories, I get a little niggling in the back of my mind that maybe this isn't such a good idea.  As we boarded the ride, they gave us instructions on the do's and don'ts.  Do hold onto the grab bar and sit up straight.  The only don't I remember was "if you're going to throw up, throw out, not down so it doesn't come back on you or the other occupants".  Ummm..... yeah, this isn't looking good.

As this rickety looking contraption started lifting us up, I started to freak out.  My husband's friend pulled out a penny and as the ride reached the tip top and pushed us out over the drop zone, he asked us all which will land first, us or the penny.  We were making our predictions when we suddenly dropped into a 128 foot free fall...... nearly 13 stories.  I opened my mouth to scream but the terror and G-forces were so great that nothing escaped my lips. Sheer unmitigated terror.  That is how I would describe this ride.  My fingers had to be pried off the grab bar to extricate me from the ride.  Someone may have closed my mouth and told me to breathe as well, but I don't remember anything other than the fact that the penny our friend released upon dropping, landed after we did.

My body was shaking so badly I could barely walk and I was led to a bench to regain control of myself.  As my mind slowly became untangled from the web of terror that had ensnared it, I looked at my husband and said "Y-Y-You d-did s-s-s-sign y-your Wi-Will r-r-right?  C-c-cuz I'm g-gonna k-k-kill y-y-you wh-wh-when I q-quit sh-sh-shaking.".  That was the day he learned the lifesaving qualities of chocolate...........

by: Christie Bielss

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where did Miss Manners go?

These days you hear about it everywhere.  It doesn't matter where you are:  the dentist, at work, grocery shopping, the post office, car dealership, on the internet, in school or in the school pick-up line, or even in your own vehicle and in your own home.  It's there, ready and raring to rear its ugly head.  People complain about it regularly, but few do anything more than complain. 

etiquette, manners, what is manners

What is it that I am speaking of?  A great big lack of manners.  Good, old-fashioned, common courtesy manners seem to have fallen away.  It has been going on for quite some time but, about the same time that the world crossed the mark into the new century, the world also seems to have completely eliminated and tossed aside the one thing that separated man-kind from the animals.

I was recently walking in a store from their parking lot.  A mother with a stroller was a bit ahead of me.  Her stroller held twin babies AND a toddler and it was quite a lengthy contraption but one that I'm sure she was quite thankful for.  What bothered me were the people next to her who saw her struggling to open the store's door and try to maneuver this 18-wheeler sized stroller through it, and not a single person offered to hold the door open for her.

It would've taken what? an extra 20-30 seconds out of their time to perform a simple act of courtesy.  I walked as quickly as I could and held the door for her as she was trying to figure out how to handle the logistics of it.  I apologized to her for the lack of courtesy the others had shown.  And being a redhead, yes I said it loud enough to chasten those who had ignored her need.  It did make me feel better to see several of the women duck their heads in shame.

My husband went to the grocery store with our children last summer.  When they entered the store, my children saw an older gentlewoman having some trouble getting a cart, so they pulled one out and gave it to her.  She was smiling and thanking them as a woman, who was quite obviously in a gigantic hurry and had as much courtesy as an NFL Defensive Linebacker trying to sack an opposing quarterback, nearly ran the older gentlewoman over in her haste to get her own cart.

Upon departing the store's parking lot, my husband had to wait for an oncoming car before pulling out.  The same woman who'd been in such a big hurry in the store was now in the car behind him was obviously still in a big hurry as she laid on the horn and threw up her middle finger to tell him he was #1....... with her car full of children, and in front of my children.  My husband smiled brightly at her, and said "have a nice day!" and told our children that she was obviously having a bad day.  That happened last summer and my children can still tell you every detail of her rude behavior and how her face contorted with her anger to this very day.

Or how about a woman friend of mine who went to the car dealership to drop her car off for service a while ago.  The waiting room chairs were completely filled with 30-50 year old males, and one older gentleman.  All of the men looked up and saw her enter the waiting area and, upon seeing no vacant seats, stand against the wall.  Did a single one of those younger males offer his seat to this woman?  No.  It was the older gentleman who got up and insisted the woman sit in his seat.  Upon seeing this exchange, did a single one of the younger males then offer his seat to the much older gentleman?  Once again, no, not a single solitary one.  And while those men may have forgotten it, my friend still remembers - and she remembers that it was the older gentleman who actually was courteous and kind.

I recently heard about a mother who decided to teach her children to give selflessly of themselves for no reason at all.  She did this by taking her children to the local florist and purchasing a dozen flowers for each of them.  She then took her children to the local store and stood outside the doors.   They were to hand out a flower to any person they wanted and to tell them to have a nice day.  24 people that day were touched by kindness and generosity and 2 children learned that this life isn't just about their own wants, needs, and desires.

Manners and simple common courtesy don't have to go to the extent of bowing and curtsying these days.  The simple action of holding a door open for someone, or for a man to give up his seat to a woman, or to pull out a shopping cart at the grocery store for another person, or to smile at a person and hand them a flower and say "Have a nice day", can change someone's view for the day and quite possibly longer.

If we all spent a couple of minutes per day thinking about someone other than ourselves and performed a few simple acts of courtesy and kindness, our world would be a much nicer and more pleasant place to live.  What are you going to do to extend the hand of courtesy?

by: Christie Bielss

Friday, May 17, 2013

World's Longest Umbilical Cord

cell phone, helicopter parent, texting

What is the world's longest umbilical cord?  The cell phone. 

I saw a Kindergartner carrying a cell phone at my kids' school the other day.  He was texting his parent, who was already in the school's pick-up line, to find out how far back she was and how long he'd have to wait for her to arrive at the pick-up zone.

I love my kids more than life itself and maybe I'm old school, but when I drop my kids off at school, I really don't want an open line of communication with them.  When I pick them up from school, we have a nice face-to-face conversation about their day.  I get to hear all about the amount of gas they passed, what little Johnny did on the playground that embarrassed all the girls, and how little Sally makes them gag at lunch because she refuses to chew with her mouth closed.

I'm pretty sure if my kids had a cell phone in elementary school, I'd receive picture texts all day long showing them standing in line for the water fountain, waiting their turn to use the restroom, or what little Sally looks like with her mouth full of food.

A mom told me she likes to text her child during the day and tell them she loves them.  To keep up with the Jones' without a cell phone, I got the idea to send a Post-It note in my children's lunches that said "I Love You!".  When I picked them up from school that day, they were so embarrassed by my gesture, they had their jackets over their heads so no one would recognize them.  I decided not to ask if it was also because I'd cut their sandwiches into the shape of a heart.

Another mom told me she volunteers at the school every single day and, to show her support of her child's education, sits with her child through a number of the child's classes.  I went up for my kids' class party and within 15 minutes I was ready to run for the hills.  My escape was thwarted though when my bum became wedged in the little kid-sized chair.  After several failed attempts to get up, I had to ask another mom to hold the chair while I tried to get up.  My exit from the chair was about as graceful as a combined episode of "I Love Lucy" meets "The Three Stooges".

After that episode, I realized I'm not meant to keep up with the Jones'.  I throw my kids' sandwiches in their lunch box and usually end up smushing their drink on top of their cookies.  If I've remembered to include in their lunch the four basic food groups, a drink, and a napkin, then I'm doing pretty good.

I support their education by hounding them to do their homework every day.  There is a lot of gnashing and grinding of teeth, pulling of hair, spilling of tears, and begging that happens every single day............ and that's just on my part.

No, I wasn't cut out to be a helicopter parent who hovers over their child's every decision and move.  I am just your regular average parent.  I am thrilled with my children's successes and I try to raise them up through their failures.  I have hope that one day they will instinctively know when life throws a curve ball and knocks them down, they can raise themselves back up on their own two feet.  I pray they both know I will be standing on the sidelines cheering them on every step of the way....... without having to text it to them while they're in school, or sit through their classes with them.

by: Christie Bielss

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Great American Road Trip Memories

summer vacation, moving, road trip

We are taking a vacation this summer by car which will encompass 5 states and several thousand miles with 2 kids.  Yeah, this could get interesting but we've done it several times before and survived with sanity intact ........ ok, partially intact.  If nothing else, we will make lots of memories.

We took our first road trip with our son when he was just 14 months old.  We were moving 700 miles, so it was going to be a pretty interesting trip with a very active toddler strapped into a carseat for 2 days worth of driving.

We left the deep south late in the afternoon, headed for our new home in Texas.  I had our son strapped in his carseat in my minivan, with my husband following us in his pickup truck. 

Our son was having a grand time making the pulling down motion and getting the truckers to honk their horns.  Scared the beejeevies out of me a few times, but that's better than listening to a crying child for 700 miles.  As we crossed the Alabama/Mississippi border, the sun set and darkness started to creep in on us.  This was the part of the trip my husband and I were the most nervous about.  Pitch black, a baby who's afraid of the dark, and strapped in a carseat for hours.  Yeah, this could get dicey and very uncomfortable ....... for both of us.

The darkness really set in and boy, you couldn't see a thing outside of the car windows.  It was very creepy, even for me.  But having driven this before, and knowing how dark it gets, I had thought ahead and brought our son a little kid-proof flashlight to entertain him and light his little area.  I had shown him how to use it the day before, so when I reached back and handed it to him, he giggled with excitement.  Haha!  "How smart am I?" I thought to myself.  "Why - I am BRILLIANT!!!!".  Famous last words.

Our son was having a grand time trying to find alligators, bears, and lions outside the car windows as we drove through the forest.  That was fun for a while but when he didn't find any wild animals, he quickly lost interest.  He started looking all around the car with the flashlight, entertained with how the light could bounce around on the ceiling and floorboards of the minivan.  After a while, he quieted down and relaxed with the darkness that enveloped our car. 

I noticed as we continued to drive that several passing cars  must have some tired drivers, as they kept hitting those grooves in the pavement which alert you to your vehicle leaving the roadway.  After a number of vehicles had crossed onto the grooves as they passed us, it dawned on me that something might be wrong with my car and maybe they were giving us a wide berth.  As the next car drove past, I looked in my side mirror and discovered the reason.  Our sweet, beautiful, little innocent baby boy, in his eagerness to see who was driving the car passing us, was shining his flashlight directly into the unsuspecting driver's eyes and creating a beam of death!

Considering that we were in the middle of a forest preserve with all sorts of wild animals, I was not stopping to take back the flashlight for fear of being eaten by the alligators, bears, or lions my son had been looking for.  All I could do at that point was to ask my son in my nicest June Cleaver-like voice, to please not blind the helpless unsuspecting drivers with his flashlight because he will cause them to all crash and die.

We reached our hotel and my husband walked over to our minivan laughing hysterically.  Before I could say a word, he told me that our son had been blinding drivers for over 100 miles before I'd noticed.   Welcome to the great time-honored American family road trip where the best laid plans usually go awry.........

by: Christie Bielss

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Menopause Isn't For Wimps

menopause, hot flashes, what is menopause

Oh the changes we go through as we age!  We just thought teenage hormones were crazy until we hit our 40's and 50's and discovered that old age hormones are equally as nuts.  The difference between then and now is that we don't have the energy to do some of the stupid stuff we did as teenagers.  There are so many changes though which just don't make sense, like:

Why does it takes 6 months for my hair to grow out from a bad haircut but a gray chin hair can grow 6 inches in less than 2 hours?

Why is it that with female menopause we gain weight and have hot flashes, but with male menopause they drive motorcycles and date 20 year olds?

What is it about hitting the mid-40's that causes your eyesight to all of the sudden diminsh?  Yesterday I could read a newspaper.  Today I have to hold it 4 feet out in front of me to be able to make out the large print.

Why isn't there a Cliff Note version to what happens to our bodies as we mature?  It could be short and sweet and say something like:

In your 20's: nice tight muscles and no cellulite

In your 30's:  you'd better start exercising or that muffin you're eating today will be hanging over your waistband tomorrow.

In your 40's:  You've discovered that your internal thermostat has become stuck on inferno.  This is the time in your life when you realize you do not want to spend eternity in hell - you're in it and it is H.O.T.!

In your 50's:  you're getting new muscle definition in your arms - due to the effort of having to lift "the girls" into a bra every morning.  Your internal thermostat is now completely bi-polar and fluctuates between inferno and the polar ice cap.  Your personality is also experiencing changes.  One minute you're happy and the next minute you're so angry over your toothpaste container being empty that your head is spinning and your body is levitating off the ground.

In your 60's:  you go on a daily search mission for your car keys so you can drive to the store only to discover you left something out of place in the bedroom which requires you to put it away, which causes you to come upon an empty water bottle you forgot to throw in the recycling bin, and reminds you to drink more water, so you open the refrigerator door discover your car keys....... but you can't remember where it was you were going.

In your 70's:  it's time to travel to those fun and exotic places you've never had time to see and wear a bikini on the beach to scare all the 20 year olds.  It's also the time in your life when you begin using the phrase "they've got brakes" regularly when driving.

In your 80's:  you're looked upon as a fountain of information but, for the most part, you just want people to shut their pie hole.

Aging and menopause isn't for wimps.  Laugh at the changes, go with the flow and make sure to capture it all with your camera so your kids will have something to laugh about for years to come.

by: Christie Bielss

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's All About "The Girls" ...... and "The Boys"

what is breast cancer, inflammation, inflammatory

I'd like to say I'm going to be talking about "the girls" today, but this post also applies to "the boys" as well.  Breast cancer affects both men and women and the one particular form this post addresses, Inflammatory Breast Cancer, does not discriminate based on sex. 

I know, as do many adults, to perform monthly breast exams and to have mammograms performed regularly, as recommended by my physician. Last summer  I was introduced to this particular type of breast cancer and I was suprised to learn that all of the monthly screening exams we've been taught to perform will not detect this particular type of cancer.

Unfortunately, the way I learned of Inflammatory Breast Cancer was due to the passing of a friend's family member afflicted with this very deadly form of cancer.  While the information says this type of cancer is rare, another friend's family member just passed away from it.  For most of us, "rare" means it doesn't affect your family or your friends.  This has affected 2 of my friends in less than a year, so it's become much less "rare" in my little world.

Because the symptoms are different, as are the diagnostic tools, I think it's time to try and help spread the word regarding this type of cancer, especially since the warning signs are not what you would associate with the word cancer.  So, with a bit of research from multiple websites, here are the most common signs.  And sorry fellas, but I'm not referring to your breasts as pectorals or pecs.  I could, however, call them man-boobs....... but I'll just stick with breasts.

The 5 Signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer are:

1) Itchy, red, or sore breasts.  There may even be a rash, or may just feel itchy like you have a rash.  There may be a small red spot which looks like a bug or spider bite.  The breast may feel swollen or heavy and the skin may take on a thickened look and even a purplish hue.  The breast may exhibit the appearance of an orange peel.  Due to the swelling of the breast, tumors or lumps are extremely difficult to detect, so there may be no lump detectable to the touch.

2) You may experience upper back pain located between the shoulder blades, similar to a pulled muscle.

3) Nipple changes. Because the cancer is located underneath the nipple, the tumor can cause the nipple to become flat or inverted, or the skin of the nipple may become crusty, scaly, or red.  There may be a discharge from the nipple.

4) You might notice a change in the size or shape of one breast.  The breast may even become more oval shaped and possibly hang lower than the other.

5) You may experience pain, swelling, or a lump in your armpit.

If you experience even 1 of these symptoms, all of the researchers advise getting in to see your physician immediately without delay. 

There are still physicians across the USA who are not familiar with this type of breast cancer.  If your physician is one, direct them to the American Cancer Society's website, or to the Susan G. Komen website, or to the National Institute of Health's website, or find a physician who is familiar with it.  Time is of the essence.

Help spread the word and help save lives.  The sooner a man or woman is able to have this type of cancer detected and treatment started, the better chance they have at surviving.

by: Christie Bielss

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Redheaded Tag Ripper

how to remove tag, tag, the redhead

"Do Not Remove This Tag Under Penalty of Law", the tag states.  The tags are on everything from pillows, to mattresses, to furniture, and have scared young and old alike.  100 years after being implemented by the government, you can still find the tags on antique pillows and furniture.  When I was a kid, I started to rip one off my Grandmother's pillow and she almost fainted for fear the police would come and arrest us all. For years the redhead in me wanted to get up in the middle of the night when no one else was awake and tear, cut, or rip those tags off.

My fear of being caught by the "Tag Police" though has always kept me from yanking those little suckers off.  I never wanted to go to jail or have to face a judge from the wrong side of the bench and become known as "The Redheaded Tag Ripper".

I have tried to quell those unlawful urges and have been, for the most part, a law-abiding citizen.  Ok, so I've had a couple of speeding tickets.  One of them was for doing 48mph in a 30mph zone, of which I gladly accepted since I had actually been doing 60+mph.  When the police officer asked if I knew I was going 48mph in a 30mph, I said "no"....... because I had been going much, much faster.   Of course, that's when there were back-roads that no one else was on, so it wasn't quite as dangerous, albeit not the wisest decision ever.

The other speeding ticket was just ridiculous and I was innocent.  The officer said I was doing 36mph in a 30mph speed zone.  Considering that I was in the middle of a gigantic pack of cars doing less than 30mph and my speed when I looked down was 28mph, I think he was full of mularkey.  But, being one who was taught not to argue with the law, I took the ticket and sat through an 8 hour defensive driving course to have it removed from my record.  On the bright side, I won the comedy defensive driving class award for the lamest ticket.  My prize was a lollipop - yeah, lame. 

Anyway, while I was changing the sheets on my children's beds, I decided to sit down and read the "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law" tag in its entirety.  I was quite astounded to discover that the rest of the information on that tag described the contents the item was constructed with.  The "Do Not Remove" part was actually written so stores couldn't hide what made up the contents.  I was shocked when I discovered the tag also said "Tag Not To Be Removed ....... EXCEPT By The Consumer".  Why, I am the consumer!  Which means..... I can remove the tags......... LEGALLY!  All these years I've tucked those tags in, dealt with them sticking out of the ends of pillowcases, and tried to make beds without the tag showing.  And now I've discovered I can remove them!  I'm sure the great discoveries that have been made throughout the centuries paled in comparison to this one!

With great delight, I grabbed my scissors and started clipping off all the tags that have made annoying crinkly noises on the mattress pads, on our bed pillows, and have stuck out on the sides of comforters and on my sofa's throw pillows.  I went so crazy I even clipped them off all my kids' stuffed animals.  

I gleefully checked every single item in my house for the tags and when I found one, I would ever so carefully cut the tag off and then with a devilish laugh, wave it in the air, proclaiming my freedom and innocence from Tag Police authority!  I was like the feminists who burned their bras to declare their equal rights!  I was judge, jury and executioner.  Alert the Interpol!  I am tag free! .........  Well, almost tag free.  I did discover on my Sealy mattress that it says I'm not supposed to remove the tag for warranty reasons......... there always seems to be one kill-joy in every crowd........

by: Christie Bielss