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  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
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 sent to the South Pacific to fight during WWII. While there, they were encouraged to journal about their experiences and to write letters home. While doing a project of my ancestry for my college history class, my grandfather allowed me to read an event in his journal.

He didn't like talking about his experience during WWII and he didn't allow many, if any at all, to read his journal up to that point. 

He was in his tent trying to sleep when enemy forces started bombing. Before he could move, the tent next to my grandfather's was hit by a bomb.  The soldiers, ranging in age from 18 years to middle aged men, were all killed. In his journal he couldn't understand why/how that tent was hit and all of those lives lost, but he and his tent mates were still alive. The pain of war was vivid and excruciating.

My grandfather would speak about the lighter aspects of his service. He recalled 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 Commanding Officer of the base was horrified. To say the servicemen were distracted by their presence would be an understatement. He immediately ordered all of the women who would be serving on base to be given shirts.  The women all agreed to wear the shirts. The ladies all showed up the next day with the shirts on - but with holes cut out for their breasts. That memory always made my grandfather laugh with great delight.

My father served in the United States Air Force.  He met my mother while "getting jets" in Mobile, Alabama. She worked in payroll and he was a fighter pilot who drove a convertible.  They were married 6 weeks later. LOL!

While my dad has some fun, lighthearted memories serving our country during his years in the Air Force, he also has memories he can't ever forget. Whether in war-time or peace, sacrifices by our servicemen and women are made. 

In a span of 3 years while overseas, not only did my dad lose his best friend, but he lost 5 other very close friends as well. His memories of their lives, well-lived (and boy did those fighter pilots know how to P.A.R.T.Y.!) are what he chooses to focus on.

While he and my mom were overseas with the USAF, 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 quickly called my mother, who recalls that phone call as if it were yesterday: 

"He's dead. (Alert sirens began sounding in the background) I'll call you if I'm able.  I love you."

And with that, my dad quickly hung up the phone.

At that time, my parents had a 2 year old, 1 year old, and a 4 month old. My dad climbed into his fighter jet, with a full arsenal of weapons and guns attached, ready to go to war.

For days my dad sat in his fighter jet at the end of the runway, with engines throttled up and ready to 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. She knew if my father was sent into war, there was a very 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 for days on end, with her heart in her throat, is beyond my comprehension.  But, if you've ever wondered where I get my strength from, you can bet my mother and my father are the source.

After my parents were transferred back to the mainland, the Air Force threw a party for the officers on their base. I was born about 9 months later. My thanks to the Commanding Officer who organized that party!

One of the many responsibilities my dad was charged with at his new base was informing next of kin when a fighter pilot at the base perished. With a clergyman and my mother to help the loved ones in those first devastating moments, my dad would inform them of their loss. 

The loved ones knew the minute they saw the group walking toward them that the worst had happened: their beloved had paid the ultimate sacrifice. The shock and grief was so great, the expressions of condolence my dad spoke to them were barely heard. 

The reactions of the families left behind are forever etched on my parents' hearts. There is nothing that can ever erase, or ease, those memories. The honor and privilege they feel for being allowed to have a hand in helping protect our country and maintain our freedoms were well worth their own sacrifices.

Make no mistake, whether in times of war or peace, our service members and their families, sacrifice for our freedoms. Each one of you have my family's deepest gratitude.

To all of those who have served, who are serving, and to the families of all of those: Thank you! May God bless you and protect you now and always. Your service and your sacrifice are deeply appreciated.

Christie Bielss

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