Tuesday, January 28, 2014

For Sale: Slightly Haunted House

For sale:  Slightly Haunted House.  A home in Pennsylvania has been put up for sale by the homeowners because a few "odd" occurrences have occurred.  For me, as an ex-Realtor, a red flag immediately goes up and it causes my hackles to stand on end.  As someone who doesn't do scary movies, every nerve in my body screamed for the homeowners to run for their lives and never look back as I read their story.

Courtesy of Wikipedia. Public domain image.
Having been a Realtor, I've gone in some of these "occupied" homes and you can feel the presence of something before you ever open the front door.  Back in the late 90's, I had a client who was an investor.  He'd buy dilapidated old homes, bring them back to their glory, and then sell them for a profit.  A few had some "Casper the Friendly Ghosts" that were no big deal, but there was one home I will never forget.

It was located in an area of town that was just beginning to see a resurgence of pride in homeownership.  The house I was taking the investor's contractor to assess had known only 1 owner in its 60 years since being built.  The contractor had become good friends with my husband and I, so I felt very safe looking at homes with him in rather questionable areas of town.  The home was in pretty bad condition as the owner had been elderly and thus hadn't been able to maintain the home in a very, very long time and had recently passed away.

We arrived to walk through the home at dusk and the minute we pulled up into the driveway, we both just sat there looking at this home.  "Holy crap!  It's the house from Amityville Horror!", the contractor exclaimed as he pulled his handgun out and made sure it was loaded.  I looked at him and asked "Does this really look like a home we need to go inside?".  He looked at me with an expression of complete amusement and teased "Well, since you're scared, why don't you sit in the car with the doors locked while I walk around the outside."

"Oh really?!  You're the one with the gun but I'm the fraidy-cat?!".  Remembering an old verse from the Book of Proverbs: "Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall" I decided to sit in the car.  "Ok," I said, "I'll sit here and call 911 when a vagrant hits you over the head and steals your wallet".  Laughing, he got out of the car and walked around the exterior of the house.  After checking the home, he was confident it was devoid of squatters and had been properly secured, and thus was safe to enter.  He motioned for me to turn on the car's headlights so he could check out the garage area first.

He lifted the garage door and took a step into the garage.  Using my large Maglite flashlight, he shined it into a dark corner of the garage.  As soon as the light touched the darkness, the darkness moved!  The contractor jumped at the sight and sprinted for the safety of the hood of my car....... after being chased by several very large, and very ticked off, rats.

I laughed hysterically at the scene before me.  Determined not to be bested by the rats........ or me, he closed the garage door and then motioned for me to open the front door of the house.  By this time, the sun had completely gone down and dusk had been overtaken by night.  "Ummmm....... are you sure we need to even go in?  It's so dark, we won't be able to see anything.  Maybe it would be best if we come back tomorrow when it's daylight.", I suggested........ hoping beyond hope I wouldn't have to walk in this house at night.

"Oh no.  We are going in.", he said.  Dear Jesus, protect me!, I thought.  I unlocked and opened the front door.  He looked at me and said "Stay close.  Hold the flashlight.  If anything comes at you, whack it with the light.  It'll kill anything you hit with it.......... just make sure it's not me.".  With that ever so reassuring thought in my head, we stepped into the house.

We were immediately greeted by the overwhelming stench of death.  We both grabbed our shirts and pulled them over our nose and mouths to act as a filter against the smell.  We took a few more steps inside into a large open living room with  beautiful hardwood floors. We were both surprised and impressed with the layout and bones of the home.  A few more steps into the home and we came upon a bedroom...... where the odor seemed to be emanating from.  The owner's remains had been removed, but the mattress had not.  yuck.

We both sighed with relief that the odor was all we had to deal with.  We turned from the room and started to walk back to the living room when the contractor held up his hand for me to stop.  He had his head cocked to one side and was listening intently.  I froze.  He waited a few minutes, shook his head and we moved on.  We came upon the stairs which led up to the very dark upstairs rooms.

As we looked up, we heard the creaking of floorboards in one of the upstairs rooms.  The contractor looked at me and said firmly "Time to go up.".  I looked at him like he'd lost his mind as I said quite emphatically "Oh, hell no!".  He giggled and replied "Well, I am going upstairs and I have the gun so if you want to stay downstairs all alone with just a flashlight, then go ahead.".

I closed my eyes, said a quick prayer of protection for my stupidity in following him, and made the sign of the cross (I'm not Catholic but I was hoping to cover all my bases).  He held the flashlight and the gun as we slowly walked up the stairs, while I held onto the belt loops of his jeans.  He was having to carefully check each step for durability before moving up to the next step, so it was taking a bit to go up the stairs.  As we progressed upward, more creaking sounds emanated from the upstairs area.  I was pretty sure he could hear me swallow hard because he said "it's probably just more rats". 

The thought of being chased by rats caused me to stop.  This was like the 3 Stooges in a haunted house - except there were only 2 of us......... or were there???  It was at this point when I decided I would much rather stand on the stairs in complete darkness than see what was upstairs making those creaking noises.

As I stood there on the stairs, every nerve in my body was standing on edge, as were the hairs on the back of my neck.  You could feel we weren't alone.  There was most assuredly another presence in this house and it was not of the rodent variety.  The contractor shrugged his shoulders at my hard-headedness to stay put and pressed on, leaving me alone in the dark. As he continued up the stairs, he called back "Just scream if you need something", while chuckling at his own humor. 

 He walked around one side of the upstairs and checked it thoroughly.  As he walked to the other side of the upstairs, all of the sudden, the sound of footsteps came from the area he'd just checked.......... followed by the slamming of a door.  My heart was in my throat!  The contractor quickly stepped around the corner and shined the light on me on the stairs.  I lifted my arm and pointed to the area where the noise came from.......... the area he'd just checked.

He looked back at me and all he saw were my elbows and backside as I flew down those stairs and out the front door!  I did not stop until I was inside the car and the doors were locked.  He was quite a few steps behind me and by the time he caught up, I already had the car engine started and the car in reverse.  He had to knock on the car window for me to unlock his door so he could get in.  Thankfully, he'd locked the front door back and secured the house key in the Realtor's lockbox so I didn't have to.

I left part of my tire's rubber in that home's driveway in my zeal to get the heck away from that house.  As we were driving away, the contractor looked at me and asked "I have to ask........ did you slam that door trying to scare me?".  Without hesitating I said "No!" with enough conviction and fear to convince him I wasn't the one.

He picked up his cell phone as we drove back to my office and called the investor.  "Yeah, that house is beyond my level of expertise.", he said.  The investor asked why.  Without missing a beat the contractor replied "Exorcism of a house isn't something I have been trained for.".

Christie Bielss

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Who Cares?

I don't care how much money you have.  I don't care how big your house is.  I don't care if your clothes are the most fashionable or aren't.  I don't care what precious gems you own, or what ones you don't.  I don't care what kind of car you drive or if you even own a car.  I don't care what restaurants you dine at or what wine, beer, or liquor you indulge yourself in.  I don't care how much or how little you travel. I don't care where you travel or the method by which you choose to travel.

Caring, love

I don't care who you know or who you don't know.  I don't care if you think you are all that and a box of chocolates.  I don't care what church you attend and whether it's small, medium, or large.  I don't care if you volunteer.  I don't care what job you have.  I don't care what position you hold on the PTA or on your kid's Little League team.  I don't care if you have stocks, bonds, or mutual funds.

I don't care how many book clubs you attend or tea parties you are invited to.  I don't care if you donate your used items to charity, or sell them in a garage sale or on Craigslist.  I don't care if your yard is meticulously landscaped by a renowned landscape architect or if it isn't landscaped and is mowed haphazardly by a teenager.

I don't care if you have the latest technology.  I don't care if your kids have the latest technology or a college savings plan. I don't care what size your television is.  I don't care if you've seen all the latest movies at the movie theater, plays at the performance hall, or symphonies conducted on a lush lawn under the stars.  I don't care what sporting events you attend or the bars you party at.

I don't care if you've had plastic surgery, Botox and collagen injections, or the latest facial.  I don't care if you have weekly mani-pedis.   I don't care if you eat off of china and drink out of crystal and I don't care if you eat off of paper plates and drink out of Solo cups.

I don't care if you own rental or vacation properties.  I don't care if you own your own island, an office building, a farm or a ranch.  I don't care what area of town you live in or the school your children attend.

I.DON'T.CARE. about any of that STUFF.

What I do care about are the words and attitude that come out of your mouth.  I care about the words you write for the world to see and the context in which you write them.  I care about the way you treat people and the courtesy you show others.

I care whether you honor yourself, your family, and others through your actions.  I care whether you choose to put people before things.  I care whether you enjoy lifting people up.  I care whether you have enough respect for yourself and others to acknowledge your faults, mistakes, and shortcomings.  I care whether you truly give with your heart. 
I care whether you are more prepared to love than to hate.  I care whether you are sad or happy. I care if you are experiencing pain or hardship. I care whether there is something I can say or do to help you. I care whether there is something you can say or do to help others.

I care whether you are willing to stand up and help those who can't help themselves.  I care whether you are willing to be around people who just need someone to show they care.  I care whether what is on the outside is a direct reflection of what is on the inside. I care about Y.O.U., not your stuff, not your facade, not the empire you've built or the things you have or have not accumulated. 

Maybe, just maybe, if I care about you in this manner, you will care about someone else and show them the same love, honor and respect I show you.  Maybe this ever so simple act of caring will help not only those you have touched personally, but people you don't even know.  Maybe this society which has developed an attitude of "What about me", with a little bit of caring, can be turned around to have an attitude of "What about Y.O.U.".  Maybe.........

Psalm 19:14 "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer."

Christie Bielss

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Labor of Love

"Code Blue".  2 words you don't want to hear while you're in the hospital.  2 words you definitely don't want to hear associated with your hospital room number.  Every year around my son's birthday, those words pop back in my head.  They have been forever etched into my memory.  Those 2 words were called out through the hospital's public address system in regards to my rapidly deteriorating health while I was giving birth to my son.  I had suffered an amniotic fluid embolism, a potentially catastrophic "medical event".

childbirth, baby, infant

My son's birthday is a reminder of how very blessed I am that not only did we both survive, but we both didn't have life-long complications from that crisis.  This year the feelings are even stronger since there's been a lot of news coverage regarding a local woman who suffered a pulmonary embolism at @ 17 weeks gestation.  She was declared brain dead but is being kept alive until the baby can be born.

For me, the condition occurred during labor.  I started having chest and rib pains with difficulty breathing.  Occasionally, during a labor pain, my oxygen saturation monitor's alarm would sound.  The nurse would have me take some deep breaths and all would go back to normal.  After a while, those pains in my chest and ribs began to increase.  With each labor pain, the chest and rib pains would increase in intensity to the point where they became more painful than the labor pains.  It wasn't too long after that when we lost my son's heartbeat.  He had crashed, and my vitals were going down rapidly as well. 

Within seconds of my son crashing, my OB/GYN and the labor and delivery team were pushing my bed at a full run to the operating room.  My labor nurse was pushing drugs in my IV as they ran.  I could hear the urgent page for the anesthesiologist over the hospital's public address system.

By the time we had arrived in the operating room, my son's heartbeat had returned, although it was very faint and he was still quite obviously stressed.  My husband, who was waiting in the hallway and was not being told anything, was fit to be tied.  I remember a nurse coming into the operating room as my epidural was being administered and whispering to the doctor that my husband was about to go ballistic and might have to be restrained.  The only problem was that my mom and dad were there and she was sure she'd have to restrain all 3 of them if she tried to restrain him.

The mental image of my husband (6'1", 235 pounds with shoulders the size of a freight train) being restrained by this tiny slip of a nurse who weighed maybe 100 pounds soaking wet, caused me to laugh out loud.  The doctor allowed him in and he was able to watch as our son was delivered via emergency c-section. 

After delivering my son, it appeared I was doing better as all of my pain had subsided and my vitals were headed in the right direction.  I was moved to a room to convalesce for the remainder of my hospital stay.  A short time later the chest and rib pain returned.  My oxygen saturation monitor started sounding the alarm every 10 minutes.  The night nurse exchanged monitors in hopes of stopping the alarm so I could get some rest.  The new monitor's alarm started sounding from the minute it was plugged in as well.  Convinced it was just the monitor's finickiness, the nurse turned off the monitor.

Within a few hours, the pain was very sharp and weird noises were coming from my lungs with every breath I took.  About that time the doctor came in for his early morning rounds.  I told him the pain had returned and he looked over to discover the monitor had been turned off.  Rather perturbed, he ordered the nurse to turn it back on immediately.

The nurse turned it on and the monitor blinked to life.  We all watched and waited for my oxygen saturation reading to pop up.  The instant the number displayed, the alarm sounded.  My oxygen saturation was at 83% and going down.  The doctor jumped into action and started barking orders.  A button was pushed on the wall behind me.  "Code Blue room ......" was immediately paged throughout the entire hospital.  And I realized....... that was my room!  Talk about a surreal experience.....

Within a matter seconds my hospital room was filled with medical personnel.  The doctor was in the hall with the night nurse ripping her up one side and down the other for turning off the oxygen saturation monitor.  An X-ray machine and echocardiogram equipment appeared out of nowhere.  Doctors, technicians, and specialists of every sort came in rapidly.  There were so many medical personnel trying to get in my room, they were lined up in the hallway.  There were nurses telling patients to get to their rooms and having to argue with family and visitors to go to the visitor's lounge and clear the hallway.  Apparently car wrecks aren't the only emergencies that make people rubber-neck.

A bazillion tests were performed in a very short span of time.  The worst of the worst was......... the arterial blood gas lady.  She so sweetly said "I'm going to draw some blood and it might sting a little".  "Sting" my right eye!  She drew the blood from some vein down in between the bones of my wrist and it did not "sting".......... it hurt like hell!  The numbers quickly came back and we were told I was being moved to I.C.U..

As we waited for I.C.U. to open up a space, the administration of 100% oxygen and a laundry-list of drugs injected into my IV's, started to kick in. My body quickly responded and I was finally, truly, taking a turn for the better.  While I was still on 100% oxygen, I was allowed to stay in my room and didn't have to go to the I.C.U..  I was thrilled I wouldn't be separated from my son for who knew how long. 

After 9 days, the crisis of the embolism passed and I was released with my sweet, healthy baby boy to go home.  My first night home we breathed a sigh of relief and I took a delightfully long, hot shower.  When I got out of the shower, my legs and ankles were the size of an elephant's.  Oh crud.

A new problem had popped up.  My mom took my blood pressure.  It was quite high and my body was retaining so much fluid I looked like Violet, the girl who turned into the giant blueberry in the movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory".  Heck, I was pretty sure I could hear the Oompah Loompah's singing their song.

A quick call to my doctor's after-hours number and I was off to the emergency room to meet him there.  It was quickly determined that my kidneys weren't functioning correctly.  My blood pressure was getting higher each and every time it was being taken.  Finally, after what seemed like hours, all of the tests came back.  I had postpartum pre-eclamsia.  They had to readmit me to the hospital.

Without warning I burst into tears.  I hadn't cried a single tear through 9 days of my hospitalization but the thought of having to go back in pushed me over the edge.  My husband started patting my hand and telling me it was only for another day or two.  The doctor patted my shoulder and handed me a box of tissues.  Within a short span of time, I was readmitted, administered high blood pressure medication and my kidneys kicked into action. 

After a total of 10 days in the hospital, and months of doctor and specialists visits, echocardiograms, and other tests afterwards, I was back to my normal self.

While I feel so very blessed to have survived all of that, there is still this voice within me that asks why?  Why did I live when so many others have died after suffering a medical event of this magnitude?  I obviously am here for a purpose, so what is it?  I still have absolutely no idea. I'm just a normal, average, crazy redhead.  I'm nothing special.  I guess one day I'll get to ask that question to my Lord.......... but hopefully not for a very, very long time.  For now, I look at it as a time when everything pointed to an ending, but for me, it was the beginning.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I Found It!

It happened.  It finally happened.  After several months of longing, of searching site after site, of looking at everything from magazines to decorator's websites, I finally found it.  I didn't think I would.  I thought it would always be just outside of my grasp and I would always long for it.  I was prepared to settle.  I even looked at lesser alternatives in hopes they could pacify my need...... my selfish desire.......... to have just this one thing that was not only perfect, but oh so lovely. 

Sligh, mahogany

And then it happened!  Without warning, up it popped on Craigslist!  I couldn't believe my eyes! There before my eyes was a desk so very similar to the one I'd been drooling over!  How could this be?!  It was almost exactly like the brand new one, but at a price which was not only astonishing, but affordable!

Could I email fast enough to be first in line?  The thought of having someone beat me to the punch was gut-wrenching.  To know that I'd found it, that I could afford it now, only to have someone rip the rug out from under me could've pushed me over the edge.  I typed that email with lightning speed and quickly hit "send".

And then the wait started.  Every 10 minutes I checked my email that evening waiting for the reply.  I stayed up until 11pm in hopes I would see the reply, but nothing appeared.  During the night, with every shift in the bed, I would grab my phone and check my messages.  Nothing.

At 6am the next morning, I couldn't take it any longer and sent another email using a different email service.  And I waited again.  As I drove my kids to school, my daughter kept checking my email every few seconds....... nothing.

I drove myself to my doctor's appointment that morning and checked my email at an extraordinarily/ridiculously long stoplight on the way to the doctor's office.  Nothing.  I arrived at the doctor's office, checked in, sat down, and looked at my phone.  There it was!  The reply I'd been waiting for.

The excitement mixed with fear nearly overwhelmed me.  I was now actually afraid to open the email.  How was I going to be able to control myself and not start crying in the waiting lounge if the seller told me the desk was already sold?!  How would I be able to control myself and not start crying (see a pattern here?) if the seller told me I was first in line for the desk?

With baited breath I clicked to open the message.  As I was waiting those milliseconds for the email to load, the nurse called my name.  Are you kidding me?!  I quickly grabbed my things and walked to the nurse with my phone in-hand watching and waiting for that email to load.  The nurse, who knows me quite well, looked at me and asked if everything was alright since I never have my phone out at the doctor's office.

As we walked to the room, the email finally loaded.  That first sentence had me leaping in the air.  "Yes, it is still available....".  I was first up for the desk!  The nurse giggled and told me to quickly reply before someone else could snag it.

The desk was mine!  With great excitement I picked it up and brought it home.  It took 4 of us to unload it from the car and bring it into the house.  Yes, it was that heavy!  We gently placed it into what will be my office. Even that ugly unfinished room took on an almost heavenly aura with the mere presence of such a distinguished and stylist desk.

And now the great office makeover begins.  Stay tuned as I show you glimpses of how I am progressing.  With the addition of the desk though, this makeover may happen a whole lot quicker than I first anticipated.  Yippee!!!

Christie Bielss

Friday, January 10, 2014

Moving Beyond Procrastination

I saw a post recently titled "10 Tips To Stop Procrastinating Right Now".  I decided that article sounded very interesting given my great propensity for that particular behavior trait, so I saved it to read later.  2 months later..........it's still saved.

Beautiful Office Solution
Storage Solutions
When it comes to procrastination, I think I should be given an honorary PhD.  I have perfected the art and made it into an artform.  Not only have I just avoided doing things I didn't want to do, but I have even gone so far as to spend hours trying to figure out a way how not to do something.

Unfortunately, when I'm done pondering, that pesky task is still sitting there waiting patiently.  Lately this trait has really started to get on my nerves, so much so that I have been researching organizational strategies to try to help make my life easier, if not simpler.  The thought of not having paperwork laying around my house for days..... ok weeks........ oh, who am I kidding, years.... actually excites me to the point of perusing The Container Store.

Of course, once I get into looking at all of the various items to organize my life, I then become so overwhelmed that I retreat back into my comfortable little world, surrounded by...... paper.  With the dawning of a new year, I again got invigorated to organize my little corner of the world and, if nothing else, make it presentable.  Ok, I'll be happy if I achieve the level of not being embarrassed when someone stops by.

In an effort to gain momentum, I decided I need my own little area of the house where I can write my blog, as well as other contracted writing jobs I've been getting, and edit images when I do photo shoots (from my part-time photography business).  I also realized that while my computer area was quite "functional", it was also extremely uninspiring and, to be quite honest, claustrophobic.

I don't like being boxed in and it actually overwhelms me when I started seeing even just a few papers laying around my computer.  Once I felt overwhelmed, then I'd just leave the stuff there, which then seemed to have allowed the paper to breed and create more piles of paper.

So, having figured this all out, my husband and I have decided to transform our guest room into my office/guest room.  First thing to get this wave of momentum going was to sell the computer armoire.  Thanks to Craigslist it now has a new home.  Second to go was our queen sized bed in the guest room.  Again, thank you Craigslist.  It was sold in less than 3 hours.

I'm now in shopping mode for a new desk.  You may have heard of the HGTV show "Design on a Dime" which redecorates a room in under $1,000.  With all of the renovations our house needs due to it having been a foreclosure property, I'm going for the "Knock-off on a Nickel" budget. 

And thanks to Pinterest and Houzz, I now have a bit of a design plan and am "happily" moving forward.  The photo above is my "before" picture.....ok, but the bed has already been sold, so it's not truly a before picture.  As you can see, we have done nothing to the room since moving in, so it just looks like a disorganized storage area right now.  But! I have a dream!...... and I have my photos from Pinterest and Houzz to keep me focused.

So stay tuned.  I am working hard to create my "working retreat area" as I'm now calling it, and will post an after picture when we get it complete.  I'm thinking the hardest part is going to be moving all this cr.......errrr..........junk out.  If you all are interested, I may even post some "sneak peeks" along the way...... I am truly looking forward to having a pretty area to go to, but mainly one that doesn't look like a hoarder lives here.

Christie Bielss

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Marriage Texting Challenge

Texting, Couples, Love
I saw this post on Facebook about a month ago and thought it was hysterical:

Tell Your Husband You Love Him

A group of women were at a seminar on “How to live in a loving relationship with your husband.”
The women were asked, "How many of you love your husband?" All the women raised their hands....
The women were then told to take out their cell phones and text their husband: "I love you, sweetheart."...
The women were then told to exchange phones with another person, and to read aloud the text message they received in response.

Here are some of the replies:

1. Who the hell is this?

2. Eh, mother of my children, are you sick or what?

3. Yeah, and I love you too. What's up with you?

4. What now? Did you crash the car again?

5. I don't understand what you mean?

6. What did you do now?

7. ?!?

8. Don't beat about the bush, just tell me how much you need?

9. Am I dreaming?

10. If you don't tell me who this message is actually for, someone will die.

11. I thought we agreed you wouldn't drink during the day.

12. Your mother is coming to stay with us, isn't she??

The replies really made me think.  I've been married 24, going on 25 years.  While I tell my husband I love him regularly, this experiment made me think about how many times I've said "I love you.......... and I found a new sofa", or "I love you...... but I closed the garage door on the car's liftgate again" vs. just saying those 3 little words with no condition attached.

As a wife, I've always tried to express my feelings regularly (and being a redhead I probably express them TOO regularly), but I felt the need to test this experiment out on my husband to see whether I was a member of the "conditions attached" club.  With great confidence that I wasn't, I texted the quote challenge word-for-word to my husband.  

Fully expecting to be able to gloat with great pleasure over how his reply would prove how much I have regularly expressed my love with no conditions attached, I eagerly awaited his reply.  Within seconds he responded............ "I love you too.  What's up?".

Hi.  My name is Christie and I am a member of the "I haven't expressed my love for my spouse without some condition attached" club........