Monday, April 28, 2014

Clocks Are Overrated

I am never on-time for anything, no matter how much I try.  I am either too early or hopelessly late.  It's not my fault, clocks and I just don't agree.  I want all the clocks in my house set to one time, and every single clock in our house chooses to set itself to a different time.  Even the time on my computer and telephones don't agree, and those are set automatically by the telephone and internet company.  One year, in an effort to be on the same time as everyone else in the world, I tried setting my watch to Big Ben.  My watch battery died within an hour of being set.  I think it fainted when it discovered it was actually in-sync with world time.

alarm clock, clock, time, time set

For Christmas a couple of years ago, we bought our son his own alarm clock because he decided he was ready for the responsibility of waking himself up.  More than eager to allow him this growth opportunity, I quickly ran up to the store to pick out an easy to use alarm clock.  There were 3 words I had used in my zeal to purchase this item which jinxed me: "easy to use".  As I stood in front of the 30+ alarm clocks available, I realized there is no such thing as "easy to use" when it comes to anything electronic.

I decided to go with the clock that automatically sets the time.  We were so excited when we plugged it in and it set itself.  I thought "Finally, one clock in the house will be accurate.".  Famous last words.  That clock hasn't been right once since we initially plugged it in.  This past weekend alone, the hour on the clock changed 3 different times........ in a 10 minute span of time.

When we bought our first VCR player way back in the early 1990's, it took us 6 months to figure out how to program the clock.  It took another 2 years before we figured out how to record a program using the clock feature. 

I'm still not sure if we ever figured out how to program the clock and set it to record on the correct tv channel.  My husband would remark "Well, it looks like we got the right time but the wrong channel......... again.".  I was so proud of actually getting something to record on the VCR that it didn't really bother me.  I was happy watching whatever it was that we'd captured on tape. 

Because of this, we did we exposed ourselves to a lot of different tv programming we wouldn't have otherwise watched.  I'm pretty sure that's how we got hooked on watching "Seinfeld".  After that success, we started setting the VCR to record and not worrying about the channel selection.  When we got home we'd grab some snacks and plop ourselves on the sofa in eager anticipation of what we had recorded for that evening.  It was kind of like a potluck tv night.

A few years ago we bought a foreclosed home.  When we walked through the kitchen the very first time, we saw the oven clock blinking 88:88 and it nearly made us reject purchasing the home.  I said to my husband "If we buy this house, somebody is going to have to set that thing so I can cook".  My husband looked somewhat nervous as he said "I can probably set it...... if you don't mind eating dinner at the same time as the folks who live in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East.  I might even get synced up with Siberia if we're lucky.".

After a couple of unsuccessful tries, my dad set the oven clock to the precise hour and minute.  He was very proud of himself and I was quite proud to have an engineering master for my father.  I set about cooking dinner and discovered that after he'd left, the clock stayed set approximately one hour before it went back to flashing 88:88.

I announced to my husband that fate was telling me I shouldn't cook........ my husband bought me a digital egg timer instead.  It quit working the second time I used it..........

Written by:  Christie Bielss

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Made in the U.S.A.

I remember back years ago when my mother would purchase boxes of Cracker Jack as a special treat for me and my brothers.  Yes that caramel covered popcorn was good, but eating that sticky goodness wasn't our primary goal.  Our goal was to race each other by digging to the bottom of the box to see what prize was in there and which one of us would be the victor in the game of "who got the best prize".  I've still got some of the rings I dug out of those boxes, just as my brothers still have some of the small knock-off GI Joe's with parachutes attached.  The prizes weren't anything big or grandiose, but they were special because they survived us kids playing with them, unlike many things made these days.

USA, Made in China
Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion

These days when I take my kids to McDonald's for a Happy Meal, the toy inside the box doesn't survive the car trip from the restaurant's drive-thru window to our home.  Within a minute or two I'll hear "Oh man!  This thing stinks!".  And that's when that old song from Queen starts playing in my head "Another one bites the dust".  Inwardly I do jump for joy that this toy will go straight into the trash bin instead of being flung in the middle of my living room floor for me to step on.

Toys aren't the only things which aren't made like they used to.  Our garden hose spigot on our house went out 2 years ago.  My husband went to the plumbing supply store, bought a rather pricey new one and replaced it.  Last summer while we were gone on vacation, the blasted thing broke again and spewed water for several days.

It took a couple of days before our yard flooded enough that water started pouring into the street and alerted the neighbors to a problem.  Thankfully, one of them had the special wrench to shut off the water main to the house.  How is it that the original spigot lasted over 25 years, but the replacement didn't even make it one full year?

We experience manufacturing defects even when we eat out at restaurants.  One of my dad's favorite things to do these days when we go out to eat has been to open one end of a straw wrapper and then surreptitiously blow the straw wrapper at an unwitting family member.  9 times out of 10 he blows into that straw and nothing happens because even the straw wrapper is defective and has holes in it.  This also gives me pause as I ponder whether that straw is actually sanitary due to the number of holes in the wrapper.

My daughter just started gymnastics several weeks ago and had worn her gymnastics clothes twice.  On the third occasion of putting on her leotard and gymnastics knickers, every bit of stitching came out of the waistband of the knickers.  A double row of stitching completely gone in the blink of an eye............ and before she could even get her knickers up.  Now how are you supposed to go out and train with the enthusiasm of a future Olympian if you're afraid your knickers are going to end up around your ankles?

As you may remember, my computer crashed over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I called the computer manufacturer's help-line to see if the computer could be reset.  I pressed "1" for English.  The person who answered the phone quite obviously did not understand English as he kept asking about my television and trying to get me to hit the reset button on the remote.  I gave up and told him to "have a nice day".  Considering the way he gasped, combined with his lack of understanding the English language, he may have thought I insulted his ancestry.  Before I started an international incident, I quickly hung up the phone.

Oh, how I miss items "Made in the U.S.A." and feeling the pride one feels at seeing something made in your own homeland.  Those were the good old days.......

Written by:  Christie Bielss

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Brick Wall

To be perfectly honest, I've been in a funk.  That's the best way I know to describe how I've felt the past several months.  One night I went to bed happy and the very next morning I woke up and felt like someone had erected a brick wall around my heart.  The day before I was tootling along just fine taking care of business, and the very next morning when I tried to pray, my brain was everywhere.  I couldn't form a cohesive thought much less a sentence.  Everything from the grocery list, to the to-do list, to home renovations, to......... "SQUIRREL!" was running 90mph through my head and heart.  When I did try to pick up my devotional to read, my insides just said "blech".  When I'd see a spiritual post online, I'd quickly scroll past it as I heard the word "yuck!" inside of my very being.

I figured it was either a phase, I was overly tired, or maybe I just needed a break from it all.  I decided to not do my devotional for a week and to step away from worrying about it.  In that week, the brick wall got stronger and taller.  I knew taking the break was a mistake but I continued on.

The next week rolled around and I promptly squelched every single thought and feeling of needing to study my Bible or participate in any other activity which would stop this backslide I was on.  I chastised myself for being lazy but I figured I'd get back to business in time.  This internal fight continued for weeks before I realized this was more than mere laziness or needing a break.

This brick wall I had allowed to be erected had gained traction and had been fortified with steel and concrete in those weeks.  What started out as a simple low brick wall now had 3 full sides, a ceiling, and a 4th side which was nearly closed.  The height of the walls was seemingly insurmountable and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't scale that wall.

An overwhelming feeling of doom pervaded my thoughts as I realized I had allowed myself to get boxed into a prison cell.  If I didn't actively do something to get off of this path, there would be no escape.  Being a redhead, acceptance of my own stupidity is difficult at best and near impossible at worst.  Even so, there was this overwhelming feeling of needing help which built up inside of me until I could no longer contain it.

I finally made mention of what was going on to a close friend.  Fully expecting to get the reproof of "Well, moron, you opened up the door and let the great loser in...." speech which only a friend can give.  I was quite surprised to hear she was having a similar struggle.  But it also meant she didn't have the strength to help me either since she was battling it herself.

For me, acknowledging a problem has always been the first step to solving it.  Since I owned up to it with my friend, I had made it past this crucial first step, but I honestly had no clue what the second step was in moving past it.  With some more very hard won bravado (remember, I'm a redhead and as such, I don't ask for help), I messaged my cousin (who is a minister) and asked for his advice.

As only a cousin can, he righted my thinking and put me back on the path of life with one simple sentence.  Although he said it with much more eloquence and kindness, in essence he said "just shut up and do it".  So I did......... finally.  Those feelings of "yuck!" and "blech!" were there every step I took through the house to pick up my Bible and devotional book.  I actually had to read and pray out loud in order to squelch all of the "SQUIRREL!" thoughts.

And you know what I discovered?  This wall which appeared so completely insurmountable, which was closing in on me, didn't have to be climbed.  I only needed to do one thing:  reach out my hands and grasp The One that had been there waiting patiently with His arms outstretched all along.  That gigantic reinforced brick, steel, and concrete wall around my heart crumbled to pieces in an instant.

On Friday, I was driving down one of the local highways and was listening to "It Is Well With My Soul".  Ok, so I have to admit that I actually had it cranked up to ear blasting levels because it felt good to have my heart feeling so full and unfettered again.  As the song was hitting its crescendo, I came over a hill and what was before me?  A man dressed in a plain white tunic, wearing a crown of thorns, carrying a cross down the road.............

Written by Christie Bielss

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mr. Scissorhands

Spring fever is hitting our house with a vengeance.  The lawn mower has been tuned up, the interior paint in the house is being scrutinized for touch-ups and updating, windows are being cleaned............ and my husband has started sharpening his pruning shears.  If our shrubs aren't quaking in fear, they should be.

landscaping, pruning, landscape design
Public Domain Image

I learned a long time ago that while my husband is quite handy in many areas, pruning shrubs isn't one of those areas.  Years ago we were cleaning up his parents' yard after the passing of his mother and I mentioned that we might should trim a couple of the shrubs in the backyard.  Before I could say another word, he had pruning shears in-hand and was ready and raring to go.

My parents and grandparents had me trimming bushes and plants from the time I learned not to run with a pair of scissors in my hands.  Thinking yard work was a normal part of adolescence, I figured everyone in their 20's had learned how to trim a shrub.  Judging by my husband's enthusiasm, I made the incorrect assumption he had experience in this area....... and yes, this is another one of those cases of how the word "assume" can get you in trouble.

I pointed to a large shrub and told him to "trim it up a little", and then proceeded to work on the several I had chosen.  After a good 30 minutes of working on the shrubs I had chosen, I turned to look at the 5 foot tall bank of shrubs my husband had been working on.  My jaw hit the ground.

The mayhem that had been committed upon the first of these poor hapless shrubs was akin to murder.  That once tall and very full shrub was now maybe 18 inches tall and shaped in a perfect ball.  If it had been painted black and white, it would've been mistaken for a soccer ball.

He saw my look of dumb-founded horror and replied "I couldn't get it even so I kept trimming until I did".  You know, I think that's the same phrase he used when he decided to start cutting his own hair a few years back.  That first time I saw his perfectly shaved head, devoid of even a single strand of hair, he said "I couldn't get it even so I kept trimming until I did.".............

"Well," I replied "I guess it won't be hard for anyone to walk past now............. so long as they don't trip over it in the dark.".  Since then he has been banned from using pruning shears, which hasn't stopped him from buying several hedge-trimmers............. of which he promptly shears the extension cord before he can do any real damage to any of our shrubs...........

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What In The World.....

I had another post scheduled for today but while I was in the midst of running errands this morning, I was hit smack dab in the face with "it" again.  I know I've blogged about the subject before, but once again I am left wondering what has happened to our world.  Everywhere you go profanity is being shot out of people's mouths as though if it is a part of normal speech.  Hateful attitudes and impatient behavior has also become the norm.  What in the world are we, as a society, becoming?

anger, kindness

This morning I was at Lowe's picking up some foundation plants to replace the ones which didn't survive the harsh winter we experienced this year.  I had just walked up to the flowers outside of the nursery area when a man started spewing out the most revolting words at the nursery employees.  The employees were putting forth a heroic effort to remain calm and professional against the onslaught of this man's tirade.

Honestly, I became quite frightened for my safety with how angry this man became.  He was slinging every epithet he could think of, including denigrating one of the employee's race.  Feeling like this situation was quickly going from bad to worse, I went and stood behind the very tall metal carts the store uses to display a large quantity of plants in the most minimal space possible.

I peeked through the cart of geraniums like Arte Johnson from Laugh-In as I pulled my cell phone out of my purse.  I was prepared to duck bullets and dial 911 at the same time.  I was counting on the geranium's leaves and flower heads to stop any speeding bullets.

In addition to the fear I was feeling, I was positively horrified that a 60+ year old man could be so positively hateful and vile to another human being.  You hear about it in the news.  Maybe you even experience a degree of it.  But to bear witness to something of this caliber was not only life-altering, but heartbreaking.

Is there anything on this planet that could merit such a diatribe of hate?  What could cause this man to be so upset?  Apparently, the nursery employee who loads the heavy items into your vehicle had not loaded the man's items into his truck right when he pulled up, which caused the man to have to wait.

It didn't matter that the employee was assisting an elderly woman, who had arrived first, with loading vegetable plants and bags of soil into her vehicle.  This man did not care.  He was absolutely irate that he'd been inconvenienced and "forced" to wait.

The fact that this man thought he was justified to curse, spew venom and hatred, and make horribly racist comments, made the pit of my stomach sink.  This kind of behavior would never have been acceptable when I was growing up.  This man would've been arrested for abuse and using profane language in public.  These days though, it's become all too common.

I heard a phrase recently which has really struck a chord within me: "Be the change you wish to see in the world".  From this point forward, our family will be making a very concerted effort to be the change.  We may not be able to change the world, but we can certainly do our part to make it a little less ugly.

And honestly, it won't take much effort on our part.  A simple smile, being patient and waiting our turn, using respectful language, showing kindness and compassion, actually listening to what someone is saying, treating others the way we want to be treated, and being the friend we want others to be to us, can change the world.

Are you willing to be the change you wish to see in the world?  I sure hope so.

Written by Christie Bielss

Monday, April 7, 2014

Without A Trace

We have enough paper and pencils in my house we could build a 5,000 square foot home out of them alone.  We also have so many staples and paperclips, we could use them to "nail" the walls together.  But if you need a rubber band, you won't find one at our house.  No matter how many boxes of them I buy, they seem to vanish into thin air.

rubber bands, humor

The situation has become so dire, I have resorted to saving the rubber bands the door-to-door solicitors use to hang junk mail onto our front door.  But within 24 hours, even those rubber bands will have disappeared. 

Before we had kids, we had rubber bands coming out our ears.  I used to think they were asexual and completely capable of self-reproduction.  I would put 1 in the drawer where we kept office supplies, open it the next day and there would be 200 of them. 

Now that we have kids, it seems as though the rubber bands disappear within minutes of arrival.  I thought it might be my children taking them for craft projects.  After a thorough search of every nook and cranny of their rooms, there is no sign of them.

It's as though the rubber bands are either hiding from us or committing suicide by throwing themselves in a recycle bin somewhere.  My children are pretty sure the most likely scenario though is they are disappearing due to alien abduction.  Apparently the aliens steal everything that disappears in our house.  Too bad they don't steal the Legos left in the middle of the floor at night.

For Christmas this year, my daughter got one of those rubber band looms.  By the day after Christmas, 2 packages of her prized glittery rubber bands had run for the hills.  I guess the thought of being woven into a bracelet was more than they could handle and they departed as quickly as they arrived.  Or it could be the aliens discovered the beauty of glitter.

I imagine one day the rubber band's hiding place will be discovered.  I'm hoping when it is, we'll also find our boxes of letter-size envelopes which have also gone missing.......... and maybe some of the socks that disappeared in the dryer.....

Written by Christie Bielss

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wardrobe Wars

My husband and I go round-and-round regarding our family's wardrobe.  I think we should each have more than 5 shirts in the closet and he thinks more than that is extravagant.  He thinks that since we were only born with 2 feet, having more than 1 pair of shoes is a waste of money.  He doesn't understand that women (and girls) need more than just a pair of sneakers.  And the mere mention of needing a new purse is like stabbing him in the heart.

closet organization, storage, clothing
There are many things my husband prides himself on being, but a clothes-horse is not one of them.  If you were to look in our closet, you'd see he has 10 shirts.  Of those 10 shirts, he only wears 5 of them regularly.  The 5 he wears are short-sleeved golf shirts and he wears them year-round.  The other 5 are long sleeved shirts in case the universe experiences another ice age.

He considers my side of the closet to be overburdened by clothing and believes that if I donated half of it, I could clothe the entire continent of Africa.  He just doesn't understand the female wardrobe.  Women's clothes aren't as versatile as men's.  We can't wear a golf shirt to dinner, drinks with the girls, or to an afternoon tea, like men can.

He has no understanding women need clothes for work, play, church, nights out on the town, and formal occasions, nor does he understand the different levels of each one of those clothing categories.  Women have formal business attire for meeting with clients, as well as everyday casual work attire.  Then you have to throw the "Fun Friday" attire into the mix. 

His reasoning was flawed when he surmised that I could get rid of 2 of the 3 pairs of pants which were the exact same design.  As a woman, I also have multiple different sizes of clothes.  Yes, I have my fat, skinny, and just-right clothes.  How much chocolate I've eaten, whether or not I've exercised, and whether the moon is waxing or waning, are all factors which will determine the size clothing I am wearing on any given day.

My husband has 1 pair of shoes which he wears with most everything.  A good old pair of sneakers.  He cannot understand why a woman needs so many different styles of shoes.  He thinks a pair of Sketchers should go with a designer dress, formal attire, and all of my casual outfits.  I've had to purchase fashion magazines to show him that women really do have different shoes for each outfit.

But, one thing he learned a long time ago which is not up for discussion:  my purses.  He made the mistake of asking why I needed 25 different styles of purses.  He even suggested that I pair the collection down to just one purse.  That's when he learned that nothing will get his 10 shirts and 1 pair of sneakers kicked out of our house faster than suggesting I downsize my purse assortment.

I had to explain to him that while I do not carry my large Louis Vuitton zip top purse every day, if ever there was a major cataclysmic event, I could throw the contents of my entire household into that bag.  We wouldn't have to eat bugs like on the tv show "Survivor" because I'd have canned goods, a can opener, chocolate, bagged donuts, chips, canned meat, and vegetables all snuggled safely within its confines.  I've even been thinking lately of purchasing a generator to keep stored inside the bag.  You never know when you might have a need to heat up a can of beanie-weenies in the Outback.

Now whenever bad weather strikes and we have to go to the inner-most room of our house to take cover, I yell that I have the kids, dog and pillows, and he yells back that he has thrown his body over my purse collection.  Yes, as long as the Louis Vuitton survives, we'll be just fine........

Written by:  Christie Bielss