Thursday, May 29, 2014

Throwback Thursday

I have enjoyed many of your Throwback Thursday photos and stories posted on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.  After much consideration, I have decided it is time to open my old photo albums and share some of my adventures.  You may or may not believe this, but I was a tomboy.  A card carrying tomboy, to be exact.  Yes, I liked playing with my dolls and Barbie's, but I also had just as much fun, if not more, playing G.I. Joe's with my brothers, climbing trees, fishing at the local pond, and digging through an abandoned barn for a treasure (although all we ever found was old manure and electrical wire).

Yes, that is me in the blue shirt waiting excitedly for the raccoon.

It may come as a surprise to some that I had absolutely no problem keeping up with my brothers.  Well, I did have one problem:  my mother.  There was only so much tomboy she was going to allow.  I'm pretty sure I drove her crazy playing baseball, soccer, and football with my brothers and their friends.

She would lament the number of bruises which covered my legs from ankle to thigh.  On Sunday mornings, she'd put me in a dress and tights and before we ever arrived at church, my tights would be covered in holes from where I had to go "rescue" a cat stranded in a tree.  Oh how she would grumble and complain the very second we exited the car in the church parking lot and she'd see my tights.

Oh yes, this redhead could climb a tree faster than any boy in the neighborhood, my brothers included.  I was also very thin, so I could climb up higher in the trees to where my brothers didn't dare follow as the limbs would creak and groan from their weight.  It was a great hiding spot after I had annoyed or taunted them mercilessly......... generally within an inch of my life..... or maybe I should say a few branches of my life.

I was pretty fearless in my youth and a couple of these photos are indicative of my crazy redheaded wild side, which still gets loose from me from time to time.

Yes, that's crazy young me with the snake around my neck.

As I got older, the tomboy side of me gave way to my mother's urgings to act like a young lady.  My mother was tickled pink as the girlie things took root.  I went from wearing a snake around my neck, to wearing necklaces and earrings.

When I was modeling back in the 80's

The transformation from mud encrusted, grass stained clothing, to skirts and hair bows was complete when I started modeling locally.  My mother not only had the somewhat feminine daughter she longed for since I was born, but had gained a shopping buddy as well.  From that point on, it became tea and petit fours, manicures and spa days, and laying by the pool while drinking pretty pink lemonade.

But the transformation wasn't quite as complete as she'd hoped for.  I still enjoy throwing a football with my husband and kids, as well as studying lizards, toads, and minnows in their natural environments, and I still like jumping in water puddles and digging in the dirt.

There is a quote I heard which has stuck with me for years: 
"Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children." ~ George Bernard Shaw.  I don't think I'll ever leave my youth completely behind.  The redhead in me most likely won't allow for it.

After some introspection, I have discovered that Throwback Thursdays are important.  They help remind us as we go about living our daily hectic and harried adult lives, to kick back and rediscover the things we found so fascinating, intriguing, and fun as children.  So let's go view the world with wonder again!  What's your Throwback Thursday story for this week?

Written by Christie Bielss

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Grammar Pet Peeves #1

There are some common mistakes made daily which drive me insane.  The fact that I see teenagers and college students making these errors regularly makes me grind my teeth in frustration.  I am certainly not perfect with grammar, but I do try to make an effort to get it right. I know many people think grammar is old-fashioned, but let me be the first to tell you:  it's not!  We all know, through some of the hysterical postings online, how important punctuation is to discerning the intent of the writer.  Grammar is equally as important.

Grammar, Spelling
Found on Pinterest via Eleni

Pet Peeve #1:

The use of the word "irregardless".  There is no such word!  I don't care if Webster has listed it in the dictionary.  The meaning of "irregardless" in the dictionary states that it is a nonstandard word which has been confused with the correct word "regardless".  Why is there no such word as irregardless?  Because a) the use of the prefix "ir" and suffix "less" make the word a double negative; and b) both the prefix and suffix completely change the meaning of the word.

The definition of the word "regardless" means:  1) having or showing no regard; heedless; unmindful; 2) without concern as to advice, warning, hardship, etc.; anyway.

The prefix "ir" means:  not, or the opposite of.  The suffix "less" means: without.  So when you say (or type) "Irregardless of what is right or wrong, I'm using the word anyway."  Instead of it meaning that you don't care if it's right or wrong, it now means:  "I not don't care what is right or wrong.....", which mean you do care what is right or wrong.

As the online Urban Dictionary states "Used by people who ignorantly mean to say regardless. According to Webster, it is a word, but since the prefix "ir" and the suffix "less" both mean "not or with" they cancel each other out, so what you end up with is regard. When you use this to try to say you don't care about something, you end up saying that you do."

For the love of all things holy, please eliminate this word from your vocabulary before you make my brain explode.

Pet Peeve #2

To and too are two words (yes, that was a cheap pun) which do not mean the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably.  So here's my two cents worth:

"To" is used to express a direction, motion, limit in time, contact, or contiguity.  "They came to my house", "I took a kick to the shin in soccer", "It takes me 10 minutes to drive to my office".

"Too" means:  "in addition, also, beyond what is desirable, more, extremely, and very".  Examples for the proper use of the word are:  "You are too close to the fire" (see how I used both words correctly?), "My hair dresser cut my hair too short" (actually, this just happened.  On the bright side I'll save some money because my bangs won't need to be cut for 4 months....), "My husband wasn't too angry about the new shoes I purchased after he saw my haircut".

Pet Peeve #3

You're driving me to the brink of insanity when you use "your" and "you're" incorrectly.  Again, these are two words which cannot be used interchangeably as they have two different meanings.

The word "your" is possessive, which means that something belongs to someone.  "Your hair looks very pretty today", "May I play with your football?", "I really like your fitness center".

"You're" is a contraction.  "You're" means "you are".  "You're my favorite reader" (no really!  You are! Yes, that was a shameless plug for you to keep reading), "You're going to Disneyland", "You're making me crazy when you type your instead of you're.".  Seriously.

Pet Peeve #4

Their, they're, and there.  Three words with different meanings and yet people still use them interchangeably.  Oy.

Their:  this particular "their" is possessive (like me with chocolate), so if it has eyes (i's) and ears (e's), then it belongs to someone.  "That is their football", "Let's go over to their house", "I love their new car".  So, if you're confused on which word to use, remember that this "their" refers to something a real person has which can be possessed (a house, football, car, chocolate.....).

They're:  this "they're" is a contraction.  This one means: they are.  "They're (they are) going out to eat", "They're (they are) a really nice family", "They're (they are) at the park".  If you can use the words "they are", then you know to write they're.

There:  a place, point, introduction to a sentence, a state or condition, and as an exclamation for the completion of something.  Examples of the proper use of this word are "There is no place for the use of the words their or they're at the beginning of this sentence.", "We are going over there to sit in the shade.", "There!  I feel better now!".  And one little side note:  the words "that" and "there" should never be combined together in a sentence, i.e. "That there is my dog.".

There!  Now when I read your posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc., I can focus on what you're actually saying.

Written by Christie Bielss

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ghostly Encounters

Sometimes things go bump in the night at our house.  Papers fall off the table of their own accord.  Odd noises come from the opposite side of the house on a regular basis.  Cell phones and books seem to have moved from where they were set down.  All little things easily explained as normal occurrences in a busy household............. until the little occurrences start adding up.  Then, an occurrence (or two.... or three) happens which is not so easily explained.  It's those few inexplicable occurrences which have convinced my children that our house is haunted. 

ghost, apparition, sprite
Ghostly encounters Public Domain

No matter how much I try to convince them there's nothing in this home's history (no suicides, murders, unexplained deaths, etc.) which would invite the spirit world through the doors......... or walls...... they don't believe me.  They are convinced some kind of ghost has made its way in.  

They say they've seen a ghost-like apparition in the middle of the night.  Our house sits on a corner at a bend in the road, so when cars come down the street, their headlights do cast ghostly beams through the tightly drawn blinds.

They say they hear crashing noises but when they investigate, nothing is found.  Yeah well, we have lots of squirrels who like to jump from the trees onto the roof, and from the roof onto the trees.  Hence, lots of crashing sounds.

They say things move of their own accord.  No, mom and dad get sick of tripping over their shoes in the middle of the floor and move them out of the way.

They say they have heard "people" sounds but no one is in the area where the sound came from.  Ok, this one got to me because I have noticed this but disregarded it............ until a couple of nights ago.

It was about 2am and I was sound asleep on the sofa (yes, I had tried to stay up to watch the end of a show and probably made it 10 minutes and missed the ending - darn it!).  I awoke with a start to what sounded like someone stepping on one of the dog's squeaky toys.  And boy, oh boy was it loud.

I sat up instantly and waited for one of my kids to walk in the room.  I waited and waited but no one came in.  I got up and walked into my kids room to see if they'd been sleep walking.  They were sound asleep and, from the way they were wrapped burrito style in their blankets, they hadn't gotten up since going to bed hours before.  I peeked in my bedroom.  My husband was sound asleep......... and snoring like a freight train.

I decided it was either my imagination or a dream and went back to the sofa, because there was no way I was going to be able to sleep with the snorus-chorus my husband was serenading the house with.  I arranged the throw pillows so they'd be comfy, grabbed a blanket, and headed off to dreamland.  Just as I was dozing off, the sound of a dog toy squeaked quite loudly again.

I flew off the sofa and with my heart racing and with the fireplace's andiron poker held like a baseball bat, I quickly walked through the house.  I found nothing out of sorts.  And, all of the dog toys were in their place........ in a different room from where the sound emanated.  That could only mean one thing......... gasp!  A possible rodent invasion.

I looked for evidence of a mouse or some other squeaky creature.  The problem with that thought was:  A)  I might find a mouse........... and then what was I going do?!; and B) The sound I heard was more akin to a wonky sounding dog toy which had the squeaker punctured than it was a rodent. 

Again, I found nothing...... thankfully.  I wasn't sure which thought was worse:  having a ghost or a mouse in the house.  I tried to fall back to sleep, but there was no way my racing heart or wayward thoughts could settle down enough to allow me to rest.  I finally turned on the tv and watched mindless tv programming until it was time to get everyone up and off to school and work.

Later that day, while my kids were in school and my husband was at work, I heard a very loud crash.  The sound came from my closet and it sounded like my closet rod had given way, sending everything to the floor.  Not that this event would be a surprise since that rod has been bowed since I hung one hanger from it.

With a lot of grumbling and a big sigh at the work I knew would be before me, I walked to my closet.  I dreaded opening the closet doors, but when I walked in there was nothing wrong.  The closet rod was still there bowed just as much as before.  All of the shelves were in place and nothing was on the floor that shouldn't have been.

Quite surprised, I quickly looked around my bedroom and bathroom.  Nothing.  I looked in the garage.  Nothing.  I sprinted to check both of my kids' rooms and closets.  Nothing again!  What the heck?!  I flew to the window to see if maybe the sound came from a delivery truck or a neighbor.  Yet more of nothing!  EEK!  I decided to tell myself the same thing I tell my kids "It was just a squirrel.  It was just a squirrel.  It was just a squirrel.  It was......."

Ok, so from the tremendous sound of that crash it must've been a 300 pound squirrel, but it could happen.  Right?!  If there's a Loch Ness monster and 8 foot tall Sasquatch in the forests, there could be a squirrel big enough to make that kind of noise.  I am, after all, in Texas and everything is bigger in Texas.........

After consuming a good amount of chocolate, I have decided not to get too worked up over the whole thing though.  If it was a ghost that knocked something down in my closet, or made a dog toy squeak, then I haven't been able to find evidence of its presence.  Not that that's all bad because hey, at least they picked up after themselves........

Written by Christie Bielss

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Redhead Cellular Rant


You ran through a stoplight in a big SUV and nearly broadsided a car loaded with children.  You hit a curb at 40mph and caused both of the tires on the passenger side of your car to explode.  Pieces of your tires exploded everywhere causing vehicles around you to dart around tire remnants on the road, as well as having to dodge pieces falling from the sky like bomb shrapnel.  You crossed over into oncoming traffic and nearly hit a car head-on.  If I hadn't honked at you, you would have driven off a bridge and dropped 20-30 feet down into a creek and likely drown.  And this was only what I observed LAST WEEK!

Cell Phones, Driving, Texting, Talking
Use of cell phones prohibited © Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons

On a good day, when you are actually paying attention to the road, you drive completely oblivious to others around you, either as though you own the road or you think you're the only person on the road.  Stick that cellular device in your hand and you drive like a drunk, blind monkey who has broken loose from the zoo.  You are equally, if not more, dangerous than a drunk.  And what's more, you are dumber than a stump for doing what you're doing.

Every single time you look at your phone, pick it up, or try to touch a button on it, you become as lethal as a nuclear bomb.  Yelling at you has done nothing.  Honking the horn at you has prevented you from going off the sides of roads, bridges, and overpasses.  But, to be perfectly honest, you need to wake up and know that drivers are 100% aware of what you're doing and you are starting to really tick us off!

You think because you hold your cell phone down below the dash or side windows, no one will know you're texting while driving or reading your Facebook messages.  Well guess what?  We know!  It's as obvious as the stripes on a zebra.  You drive like crap when you aren't on your phone, but you become downright dangerous when you are on it.

While you may think you are 'all that and a box of chocolates' and you think your importance is defined by how many calls you make and how many texts you send every minute of every day, let me inform you now that you aren't that important.  If you were, you'd be in a limo and have your own personal driver. 

Let me tell you something else Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss Whoever-You-Think-You-Are, when you go to jail for injuring or killing someone because of your over-inflated, self-absorbed, egomaniacal need to feel important, you won't be that box of chocolates.  You will just be a number.  Prisoner number ____ to be a little more exact.

Your name will not be associated with the rich and powerful.  Your name will be associated with every other murderer, attempted murderer, and crack-head who has ever been convicted of a crime and put behind bars.

So put down that blasted phone and pay attention to the road.  Your vehicle IS a lethal weapon, not only for you but for everyone in your path.  Whoever calls you can wait to speak to you until you reach a safe area to pull over or your destination.  Whoever texts you can also wait until it's safe for you to reply.

Driving already requires you to be a multi-tasker on its own.  You don't need to add any additional tasks while you are behind the wheel.  Remember, every single time you touch that phone while you are behind the wheel of a car, you are not only jeopardizing your own life and anyone who is in the car with you, but everyone on the road, sidewalk, sitting inside their homes, and anywhere else your car ends up landing because you're too busy playing with the buttons on your phone than you are driving. 


Written by Christie Bielss

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Front Porch

There are parts of living in the deep south that I truly miss.  The heavy southern drawl of ladies chatting over an impromptu afternoon tea.  Old oak trees with beautifully shaped canopies expertly adorned with the perfect amount of spanish moss draped elegantly from its branches.  Dogwood trees and azalea bushes in full bloom creating an absolutely spectacular display of nature's beauty.  But most of all, I miss the big wrap-around front porches.

Porch, Wrap Around Porch, Swing, Rocking Chair
Photo by Billy Hathorn

Those big porches allowed for a lot of activity.  You could sit on the porch and watch your neighbors as they mowed their lawns, or watch your kids riding bikes or playing in the sprinkler.  You could put a swing on the porch and glide your way through discussions ranging from what people were wearing to solving the world's most intricate problems.  It was the perfect place to learn a new craft or listen to stories about your ancestors.

Porches allow you to sit outside and enjoy the peaceful tranquility of a summer rain, the sound of the trees as their leaves rustle in the breeze, watch the cautious flitting  around of the butterflies, and listen to the hum of the bees buzzing around as they gather pollen.  It's the perfect spot to watch the crazy antics of the squirrels and you can even hand feed birds tiny pieces of bread, which entices these beautiful creatures close enough so you can marvel at all of their tiny, brightly colored feathers.

By not building the big front porches, builders have helped to eliminate neighbors interacting with each other.  No longer do people sit out front, drink tea or lemonade, and enjoy each other's company.  Now everyone sits in their backyard, enclosed by a 6 foot (or higher) stockade-like privacy fence.  Homeowners have created their own prison-like compounds and padlocked gates, they've closed themselves off from everyone outside of their own household.

There are many people who know nothing about the people who live next door to them, not even so much as their names.  When homeowners aren't in their backyards, they are inside their homes with the blinds drawn and the front porch lights out.  Homes appear uninviting and as though they are fortified against a possible enemy invasion.

The loss of the front porch has caused homeowners to become so private that we don't live in "neighborhoods" anymore, we live in "subdivisions".  My kids wanted to know what the difference was between the two.  The dictionary, as always, describes the difference between the two perfectly:

Subdivision:  The act or fact of subdividing.  A portion of land divided into lots for real-estate development.

Neighborhood:  A district or locality, often with reference to its character or inhabitants. A number of persons living near one another or in a particular locality.  Neighborly feeling or conduct.  

Maybe I'm old-fashioned but I like knowing who my neighbors are, beyond just what their names are.  The front porch is the catalyst for that interaction.  The front porch is what changes a subdivided tract of land into a community of friends.  The front porch is where technology ends and real human interaction begins.  The front porch is where friendships begin and memories are created which last a lifetime and beyond.  The front porch............... it needs to make a comeback.

Written by:  Christie Bielss

Friday, May 2, 2014

Black Coat Syndrome

Have you heard of White Coat Syndrome?  In case you haven't, it's the phenomenon of being perfectly healthy until you walk into a doctor's office.  Once you get called back to a room, your body functions go completely haywire.  Your blood pressure may fall within the normal range everywhere else, but as soon as the nurse pulls out the blood pressure cuff, it elevates through the roof.  My car is the exact opposite of  White Coat Syndrome, so I've decided to name it Black Coat Syndrome (Why?  Because what's the opposite of white? Black.).  Every time I take this car to the dealership to look at a specific problem, they pronounce it to be in perfect working condition. 

car repair, air conditioner, heater

The heater and air-conditioner have been making me crazier than usual when they refuse to turn on and heat up or cool off the interior of my car.  Or worse than that, right as you start enjoying the cooled or heated air, it randomly shuts itself off. 

This past winter when it was 10° outside, I drove past people who looked deliciously warm and comfy inside their vehicles.  I, on the other hand, was bundled up with my heavy duty parka, ski mask, hat, gloves, muffler, ski googles (because my sun glasses would ice up), and lap blanket.  And I was still freezing.  My children were so cold they vowed to eat popsicles to warm up.

Last summer, when it was 105°+, my air conditioner worked wonderfully.......... so long as the car was going over 40mph.  As soon as the speedometer went below that, or heaven forbid, came to a stop, the cooled air would shut off and all I could get was outside air .......... which was so hot you could roast marshmellows near the air vents.

As I said, I have taken my car to the dealership's service department several times for this problem and so far, every time I take it in, the car will not replicate the problem.  Black Coat Syndrome.  They've replaced a couple of things they think might be wrong, but nothing has fixed the problem.

It started acting up again last week so I dropped it off at the dealership.  They kept the car for 3 days trying to get it to repeat this tremendously uncomfortable and annoying issue.  They were wholly unsuccessful.

No matter how hard they tried, they couldn't get the car to repeat the problem.  I told them that if they'd load the car up with a trunk full of frozen foods, you'd almost be assured of the a/c quitting and having everything melt in the back. 

My service advisor was sad to report they tried it and the air-conditioning worked perfectly and still can find nothing wrong with my vehicle.  The mechanics, however, are quite happy to report that they were enjoying a whole lot of popsicles and have requested I bring my car in every day the forecasted temperature exceeds 80°..........  it's Black Coat Syndrome..........  and I'm ready to euthanize the car.

Written by:  Christie Bielss