Monday, November 24, 2014

A Redheaded Perspective to the 30 Days of Thanksgiving

I am betting most of you have had at least one person in your social media group participate in the 30 days of Thanksgiving.  Last year I participated in the challenge but, by about day 15, I started having a hard time remembering to post, which was likely aided by having to think outside the box to find things to be thankful for when the easy stuff ran out.  That's not to say I'm not thankful for everything and everyone around me, it just became difficult to find things to post that didn't make me sound like I was giving it a half-hearted effort.

Thanksgiving, holidays, thankfulness, joy, celebrate

This year, instead of posting once a day for 30 days on my Facebook account, I have decided to post all of the small things for which I am thankful for and I am doing it all in one post.  I've always been told that you can't appreciate the big things in life if you don't stop to be thankful for all of the little things first. So this year, it's all about the little things.

1)  I am thankful for my children no longer feeling the need to issue a "brace yourself" warning to each other when we approach the car launch ramp, I mean exit, to our subdivision during rush hour.  My children have learned to make sure they have secured their belongings, tightened their seatbelts, and have a firm grip on one of the vehicle's grab bars.

2)  I am thankful our dog now recognizes the need to brace herself upon seeing us make our final approach to the car launch ramp.  After nearly 2 years of unsuccessfully using her claws to try to stay upright while looking out the car window as our vehicle moves quickly into an open space in the rush hour traffic, she now jumps down and lays on the floorboard of the car.  My children have decided she would rather not see what's happening and is bracing for impact.

3)  I am thankful for well-timed green lights.  There is nothing more beautiful than driving down a stretch of highway and have the signal lights all change to green as you approach.

4)  Milk Chocolate.  No further explanation necessary.

5)  Puffs Plus.  What is more gratifying than to be able to catch your child's sneeze and not have the tissue disintegrate in your hand upon impact.

6)  The scroll wheel on the mouse.  It is quite satisfying to be able to scroll up or down a computer screen faster than the speed of light.  I do think it would be neat if computer gurus could install a sonic boom noise which would automatically sound when you surpass a certain scrolling speed.

7)  Refrigerator magnets.  Those magnets hold special pieces of artwork, doctor's appointment reminders, and important school information, and they always take a backseat to everyone being thankful for toilet paper.

8)  Dark chocolate.  It's the healthy chocolate and therefore equates to eating a vegetable.

9)  Television and its accompanying electronic components.  "Barney's Super-Singing Circus" VHS tape played every 2-4 hours in my house for my son's first 4 years of life as he underwent nebulizer treatments for asthma.  That tape, while it caused the loss of a great many of my brain cells, was the only thing my son would sit still to watch while allowing a mask to be placed over his nose and mouth to receive the medication.  "Boom, boom, ain't it great to be crazy?!......"

10)  Window blinds and coverings.  I'm sure my neighbors appreciate our judicious use of our blinds and I know I appreciate theirs.

11)  Sunglasses.  While I'm out on sunny or bright days I get to feel like Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly.

12)  Semi-sweet chocolate.  3 words:  Toll House Cookies......

13)  Shopping carts.  Because having to lug a pack mule to the grocery store to carry my items would be even more difficult to load into my SUV than remembering to bring my reusable tote bags.

14)  String.  It can hold a Christmas tree onto the roof of a car, or prevent a car's bumper from dragging the ground.  It can also be in the form of yarn which can be knitted into a cap, socks, or that ugly Christmas sweater Aunt Marge knits for you every.single.year..

15)  Dish scrubbers.  Whether it be a brush, scrubbing sponge, or SOS pad, they just make life easier and, because they are disposable, usually get forgotten on these kinds of lists.

16)  Special dark chocolate.  In case you did not know, it goes well with wine.  You're welcome.

17)  The words "please" and "thank you", as well as "yes/no ma'am" and "yes/no sir".  Whether from an adult or a child, nothing is quite as pleasant as giving and receiving respect through our choice of words in both big and small acts of kindness.

18)  Ranch dressing.  Without this one small food product added to my children's vegetables when they were younger, they would have been carnivores.

19)  A lawn blower/vac.  This one crucial piece of lawn equipment has saved me from sweeping up the sidewalk for months on end, not to mention the reduction in the need to rake leaves in the fall since it vacuums them up directly into a bag.

20)  White chocolate.  It decorates strawberries beautifully when interwoven with milk chocolate.

21)  Potty-trained children and pets.  After having to change a diaper or clean up a pet accident on a rug, no further explanation is necessary.

22)  Staples, paper clips, and binder clips.  Without these essentials, we would all look like hoarders.

23)  Label makers.  Now when I cram things in storage containers, I actually know what is in there.  It has been a budget saver as well since I don't buy 15 of the exact same thing only to lose it somewhere in my house.

24)  Bittersweet chocolate.  Think chocolate raspberry cake with a dark truffle icing.  Every chocolate has a place among mankind.

25)  Toenail clippers with the under-the-nail gunk scraper. Really, whoever came up with the idea of this essential grooming tool was a genius.

26)  Vehicle turn signals...... especially when drivers actually use them.

27)  Erasers and correction tape.  I wish life mistakes could be removed as easily.

28)  Cocoa.  A cold winter's night, a fire in the fireplace, and a cup of hot cocoa.  Cocoa, another life necessity.

29)  Pooper scoopers.  The several feet of clean air space the long-handled scooper affords makes life much sweeter......... smelling.

30)  All of my family, friends, and readers who encourage and support me....... probably against their better judgement. 

Enjoy the crazy relatives and the guess-what-food-that-is-casserole at your family get-togethers.  Wishing you all a safe, joyous, and very happy Thanksgiving!

Written by Christie Bielss

Friday, November 21, 2014

When The Sucker Sucks

A few weeks ago while my kids were playing a video game together, I was doing a last minute vacuum of my kitchen floor in preparation to mop.  As I moved toward my kids and out of the kitchen, I suddenly smelled something burning.  My alertness peaked and I immediately started sniffing around like a bloodhound trying to catch on to a scent.

vacuum cleaner, Shark, Eureka
Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away

Within seconds I realized it was something electrical which was about to catch fire.  I hollered for the kids to unplug their new game from the television, thinking it must be defective.  They moved quickly to comply in hopes of saving their new toy.

Even with the video turned off and unplugged, the burning smell not only lingered, but grew stronger.  It was at that moment when I looked down and realized it wasn't their game, it was my vacuum cleaner.

I moved quickly to unplug this firetrap of a device as the thought of researching and having to pick out the right vacuum cleaner made me break out in a cold sweat.  After all, we stay-at-home moms are judged on the depth of carpet pile pulled up and the straightness of our vacuum cleaner lines in our carpet.

Off to the land of Google search I went.  Several hours later with descriptions of vacuum cleaner attachments and allergen output bouncing around in my head like a ping-pong ball, I decided on a vacuum.

Wouldn't you know that it was sold out of every single store in a 20 mile radius.  I had to order it online and wait 5 days for it to be shipped to my house.  I went through and was thrilled with how quickly they shipped the order out.  I even ended up getting it a day earlier than the scheduled delivery date.

I pulled what felt like 20 pieces of vacuum cleaner parts out of the box and slowly assembled the Eureka SuctionSeal Bagless Upright.  With the word "SuctionSeal" in the name, I was loaded with great expectations of this vacuum being able to suck up a basketball from 100 yards away.

Eager to see how this new vacuum would perform, I immediately plugged it in and began to vacuum.  After finishing the family room, I immediately moved to the living room and vacuumed it.  When I was done and before I switched it "off", I looked down at the see through bagless collection canister.  There was a decent amount of dirt and pet hair rolling around inside of the collection bucket.

While leaning over watching the yucky gick dance around, I pushed the handle upright.  This particular motion caused the hose to let go from the collection bucket and spray the contents all over me and the room.  "Seriously?! What the heck?!" I yelled.  I looked down at myself and realized I looked like a monster that crawled out of a Sci-Fi movie.

I got out the directions and reassembled the hose piece, turned the vacuum back on and vacuumed myself off, along with the carpet.  I pushed the arm of the vacuum back up and like a skit from "I Love Lucy", the contents of the collection bucket blew all over me again!  "Sassafrassing-mumble-grumble, good thing I'm not Catholic or I'd be saying Hail Mary's for the next 10 years mumbles.........."

It was at that precise moment my husband walked in the door from work.  He stopped in his tracks, looking at me with a stunned expression on his face, as a large ball of dog hair and dirt sat on my shoulder like a parrot. 

"Don't.Even.Ask..........", I said.  He put his head down, quickly walked past me and headed to our bedroom.  He didn't quite make it past me before the chuckles and laughter could no longer be contained.

I dusted myself off and back to Google I went........ with a new technical design requirement for any vacuum I chose.  After many more hours of searching Google and looking at photos, I selected a couple of vacuums to go try out in-person this time.

Off to our local Sears store I went (they let you actually use them there), with my husband in-tow to help give technical guidance.  At the store, I was able to see and touch the vacuums I had chosen and immediately nixed every single one of them from the list.

I was frustrated and ready to throw in the towel when a sales woman came over and asked what I was looking for.  I listed out my requirements.  She knew her vacuum cleaners and expertly guided me to the 2 vacuums which met my needs.

It was a tough call because the vacuum I really liked was double what we had budgeted to spend.  But, as my husband kindly reminded me, a good vacuum is worth the extra expense since it is used a LOT in our home.  And by hitting the sale and using coupons we received, it wasn't that much more than the other vacuums I'd been looking at.

So, I did it.  I bought the Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away vacuum and brought it home.  Assembly took less than 5 minutes. 

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I was vacuuming.  This vacuum has so much suction, it's almost self-propelled!  Oh, how my heart went pitter-pat.

The attachments are a housewife's dream as they extend and change out at the touch of a button.  The amount of pet hair and dirt this vacuum got out of my carpet and off my hard floors was absolutely beyond belief.

My mother told me that at some point in my married life, something like this would happen.  I didn't want to believe her.  I figured that what she told me had to have been out of the dark ages, and I'm a mom of the 21st Century.  

But today it happened.  Today I can say she was right.  Today, I fell in L.O.V.E. ...........with a corded appliance.  I am now filling out my warranty card.  It feels much like a marriage license and as soon as I complete it, I know me and my Shark will be connected ...... until death do us part.

Written by Christie Bielss

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Daily Dinosaur

I just subscribed to our local newspaper.  For the first time in 5 years and in the early morning hours, I am getting a newspaper delivered to my door for my reading pleasure.  Every morning and afternoon this past week, I have plopped myself at the kitchen table and read the paper with great interest.

newspaper, news, online, digital, dinosaur

I've scoffed at some of the articles, laughed at others, and even tried to work the crossword puzzle, of which I'm clearly out of practice.  Even though the newsprint makes my eyes itch and causes me to sneeze, I have enjoyed reading that paper every single day section-by-section and cover-to-cover.

In this digital age, I have been getting my news by going directly to each large news organization's web page, instead of through that old archaic method known as the daily paper.  Most people have been predicting the newspaper is going the way of the dinosaur and will soon be extinct, but after my return to the paper platform, I hope their predictions are wrong.

The newspaper, for me, is enjoyable.  I've tried reading it online and the enjoyment gets lost as I try to navigate the pages while not smearing breakfast on the screen of my phone or getting breakfast crumbs on my keyboard.

With the cutbacks at many of the major newspapers, a lot of the characters and personalities of the past have been removed from the paper.  With the loss of Erma Bombeck and the retirement of Dave Barry, the Lifestyle section of the paper has lost some of its humor.  

While these 2 great personalities can never be duplicated, I greatly looked forward to reading their form of dry wit and humor in the paper a couple of days a week.  As a matter of fact, I memorized which days their columns appeared and would go directly to their columns on those days.  I miss that.

My husband loved the sports columnists.  Whether he agreed with them or vehemently disagreed with them was a subject of great debate in our house.  The newspaper was our conversation starter and it was something we could read at the same time without breathing down each other's necks or fighting over who gets the computer first.

Recently while sitting in the customer lounge at the car dealership, I perched myself in a corner spot where I could observe the behavior of the other 12 waiting customers (yes, I counted).  In this lounge, there is free Wi-Fi for those who want to play on social media, a bank of computer docking stations for those who need to work, a soundproof playroom for kids (my eardrums thank the dealership every time I'm there), 3 different wide screen televisions which were set to 3 different television stations, as well as a coffee table filled with multiple copies of different newspapers, and a number of magazines covering a wide range of interests.

For all of our focus on being connected every second of every day to our digital devices, 8 of the people in the waiting room were reading the newspaper, another was thumbing through a magazine, 2 were watching ESPN and discussing sports stats, and the last person was talking loudly on their cell phone about an impending child support court date.

It was surprising to see two-thirds of the people reading the newspaper, even though their cell phones, iPads, or laptops were also available.  How can the newspaper business be going extinct if 2/3rds of the people chose paper over digital?

The memories I have as a kid of trying to beat my brothers to the paper so I could be the first to read the Sunday comics are priceless.  The newspaper has also been a source of comedy for our family for years as we remember back to the day when one of my brothers was reading the comics on the living room floor, only to have our new puppy walk over and piddle on The Wizard of Id.

I know you can get the very latest update online and the newspaper's stories will always be a little bit behind due to printing deadlines, but, in a world filled with a need for convenience, what is more convenient than having everything laid out nicely right in front of you.  Oh, how I hope the newspaper industry doesn't go the way of the dinosaur and die off. 

Written by Christie Bielss