Sunday, December 30, 2012

Article #13 "The Perfect Christmas Letter"

Every year I attempt to write the "perfect" Christmas letter. You know the one, bragging on my three "precious," "angelic," and "oh-so-intelligent" little boys; my "strong," "hard-working," and "sensitive" husband; and the job that I "absolutely love." Christmas is a time for joy and the spreading of good cheer, so naturally we write Christmas letters to our family and friends of only the pleasantries from the past year.

The year 2009 was a rough year for my family, and I remember all too well that early December evening as I sat down with my laptop, cursor blinking on a blank Microsoft Word template, awaiting the first tap tap taps of my "jolly" news from 2009 for our annual Christmas letter. I began to type:

"Dear loved ones,

I hope this letter finds you rested and content during this busy time of the year. 2009 has certainly been...."

And then I paused, searching for the perfect word to describe what 2009 had brought for my family. The year flashed before me, and a thought crossed my mind: what if my letter wasn't all rainbows and lollipops? What would my letter look like if I was honest about it all, and I didn't leave the "bad" out?

"Dear loved ones,

We are flat broke. We embarked on a basement/master bedroom remodel that is now going on year two. All of our savings are going into this major headache of a project, and we had to use the Christmas money that we get from my father to purchase gifts for the kids...from "Santa.” Mark and I have had four major arguments this year, one in which I stomped out and "hid" at my office for eight hours (but boy, did I get a LOT of work accomplished)! I've been diagnosed with diabetes on top of my epilepsy, and my skin cancer has returned for the fifth time, requiring me to receive radiation (golly, that's always fun). Jackson still struggles with his reading, Benjamin quite frequently gets a spoonful of horseradish for foul language, and Hayden...well, he's a teenager (that should sum it up for you). My job is extremely stressful, and the probability of me meeting my goals are slim in this economy. Mark has traveled more this year between his job and his obligation with the National Guard than he has in the eleven years we have been married, leaving me (sometimes weeks at a time) to be alone with the three boys and all of their extra curricular activities. My license was taken away for six months due to the epilepsy, and so I was dependent on others for even small things, such as going to the grocery store for a gallon of milk. Mark had to have a root canal, which set us back an entire house payment, and the family doctor had to write him an excuse to give to his commander stating that a bad knee would keep him from completely participating in the National Guard PT test. My father is suffering from MS, my mother suffers from constant worry about my father, my brother, my special needs sister, and the world in general, and my siblings...well, that's another letter. Some days I feel like I'm going to explode; other days are great, and that is the beauty of mood swings..."

I sat back in my chair to evaluate what I had just typed. I had to smile. This is why Christmas letters are limited to only the "good,”- my goodness, I wanted to jump off a bridge after reading all of that!

But I continued my letter...

"and yet, despite all of these struggles, God has been so good to us! In February I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. In April we became members of a church that we adore! In May, Mark and I were baptized. The boys have made new friends through youth groups and Sunday school. Mark and I have been blessed through the church with new friends who have the same morals and life goals as we do. Just last week our oldest son Hayden was baptized, having accepted Jesus has his Lord and Savior. We have a roof over our heads, food on our table, and we both have jobs that we are passionate about! So to sum it up, 2009 has been LIFE CHANGING for us. We are coming to know Christ in a more intimate way, and we are amazed at what we were missing out on before!

And so I write to you, wishing you a very Merry Christmas! May the Lord bless you as he has blessed our family: with faith, knowing that He is God; with commitment, to build on our relationship with Jesus; and with light, the light of God to help us find our way through the darkness!"

There it was, my "perfect" Christmas letter! The good, the bad, and the ugly! This has become our new annual letter - a way for us to share with everyone we love a message that no matter how bleak life may seem, there is always light!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
The Dudenhoeffers

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Article #12 "Popo's Store"...

My great-great grandfather, Charles Czarlinsky (the first) was born in Prussia on October 20, 1850. At the age of eighteen he immigrated to America, eventually settling in Jefferson City, with no resources other than his own intelligence.

He established a store in Koeltztown, Osage County, which he managed for several years before coming to Jefferson City in 1888. He became manager of the J. Siegfried clothing store, where he remained for ten years. He then helped organize the Globe Mercantile Company on March 3, 1899 with a capital stock of $10,000, he being secretary and manager of the company. On May 1, 1900 he purchased controlling interest of the Globe Mercantile Company, later calling it The Jumbo Store. Several years before his death, the store was moved to 304 East High Street and renamed Czarlinsky’s.

Charles’s son, Benjamin Czarlinsky, took over the family business after his brother Sol became ill and his father died. Benjamin was my great-grandfather and the father of my “Popo”(the name I called my grandfather, Charles “Charlie” Czarlinsky). I grew up in the Czarlinsky store under ownership of my grandfather.

Located on East High Street in downtown, Jefferson City, I remember the smells of the store; the scent of a man, strong and woodsy. I was enchanted with the beautiful jewel tones of the silk ties, the endless rows of crisply starched dress shirts, and the three-sided, full-length mirrors where I could dance and pose to my hearts content. I loved to take my shoes off inside the store and walk on the thick, wool carpet. Of course grandmother would shake her finger at me and tell me that ladies never went without shoes. My brother and I would often weave in and out of the clothing racks, hiding from our mother, whispered giggles from underneath the sports coats. Grandmother would follow us with a bottle of Windex, wiping tiny fingerprints from the glass display cases.

We spent a lot of time at the store. I truly believe my strong and outgoing personality was developed within the walls of Czarlinsky’s. My grandfather would have me sitting up on the counter top, granting me permission to operate the cash register, teaching me to smile and make small talk with each and every customer. It seemed that my grandparents knew everyone in town, I was in complete awe of their social circle!

On Saturday afternoons, after helping grandfather set out new merchandise and helping grandmother to dust the shelves and dress the mannequins, grandfather and I would sneak out the back of the store when grandmother wasn’t looking, and climbing into grandfather’s Cadillac, we would drive down the block to Central Dairy for peppermint stick milk shakes! On Thursday’s after school, grandfather would treat me to freshly fried onion rings at Daisy Delight, which at the time was located next to Czarlinsky’s.

We had our traditions, and my favorite was during the Christmas holiday! Grandfather offered to pay me one dollar for every Christmas bow I could make. I vividly remember sitting in the back of the store, just in front of the men’s silk ties, with a large, metal machine, almost as big as me! Grandmother would place a laundry basket underneath to collect the bows as they came off the bow maker. I would place a tiny, sharp piece of plastic (this would be how the bows attached to the wrapped boxes) and add just the right amount of shimmering, silky ribbon. Using every muscle in my body, my tiny hand would crank the spindle around and around until a beautiful bow was created. That first year that I was old enough, I turned out three hundred bows! And to my grandfather’s surprise, he quickly revised our agreement: “Did I say a dollar per bow? I meant a dime!” I was seven years old at the time, so I let it slide thatyear!

As I grew older, I was promoted from “bow maker” to “present wrapper!” I LOVED wrapping the gifts, although oftentimes grandmother would have to hurry me along, “This is not the time to be a perfectionist,” she would say as the customers were lined up waiting for their wrapped gifts.

When my grandfather passed away in 1999, Pastor Gene Roooney shared a story of my grandfather closing up his store one cold, winter’s evening and seeing a mother and her two children walking without any coats to keep them warm. Calling the woman and her children over, my grandfather walked to the back of his store, grabbing three coats of various sizes and giving them to this family in need. It was a story I had never heard, but I was not surprised.

Czarlinsky’s closed their doors in 1986; I was in junior high. My grandfather went on to sell men’s clothing at Dillard's in the Capitol Mall. He was a legend to all of his regular customers who often counted on him to choose their entire wardrobes for them – accessories and all – for each season. He was a true artist in the world of fabric, style, and color, and was known as the “master of the suit!” Today, in my office, as a reminder to me of what success truly is, I have his well-known-around-town license plate that graced his caddy all of his adult years: “C-suits.”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Article #11 "The Ultimate Gift..."

As the holidays draw near I am reminded of the importance of family; not just the importance of but the blessings of having a family. Earlier in the day as I was sifting through photographs from Christmas years past, I came across a picture of my brother and me. I was eight, Cal had just turned four, and we were sitting in front of the Christmas tree in the apartment that we lived in with our mother just after our parents had divorced. I was all dolled up in a festive Christmas sweater, the curls in my hair tied back with a Christmas bow and of course, my enormous round glasses. Cal was dressed in a bright red Christmas sweater that had his name boldly embroidered on the front, a mischievous grin painted across his face. You wouldn't know it from this photograph alone, but there was a story unfolding before the twinkle in our eyes.

My mother, my brother and I had recently moved into a townhouse located on the east end of town. My brother and I shared a bedroom on the second floor, Barbies on one side, Hot Wheels on the other. Of course, every now and then I would find my Ken doll underneath Cal's bed, tangled in sewing thread as if he were a hostage, one of Cal's many ways of irritating me.

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, hairbrush in hand, admiring the bouncy curls my mother had created in my hair. I was eight years old, convinced that I would be the next Marie Osmond. I smiled my best smile at my reflection and practiced my introduction, "It is very lovely to meet you." I wasn't sure what to think about the events that were about to take place. My parents had divorced a year earlier, sending my brother and me into a world of unknowns, confusion, and fears. We had endured so much already - moving, new babysitters, rearranged schedules; and now my brother and I would soon meet a man whom our mother had been spending quite a bit of time with. He was a man we could clearly see made her happy, but at the same time, it was all so much for an eight-year-old and a four-year-old to take in and understand.

The apartment was filled with smells of chocolate meringue pie, the delicious dinner my mother had prepared, and cinnamon candles that burned throughout our tiny home. The Christmas tree was decorated with homemade ornaments from elementary Christmas parties and twinkling white lights. A Christmas record crackled holiday tunes sung by John Denver and Anne Murray.

The doorbell rang. Butterflies twittered deep inside my tummy. My mother floated into the front room, smoothing out her apron. She placed my small hand in hers and called up the stairs for my brother to come down. Sliding down the stair rail and jumping in front of my mother and me, Cal flung open the front door.

There stood my mother's prince, all six feet four inches of him. He looked like a body builder, strong and lean. My mother beamed as she invited him in. I extended my arm and reached for his hand, "Hello, it is lovely to meet you." Erwin smiled a warm smile and took my hand, "Hello Betsy; it is very nice to meet you, too!" Cal hovered beside my mother's leg, his arms wrapped around her thigh. "Hello Cal, I'm Erwin." Cal scurried off towards the couch, jumping onto the cushions, a show unfolding as he began to show off for this new man in our lives!

Sitting on the couch next to Cal, Erwin held out two wrapped packages, one for Cal and one for me. Without hesitation, Cal ripped through the red wrappings to reveal the Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears A Who. I carefully began to unwrap my gift. Peeling back the scotch tape I slid my finger underneath the shimmering paper to reveal a beautifully illustrated children's dictionary.

I watched as my mother swooned over Erwin. Remembering my mother's suggestions of politeness, I entered the kitchen to grab a plate of cookies to offer to Erwin. I reached up to the counter top to take the plate of goodies and saw an envelope. Curious, I grabbed the envelope and read the scribble on the front: "To Cinderella." It was for my mother from Erwin. "He loves her!” I whispered to myself, thinking that one day I would have my own "Prince Charming."

December 10, 1982 was the night that Cal and I met the man we would come to call “father” for years to come. A man who rescued my mother, and really, my brother and me. A man who would love us as his own. He would teach us right from wrong, he would instill faith within our hearts, he would encourage us to be the best, and he would become the greatest influences in our lives, one memory at a time.

It was the ultimate Christmas gift. No, it wasn't Horton Hears A Who or a  lovely children's dictionary. It was the gift of love, understanding, patience, and protection. It was the gift of a father.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Article #10: "Letter To Heaven..."

The Christmas season has arrived! Colorful lights outline homes, decorated trees twinkle in picture windows and favorite Christmas carols play on the radio! I love this time of the year. My mother had journeyed down to her basement to bring up the plastic storage containers marked, “Christmas D├ęcor” along with the nine foot pre-lit Christmas tree. Rummaging through boxes of miscellaneous items still needing to be sorted through from the move, she stumbled upon a shoebox filled with letters. I had just finished up dishes from the evening’s meal when I received my mother’s phone call asking me to come right away. She explained to me over the phone that she had been looking for my Christmas stocking, and she found something that I needed to see immediately. Less than fifteen minutes later I was sitting on the edge of my mother’s bed when she handed me the bundle of envelopes. I sat overwhelmed as I realized what the envelopes were: letters to my mother from my brother when he was away at boot camp in South Carolina in September of 2001. As I began to flip through the envelopes, I hesitated. There, in my hands among the envelopes, written in my brother's handwriting was a letter addressed to me. I looked at my mother. She began to cry, "I found it within the stack. It must have gotten lost, but now, it is yours." I carefully pulled the letter from the others, and I opened it.

Dear Butt-C, (a term of endearment between my brother and me)

Hey, what's up! It's 1:50 am on Sat. morning, I'm in boots & camouflage working "guard duty"...this stinks!

I just wanted to write & tell you that I do miss you and that I am SORRY for the way I've been the last year or so...I've been a walking PBS special.

I hope we can mend our troubles. How is your family doing?'re not pregnant again...are you? HA!!!

Oh, you ask "how's boot camp?"’s TOUGH!

Anyway, write back if you can!

Your brother Cal

PS. I love you.

I cannot begin to tell you what filled my thoughts, my mind, my heart. You see, my brother enlisted in the US Army in May of 2001. He was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for boot camp and was later stationed in Junction City, Kansas at Ft. Riley. Before enlisting, Cal had been tangled in a nasty web of bad decisions. The Army was his "escape,” his fresh start.

I held the letter my brother wrote to me eleven years ago, and after reading it a dozen times, I grabbed a piece of my good stationary, and I began to write:

Dear Cal,

Let me begin by telling you how very proud I am of you! You were an amazing father to your two precious babies. You could light up a room and make everyone laugh, not just any laugh, but a gut-wrenching, deep belly laugh. Your smile was crooked, but could bring out the joy in all of us. Your love for our mother was unique, strong, real, and still lives within her heart even though it is broken. Your heart was as big as Texas, and the love you held for ALL of your family...well, we can still feel it today!

Everyone has made mistakes Cal, including me. Without our mistakes, we wouldn't be able to grow, to learn, to share our testimony with others. Your mistakes do not define who you were, Cal.

You are so loved, and even as you wait patiently above, we still love you, here from earth. This outpouring of love for you was greatly represented at your service, where over 1,500 people, dear brother, came to honor YOU. It was YOUR day, a day I feel that you never had but much deserved; and sadly, it became a day that none of us expected, nor how we had planned "your" day to be.

I miss much that it literally hurts my heart. But I also envy you, the love you must feel from our Heavenly Father, the warmth that envelops you, and the unending happiness you must feel above.

Know that I am here, representing your memory, loving on your babies...adamant that they remember you and know how deeply and completely you loved them and always will.

Forever missing you,

Your sister “Butt-C”

PS. I love you, too.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Article #9 "Power Girls!"

As the mother of three growing boys, my world seems to grow less and less feminine each day. I am surrounded by sweaty gym clothes, basketballs, footballs, dirty socks, lifted toilet seats; and I often dodge Nerf gun bullets. Where is my pink? My sparkles? I need some “girl” time! I adore my boys; I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the whole wide world. But two weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to spend the week with my dear friend’s two daughters while she and her husband traveled out of the country, and I didn’t blink twice at the offer! Leaving my husband as a “single” father for the week, I packed my zebra print bag (which sports my name monogrammed in hot pink), and I was out the door! I couldn’t wait to spend the week submerged in nail polish, hair bows, make-up, scented lotions, and secrets!

Caraline, age twelve, has a BIG personality. She has so much energy that, I get tired just watching her. She creates a laughter deep within me like no one else can. She has a softer side but is careful to guard her heart. She is very creative and also incredibly smart. She might just rule the world one day.

Abigail, age fifteen, is absolutely beautiful, both inside and outside. Her smile is enough to melt your heart. Abby is sensitive, kind, and compassionate. She is also silly, spontaneous and sporadic. She is strong in her faith and passionate about helping others. She is multi-talented, and when she sings, you cannot help but be drawn into the richness of her charm.

My week with the girls was good for my soul. I felt young and energetic! We laughed until we cried (and one of us even wet our pants, but I won’t divulge which one of us has the weaker bladder). We ate junk food, shopped till we dropped, and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, gushing over boys and watching chick flicks. What we did not do was remember to feed the animals, bring in the mail, and in one of my OCD moments, I ruined their couch pillows by attempting to wash them in the washing machine.

There was another mishap when one of us (it’s still being debated which one of us is the guilty party) threw a roll of paper towels on top of a burning candle, causing the roll to go up in flames. I was quick to put the fire out and all was back to normal (as normal as it could be with me in charge)!

Perhaps my most favorite moment of the week was not in the silliness we generated; it was not in the laughter we boasted; nor was it in the impromptu activities we created. Rather it was found in watching these two delightful girls give up their time and their hearts to volunteer, as they do each Wednesday evening, for a local children’s program where they teach the word of God to the inner city kids. Caraline and Abigail’s mother introduced the program to a local church, and alongside their mother these girls have contributed to its growth. What spoke to me was that their mother was gone this particular week, a perfect opportunity for the girls to take the week off and do something for themselves, and yet they continued their mother’s work without a second thought of bowing out. I watched amazed as Abigail and Caraline took over the evenings schedule, following the outline of their mother’s labor.

Looking back, most of our laughter and goofiness was wrapped up within the evening as we loved on these tiny children who want and need nothing more than positive attention. I cherish the week that I shared with Abigail and Caraline; a week that allowed me to frolic in all things pink. But more importantly it was a week where I was challenged to be less about self and more about others.

And at the end of that week, although I was anxious and thankful to return to my boys, I realized how proud I am to be a woman; because even dressed in pink with polished nails, we are the caretakers in the world!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Article #8: Black Eye Friday...

I spend a significant part of Thanksgiving Day browsing the Black Friday ads, creating a list, checking it twice, and planning the itinerary as if we were exploring space instead of parking spaces. Three years ago my husband and I bundled up in our winter garbs and set out for the “midnight madness” sales. Having filled our bellies just hours before with a Thanksgiving feast, we were full, warm and feeling confident in our plan to purchase the all new Xbox 360 video gaming system as a Christmas gift for our boys. Walmart was our destination, and when we arrived, we knew we were in for the long haul. Literally thousands of people lined the walkway, circling around the parking lot. The line of people, however, seemed to be moving quickly, as one by one the shoppers entered the “lowest price” empire. Making our way towards the item we were after, my husband and I confirmed our method of “grab and go,”adding an additional plan of destination should we be separated.

Standing among roughly five hundred strangers, we had maneuvered our way to the front of the mountain of Xbox gaming systems. Wrapped tightly in plastic were approximately three-hundred of these highly sought after gifts, and I was determined to get one. I was a mother on a mission! I placed my hand (as did two-hundred other shoppers) on the wrapped pile. Pressed against me was an enormous “Paul Bunyan” of a man complete with a full beard and flannel shirt who flashed me a look of “don’t even think about it.” I was surrounded by crazies, and we all had a common goal: to walk away with treasure. And then it happened. It was like an out-of-body experience. The Walmart employee blew a whistle, and it was like I was being thrown to the wolves. Plastic wrapping was being shredded and thrown everywhere. There was a moment where I was blinded by a scrap of plastic wrap that was drawn to the static in my hair and briefly covered my eyes. But I never let go of that gaming system box. I could feel it under my grip the entire time, but as I began to pull the box towards my body, I felt a tug. Using my lower lip to fiercely blow the plastic away from my face, I stared straight into the eyes of “a woman scorned.” She looked to be older than I and certainly more frail. She was no match for my big boned body. I had this. I pulled the gaming system towards me, and she fiercely pulled on the other end. I furrowed my brow, “Excuse me! I had this first!” Never taking her eyes off me, she was now violently attempting to wrench my prize from my hands as she screamed, “Give it to me!” I was stunned. The decibel of her screech reached ear piercing levels. The force of her tug caused me to stumble a bit, but I never lost my grip. This lady was serious. But so was I. Without letting go, I slid my hand up the box to gain a better hold and I tugged with all my might, causing the woman to lunge forward. Suddenly, I felt incredible pain. My face stung, and the force of the blow caused me to wince, closing my eyes for what seemed like eternity. I felt the box sliding from my grasp, and yet I was too shocked to really care. Slowly opening my eyes, I could feel a warm trickle above my upper lip. Instinctively, I touched my face. Holding my hand in front of me, I blinked several times; blood? I was bleeding. I looked up, and the woman was standing over me. With one last dirty look, she turned and walked away. I just sat there. My head was reeling. I had been punched! As I watched the woman walk away, I noticed that she was not holding the box. Her arms were empty, and she walked away defeated. But I didn’t have the box either. Had a third someone swooped in and stolen my prize? Confused, I began to stand up, looking around for my husband. Why was he not by my side right now, comforting me, offering me the corner of his shirt to wipe my bloody nose? I had been “wounded in action!”

My husband was nowhere to be found. I stood, looking in every direction and then I remembered our plan had we been separated. Trampled and worn, I slowly made my way towards the center of the store. As I looked up, it was as if I heard the angels sing as the light of Heaven was beaming down. There stood my husband, six foot four, bundled in a “mossy oak” Cabelas coat, arms stretched around an Xbox 360 gaming system! My hero had swooped in as I lay on the cold, concrete floor of Walmart Super Center, grabbed the gift, and had run for the touchdown!

Our story and the stories of Black Friday shoppers everywhere, fighting and trampling their way to the holy grails of Christmas gifts, have given Black Friday sales a well-deserved black eye!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Article #7: "Gratitude"

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I have found great delight in the “30 Days of Gratitude” that has consumed the social media outlets. Facebook and Twitter have become platforms of various “thanks,” and even I have joined the masses and followed suit. Each day I post something that I am thankful for: my husband, my children, my salvation, my parents, my job...the list is certainly longer than a mere “30 days.”

This morning as I was posting day ten, I allowed myself to go back to a moment in time, not so long ago, where the true meaning of gratitude and thankfulness was displayed in a way that was most unforgettable.

Two years ago on a Thursday evening, July 29th, my family experienced a greater sorrow than we had ever known. My brother, Cal Fine, passed away very unexpectedly at the age of thirty-one. As if the death of a loved one was not tragic enough, my brother's death happened on the same day that my mother and my father were forced to move from their beloved home of over twenty-six years due to my father's quickly progressing illness. In a way, my mother was already experiencing a "death," having spent the entire summer packing up years of home making and family memories. Just as she began to feel peace and had begun to unpack her new life, she received a phone call that her only son was gone.

My brother left behind two small babies and the love of his life, waiting for him to heal from a terrible disease, but not a disease that people diefrom, so "shock" is an understatement.

I vividly remember the drive home from the VA Hospital in Columbia. It was a late summer evening, and yet it seemed so cold. It was difficult for me to process leaving my brother behind and never seeing him again. I allowed my mind to drift to the move. Just hours earlier friends and family had gathered, moving boxes, organizing dishes, sorting through clothing. There was still so much at the old home that needed to be done. The old home needed to be cleaned, dusted, vacuumed, bathrooms scrubbed; and there were still so many boxes to be brought from the old house to the new. But it was the last thing on any of our minds.

Pulling up to my mother's new home, the darkness of the night enveloped the sky. Cars lined the street outside the new house, and every light within was brightly shining. As I entered the house, my parents’ closest friends, along with my mother's sister and her daughter were seated in the kitchen. Silence was thick within the room, and then I heard my mother's anguished cries. Helplessness. It is the worst feeling in the world, and it consumed every part of me in that moment. All my mother wanted was her son, and I couldn't give him to her. My heart was broken.

After a long night of tossing and turning and pleading with God, the morning finally arrived. The sky was still dark. Clouds covered every inch, and the rain pelted the windows of my room. Tears from the heavens; it seemed so appropriate.

A long, hot, shower seemed to soothe my weary soul, and I drove to my parents’ new home. My father was sitting at the kitchen table, boxes towered high around him, and dishes wrapped in packing paper lined the counter tops. My mother was still sleeping in her bed, temporarily soothed with a sedative that I had asked our family doctor for the night before. I sat at the table with my father; neither of us said a word. We sat for a moment, allowing the quiet to penetrate us, watching the rain, listening to the sounds of the new home.

I heard the door of my parents’ bedroom creak open, and my mother shuffled into the kitchen. Her eyes were swollen, her face pale, her shoulders sagged with a heaviness that no doubt was weighing on her heart too.

"Do you see them?" she whispered..."look out the window."

I turned my eyes to the window that my father and I had been looking out of just moments before, and there they were...

"Who are they?" I asked.

"They are my students!" my mother cried, and my eyes filled with tears once again.

You see, the news of my brother’s death traveled the social network of Facebook the night before, and my mother, who has been a teacher for over forty years, was the topic of many "status updates.” A group of my mother's students, both present and past had rallied together and early that morning, in the cold and stinging rain, they carried boxes from the old house to the new house. With the guidance and help of their parents and close friends of my parents, they dusted and vacuumed the old house. Throughout the morning’s work, they came in one by one with heartfelt hugs to share.

It was an incredible sight. It was an incredible feeling. It was...just incredible.

There has been a great loss and great suffering in my family. But there has been an even greater healing, greater friendships, and greater love and support shown to us than any of us could ever have imagined. The gratitude our family has for the friends and students who came together in our time of need and sorrow is everlasting.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Article #6 "Masked Panties"

I am a drama T.V. junkie. My husband thinks that I am a glutton for punishment. You see, I watch these dramas, and then I become filled with a fear that I will:
A. Be one of forty-eight survivors of a near-fatal plane crash and must learn to fend for myself and fight unusual occurrences on a deserted island.
B. Be forced to become an investigator for marginalized, unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena.
C. Be cursed with the ability to listen in on people’s thoughts, only to become open-minded about the integration of vampires among the human race.
I especially love medical dramas, and Grey’s Anatomy is my all-time favorite. That being said, it comes as no surprise that when I was diagnosed with melanoma, I immediately panicked. After all, Izzie Stevens, a ridiculously beautiful doctor on my beloved series was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma and flat-lined on the surgical table!
I ended up fighting my melanoma, and I won. I certainly do not want to pass off my diagnosis and my fight as “no big deal,” but I must admit that it is my sense of humor that seems to empower me in life making trials like this seem a bit easier to cope with. I will share with you an example of the “lighter side” of melanoma.
A girlfriend of mine had bought me a gift certificate to a local tanning salon for three spray tan sessions! What a FABULOUS idea, right? She knows that I feel better about myself when I am tan, and she also knows that having had skin cancer several times and having battled melanoma, I am under strict orders to stay away from tanning beds.
I called the tanning salon to set up my first spray tan session. I was given instructions to shower beforehand, shave away all the unwanted hair, and exfoliate my body. I was to not apply any lotions or sprays. I was to wear old clothing and bring something to pull my hair back away from my face.
I had never been to this particular tanning salon, so all of this was very new to me. I was already feeling a bit uncomfortable about having to stand in the nude while the tanning technician “spray painted” my body, so I felt really uneasy when I walked into the booth and the technician asked me to undress saying, “If you would like to wear panties, you may do so.” Duh, of course I would like to wear panties. I just did not realize she meant my own.
Allow me to explain…
The tanning technician wears a surgical mask while she sprays on the tanning solution; said mask was lying on a chair inside the booth. (Do you see where this is going?)
I began to undress, taking off ALL my clothing and neatly folding it over the chair. I picked up the mask… (Okay, I guess I am going to have to spell this out for you. I thought the mask was the “panties” that the technician was referring to when she said, “If you would like to wear panties you may do so”). So, I put the mask on. “Down there.” And then the tanning technician walked in. It was right about that time that I suddenly realized that the mask was not for me (you should have seen the look on the technician’s face)!
To make a long story short, I excused myself with the pretext of a sudden illness and quickly redressed. I was too humiliated to stay. No spray tan for me. And no offense to my dear friend who gave me the gift certificate, but I totally re-gifted it to another friend. I would not be going to that tanning salon. Ever. Again.
As a side note, it took me a good ten minutes to figure out how in the world to put on that mask. Think about it…the “leg holes” were on the sides. It felt incredibly uncomfortable, and I kept whispering to myself,“Stupid, skinny girls!”
I constantly try to focus on the wise adage that “beauty is only skin deep,” but what I know for sure is that being “tan and terrific” is only temporary – humiliation can last a long, long time.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Article #4 "Witchy Woman"...

Halloween is a BIG deal in our family, but not for the reasons you might think. Of course it is the one night of the year we get to dress up and take on the persona of someone or “something” else. It is also the one night of the year we can eat ourselves sick with chocolate and caramel, Milk Duds and Tootsie Rolls, candied apples and popcorn balls.

But for our family, Halloween is a big deal because it is also my mother’s birthday! Yes, growing up in a home with a mother who shares a birthday with this spooktacular holiday added fuel to a teenager’s fire when my brother, my sisters and I butted heads with our mother. The “I always knew you were a witch” jokes/rebuttals were plentiful. Then there was the family joke when our grandmother would share my mother’s birth story and say, “I was never sure if your mother was a ‘trick’ or a ‘treat’!” Every year in October our home was transformed into a sea of black and orange. We even had a “Halloween Tree” with little black cat and yellow moon ornaments. A collection of various witches and broomsticks adorned every nook and cranny, and of course ghosts and goblins, along with silky spiderwebs, would hang from each doorway.

Although it was my mother’s “special” day, she has never taken the spotlight from her children or now her grandchildren. A holiday geared more towards youngsters, she is certain to make the holiday special for them. Growing up, my mother always handmade our costumes: ladybugs, cheerleaders, GI Joe, Ghostbusters, Wonder Woman, bunches of grapes, witches, pumpkins, and Peter Pan. My brother, my sisters and I always had the best. Walking door to door, my mother would take us “trick or treating,” making certain that our bags were full of goodies. I will never forget the Halloween after our youngest sister Brendan had been diagnosed with diabetes. Mother was reduced to tears when almost every single neighbor provided Brendan with a special non-sugar snack or small toy!

Perhaps our most favorite part of our mother’s special day is the grand feast she would prepare and still does to this day. Each year on Halloween my mother will cook up her famous vegetable beef stew, served in bread bowls. Sugar cookies, cupcakes, even a delicious cheesecake served up in celebration of the incredible woman my mother is. Friends and family from all over come by with a “Happy Birthday/Happy Halloween.” There are literally hundreds of people, including both present and former students of hers often with their own children now, a testament to the love and friendship my mother so treasures with others.

When my brother was alive, he and I would have a (healthy) competition to see which one of us could give the best birthday gift. Of course my brother was always the winner (he was mother’s favorite…a “between us” joke we had), but four years ago I won the competition with a black and white photo of my grandparent’s (my mother’s parents) clothing store from 1934. I had gone to the Missouri Archives to research the photo, printed it out and had it made into a large copy and had it framed.

One year, when my brother was a sophomore in high school, he told a group of his friends that we were “wiccan” because my mother’s birthday was on Halloween (Ha! I’m laughing out loud at this memory! Oh, my brother was the funniest)! And because we joked about my mother being “Joan Crawford” we used to tell her that for her birthday we would“clean out all the wire hangers” in the closets.

Halloween, such a fun and creative holiday, but also such a special day for our family. Although we tease our mother a lot (and she is such a good sport about it!) we truly love her for giving up her special day so that we may all enjoy the tricks and treats! We celebrate our “witchy” woman, a mother who truly is the “black cat’s meow!”

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Article #3 "Survivor" 10/21/12

Because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought it appropriate to tell you a very personal story to honor someone I loved dearly and to demonstrate the love and laughter that can exist despite the tragedy and loss we experience in life. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “survivor” as “To carry on despite hardships or trauma; to persevere. To remain alive.” I define the word survivor as someone who displays hope and strength despite tremendous adversity. My grandmother was not able to “carry on” after her diagnosis of breast cancer, but she certainly displayed hope and most definitely was strong during her battle.
JoAnn Czarlinsky was a woman who many of you knew and loved, but for those of you who did not have the privilege of knowing my grandmother, allow me to share this amazing woman! Her smile was enough to light up a room, and her laugh was boisterous and full. She reminded me of Jackie Kennedy: stylish, beautiful, kind, and intelligent.
My grandparents owned a men’s clothing store in downtown Jefferson City called Czarlinsky’s. Raising three daughters, my grandmother was the supportive wife and the social belle, all the while making sure the business ran smoothly.
Because my grandmother married young (at the age of 18) she never went to college. When she was sixty years old she decided an education was important and so despite her age and holding down a full time job, she enrolled full time at Columbia College. In four years time she graduated with honors!
In August of 1998 my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. A lump in her breast had been overlooked on her last mammogram. She spent the next three months in and out of chemotherapy and radiation, hospitals and doctor’s appointments and on November 11, 1998 she lost her valiant battle.
Perhaps the last week of my grandmother’s life is what holds so much emotion and reflection of who my grandmother was. Family was most important to my grandmother, and our family came together in the final moments of her life, just as she would have wanted.
In order to appreciate my memories of that week, you must come to a full understanding that my family tends to be…how can I say this nicely? Sit-com worthy. Drama surrounds us and we undoubtedly put the word “fun” into “dysfunctional!”
After three months of treatments, nausea, fear, pain, and confusion, the doctors finally shared with my grandfather, my mother and my two aunts that my grandmother would not beat this horrible disease. They had done everything they could for my grandmother; now it was time to just make her comfortable. That conversation was on a Friday evening, and my mother immediately called me to tell me that I should come to the hospital and say my good-byes. I was the first grandchild; my grandmother and I had a very special bond. She was my best friend, my confidant, my biggest cheerleader in life. I immediately went to St. Mary’s Hospital and was greeted by my mother, my dad, my grandfather and my two aunts. I fell into a deep sadness and began to sob while my mother comforted me in her arms. Stroking my hair my mother very tenderly said, “Everything will be fine. She will be at peace. She will not be in pain anymore.” I violently shook my head; the thought of losing my grandmother was too much to bear. “But who will I call when I need someone to talk to? Grandma and I talk almost everyday!” I broke down in the brightly lit, sterile hallway. My mother, cupping my face with her hands, gently replied, “You can call me.” As hot tears spilled down my cheeks onto my sweatshirt, I looked at my mother and said, “But most of the time I called her to complain about you!” Yes, my grandmother understood me like nobody else, rebellion and all!
There were seven of us crammed into grandmother’s tiny hospital room. We took turns sitting next to grandmother, stroking her arm, holding her hand, watching the nurses come in every hour to take vitals or to administer more morphine to make sure she was comfortable. Sometimes my mother would sing; sometimes my aunts would share funny stories of growing up; sometimes we all just sat in the quiet, listening to my grandmother’s breathing. We all stayed, day and night, sleeping in upright positions. Sometimes a few of us would sleep in the waiting room. My great-grandmother (Cerese Hockaday, my grandmother’s mother) wore a special watch for the vision impaired that announced the time every fifteen minutes of each hour in a robotic voice. It became very annoying, often times making us jump, wrestling us from the little rest we were able to get. One night, deep into the midnight hour, my mother had had enough of the robot voice and very gently placed a pillow over my great-grandmother’s arm in hopes of muffling the sound. Thinking that the interruption had come to a halt, the room erupted into laughter when a muffled robotic voice announced “The time is now one o’clock a.m.!” Sometimes even today when I’m lying still under the covers, eyes closed, drifting into a slumber, I can still hear that computerized voice –and I smile!
Before my grandmother drifted into a coma, she was able to talk with us. Knowing that her time was limited, she asked my mother and her two sisters to sit and listen to a few things she wanted them to know. She wanted each daughter to know how much she loved them and how proud of each one of her girls she was. Perhaps the most memorable advice she had given was to my aunt Stephanie (to those of you who know my aunt, she isn’t fond of wearing make-up and often chooses comfort over style). The last words my grandmother spoke to my aunt Stephanie were, “Wear a little lipstick and suck in your tummy.” I crack up just writing that! To my mother, my grandmother pleaded, “You and Stephanie need to be nice to your sister” (the youngest of the girls, my aunt Charlayn tends to have the reputation of a spoiled “princess”).
There are so many memories: bribing the nurses with money to turn off the lights in the hallways and waiting room so we could rest a bit easier; making an “emergency” call to my mother, who had run home to quickly shower and change, my aunt (remember the spoiled “princess”) wanted microwave popcorn and forced me to call my mom’s cell phone and ask her to stop at the store and bring some back. Before my mother had left the hospital, she sternly warned us that we were not to call her unless my grandmother had passed…so you can imagine how my mother answered my “popcorn” phone call. The fact that we were able to find humor in such sadness was a testament to the love we had for my grandmother and for each other. We “steel magnolias” had to survive for my grandmother.
It was, indeed, a very sad time. A woman we all loved and adored was dying. But it was also a time of much laughter, a time of togetherness and a time of incredible love. I can’t help but be inspired by the effect my grandmother had on those around her. Even in the midst of a horrific battle, she still managed to bring those whom she loved most to feel peace and comfort and to bask in the light of her glory!
I recently found this quote somewhere. I do not know the author: “Cancer is so limited…It cannot cripple love, it cannot shatter hope, it cannot corrode faith, it cannot eat away peace, it cannot destroy confidence, it cannot kill friendship, it cannot shut out memories, it cannot silence courage, it cannot reduce eternal life, it cannot quench the Spirit.” Even thought I lost my grandmother to cancer, I know these things to be true. I also know that my grandmother’s spirit lives in me. Thank you, grandmother, for being a survivor!

Article 10/14/12 "Fairy In The Dairy"

Article #2 in the News Tribune can be found here on my blog titled, "Light-ning Bugs." Rather than re-post, I am posting this article which was featured in Capital Lifestyles Magazine...

Here’s the scoop, I’ve recently accepted a position as director of marketing for Central Dairy. This means two things:
1. I embark on a new chapter in my life

2. My ice cream consumption just sky rocketed. Mmmmmm Peppermint Stick!
But Central Dairy isn’t just about ice cream (I know, right?!). In fact, ice cream is a very small percentage of what Central Dairy produces! So, what is the cheese to their smile? Milk. Central Dairy milk brings in the highest percentage of income for this “home grown” business...
Established in Columbia, Missouri in 1920 by Dot Sappington, the Jefferson City location did not open until 1932. Initially, products from Columbia were brought to Jefferson City for resale, but Mr. Sappington built a new dairy building (610 Madison Street) and installed the now famous ice cream counter in the front of the dairy.
In 2007 Central Dairy partnered with Prairie Farms. With over 800 dairy farms, Prairie Farms manufactures and markets a full line of dairy food products from it’s own seventeen plants, along with thirteen others through subsidiary companies and joint ventures throughout the Midwest.
Recently I was fortunate enough to take a tour of the dairy, and along the way my dairy knowledge was “milked”for all it’s worth.
All Central Dairy products are made with real cow’s milk. In the line of milk alone, Central Dairy offers whole milk, 2% milk, 1% milk, skim milk, chocolate milk and strawberry milk (both chocolate and strawberry are 1%). In today’s “health conscious” world, many people believe that cow’s milk is not healthy or can even contribute to weight gain. Not true. Cow’s milk is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and vitamins D and K. There are also a total of nine essential vitamins in cow’s milk. And in recent studies, milk has been found to actually aid in weight loss efforts! Those are ALL “dairy” good things! (Get it? I used “dairy” rather than “very!” It’s no wonder they offered me a job!)
Speaking of milk, did you know that only one in ten school-aged children meet their daily calcium requirements? This doesn’t come as a surprise, with increasing numbers of children drinking sodas, sports drinks, fruit-flavored beverages and other sweetened beverages that often replace milk. It is recommended that children consume between 1,000 - 1,300 mg of calcium per day, depending on their age, which corresponds to 2-1/2 to 3 cups of milk or milk products every day. A recent study found that children who consume flavored milk (chocolate or strawberry) are more likely to reach their daily recommended intake of calcium and less likely to consume low-nutrient beverages, such as soda and sugary juice drinks. I’m feeding you this information, because currently there is a “war” within our education system on whether or not chocolate milk should be offered to students during the lunch period.
Okay, okay....enough with the “milk maid!” Although I could go on and on about the benefits of milk (really all dairy products), I promise I have a story here....
Upon accepting my position with Central Dairy, my family and I were sitting at the dinner table (I’m certain we were eating something with lots of cheese, butter, and maybe even a good helping of Central Dairy Chip-n-Dip!) when I made the announcement, “I’m going to work for Central Dairy! I will be the director of marketing and I begin my new job on October 1st!”Each of my three boys had a different reaction, all indicative of his unique personality:
Hayden, my 16-year-old who is “too cool for school” replied,“Awesome! Free ice cream!”
Jackson, my 12-year-old, sweet and sensitive son patted my back and said, “I’m so proud of you mom! Congratulations!”
And then my youngest, 11-year-old Benjamin, who quite frankly has way too much of his momma’s personality, immediately asked, “Oh! Are you going to be the new ‘cow’ on the commercials?”
I’m pretty sure my face displayed exactly the fury I was feeling....”Did my son just ask me if I’m a cow?” Benjamin quickly followed up with, “I meant the voice of the cow mom....the voice.” But it was his next“revelation” that pulled him from the cow pie he was quickly sinking into...
“There’s a Fairy in the Dairy!”
Oh, the memory! How could I have forgotten?! Of course! I was absolutely destined to work for Central Dairy!
When Benjamin was two years old he received a book entitled,A Fairy in a Dairy, and it was his most favorite book! The sleepy town of Buttermilk Hollow was blessed with a fairy godmother, and the once failing dairy town soon began to flourish when dairy products of all kinds began popping up in the most unusual places! Benjamin had that book memorized! Pretty soon the “fairy” became “real” in our home. I had Benjamin convinced that we had our own personal “dairy fairy” and that was how our milk was delivered in the metal milk box that sits out on our front porch! Cute, huh?
Look, I’m not really sure how I have ended up working for a dairy. I’m a city gal, through and through. The closest I’ve ever come to farming is mismanaging an ant farm when I was nine years old. But it’s not like I’m trading my stilettos for a pair of rubber boots, although I was forced to wear a hair net during the tour (seriously, I’m going to need something a little more “blinged” out if I have to wear a hair net every single time)!
My role is to market the products that we produce right here in the capitol city, and since I love me some milk, cheese, and ice cream, that should be a "piece of cake" (with Central Dairy Vanilla Ice Cream on top)! On the“udder” hand, having access to all the Peppermint Stick Ice Cream I can consume...Holy Cow!


Article #1 "Bits of Betsy" 10/07/12

I have found a new love! Well, not really a “new” love, but a love rediscovered. Writing. I love to write! Growing up in the home of an English teacher (my mother) and a lawyer (my father), I learned early on the benefits of journaling, expressive writing, and good grammar. Of course, I would never admit to English being my absolute favorite subject in school; in fact, I’m sure I sabotaged my chances of making an “A” in the class simply to throw my parents for a loop. But in truth, I loved English - I loved any subject where I could marry pen with paper and record my thoughts!
I started small. I created a blog (an online “diary” of sorts). Then I embarked upon big dreams, and I became a contributing writer for a local magazine. But perseverance is what has landeded me this coveted column in the News Tribune! A weekly columnist! I am over-the-moon with excitement! Finally, my passion for writing has become “real.”
As we embark on this adventure together, allow me to briefly introduce myself to you. You will quickly realize that my life truly is an“open book,” as I am often guilty of “oversharing” my personal life...
I am a dynamic figure, the wife of an incredibly “tolerant”husband and the mother of three energetic boys! I am super strict about basic politeness: “please,” “thank you,” “you are welcome,” and “excuse me” are not only required, they are expected. I am sleep deprived, mostly because I stay up late watching recorded, guilty pleasures such as “Young & the Restless,” “90210,” and “Real Housewives of New Jersey.” I was born and raised in Jefferson City. I left Cole County only for my freshman year of college and traveled a mere thirty minutes to the small town of Fulton to attend William Woods. My parents will tell you, “We paid for William Woods, but Betsy attended Westminster,” which is a good explanation as to why I returned home after my freshman year and enrolled at Lincoln University on my own dime (isn’t it amazing that when you pay for your own education, “partying” becomes less important and making the deans list is totally doable, all the while creating a fury within your parents who are wondering why their hard-earned money was wasted on my personal appearance and entertainment.)
My roots in Jefferson City run deep. My family includes influential personalities such as my great-grandfather, Colonel E.I. “Mike” Hockaday, who began his long and successful career with the Missouri State Highway Patrol in 1937. In 1965 he was named superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, serving in that position until January 1973.
The Czarlinskys, my maternal grandparents, who owned and operated a clothing store downtown here in Jefferson City that held a history of over 75 years. I have years of memories created in the merchandise/fashion world from running the cash register to hand making bows for Christmas packages.
My grandfather, Lee C. Fine, whom I never had the privilege of meeting, as he passed away in 1966, eight years before my birth. He served as the Director of Missouri State Parks and has been honored by name at the Lee C. Fine Memorial Airport in Kaiser, Missouri.
I have tales to tell of birthday parties at the Governors Mansion, a guest of Billy Teasdale, son of Governor “Walkin’ Joe Teasdale.” I have shared a meal with Arnold Schwarzenegger, a claim made possible because my biological father was president of the school board during the Schwarzenegger school fitness tour and Arnold came to Jefferson City’s East elementary.
I plan to contribute to the News Tribune a unique voice -a smart, humorous, compassionate and practical column. I plan to combine local insight and life experiences with research and personal perspective. I’ll write about things that interest me and may throw in some social commentary...sometimes an event begs to be laughed at, and I simply can’t help myself! I hope that you will be my guest and attend the celebration of the lives of those of us who are fortunate enough to live here in Jefferson City. My goal is to make the ordinary seem extraordinary by the way the story is told.

Read All About It....

I did it! I accomplished a dream of mine! I am now a weekly columnist for the News Tribune (local newspaper). Perseverance is what made everything come together...and If I do say so myself, I'm pretty darn proud of myself  :)

My column appears on the front page of the "Style" section of the Sunday paper. Although my article will have nothing to do with "style!"

For those of you who do not receive the News Tribune, I will be posting my weekly columns on this blog (after they appear in the paper, of course). I will post my first three today so you can catch up!

If you have comments or story suggestions, please send me a note or comment in the "comments" section of this blog! Thank you to ALL of you for your support and love, without it none of this would have been possible!  :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Holy House Guest Batman!

Look, I'm all about superheros...

....ripped abs, strong shoulders, power beyond anything human....

It's the "masked" men that capture my heart....the "mystery" behind the gruff voice and rough whiskers from a 5 o'clock shadow.

Batman is my favorite. The Christian Bale version. I think he's totally dreamy...

However, my encounter with the "bat" today was enough to send me "flying" off the handle...

...driven a little "batty".....

It was a typical day of unemployment:

8 am - interview
9 am - back to the house, change into "grub" garments
10 am - Price Is Right, baby!
11 am - The Young & The Restless, Victor is SO over!
Noon - Leftover mac and cheese get the picture...

After mopping the kitchen floor I decided to lay on my bed and watch a little Lifetime Movie Network (seriously, if you don't have this channel, call your cable provider, stat!)...

Lying on my bed on top of my cool, freshly washed sheets it suddenly occurred to me that I had not switched the laundry and I had a few delicate items in the washing machine that needed to be hung. I made my way to the laundry room, grabbed a couple of hangers and hung my silk blouse and my black skirt (my "empowered" interview wardrobe). Making my way back to my bedroom I entered my closet and flipped the light switch....

....and then I crapped my pants.

Okay, not really. But I could have.

Something caught the corner of my eye and turning my head I immediately screamed....

....not just your typical "eek!".....

No.....I screamed the "Jesus-help-me-there-is-a-mass-murderer-chasing-after-me-down-a-long-dark-and-wooded-path-and-nobody-can-hear-me" scream. The kind that makes your blood curdle....and I'm certain that I cracked a window pane.

In the corner of my closet, up on the ceiling (which by the way is a mere 12 inches from my head) was a bat!!!

No, not Christian Bale...because had it been THAT Bat, I would have thrown open my arms and sighed, "Take me!"

It was a full-blown, hairy and leathery, ANIMAL (what are bats? Are they animals or insects or just creepy monsters?) bat!

I waited for it to turn into Edward Cullen (Twilight reference). That didn't happen. Count Dracula? Sesame Streets, "The Count?" Any of those would have been greatly accepted....

It stayed a bat. And I'm not sure if it was sleeping or just eerily staring at me, plotting it's attack.....but it was so still.....

...which made it worse for me.....because I wasn't.

I was jumping up and down, scrutinizing my shoes, deciphering which pair I disliked enough to beat this bat is a bit of the dialogue that was going through my head:

"Prada? No way, too expensive. Toms? No, not sturdy enough. Payless....yes, they are cheap and I can certainly buy another pair.....ooooohhhh.....they are sooooo, I can't use these.....Flip Flops! Definitely not. Oh! I know! HOTTIE HUBBY'S SHOES!!! YES!"

I'm kidding....I didn't use hottie hubby's shoes. But I did start to.....until I saw the wooden bat in his closet.....

I walked over to the french doors in our bedroom that open up to the lower patio....I had a plan....(yes, I did realize the risk I was "opening" myself up to by walking away from the open doors. The way my life goes, I was extending the outside creature world an open invitation to my bedroom. Maybe we could all lay together and watch Lifetime Movie Network. Perhaps Dr. Doolittle would be showing....)

Don't get all uptight on me....I didn't "hit" the hairy bat with the wooden bat....I "nudged" it and spread it's wings (I swear they were 10 feet in width)

and listen closely folks..... spread it's wings and flew from one side of my closet (at record speed) to the other side....

....RIGHT SMACK INTO THE WALL! And with a THUD! it landed on my closet floor.

At this point, it was like a scary movie....dumb blonde brunette bends over to poke it, checking to see if it was dead....(sort of like running up the staircase away from a mass murderer, only to find out there is no know exactly what I'm talking about, right?)....

Try to visualize this....

....bend over......draw in breath......use bat and get millimeters away from creature lying on floor and draw back quickly with a screech. Didn't even graze it.....bend over....try again....first drawing in breath.....s-l-o-w-l-y inching wooden bat towards motionless creature....jab still body of creature, feverishly drop bat and RUN while screaming, "IS IT ALIVE?!??!?!?!?"

I stood, frozen in the middle of my bedroom, waiting for a colony of bats to emerge from my closet (see how smart I am...."colony" is the true word to use for a group of bats...I know this because I googled it)....


First thought: "Now what do I do?"

Second thought: "When does the last Twilight movie come out?"

Third thought: "What should I cook for dinner tonight?"

So I did what any strong, sensible woman/mother would do...


Ah! I jest. But it did cross my mind.

Because the bat had not moved from its position on the floor of my closet, I assumed it was safe to approach.....with a trash bag.

Very if I were sneaking up on someone....I tiptoed towards the bat, holding the extra large black trash bag as far away from my body as possible and in one swift motion I threw the bag over the bat!


Okay....this was a sign that I was free from any danger, so with the tips of my fingers, I pinched up the sides of the trash bag and in a lightning flash I bolted through the french doors (already open!) and threw the bat out into the overgrown lawn....

...and then....because I know people think I make this crap up....I grabbed my IPhone and snapped a photo.

Truly I thought I handled it with a great "bat-titude".....

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Lowest" Bomb Threat, "Compare" With Others...

Is it safe to say that if there is "crazy", I'm there? is safe to say that "crazy" follows me...

A "normal" day is SO overrated!

At roughly 7:15 pm (who am I kidding? I have no clue what time it was because time is not important in this tale) on Friday evening I headed towards the new Walmart to make a *quick* purchase of bleach...

...need a back story? Okay, I'll indulge...I have OCD or CDO (because it's in alphabetical order that way). It started yesterday with spending forty-five minutes organizing my Pinterest boards (a virtual scrapbook where you can pin things like recipes, party favor ideas, gift ideas, do-it-yourself projects and all the things in life you wish you had but know you never will....yes, it can be depressing)
....After my positioned pinning pleasure, I had the urge to sweep off our lower back porch (it's been in my thoughts all week) and when I discovered there was mold growing on the edge of the concrete, I simply could not live with myself if I didn't immediately rid our humble abode of this nasty nuisance.

I was horrified to discover that there was no bleach in our home...seriously? Who does not keep several gallons of bleach on hand for emergencies like the one above? I racked my brain to figure out who the bleach burglar could be and remembered the boys caving trip the weekend before....the mud and  microorganisms that came home with them.....I shudder!

So, I threw on a pair of spandex workout bottoms and an oversize t-shirt of hottie hubby's, complete with a family portrait of "The Family Guy"....who was I going to see? My intentions were swift...a faster-than-a-bolt-of-lightning, grab the bleach, pay and return home trip.....

....that was my mistake....who was I kidding that I could be back from Walmart in 2.5 seconds without running into someone I know??? back to 7:15 pm (or whatever time you want this story to take place)...

I pull my car into a parking space outside of Walmart and dash towards the need for a cart, I'm after one thing and one thing only....

I pass the beauty section...ooooohhhh, new mascara.....I must focus.....bleach.....I continue towards household products.......

.....just as I'm rounding the corner (I can see my beloved Clorox waiting for me to embrace her...), I hear over the loudspeaker...

"Attention Walmart customers. Please evacuate the store immediately. Please leave your items where you are and exit towards the front of the store. Again, all customers are to immediately evacuate the store, thank you."


....the first thought that ran through my head was, "What? Are people being hurt by falling prices?"

I didn't I did what any sane human being would do....I continued towards the cleaning products to grab my bleach.....I mean, surely this was some bored employee that was playing a joke.

...just as I reached for my gallon of glory, I heard a voice...."Excuse me mam, we need you to please exit the store....this is an emergency."

"But I have mold...."

"Please mam, make your way to the front exit, immediately."

Crap....didn't this guy understand my emergency??

Pouting, I made my way towards the front door of the store....past the beauty section...oh yeah! new door......

"Betsy?" I heard my name.....and then remembered what I looked like.....SURE-LY this was NOT happening....

I turned my head to stare into the eyes of a former classmate....a long ago friend that I haven't seen in 20 years....and what better time to see her now, after all this time.....looking like I should be shopping at Walmart....

"Oh hey!" (I'm keeping names out of this, to protect the innocent)...."'s been so long.....and look great! I mean....not a gray hair in your perfectly coiled, sleeked back, blonde hair....and your cute, matchy-matchy, size 2, Capri jogging suit with your brand new Nike's and that lavender I smell?" (okay....that's not really what I said...but I SERIOUSLY was thinking it....)

...instead I apologized for my horrid look and explained I was hoping for a quick trip...

The two of us headed out the front entrance into a scene from CSI....cops where EVERYWHERE! Firetrucks, S.W.A.T team, police chief......all surrounding the empire of "always low prices."

This actually was an emergency....what the heck was going on?

Despite several attempts at cracking this case, nobody of importance was giving any clues....

...while others found places to squat and watch the adventure unfold, I high-tailed it out of there before anyone else laid eyes on me....

....but mostly so I could purchase the bleach that I desperately needed.

I ended up going to Dollar General.....and wouldn't you know it, the bleach there was $1.50 MORE than the price at Walmart....

....Walmart really DOES have the "lowest" prices....

....and apparently the "cheapest" form of bomb threats! Turns out that was what all the excitement was about....and the reason I didn't get my "in-and-out," cheaper bleach purchase!

A bomb threat....


At Walmart??

For what reason??

....the prices weren't falling fast enough on their own?

Personally....I think it's because I was there....

...and wearing a "Family Guy" t-shirt.