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!  :)