Thursday, August 20, 2015

Places to go and things to do in summertime Cottage Grove


8/12/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Locals offer visitor tips.

Last month Oregon’s Senator Ron Wyden sent me (and several thousand others) an email letter about the Seven Wonders of Oregon. In the letter he describes his seven-day trip around the state to meet with local businesses and discuss the state’s growing recreation economy. He also visited Oregon’s natural icons. They are:
1. Crater Lake (Deepest Lake in America)
2. Mt. Hood
3. Columbia River Gorge
4. Oregon Coast
5. Painted Hills
6. Smith Rock
7. The Wallowa Mountains

I surveyed the above list with an eye to my annual August tour guide duties. August is the month when out-of-town family and friends descend upon us. Usually, when they get here, they’re tired. They are happy to plunk themselves down on the deck, read a book, sip some iced tea, enjoy the wildlife or close their eyes and take a nap. They really don’t expect us to take them anywhere.

I’m the one with the expectations. None of which measure up to the places on Senator Wyden’s list. As the month of August winds down so does my tour guide brain! My places-to-go list for grandsons and guests hasn’t changed in years (Shahalie Falls, UO, historical places, water parks, Wildlife Safari, any place that sells elephant ears, etc.).

In an effort to change my course, I decided to poll a few friends on their favorite places to take visitors in and around Cottage Grove and Lane County. i.e. Places close to home. Following are some of their tips. These are personal opinions. No money has changed hands for their input. Initials have been used to protect the innocent.

 Along Main St., folks liked strolling into shops—antique, jewelry, the museums, whatever. Book stores are especially popular. Everyone had a favorite place to eat or beverage stop. I started to list them all and realized that if I left a restaurant out I would be toast!  Suffice it to say that you will not go hungry or thirsty in our town.

J.P. combined a variety of activities: “In the summer I take guests to the concerts in the park and the Art Walk. I drive upriver and stop along the way to admire the beauty. A drive in the country (maybe along Sears Rd) and the swinging bridge adds excitement.” R. H. added his two cents with four words: “Pancakes up Bohemia Saddle.”

Many folks recommended the Covered Bridge Tour. My favorite comment came from S.L. who said: “One Sunday at the Community Center a couple with a British accent asked me if this was where they filmed “Bridges of Madison County. I told them ‘no,’ it was clear on the other side of the USA. They were very nice and must have come from across the pond but were happy with directions on the maps.”

For the physically fit, A.C. suggested this route: “If visitors are energetic, we take them for a hike to Trestle Falls on the Umpqua Forest or bicycling on the Row River Trail.  For bird watching, the Row River Nature Park is great and has an amazing number of species including both great blue herons and green herons; often you can see osprey and bald eagles there, too, as well as multiple warblers, woodpeckers and migrating ducks in the fall.”

Short area walks; hikes and bike rides along the Row River Trail are also popular.  Former resident S. B. recommends the labyrinth at the Village Green.” B. G. suggested a hike to Brice Creek Falls. Not difficult but beautiful. B.I. added, “We just think that the C.G. Lake area is hard to beat for scenery. We are so blessed to live here!”

C.A. suggested that Lane Co. is an avid golfer’s paradise: “Eugene’s Fiddler’s Green is a golfer’s delight along with Emerald Valley in Creswell; Middlefield and Hidden Valley in C.G.; Sandpines in Florence and Tokatee near Blue River.”

The Oregon Coast is always a must-see. L.M. said, “Most of our visitors are from California. They always love the coast. It’s rugged beauty is in sharp contrast to their beautiful but treeless beaches.”

B. W. reminded me of a personal favorite that I can vouch is worth the trip: “Sweet Creek Falls Trail. It’s on the way to Florence, about 11 miles to the trailhead off Hwy. 126 in the Siuslaw Nat'l Forest. An easy-to-moderate hike follows the 70 ft drop in 4 tiers. The 2 1/2 miles of trail has moderate steps, wooden bridges with hand rails.”

Now I’m going to break my rule and name a restaurant since it’s out of the city limits. C.A. said, “In Florence, just around the corner from Mo’s, is Lovejoy’s Teahouse. It's a little known but popular gem. They serve traditional English food and have yummy scones with preserves and clotted cream, a variety of English tea sandwiches (cucumber, egg salad and watercress), petit fours, and a variety of loose leaf teas served in your own teapot. 

Replies waxed absolutely poetic about lunch at King’s Estate: B. G. said, “The patio affords a beautiful view of the Loraine Valley with a distant view of snow capped mountains.  In summer as you drive through the property toward the main building, your eyes feast on the lush green grape vines allowing one to see grapes in their formative stage. Fall brings the harvest with leaves of gold and orange and grapes showing their distinctive purple color.”

Well, I’m out of room but I think the point has been made: You don’t have to go far to have a good time in C.G. and Lane Co. There’s always somewhere to go, something to do and someplace to eat. If you’re still lost, check out the Chamber of Commerce. Great stuff!

 And don’t forget—this weekend it’s time for the WOE Heritage Fair and Lumberjack Show. You can enjoy a historical event and eat elephant ears. I’ll see you there!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.







Bohemia Mining Days in Cottage Grove, Oregon


7/15/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

BMD Daze: Where to go and what to do!

Howdy, folks! Welcome to Bohemia Mining Days here in beautiful Cottage Grove, Oregon. This weekend, we’re putting out the welcome mat for everyone to come and enjoy some good, old-fashioned fun. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a born-and-bred Grover or a first time visitor—you’re going to enjoy some great history and hospitality.

Bohemia Mining Days celebrates the discovery of gold in them ‘thar hills southeast of Cottage Grove in 1863. Legend has it that two men (fleeing from Roseburg after killing an Indian) made their way into the Calapooya Mountains where they accidentally found gold while skinning a buck. And the rest, as they say…is history.

Eventually an area called Bohemia City was established as miners began the hard work of picking out a living. In the early 1900s they even had a few parades to celebrate their mining efforts. Then, in 1955, a really big 10-day celebration honored the 100-year birthday of the settlement of C.G. A parade precedent was established.

 “Radio Ray” Nelson (who loved the mining life) is credited with stirring up interest to celebrate Oregon’s Statehood Centennial in 1959. To help with financing the event, he founded the “Prospectors and Golddiggers Club” to be a booster group for mining. He soon became known as “Bohemia Ray.” Nearly 60 years later, the financial backing, traditions and enthusiasm of this event are still reflected in today’s Bohemia Mining Days.

Of course, there have been changes. The entire event has certainly grown since Chuck and I rolled into town in the late 1980s. As I recall, some activities such as carnival rides, food vendors and other concessions were located in a dusty field in what is now WalMart’s parking lot. I also remember a year when the carnival rides were set up in the old Madonna property located off Highway 99—a long walk from Main St. and Bohemia City.

And speaking of walking, the free BMD Express Train will once again be offering rides along the Main St. route from Coiner Park (Bohemia City) to the carnival rides at Bohemia Park and the Opal/All America Square. The Express will also go to Trinity Lutheran’s chicken dinner and First Presbyterian’s ice cream social. Times vary so check the printed schedule.

The festivities actually begin this evening (Wed.) at Bohemia Park Amphitheater with a free show. “The Fret Boy—Al Bennett,” will be performing classic rock. Seating is limited, so bring some folding chairs or a blanket for the grass and rock on!

Thursday afternoon from 3-9 p.m., Bohemia City opens in Coiner Park. First there is an opening ceremony. Then, the sky’s the limit: Every day there’s a “Cultural Stage” talk, musical performances, pony and camel rides, an antique engines exhibit, food and drink vendors, a beer and wine garden and on Thursday only, a miner’s dinner near the basketball court. It ends when steaks run out!

On Friday, there are some additions: the Kiddie Parade will scamper thru downtown; a family friendly melodrama will entertain at Cottage Theatre, 700 Village Dr., on Fri. and Sat. at 7 p.m. and Sun. at 2:30 p.m. Cost $7. The Oregon Aviation History Center will be open along with the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum and CG Historical Museum. A Gold Rush 5K night run or walk thru town begins at 9 p.m. at Washington & 6th St. Cost $20-$30.

The Ice Cream Social and Quilt Show is one of BMD’s oldest events The quilt show opens at noon on Friday at First Presbyterian Church, Adams & 2nd St. Then, from 4-8 p.m., homemade cakes, brownies, pies and a choice of ice cream are dished up. Proceeds benefit the FPC youth music program and Community Sharing. Cost: $1.50 kids; $3.50 adults.

Saturday, of course, is the really big show (as Ed Sullivan used to say). The eagerly awaited Grand Miner’s Parade starts off at 10 a.m. As of this writing I don’t have a float schedule so the line-up will be a surprise! But you can count on the parade beginning with a Color Guard processional followed by bands, batons, dogs, horses, old cars, music, people of all ages and floats decorated from the ridiculous to the sublime. It always ends with the wail of fire engines. 

Then, if you’re brave, you might want to check out times to compete in one of the feud contests. For many years, the Lemati Gang re-enacted an original running feud from the late 19th century. They entertained BMD audiences with their western themed shootouts, hangings and jailbreaks. This is the third year of the resurrection of “The Slabtown vs Lemati Feud.” Feud contests range from the ridiculous to the sublime on the Gazebo stage.

Saturday also features some great food. In addition to corn dogs, curly fries and cotton candy (I hope!), there’s a chuck wagon breakfast from 7—11 a.m. in Bohemia City. An always-fabulous BBQ chicken dinner plate at Trinity Lutheran Church runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or whenever chicken runs out!

Sunday, beginning at 6 a.m., the 51st Annual Miners Breakfast on the Mountain will begin. It’s a great chance to not only get some grub but appreciate the scenery up the winding road to the Bohemia Mining District, 40 miles SE of Cottage Grove. The breakfast ends at 1 p.m. but the fun goes on in town at Bohemia City until closing at 5 p.m.

So, there you have it. It’s BMD! Time to celebrate the colorful and rich history of Cottage Grove with your family and friends. A full three days of celebration of carnival rides, history, melodramas, food, musical entertainment, cherry seed spitting and beard growing contests. There’s something for everyone. Don’t miss it!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Where do you get your news?


6/17/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Digital changes to our daily news sources

“Well, what shall I talk about? I ain’t got anything funny to say.
All I know is what I read in the newspapers.”
Will Rogers

This famous statement by renowned American humorist Will Rogers was originally used during his appearances in Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic shows in 1915. One hundred years later, it still rings true for many of us today. We get meaningful news from newspapers.

The times however are changing. Our news today comes from many sources, including radio, television and the Internet’s social media. All of which are (presumably) more attractive to today’s on-the-go generation. It’s sad but true that hold-in-your-hand newspapers are a dying breed of communication.

It was shocking to me when The Oregonian ceased a daily publication in 2013 and went mostly digital. Today, one can pay for unlimited (7 days a week) access to the Oregonian Digital Newspaper with apps from a tablet, smart phone or computer.  Twice a week, a print edition is delivered and sold on the newsstand.

Recently, the Eugene Register Guard newspaper announced that the family-owned paper’s new publisher was not a family member. They were proudly heralding a new era of digital change to become “more than a newspaper.” With that thought in mind, one has to wonder how long before they quit printing.

This is not good news for us real newspaper junkies. I subscribe to both the RG and the CG Sentinel and used to buy the Sunday Oregonian. I wake up to radio news, read the daily Internet news and watch two different news channels at night. I like to know what’s going on in the rest of the world as well as Lane Co.

It’s because of the Internet’s Yahoo! that I discovered Katie ‘s FYI. Former news anchor and daytime TV star Katie Couric is now Yahoo’s Global News Anchor. I was never a big fan of hers so frankly, I ignored her Internet presence until last Dec. Then, I stumbled across her report on falling oil prices. In a segment that she calls, “Now I get it,” she explained (in words that I could understand) the oil crisis situation.

Suddenly, I was a fan. I signed up at http://katiecouric.com/katies-fyi/
to receive her daily reports. Turns out that I like her news choices as much as I did her commentaries. Now, every morning, a variety of important and interesting news gets delivered to my email inbox. They range from breaking hard news to whimsically articles that make me think.

In January, the first headline that grabbed my attention was: “Unlock your creativity this year: Get bored, early and often.” The author was a mother with a colicky baby. But it wasn’t a sweet mother-child relationship study. Instead, this working mom had to turn off her iPhone while walking her baby. She was bored. Eventually she discovered that this mindless activity of walking and thinking paid great dividends in productive thinking. Imagine that!

In March, thanks to Katie, I watched a fascinating video on a very timely subject: “Cancer’s Most Controversial Surgery.” Can you guess which one it is? Breast cancer. Today about 60 percent of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer choose lumpectomy surgery followed by radiation instead of a complete mastectomy. Once this was not a choice. Now it is.

In May I read a fascinating piece about an outspoken Iraqi parliamentarian taking a brave stand against ISIS. We don’t hear much about how ordinary people in Iraq feel about this scourge. Certainly not if the person is an unveiled woman, who believes in democracy! But there is such a woman and her name is Vian Dakhil. She cares about all the people in her country and is working politically to save the endangered Yazidi religious and ethnic minority. Her story gave me hope. It was published in “Fast Company.” 

Other headlines have included “Who decides where autistic adults live?” “Can one man end the global drug war?” “Will Cleveland’s police reform offer blueprint for other cities?” “Why cursive mattered.” And “The real reason you have a terrible memory.” There’s something for everyone. Check it out.

Thanks to Katie my horizons are stretched in different ways every day. I need that. Otherwise I might get lazy and settle for being spoon fed whatever pops up on my screen i.e. the latest UFO sighting or Kardashion fashion statement. Even worse, I could become depressed over the depravity of this world—murders, molestations, global warming, genocide, terrorism and more. No, I need a balanced look at the world and Katie’s FYI provides it.

Locally, “Around the Grove,” is a new weekly resource for events that are happening here in Cottage Grove. Its goal is to encourage community participation. This enews made its debut a few months ago and is an additional resource to the Chamber of Commerce, radio station KNND or the Sentinel.

ATG is a nice addition to the mix with a laid out calendar of events that I find easy to read and mark on my own calendar. Although it’s technically not a news sources, I always learn something. For instance: Do you know what the networking acronym TEAM means? “Together Everyone Achieves More.” A worthy community goal.

KNND calendar coordinator Cindy Weeldreyer is the editor of ATG. If you’re interested in getting on the weekly email list or would like to submit an item for the weekly calendar, send an email to cindy@knnd.com or drop it off at radio station KNND, 321 Main St.

Yep. Times have changed. I do wonder what Will Rogers would say about all these new-fangled options. But he was a simple guy. He’d probably still be funny and find a newspaper to read.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 










The power of one person


5/13/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The power of ONE…

“One person can make a difference and everyone should try.”
John F. Kennedy

On August 11, 1965 a routine traffic stop by police, triggered a race riot in a suburb of my hometown in Los Angeles. African Americans (then called Negroes) lived in semi-isolation in the Watts area of L.A. Unemployment was high, relations between the mostly white police department and the community was strained at best. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was in its infancy. The area was a powder keg.

Ugly rumors about the traffic stop grew, flew and ignited an explosion like we Angelenos had never known. For six days, as many as 10,000 rioters took to the streets in roving bands. By the time the riots ended, 34 people died, more than 1,000 were injured and 600-plus buildings were damaged or destroyed by fire and looting.

After the riot, racial tensions continued to simmer. Young men were still unemployed and turning to drugs, gangs and violence. Into this scene came a most unlikely peacemaker—“Big Willie” Robinson.

Willie, a Vietnam veteran and member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, came home to another kind of war. He was an imposing 300 pound, 6’6” gentle giant of a man— the kind of guy that could get gang members and cops to put down their weapons and shake hands. He also loved fast cars and soon made a name for himself in East L.A.’s street racing underground in his ’57 Chevy.

Veterans returning from WWII are credited with starting the hot rod racing craze. “My car is hotter than your car” conversations led them to the streets in competition for bragging rights. Later, in the 1950s my husband and his buddies raced after school in isolated areas and at night at Lion’s Drag strip in Long Beach. It was everything that a young man loves—speed and competition.

In 1966, a year after the riots, L.A. residents and politicians were desperate for ways to vent the Watt’s pressure cooker. Future mayor Tom Bradley (then a councilman) noticed that the local street-racing scene of hot rodders and drag racers attracted an integrated crowd. He and the council approached Robinson to stage a series of semi-legal street races at midnight on Fridays for all comers.

More than 10,000 people showed up on the first night! Thus was born the National and International Brotherhood of Street Racers. "Jalopnik" magazine, said membership was simple: pledge to race under safety supervision; abstain from alcohol, drugs, fighting; and NO squirreling during events (i.e. acting stupid while showing off).

In 1968, the program was credited to have helped L.A. keep order on the streets after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Cities like Chicago, Detroit and New York saw spikes in racial unrest.

Robinson worked for years to get a drag strip that could be operated with the low buck street racer in mind. In 1974, he finally saw his dream come true on Terminal Island outside L.A. The track was short on amenities but it was a true melting pot for the car culture. There, on their own turf, guys could quasi-legally drag race off the city streets without the dangers of illegal racing.

Big Willie Robinson, street racer and peacemaker, died on May 21, 2012 at the age of 69. He helped thousands of men to build a brotherhood through street racing. “When you get around cars, man, there isn’t no colors, just engines,” he told the L.A. Times in 1981.

The power of one person to make a difference under pressure cooker circumstances always amazes me. Last month, the whole world sat up and paid attention when Ms Toya Graham chased down and stopped her son as he took part in the Baltimore riots. I nominate her for mother of the year!

The riots began when Freddie Gray, a 25-year old African American resident of Baltimore, died in police custody a week after being arrested.  Gray reportedly was in good health prior to his arrest but possibly incurred neck and spine injuries while being transported to jail. He later fell into a coma and died. Charges have been filed against six police officers.

Irate citizens initially protested peacefully. Once charges were filed against the police the scene turned ugly. Angry crowds took to the streets in massive acts of violence, vandalism, looting and arson. In the end, everyone suffered—police, rioters, innocent civilians and shopkeepers. There were no winners.

Well, maybe one. Score one for mothers! I loved Toya Graham, rushing into the fray to do what she could. She didn’t rush out to beat up the police, or the protestors or shopkeepers. No, she zeroed in to stop the only person that she had any control over—her son. Her actions went viral, giving us all a lesson in love and wisdom.

Graham, a single mother of six children, spotted her 16-year old son Michael wearing a hoodie and mask. She said, “I just lost it. I was shocked, I was angry, because you never want to see your child out here doing that. I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray…I’m a no-tolerant mother.”

 It’s that reputation that made her son wince the second he saw her. He said, “when I seen you, ma, my instinct was to run.” Photos show her whacking and herding him out of the crowd and home where they watched and discussed the riots play out on television. I can only imagine what was said.

Graham hopes that with the perspective of time it will be a teachable moment for her son. I’m thinking that it’s a teachable moment for all of us: Respect one another, play by the rules, don’t hurt others, make a scene for a good cause but start the training at home.

God bless the peacemakers. They make a difference. It’s a task for each of us to try.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Road trip calling? It must be spring fever!


4/15/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

 On these glorious, sunshiny days, I do not like to be inside, tied to my desk and a keyboard! Outside there is real work to be done: moss to be scrubbed off planters and walkways; weeds to be pulled; bushes to be shaped; roses to be uncovered and winter’s damage to be repaired. And of course, roads to be traveled.

In springtime, if it’s a sunny day outside then I’m a gloomy inside person. So now that I’ve got that out of my system, here comes another confession—I’m not getting much done inside either. I’m sitting here looking at the blank computer screen with a road trip brain, dreaming about new places to explore.

One of the many things that I love about Oregon is that it is such a compact state. In our RV days we traveled to just about every nook and cranny possible in the Pacific North West. Now, for the first time in 35 years, we are touring by car, bus or train and there aren’t many places we haven’t been.

Where to go next? That is always the question. The answer usually arrives when the monthly edition of Travel Oregon arrives in my inbox. They have great suggestions for cities and regions to visit, places to stay, things to see and do, in places large and small.

Last month their visitor information concentrated on the “Seven Wonders of Oregon.” In no particular order, they are:  Crater Lake, the Wallowa Mountains, Painted Hills, Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, and the Oregon Coast. I was able to check off five of those areas as well-explored. We had been near the Painted Hills but were unable to stop on our way to Baker City.

Baker City is worth the long drive just to visit the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. There, the story of the Oregon Trail comes alive before your eyes. The 23,000 square foot facility is more than a museum or monument. The story of tens of thousands of men, women and children who walked for 2,000 miles comes alive through life-size exhibits, interpretive trails, special events and Oregon Trail ruts. The living history performances bring life to the trail experience. I even bonded with one of the oxen over its long eyelashes!

Having been-there-done-that, its time to visit the Wallowas and the Painted Hills. Both destinations make me a little apprehensive. First, I’m not fond of deserts—high or low. We took a trip one year from our home in Ventura (on the Calif. coast) to Death Valley—the lowest, driest and hottest area in No. America. Not our favorite trip.

It was, however, one of the last Calif. National Parks. to check off our list. We had to go. The valley is known for its isolation, sizzling temperatures and lack of rain. But it was only May. How hot could it possibly be? Well, we would soon find out. This was the early 1980s. Information was limited. There were no computers or cell phones. Word-of-mouth, maps and encyclopedias were our guides.

As I recall, we drove into the town of Ridgecrest at dusk. We had plenty of water and snacks in our ’81 Oldsmobile but only about a quarter tank of gas. Our maps indicated Death Valley was just down the hill. We decided to head down and fill up in the valley.

I can still see the long, winding, isolated road to nowhere that greeted us. We promptly turned around, filled up the gas tank and ate a hamburger (our last meal!) at the only café in town. Down, down, down we went. There was no traffic. We were the only car on the road. It was almost dark and we had a sinking feeling wondering if the road would lead to civilization and a comfy, air-conditioned motel.
 
We gratefully arrived about 9 p.m. and the heat was tolerable. The next morning we woke up to brilliant sunshine and (gulp) 100° F. heat. By the time we had breakfast and headed out on a tour bus to Scotty’s Castle, the temperature had climbed to about 117° F.

Scotty’s Castle was 53 miles from the Furnace Creek Resort where we were staying. The castle and grounds are famous for opulence in the middle of nowhere. In the early 1900s, Albert Johnson grubstaked a gold mining expedition for Walter Scott (Scotty). The gold never panned out but Scotty convinced everyone that he had money from secret mines in the area and built a castle. Actually, Johnson and his wife built the spectacular two million dollar home as a vacation getaway. The National Park Service now owns it.

Today Death Valley State Park is quite the destination spot. The Furnace Creek Inn has luxury lodging as high as $370 per night. Its amenities are endless and of course, include swimming pools. A nearby mini-town built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company now features another hotel and the Amargosa Opera House. Things are a wee bit different than during our visit.

Now, back to Oregon’s desert hot spots. The stunning Wallowas Mountains are said to be one of Oregon’s most beautiful secrets and a multi-day adventure. Pictures of the Painted Hills are spectacular. The colors shift and change with the difference of light and the seasons. Wild flowers flourish at this time of year. Both destinations sound wonderful. But they’re still far away in a hot, desolate setting.

To go or not to go? That is the question. But the road is calling...

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Trash and treasures in the mailbox


1/18/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Going to the mailbox used to be one of life’s pleasures. In a more personal and un-computerized society, we corresponded across town and around the world with pen and paper. Telephone calls were expensive but postage stamps were not.  A treasured note from someone saying ‘hello’ was usually tucked in among the inevitable bills. Those cards, notes and letters always made my day.

Today, just about the only people saying ‘hello’ to me by snail mail are not people at all. The mailers are automated computers deep in the bowels of marketing offices all across the nation. There, clever ad agencies put together enticing, colorful offers that are mass mailed to millions of people. At my house they go right in the trash/recycling.

This past year our mailbox has been bombarded with a ridiculous amount of unwanted catalogs, coupons, credit card offers and donation requests. Some charities send one or two solicitations a week. Many add stamps and coins to entice a donation. They are seldom opened. In an effort to stop the flow, I tried marking them “return to sender.” It made things worse and they keep coming.

One day I couldn’t stand it any longer. I opened a solicitation and found a phone number to call and (hopefully) stop the onslaught. I was told they would be happy to do so but  “Mrs. Kaiser, you must understand that these mailings are prepared months in advance and will take up to 12 weeks to stop.” I hung up before I said something that I shouldn’t.

Eventually, the mailings dwindled down to once a week communications. As I stand over the trashcan, slicing and dicing them, I no longer wonder what some banking institutions are doing with our money. I know. They’re spending it on soliciting more customers and keeping the post office in business.

I am an avid magazine subscriber and thanks to some very nice ‘two-years-for-the-price-of-one’ offers, I often get good deals. Especially nice are the ‘buy-one-give-one’ gift offers. Obviously (as you will see) these are cash flow bonanzas for the companies and cash cows for the long haul.

A couple of years ago I noticed that the due dates for my Reader’s Digest magazine subscriptions were coming closer and closer together. December bills for family gift subscriptions were arriving in July. When I didn’t pay them, the bills kept coming. So I decided the subscriptions must be expired and wrote a check. The next year I did the same thing.

Guess what? By the time that I caught on to their advance billing game, everyone still had two years left on subscriptions. I finally called Customer Service and got it all straightened out. Now I keep a list of expiration dates.

“Final Notice!” offers without an actual expiration date are common.  An offer to renew my three-year AARP membership was really annoying.  My membership was only one year old when I received a notice to confirm that I wanted to renew my AARP membership and receive a Free Travel Bag! I called and complained that the offer was deceptive and they apologized. Yea, right.

Of course, these solicitations are not just limited to snail mail. Oh, no. They also come via telephone (email spam is another subject).

Last winter, in one of March’s wild winter storms, our power was out about 24 hours. As soon as our telephone service was restored, the phone rang. The caller inquired if everyone was okay and if we were interested in purchasing a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) in case this happens again. In a different state of mind and a different time, I might have been cordial. Instead, I just told him to remove our name from his calling list and hung up.

My husband has a product in his workshop for which he purchases parts on the telephone. When he needs something, he calls and orders it. If he doesn’t need anything, he doesn’t call. The problem is that if he doesn’t call every 30 days, they call him — night after night at dinnertime. He asked to speak to their supervisor and be removed from their call list. They agreed but still the calls came.

Finally, I got online and ferreted out email addresses for the corporate office customer service division. A distinctly worded message protesting their sales tactics resulted in corporate calling me. They assured me that the sales solicitations would stop. And they did.

Still, in spite of our enrollment in the “Do not call” program, the other calls continued. So, we threw in the towel and subscribed to our phone company’s feature that blocks unwanted calls. For a small fee its message annoys everyone who calls—but it does what we pay for—a great job of filtering out solicitors and scam artists!

In a last ditch effort to opt out of the trash mail offers that kept coming, I Googled for some help. I started with http://www.usa.gov/topics/family/privacy-protection/junk-mail.shtml. Their site suggests that we tell the companies directly to remove our name (an on-going chore) or call the credit reporting agencies notification system at 1-888-567-8688. This required giving one’s Social Security number.

A final suggestion was to visit the Direct Marketing Association’s website at: https://www.optoutprescreen.com/opt_form.cgi

I decided to sign up with this one even though it doesn’t get rave reviews and must be renewed every three years (without an expiration notice). It was quick and simple and hopefully it will work.

Now, if I could just get friends and family to fill the mailbox with hand-written treasured notes—I would be a happy girl!

 Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Getting the picture


2/18/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Getting the picture

We all like good news. It makes us happy and hopeful. No one likes bad news. It would be nice if we could just ignore the barrage of negative stuff coming across the airwaves. Nice but not realistic. Currently, a respected television anchorman is under fire and in danger of losing his job for not being completely truthful. Here in Ore. our governor has been under fire for ethics violations and resigned under pressure.

On the International scene we have constant, overwhelmingly bad news of undeclared warfare: kidnappings, mass killings, property destruction and starvation. Like you, I have many questions but no answers about these power plays and atrocities. We can’t ignore this stuff nor can we solve the problems. What do we do?

Shortly after the Brian Williams hubbub broke loose, a “Blondie” cartoon caught my eye. It gave me a little perspective on human nature. The scene: It’s a snowy day. Dagwood and his friend Herb are briskly walking to work. Their conversation goes like this:

Dagwood:  “Days like this remind me of being on the veranda at The Grand Hotel in Fiji.”
Herb: “When was that?” (Silence)
Dagwood: “Well, technically, this reminds me of a photo I saw in a travel magazine a long time ago…but you get the picture.”

Well, I get the picture about Williams. All of us from time to time tend to embellish the facts. Maybe it’s shaving a few years off our age. Making our job description sound more important than it is. Coloring our hair. Upping our school GPA. Making our children sound like brainiac angels or whatever. You get the idea. We all do it.

NBC anchorman Brian Williams belatedly confessed that he embellished being in a helicopter hit by a grenade in 2003. Actually, it was the helicopter ahead of his that was hit. Oops! Now Williams has been suspended for 6 months without pay and it remains to be seen if he will come back as anchorman. I doubt it.

Frankly, I did not lose any respect for him over this. I believe that initially he was caught up in the moment and that it may have felt like his chopper was hit. Unfortunately, he never clarified his initial statement with the truth. Millions of viewers will not calculate that the majority of his career has been honest and straight arrow. They have lost complete trust in him due to this falsehood (and possibly others).

Oregon’s Gov. John Kitzhaber’s personal and political life has been under fire for months. His fiancĂ©, Cylvia Hayes served as the state’s first lady. As a paid consultant outside government, it was alleged that her relationship with the governor was helping her land contracts for her business. This, among other things, chipped away at his credibility. At first the governor refused all calls to resign, saying, “I have broken no laws.” He abruptly resigned Feb. 13, stating he had become a liability to the office. No doubt there is more to come.

The above battles are mostly political. They are sad situations but not hopeless. All concerned will emerge with their egos bruised and battered but live to work again. There are solutions. The following scenarios are real life and death battles. Wanton killing and power grabs characterize many areas of the world.

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a huge topic of concern all around the world. This barbaric terrorist group is trying to establish a conservative Islamic state to encompass the Arab world. An empire. They financed their war against Infidels by taking over Mosul, the third largest city in Iraq and seizing more than $400 million from city banks to bankroll their evil empire.

How evil are they? Well, women and children who did not fit the mold were their first victims. The United Nations reported ISIS systematically killing, torturing and raping the families and children of minority groups in Iraq. Their methods included mass executions of boys, reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive. 

ISIS’ goal is to rule the entire world by fear. Their horrific beheading of hostages from the United States was followed by the gruesome beheadings of Japanese hostages and immolation of a Jordanian pilot captive. ISIS loves publicity and toys with the captives’ family emotions. The young American woman who was evidently ‘given’ to their leader was still killed. The end is always death. That’s evil.

And what is really going on in the Ukraine? I get it but I don’t get it. Thanks to Vladimir Putin and Russia’s land grab history, Russian troops and tanks are pulverizing buildings in the Ukraine. Helpless citizens are living underground in rubble and starvation. Why is Putin doing this?  Because he can. He’s power hungry. Can anyone stop the madness? Nope. No one wants to start a war with nuclear-armed Russia. That’s the way it looks to me. What do you think?

“The world is going to hell in a hand basket” (i.e. deteriorating rapidly) was one of my dad’s frequent comments during times of war and economic hardship. Looking at the events of this era I can only agree that things don’t look good. The hope is that future generations will serve and not destroy their fellow humans.

In that spirit, I offer this perspective from the comic “Beetle Bailey”:

Beetle: “I don’t get it…mankind has been at war since the beginning of time. What’s wrong with mankind? Why can’t we get smart and figure it out?”
Soldier: “Because every 30 years there’s a new mankind.”

Now I get the picture.


Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.