Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Patriotism is still alive!

9/21/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser
Lt. Col. Kirsten Palmer

Kirsten M. Palmer has been a busy woman since she graduated from Cottage Grove High School in 1991. Thanks to her career choice in the USAF she has become a highly educated officer, leader and world traveler. Her senior year at CGHS she served as student body president. That summer she served as a U.S. Senate Page for Sen. Bob Packwood in Washington D.C.

Kirsten’s first stop out of high school was to join the U.S. Air Force. She fearlessly stepped into four years of training and education at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. At that time only a small percent of the 4,000 cadets were women. Four years later, in 1995, she graduated as Second Lieutenant with a Bachelor of Science in Management. In 1999, she received an M.B.A. in business administration from Phoenix University.

My first interview with her was the summer of 2005 after she attained the rank of Major. Her proud parents Ron and Linda Palmer’s serene back yard was the setting for a glimpse into the life of this focused young woman. Her career had already sprouted wings and taken flight all over the world—including Germany where, as a Major, she served as an aircraft maintenance officer in a Medivac unit.

I remember thinking then that she was a poster child for military recruitment. The Air Force had already enabled her to travel to 16 different countries and she loved her job as executive officer to the Wing Commander, 437th Airlift Wing where she worked 12-hour days.

 “It’s hard work,” she said later, “but I enjoy the camaraderie of the people I work with. They all have a deep-seated love for our country and believe they are keeping this nation secure and protecting our freedoms with what they do every day.”

Kirsten is married to Lt. Col. Roger Lang. They live in Washington D.C. with their five year old daughter Addyson.  Her husband is a USAF pilot for Air Force Two. Along with Air Force One, it is stationed at Andrews AFB. Its mission is to transport people in the upper positions of leadership. i.e. the Vice President, Presidents of the Senate, Speaker of the House, etc.

Now a Lt. Col., Kirsten’s most recent assignment was to serve at the Pentagon as Chief of the Logistics Initiative Branch in the Aircraft Maintenance Division in Washington D.C. This position is too complicated for me to explain! Suffice it to say that she does it well. Her many awards and decorations include Air Force Meritorious Service Medals with two, four and five leaf clusters; Commendation and Outstanding Achievement Medals. The National Defense Service Medal; A Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and more.

This summer Kirsten began a new facet of her military life. She celebrated 21 years of Air Force service and went back to school. She was appointed by the Department of the Air Force to attend The Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at Fort Lesley J McNair. When she completes this one-year intensive study she will receive a Master’s of Science degree in National Resource Strategy.

The Eisenhower Institute’s curriculum is designed to promote strategic thinkers and national security policy makers to lead strategic institutions. Kirsten also hopes to gain a better understanding of the factors leaders must take into account when they make decisions affecting our national security and how to determine what is best for our country so resources are not squandered. A tall task!

Looking back, I asked her if a military career had exceeded her expectations. The answer was a resounding, “Yes.” “When I left Cottage Grove in 1991 and headed to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs," she said, "I never imagined my life and career would turn out this well. My plan was to stay in the Air Force as long as I was having fun. Twenty-five years later I’m still having fun! The opportunities provided by joining the military are endless and the education benefits are incredible in exchange for serving my country.”

Kirsten, the 2016 patriot, is just as enthusiastic as the day in 2005 when she said to me, “Sometimes I think, ‘Wow! How did I get so lucky to be born an American?’”

This summer, 11 years later, I asked her what she would like people to know about her job. Her response was this: “Rather than what I do, I would like people to realize the incredible honor it is to serve our country. The opportunity of being part of something bigger than yourself, knowing you’re part of an organization that strives to make the world a better place, while preserving the everyday freedoms that some take for granted.

“The professionalism of the men and women I have come across over the last 25 years makes me proud to be an American. When I retire from the Air Force (whenever that may be), I know the defense of our nation is in good hands with the young men and women who are now moving up the ranks.”

Kirsten also enjoys the camaraderie of the people she works with and their deep-seated love for our country. “They believe they are keeping this nation secure and protecting our freedoms with what they do every day.”

 Readers, in closing, I would like to add this: In an era when multi-millionaire football players are questioning their patriotism and refusing to salute our flag…It is a pleasure to bring you an update on someone who has chosen patriotism as a way of life. God has blessed America with her and all those who serve this country!

Thanks to all who serve and congratulations Kirsten!

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Remember Gracie Allen's Surprise Party?

8/10/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

I'm with Gracie!

The campaigning to become president in 2016 has been in full swing too long. It’s a slight exaggeration to say that dozens of candidates began testing the waters years ago. Finally, all but two have washed out. Across the board, it was a peculiar election slate of wanna-be candidates to say the least.

The sparring of so many candidates left me more confused and crabby than informed. Finally, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prevailed on the Democrat side. Billionaire Donald J. Trump, who was originally just a speck on the candidate horizon, ultimately gained the Republican nomination.

 Personally, I long for the good old days of candidate selection. In election years, I remember my grandfather sitting and listening to the results of the DNC and RNC National Conventions on the radio. He would listen intently as the conventions announced their select candidates to the nation. In those days they elected individuals with solid credentials like Harry Truman and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. As a youngster, the process seemed relatively simple.

Presidential campaigning is serious big business, Very serious. Our country’s future hangs on every word of potential nominees as they try to come up with solutions to the mega problems facing us. It’s not possible for anyone to have all the answers. Yet we seldom hear candidates say they don’t know the solution to a situation. Lots of arrogant pontificating goes on. Not much humor is displayed.

Back in the day, humorous pseudo candidates would often surface and lighten up the whole process. In the early days of radio, Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers made slapstick runs at the White House. Now TV’s Saturday Night Live brings a little levity to the proceedings.

One of the funniest comedians to address political comedy was ditzy Gracie Allen. She and hubby George Burns were comedic stars of radio, stage, screen and television. Burns was the straight man who wrote the material but the audience loved silly Gracie and her earnest delivery of skewed answers to Burn’s serious questions.

In March 1940 on the Burns and Allen radio show, Gracie announced that she was forming a new political party and declared her candidacy for president. War was simmering across Europe; times were grim and getting worse. This was the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas E. Dewey. Laughter was in short supply.

Gracie’s new political party was called “The Surprise Party.” After all, she said, her mother was a Democrat, her father a Republican and she was born — A Surprise!

Gracie made unannounced appearances on many radio shows to offer her views on the issues of the day. One day she could be found at Fibber McGee and Molly and the next on The Jack Benny show. When Ken Murray, host of The Texaco Star Theatre, asked her which party she was affiliated with, she answered in typical Gracie form: “I may take a drink now and then, but I never get affiliated.”

Eventually she and George crossed the country on a whistle-stop campaign tour. They promoted her book “How to Become President” and performed their radio show live from Hollywood to Omaha. There, at the Surprise Party Convention she was nominated for president of the United State.

When asked what made her qualified to run for president she said, “…let me tell you that women are getting very tired of running a poor second to the Forgotten Man and with all the practice we’ve had around the house the time is ripe for a woman to sweep the country. I’ll make a prediction…that a woman can and will be elected if she is qualified and gets enough votes.” Gracie continued adlibbing as she shook hands and kissed babies. She garnered a few hundred votes and tens of thousands of smiles — which is all she really wanted.

Fast forward a few years and another Hollywood face entered the political arena. Pat Paulsen was a long-faced comedian and satirist who was well known for his hilarious monologs on The Smothers Brothers Comedy.

Paulsen was approached by the Smothers Brothers to run for President in 1968. He is reported to have said, “Why not? I can’t dance; the job has a good pension plan and I’ll get a lot of money when I retire.”  His slogan was “Just a common, ordinary simple savior of America’s destiny.” Sounds a little familiar!

Viewers would tune in to listen to his campaign promises that were outright lies and tongue-in-cheek attacks on the major candidates. His so-called campaign was comedy based and a big hit. The long-faced comedian’s response to any and all criticism was “Picky, picky, picky.”

Tongue in cheek, Paulsen addressed issues that we still face today:
Problem solving: “I will not claim to solve all the world’s problems. If I did, I’d have to run as a Republican or a Democrat.
Gun laws: “A gun is a necessity. Who knows…you might be walking down a street and spot a moose!”
National Debt: “Will I obliterate national debt? Sure, why not?”
Immigration:  “All the problems we face today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian.”

To everyone’s surprise, his pseudo campaign took on a life of its own. In the 1996 New Hampshire Democratic Primary, Paulsen polled 921 votes to President Clinton’s 76,754. He came in second place! Ultimately he ran five campaigns with gentle humor aimed at political arrogance until he died at the age of 69 in 1997.

Paulsen had some final words of election wisdom as he paraphrased another wise man:  “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can only make a monkey out of the voters every four years!”

Don’t be a monkey! Get informed and vote intelligently! As for me, I’m with Gracie (and Pat). Truth goes down best with a little laughter.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart 
can be seen in the Cottage Grove Sentinel

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sometimes we smile through our tears

7/20/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

A brief respite from madness and mayhem: the generation gap and other thoughts.

It is with a broken heart that I sit down at my desk to write this column. The recent shocking shootings of citizens and vindictive murders of police officers in the USA has left me speechless. And the terrorist attack in Nice, France that killed and wounded hundreds… took me to my knees. These crimes are so heinous that it will take the Wisdom of Solomon to stop the madness. I am not Solomon.

Therefore, I am not going to pontificate about how to bring peace to the warring factions of our society. I am going to make an effort to lighten up your day as I empty my email inbox from thoughts that readers have sent me. They often bring a smile to my face and it’s good to take a moment and realize that life goes on when the world around us seems to be blowing up.

Let’s begin with a piece that someone sent me from a University in Wisconsin. Every year the school’s administration tries to give faculty a sense of the mindset of incoming students. Reading this you will understand the generation gap. There’s a reason we don’t understand today’s kids and they don’t understand us either:

“The students who are starting college this fall were born in 1998.
They are too young to remember the space shuttle blowing up.
Their lifetime has always included AIDS.
Bottle caps have always been screw off and plastic.

The CD was introduced 7 years before they were born.
They have always had an answering machine.
They have always had cable TV.
They cannot fathom not having a remote control.
Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave.

They can’t imagine what hard contact lenses are.
They don’t have a clue how to use a typewriter.
And movies? Well….
They never think about “Jaws” when they go swimming.
They don’t know who Mork was or where he came from.
They do not care who shot J.R. and have no idea who he is!
They never heard: “I’d walk a mile for a Camel” “Where’s the beef?” or “de plane, Boss…de plane.”

That’s today’s students. Now check out this 50-year span of word play contrasts for those who were students in the 1960s:

Maturity Changes Things

1966 Long Hair
2016 Longing for Hair!

1966 KEG
2016 EKG!

1966 Acid Rock
2016 Acid Reflux!

1966 Moving to Calif. because it’s COOL!
2016 Moving to Arizona because it’s WARM!

1966 Trying to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor
2016 Trying NOT to look like Brando or Taylor!

1966 Seeds and stems
2016 Roughage

1966 Hoping for a BMW
2016 Hoping for a BMW!

1966 Going to a new-hip joint
2016 Receiving a new hip joint!

1966 Rolling Stones
2016 Kidney stones!

1966 Disco
2016 Costco!

1966 Parents begging you to get your hair cut
2016 Children begging to get their heads shaved

1966 Passing the drivers’ test
2016 Passing the vision test

1966 “Whatever”
2016 “Depends”

And finally, here are some quotes from well-known individuals who are a little closer in age to my generation. Some are amusing. Some are pithy but all are food for thought:

“America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.” David Letterman

“I’ve been married to a communist and a Fascist and neither would take out the garbage.” Zsa Zsa Gabor

“Wood burns faster when you have to cut and chop it yourself.” Harrison Ford

“Lawyers believe a man is innocent until proven broke.” Robin Hall

“Having more money doesn’t make you happier. I have 50 million dollars but I’m just as happy as when I had 48 million.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind: every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.”
John Glenn

“We are here on earth to do good unto others. What the others are here for, I have no idea.” WH Auden (social poet)

I’m going to close by agreeing with the last quote. Good will must begin with us. Whoever we are, whatever our religion, we should be willing to apply the Golden Rule to all: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It may not save the world but it’s good Karma.

Keep smiling and may God help us all!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail —

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Columnist celebrates 20 years at newspaper

Author is still writing in her 70s!
6/22/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Betty’s 20 years of Sentinel memories

My, how time flies! This month I am celebrating an unplanned, 20-year career in the newspaper industry. It all began in 1996 when I walked through the front door of the Sentinel and applied for an office job that they were advertising. I knew absolutely nothing about office work…but how hard could it be? Talk about chutzpah!

Nevertheless, Publisher Jody Rolnick decided to take a chance on this older newbie. On June 9, 1996 I entered a new world. My colleagues, Retta and Rosie and I were busy. We answered phones, fielded questions and complaints; and forwarded calls to the appropriate ad or newsperson. All classified ads and bills were written by hand as were subscription receipts. Those went into notebook files. I loved the office buzz and meeting new people.

My job description was: Accounts Payable. I remember thinking, “How hard could this be?” I managed our checkbook at home and it always balanced. Enter a new animal—the computer. Gulp. Let’s just say that I was a slow learner and there’s a special place in heaven for those who were my instructors. But I did learn and that experience began my love affair with computers today.

So how did I morph from the front office to the newsroom?

Well, I’ve always loved writing. I grew up in the era of Emily Post and would write a thank you note as soon as a gift was opened. In school essay tests were a breeze. Put me on a committee and I would end up secretary or writing a “how-to-do-the-job” manual. In college I had taken some journalism classes and written for the campus paper but that was the extent of my formal experience.

Jody and I would occasionally talk about the need for a column on people, parties, places to go, things to do, celebrations, recipes, etc. Sort of a hybrid commentary, old-fashioned local gossip column. News staff was not available for that sort of thing so I volunteered.

The Chatterbox debuted on April 7, 1999. In that column I requested the public’s input. I was counting on them to be my eyes and ears in the extended Cottage Grove community. I started sharing my life experiences and readers responded with stories of their own. Thus the adventure began.

Originally, ABC/Disney owned the Sentinel. Later it was sold to Lee Enterprises. Then Editor Finn John came aboard. He was young, enthusiastic, energetic and full of ideas! One of his visions for the newspaper was to include an old-fashioned society page level of hometown news. I was already writing the Chatterbox so he brought me from the front office into the newsroom.

Suddenly my job morphed from one to three columns a week—The Chatterbox, Cook’s Corner and Neighborhood News. We often had a full page of military news, graduation lists, anniversaries and weddings. Eventually I added the monthly Faith Page and started covering news stories as well. It was one of the best times of my life.

I loved telling our town’s stories. Interesting things happen in our corner of the world. Some good. Some bad. Some ugly. Lee Enterprises published my columns on the Internet and I started hearing from people around the world. Wow. That was fun.

One of the most memorable stories I covered was Uno, a German Shepherd and his handler Pat Gartman. A certified crisis response dog, he and Pat, with Bill as support, flew to Ground Zero after the 9/11 tragedy. The core temperature at the attack site was 1,800 degrees. The workers were numb, tired, dirty, grieving, expressionless and overwhelmed with the enormous task.

Pat said, “Uno would pick the one who needed the most comfort. He'd put his head in the worker's lap and inevitably, the worker would start petting him, talking to him, holding him. Uno's back would be wet with tears,“ I cry every time I remember that story.

I prefer to write good news but reporting an ugly situation won me a First Place Social Issues award in 2004 from the Society of Professional Journalists. My three part series on homeless teens was titled, “Under the Bridge,” it opened the public’s eyes to the needs of these hurting, invisible teens and those in organizations like Parent Partnership who work on their behalf.

I briefly retired in 2006 during a time of turmoil when my husband had a very serious back surgery. At that time, my friend and editor Jonni Gratton summed up my eclectic style and newsroom career:

“Betty Kaiser was a big city California girl who moved to the country in 1989 and settled into the groove of the Grove.

“She put her heart and soul into everything that she wrote — good, bad, funny or bitter-sweet. She wrote from the heart about every segment of local life and her own experiences — from bats in the bedroom, a Saginaw slum, homeless teens, falling off ladders, women in the military, the tragic death of children and bad hair days.
A born and bred Grover once told her “that she wrote like one of us.”

 “Readers enjoyed bantering with Betty — correcting her Spanish, disagreeing with her politics and banning her from their hair salons.
Mostly, they just opened their hearts and told her their stories.”

For all of the above reasons and more, I wasn’t very good at retirement. I returned to work in 2007 on a part-time basis writing one column a week. That has since been reduced to every other week, which is just about my speed for this stage of life.

As my 20-year career winds down to a crawl, I am so grateful to those who helped me along this path and the readers who supported me. I was a stranger and you took me into your hearts, sharing your stories and lives. It has been a wonderful relationship. Lord willing, I plan to continue doing this as long as I am able and still making sense.

So, Cottage Grove, thanks for the memories and keep them coming!

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

Friday, June 10, 2016

Changes are coming for Opal’s Park in Cottage Grove

5/25/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

In my so-called “Golden Years,” constant change is frustrating. It seems I just get used to one iPhone, computer or television set and they change the format. I find doing business on the computer necessary but exhausting. Where are the humans for communication? And the fact that my grandsons are starting to marry is mind-boggling!

Frankly, I can handle the past better than the present. Perhaps that’s why my aging brain starts many sentences with—“I remember when…” That was my first thought when I heard of possible changes to Opal Whiteley Park. I remember when we didn’t have an Opal Whiteley Park/All-American City Square! And now we need changes?

I remember when the corner lot, where the park now stands, was home to several small shops. In fact, it was the original location of The Bookmine. I remember when the shops were torn down and a large building was designed for that space. I remember when the building permits were denied and the project stopped.

 I remember when the lot became ugly and weed-filled. It sat there with no purpose and no future. I remember when residents spontaneously brought in soil and planted apple trees to soften the landscape. It wasn’t fancy or committee generated but it provided shade and shelter and peace.

I remember when world traveler Mary Peck made Cottage Grove her home. I interviewed her just before her 90th birthday in 2004. She and her husband traveled the world and pioneered in Alaska before it was a state. She held too many executive positions to mention and could shoot a bear! Here in C.G. she threw herself wholeheartedly into projects that benefitted our community. She was a dynamo.

I remember when, near the end of her life, Mary purchased the then apple tree lot and deeded it to the city with the stipulation that it remain “an open space available at all times to the people.” That space became the Opal Whiteley Park that we have today.

I was remembering all of this history on Tuesday evening, May 17, during an open house at the Cottage Grove Armory. A city press release had called a meeting to discuss possible needed changes and improvements at our now 10-year old Opal Whiteley Park to  “sustain the park for future generations.” Yuck. More changes.

I was running a bit late and arrived at the meeting just in time to hear Marston Morgan, AIA, the park’s original architect, finish up his comments. His closing statement particularly struck home: “The park stands as a piece of sculpture by itself. It doesn’t have to have people flowing through it all the time.” Amen.

I love that image of a peaceful place. Do we always have to have perfectly orchestrated commercial spaces in the heart of a city? Why do we humans think that we have to make things bigger and better with more activity? Why can’t we just enjoy the little gems of life without making them complicated? Grumble. Grumble.

Back to the meeting. As it turned out there was no public discussion. City Planner Amanda Ferguson had put together a charrette. A forum for ideas and immediate feedback to designers. And no, I didn’t know what that meant either. It turned out to be a very clever way for a large crowd to share their thoughts. This is how it worked:

 On the walls around us there were detailed sketches of the park. i.e. the mural, planter walls, plants, walking areas, etc. Instead of everyone taking a turn and orally vetting their ideas, we were instructed to grab post-it-notes, write down our ideas and place them on the appropriate space for changes, specific concerns, wishes, etc. Evidently they are now being scrutinized and rated for importance.

The wonderful Opal Whiteley mural, the kiosk, restroom and stage building will remain the same. The plantings, walls, flagstone steps and everything else is up for that dreaded word—change. Following are just some of the suggestions the public submitted.

Change the name back to only Opal Whiteley Park
Keep stones; replace cracked ones.
Change paving to sand finished concrete
Fix the bricks only
Trim plants to better see mural
Remove the center planter
Put back the tables
No smoking in park
Open Park to alley
Remove or re-design ramp

A water feature
More native plants
Install cameras
Games: large checkers game; hopscotch, bocce, 4 square
Commercial shops
Visitor’s Center
More informative signage
An annual celebration event
Santa in the bell tower
Night lighting

A clock at the top
Reflecting pond
Light mural from above
More garbage cans
Cig butt containers
No smoking
A place to eat lunch
Hire a gardener!
A shade tree or two?
Use recycled irrigation water
Put signs up explaining tower is for fire hose
Space for Christmas tree

Volunteers: design, landscape and maintain
A friendly, welcoming, wonderful place

“Bigger fish to fry than a park.”
“Let a small town be a small town.”
“It’s not the Olive Garden!”
“Use Metal benches: they dry fast and are not good for sleeping.”
“Use as free speech area i.e. Hyde Park, London; own soap box.”
“(Street) lights are ugly; do not even resemble vintage.”
“Alley is a potential gem.”
“Open Park to businesses”

Last evening another meeting was held (after this column went to press) facilitated by David Daugherty, a landscape architect. It remains to be seen what (if any) of these changes are deemed necessary and if a grant is available to pay for them.

My husband says we need to repair and maintain.
I say…Do we need change for change’s sake?
What say you?

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Older? Brain drain is frustrating but not fatal. It just feels that way!

April 27, 2016 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

My husband’s stepmother, Mae Kaiser, was in her early 90’s when she began initiating me into the perils of getting older. This successful businesswoman outlived two husbands and married for the third time in her 80s. Until the day she died, she loved ballroom dancing, socializing and keeping up with the youngsters in the family. She was a marvel of nature and a joy to know.

She was particularly known for her prodigious memory. Also her handwritten notes. Each one was a labor of love because she suffered from severe macular degeneration in an era before the age of modern treatments. She used a large magnification lamp to help her see the thick black words she wrote on lined paper. Sometimes the words ran off the page and were unintelligible but we cherished them all. At the end of her life she was nearly blind but still writing.

It was from Mae that I started hearing such sayings, as “These are not the golden years I was expecting. They’re bronze!” Or, “You know you’re getting old when everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.” And finally, with a tired sigh she would sadly whisper “My get up and go has gone and went.”

I was a young whippersnapper in my 40s when Mae came into the family. And frankly, I never gave it a thought that I, too, would one day suffer from the consequences of being “older.” Youth never does. As the saying goes, I didn’t drink, smoke, chew or go with boys that do! I thought my boundless energy would last forever because I was the queen of aerobic exercise into my late 50s.

Guess what? I got older anyway. I had gray hair in my 40s. In my 50s I started wearing make up and eyeglasses. In my 60s I developed laugh lines and wrinkles. And the day I turned 70 my brain’s retrieval system slowed down. In the words of a former 90-year old neighbor, “I had turned another corner.” That is seldom good.

 “Brain drain” aka a ‘broken memory retrieval system’ is serious business. That’s what happens when the answer to a question is on the tip of my tongue but I just can’t quite spit it out. I’ve come to believe that smart phones were invented especially for seniors like me. I still know my social security number and everyone in the family’s birthdays but don’t ask me what their addresses are!

This retrieval problem has now expanded to email quizzes that readers love to send me. Last year my retrieval level reached a new low when a relative sent me the following quiz on Mental Health Day. She said, “This is a quiz for old people who know everything!” She was either being sarcastic or she doesn’t know me very well because I failed it miserably.

So, I’m sharing this quiz with you. There are only nine questions. They are straight questions with no trick answers. But here’s a warning: if you find yourself searching your brain for an answer that is right on the tip of your tongue and it won’t come may have brain drain just like the rest of us. Good luck and no peeking at the answers first!

A Brain Drain Quiz

1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?

3 Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?

4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?

5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?

6. Only three words in standard English begin with the letters ' dw' and they are all common words. Name two of them.

7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?

8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.

9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on
your feet beginning with the letter 'S.'

Answers To Quiz:
1. The one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends: Boxing.

2. North American landmark constantly moving backward: Niagara Falls. The rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.

3. Only two vegetables that can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons: Asparagus and rhubarb.

4. The fruit with its seeds on the outside: Strawberry.

5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bottle? It grew inside the bottle. The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.

6. Three English words beginning with dw: Dwarf, dwell and dwindle...

7. Fourteen punctuation marks in English grammar: Period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation point, quotation mark, brackets, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses.

8. The only vegetable or fruit never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form but fresh: Lettuce.

9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet beginning with 'S': Shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts.

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Guide Dogs for the Blind bring joy and independence

Guide dog puppy in training  

3/30/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

I love dogs! At our house, sunshine and happiness radiate from two little red Dachshunds. They get up happy in the morning and go to bed tired at night. All day long they bring a joy into our lives that is beyond measure. They are ready to join us in almost any adventure; they alert us to danger, their tails seldom stop wagging and they offer kisses when they sense when we are sad.

Today I’m going to introduce you to an organization that brings that same companionship, joy and security to the visually impaired. Guide Dogs for the blind (GDB) was established in 1942 to provide guide dogs for veterans returning from World War II. It has no  government funding and there is no charge for services. All services, including the cost of the dog ($50,000), are funded by gifts.

Recently my friend Charlene invited me and my husband to a presentation in Eugene by this organization. Charlene has long been active in GDB but this was our first introduction to how long it takes a village to turn a puppy into a guide dog.

We learned that the mission of GDB—matching the visually impaired with the perfect puppy— is not magic. It is hard work that begins when puppies are born on their San Rafael, Calif. campus. It actually begins before the pups are born when their parents are bred for good health and temperament. The Breeding, Veterinary and Neonatal staff ensures that the pups are happy and healthy from the get-go.

Once they're born, the fun begins as volunteer puppy socializers cuddle and pamper those precious babies. Everything is exciting so they gently introduce them to their new world People, sights, sounds, dirt, grass and pavement are all waiting to be explored.

Just about the time they’re getting familiarized, they board GDB’s puppy truck to new homes all up and down the west coast where they are eagerly awaited by puppy trainers. Some pups land in Eugene but others have found loving homes from San Francisco to Bend. All trainers volunteer their time, food and toys!

At the meeting we were greeted by two adorable puppies in training. A Golden Retriever and a Golden Lab arrived in Oregon on the Puppy Truck in early Feb. to live with their volunteer puppy trainers until they’re 14-16 months old. These pups were well behaved and so cute I wanted to smuggle one home.

Their two veteran Eugene puppy trainers have trained about 13 pups between them. Here are some things you’ll need to know if you’re thinking of being a puppy raiser:
*The dogs go everywhere with them that is open to the public.
*They are taught good house and public manners.
*They practice positive re-enforcement
*Bad behavior is ignored.
*Pups are on a strict natural balance diet. No table food or treats.
*Good behavior is rewarded with “one” piece of kibble.
*A working dog wears a jacket and a Gentle Leader in public.
*No, you should not pet a working dog without permission.
*Puppies are puppies! Even though they have lots of training they can play in the yard, etc.
*Puppy raisers want confident, happy, successful dogs!

At the end of their training time here in Oregon, the two golden pups will return in the GDB puppy truck to San Rafael or the Boring, OR campus. Tears will flow but new pups will take their place. Now the formal guide dog training begins. The pups will be made comfortable and meet their new trainer who (over the next year) will teach them the specific skills needed to guide a blind person.

This is where the rubber meets the road. GDB will find out if the pups are suitable for the job. Someone said, “Dogs are like high school students. Some are ready for college and some are not. Those who do not meet the requirements needed are described as making “career changes.” Perhaps they are divas who need a more sedentary life or they might be inclined to police work. There will always be a place for them

Once the dog’s guidework training is finished, there is a celebratory graduation that the public is invited to attend. Then it is time to be paired with a human partner. Some people like quiet dogs. Others prefer those who are active and ready to go at a moment’s notice. We were told that the right personalities just click.

 Our speaker of the day was athletic, vivacious and vision impaired. She told her story with her dog (a large black Lab) at her side. She is an active young woman who began losing her vision about 12 years ago. She lived in Texas and had a high profile job. One day while she was driving she noticed that her vision was compromised. Fuzzy. And no matter what she tried, it didn’t clear up.

Her vision tested at 20/50 and deteriorated from there. Eventually she had to give up her
driver’s license and move back home to Portland where her twin sister and family live. It was hard to get around and using a cane was difficult. Life was depressing. At the Oregon Commission for the Blind she learned about the Guide Dogs for the Blind program.

She said, “I was open to anything to give me independence. I went to Boring for two weeks of training and the whole experience was amazing. It was the start of a new beginning for me.” She and her big black Lab became a great pair, walking the neighborhood, crossing Portland’s bridges and riding the bus to work. 

Then she had a near death experience. She wanted to cross a street and tried to step off the curb but her dog wouldn’t let her. Then a car whizzed by. “She over-rode me with her intelligent disobedience. She’s the smart one. She moved me from an unsafe situation to safety,” said this grateful woman.

Now the couple happily walk, work and play together 10-15,000 steps a day! If they are any example, it looks like our little Golden puppies have a happy and active life ahead of them.

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