Saturday, November 15, 2014

Battle of Good versus Evil continues

11/12/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Battle of good versus evil continues

I lost my cool last week. Big time. Sitting in my office reading the International news on my computer screen I came completely unglued. No, it wasn’t about the Nov. election results, Obama Care, the Ebola quarantine debate, Honey Boo-boo or any other controversial topic consuming us here in the U.S.A.

My tirade was directed at an arrogant, bloodthirsty sadist clear across the world in Nigeria. I cried. I ranted and raved and wished that I knew how to apply some vile curses. The target was Abubaker Shekau, a Nigerian Islamic extremist and the leader of Boko Haram. A name that means: Western Education is sinful.

Of course, he couldn’t hear my hysteria and he wouldn’t have cared if he did. Extremists only hear one voice and that is their own.

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf (now dead). It advocates a strict form of Sharia law, seeks to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria. It opposes education and the westernizing of Nigeria—half of which is Muslim and the other half Christian.

Coexistence is not possible. Boko Haram is interested only in “battle, hitting, striking and killing with the gun, which we look forward to like a tasty meal,” said Shekau.

Until this year, millions of people, myself included, weren’t aware of this group because of the many other power struggles going on around the globe. Our attention was diverted to Nigeria on April 15 when 276 girls and young women were kidnapped from a boarding school in the remote village of Chibok. Some escaped. Most didn’t. And since then dozens of others have been kidnapped.

Appeals for their release came from around the world. Social media posted “#Bring Back Our Girls Now” to create awareness, spark conversation and demonstrations about the kidnappings. It was hoped that somehow this would encourage the families, especially the vulnerable children. The girls remained captives.

Thus, my rage when on Nov. 1, leader Shekau gleefully announced to the world that the girls (children!) had been converted to Islam and married off. Then, he dug the knife a little deeper and said to the parents, “If you knew the state your daughters are in today, it might lead some of you…to die from grief.”

That statement put me over the edge. I have sometimes been accused of being a Pollyanna but I do know EVIL when I see it. I wanted to destroy this guy and save the girls. Finally, I calmed down. I know this is a God-sized problem. And it is time to pray. The Bible says if you are disheartened…to pray without ceasing. That’s what I do daily. Please join me in praying for these girls.

On the other side of evil is goodness. Evil means “profoundly immoral and malevolent; wicked, bad, wrong, dishonorable, villainous, malicious” and more. Good means “that which is morally right; virtue, righteous, integrity, fine, superior, quality” and more.

Well, just as I didn’t have far to look for evil, I quickly found examples of goodness. Right here in Cottage Grove, I heard about a man who couldn’t afford to get dentures. One day, out of the blue, a complete stranger struck up a conversation with him, handed him a card and told him to go get his teeth fixed—and he would pick up the tab!

My friend Jeannie volunteers for Pro-Bone-O. It operates two free clinics per month and provides free veterinary services, food and supplies for companion pets of the homeless. Another friend, Patty, has a clothing ministry. She collects gently worn clothes and gives them to those in need.

Churches are always a good source of goodness. There are many churches that go on mission trips to Mexico and other countries. Their mission is usually to preach the gospel by first providing for people’s physical needs: food, clothes, shelter and medicine. Help. Not harm.

First Baptist Church in Albuquerque was on such a mission when they discovered a young boy with a massive, fluid filled venus lymphangioma on his shoulder that literally has taken over his upper body. The area in which he lived was so dangerous that Homeland Security picked up him and his parents and brought them to the states. Thanks to the church he will have the surgery to remove the tumor and reconstruct his shoulder bone. It will be a long haul recovery but he will have his life restored—because people cared.

Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed more than 7,000 people; kidnapped and enslaved an unknown number and displaced at least 650,000 civilians from their homes. They use abductions, rape, forced labor and marriage as weapons of war. They plan to continue this rampage and carnage of innocent people until they are martyred and go to their version of paradise. It’s sick!

In the meantime, the virus Ebola has been running rampant in Western Africa. The latest statistics from the CDC confirm 13,042 cases with 4,818 deaths. As horrible as these numbers are, there is hope. Billionaires like Bill Gates (who puts his money where his mouth is) are investing in vaccines and drugs to prevent the virus and others like it from becoming recurring epidemics.

Organizations like Doctors without Borders and individual medical teams are flying into the Ebola ravaged areas from around the globe to heal and comfort. Recently, Samaritan’s Purse chartered a 757 jumbo jet to airlift 100 tons of supplies to the villages for basic needs, feeding, hydration and sanitation. Tens of thousands of lives will be saved—not lost—because of people who are caring not killers.

From the beginning of time there has been a battle between good and evil. It continues today. But my money is on the side of goodness to prevail. Pray for peace in the hearts, minds and souls of all mankind. And the Golden Rule to prevail.

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Small town project = Big time decisions and price tag

10/15/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

For months, our town has been buzzing with pros and cons about the proposed Cottage Grove Main St. Refinement Plan.  Tonight, the planning commission will convene a public meeting at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall to consider the latest revision of the plan, including the controversial tree removal segment.

Are you coming to the meeting? Or have you seen the plan? If not, check it out at Visually, I find the proposed changes to our Main St. landscape very sterile. Thirty years from now visitors will know exactly when the renovations took place. On the other hand, it addresses practical aspects that should have been done years ago.

Those positive changes include removing the crown that has built up in the middle of Main St., better drainage, upgrading sidewalks and crosswalks to ADA standards and more. Personally, I don’t agree with some of the proposals like redoing All America Square but I’m sure looking forward to no longer scraping our car doors on the sidewalks.

This is a small town project fraught with emotion and a big price tag. Naturally, the rumor mill has been working overtime.

So let’s put one rumor to rest. I have repeatedly heard this statement: “This plan is a done deal. These public meetings are just a formality. ‘They’ don’t care what we want. There is no reason to attend.” I heard this so many times that in true reporter fashion I took my questions to City Planner Amanda Ferguson.

I asked her if the revamped Main St. meeting was just a formality or if there was still a place for public input. I asked if the plan could still be altered to reflect both the city’s needs and the public wants or if it was a “package deal” that we had to accept or reject. After all, if there were no flexibility (as rumors suggest), there would not be reason for any of us to show up. Amanda immediately set me straight.

She said, “Certainly we want public input. (This is a work in progress.) It’s just a plan. It’s not code. It’s not regulation. It’s not finalized. It’s not been legislated. It’s just a recommendation. Plans are never final until they are final. Plans are subject to change and I fully expect that there will be changes to this one and it will be referred back and forth to (other) committees.”

Amanda also reminded me that this is government that we’re dealing with and it could be years before all of this comes to fruition. There will be more meetings, more changes and of course, searches for funding. The actual project is expected to cost millions of dollars and could take years to pursue the funds one block at a time. So there you have it. It’s just a plan and it’s complicated.

 “Adopt a plan and stick to it.” I found that statement buried in one of the Main St. documents. It is a number one goal of the project.  That’s good advice for all of us. This Main St. remodel is going to define us for decades. Come to this meeting prepared to articulate your idea for the plan. To do that you will have to distill your idea to its essence. Be succinct and direct. Or, as my neighbor Sally used to say, “Eat the meat and throw out the bones.”

Frankly, I don’t want to be on the losing end of another battle. Many of us backed the carousel project and we still watched it go down the drain. We tried to save the Dr. Pierce Barn and failed. Well, now I want to keep Tree City USA green on Main St. I want us to look like our name not some inner city redevelopment. I’ll be at the meeting.

Charm is the operative word for Cottage Grove. People like looking at the past. Most find us to be charming and hospitable. We are not a sleek lines and modern architecture town. That’s why so many groups advocate a historic district that reflects the warmth and history of the early 20th century. I agree.

But refinement is not bad. In fact, bringing things up to code and cleaning up the roads and sidewalks is a plus to add to the attraction of our murals, museums and covered bridges. Just don’t change our personality.

So what do you think? Our town needs your input. It’s human nature to mumble and grumble when we disagree about things that are either near and dear to our hearts or going to cost us money. But it’s not enough to just complain to yourself or your friends. You have to make your opinions known in a larger forum and work with your allies.

Are you coming to the meeting? Well, if you want your voice to be heard by something other than the four walls of your house then get up out of your easy chair, turn off the television and come to City Hall. Say hello to your neighbors, make new friends, mend some fences and work together to fashion the Main Street Refinement Plan in such a way as to make us all proud of downtown for years to come.

P.S. Remember: “It’s just a plan.” Get involved. Be patient. Be nice.

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

Questions for a rainy day

9/17/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

After a long hot summer of company, cooking, canning and unending yard work, I’m beat— bone weary and brain dead. Maybe you are too. So it’s time to share a column of emails to help us all smile, relax a little and enjoy the coming rain.

The first group of thoughts I filed under “Why?” No answers just head-scratching questions. In fact, I ask myself the first question every time I drive I5 between Cottage Grove and Eugene. After that, the thoughts range from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Why do cars on the freeway rush up to your bumper at 75 mph, go around you and then slow down to 55 mph?

Why do supermarkets make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front? 

Why do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in our driveways and put our useless junk in the garage?

Ever Wonder Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?

Why can't women put on mascara with their mouth closed? 

Why don't you ever see the headline 'Psychic Wins Lottery'? 

Why is 'abbreviated' such a long word?

Why is it that doctors and attorneys call what they do 'practice'? 

Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavoring, and dish washing liquid made with real lemons?

Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?

Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes? 

Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes?  Why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff?? 

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains? 

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together? 

If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal? 

Why do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke? (Well, I understand that completely!)

Now we come to a challenging quiz from my sister-in-law. She says, “Today is National Mental Health Day. You can do your part by remembering to send this email to at least one genius challenged person. And don’t send it back to me, I’ve already flunked it once!”

This Genius Quiz is supposedly for people who know everything. There are only nine questions. They are straight questions with straight answers. There are no trick questions but I found a few to be deceptively difficult.

I suggest that you take the quiz, let me know how you do and then file it away under “Questions to ask any know-it-alls in your friends or family.” No peeking allowed! Answers are at the bottom. Here we go:

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 Genius Quiz:

1. The one sport in which neither 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


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.

So there you have it, folks, your points to ponder for the day. By the way, I tried putting on mascara with my mouth closed. It is possible but I had to continually remind myself to close my mouth. Enough said. Have a good week!

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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

You can make someone's day

August 20, 2014 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

For a news junkie like myself, this has been a depressing summer. If you just look at the Israel, Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine and Ebola situations, it has been one unbelievably bad news story after another. It’s enough to make you throw up your hands and say, “I give up!”

But as a wife, mother and grandmother, I would like to make things better. You know, do the impossible: Be Wonder Woman! Step in as an arbitrator to make peace. Rescue the weak, the halt and the lame; find homes for the homeless; wave a magic wand to quell wildfires and develop a vaccine to stop Ebola.

Unfortunately, these are all bigger problems than any single person can solve. One particularly bad news day my neighbor called and put life in perspective. Her day had started out badly but she wanted to share how a perfect stranger brought joy. Read to the end of this column, and her experience will make your day.

Her story caused me to start looking around for good news on a small scale. I started with my rant about Tree City USA possibly losing its Main St. trees under the proposed Downtown Refinement Plan.  Well, it seems that many people agreed that we need trees. In fact, they wrote letters and spoke up at public meetings.

As a result, The Community Development Director announced in July that the City had entered into a contract with Sperry Tree Care for a certified arborist to evaluate the existing trees along Main St. and prepare a report. Yea! Sperry Tree Care has been taking care of our property’s trees for years and I know they can be trusted to make wise decisions. Mark your calendars for Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. to receive a first hand update.

Thank you to the citizens, who cared to get involved and shared ideas; and to the city officials that listened.

Kudos also to Travis Palmer, Executive Director of the Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce. His newsletter about the vandalism, graffiti, littering and lack of respect for local properties was sure an eye-opener for me. I shop in town but live outside city limits and was not aware that some of these problems had escalated.

I was particularly surprised about the graffiti or tagging that is going on. Palmer suggested that folks use the CG Smartphone App to report it and other problems to the police department. Last week, thanks to a tipster, a suspect was apprehended who may be responsible for the graffiti. Hopefully, word of his arrest will get around and tagging will cease to be attractive.

Many of us who live outside of town patrol the perimeters of our property and pick up the broken glass, beer cans, fast food wrappers and other trash that people toss out the window as they drive by. No one likes to clean up after the general public but wherever you live you can clean up your own place.

Another big thank you goes to the Humane Society of Cottage Grove. Everyone knows that they do a wonderful job of rescuing animals, fostering, teaching, helping pet owners with spay and neuter coupons and so much more. Our recent spate of hot weather reminded me that they also have lots of helpful printed information.

Recently, I was in the BiMart parking lot when I noticed a small, furry dog panting heavily in a locked car. The temperature outside was 97° F. The windows were rolled up! The pet’s owner was nowhere around. I was just getting ready to go into the store and ask them to make an announcement when the owner returned. I looked at him and shook my head. He glared at me and drove away.

I had in my hand one of the bright red cards from the This ‘n That Shop to put on his windshield. It says (in part), “Your Dog May Be Dying. We understand you meant to be kind in taking your dog with you today but you could be risking his or her life. On hot sunny days, the inside of a car heats up very quickly—dark colored cars especially. The temperature inside can climb to 120° F. in 30 min. even with windows slightly open.

“The inside temperature is too hot for anyone especially your dog…they can withstand a body temperature of 107-8° F. for a very short time before suffering irreparable brain damage or death. If overcome by heat exhaustion immediately soak or wet him or her down with water and take to a veterinarian.” Read and heed, people.

Finally, here is the really good news that you (yes, you!) can make someone’s day. My friend, Pat, who was recently widowed, was at the market when the checker asked how her day was going. She said, “Not very well. I’m having a bad day.” The conversation continued and she repeated the statement. As she got ready to go, the checker said, “Wait a minute, you forgot your wallet! That would make a very bad day!”

Pat made her way out to the car, put the groceries in the trunk and was getting ready to leave. As she turned around, a young man walked up to her with two small bouquets of flowers and said, “I hope this makes your day a little better.” Nearly speechless she thanked him as he walked away. And yes, his kind gesture did make her day better. Mine too.

It reminds me of an old saying that goes something like this: “None of us can do everything but all of us can do something.”

I cannot save the world and neither can you but all of us can make someone’s day. See you at the flower stand.

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

Oregonians vacation at home

7/23/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

There’s no place like Oregon in the summertime. So if you ask me where I’m going for vacation this summer—or any summer—the answer is always the same. I’m staying home in Oregon. Living in the Willamette Valley puts us in the center of one of the most beautiful states in our country. Why not enjoy it at it’s summery best?

Oregon is a small state so mountains, forests, waterfalls, beaches, high deserts, volcanic landscapes, canyons, wetlands and lakes are all within a day’s drive of us. Most locations are blessed with mild to warm weather throughout the month of Sept. Each place offers a variety of outdoor recreation and relaxation for everyone in the family—mom, dad, kids and grandparents.

Usually our out-of-state guests are exhausted when they arrive. Most of them just want to stay home, eat, relax on the deck, swim in the lake or go fishing. Still, I have suggestions for places to go—an unending list of outdoor treks and local summer events are posted on the frig. But just in case someone wants to go on an overnight adventure here is my short list of places to go:

1. Crater Lake National Park. Located in southern Oregon it is a must see. Formed when Mt. Mazama erupted over 7,500 years ago, the lake’s brilliant blue color and clarity are exquisite. On our first trip we took a boat tour and a hiking tour to grasp the immensity. Long a favorite of European royalty, we happened to be there in 2008 when members of Jordan’s Royal family visited on motorcycles!

2. The Historic Columbia River Highway. I never tire of this highway designed specifically for scenic touring. Built from 1913-1922 it begins in Troutdale and goes 75 miles to The Dalles. There are gorgeous views from Crown Point, unforgettable waterfalls, awesome wind surfers, the powerful Bonneville Lock and Dam and more.

3. Lewis & Clark National and State Historical Park is located in both Oregon and Washington. The Fort Clatsop Visitor Center is the major Oregon site. We visited the original reproduction of the Lewis and Clark winter encampment before it burned down in 2005.  It has since been re-built and will give you a real sense of the hardships they endured before their return trip east to St. Louis.

4. National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. This Baker City center is one of the best ways to get a grasp on the life that the Oregon pioneers lived on the trail beginning about 1836. Outside, there are miles of actual preserved wagon ruts in the trails and mountain views to take your breath away. Inside there are local pioneer history exhibits, a theater and gift shop. FYI: my favorite detail was the eyelashes on the oxen pulling the wagons.

5. Oregon Coast. It’s only a short two and one-half hour drive from Cottage Grove to shopping in Florence. The coastline includes pounding surf, beach trails, sand dunes, the Yaquina Bay Bridge, Heceta Head Lighthouse, the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach and gaming casinos! Taking the side roads from a few familiar places will pay different dividends.

7. Salem. A tour of the Oregon State Capitol building with its Golden Pioneer statue is mandatory. The Bush House Museum, the Historic Deepwood Estate and the Willamette Heritage Center are well-preserved buildings worthy of touring near the capital. And The Oregon Garden is located in nearby Silverton.

8. Southern Oregon in the summer offers music-music-music, along with wonderful camping and jet boating on the river.  The Britt Festival in Jacksonville, features world-class artists in classical, jazz, blues, fold, bluegrass, pop and country music. But the world renowned Shakespeare Festival in Ashland is often sold out!

9. Portland. There is so much to do. Where to begin? We have taken grandchildren to the Oregon Zoo before heading up the Columbia to Multnomah Falls and our favorite camping spot. You can spend an entire day at Washington Park’s International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Garden, Museum, Arboretum and more. It’s all good.

10. Cottage Grove. Think covered bridges, museums, bicycle trails, campgrounds, lakes and rivers, fishing and waterfalls.

Personally, I’m a waterfall tourist. Wherever we go, I research a trail to someplace where the water flows. We recently stayed a few days in Yachats that culminated in a trip to Sweet Creek Falls, south of Mapleton, in the Siuslaw Forest. It was a little tricky to find (the signage isn’t the greatest) but well worth the effort.

It is billed as an easy, family friendly 2.2-mile hike involving wooden bridges, damp dirt trails with small wet puddles. It doesn’t mention that you’d better be steady on your feet as the trails are not flat and you’ll be walking on large rocks and raised tree roots. We took the Homestead Trailhead to see all of the falls.

The series of about a dozen waterfalls cascading down the lush green gorge is absolutely enchanting. The short hike up the trail took us well over an hour because we kept stopping to ooh and ahh and take pictures. Then we had to come down and take more pictures. You don’t want to hurry with places like Split Creek Falls, Punch Bowl Falls and Ledge Falls to enjoy.

As we returned to our car, some young adults were debating whether or not the climb would be worth it. We convinced them that if a 70-year-old couple could do it they could too!  So they stayed and we gave them our parking space (there aren’t many) and headed back to Cottage Grove.

Home sweet home is the best place to be in the summertime.

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Violence calls for vigilance

6/25/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The recent gunning down of police and another school shooting triggered this column commentary. Our country seems to be running amok with an abundance of serial killer mentalities—Illogical, deranged people killing their fellow citizens. Again and again, we have questions: Why the killer rage and hostility? Why is it not recognized or reported? Why are the targets often school children?

The answers are elusive. These questions have been asked for decades without solutions. The United States has the dubious distinction of the highest number of school related shootings in the world. A shooting being defined as when weapons are discharged at a school, in a school bus or near a school when school is in session.

The shooting list begins in the 1800s but escalated in the 20th century. Schools such as: The Michigan Bath School, Columbine, The Texas Clock Tower Shooting, Virginia Tech, Thurston High School and The Newtown massacre. The weapons include rifles, guns, bombs and knives. But the problem starts in the mind.

Motives are usually rage and revenge. The Internet can now be added as a contributor. In fact, an on-line computer simulation game surfaced after Newtown. Titled “The slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary School,” it encouraged users to re-enact the slaying!

In the first two weeks of June 2014, individuals planned and carried out a variety of horrific murders. None of the devious deeds seem to have a common denominator. It is one or two deranged individuals acting out for their own deluded satisfaction.

June 4, two 12-year old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin, were charged with stabbing and nearly killing a ‘friend.’ No gun. Just knives. They lured her into the woods, viciously stabbed her 19 times and left her for dead. Amazingly, she crawled out of the woods onto a path where a bicyclist found her. She is now out of the hospital because, as she said, “I wanted to live.”

The motive for the planned murder was to please “Slender Man,” a fictional online horror character. “He” is a paranormal being who lurks near forests and absorbs, kills or carries off his victims, often targeting children. The perpetrators show no remorse and their school principal says, “All three were good kids…no issues…nothing on the radar.” Wrong. Good kids don’t kill.

That same day, in Moncton, N.B., a gunman went on a shooting rampage that left three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers dead and two others injured. Video images in the usually peaceful wooded area showed him roaming the streets, dressed in camouflage and a headband; armed with a crossbow and rifle carried bandoleer style across his chest. He was apprehended after a 30-hour manhunt but not before he put an entire community on lockdown.

June 5, a man walked into a Seattle Pacific University hall fired a shotgun, killing one person and wounding others. A quick thinking building monitor (armed with pepper spray) tackled and disarmed the 26-year-old suspect who is rumored to have a long history of mental problems. His diary said, “I just want people to die and I’m going to die with them.”  Did anyone know he felt this way?

June 8, a young married couple, in Las Vegas, gunned down two police officers having lunch. The officers died from their injuries but not before one of them fired back. Still armed with guns and ammunition the couple walked next door to Wal-Mart and killed a customer before the wife shot her husband and then herself.

According to witnesses the couple wanted to start a “revolution” and constantly talked about killing cops. Later a swastika was found at their apartment leading to speculation that they were involved in a white supremacy movement. Why didn’t someone report them?

June 10, a teen gunman armed with a rifle, shot and killed a fellow student at Reynolds High School in Troutdale Oregon. He also wounded the teacher who sounded the alarm. Then he killed himself. His parents are a loss to know why he did this.

All of the above killings were planned. None of them were spur of the moment choices. Most kill their victims and then kill themselves. Their actions are unfathomable. There is no rational answer or antidote for this kind of behavior.

My generation likes to think that the triggers include: violence in movies, TV and computer games; cell phones, lack of discipline, too much idle time, no moral compass, availability of illegal drugs, etc. Professionals point to the proliferation of unrecognized and untreated mental illness. Everyone has an opinion but that’s as far as it goes.

We only agree on one thing…we want the killing to stop.

My grandsons go to schools where safety is serious business. Betsy, my daughter-in-law, is a middle school teacher and in charge of safety for her wing of the school. In evacuations or other emergencies she puts on an orange vest, dons a hard hat and carries a walkie talkie. Teachers take their roll books as kids form lines outside. All must be accounted for as they leave and return. At school!

A “Shelter in Place” drill over the intercom means the doors are immediately locked, blinds pulled and everyone presses against the walls away from windows. Kids take the drills seriously or are suspended. What a burden those teachers and youngsters bear.

We cannot afford to be apathetic. This “problem” is not going away. Experts are full of advice about what to do when something happens but we don’t know how to stop it from happening. If ever there was a time that we needed the Wisdom of Solomon, it is now.

I guess we all need to be a type of Solomon—alert and prepared to make wise decisions when chaos unfolds around us. We can’t let evil win. We must be vigilant, ready to act and pray. God help us all!

Friday, June 6, 2014

American heroes of all stripes

5/28/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

America: Home of the free because of the brave. That sentiment is so true that it’s even on tee shirts and bumper stickers. On this day we stop and honor all those who have died serving our country. And so many of the brave have died to make us the home of the free—including four-footed critters.

Our country’s wars began with the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and have just kept coming. They are: the First Barbary War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, American Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Then came the Gulf War, Vietnam War, Iraq War and the Afghanistan War that continues on.

All of these wars and other skirmishes were unique except in one way—the unspeakable horror of loss of life and suffering on both sides of conflict. In our country alone, according to one source there have been approximately 1,343,812 deaths; 1,529,230 wounded and 38,159 missing in all U.S. conflict casualties.

These staggering numbers sadden my heart as I consider the battlefields all over the world. Then I received several email copies of concocted heroism that just plain made me mad.  There are so many true stories about ordinary people. Why lie about actors?

Two WWII heroes were highly praised. Actors Lee Marvin and Bob Keeshan (aka Captain Kangaroo). Marvin is quoted inaccurately as saying that he was in the initial Iwo Jima landing, earned the Navy Cross and was severely wounded. According to part of that is true but not accurate. So folks, don’t believe everything that you read.

Marvin did enlist in the U.S. Marines; saw action as Private First Class in the Pacific during WWII; and was wounded by fire in the buttocks which severed his sciatic nerve. However, his injury occurred during the battle for Saipan in 1944 and not Iwo Jima. That took place in 1945. He also received a Purple Heart and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. The man was a true hero just not the Internet version.

Another Internet legend has Marvin serving under Keeshan and calling him “the bravest man I ever knew.” Well, that’s not true either.  Keeshan did enlist in the U.S. Marines shortly before his 18TH birthday but months after the fighting at Iwo Jima. He was too late to see any action during WWII. In 1977 he was quoted as saying he  “saw no combat because I signed up just before we dropped the atom bomb.”

The legends get even worse when Fred Rogers gets thrown into the mix. His popular television program “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” ran for 30 years, enchanting millions of children. A Presbyterian minister, his critics looked for ways to malign him. This popular, decent, clean-cut guy was rumored to have a violent, criminal and Vietnam military background. Again, it is not true! Rogers was a pacifist and he never served in the military.

I believe that all those who serve our country—particularly in times of war—are heroes. And some of those are of the four-legged variety. In the early days there were horses. Today, dogs coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq are awe-inspiring. Their contribution to the safekeeping of their two-legged counterparts is priceless and their stories are true.

Historical reports say that dogs were common during the Civil War as soldier’s companions. During the Spanish American War, “Old Jack Brutus” became the official mascot of Company K, First Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. But it was during WWII, Korea and Vietnam that dogs were formally used as guards and patrol scouts.

“Stubby,” a brave soldier dog of the 102nd Infantry (Connecticut), during WWI is widely regarded as the grandfather of the American War Dogs. Connecticut military legend has it that he wandered into the encampment and befriended the soldiers, especially Corporal J. Robert Conroy. In Oct. 1917, when the unit shipped out for France, it was part of the 26TH (Yankee) division of Massachusetts. Stubby (covered in an overcoat) was smuggled aboard the troop ship S.S. Minnesota and sailed into doggy legend.

Fighting in France was treacherous. Trench warfare combined with deadly gas took a steep toll on the men and their spirits. Stubby boosted morale with his early warnings about gas attacks and by waking a sleeping sentry to alert him of a German attack. He was gassed a few times, a grenade went off and his foreleg was wounded.

After the American troops recaptured Chateau Thierry, the women in the village made him a chamois blanket embroidered with the allied flags. The blanket also displayed his wound stripe, three service chevrons and numerous medals. They presented it to him in Neufchateau, the home of Joan of Arc.

Stubby and his wounded master Corporal Conroy ended up in a hospital but spent the remainder of the war with the 102ND unit. He was smuggled back home the same way he entered—and mustered out with his regiment, as officers looked the other way.

At home, he was hailed as a hero of 17 battles, became the mascot of the American Legion, was honored by three presidents and General Pershing presented him with a gold medal. While his master studied law, he became the mascot for the Georgetown football team. He had his portrait painted by Charles Ayer Whipple and in 1926 he passed on. His obituary in the New York Times was three columns wide and half a page long! He was a genuine hero.

America’s military personnel come in all shapes, sizes, and colors; male and female; two and four-legged, furry and clean-shaven. They demonstrate loyalty, courage, selflessness and dedication. They are always worthy of our respect and care. Take time to thank them as they work for the greater good of us all. They are priceless treasures.

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