Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Mammogram Surprise!

Jan. 7, 2016 The Chatterbox 

"Prepare the umbrella before it rains
Life is full of surprises!"
Author unknown

In addition to protection from the rain, there are many other kinds of umbrellas. And as I count my blessings going into this New Year, I would like to share with you an umbrella procedure that may have saved my life. It was a mammogram that launched me on an unexpected medical journey for the last fourteen months.

Sentinel Columnist Betty Kaiser
On November 5, 2014, I blithely zipped into our local mammography lab for my annual mammogram. I was feeling fine and never dreamed that anything was wrong. I have had one of these every year since I turned 40 with nary a problem. The machinery for this procedure is state-of-the-art and only momentarily uncomfortable. I chat with the technician, get smashed, dressed and leave.

At home I waited for the report that says: “Everything is normal. See you next year.” It didn’t happen. Instead, I received a report that said a small mass had been detected and additional evaluation was recommended. That included diagnostic mammography, spot compression films and ultrasonography.

I was shocked. Blindsided. I couldn’t believe it. One minute I was fine. The next minute I wasn’t. What had gone wrong? I’d like to tell you that my Pollyanna side was preaching “Don’t worry, you’re okay,” but it wasn’t. Deep down, I just knew that a little cell had gone haywire and I was in for a hard ride.

My husband and I were leaving town the following week and I didn’t want to go without knowing more about this small mass. Was it malignant or benign? I needed to know ASAP. As each appointment was piled on, my heart would pound and I felt light-headed. I was overwhelmed by endless information and procedures. This was really happening-to me-and it was scary.

More mammograms and ultrasounds were performed and each time I could tell by the quiet in the room that something wasn’t right. After I got dressed, the radiologist put two sets of images up to compare. The previous mammograms were clear. This time there was a small glowing spot in the tissue. Cancer? A biopsy was the next step to answer that question. Another umbrella.

I was given a tour of the room and the machine that would do the recommended stereo-tactical biopsy. Then, the machine had a time-out (break down) and the procedure was cancelled. Next I was informed that the radiologists had “a difference of opinion.” They were now recommending an ultrasound guided biopsy and the insertion of a clip in my tissue—right after another couple of mammograms.

 “Cancer” and how to treat it became the word of the day. By then my vocabulary had expanded. Pathology reports used words and phrases like “a DCIS Solid with comedo necrosis (plugged by cancer cells); intermediate grade with estrogen receptor possibility." I added more vocabulary (and tension) after I saw the surgeon! He was another umbrella.

Finally, after all the bad news, there was good news. Definitive surgical management was recommended but only a partial mastectomy. Among other things, the mass was “in situ” (confined to the breast duct) and hadn’t spread itself around. That was good. But unfortunately, even with the clip in place the small mass wasn’t easily found. Later a metal hook had to be attached to mark the spot for the surgeon to find. Ouch!

As word of my diagnosis got around, friends, neighbors and perfect strangers started calling me with their stories. That was both helpful and overwhelming. But by the time I got to the hospital I had an idea of what was going to happen from the female perspective. One of my friends told me about the search for the Sentinel Node in Nuclear Medicine in such detail that I wasn't terrified and actually knew what was going on when I got there.

Prior to that I had (again!) been squished by mammography, injected with anesthetic, squirted, the mass located and the previously mentioned guide injected for the surgeon. I will tell you that it was the most painful part of the process. Tears ran down my cheeks as a sweet nurse rubbed my back. Covered with marks and bandages I was wheeled into surgery and came home that night.

In my case, follow up treatment was a little dicey. Tissue samples revealed that although the cancer was contained, its nuclear grade was Intermediate/High. That made a recurrence more likely. A decision was made to treat it with an anti-estrogen drug and a medication to strengthen my bones.

I am happy to report that as of Dec. 18, 2015 my one-year diagnostic mammogram was clear. I’m on a five-year treatment plan like many other breast cancer survivors. The medication is tolerable but not pleasant. However, I have one year down with only four more years to go. Another umbrella. I’m a grateful woman.

Now here’s the bottom line and the reason why age appropriate women must get a mammogram every year—a mass the size of mine cannot be seen or felt. It can only be detected by mammography. And the mass is always cancer at 70 years old! Think about that. If I had waited another year or two the mass would have grown and spread. Timing is everything.

My advice to you is simple: if you are a 40, 60 or 70+  year old female, make an appointment for a mammogram! Stop procrastinating. Get your mammogram scheduled and done. Do it this year and every year. I don’t care what the so-called experts say you’re never too old for this procedure. I’m a good example that it's worth your time.

Have a happy, healthy New Year!

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Shootings: Where is the light in this madness?

12/9/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Traditionally, December is the month of love, joy and peace. It’s the time when we happily worry and fret over how we’re going to get everything done in time for Christmas. It should not be the time when foremost in our thinking is the safety of our loved ones in their school, shopping or work place. That safety, however, is today’s concern, as inexplicable violence and mass murderers seems to be erupting all around us. The light of the season seems strangely dim.

Sometimes when I’m wallowing in the misery of this reality, I need to step back and get some perspective. While I like to see the world through rose colored glasses and believe that today’s killings and atrocities are something new and have never happened before, I would be wrong. Evil is and always has been at work amongst us.

I am old enough to remember many senseless and tragic killings in our country. I remember where I was when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Nov. 1963. My three little towhead babies were in the car with me as we drove down Inglewood Blvd., Calif. They were oblivious to the news but tears ran down my face as I wondered not “who” but “why.”

I remember the escalation of fear and frustration during the official Vietnam War era of 1969-1973. It was an ugly war and I marveled at the bravery of the war’s protestors. Then, on May 4, 1970, the unthinkable happened. The Ohio National Guard fired on unarmed protestors at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine others. Three years later the war officially ended. Where was the light?

The 1980s and 1990s were filled with dozens of illogical shootings. In 1984, in San Ysidro, Calif., an out of work security guard killed 21 and wounded 18 at a McDonald’s restaurant. In 1986, a mail carrier in Oklahoma, walked into his post office, opened fire and killed 14 co-workers before killing himself over a poor performance report.

About this time, a sort of pattern seemed to be emerging. Individuals disgruntled with their jobs or perceived treatment would heavily arm themselves and go on a killing spree. There was even a term coined for this mentality called “going postal.”

Twenty years ago, Americans were ushered into a new killing nightmare. Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government militant and his accomplice Terry Nichols introduced a new level of homeland terrorism. McVeigh set off a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds including children. Where was the light?

Revenge was McVeigh and Nichols motive. Their hatred against the way the U.S. government handled a standoff with Randy Weaver that ended with a firefight was one of many grudges they held. In return McVeigh decided to bomb a federal building and destroy both it and its occupants.  Until Sept. 11, 2001 it was the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil and is the worst act of domestic terrorism in our history.

Suddenly, multiple school shootings came into the headlines. In 1998, Kip Kinkel, a disturbed young man, was suspended from Thurston High School for carrying a loaded, stolen handgun. That afternoon, he shot and killed both of his parents. The next day he returned to school wearing a trench coat to conceal his weapons.  He fired 50 rounds, killing two and injuring 37. His fellow students eventually restrained him and he is serving a life sentence.

In 1999, two students put Columbine High School on the map when they opened fire at school, killing a dozen students and a teacher plus numerous injuries to others before they killed themselves.

Just two years later on Sept. 11, 2001, our country was introduced to global terrorism. Everyone remembers where they were when they saw the Twin Towers taken down in a coordinated series of attacks. We remember the ash-covered survivors running for safety. We remember the towers collapsing. We remember the heroism of First Responders. Thousands were killed. We were shocked to learn of an enemy dedicated to the destruction of the United States. A fatwa or declaration of war had been issued by Osama “Who”?

And the list of horrors goes on. I think that CNN reporter Brooke Baldwin spoke for many of us when she said, concerning the Roseburg and San Bernardino shooting …”I’m sick of speaking the words ‘active shooter situation.’ I’ve been covering too many of them…I’ve become too familiar with this. It’s sadly become a routine.”

So where is the light in all this madness? That’s a good question.

It saddens me to put out a column of remembrances like this in an attempt at perspective because I have no answers. I can’t just pretend that evil isn’t happening in my happy little corner of the world. The truth is, evil doesn’t take a break. Not even for Christmas. And now, more than ever, we must be vigilant. Now is the time to be alert, know our neighbors and put our fears in perspective.

One answer is to look around and find pockets of light. Random kindnesses are being practiced daily. Every-day life goes on. Good people are at work everywhere. Law enforcement is working to protect us. Babies are being born. Birthdays are being celebrated. Families are flourishing. The poor are being fed. The homeless are being sheltered. We are becoming united against the darkness.

In the Netherlands during the dark days of World War II a church minister was trying to convince his people that God would eventually destroy their enemies. He said, “It can take time but good will always win over evil...For the time being I can only forecast a dark night but the dark night will be followed by a bright dawn.”

These are dark days. But the gift of Christmas and the angel telling us to “fear not” is just around the corner. Let us pray for and work towards a bright dawn. Shalom.

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

Veteran's Day: Honoring those who serve in the military

11/11/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Today is Veterans Day and the above World War I poem will be quoted extensively around the world. In 1915, Major John McCrae, a battlefield doctor, penned it during the Second Battle of Ypres, upon the death of his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. In a few short words he sums up the brevity of life when nations quarrel. One hundred years later, his words have not been forgotten.

For centuries, the world’s nations have struggled to put their wars into perspective by remembering the bravery of those who have gone into battle. Here in the United States, we have two legal holidays to celebrate our military personnel. Both days are set aside to honor those who have served their country in the military with parades, speeches and the laying of wreathes. But there is a difference between the two.

Memorial Day was originally celebrated on May 30. According to the US Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs, it is a time to remember and honor military personnel who died in the service of their country—either in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

There are many versions of how and when Memorial Day began. All agree that it started after the Civil War and each one has its merits. The most popular is that in the late 1860s, the ladies of the South would decorate the graves of Confederate dead. Then someone suggested that they also decorate those of the Union soldiers as a reconciliation gesture and the tradition spread around the country.

My favorite Memorial Day story is that former slaves started it on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, So. Carolina. They dug up the bodies of 257 Union soldiers buried in a Confederate prison camp and gave them a proper burial as gratitude for their freedom. They then held a parade of 10,000 people led by 2,800 black children as they marched, sang and celebrated.

By the end of the 19th century, Civil War Memorial Day celebrations were being held around the nation. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars. The date was also changed to the last Monday in May, as were other federal holidays. Later, a nationwide moment of silence was added at 3 p.m. as a Moment of Remembrance.

Armistice/Veterans Day came about as a result of World War I, also known as “the Great War.” It began with the shooting of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and launched a global war that killed untold millions between 1914-1918. Finally, a temporary cessation of hostilities was declared between Germany and the Allied nations on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Commerations began the following year. Nov. 11 became a federal holiday in 1938.

Now here’s where things get tricky. Veterans Day is a day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military—during war or peace. It is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service and acknowledge their contributions to our national security. So if you know a veteran, today is the day to shake their hand, give them a hug and say “Thank you!”

The national Veterans Day Ceremony is held every year on Nov. 11 at Arlington National Cemetery. It begins precisely at 11 a.m. with a wreath laying by the President (or his designee) at the Tomb of the Unknown and continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations remarks from dignitaries.

Other countries also celebrate veterans in Nov. Today, Canada and Australia will join us in observing “Remembrance Day” in a similar manner to the U.S. Many Canadians wear red poppy flowers in honor of their war dead in reference to the above poem.

Great Britain observes “Remembrance Day” on the Sunday nearest to Nov. 11 with church services and parades leading from London’s Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square. Wreaths of poppies are left at a war memorial in Whitehall, built after the war. A two-minute silence is observed at 11 a.m. to honor those who lost their lives in war.

Now, here are a few bits of miscellaneous trivia for you from the 2013 V.A. census facts. Some of these veterans overlapped and served during as many as three eras.

1.    There were a total of approximately 21.5 million living veterans.
2.     9.3 million veterans were 65 years or older.
3.    1.6 million veterans were younger than 35 years.
4.    1.6 million were female veterans.
5.    7.0 million Vietnam-era veterans
6.    5.2 million served during the Gulf War era.
7.    1.3 million were World War II veterans.
8.    2.1 million were Korean War veterans.
9.    4.7 served in peacetime only.
10. The last surviving World War I veteran was Frank Buckles in West Virginia. He died in 2011 at the age of 110 years.

These are sobering numbers and the individuals worthy of our praise and respect. May God bless you all and peace be in your hearts and homes. God bless America!

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

Friday, November 13, 2015



The 1950s were a great time to be a teenager. By now, everyone knows that era was characterized by hot rods and rock and roll. Elvis Presley was shaking things up for teenage girls and my friends would swoon at the mention of his name. The sound of revved, souped-up engines was a battle cry for high school guys. Naturally, our parents thought our clothing, hairstyles and fads were awful.

Moms were mostly the stay-at-home variety. While taking care of the kids, they did the housework, cooked the meals and helped out at the school’s PTA. Sometimes, they took a break in the morning to buy a jelly donut from the Helm’s Bakery truck and have coffee with their nearby gal pals. In the afternoon, they often watched “Queen for a Day” on TV until the kids got home from school. Thus the middle class was born.

I was one of the products of that era—a baby boomer teenager. I wore sweet little sweater sets and plaid skirts to school with white buck shoes. On really special occasions I wore one of the infamous poodle skirts with a starched petticoat. I was a serious student and Concert Mistress of the orchestra when I wasn’t talking on the telephone (AX-13756), listening to the radio or reading movie magazines about actors like James Dean and Grace Kelly.

Chuck, my soon-to-be boyfriend, lived on the other side of town. He drove a cool 1949 Ford with a full-race engine that sported several different coats of primer. He and his buddies were the forerunners of the Fonz. They had gelled crew cuts and dressed in rolled up Levis and white tee shirts. They were way more interested in hot rods than school. On weekends, they took their dates home by midnight and headed out to the Lion’s Drag Strip in Long Beach or Hollywood & Vine to listen to the latest records while watching the parade of cars.

We girls were not allowed to date until our 16th birthday. We all thought it was a cruel rule but no one ever challenged it. My first date was with an “older” man (a high school graduate!) and he took me to the Hollywood Bowl in his father’s nice car. Wow. Did I ever feel grown up! I’m still amazed mother let me go with him.

I met Chuck at a big inner city church. He and his buddies came for the gymnasium basketball court. It was a little slow but he finally asked me out after I had dated all of his friends. Today’s teens have Facebook. We had church socials. In the summer we had pool parties or went to the beach. In the winter, one of our favorite places was the huge roller skating rink in Culver City. At school there were football games and proms. We went to them all and Chuck will tell you that he knew more people at my school than he did his.

Outside of church, we did a lot of double dating but they were nothing like you see on TV. No “Dirty Dancing” scenarios. Early on, getting to know one another included a long drive (no freeways!) up to a drag race in Goleta. To this teenage girl, the event was loud, dirty and boring. That was my first and last official drag race event. Ever.

One of our first and most expensive dates was in 1956. That was the summer after Disneyland opened. Three carloads of us headed into Anaheim from L.A. along surface streets to Firestone Blvd and a day of fun. Remember, there were no freeways.

We rode rides non-stop until it was dark. As soon as the fireworks were over, we quickly left to get me home by midnight. Of course, Chuck’s car broke down. This was a common occurrence! He pulled over by the side of the road under a street light. The other guys jumped out of their cars and they all went to work repairing the Ford’s carburetor. Soon we were on the road again and I made it home in time to beat my curfew.

Otherwise, our dates consisted of picnics at the park, going to the movies and once in awhile a restaurant for dinner. He was always a working teen and saved his money in one of his dad's cigar boxes. I knew he could afford a car and me while going to school as long as he delivered the L.A. Times!

The Yum Burger was our favorite diner. Located on Manchester Blvd. it was famous for its logo of an American Indian brave—a cultural icon that would now get it shut down! Nickels and dimes powered the jukeboxes on the tables. The burgers, fries and ice cream shakes were about 35¢ each. The walk-in movie’s comfortable, rocking loge seats were 50¢ and ice cream at Scrivener’s Drive-In was about 24¢. My, how times have changed.

Ultimately, we graduated from our respective high schools. Chuck proposed marriage with a cigar band and promptly joined the U.S. Army Reserve. I worked at the Broadway Dept. store as an elevator operator to save up for our wedding while attending Pepperdine College. Finally, on Nov. 1, 1958, we married at St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Inglewood, Calif. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Those early days are the times that memories are made of. But my love for the 1950s has nothing to do with Elvis or hot rods and everything to do with the man I married.

Happy Anniversary to my loving, faithful, talented, one-of-a-kind, car crazy husband!

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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Making Memories as we turn life's corners

Kaisers and Bigfoot on the Colombia River 2015
10/7/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

There are certain defining moments in life when you know that you have “turned a corner.” When you’re young, those corners are usually exciting. They are monumental moments that happily change you forever: Becoming a teenager. Graduations. Celebrating your 21st birthday. Falling in love. Getting married. Starting a family. Discovering a career path that makes the difference between subsisting and thriving.

As we get a little older and retirement nears, the corners get a little sharper. For those of us who loved parenting, the empty nest experience is a bit of a jolt. We have questions. What happened to my fit body? What’s with all this gray hair that makes us look like Q-tips? Why am I so tired at the end of the day? And what in the world is happening to this current generation?

 Retirement age is a different story. IRAs and 401Ks were not common until the 1990s. That was too late for many of us to accumulate sizeable chunks of money. So I think that most of us wondered how we would ever afford to retire. We thought we going to have to work until we died! Nevertheless, one day we turned a corner and realized that we just couldn’t cut the 9-5 job any more.  So we figured out how to make the finances work.

But after retirement there are more corners to turn. I learned that from our neighbors Sallie and Jim. They were already “elderly” (at least 70 years old!) when they moved into our California neighborhood but boy, were they active. They mowed lawns, painted the house, planted a garden, drove to Texas to visit family and volunteered at church where Sallie's Sunday School classes were standing room only.

As the years went by they slowed down and we started helping them keep things together. Jim would regularly knock the lamppost down as he backed out of the driveway. He often showed up on our doorstep, head bleeding, after he fell off a ladder. Sallie’s driving became so erratic that one day a school bus driver stopped her, got her name and license and reported her to the DMV. Eventually, both of them had their driver’s licenses taken away and they were dependent on others for transportation. Now that's life changing!

One day I stopped to see Sallie after work. She and Jim were now well into their 80s. As I walked in the house, she burst into tears, threw her apron over her head and said, “Betty, I’ve turned another corner.” General housework—cleaning and cooking their meals had become too difficult for her. As we commiserated...both of us cried.

Ever the problem solvers, Chuck and I put our heads together and decided that we could help. We brought in meals three times a week from Kaiser’s Country Diner’s daily specials. Our neighbors weren’t big eaters (two dinners was enough for two nights) and they went out for Sunday supper. One problem solved. (Later, when we moved, I signed them up for Meals on Wheels.)

It’s amazing how these past memories come back since Chuck and I have aged and started turning unwanted corners. When we were 50 years old we gutted our house and rebuilt it ourselves. In our 60’s, we were still working jobs, planting gardens and ceaselessly manicuring our six acres. Now in our 70s we have turned some major health issue corners and have slowed down considerably. To keep up the property we hire helpers but other corners are not that simple.

I was born with a passion for travel. Our family’s yearly travels began at Catalina Island and expanded from there to primitive/RV camping in state and national parks across the USA. Along the way we flew around the world and checked off places we had dreamed of visiting. I thought we would always be able to go and do. Wrong!

At this age and stage of life we have turned a sad travel corner—flight fatigue. A flight across the United States is still doable—barely. It all depends on connections but if it takes all day…we don’t go. Any place “across the pond” or beyond is now definitely off the want-to-go list. We were always going to go back to Johannesburg, So. Africa but a nearly 22-hour flight would do us both in.

Our current travel destinations are a little closer to home. They are what I call “Do-over’s.” They are places that we’ve been and want to see again. Having “been-there-and-done-that,” we are comfortable returning. Once there, our anxiety level drops. We know where there are places to stay, good places to eat and things to do. Time slows down, we don’t have to rush around and we can explore nooks and crannies that we didn’t see before.

We just returned from one of those slow-go places at the foot of Mt. Hood outside Sandy, Ore. I would guesstimate that we have stayed there in our RV at least a dozen times in the last decade. Every time we go we find something new to do. We have ridden our bikes to garage sales, eaten at the Tollgate Café, talked to the locals, ridden the Mt. Hood ski lift, sailed the Colombia, shopped till we dropped and stopped by the Guide Dogs for the Blind on the way home.

For us, no trip is complete without getting out into the woods. One of our favorites is the nearby Wildwood Cascade Streamwatch Trails. It’s a fabulous place to get out in nature and not break your neck! In addition to the sound of the rushing river that leads to outlooks, there are paved paths down to the river and slightly steeper gravel paths for the more adventurous. Everywhere you look, the scenery is fabulous. There are fish for underwater viewing and crafted benches that are works of art along the way. Signs make sure you don’t get lost. We love it!

Turning the corners of aging is not always fun. But “Do-over’s” are bright spots in the making memories process. Is there some place within a days drive that you’re longing to go? You can do it! Make a plan and find a way to make it happen! 

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

Monday, September 21, 2015

Wondering 'WHY?'

9/9/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

I spend many a sleepless night worrying about things I have no control over. I probably need to see a therapist! The questions that I wrestle with usually begin with the word “WHY?”

I’ve finally had to stop watching the nightly news reports that recite the day’s atrocities. It’s like there’s a bewildering underground of sociopaths out there trying to outdo one another in evil acts. Weren’t we all born with a conscience to do the right thing? Evidently not.

I understand natural disasters. Tragic as they may be, the things that happen when Mother Nature goes on a rampage—earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and fires—seem to bring out the best in people. People rise to the occasion, comfort one another, help their neighbors and look for solutions.

It is always heartwarming to hear or read of massive acts of kindness going on right in our neighborhood. A recent Register Guard article by Mark Baker on World War II veterans returning special message flags to Japanese families was great. It left me in tears. Tears of joy. The verbal picture of former (aging) U.S. soldiers ministering to their former enemies with respect, compassion and humility was priceless.

 “A Mission of Peace” described the mission of Eugene residents Rex Ziak and his wife Keiko, to return the “good luck flags” to the families of dead Japanese soldiers from whom the flags were taken. It also captures the spirit of now-elderly WWII veterans as they returned some of the flags that have been found. Our veterans were humble and the recipients grateful. Their mission is on-going.

In this computer age of isolationism, good stuff still happens. So-called Crowdfunding websites are especially impressive in getting the word out that someone needs help with medical bills or other necessities. I liken them to the Bible’s loaves and fishes story where a few morsels became enough to feed 5,000 people. Ten dollars can easily become $10,000 when word spreads that help is needed.

But more often than not, the everyday news that we receive is not good news. It’s not even bad news. It’s awful news. Killing news. Hateful actions by deeply disturbed people living secret lives and plotting unthinkable revenge on good people.

You would think that I’d be used to such atrocities. After all, I grew up in Los Angeles, the second largest city in the USA. But that was the 1950s. An era of innocence. I don’t remember my parents ever talking about people killing people for the sake of killing.

I do remember my parents talking about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping that happened long before I was born. Charles Lindbergh was a celebrity in 1927 after he flew the first solo flight across the Atlantic.  In 1932, he and his wife Anne discovered their 20-month-old son missing. The kidnapper used a ladder to climb up to the boy’s room, leaving muddy footprints on the floor and a $50,000 ransom note. The ante was later upped to $70,000. It was paid and the child found dead near the Lindbergh mansion.

The entire country went into mourning. Parents held their children close and 15 years later, kids were still being warned to stay near home because “There are kidnappers out there.” And there still are.

I don’t know. Maybe today’s stuff has always gone on but just not on this 21st century scale.  Here are some questions that keep me awake at night asking “Why?”

Why are homicide rates surging across the country in 2015? In Baltimore, New Orleans and St. Louis, rates are up 33%.

Why do so many people have grudges that are so heavy and deep that they can’t walk away from them?

Why are individuals killing their friends, family and loved ones (including children!) then killing themselves? What’s the point?

Why do people have to go on Facebook and humiliate someone that they dislike because they’re too fat, too pretty, too popular or whatever? How does that make the hater feel better?

Why does it seem like everyone carries a gun? I know people who have permits and wear their guns to the grocery store. Can’t be too careful, you know!

Why do some people think that laws don’t apply to them? Daily I see people talking or texting while driving. Duh. They are accidents (and tickets) waiting to happen.

Why do people loot and burn the neighborhoods they live in during a riot? Where are they and their children going to sleep afterwards?

Why do we blame the police for doing their job? And what is their job? It’s to uphold the law. Many people break the law and then blame the police for catching them in the act. Strange thinking.

Why are there bad cops? I don’t know. Bad apples are in every job.

Why are most cops good? Again, I don't know. But I do know that I’m grateful for them!

Why do people prefer to get high on drugs instead of life?

Why do on-going racial, religious, power-hungry wars never cease?

Why don’t we all respect one another unless or until it’s proven that someone isn’t deserving of our respect?

As you can see, I have no answers to these questions. In fact, I have more questions. However, I’m just a clueless columnist preaching to the choir and trying to maintain my sanity.  Here is what I do know:
Daily I try to look for the good and praise it while I remember that laughter is good therapy. So is practicing the Golden Rule: “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” To sleep at night I pray and put my concerns in God’s hands.

Now I’m going to go have a long talk with my sister the psychologist!

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

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.