Thursday, September 21, 2017

Family and friends favorite vacations

Betty and Chuck, Glacier Park, Continental Divide

8/30/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The dog days of summer are dwindling down to a precious few. Sunny days and vacations will soon be a distant memory but those times will never really go away. I became aware of that as a group of my friends gathered for coffee and conversation. The subject of the moment was our childhood vacations. Nostalgia and laughter reigned as we shared simple stories from 40-50 years ago.

Two of the women’s vacations always included big family reunions. Barb’s mother was one of 9 children and her father was a teacher. Fortunately, her family had time to drive across country to Minnesota and visit relatives every summer. She said it was a wonderful opportunity to meet in a park for a huge picnic and get re-acquainted with all those cousins. 

Kaylen’s favorite memory was of family gatherings at Shasta Lake in No. Calif. Her mother was one of 8 children. Sometimes there would be as many as 100 cousins, aunts, uncles, shirt tail relatives and friends of the family camping on one of the islands with the ski boats on the water ferrying kids and kin around.

Other favorite vacations included Sandie’s annual trip to a primitive cabin in the Sequoias without electricity or water. Lynn’s family trip to Disneyland shortly after it opened was one to swoon for. Shirley’s family didn’t go on vacations but she made up for it when she married Ernie and they discovered cruise ships. And finally, there was Toni’s mother who randomly declared vacations by announcing that Toni and her siblings didn’t have to go to school—everyone was going to the beach for the day!

That morning with my friends got me wondering what vacations my kids and grandsons found most memorable. Due to space limitations, I can just print a few of their responses but you’ll surely find something that you can relate to. 

 Our daughter Kathy was the first to chime in and make me laugh. To set the scene— In the 1970s we owned a tent trailer. The five of us toured National parks and the entire state of Calif. in that rig. My husband hated it. Betty, Kathy, Jeff and John loved it. We didn’t have to tow it or set it up.

Kathy says, “My most memorable vacation as a kid would be our tent trailer in Yosemite with the boys sleeping in a tent outside and us (inside) hearing a bear.” Oh, yes. I remember it well. Kathy woke up in the middle of the night whispering, “Mom, there’s a bear under my bed.” The boys were outside probably with food in the tent!  I elbowed Chuck. He flung open the tent door, looked around and said, “Nope. No bear here,” and went back to sleep. The next morning, we found remnants of the bear’s feast from the picnic basket that we had conveniently left outside! Yikes!

Son-in-law Tim’s favorite vacation was a toss-up. “For me,” he said, “It was at Hume Lake, riding motorcycles in the Sierras and target shooting. In 1976, it was going to the east coast with the Calif. Cavalcade of Bands (I played saxophone). We began in Boston and ended in Washington, D.C. on July 4th with fireworks in the Mall.”

Our daughter-in-law Betsy is a Middle School Teacher and classes started last week. She still had time to type this: “My favorite summer memories are at our mountain cabin. Swimming in lakes during the heat of day, eating an ice cream cone as it melted down your arm, staying up late, playing cards and sleeping outside. Doing all these things with the people you love the most. It doesn't get much better than that!”

Paul, is our first grandson, 26 years old and an EMT. His memories mimic that of the other three who had similar experiences. “My favorite childhood vacations were always going to Hume Lake. Being by the lake and surrounded by all the trees was the best playground a kid could ask for! We got to go swimming, play on “the log”, hike, explore and watch all the animals. The great part about being at the lake was the pace was always up to us. We could decide to lounge around the cabin and put together puzzles, or we could go explore a new to us part of the National Park that surrounded us.”

Grandson Matthew is now 23 years old and a graduate of Pt. Loma University. I like to think that he speaks for all the boys when he said, “My favorite vacations as a child were the escapes to Oregonland! From the mystery adventures, to building tree houses, racing tractors, and beyond. I knew in Oregon there would always be something special waiting for me. Being a Southern California boy the thought of snow, rain, and big green trees out the window seemed so magical. Top that with donuts, trips to U of O, and even the 99 cents store what more could a boy ask for?!”

Thanks to friends and family for sharing. Now, dear readers, it’s your turn to share some good time vacation memories with each other.

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


Country living is a dream come true

8/1/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

It’s a typical summer day at our house. The sun is shining, the bees are buzzing and the flowers are in full bloom. I’m writing this column sitting outside and counting my blessings as I listen to the squirrel’s chatter at the bird feeder while a variety of birds and our two Dachshunds try and chase them away. I love living in the country.

I am a born and bred big-city girl but every summer my family vacationed at our cabin in Crestline in the San Bernardino Mountains. It was there that I learned to love fresh air, listen to the mysterious sounds of critters in the forest, ride horseback and watch the black bear families forage at midnight through a nearby dump by the headlights of visitor’s cars. 

It was also there that I learned to love birds and enjoy the fun side of my grandfather. Grandpa J.D., the business man, always wore a 3-piece suit in the city. In the mountains, he wore casual clothes and trained Blue Jays to sit on his finger. He would sit for hours, gently tugging a peanut on a string, enticing the birds to come closer. It took days but ultimately, they became friends and a peanut award awaited them. I never mastered that art.

I always dreamed that someday we would live on a tree-lined property, near a lake. Well, surprise! Dreams do come true. Twenty-eight years ago, we moved to Cottage Grove Lake where all kinds of adventures awaited. 

Our animal adventures began immediately. The first critters that we heard were scratching in the walls of our bedroom! Our house had been unoccupied for awhile and MICE moved in. They were not welcome and had to go. Later, on a walk, a fox ran through the meadow and a bear surprised us at the lake by scrambling down a nearby hill.

Across the street from our house, a lot of squawking was going on. Looking up we saw the biggest nest ever—an Osprey family had hatched their noisy chicks. Their parents were vigilant and protective. One day I looked up to see an eagle headed down the creek towards the nest flanked by two Osprey. It wisely turned away from the chicks before a confrontation. 

Whenever logging goes on up the hill from us it chases wildlife out of their habitat into our neighborhood. Our former neighbors, Jay and Audrey, had a pond on their property that a local cougar claimed as his own! Summer days he would sprawl out on the street in front of their house and at night come onto the property for a drink! He was also interested in their sheep but their Dobermans and a tight barn kept them safe. Rumor is that there’s been another cougar down at the lake recently.

One morning Audrey called to say that there were three long-horn cattle on their property. Did I know who they belonged to? I didn’t but someone later claimed them. Another day we woke up to three ponies at the back fence trailing their ropes. Their owners also found them. And then there was what the cat drug in. One day Misty Mouser came home from the meadow dragging a rabbit! He was still alive and we took him back to the park. 

Learning to co-exist with the deer is an ongoing battle. They love our roses—all 75 bushes. Early on they circled the property during the day scouting out their nighttime dessert. At dusk, they sometimes would just camp out on the driveway where they made a friend of Lady, our German Shepherd! Deer and dog would greet and touch noses like old friends!

 The same deer regularly decimated the vegetable garden until Chuck built a Stalag 17 type enclosure and now the tomatoes and cucumbers grow in peace. It took hot wires around the rose beds to protect the flowers. Of course, we must be careful if there’s a power outage. Critters know when that hot wire is cold!

 Recently, I saw the sweetest sight ever. It was evening and a tiny newborn fawn on wobbly legs was following her little mama up the road to a safe place. Absolutely precious. Oh, how I love country living! 

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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Spreading the news of the Declaration of Independence

7/5/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
That all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
With certain unalienable Rights,
That among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
The U.S. Declaration of Independence

Yesterday we celebrated the Fourth of July and the above words again reminded us of the distinct privilege and blessings we have as Americans. The Fourth is one of those special days in our country’s history that still bring chills of gratitude when we look back at the founding of our nation.

The USA that we know today is vastly different than it was two centuries ago. Our principals, however, remain the same as that of the original 13 colonies that were banded together by a desire for independence from Great Britain. Freedom was on the lips and in the hearts of every man, woman and child. Weary of being shackled to another country; of fighting battles, over basic principles of decency that they couldn’t win, they toppled a giant and became one.

The Declaration of Independence that binds us together continues to guide us today. The declaration of freedom document was formally adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. It proclaimed to the world that there was a new nation on the world stage. The formerly dominated colonies would be free of the tyranny of Great Britain. Free of “taxation without representation.” Free to act on their own beliefs and to begin a new way of life in a new world. It was a brave and gutsy move.

The Library of Congress succinctly describes the declaration process as taking months. Serious deliberations began in June 1776 with congress delegates from each of the 13 colonies. Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and others wrote and guided, while the war raged on. They debated and revised the document multiple times and finished just as the British fleet and army arrived at New York. 

A formal vote for independence was passed on July 2. The document continued to be repeatedly revised until the morning of July 4, 1776. Then, church bells rang all over Philadelphia; the Declaration had been officially adopted! A hand-written copy was signed by Congress President John Hancock and that night 150-200 copies were made at a printing shop. Twenty-four copies are still in existence.

I am most intrigued by what happened after July 4. Getting the
word out to the colonies and other countries was not easy. As you may recall there were no telephones, telegraphs, railroads or instant communication of any kind. The Pony Express was not even in existence.

This is where newspapers came into play. The Pennsylvania Evening Post printed the first newspaper rendition of the Declaration of Independence on July 7 and it was publicly read on July 8. Gen. George Washington ordered it to be read to the American Army in New York from his personal copy. After that, the original Declaration was formally inscribed and signed by members of Congress.

Still, word of the country’s independence was slow to spread. It was said of colonial communications: “Even the most critical intelligence could only travel at the pace of the fastest horse or ship, often taking weeks to reach other colonies by treacherous postal roads.” So, copies of the Declaration were read in town squares via newspapers and later in magazines. The document took nearly two months to reach some cities.

News of the American independence declaration reached London mid- August via the ship Mercury. England’s General William Howe (stationed in the colonies), broke the news in a letter to The London Gazette with this succinct announcement: “I am informed that the Continental Congress have declared the United Colonies free and independent states.”

The rest, as they say, is history. King George III was not happy but the Americans eventually won the war gaining freedom from tyranny and outside control. May we will always take the high ground with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness available to all. God bless America!

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Congratulations, USAF Colonel Kirsten M. Palmer!

6/7/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser
Colonel Kirsten M. Palmer March 31, 2017
USAF promotion and reaffirmation of oath

Congratulations are in order for newly appointed USAF Colonel Kirsten M. Palmer. A promotion ceremony and reception for her pinning was held on March 31, 2017, in the Airmen’s Hall of the Pentagon in Washington D.C. It promoted Kirsten from a Lieutenant Colonel to a full Colonel. Among the 80 guests attending the ceremony were her husband Col. Roger Lang, daughter Addyson and other family, including her parents, Ron and Linda Palmer, of Cottage Grove.

In her remarks after the pinning of the new insignia she said, “When I graduated from Cottage Grove High School, Oregon, and headed to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, I never dreamed my life and career would turn out this well.” With graduations coming up this month, it seems only fitting to post Kirsten’s most recent promotion as motivation for today’s graduates to dream big!

Longtime Grover’s and readers of this column will remember that Kirsten was always ambitious and patriotic. During high school, she was student body president, a scholar and an athlete. She served as a U.S. Senate Page for Senator Bob Packwood. Upon graduation, she enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was accepted by the Air Force Academy in Colorado. She received her commission from the Academy in May 1995. Later she would earn a Master’s of Science degree in Resource Strategy.

Climbing the ladder in any profession is arduous. We all begin at the bottom and work our way to the top. I have watched with awe as Kirsten climbed the military ladder upon her graduation from the Academy.
Her resume includes stations in five Major Commands (MAJCOMs) filling a variety of flight line and back shop positions. Her weapon system experience includes C-130s, A-10s, C-9s, C-17s and KC-135Rs.

Currently, she is a student at the prestigious Eisenhower School for National Security & Resource Strategy, Ft. Leslie McNair, Washington, D.C. The school is focused on developing strategic thinkers to operate in executive environments developing national security strategy and policy with an emphasis on evaluation and managing national resources.

If all that is as Greek to you as it was to me, it became most impressive after I looked up the responsibilities of a Colonel at A full Colonel is just above Lt. Col. and below Brig. General. It is the highest Field Officer rank. A Colonel is typically responsible for commanding a wing (unit) of 1,000 to 3,000 airmen of lower ranks. The rank insignia for Colonel is a silver eagle. They are sometimes informally referred to as “Full-Bird Colonels” to differentiate between them and Lt Colonels. It is the 22nd rank in the USAF. Go, Colonel Palmer!

If you’re a young person considering serving your country in a military career here’s a few stats about the Air Force. Their website says that they have a total of 315,725 active duty personnel. After basic military training —Start strong. Finish stronger—the work includes blue collar jobs, clerical, technical, administrative and professional areas. Becoming a pilot requires a time commitment, a bachelor’s degree, meeting officer qualifications, flight school and more. The average length of service is 14.5 years.

Is it worth it? The last time I spoke with Kirsten she said, “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.”

One of the Air Force mottos is to Aim High. That’s good advice for all of today’s graduates whatever you choose to do in life.  Congratulations to all!

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Helping mothers feed children around the world

5/10/17 Chatterbox     
Betty Kaiser

A newborn baby is a mother’s most precious gift. The moment that baby is put in your arms you are flooded with an inexpressible, eternal love. Nothing will ever be more important than the child you are holding. You will love, cherish and protect that child forever. But sometimes life intervenes to make life hard for little ones and they need more than our love to save them

The faces of mothers and their children facing starvation in Somalia broke my heart as I witnessed their struggle to live on a television show in early May. ABC News anchor David Muir and Caroline Miles, CEO, of Save the Children, introduced viewers to Somalia a land of 20 million people all on the brink of famine and starvation including the children. I was one of those viewers.

As the cameras scanned the landscape, the reality of years without rain was revealed in pictures of parched earth, animal carcasses and bone-thin adults. Desperate villagers line up every morning for food and water. Trucks dispensed water through hoses at $4 a gallon. Each family hoped to get two buckets full. Enough to last two days.

The faces of emaciated children brought me to tears. The hollow-eyed babies with tiny frames had no flesh on their bones. They were limp and didn’t even cry during the final stages of malnutrition.  Their loving mothers were stoic as their babies suffer with diarrhea and pneumonia as their bodies shut down. Even the doctors are helpless to save these precious little ones.

The situation is dire. Their lives are in God’s hands and those of us watching from far away have questions …how can we possibly help these children from such a distance? How much money do we give to support the agencies that are serving them? And how do we know the money will buy what is needed for the children and their families?

I don’t have all the answers. But I do want to address the money donation amount—no amount is too small. Here's an example: I have a dear friend who is on a limited income. He regularly sends $5 a month to his favorite charities. It’s not much but he can afford $5. It makes him feel good that he’s helping others and if a thousand people do the same thing, the benefit to the charity would be $5,000! Think about it. Give what you can afford.

I am always skeptical of organizations soliciting money. So I checked out the rating for Save the Children at this website: I have used this reliable source for many years. You might want to bookmark it on your computer. It gives you organization addresses, telephone numbers, how they spend their money, an overall score and rating for the charity.

Save the Children’s rating was 3.1 stars (out of 4) with 89.6% going to program expenses and services. In the comments section there was some chatter about salaries and other expenses. Too much money spent on overhead was the biggest complaint. My favorite comment about the money being spent was most charitable: “I look at it this way. I'm doing what every human should be doing and that's helping children.”

Of course, I don’t need to tell you there are a lot of scams out there. Be careful before you impulsively give. If you are unsure of a charity, check out such international agencies as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. The United Nations Children’s Fund is another option.

UNICEF was created in 1946 to provide emergency food and health care to children after WWII.  It claims to have helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. They internationally provide health care, clean water, nutrition, education and emergency relief.

One of my favorite charities—Heifer International—has a different approach. Founded in 1944, its mission is to empower and feed the poor. They donate livestock to families who raise them and breed them both for eating and to raise money i.e. children can drink the milk and eat the eggs. Then, as the flock or herd grows, the family can sell the excess with one caveat: they must pass on one female (goat, heifer, chicken or whatever) to another family. Sharing the bounty is a win-win situation. This amazing program has a 3 star rating.

P.S. ABC viewers donated $800,000 to Save the Children within 24 hours of the TV show. Because of them, thousands of lives will be saved. I'm thinking that such donations to one of my favorite children's charities on Mother's Day is a good idea!

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Why Cottage Grove?

One of Cottage Grove, Oregon' many murals

4/12/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

My husband and I moved from Southern California (the land of eternal summer) to soggy Cottage Grove Lake 28 years ago. March 1989 was our introduction to a textbook Oregon springtime. One minute the sun was shining and the next it was raining cats and dogs. In fact, it rained 11 inches that month breaking all previous records.

On move-in day, we discovered that those rains had saturated the ground so much that our humongous moving van got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out by Taylor Towing. You can only imagine how embarrassed our driver was when a woman (!) tow truck driver arrived to pull him out of the muck.

In California, our neighbors and friends all asked the same question “Why Oregon? It rains there. And why Cottage Grove?” Why indeed?  Moving to Oregon was not on our bucket list. We weren’t retired and no jobs awaited us. We were, however ready for a little adventure and living by a lake was our lifelong dream. My husband’s mantra is “let’s go” and my motto is “When in doubt follow your heart.” So we did.

At the time I remember describing the town of Cottage Grove with words like small, quaint, or charming. The population hovered around 8,000 people but it had all the basic facilities one needed: banks, grocery stores, doctors, a hospital, veterinarians, a newspaper, restaurants, gas stations, schools, churches and a donut shop! You know, a regular town.

Our C.G. adventure began in 1987 when we were vacationing in Oregon in our little Tioga RV. I thought of it as a temporary stopover on the road of life. What I did not know was that this place would capture our hearts.

We found Cottage Grove by pure happenstance. We had left Crater Lake in the Tioga with our Honda motorcycle perched on the back. After several weeks on the road we needed a place to eat lunch, a shoe store for new motorcycle boots and a place to spend the night. Our AAA map said C.G. had it all!

On that first visit, we discovered there was no fast food row of McDonald’s, Taco Bell, etc. But around town there were many places to eat including the wonderful but gone-too-soon Copper Rooster. We followed the bridge into town where we passed the historic Dr. Pierce Barn, and the Village Shopping Center that housed a Hub clothing store, Tiffany’s Pharmacy and a grocery store. All of those are now history.

Driving on into town we discovered that Main St. was the shopping hub. Downtown was bustling with business. There were antique stores, hardware stores, banks, pharmacies, gift shops, Ruth and Elsie’s Dress Shop, a jewelry store, The Bookmine, Schweitzer’s Men’s Wear, Homestead Furniture, two shoe stores owned by the Hoover family and more! At that time Safeway was located where the Community Center is now and across the street was a Cornet store (the local five & dime).

That day we got some good advice and made two memorable purchases. First, we had lunch at Tilly’s Top Hat Pies. Oh, my! My husband said that tears ran down my face after just one bite of Margaret Tilly’s apple pie a la mode. It was that good.

At Self-Selecto-Shoes, manager Mike Thiess found us just the boots that we needed and then asked where we were spending the night. He suggested that we head out to C.G. Lake and Pine Meadows Campground. We did and that is where we fell in love with the place that we now call home.

It was only later that we would discover the Gateway Shopping Center where we purchased Merchant’s Donuts. Thanks to the morning coffee guys we got to know born and bred Grovers, appreciate the stuff that early settlers were made of and the area’s historic lumber and mining history.

So much has changed in nearly three decades. The town has grown. Businesses have come and gone. A landmark has been destroyed (Dr. Pierce's Barn) and others have been built (Opal Whiteley and Bohemia Parks). We even have traffic jams! Still, every spring as the rain comes down, the flowers bloom and the grass turns green, we feel blessed that we heeded the call to a new lifestyle and moved to The Grove.

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

From "Hillbilly" to Navy Commander

3/22/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

My husband and I recently attended a memorial service for James Freeman Hornick, a USN Retired Commander, our former neighbor and forever friend.
Seaman Jim Hornick circa 1950

Sitting in the mortuary, amongst his family and friends, I realized that Jim was one of those golden Cottage Grove residents that I spoke of in my last column. This is his story.

To all appearances, neighbor Jim was a good old boy just like all the other guys. He wore jeans, tended his garden and told tall tales. But he was so much more. He had a unique success story that began in the hills of West Virginia where he was born in 1931. The cabin that he and his brothers grew up in had neither electricity, indoor plumbing nor water. His family was truly destitute.

The town of West Milford, WV, had a population of about 630. Jim was one of 15 graduates from his school. (One of the student’s’ favorite pranks involved tipping outhouses!) Post graduation, his future was uncertain. The only certainty was that all young men between the ages of 18 and 26 were required to register for Military Training and Service. I.e. the draft.

Jim may have been a hillbilly (his words) but he was smart and he didn’t have many choices. Since the draft was imminent, he enlisted in the Navy in 1950 at the age of 19. Why the Navy? His answer:  “I didn’t want to roll around in the mud with the Army. Bed sheets on board every night were much better.”

His Navy career began on the flight deck as a “white hat” enlistee or “mustang” meaning that he started out as an enlistee but advanced to an officer—30 years later he retired as a full Commander.

At the memorial, his wife Charlene shared how Jim’s life was a lesson in how to attain success. He had minimal education but a great desire to be more than he was. His life as a sailor was governed by goals, determination and self-education. If he didn’t know how to do something he went to the library and read up on it. That included books on etiquette and manners he hadn’t been taught.

Simply knowing how to type opened the doors to administrative positions. After that, the sky was the limit. He skipped the rank of Chief and Ensign and started climbing the ladder:  Warrant Officer, LJG, LT, LTC and finally, a full Commander with the rank of CD-R (as high as he could go under his designation).

The boy who had never left West Virginia quickly became a world traveler. He sailed the world’s oceans including around the African Horn in a harrowing, ship-rolling storm. He served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. His shore duties included coast-to-coast tours from California to Florida.

His last duty station was at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He supervised hundreds of office workers. How did he get along? With respect. He said, “If you want respect you give respect.”

He met Charlene while serving in Calif. After a whirlwind courtship they married in San Diego in 1973. Jim retired after 30 years of service in 1980 and they moved to Cottage Grove Lake where he quietly set aside the ever-changing military lifestyle, his medals, ribbons and other awards and settled down into civilian life.

In retirement, this officer who bled red, white and blue, loved to golf, fish and hunt. Occasionally we could get him to tell us a story about cruising the world. He would always end it by saying, “Even a hillbilly from West Virginia can do okay in the United States Navy.” In his last years he valiantly fought Alzheimer’s disease. Sadly, he lost that battle January 21, 2017.

We will never forget you Jim. We are grateful to you and all those who choose to serve in the military. You are role models for all generations on how to live disciplined, honorable and patriotic lives. And thank you Jim, for reminding us that anything is possible if you dream big and work hard enough. Rest in peace.

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Doug Still, civil rights activist, former Cottage Grove resident

2/15/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Cottage Grove is famous for many things, including its Bohemia Gold Mining district. But in my opinion, this entire area is a huge gold mine of caring residents. Tucked into quiet neighborhoods in and around town, we are blessed with so many people who are pure gold. They quietly contribute their time and talents to make ours a better world.

Former resident Doug Still falls into that golden category. I first knew him by reputation. At that time he had lived here for 31 years and he focused his interests on energy and social issues. Among other things, he was a founder of Jefferson Park, South Lane Mental Health, EPUD and renown for building the solar energy-powered Cottage Restaurant restaurant building.

In Feb. 2006 I was invited to be a guest at a Rotary meeting where Doug was the speaker. Until then I did not realize that his pre-Oregon life included a historical contribution to the Civil Rights movement. I think it bears repeating in this African American History month.

First, a historical reminder: In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. I 1865 the anti-slavery amendment was added to the Constitution and officially eliminated slavery throughout the U.S. One-hundred years later, racial equality was still being disputed in most southern states.

In the 1960s, beleaguered Black citizens all across the South began calling upon Dr. Martin Luther King for help. This American Baptist minister was also a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Beginning in 1955, he advocated a fresh approach to civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.

In 1962 the Reverend Doug Still was serving in Chicago as the executive director of the department of social welfare of the Presbyterian Church Federation for four counties and 2200 churches. (He was a graduate of Union Theological Seminary and was ordained at the historic Madison Ave. Presbyterian Church in New York.)

He began his Rotary talk by saying, “One day a wire came to the Chicago clergy from Martin Luther King saying that the people of Albany, Georgia needed help. They were in trouble and needed us to come and stand with them in their efforts to desegregate the city’s libraries, parks, schools, churches and hotels. (City officials were closing them rather than integrate them).

   “We formed a committee representing the three major faiths,” he said, “and boarded a bus. About 50 of us — Catholic, Protestant, clergy and lay people — rode about 800 miles to Albany to show our concern for our brothers and sisters.

   “We arrived at night and the next morning we worshipped together (blacks and whites) and Martin Luther King spoke. Our strategy was to gather in front of city hall and offer a very brief prayer. The sheriff immediately arrested us and locked us up in jail. Even then we were segregated with the black people being put in the stables at the fairgrounds. Six days later, our bus left for Chicago, the most segregated city in the north.”

In 1963 King gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. After that, he won hundreds of awards including the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. The nation was inspired by King’s “dream” speech but racial acceptance was slow in coming and bloody in the process.

Later that year, many were injured in riots when James Meredith was enrolled as the first black at the University of Mississippi. In 1963 fire hoses and police dogs were turned on marchers as they demonstrated in Birmingham, Alabama. Medgar Evers, the NAACP leader was murdered. Four girls were killed in the bombing of a Baptist Church.

   President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi. He then signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 but Malcolm X was murdered and the Watts riots left 34 dead in Los Angeles.

State and local lawmen attacked 600 civil rights workers with billy-clubs and tear gas as they as they approached the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. The march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama for voting rights became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Things got worse, Doug said, “Another wire came, asking the clergy and laity to come to Selma. We went down but our efforts to march across the bridge were turned away twice and we returned to Chicago. Later, the National Council of Churches asked me to go to Greenwood Mississippi where I worked with black churches.”

Unfortunately, King did not live to see his dream of peaceful coexistence come true. His voice was stilled by an assassin’s bullet in 1968 and contrary to everything he believed in, the West side of Chicago went up in flames. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Fortunately, King’s color-blind dream didn’t die with him. Others like Doug Still took up the torch and progress in racial equality has been made. Progress — not perfection. But when the torch gets dim we can still hear King exhorting us to keep the dream going:  “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

Doug Still has also moved on to his heavenly reward. But he will long be remembered by the legacy that he left of serving others locally and across the nation. That day at Rotary he also left us with this thought:

“So, what do we learn from all of this?” he asked rhetorically.  “Violence doesn’t work. Communication and dialog do.”

So, in the spirit of peace and racial harmony, I leave you with this Biblical scripture quote: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

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

Friday, January 20, 2017


1/11/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Birthdays, Life and Laughter

I remember when I was young and always looking forward to my January birthday. Celebrating a birthday meant bringing cupcakes and Kool-Aid to my first grade class. It meant a birthday party at home with presents, games and (of course) my favorite birthday cake. It meant turning 16 years old and being allowed to date boys. It meant getting married at 19 and at 21, being legally allowed to vote and drink a cocktail in a fancy restaurant.

Until recently, the only birthday that I really didn’t like was the year I turned 30 years old. For some reason, leaving my 20’s was scary. It meant that I was no longer young (little did I know how young that was). Of course, I survived turning 30 and I didn’t fear aging in my 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Turning 70 didn’t even bother me.

Each of life’s milestones was good. There was always a reason to be going forward—raising children from infancy to adulthood, welcoming their spouses and each new grandchild, establishing a business, volunteering, serving in the church, traveling the world, moving to a dream house and job in Oregon. I felt blessed. 

It was a fall on the ice in January of 2012 and a fractured back that brought me up short and said, “You’re getting old.” Not “older” but “old. Surgery helped repair the crushed bones but the residual effect of that hard fall was chronic pain. I had lots of time on my hands that winter to think about the ramifications of aging and it was sobering.

I quickly came to the conclusion that it’s not looking older that bothers me. All this gray hair and wrinkles has its advantages. I never have to worry about opening a heavy door to enter a business or restaurant. People will stop; open the door and say, “After you.” I find that young children in strollers will smile and wave at me as I walk by. At the same time, they look at their parent, smile and say, “Grandma.” 

No, the thing that bothers me the most about aging is the physical limitations. Myself, friends and family are having hips and knees replaced, heart surgeries, cancer treatments, losing spouses or downsizing houses because they can’t take care of them. Some are no longer driving because of eyesight and reflex problems. Some of us just need help getting out of bed in the morning! Oy!

 My Achilles Heel is poor balance. If I fall down, I break something. No matter how much physical therapy I endure, falls and breakage keep happening. It started with a compound fracture of my left arm as a teenager. Longtime readers will remember my falling off an 8 ft. tall ladder and nearly cracking my skull open. Twice I slipped and broke bones in my right foot. The 70’s have included a fall that completely tore my ACL with complications from a fall on the ice that fractured my back.

Last year was a hard year for many of us. It is difficult to laugh and enjoy life during pain and suffering. Suddenly I felt old. My husband had serious health issues, I lost several dear friends and the world’s suffering was hard to comprehend. The appointments on our calendar were mostly to doctors or hospitals. Something had to change. Fun needed to make a comeback.

Then I read this piece of wisdom:
“You don't stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing."—Michael Pritchard

Ah, ha! I don’t know who Michael Pritchard is but he’s a wise man. I looked up laughter as medicine and was reminded that while laughter can’t save us from getting old, it can make aging palatable. Although not all researchers agree, most believe that humor helps people of all ages cope with stress and keeps our immune system healthy.

This quote from a cancer researcher really hit home:
“Humor works like a shock absorber in a car,” he says. “You appreciate a good shock absorber when you go over bumps and cancer is a big bump in life.”

So my goal for this birthday year is to install new shock absorbers. It is said that children laugh 300 times a day. We adults laugh only a few times a day— maybe 4. I think it’s time to up the ante at our house and start looking for the funny side of everyday life. We need to exchange more jokes and less bad news. Following are a few comic one-liners from readers that started me giggling.

 You know you’re older when:
*You’re startled the first time you’re asked if you’re a “senior.”
*Your children begin to look middle aged.
*Your back goes out more often than you do.
*You sit in a rocking chair and you can’t get it going.
* Your mind makes contracts your body can’t meet.
*You finally reach the top of the ladder and it’s the wrong wall.
*The little grey haired lady you help across the street is your wife.
*You have a party and the neighbors don’t even know it.
*My favorite: People call at 9 a.m. and ask, “Did I wake you?”

So, dear readers, here’s the deal. We can’t stop the aging process but we can put it into perspective. Then we can offset and absorb some of life’s shocks and discomfort by laughing at a good joke long and often. It works for me. Try it and let me know how it works for you. And by all means, share the fun with friends, family and me.

P.S. Happy Birthday to my fellow Capricorns!

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


12/14/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

A plaque over my desk reads: “Kindness Matters.” It is a great encouragement to me on those days when I helplessly watch the world spinning out of control, knowing I can do nothing to stop it. I can’t stop young women from being kidnapped, beaten, branded or killed. I can’t stop road rage, random gang shootings, child abuse or the bombing in Aleppo. As the world turns, I’m pretty helpless.

I can, however, be kind to the people around me. Tim McGraw’s recent country hit song, “Humble and Kind,” inspired today’s column to share some random acts of kindness and inspire all of us at all seasons of the year. First we’ll start with an abbreviated version of the song’s reminder to always stay humble and kind:

“Humble and Kind”
Tim McGraw

"You know there’s a light that glows by the front door
Don’t forget the keys under the mat
When childhood stars shine, always stay humble and kind
Go to church cause your momma says too
Visit grandpa every chance that you can
It won't be wasted time

Always stay humble and kind

Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb but

Tim McGraw and his wife Faith Hill practice what they preach. Some call them country music royalty. Others say they are two of the kindest people in show business. According to an article in the Huffington Post, they recently surprised a few Wal-Mart shoppers in Baker County, Florida with their generosity when they paid of $5,000 worth of layaway purchases.

TV station Action News Jax, reported that McGraw’s mother, Betty Trimble, told a shopper that she was playing Secret Santa and delivering the gifts. Jessica Lumpkin was one of the shoppers. She told the news outlet that she received a signed card and cash. “I didn’t have anything on layaway, I was just picking up a package and Tim’s mother gave me this. I’ve never had this happen to me. I’m glad I call Baker Co. my home.”

There are many simple ways in this song to be humble and kind but the list is endless. One of my readers recently sent me some inspiring photos that brought me to tears over the kindness of others to strangers. Kindness comes in many forms. I can’t print the photos but you’ll get the idea when you read the captions:

1.    A tourist in the tropics takes off his sandals and gives them to a homeless girl. That’s empathy.
2.    A motorcyclist stops, gets off his bike and helps an elderly lady across the street. That’s thoughtfulness.
3.    A retired barber in Calif. offers haircuts to the homeless for the price of a hug. That is caring and sharing.
4.    A police officer handcuffs himself to a woman ready to jump off a ledge. She doesn’t jump because he would die too! That is compassion beyond the call of duty.
5.    A box of tennis balls sits on a sandy beach. The sign says, “In loving memory of Phoebe (a dog). Help yourself to a ball for your pooch to enjoy…” That’s making memories.
6.    A grocery store clerk kneels down and ties the shoes of an elderly gentleman. That’s helpfulness.
7.    Spectators hoist a young man at a concert, above the crowd in his wheelchair so he can see the show too. That’s amazing!
8.    An elderly man had a heart attack while shoveling snow from his driveway. The paramedics took him to the hospital and then returned to finish shoveling the snow. That’s compassion.
9.    A stranger noticed a stray kitty sleeping in the rain. He covered her with his umbrella to keep her dry. That’s precious.
10.   Another stranger noticed that a homeless man was reading the same book over and over. He gave him his Kindle. That’s feeding the soul.

Finally, at a time when sometimes even religions don't trust one another, you will love this story of one religion helping another. It's a story of kindness, generosity and acceptance. It’s also a new tradition at Unity House, a Christian organization in Troy, NY, that offers services, including meals, to victims of domestic violence.

According to the Albany Times Union newspaper, it started when a volunteer from the Muslim Soup Kitchen Project approached Unity House and offered to serve Christmas dinner. The tradition continues. The 15-18 Muslim volunteers prepare enough meals for 100-200 people. That’s 400 meatballs, 26 pounds of spaghetti, 40 pounds of salad and 200 buns.

Why do they do this? “This is a seed that we’re planting for our young people,” said Azmat Ahmad who presides over the kitchen. “We’re supposed to practice charity every day. Having a day of service on Christmas is a way of introducing our young people to sharing. We like to do it,” she added as she watched her sons and other young volunteers prepare the meal. Last year, in the same spirit of giving, they also served spaghetti to children and their families at Ronald McDonald House in Albany, NY. That is generosity of spirit.

Kindness is a gift we can all give. Pass it on and we will all be blessed.

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