Monday, June 15, 2020

Our Dogs Miss A Social Life!

6/4/2020 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser
Sammy as a puppy

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone in our house—even the dogs. No, they’re not wearing masks or washing their paws as they go in or out of the back door. But they have a social problem. Our feisty little Dachshunds are great watch dog companions that are always on alert for people and predators. They take their jobs seriously.

They are the welcoming party to the Kaiser household and nothing comes onto the property without being greeted. During wet weather, they stay inside and guard their domain through the French doors. In warm weather they go outside in the sunshine and wait for company to come calling so they can announce their arrival.

But thanks to Covid-19, traffic has slowed down and welcoming barks are strangely quiet. You might say they are not happy campers. So, Sammy has taken up whining as a new hobby.

Last week, he literally nearly drove me crazy—in the house. The weather was nice but he didn’t want to stay outside. Wherever I went. He went. If I was in the laundry room. He was there. If I went upstairs, so did he.  He even came into the bathroom with me. And the whining never stopped. Step after step, room after room, I worked and he whined.

In desperation, I sat down, gave him my undivided attention, petted, murmured sweet words, massaged and hugged him. More whining. I tried coaxing him with his favorite chew treat—a bacon flavored Nyla Bone.  He would have none of it.  Instead, he looked at the door and…whined!

During that time, his little housemate Sweetie ignored us! It was the perfect opportunity for her to sleep in Sammy’s bed and play with his toys. But she was also getting anxious. She wanted to go in and out the back door every few minutes. If only she knew how to turn the doorknob!

This went on all week. I was really annoyed until I figured out the problem.

I already knew that our dogs could sense tension in the air. As a puppy, during any household disagreement (even on the television!) Sammy would go into my office, climb into Sweetie’s bed and go to sleep. He only comes out when the noise calms down!

Then I read that other pets across the country have become unhappy during this pandemic situation. Two reasons:  1. Their daily life routines have been turned upside down. 2. If their human is anxious, they are too.

Huh. What a concept. Anxious? Tense? Me? During Covid-19? Yep. That's me!

For weeks, I would get uptight just thinking about going to the store. First, I would read the latest  socializing restrictions. I’d make my list and check it twice.  Then I’d check the car for hand sanitizer, put on my mask and gloves and go back into the house to check one more thing and leave.

All the while, the dogs would be watching, dogging me and trying to get in the car and go with me. They’re spoiled. When they go with dad, his “people” give them treats. Not me.

Sammy and Sweetie live for company. But for months (per CDC guidelines), human visitors have been few and far between. Thank goodness for neighborly conversations across the fence, USPS and UPS.

Some days, I also feel like whining. A worldwide pandemic that’s killing thousands of people calls for fear, heartache and extreme changes in lifestyle.

Physical distancing, no church, haircuts or dining out and staying home are a small price to pay to save lives. But it took awhile to realize how important seeing our friends and hugging them on a regular basis is important emotionally. Sometimes I feel like I am in prison!

Like us, our dogs have been missing their people, running around the property and having fun. Playing catch or tag with a squeaky toy in the house just doesn’t cut it. They quickly tire of ordinary games and get bored.

So, we have a new routine. Daily, I snap on Sammy’s leash to go out to the mailbox (about a ¼ mile walk) and pick up the mail. Then I unleash him and we walk around our wooded acreage and wave at the neighbors driving by.

Sometimes Sweetie joins us. Then both of them get a chance to investigate new squirrel holes, chase birds, bark at any motorcycles that zoom past their territory and greet Bella (the dog next door).

At home, we get a drink of water, sit down and kibbutz while Sammy gets a massage and Sweetie takes a nap. It’s a new normal but it works for the time-being. No whining allowed. Yea!

Thankfully, hope is on the horizon. Virus numbers are down. Community doors are opening again and yesterday, a car drove down our driveway.


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Thursday, May 14, 2020


Betty needs a haircut!
5/7/2020 Chatterbox
CG Sentinel
Betty Kaiser

That crazy lady photo in today’s column is me—needing a haircut! And today’s column is a rambling description of the new Shelter in Place lifestyle that we’re all living. 

I agree with Tom Hanks who said, “There’s no such thing as a Saturday anymore. Every day is just today.”

In this pandemic era, every day seems like the one before. Time is running them all together. News flashes are constant and contradictory. The government rules to protect us from the coronavirus often change from day to day. The truth is that sometimes, I am overwhelmed knowing what to do and when to do it.

Do I agree with the need for restrictions? 

You bet I do! Anything that keeps people from catching COVID-19 and saves thousands of lives is a good thing. I support the rules wholeheartedly.

But do I like the rules on a minute-by-minute, day-by-day, week-by-week basis? 

Nope. Not at all. Especially when it means staying home 24/7.

At first, staying home and sheltering, didn’t bother me. I could find plenty to do around the house (organize photos, clean closets, sweep the garage) and a weekly search for groceries kept me busy (and uptight) at the stores.

I learned how to wear a mask and gloves while shopping and to stay six feet away from other shoppers and neighbors. I made hand sanitizer and use lots of hand soap while washing my hands and singing “Happy Birthday.” Until now, I never knew how often I touched my face. Now I know not to do that!

But…once the food cupboards were full, new recipes tried, and phone calls made, I tired of cleaning house and I missed driving into town, entertaining my friends, going to church and visiting my favorite Eugene haunts.

Boredom started setting in. And let me tell you, it’s not easy to get bored around my house. There’s always something to do. Six manicured acres of rose bushes, vegetable gardens, trees and meadow grass will keep you busier than a bee. Just trying to keep the weeds from taking over the property is exhausting. It’s also not fun and I need fun!

Between the cold, blustery, rainy days and our advanced ages we limit the time we spend working outside. A couple of hours and it’s back into the house to catch up with emails, phone calls, texts from the kids, laundry, bills, naps, reading or TV. That’s it! Day after day after day.

Fortunately, Chuck and I are used to working together and that’s a good thing! He likes to help—on his terms. And my idea of household chores is way different from his. An example: He’s still surprised that doing the dishes includes cleaning off the stove and counter tops every day! 

So sometimes a little togetherness feels like too much and I’m sure he feels the same way!

Shelter in Place at our house includes us and two Dachshunds. And right now we’re all feeling stressed and a little claustrophobic . The dogs sense our agitation and can’t settle down. They walk around whining for attention or sit at the back door barking to go out and chase a squirrel. They quickly come back inside and start all over again. It’s a merry-go-round.

But last week, I had a revelation. Everyone was in the kitchen. The dogs were sitting on their cushions in front of the French doors, guarding the property. I was gathering ingredients and putting together a spaghetti sauce for dinner and Chuck was making doggie meatballs.

As I looked around, I realized that while the house was eerily quiet, everyone was at peace. We were safe, happy and healthy. “Aha!” I thought, “This new normal is working.” But it was almost too quiet. So I went over and turned on the TV so we could all watch the depressing morning news while doing our part to shelter in place.

So, yes! We can do this!  But…I'm sure looking forward to a haircut!

One final thought: As we mourn all of those who have lost their lives in this pandemic, we do not know what the future holds for us. Our future is limited by the guidelines we’ve been given. Cooperation is a good thing. Our job is  to trust those making decisions. 

They are literally a matter of life or death.

Please join me in praying regularly for those who have COVID-19 and those who care for them: healing, endurance and peace for the patients; wisdom, compassion, energy, rest and protection for first responders and medical personnel.  Also, for the virus to stop spreading and the researchers to create vaccines to prevent it.

And one more thing—let’s all be grateful for our blessings. Looking at some parts of the world we know that it could be worse. 

Can I get an Amen?

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Monday, April 6, 2020

SURVIVING THE UNEXPECTED (with prayer and toilet paper)

4/2/2020 The Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Hello, Grovers! The Chatterbox is back! After 22 years of conversing with my CG Sentinel readers, I had to stop writing for awhile and I missed you. Today’s column is a short update of my unbelievably crazy life these past months.

It all began with a dog attack. One year ago, on March 30, a large dog tried to take off my right arm. I was taken by ambulance to RiverBend, met by a trauma surgeon and informed that my wound could not be closed with simple stitching. I couldn’t see that there was no skin covering the raw flesh because I was wearing two sweatshirts. I quietly heard the surgeon say, “It’s serious and requires an immediate debridement surgery, another surgery and eventually a skin graft.”

In other words, It was a gory mess.

My healthy, happy self was changed in an instant. I was in shock. There are pictures of me just looking bewildered as I jumped through all the necessary hoops to restore my arm function. I truly feared that healing and restoration wasn’t possible.

Family, friends and strangers prayed.

I was in shock for weeks. My condition was described as “fragile.” The first two surgeries I barely knew what was happening. The skin graft was a real eye opener. I always wondered how they transferred skin from one place to another. In layman’s terms, they shaved a large area of skin off my thigh and stitched it over the skinless wound. Both the leg and arm were bandaged and the healing began.

I wore a wound vacuum attached to my arm and around my neck 24 hours a day for weeks. Eventually, it and the stitches were removed from the arm.  I wore a compression sleeve for months to continue the healing. The thigh skin removal was like a severe sunburn as it slowly healed. The ugly, crater-like hole of the arm wound area looks and feels like shoe leather.

Many thanks to modern medicine and an army of medical personnel who did everything they could to restore my arm. Along the way, I learned how to be brave and calm; to follow directions, endure multiple procedures, operate a wound vac machine and trust my husband to change bandages. One of the frustrating parts? It was two months before I could take a shower. Chuck washed my hair in the sink and I took sponge baths. Oy!

So much tissue was lost that I remained under the surgeon’s care until this year. The wound area is still tender and ugly as sin and there is residual nerve damage. Everyday life is hard on the arm and wrist: lifting, typing, stirring, opening jars, digging in the garden are all painful. But thanks to great care and hundreds of prayers, I survived and I am a grateful woman.

Now, you would think that would be enough medical trauma and drama for a little old lady in one year. But there’s more. In August, a routine exam showed that I had a non-malignant tumor of the parotid gland. The tumor was sitting on the facial nerve making it difficult surgery to remove.  More prayers were sent up and thanks to God and a great surgeon, I again survived the unexpected.

Finally, just before Christmas, when life was starting to get normal, more trouble was brewing. My husband has a long history of heart disease dating back to a 5-way bypass in 2003. In Dec. he began having difficulty breathing outside in cold air. No one thought that was a problem. “They” were wrong. He ended up at RiverBend, after a heart attack and stroke that resulted in more surgeries and weeks of Home Health Care. Many tears were shed and prayers were offered. Chuck survived the unexpected.

This year, for one brief month in January, life was looking up. Then came another surprise. A coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) arrived in America.

Unexpected? You bet.

Now, to everyone out there who is wondering what the world is coming to…I don’t know either. Only God knows. And so we pray. Please know that I’m following the rules and worrying right along with you and we will get though this. 

However, we are just about out of toilet paper. Kleenex, anyone?

Many thanks to all of you for your encouragement and friendship though-out my journalism years. May God bless you with hope, joy and good health as we plow through the year 2020! Keep looking up, praying and believing that we will survive.

Remember: This, too, shall pass!

P.S. After this went to press, a large box of toilet paper arrived in the mail from my sweet, thoughtful daughter who lives in Calif. Thank you, Kathryn!

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Athletics Coach Janice Jean Neely was a pistol!

7/17/19 The Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Today’s column is one of fond remembrances of Jan Neely, a beloved girls Athletic Coach and teacher who taught at Cottage Grove High School from 1952-1987. A Christian, she passed from this world into heaven on June 16, at the age of 92. Her former students and co-workers will tell you that she is gone but not forgotten. Their memories inspired this column. 

She still means a lot to her students and coworkers. For-instance, if you walk around the Cottage Grove High School campus, you will find yourself on the Coach Neely Fitness Trail. A plaque was placed there in 2012 in honor of this very respected teacher by a group of her former students. At the dedication, she had a personal tour of the trail in a golf cart.

Janice Jean and her twin sister Jean Janice were born on June 16, 1927 in Grant’s Pass, Oregon. They both graduated from the University of Oregon and later earned master’s degrees from the University of Washington. They both taught women’s physical education. Jean lived in La Grande for 30 years where she was a teacher at Eastern Oregon College until she retired and moved to Cottage Grove with Jan. She passed away in 2009.

Former Athletics Director Jerry Braunberger was fresh out of college when he came to CGHS in 1961. He and his wife Sherrie fondly remember Jan’s warm greeting and acceptance of them. Soon Jan was organizing activities for the faculty wives—most memorably, a weekly badminton group that continued for years. Sherrie remembers that “Jan set up the group and taught us how to play but she was heard to beat!”

Jerry said he really got to know her when they coached track together (along with softball, soccer, Lacrosse, etc.) He stressed that she was well-liked and developed strong relationships with her students. Whatever she did, her emphasis was always on the importance of physical activity for all ages. She would encourage all ages to exercise by saying, “You need to be active for a busy life,”

Jerry said that Miss Neely was an equal opportunist for women in sports—even in an era when girls’ sports in school were far less important than the boys, He added that “She was an excellent teacher and extremely dedicated. She was a dynamo!”

After hearing from graduates of several CGHS eras, it’s evident she coached, taught, mentored, encouraged, supported and motivated her students all while teaching them new skills. I think it’s fair to say that she was a super star teacher to her students. One with a sense of humor. 

As you will learn from the following comments about their “Miss Neely,” you might also say that she taught with love.

Cheryl R. from the class of 1966 says:Growing up there were three women who deeply influenced me: my mother, my paternal grandmother and Miss Neely. She was not only a wonderful teacher, coach and advisor, but also a wonderful role model to me and to hundreds of young women. She always inspired us to do our best and be our best version of ourselves. I know I am a better person for having her in my life."

Janece N., also from the Class of 1966, said..."I have wonderful memories of Miss Neely...definitely a woman before her time!"

Jan S., also from the Class of 1966 says: “My memories include powerful words to describe the role model she was for me...dedicated, motivational, positive influence, genuine, caring, and she paved the way for girls’ athletics by the way she positively interacted with people. She provided an unbelievable experience in physical education with curriculum involving basketball, volleyball, tennis, softball, gymnastics, fencing, archery, etc. I chose elementary teaching for my life long career and Miss Neely was a definite inspiration and role model in my life!”

One member of the class of 1959 recalls how kind and caring Miss Neely was while her PE teacher. It was this teenager’s senior year. She fell in love, got married and became pregnant. Morning sickness made it impossible for her to keep up in soccer. Miss Neely noticed, didn’t ask questions but suggested that her student “Go sit on the sidelines and learn by watching.” Now that’s teaching with compassion.

Finally, Marie L. (class of 1957), has some hilarious stories of trips that the various teams took to out of town sporting events. There were no buses for girl athletes so parents and Miss Neely did the driving. 

To pass the time, the girls would come prepared with prankster signs to flash out the back window. A couple of their favorites read, “Help! We’re being Kidnapped!” or “Single Driver.” They were afraid to put up the one that said, “Drunk Driver.”

As they giggled, Miss Neely would just say, “What are you girls doing now?” and keep on driving to the next GAA meet.

Today, all agree that they are grateful for having known her. She was an excellent teacher, mentor, role model and friend who greatly influenced their lives forever. There were many formal accolades and awards for her but as one former student said, “She was a pistol and got things done! 

Now you have to wonder what kind of athletics she is organizing in heaven!

There will be a Celebration of Life service for Miss Janice Jean Neely at Riverside Community Church of God, Saturday, July 20, 2019 at 2 pm.

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Cottage Grove historian shares 4th of July celebration memories

7/3/19 The Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser 
Note: This column is being published a little late. Sorry

Tomorrow is the 4th of July. Are you ready to celebrate? Well, the Colonists certainly were after signing the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. But first, they had to get hostility out of the way. King George III bore the brunt of their actions.

Newspapers of the time describe how the military tore down a statue of the King in the Bowling Green section of Manhattan and later melted it into bullets. In Philadelphia, the King’s coat of arms was used as bonfire kindling. The citizens of Savannah, Georgia, burned the King in effigy and held a mock funeral to put him away forever.

The following year, the Virginia Gazette, dated July 5, described a more civilized celebration: “Armed ships and gallies were drawn up before the city, dressed with the colours of the U.S and began the celebration by a discharge of 13 cannon from each of them. The day was closed with the ringing of bells and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and ended with 13 rockets on the commons, illuminating the city.”

This year we will celebrate 243 years of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In many ways, our celebration hasn’t changed very much. For most of us, it will be a day off work, family reunions, parades, backyard barbecues and lots of fireworks.

In 2007, I wrote a column in which I asked readers to share their childhood memories of July 4th celebrations. The response was not overwhelming. In fact, I only received two emails. One was from Marcia Allen, now 96 years old, whom I consider to be the queen of Cottage Grove history.
Marcia has been my go-to-person for 20 years as a reporter and columnist. She has also been a driving force, along with many others, to preserve and celebrate the history and heritage of Cottage Grove’s people and buildings and culture. The Marcia E. Allen Historical Research Library is named in her honor. Got questions? Stop and see them @ 308 So. 10th St.

Here are Marcia’s childhood recollections of celebrating the 4th of July in the mid-1930s:
“I have several memories of my childhood and how I celebrated the 4th of July.  My folks were always very patriotic, and displayed a very large flag hung on the clothesline in the big front porch, where clothes dried in the wind in winter time. Every store downtown had bunting draped under roofs and windows, businesses were closed for the day.

We began at the Cottage Grove Armory, with a speaker and a HS student reciting the Gettysburg address.  The Civil War Vets were always proudly in uniform and honored as the oldest group. Seems like there were still about 8-10 who were able to come. Kelly Field is named for a hometown boy lost in WWI, and the Calvin Funk Post of the American Legion is also named for a CG boy lost in action.       

The Armory was built early in the 1930's because Cottage Grove was noted for its group of National Guardsmen who were crack shots with their rifles. They needed a place to practice inside so as to be ready for competition when they reported annually to "Camp Lewis" in Washington to camp and compete with all others in the Northwest. (see the story of the Armory in the Golden Was the Past II - page 65). 

There was usually a parade because veterans from the Civil War were still alive and the first World War had been over about ten years, and patriotic fever was high.

The way I remember CG parades used to be with the High School Band always involved as well as the CG Band of men - most of whom were WWI vets and businessmen. The parade led to the bridge, and on to the Fir Grove cemetery - to honor the dead after the service.

 Sometimes our family went by car over to Siuslaw Falls, down past Lorane to the west and had a picnic with friends from the Masonic lodge or others from the business community. A special treat of the day was the food - always watermelon and fried chicken- not usually enjoyed at other times. 

Sometimes Dad drove Mother and I to Florence where his uncle and aunt and some of their grown children lived. We drove down the twisty 2 lane highway along the Umpqua river to Glenada and boarded a ferry to cross over to Florence. The big bridge over the bay was not built until 1936, so travel over any river near the ocean was all done by ferries.  The first rhododendron parade was done on boats along where Old Town Florence is today. 

There were never any children my age to play with, but I usually had a package or two of firecrackers and a punk to light them and had a good time in the sand dune behind the house.

One time I lit a firecracker that burned its fuse and didn't go off. When I picked it up, it did go off and burned my fingers very painfully.  I was about 9 years old and had started taking piano lessons that constituted an hour's practice every day.  Needless to say, the practice sessions were on hold for about a week! 

May we never forget the “good ole days” and what our country stands for!”

Thank you, Marcia and God bless the U.S.A.!

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Friday, June 7, 2019

Oregon: Now is the time to reduce Wildfire Risk!

6/5/19 The Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Last month the London Grange hosted a presentation on preparing our homes and properties for summer’s upcoming wildfire conditions. It was followed by a pulled pork sandwich meal and scrumptious desserts— so you know I just had to go. The Grange is only a few miles down the road from us so Chuck and I showed up, paper and pencil in hand, promptly at 5 p.m.

Speaker Justin Patten from the Oregon Dept of Forestry was introduced to the group by Grange President Alice Nowicki. For an hour, Patten shared some helpful Firewise information for those of us who live in wooded areas and then took questions on specific local problem areas.

Until a couple of years ago, the possibility of a forest fire in our area had never entered our minds. We love living in the forested area across from C.G. Lake, where wildlife roam and silence is golden. We were oblivious to the fact that there were no fire hydrants or an escape route around the lake in case of fire.

Previously we had lived in cities where there were no wildfire worries. We grew up in Los Angeles in an era of vacant lots and citrus groves. Large, out-of-control fires were practically unheard of and if perchance one broke out, there was a firehouse nearby.

Later, we lived in Ventura, Ca. It sits near the ocean, has sunny and foggy days; citrus groves and strawberry patches. Again, fire was not a big worry. Fire hydrants were on every block and the kids were drilled at school to come home and teach their parents to put up fire alarms and agree on meeting places in emergencies. Nothing about wildfires.

The last couple of summers, it seemed that the whole West Coast was on fire. This year’s Snowmageddon really got our attention. Dangerously dry, huge debris piles are everywhere around us—forests, campgrounds and homes. Suddenly we realized that wildfires are possible in our own backyard. Scary stuff.

Our daughter Kathy, her husband, their two sons and daughter-in-law live in East Ventura. There are many houses some near lemon and orange groves. Tim is a 30-year veteran of the Oxnard Fire Dept. and he was on duty the night that the largest fire in the state’s history broke out—a few short miles from their home. The Thomas Fire ultimately burned 282,000 acres and was fought by an army of 8,000 firefighters.

Thomas started in Santa Paula’s Steckel Park, south of Aquinas College. It soon spread west along the foothills powered by the dreaded Santa Ana winds. It quickly reached the city of Ventura where it destroyed neighborhoods in the hills above City Hall. The fire kept going and didn’t stop for weeks, until it reached Santa Barbara. Lives were lost and properties destroyed.

That fire and others caused us to look around and plan how we could lower our own fire danger. We have a sprinkler system, have knocked down our tall weeds, keep our perimeters mowed, taken junk to the dump and removed flammable debris. But it takes the cooperation of everyone in the neighborhood to also keep their properties cleaned up.

Lightning strikes and other forces of nature are beyond our control.

Forester Justin Patten (at his Grange talk) pointed out these important reminders:

#1 The leading cause of human-caused wildfires in Oregon is escaped debris from backyard burning.…
°Check the weather forecast and call your local fire agency before burning
° Clear a 10-ft radius around your burn pile.
° Burn yard debris only and always stay by your burn pile with tools on site
°Make sure your burn pile is completely out when you leave.

#2 Equipment fires are the second leading cause of wildfires on state-protected lands in Oregon. Spring is the time to clean up excess vegetation, not summer. Use the right tool for the job.
° Call first to find out if equipment use is restricted.
°Use gas-powered equipment early in the day.
°Use a weed trimmer with plastic line.
°Be sure your tools are in good working order.
°Keep a fire extinguisher or water hose nearby.

#3 Create a defensible space around your home free of combustible material: Fire follows fuel.
°Clean up dead or dying plans, branches, leaves and needles everywhere—decks too!
°Move wood pile 30 feet from the home.
°Remove flammable plants and replace with fire-resistant species.
°Prune tree branches to a height of 6-10 ft to remove ladder fuels.
°Cut grass to less than 4 inches.
°Keep shrubs low and away from the drip line of house foundations and trees.
°Maintain driveway clearance that is free of flammable debris to allow fire engine access.
°More information at or home/.

Now we are praying for an uneventful summer. But just in case… I would appreciate it if someone would tell us an emergency escape route to London Rd. and the freeway.

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Mother's Day Memories

5/8/19 The Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Head’s up everyone! This weekend is Mother’s Day. Now that you’ve been warned, there’s no excuse if you forget your wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother or anyone dear to your heart that you call “mother.” Mothers of all ages appreciate being remembered on their special day. So start planning now to celebrate them on Sunday. You’ll be glad you did.

Most moms are easy to please. Think about it. They raised you, didn’t they? At some point they must have told you how special you are to them. Maybe it was that primitive watercolor painting that you brought home from kindergarten and she framed. Or the Mother’s Day poem in your childish scrawl that still hangs above her desk. She loves you.

It takes so little to touch a mother’s heart.  Fughetta about the expensive stuff on the TV ads. Moms are just thrilled if you’re there. Flowers? Buy a single potted petunia to plant in the garden. Forget to send a fancy card? No worries.  Just pick up the phone and tell her that you love her. No money for a fancy dinner? Show up on her doorstep with her favorite chocolates wrapped in a ribbon and a great big hug. You’ll make her day.

And if your mom has gone to her heavenly reward, say a little prayer of gratitude.

How do I know all of these things? Because I’m a mother and it was the best job that I ever had. A mother’s love and caring instincts kicked in quickly for me and knew no bounds. I worked 24 hours a day for 20+ years and was paid in hugs and kisses. Still, from the day a baby is born and brought home until they fly away on their own, it’s work, work, work. But I always thought that was why we had kids. Their wants and needs ordered my days—from dawn to dusk and often, all night. Some people complain about the teenage years but I thought they were a walk in the park compared to infancy, toddlers and elementary school.

Actually, looking back, I sometimes wonder how I survived. My husband worked long hours, six days a week, often until midnight. He was also in the US Army Reserve. We had been married one year when our daughter Kathy was born. Jeff came 2 years later and John a mere 13 months after that. Money was scarce and so were creature comforts. No dishwashers or new-fangled clothes dryers. I spent most of my time feeding and burping babies, sterilizing bottles and formula, changing diapers, doing laundry by hand, ironing, hanging diapers on the clothes line and folding clothes after everyone went to bed.

I was young and energetic enough to cope with chaos. Most of the time. There were days when I was sure that I was going crazy. When the kids were toddlers, I really looked forward to naptime. But they all slept in the same room. Kathy dozed right off. Jeff was not so cooperative. One day he was very quiet. I looked in and he was gone! I found him outside in his underwear riding up and down the street on the neighbor kid’s tricycle! John never slept at naptime. His favorite trick was to empty out all the dresser drawers—every day. There was never a dull moment and lots of joy as their growing stages and harmless mischief kept me smiling along with the exhaustion.

In my childhood, Mother’s Day celebrations were a big deal and very formal. Growing up, the day revolved around my mother and grandmother’s wishes. Sunday was church day. Everyone dressed in their Sunday best—suits and hats—orchid corsages were mandatory! And dinner at the steak house with three well-behaved children was a must.

My Mother’s Day morning as a mom of three kids under the age of four years old was a little wilder. I would coax the kids out of bed and feed them cold cereal for breakfast. Sticky hands and faces were washed before they were dressed in their Sunday best; hair was combed and kids were plopped down in front of TV cartoons while I got dressed.

Then, between the time I ironed my dress and put on my stylish hat, an argument would break out. “Mom, he hit me!” And inevitably, one of the boys would run outside, fall down and rip out the knees of his new Sunday suit. Kathy stayed in her room just to avoid the commotion.

Somehow all five of us got out the door and into the car. As my husband drove, I would pull out a bottle of nail polish and paint my nails—praying they would be dry by the time we got to church. After church we all went out to supper (where the boys climbed under the table!) and then home for a nap!

Mother’s Day always began with chaos but was rewarded with hugs and kisses.

Happy Mother’s Day to moms of all eras! May all your memories be sweet. And if you’re a new, overwhelmed mom, remember that childhood is fleeting but love endures forever.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family
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