Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Leap Years keep rolling on!

2/29/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

If today is your birthday, Happy Leap Day!

Yes, this is February 29—an unusual, extra rotating day that occasionally results in a year of 366 days. Julius Caesar introduced Leap Years in the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago. We can thank him for your special day and our confusion.

As you know, most years, February has 28 days. But thanks to Julius, professional calendar keepers scramble ‘nearly’ every four years and add an extra day to keep our calendars in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. Otherwise, every 100 years, our calendar would be off by about 24 days and we don’t want any off calendars!

Did you notice the word ‘nearly’ in the above paragraph? That means an extra day isn’t automatically added every four years. Some years it doesn’t happen. To become a Leap Year and even up the Gregorian calendar that we live by, certain precise criteria must be met:
1. The year must be evenly divisible by 4.
2. It is NOT a Leap Year if the year can be evenly divided by 100;
3. UNLESS, the year is also evenly divisible by 400. Then it is a Leap Year. (Source:

That means that 2000 and 2400 are Leap Years; while 1800, 1900, 2200, 2300 and 2500 are NOT Leap years. Coming up, we will have predictable Leaps in the years 2016, 2020, 2024, 2028 and 2032.

Since Leap Year mostly affects birthdays, I wondered how many extra babies are born on that day. According to the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, there are an estimated five million people born every Feb. 29 around the world. The Society, located in Keizer, OR, has about 10,000 members and some interesting information.

The main goals of the Society are to promote Leap Day awareness and tell birthday stories. I checked out their website to see what some of our Leap Birthday babies had to say about a lifetime of unusual birthdates. The ones I chose ranged from a 116 year old Australian to eight-year-old S.C. triplets.

Edith Milne Woodhead is the Society’s Grandest Leapy. She was born in 1896, lives in a nursing home in Australia, is in good health and has lived in three (3!) centuries. That would make her 116 years!

Elsie Lineham MacDonald was born in 1916. She lives in British Columbia, Canada and says, “I finally hit 21 in the year 2000. Now legal to drive, drink and stay out all night. As per English tradition, I was presented the key to the house.”

Thomas C. Nelson was born in 1920 in the state of Washington. As of his entry he was 87 years old and pushing to see his 22nd birthday.

Nelson says, “One item of interest: when I was shot down during the Santa Cruz Island Battle on 26 October 1942 I bailed out and spent about 26 hours with my life jacket and sharks and picked up next day by IJN Yugomo, a Japanese destroyer. Spent 35 months as a POW. While in the Blue Pacific Ocean near Guadalcanal. I made a wish that I would see my 21st Birthday which I observed in 2004. I am now one of the oldsters when I go into town.”

Lisa Nabieszkowas of Ontario, Canada, born in 1964 says, “Yay!!! Fun to find my tribe!!”

Riley Harris is one of a Leap Day set of quadruplets born in 1988. He says, “Hey guys, I'm the 2nd of 4 babies born leap day '88. I got a brother Ryan, and two sisters Rachel and Roxanne. If you are, or know of any other leap day quadruplets, could you please contact me? As far as I know we are the only ones in the world.”

Samuel Harris Rowe and his adorable siblings were born 2004 at 6:32 p.m. He says, “I am a spontaneous triplet born naturally on Leap Day. My brother, sister, and I hold the record for the largest triplets (total weight 16 lbs. 13 oz.) ever born in Charleston, SC. My mommy carried us for 37.5 weeks.” (Betty sez, “Mommy deserves a medal!”)

And who can forget the Leap Birthday saga told in “The Pirates of Penzance.” This popular Gilbert & Sullivan operetta debuted in 1879 to rave reviews. It was praised “as exquisitely funny and the music strikingly tuneful and catching.” (You may remember the famous line “Lock up your daughters, the pirates are coming to town!”)

The story centers around Frederic, a lad apprenticed to a band of tenderhearted, orphaned pirates. Frederic’s nurse was directed by his father to take him to a ‘pilot’ in the harbor for a sea-faring career. Instead, the hard of hearing nurse gave him over to a band of pirates until he celebrated his 21st birthday.

As the story evolves, we learn that the pirates cannot make a profit because they are too compassionate. Frederic tries to convince them to give up piracy to no avail. After his 21st birthday emancipation, Frederic falls in love with Mabel.

A complicated saga of a Major General falsely claiming to be an orphan to stop the pirates from marrying his daughters escalates into all kinds of madness. Suddenly it is revealed that Frederic was born on February 29 in a Leap Year and technically has only had five birthdays rather than the 21 required by his contract.

Oh, my! Poor Frederick, bound by honor and duty, leaves Mabel and rejoins the pirates to stay until he is 80 years old. More chaos ensues. But in the end, Frederic is released and reunited with Mabel. The Major General and the pirates make peace and all is well.

Some years are just too special to have only 365 days—this is one of them—enjoy your extra day!

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

Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting by with a little help from our friends

2/15/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Getting by with a little help from our friends

As I recounted in my last column, I was home alone on Jan. 16, enjoying the aftermath of Cottage Grove’s first snowstorm of 2012 when…I slipped and fell on the ice while taking photos of the winter wonderland I was admiring.

Eventually, I managed to drive myself to CG Hospital where a young man helped me into a wheelchair and into the ER. I was told that there were no broken bones and sent home to ‘take it easy,’ expect pain and take appropriate medications.

Days later, the pain was so overwhelming that ‘taking it easy’ was not an option. It was mandatory. The pain meds weren’t working and neither was I. Two doctor visits and one CT Lumbar Spine Scan later revealed a vertebral compression fracture of T12 and a posterior displacement. Whatever that means.

The word ‘fracture’ sent chills down my spine, but it was also strangely reassuring. I was beginning to think that I was the pain wimp of all time. Now I knew the cause was greater than bruises.

So I called my daughter Kathy to help cheer me up. She and I share the same wicked sense of humor and I thought she would put a positive but humorous spin on things. I tensely shared that I had a compression fracture and needed to see a specialist to determine if surgery was needed. Her response was priceless.

“Wow, I’m so sorry,” she said sympathetically. “I don’t know what to say except…the seventies sure haven’t been kind to you and dad!” And then she giggled, breaking the tension. In return I suggested that since she’s only 20 years behind me, I should be writing a book on “what to expect at 70.” Then we both had a good laugh.

Laughter is a great tension reliever but pain has been a big wake up call for this senior citizen. I tend to think that I’m the Energizer Bunny and never going to wear out. Relentless pain has convinced me otherwise. I am now painfully aware that I am oh, so very human and my batteries are losing their charge.

The ramifications of my fall on the ice have also changed my current lifestyle. Normally, I’m an active person. I have things to do, people to see and columns to write. I have no time or desire to be idle. Unfortunately, the kind of healing I need takes down time and my projected 4-6 weeks of recovery has been expanded to 12 weeks.

Between doctor and physical therapy visits, I have been practicing ‘taking it easy.’ Believe me, there’s nothing ‘easy’ about taking it easy! First I had to work through the pain, fear and humiliation of the fall. Then came frustration at not being able to be active. Slowly, acceptance of the situation settled in and last week I had a surprising victory—contentment.

I was settled down on a heating pad napping on my favorite sofa with a cat and dog. Gracie (the cat) was softly purring on my lap and Sadie (the dog) was cuddled up to both of us as close as she could get. It was quiet. No TV was on. No phones were ringing. There was nothing I had to do. I was content to be healing.

Over the past four weeks, I’ve been forced to do nothing for hours on end. Pain sets in and I’m worn out after standing for more than 45 minutes. So I’ve followed doctor’s orders—I do a little and rest a lot. I put in a load of wash and go sit on the heating pad for a while. I do the dishes or tidy up and repeat the heating pad scenario.

In the process, I’ve learned to change agitation into an attitude of gratitude. The past three months, during my husband’s hospitalizations and my accident, my lifestyle revolved around life and death issues—a helpless feeling. Gratitude has come in looking back and realizing that every need was met. God provided. I didn’t even have to ask. At every corner a friend was there to meet the need.

Over the holidays, when Chuck was in RiverBend Hospital fighting for his life, I left home early and came home late every day. One of our neighbors graciously took over the task of caring for our cats and dogs. On nights when I was very late she would come down twice to feed them and later put them to bed by the heater.

Later, when Chuck came home from the hospital, her husband kept our woodbin full with firewood and kindling split and ready to start a fire. One night when an ambulance took Chuck to Eugene, I was too overwhelmed to follow in my car. Friends drove down from Creswell, drove me to Eugene, back to Cottage Grove and then asked if they could do it again the next day!

Dozens of family, friends and a wonderful church family rallied round to encourage us in every way possible. They called, emailed, sent notes and cards. They offered prayers and put Chuck on prayer chains around the country. From those chains came notes from people we didn’t even know.

Our minister was at the hospital or on the phone daily. Others visited, brought meals, ran errands, and worked in the yard. There were so many offers of help that I couldn’t answer all of them.

My cup continues to overflow with gratitude. Prayers were answered. Healing began. Needs were taken care of. How can I complain over this latest bump in the road? I can’t. Now is the time to be grateful for blessings received.

The psalmist said: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord for He is good!”

Chuck and I also thank each of you who reflected that goodness.

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

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Oops! I did it again!

Betty's "Ice Capade" happened near here
1/25/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The morning of last week’s big snow, I slipped on a sneaky sheet of ice (disguised by snow) covering the driveway. I went down in a heap, in deep, deep pain. Prone and barely conscious, I chastised myself, “Oh, no, I did it again!”

Five minutes went by. Then ten. My whole body was numb and I was having trouble breathing. I gingerly tried to move my arms. They worked! Then I stretched my legs and wiggled my toes. They also worked. My heart did I little happy dance of hope. But then I tried to get up and couldn’t. My back went into pain spasms and I collapsed on the ice waiting for them to subside.

The day had started out splendidly. Overnight, snow had blanketed our property and turned the sticks of winter shrubs into a winter wonderland. On his way out the door, my husband reminded me that it was also very cold outside. It was his way of telling me to be on the lookout for dangerous black ice as I drove around the dam. He was headed for town and I was meeting him later.

As an avid amateur photographer, I firmly believe that you can never have enough pictures of snow-covered trees and meadows. So I grabbed my camera and car keys as I stepped out of the house to drive into town. There was a little gray squirrel running around and I wanted to snap a few pictures of him before the snow melted.

My feet crunched through the snowy areas but I remember hesitating to walk too far up the driveway. It looked icy. Instead, I walked back to the garage’s cement pad. The birch trees next to the driveway were literally sparkling with snowdrops. “Maybe,” I thought, “I can shoot them from underneath and it will look like a kaleidoscope.”

That was the last I remember. I didn’t notice that crunchy snow had turned to slick ice. Simultaneously, both feet slid out from under me. My bottom hit the ground—HARD! I bounced and then fell backwards resting on my shoulders. I briefly blacked out but not for long. Sammy (the Wonder-dog!) was right there licking my face and checking to see if I was okay.

Well, I had my doubts. It was 9:30 a.m. Except for two dogs and two cats; I was all alone on a sheet of ice. My cell phone, camera and keys had gone flying when I fell. I didn’t know how I was going to get up off the ground but I had to try.

Actually, it took several tries to get myself into an upright position so that I could crawl into the garage. Once in the garage, I pulled myself up onto the car and looked for my phone, camera and keys. They were half covered by snow. Oy! Back I went to retrieve them.

I tried to call Chuck on his cell phone but he didn’t answer. It was getting harder and harder for me to breathe (let alone talk!) but my back was screaming with each spasm. No one could see me from the road and I was pretty sure that my closest neighbor wasn’t home.

Somehow, I drove myself to the hospital’s Emergency Room. By that time, Chuck had called (wondering where I was) and I told him to meet me at the hospital. There, I was the center of attention as a young man got a wheel chair and wheeled me into the ER under the watchful gaze of a security guard.

Three hours later I had been examined, x-rayed and pronounced, “bruised and battered.” I was given pain meds and released to go home and take it easy. Miraculously, no bones were broken in this adventure but every muscle in my body is still sore. (Note: later it was determined that I have a compression fracture.)

If you are a regular reader of this column, you probably know that I am a bit accident-prone. In the last 10 years, I’ve fallen off a ladder and lacerated my head; got banged up bathing a cat; twice fallen down stairs and broken bones in my foot; and too many other things to enumerate.

Now, when I was a Girl Scout our motto was “Be Prepared.” So at this point in my life you would think that I might have some words of wisdom to offer. You would be wrong!

I simply don’t know how to stop this kind of accident from happening in my own back yard. I know how to pack a survival kit for all kinds of other circumstances—I always have a blanket, water, protein bars, flares, matches, flashlights and a fire extinguisher in our car. Our house pantry is stocked with enough non-perishable food to feed a family of 6 for a spell. We have extra bottled water, etc.

I learned from my fall off an 8-ft ladder to stay off antique ladders with round rungs and especially not to step backwards off the top rung! But Chuck solved that problem. He removed the temptation. One day I came home and he had hung it on the wall for me to decorate. Under his supervision of course.

I learned from my cat–in-the-bathtub experience that you should never put a cat in the tub with water running!

I learned from falling down stairs that accidents happen and bones don’t heal very easily at this stage of life.

So I guess there is something I should have done to keep my bottom from hitting the ice…I should have put on my snow boots and scouted the territory before I walked on it.

Of course, I could also buy one of those fancy walkers with a horn and four large wheels for stability. Maybe then I could stay upright.

Stay safe everyone!

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