Sunday, December 29, 2013

Childhood Christmas carols, cookies and church

12/18/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

“How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood
That now in memory I sadly review:
The old meeting house at the edge of the wildwood,
The rail fence and horses all tethered thereto…”
James Whitcomb Riley

I was a city girl so I have no stories to tell about tethering horses to hitching posts at the neighborhood church like James Riley’s poem. Our church, Vermont Ave. Presbyterian, was located in the heart of Los Angeles. We rode to church in cars from around the city to sing, read the scriptures, worship and socialize.

Some of the most vivid scenes of my childhood revolve around Christmas activities at church. Although I certainly waited with great anticipation for Santa Claus to come and drop down the chimney with presents, the activities prior to that day were equally exciting.

Each Sunday evening in December youth meetings were cancelled. Instead, we kids donned our coats and mittens and went Christmas caroling. The area around our inner city church could be dangerous after dark. So we all jumped in cars (driven by parents) and headed out to nearby neighborhoods where we sang traditional carols and hymns for the elderly or shut-ins.

I still remember the delight and joy the recipients expressed as we sang, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing;” “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful;” Silent Night” and other requested favorites. After the last notes were sung we drove back to the church to warm up with hot cocoa and homemade Christmas goodies. (See recipes below.)

The highlight of the season was the Christmas pageant. Every year we kids re-enacted the birth of Jesus. It was a big deal. Altogether the church seated about 2,500 people and they came from all over the city to rejoice in the good news. Messiah had come! The large church interior was transformed for this event into a cozy theatre. The auditorium was darkened, and readers used flashlights to follow the script as children’s sweet voices filled the stage.

I was 14 years old when I was chosen to play Mary in the annual pageant. Oh, my. This was a huge honor. Over the years I had worked my way up through the ranks of shepherds and choirs of angels. As a seasoned performer, playing Mary was a piece of cake. While everyone else was running around in the fields of Bethlehem, I sat, head covered, dressed as a peasant girl with Joseph and the baby Jesus. We were under a spotlight in a tower above the stage that had been transformed—complete with hay— into a stable.

It was a memorable evening. A reporter and photographer from the Los Angeles Times covered the event. The next weekend, much to my surprise, my picture graced the front page of the newspaper. Unfortunately, my family’s copy was lost long ago or I would still be reveling in my (very) brief claim to fame.

Again, this being a church, refreshments were served after the pageant. Women from all over L.A. brought their best offerings. Coffee was black and strong; hot chocolate was made with real milk and melted chocolate. Cookies and cakes were all made from scratch. No store-bought or box mixes allowed!

As I recall, everything was simple but delicious. The pride was in the experience of the baker not in the complicated recipe. The different pastries represented the ethnicity of the providers. Sugar cookies took many forms and would melt in your mouth.  A gingerbread boy was a real treat. Spice cake was relished by young and old.

In the spirit of Christmas’ past, it seems only right to share a couple of those recipes. The first is a replica of a favorite in Chuck’s German family: Butterhorn Cookies. His mother and grandmother were wonderful bakers. In fact, his grandmother owned a bakery in Wisconsin during he early 20th century. The second recipe is from my mother’s recipe book written in about 1932.

Note: Since this will be my last column of the year I wish each of you a blessed holiday. Remember the reason for the season is love. So, as a wise man once said, “Little children, love one another.” Enjoy!

Grandma Sautner

2 c. sifted flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 lb. butter
3/4 c. sour cream
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 sm. pkg. chopped walnuts (chop nuts really fine)

Sift flour into mixing bowl. Add butter, mix with fingertips until it looks like meal, then add egg yolk and sour cream. Mix until well blended. Shape into 4 balls on floured wax paper.

Store in refrigerator several hours or overnight. When ready, roll out like a pie. Sprinkle with the filling and cut into wedges, 8 to 1 crust. Roll up, starting at wide side. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and roll in sugar mixed with cinnamon or when cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

LaVaughn Varner

3/4 cup soft shortening
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2-1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger

Mix shortening, sugar, egg and molasses thoroughly. Measure flour and sift with dry ingredients; mix all together. Chill. 

To cook: Heat oven to 375° F.
Roll dough into balls the size of large walnuts. Dip tops in sugar. Place, sugared-side-up, 3" apart on greased baking sheet. Sprinkle each with 2 or 3 drops of water. Bake 10-12 min. Makes 4 dozen.

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

Lessons learned from a sweet kitty

R.I.P. Gracie
12/4/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Lessons learned from Gracie

I didn’t know that Gracie was dying. I knew something was wrong with my sweet, 11-year-old, gray kitty but I didn’t know what. And while I was busy observing her symptoms and analyzing the possible causes—something was killing her.

We pet parents try to take good care of our animals. But sometimes their sneaky symptoms are sneaky. Cats are especially good at hiding their illnesses. Lesson: their life spans are short and we should not be cavalier and ignore on-going problems. Let me tell you Gracie’s story and maybe we can all learn something from it.

Graceful Gracie didn’t walk—she danced. She didn’t jump—she leaped ballerina style landing on her toes. She didn’t MEOW—she softly mewed. Summer days would find her and George scampering through the vegetable garden, hiding under trees, playing chase and yes, squabbling. Sometimes he would bat her around and she would go looking for her favorite dog to protect her. 

Lesson: Tread lightly and have friends you can trust.

By nature, cats are hunters. In fact, during warm weather they get kind of wild. They constantly stalk and pounce on a variety of bugs, mice and flying creatures that invade their space. And it’s not because they’re hungry. During the day ours free-feed on a quality kibble with lots of clean, cool water available. Still, hunting is the nature of the feline personality.

All of our animals sleep inside at night. In the summer our cats rebelled against being corralled. They thrive on sunny days and balmy evenings. Getting them inside was an ordeal. Fortunately, they love to be groomed. Brush in hand we are able to coax them in to be groomed and then rewarded with a nice dish of tuna.

When the weather is cold, there are not too many arguments about coming in early. They spend the evening cuddled in front of the fireplace or on our laps and then head out to their comfy beds in the heated garage. Although there are four beds, the two dogs burrowed together in layered cushions and the two cats slept together in a bed off the floor. It’s a good life!

Unfortunately, cats are notorious for coughing up hairballs and it’s difficult to know which of them is having the problem when they sleep together. It’s even more difficult when one of them is bringing up an entire meal. Recently, we thought it was George.

Over the last couple of years Gracie had several serious spells of illness. Each time, we assumed she had gotten a bad bird. She spent some time at the hospital on fluids and at home on antibiotics. She bounced back. Sort of. She never really regained that happy spark that set her constantly in motion on little fairy feet. She spent much of her days sleeping outside on the wicker settee.

Sadie, her favorite Dachshund, died last month and all of the animals went into mourning. Sammy’s pain is still palpable. Every time someone drives in the driveway he practically jumps in the car looking for her. He turns over beds and cushions and checks out her favorite corners. He is bewildered. Where is she?

At the same time, the cats took to sleeping in separate beds. In hindsight, a sure sign that something else was wrong. George would sleep for several hours in the morning on Sadie’s favorite cushion. Gracie curled up in a ball in her bed, upchucked almost every meal and lost weight—a shell of her former self. What was wrong?

We thought it was grief but it was more. Last week, relaxed on my lap, Gracie cried, wretched and brought up her now bleached kibble dinner. The next morning she had a high fever and was breathing erratically. At the vet’s office this very sick kitty PURRED during the exam. The hope was that the root of the problem could be found, meds given and she could come home at the end of the day.

Instead, her condition worsened as specialists consulted. There was an obstruction. Cancer? Her options were few and expensive—an ultrasound, exploratory surgery, more pain. She never came home.

I have beaten myself up and cried copious tears wondering how I could have missed the severity of her condition. Lesson: I thought her illness would be easily solved. I should have stopped analyzing and listened to that intuitive voice that said, “Something is very wrong. Take her to the vet—again!”

We pet parents sometimes neglect getting professional care and “pet medicate” because of the cost. Why do we hope that the problem will magically go away? Why do we think that animals, are not suffering and will shrug off an illness? That may be thrifty, wishful thinking but it is not wise or humane.

So what have I learned with the death of two furry children in the space of a month? 

Lesson one: I need to act on my first instincts when I am aware that something is wrong. 

Lesson two: Sometimes, despite our best efforts there is not a positive outcome. Only God knows why things happen. 

Lesson three: Eventually we have to say goodbye.

R.I.P. Gracie. You were my sweet girl and I miss you.

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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Downsizing the news

11/20/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Downsizing the news

I came to work for the Cottage Grove Sentinel in 1996. I, who knew nothing about office work, was under the tutelage of a woman who was incredibly patient with me. Over and over again she explained to me how the new-fangled computers in the office worked. I was a slow learner so it was a great relief when a computer-savvy employee came to work with us as we answered phones and kept things humming. However, for a long time we weren’t completely computerized.

In those pre-computer days, it took a whole slew of employees in every department to put out the paper. There were three of us in the front office plus a couple of people in charge of circulation. Most classified ads and billing were done by hand. Jody Rolnick, a reporter and editor extraordinaire, had been promoted to publisher. Brad Chambers, our ad manager, along with his sidekick Kathy Boykin, kept things humming along in the ad department. The newsroom was composed of an editor, reporter, sports editor, news intern and full-time photographer.

Hard working, award-winning editors came and went, along with many interns from the UO. Robin Bachtler Cushman and Rebekah-mae Bruns were our outstanding photographers in a pre-digital age. First they shot the most amazing, award winning pictures. Then they went into the darkroom, developed and printed their masterpieces.

All of our work—news and photos—was turned over to a variety of people in composing. Once the cutting and pasting was done our work was trundled by one of us in the company van up to the Springfield News on Tuesday morning to be printed. That evening the papers were brought back to C.G. for distribution by school kids and mail. Now all issues are delivered by mail, a costly process.

Some years circulation teams were hired to sit in the back room to solicit new subscribers. It was always a hubbub of activity for the couple of weeks they spent with us. They also called people to remind them about subscription renewals. The process was expensive but it paid off in increased readership.

In 1999, Finn John (an editor with vision and chutzpah!) hired me to be the “society editor.” He had this grand idea to return the Sentinel to the days when social news was important. The job fit me like a glove. To me it wasn’t work. It was a great joy to write three columns a week—Cook’s Corner, The Chatterbox and Neighborhood News—plus the occasional front-page story.  I covered stories, typed and kept track of births, marriages, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations and any animal related calls. I loved every minute of it.

I remember those days fondly and that was just a few short years ago. Sadly, things have changed dramatically. Today everything is computerized and people aren’t as necessary for the bottom line.

As readers and advertisers take their classified ads to Craigslist and other online venues, newspapers like The Oregonian and Register Guard are hanging on by their fingernails. This summer, after decades of award winning success (including a Pulitzer Prize), The Oregonian dismissed over 200 employees and reduced its newsroom by 25 percent. Production is still seven days a week but home deliveries were cut to four days a week!

Of course, business is business and the bills have to be paid but less workers means there’s another price to pay. Quality on every level, including customer service, will inevitably suffer when any business is understaffed. The C.G. Sentinel, like so many others, is also a shell of its former self. Hours and budgets have been cut and one person, instead of many, staffs each department.

Nothing is better than a print newspaper. Sure, we can listen to the news on the radio, read it on-line or watch it on television but it’s very impersonal. Holding a newspaper in your hand triggers a connection between you and the story, a writer or a local business. If you’re reading this you are one of the few who support a traditional 125-year-old newspaper. Thank you! We appreciate and need you.

As for me, I am among the downsized. My columns will now be published twice monthly. But writer-reader relationships remain the same. So please keep in touch! Perhaps it's time for an expansion of this blog!

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

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Sadie

Princess Sadie in her prime
10/23/13 Betty Kaiser's Chatterbox
“Dogs are not our whole life 
but they make our life whole.”
Roger Caras

It is hard to believe that our beloved Sadie is gone. It seems like just yesterday that my husband and I adopted a little red-haired, four-footed bundle of joy and brought her home to live with our mixed pack of cats, dogs, wildlife and people.

Sadie was one of only two pups in her litter and her owners were very protective of her future. First, we had to pass a telephone questionnaire: Where did we live? How many people were in the home? Were there other animals? Would someone be home during the day to keep her company? Would she be an inside or outside dog? Was our property fenced? It was quite an interrogation!

After the telephone test we were given the family’s address in Portland and allowed to visit the puppies in person. We were on our best behavior. After all, we were being judged for parental suitability. We met the canine birth parents, played with the puppies and were instructed in the care and feeding of Mini-Dachshunds by the family’s two teenage sons.

We promised to love, honor and cherish her. More instructions were given. Finally, we were accepted. The big question was whether or not this little girl would accept us. Fortunately, as we started the long drive home she quickly settled down. I covered her with a blanket as she nestled in my arms and immediately climbed into our hearts.

At home our tiny bundle was checked out and accepted by our resident German Shepherd. Lady would become her BFF (Best Friend Forever). Thus the bonding of the pack began and an indescribably wonderful 14-year relationship of love, joy and companionship was established.
It was one of mutual co-dependence. We loved her. She loved us. We took care of her. She took care of us. She was our buddy. Our best friend. Our comforter. Our joy. Just watching her happily bound out into the meadow, barking and wagging her tail made us happy.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. About 18-months ago Sadie slowed down dramatically after a back injury. Sammy, her 5-year old buddy, would come bounding into the house and bark for her to come outside and play. She wasn’t interested. Instead, she was content to settle down indoors and watch him from a fluffy cushion overlooking the deck and meadow.

As the year progressed I realized she was showing her age. Her once shiny red coat was now a dusty brown and her muzzle was gray. Her vision was cloudy and hearing diminished. In a few short weeks she was completely deaf. To get her attention we had to touch her on the back and then use sign language to communicate commands.

With her loss of hearing came some behavioral changes-especially a separation anxiety. She developed a particularly annoying habit of whining or shrilly barking when she wanted attention. She would sharply (and constantly) yip to come in or go out of the house. Most days she would tremble with frustration as she peered outside.

This summer her hindquarters quit cooperating with her forepaws. Going up and down stairs was trial and error. If the stairs were narrow and steep she would not attempt them. Even outside, where the steps were wide and broad she hesitated. Casual, carefree running and jumping stopped and her breathing became labored.

She was being treated for a mysterious allergy that caused violent sneezing. Then there was a diagnosis of bronchitis. Finally, late one Sunday evening after she had been coughing and sneezing uncontrollably all day, we took her to the Veterinary ER in Springfield. At midnight we had a new diagnosis of sinus infection caused by a possible nasal blockage. We went home with new medications, heavy hearts and a very sick dog.

Days went by and she didn’t get better. A specialist was consulted and it was decided that our precious pup had an inoperable nasal tumor. A specially compounded medication had a fifty-percent chance of buying her some time. Question: Time for what? It seemed that it would only delay her inevitable death. What were we to do?

The next morning Sadie was clearly suffering. She and I snuggled on her favorite chair but she didn’t want to be touched or petted. She couldn’t breath but she could talk. And talk she did. She looked me in the eyes and yipped and yelped and gasped. It seemed to me that she was repeatedly saying, “Help me!”

I gave her a sedative to calm her down and prayed. We have had to have other dogs euthanized and it’s never easy to “play God.” So I asked, “Would it be in her best interest to extend her life or end it?

One by one, the answers to that question fell into place. Sadie was 14 years old. She had a terminal illness. This illness (tumor, unable to breathe, constant coughing spasms) could not be significantly alleviated by medication. She wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Treatment would only maintain a poor quality of life. She had lost all joy in being a dog. There was no gain in medication. Only pain.

On Friday, Oct. 11 at 5:30 p.m. Sadie crossed over to that place where Lady, her BFF, and the rest of our pack were waiting. As she left this world and our tears fell, I thought my heart would break. We had promised to love, honor and cherish her. She did all that and more for us. Now she was gone from our lives but lives forever in our hearts—along all the other pets that have made us better people.

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

Step by step brings hope for homeless

10/9/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

It’s 7 a.m. and my clock radio is spilling out the morning news.  As I snuggle down under my warm blankets for a little more sleep my mind starts to wake up as I take in what has happened overnight.
Inevitably, the news is bad.

Recently, a boat packed with African immigrants sank off the coast of Italy. In New York, arrests are being made after dozens of motorcyclists swarmed an SUV (some injured in the process), pulled the driver from his vehicle and beat him. In Myanmar, men armed with machetes to kill and destroy, continue to attack villages. The inhabitants of planet earth are literally taking a beating.

As I process this news, I don’t think I’m alone in asking, “What is our world coming to?” Nor am I the only one to look around helplessly and say, “I’m just one person. How can I help make things better?”

Well, today’s column is about one person who decided there was something she could do to help  (not harm) one segment of our population-the homeless. It’s a subject that Lane County residents are familiar with: How do we help the homeless help themselves?

I came across Anne Mahlum’s answer to the problem while searching the web for information on Eugene’s situation. The SLEEPS (Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep) camp protest was in full steam. The subject was so complex that the more I read, the more confused I became. “There are no solutions,” I thought.

Mahlum would disagree. She is an attractive, young, blond woman who took up running to save her sanity. Her father was an alcoholic and running was her way of dealing with his alcoholism as it affected her. Running was therapy. “Running,” she says, “really is a metaphor for life. You just have to take it one step at a time.”

At 5 a.m. on most days of the week, Mahlum could be found running the dark streets of Philadelphia. A veteran marathoner, her route took her by a shelter for the homeless where the men would cheer her on. She would wave and pay them scant attention. But one day something changed.

She remembers thinking, “Why am I running past these guys? I’m moving my life forward every day and these guys are standing in the same spot.” On that day in 2007, ‘Back on my Feet,’ was born.

Mahlum contacted the shelter for permission; got donations of running gear and invited the shelter residents to join her three days a week on a mile long run. She no longer passed them by. She was including them in her life. Requirements were simple. They must live in an affiliated facility; be clean and sober for 30 days; attend an informational session and sign a commitment form.

Other runners in the community volunteered to run with and encourage the shelter residents. Along with the male and female shelter residents, the diverse group included doctors, janitors, and students. Their run between 5:30-6 a.m. begins in a circle with a request to say your name and something you like about yourself. One man smiles and offers, “I like getting my life back together.”

When they run, “You can’t tell who’s homeless and who’s not,” says Mahlum. “All you can tell is who’s the fastest. ‘’’

The informal runs eventually morphed into a program that has returned productive individuals to society. Mahlum says it’s simple. “We’re all looking for the same thing. We all want to be appreciated, loved and supported. People don’t want to be in shelters, they just don’t know how NOT to be there.”

‘Back on my Feet’ gives shelter residents shoes and gear but their running commitment includes community and social building opportunities. With their participation in multiple activities they earn access to job training partners, housing opportunities and $2500 in financial aid. It’s a success, Mahlum says, because runners are motivated, reliable, ambitious and responsible.

One of those motivated individuals is shown in a video. Kenny joined a running team in 2008. Until then he had been stuck in a shelter. He couldn’t get out. He says, “As I began to run, my mind became healthier. My body became healthier. And my decisions became healthier.” Today Kenny says it was like a marathon to get where he is but now he’s so happy. “Working consistently around the city (in landscaping) is a beautiful thing. Now I’ve got my own place. My own kitchen. My own shower. There’s nothing like your own.”

‘Back on my Feet’ now has 10 chapters to help in their homeless outreach. And because of a simple team running program, hundreds of homeless individuals have found meaning in life. They have found light at the end of a long tunnel. Yes, they now have jobs and housing but they have something more—hope and purpose

Anne Mahlum has won many awards for her work but she’s not impressed with herself. She’s impressed with the people she’s helping. “Put people in a positive environment,” she says, and it’s amazing what can happen. I’m not the one changing their lives. They’re doing it for themselves.”

Now, every morning when I wake up to the news, I think of Anne Mahlum and our community of volunteers: our local Relief Nursery; Community Sharing; Parent Partnership; hospital and school volunteers and so many others who bring sunshine to darkness.

Yes, the world seems to be spinning out of control. But there is no end to hope. One person can certainly make a difference but working together we can change our world. Step by step by step.

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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A waterfall destination

9/25/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Ah, youth! I remember it well!  The world was my oyster and travel was my dream. Although my husband and I married young and lived frugally for many years, we always took our three kids on yearly camping vacations.  Thanks to cabins and tent trailers, we enjoyed state parks in most of the Western United States.

Once our children grew up and flew the coop, we spread our wings and did some traveling abroad. At some point in the 1980s I posted a “Top Ten Places in the world to visit” list on my office bulletin board. The goal of course, was to visit every place on the list and if possible, every continent. We didn’t quite make them all but we’ve been almost every place overseas that was important to us.

Now that we are in our 70s, we can look back and enjoy exotic memories of places like Petra in Jordan and the famous Egyptian Pyramids. But our more active youthful vacation adventures were all here in the states. They included rafting magnificent glaciers in Alaska; and hiking trails from Death Valley and King’s Canyon in California to snowmobiling the Grand Mesa in Colorado.

Aging has put somewhat of a crimp in our travel ventures. Flying over the pond no longer holds much allure for us. Bad backs and knees mean less hiking and more overlooks. We now focus on places in the Pacific Northwest and across the United States that we haven’t been. But truthfully, we are always happy to come home to Oregon.

This year we didn’t even want to fly across the country. So we downsized our travels again. We’ve always loved waterfalls so we got in the RV to check out some of the falls in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest area: The Upper, Middle and Lower Lewis River Falls. We were staying nearby on the Columbia River and decided to make the short trek from Woodland into the Lower Lewis River Falls area.

Sandra and Terry, our longtime friends and RV buddies joined us. These fun-loving travel companions just happen to have a tow-car and were the driver and co-pilot on a typical Kaiser Adventure journey into the wilderness. I am the navigator on these trips and Chuck is the resident comedian. The four of us make quite a team.

As navigator, I had prepared driving instructions via the Northwest Waterfall Survey website. It seemed to be a short hour-long drive, so we violated travel rule #1: always pack a lunch. A nearby Chamber of Commerce assured us that lunch would be easily obtained in nearby Cougar. The access description was simple:

“Easy Access: Take Interstate 5 to the town of Woodland, and exit onto Highway 503 heading east. Follow 503 east to Cougar, and continue to Forrest Service Road # 90, just past the Pine Creek Ranger Station. Follow FR 90 for 14 miles to the Lower Falls Recreation Area. Parking for the falls is to the right of the entrance. There are numerous trails along the canyon leading to several good views of the falls in less than 500 feet.”

After breakfast at Rosie’s Coffee Shop, we hit the road about 10 a.m. or so. The drive to Cougar was beautiful—densely wooded areas growing alongside deep blue reservoirs. About an hour into the drive, my husband, who is not known for his patience, began to say, ”Are we there yet?” “No, Chuck, we’re not there, yet,” we would all chorus in reply.

About that time we started driving over a series of bridges. Our co-pilot isn’t fond of heights and was getting a bit woozy. Ever solicitous, Chuck would say, “Close your eyes,” as we approached bridge after bridge and he closed his eyes! There were no waterfall signs in sight.

As the miles clicked off, the roads narrowed, traffic was sparse and tension mounted. We had passed Cougar, our last chance for lunch. We had water and protein bars but that was it. That’s when Chuck looked at me and busted us up by dramatically groaning, “We’re all going to die!” Well, we all thought we were going to die laughing!

Still, there was nothing to indicate that waterfalls were anywhere in the vicinity. I was responsible for our directions and my reputation was on the line. Our driver pulled over and asked to see the map. Yep. He confirmed that we seemed to be going in the right direction.

Right then, the pavement ended and we could see a gravel rock ‘n roll road ahead. Then someone spotted a small sign indicating that there was a campground at the end of the road. A group of motorcyclists came roaring up the road towards us. That was good news. People had gone down and come back up alive.

So down into the canyon we went, bottoming out in the valleys and repeating the now famous saying, “We’re all going to die!”

The road was rough, steep and washed out in places but the reward was worth it. The Lower Falls was a short walk outside the campground. A solid wall of water crashes into the large pool in a spectacular fashion with other falls just a few feet away. The Middle and Upper falls are accessed from this area but according to fellow sightseers not worth the trouble.

That was good enough for us. We admired the view, climbed down on the rocks, took pictures, made more memories, ate our protein bars, drank our water and headed back to Rosie’s for a very, very late 3 p.m. lunch. We were alive and well.

There is a time and a season for everything. A time for big trips and small. So whatever your age, get out and see our beautiful country before it's too late.

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

Trivia Time!

9/11/13 Chatterbox

Betty Kaiser

As I write this, today is a day to stay inside and get caught up on desk work. The weather has changed. Big, black clouds hover ominously overhead; thunder is rumbling in the distance and fat raindrops are falling on the parched ground. No gardening today. Instead, I am gathering information for my annual end-of-summer trivia column.

All year I save email trivia that readers send me. For someone who isn’t on Facebook I manage to accumulate a lot of interesting Trivial Pursuit type information. The following batch of collections I randomly clumped together under “I didn’t know that!”  Check out these fun facts and see if you learn anything new:

In a five-card poker game there are 2,598,960 possible hands.

The National Safety Council reports that the object most often choked on is the toothpick.

Glass gets stronger the longer it is underwater. The only known substance to do so.

Leonardo Da Vinci could draw with one hand and write with the other simultaneously.

Adolf Hitler was Time Magazine’s 1938 Man of the Year.

The average human sheds 40 pounds of skin in a lifetime.

That sound you hear in the seashell is the echo of blood pulsing in your ear.

Ping Pong is the national sport of China.

A bride in China wears red.

In China, the day a baby is born it is considered 1 year old.

On average, the life span of an American dollar bill is 18 months.

The U.S. government will not allow portraits of living persons on postage stamps.

If you have at least 5/8 of a torn dollar bill, it can be redeemed for full value.

Ancient Egyptians shaved off their eyebrow to mourn the death of their cats.

Dolphins have bigger brains than humans.

A bee loses 22 muscles to sting you

An electric eel will short-circuit itself if it is put into salt water.

The great horned owl is the only animal that eats skunk.

A pigeon’s feathers weigh more than its bones.

A snail takes 115 DAYS to travel a mile.

Cats can’t taste sweet things.

Spiders have transparent blood.

Rats can’t vomit.

Female armadillos have exactly four babies at the same time and they are always the same sex.

An armadillo can be housebroken.

A rattlesnake can bite you up to an hour after it’s dead because of a reflex action.

Telephone poles in Uganda and Kenya are much higher to allow for the height of giraffes.

A female elephant can be pregnant nearly two years.

Eight out of ten people who read the word YAWN or see yawning, feel the urge to yawn.

Pretty fascinating stuff. Right? Now we’re going to move on to the handy hints department. I get these by the bucket load. Most are familiar and I delete but some are helpful. The first is really not a handy hint. It’s more like something one of my grandsons would do.

Here’s how to ride an elevator without stopping: Hold close door button till doors close. Keep holding. Select floor and do not let go of number and close door button till elevator moves. This will allow you to go straight to that floor without stops. My source said “This works on every elevator.” I haven’t tried it. Here are the hints:

A glass bowl makes a great amplifier for an iPhone.

Use bread bag clips to label cords: Keyboard, Dock, Mouse, Power

Cardboard tubes work great for organizing cords.

Use a wooden spoon to prevent water from over-boiling (shows spoon balanced across top of pot of boiling water.)

Use a can opener to safely open those pesky plastic packages.

Wrap Christmas lights around a clothes hanger and they won’t tangle.

Don’t waste your money on Swiffer towels. Regular kitchen rags work just fine.

Use sticky notes to catch debris while drilling.

Rubber band a sock over a vacuum to find small lost items.

Hanging pictures? Use a comb to hold the nail No more smashed fingers.

Several times this year folks sent me Historical Trivia dating back to colonial days. Most say, “Bet you didn’t know that!” And they were right. See if you know how these two sayings originated.

“At local taverns, pubs and bars, people drank from pint and quart containers. A bar maids job was to keep an eye on the customer and keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who was drinking in ‘pints’ and who was drinking in ‘quarts,’ hence the phrase ‘minding your P’s and Q’s.’

In the late 1700s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall for dining. The head of the household always sat in the chair while everyone else sat on the floor. Sitting in the chair meant you were important. Thus the saying, “Chairman of the board.”

Finally, a lesson in grammar that someone sent me titled: “How to Write Good.”

1.    Avoid alliteration. Always.

2.    Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3.    Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)

4.    Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

5.    One should never generalize.

6.    Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

7.    Be more or less specific.

8.    Sentence fragments? Eliminate.

9.    Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

10.  Parenthetical remarks (however relevant are unnecessary.

11. Who needs rhetorical questions?

Next week we’ll delve into some handy kitchen and diet hints that are lurking in my inbox. Until then—thanks! And keep sending me those emails!

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

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Everyone is a winner at the W.O.E.

Milestone roses take first place in competition
8/28/13 Chatterbox        
Betty Kaiser

“Time flies” is the lament of life. As our local W.O.E. fair ended, I realized that the days of summer were winding down to a precious few and school days about to begin. Oh, there are still vegetables to be picked and fruit to be canned, but summer is on the way out!

One day its show time for 4-H and the next minute moms and dads are scurrying around getting their kids ready for school. There are clothes and school supplies to buy, haircut and doctor appointments to be made. Carpools and after-school care must be arranged; older kids must be signed up for classes and athletic teams. Whew. Being a parent is big job but rewarding.

I was reminded of the joys of parenting as I watched parents and children participating in W.O.E. activities. It was particularly evident in the livestock division. Clearly they were learning life skills that will serve them well in every avenue of life. It made this mother’s heart happy to see them working together.

I always wanted my kids to join 4-H but they were city kids. I was interested in animal husbandry but they were not. They liked scouting and camping but raising chickens, cows, pigs and sheep were not on their so-called bucket list. And unless it was horseback riding, my grandchildren were equally uninterested.

Of course, not having to raise animals (while I was raising kids) saved me a lot of time and money. Maybe that’s why I like going to local fairs and being around the animals so much. I get to appreciate other people’s hard work and expertise without any personal investment.

Small town events are like family reunions. You get to appreciate the achievements of other people’s children as if they were your own. Saturday morning at the W.O.E. I reveled in the joy and interaction of everyone from toddlers to teens to adults.

Sitting in the bleachers at 10 a.m. I was waiting for the Lumberjack Show to begin. Axes were being thrown at targets and participants were sizing up logs with a variety of saws. I had no idea there were so many different chain saws! In the modified division the first contestant couldn’t get his saw going and when he did, he couldn’t keep it going. Of course, as soon as he walked off the field, it started! Everyone broke into applause. Family does that.

A couple of little guys (brothers) were sitting in the bleachers near me waiting for the competition to get going. The older of the two, Gavin Williams, 5, had his very own plastic chain saw. After much coaxing, he reluctantly posed for a picture with his saw. I can just imagine that he was thinking that one day he’d be competing out on that field.

Suddenly, I heard a familiar noise. It sounded like horses. It was horses! Two members of the Cottage Grove Riding Club had ridden up from the creek and were watching the competition. Lending a little western authenticity to the event, Macie was riding her horse Seven. Courtney was on her horse Pete. Dressed in riding clothes, they were also members of the Queen’s Court.

Meanwhile, the logging contest was underway and I learned a bit about sawing and throwing that I didn’t know. For instance, did you know that in the center of the axe throw target is a can of beer? It is warm and shaken. Yuck. But if you hit it and the beer spills out, you receive extra five points. Yea!

Later, I wandered into the barn to check out the livestock. It was a busy place. In the small animal and birds category I saw a variety of birds, chickens, guinea pigs and rabbits. Goats and some adorable shaggy sheep were the biggest animals that I saw.

The kids not only showcased their projects but also demonstrated animal knowledge at very young ages. Seven-year old Campbell Ellis was incredibly poised and articulate as he stood at the exhibition table and answered questions. His guinea pig and chicken each won a blue ribbon.

 Eric Stone is only three years old but this was his second year at the fair! This tow-headed little guy was clutching a chicken that was almost as big as he was (maybe a Bantam?). Also (if I understood it correctly) he had an Olive Egger rooster! And yes, he also won blue ribbons.

The goats were so beautiful and such happy creatures. Unfortunately, I was taking mostly mental notes so I don’t have names and breeds to share. But I believe that Honey, Summer and Skye all belonged to the Saucedo family. They were gorgeous beige and cream colors. I wanted to take them and their shaggy sheep friends home to be our meadow mowers.

After I congratulated the kids, I moseyed over to the textiles, culinary and food preservation divisions. I admired the quilts and a huge squash and sunflower. Caroline Pettit filled me in on the fine points of entering preserved foods for competition as I checked out some beautiful table settings.

Finally, it was time to go and I discovered that I was a winner! In my first entry—at any fair—my beautiful Milestone roses won first place. Wow. A blue ribbon. I can’t believe it. I’m going to savor this all year long while I plot my next entry.

Thanks, W.O.E., I had a great time. See ‘ya next year!

Disclaimer:  I’m a born and bred city girl. It’s pretty clear that I don’t know a rooster from a hen. My apologies to anyone whose name I have misspelled or animal I have incorrectly identified. Corrections gladly accepted. Congratulations to all!

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

The W.O.E.: an old-fashioned country fair

8/14/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Every summer for 81 years, generations of local residents have happily anticipated our annual fair and now it’s here. This weekend, Aug. 16-18, the W.O.E Cottage Grove Heritage Fair & Timber Show will be in full swing, full of old-fashioned fun and entertainment.

My husband and I attended our first W.O.E. in 1989. We had been to many super extravagant fairs that were overwhelming and exhausting. This fair was different. Relaxing. A step back in time. One that allowed us to appreciate a community at work and play.

We enjoyed the small town ambiance: savored the sights and smells of animals munching hay and being groomed; and drank in the joy of laughter and neighborly competition. At the W.O.E. there are just enough animals to admire, food to eat, shade to sit under and exhibits to appreciate. Its size is ‘just right.’

Traditionally, fairs started as organized agricultural events. As far back as the Old Testament, folks came from near and far to display (and sell) their livestock. In the Book of Ezekiel it says, “They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses and horsemen and mules.” That was the beginning of annual traditions around the world.

Elkanah Watson is considered the father of the American-style Fair. In the early 19th century Mr. Watson exhibited some mighty fine Merino sheep in Massachusetts. He wanted to share his knowledge with fellow farmers and thus education was added to fairs. He even encouraged women to come and add their art and feminine perspective to new events.

Over the decades, entertainment, food, commercial exhibits and carnival rides were added. Sizewise, fairs range from small to humongous. Think Cottage Grove’s yearly W.O.E vs. The Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years in India. A record 60 million people attended in 2001 making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world. To each his own, but personally, I break out in a sweat just thinking about that many people in one place!

Every fair has a different flavor. (Pun intended.) In Tillamook, Oregon, it’s cheese (of course) and pigs. Yep. According to fair organizers, they have the only Pig-N-Ford races in the nation. The race goes something like this: Drivers, usually six at a time, pick a 40-pound pig out of a bin, tuck it under an arm, run to a waiting Model T, crank it up and drive once around a half-mile track. They change pigs and repeat the lap, then do it a third time. After three days of pigging and cranking, a champion is announced.

This being a logging town, our competitions are area appropriate. Friday night at 6 p.m. (the first night of the fair) bystanders can watch and cheer during the Ax Throw, Hot Saw, Men’s Double Buck and Modifiers contestants. Sat. morning at 10 a.m. there are kid’s events along with Women’s Stocksaw, Hotsaw, Ax Throw, Modifieds, 6 Cube Under and Big Log Stock Saw competitors.

Exhibits are mandatory. Browsing through the 10 different Divisions (Textiles, Culinary, Forestry, Livestock, etc.) and their dozens of sub classes, I determined we must have an abundance of talented individuals in our fair town. So if you have any textile skills at all, there’s a category for you. Class I is Theme of Fair (see page 8). Textile classes to enter include: crochet, knit, tatting, artistic handwork, quilting, sewing, fleece, weaving, hand spun yarn, rugs, holidays and original design by professionals.

As for all of you gardeners, check out the list in Flowers/Forestry: potted indoor plants, potted outdoor plants, cut flowers, arboreal, theme arrangements, garden craft and many sub-headings. Now is the time to show off your green thumb.

The Culinary division is huge! Bread: sourdough, fruit bread, muffins, donuts, sweet rolls and coffee cakes; Decorated and Diabetic (cakes, pies and cookies), Candy and more. Then comes table settings, categories for food preservation, fruits and farm produce. Next up are art, crafts and hobbies, amateur ceramics and both amateur and professional tole painting. There are 8 photography categories, scrapbooking, and dozens of livestock entry possibilities. Think cattle, sheep, goats, swine, rabbits, guinea pigs, poultry and more!

Maybe (like me), you’ve never entered a contest—but a blue ribbon is enticing. So do it! Enter something. Read the complete WOE publication that came in your July 31 Sentinel. “Exhibit Information” begins on page 10 under and will tell you everything you need to know. The most important thing to remember is that entries begin today (Wed.) noon—8 p.m. and the deadline for all entries is tomorrow (Thursday) from 8 a.m.—noon. 

Friday is when the fun begins. In addition to the contests, kids can play games, climb the rock wall or build and race their own derby-style cars. Everyone can check out the classic cars, have their face painted, learn about bee keeping, get a glitter tattoo, pet a critter, enter the daily pie eating contest, play bingo, listen to ghost mine stories and pan for gold. That’s just for starters. There’s more.

Entry into the fair world will only cost you $3 per person OR $2 per person AND one (1) can of food for Community Sharing. Kids 12 years and under are free. And the price of admission will include entertainment with all types of music from Americana, Bluegrass, Jazz and Blues. That’s a good deal!

Last, but not least, there’s food. You’re going to get hungry with all that running around. Fortunately, there are a variety of fragrant, fattening and fried foods available. I just throw dietary caution to the winds and chow down on fair-hearty foods like corn dogs, sno-cones and Kettle Korn. See you there!

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thieves steal garden's serenity

7/24/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The Ina M. Daugherty Memorial Garden is a local oasis of serenity and inspiration. This private, church-owned garden is located adjacent to the First Presbyterian Church of Cottage Grove, at the corner of Adams and South 3rd St. It invites neighbors and churchgoers to enjoy the shade of old growth trees and drink in the sweet surroundings of fragrant flowering plants. It offers free serenity.

Recently, someone(s) decided to steal the serenity. In fact, they first went all around town and helped themselves to a selection of plants that didn’t belong to them. They tipped over a planted barrel downtown, yanked out geraniums at The This ‘n That store and then brought shovels to the Daugherty Garden. There, they brazenly dug up specimen size azaleas, hydrangeas and more.

That same week, vandals were also out wreaking havoc at Pine Meadows Campground. Six young males were allegedly drinking beer and walking through the campground looking for trouble. Perhaps they were the ones who tore the porch off the entrance booth and stole a golf cart. Later, someone sped through the Primitive Campground at 4:30 a.m. waking up campers and spinning donut circles in the ground.

Ina and Warren Daugherty would not be happy. They were givers not takers and believed in building up the community—not tearing it down. Like many of Cottage Grove’s pioneers, Mr. Daugherty was in the logging business. In the early 1920s, he and a partner harvested timber until the best of it was gone. Mr. Daugherty’s partner decided to quit but he persevered saying, “We’ve built the roads and made the investment, let’s harvest the smaller trees as piling. The opportunity is where you are-not someplace else.”

In 1923 Daugherty established a wholesale lumber and piling business. It was successful and eventually moved to offices above the Knickerbocker store on Main St. In the late 1940s, he purchased the Chambers lumber mill. To pay for it, he mortgaged everything he had, borrowed from family and went deeply into debt to finance the remaining one million dollars needed.

The mill was a success but burned down in 1950. Today, South Lane Fire Dept. sits on a portion of the property and the children’s park across the way on Harrison St. was a gift from Mr. Daugherty. One of many that enhanced our city.

As profits from his businesses came in the couple partnered in giving back to the community. Some of their money established the Warren H. Daugherty Aquatic Center. Some was set aside to build a new Presbyterian Church on Adams Ave. Ina was very active in church activities. Warren was not much of a church goer but a great giver.

Ina worked with the famous Italian architect Pietro Belluschi in designing the building that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1951, it is all wood and the style became known as Pacific Northwest Architecture. Mr. Daugherty donated all the lumber for the building and his wife helped with the design.

Later, the Benson property adjacent to the church was purchased from an endowment fund that the Daughertys had established in 1963. The house on the property was torn down and the site landscaped in honor of Ina, a longtime member and benefactor of the church. It was a proper memorial and recognition for one who loved flowers and was often found weeding in the church gardens.

Over the years, the property fell into disrepair: paths were washed away; vines, weeds, fallen branches, debris and general overgrowth obscured the garden’s original intent and beauty. It became obvious that a complete overhaul of the property was necessary.

In 2009 a volunteer work force headed by a master gardener, began a restoration project that continues today. Together, a small core of men and women, worked tirelessly every week. The first two years they hauled away dozens of truckloads of overgrowth revealing the good bones of the garden and (surprise!) a large cedar tree!

Slowly the shape of a classic urban garden began to emerge.
In 2011 a rose garden was established along with other perennials such as azaleas, daffodils, holly bushes, tulips and Japanese maples. The volunteers also tediously replaced 1,000 feet of path border while the weeding; pruning and general clean up continued.

In 2012, the garden underwent more major renovations and plantings. Nearly three dump truck loads of wet quarter-minus gravel were spread and compacted on the paths. Dozens more perennials were added, patches of day lilies were separated and spread throughout the garden and of course…more pruning and weeding.

Last summer, the garden was chosen to be on the South Lane Mental Health’s 4th Annual Town and Country Garden Tour. The Daugherty’s would have been proud that their investment was still reaping benefits for others to enjoy. And it was a dream shared for all who contributed time, money, energy and sweat equity.

Today, the garden is an on-going project bringing peace and joy to the workers and all visitors. There is also documented on-going vandalism and graffiti by young people. Now some anti-theft measures must be put into place because some yardbirds wanted landscaping material for their garden at no cost to themselves.

Today, more than ever, we must always be vigilant about our properties. Fortunately,  there are now available a variety of cameras, motion-activated sprinklers and lights that can be installed to protect our stuff. I’m not sure they can bring peace of mind but they can help. Maybe one can find the Pine Meadows campground golf cart!

It’s sad. We work. Thugs steal. It has ever been this way. So folks, look out for one another. Know your neighbors. Cooperate and communicate. Teach your children and your grandchildren that private property means just that.  It’s private. It belongs to someone else. Don’t steal, deface or tear it up. Respect is more than the Golden Rule. It's also good karma.

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