Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Christmas story

12/24/14 Chatterbox

Betty Kaiser

“Merry Christmas, My Friend”

It’s Christmas Eve and time to celebrate. At its core, Christmas is spiritual—a religious holiday. Sometimes we need to be reminded that it is more than glitz, glamour and gluttony. Christians all over the world are celebrating the birth of Christ. But that doesn’t leave anyone out. Because everyone can celebrate peace, love and joy. And in America we can all rejoice that we live in the land of the free and the brave.

It has long been my holiday tradition to find and share an old-fashioned, feel-good Christmas story. One that will warm our hearts as it reminds us that Christmas about things of the heart. My story time frame is usually around the Great Depression era because so many had so little but appreciated what they did have—family.

This year’s story salutes the family bond from a military perspective. It’s a Christmas tribute to those who serve our country (and us). A tearjerker written from Santa’s perspective. I first saw it years ago in a greeting card from the USO. The author, James M. Schmidt, was a Lance Corporal stationed in Washington D.C. in 1986. A Marine, he was inspired to write a Christmas poem by a Marine for Marines. He hung it on the door of the Marine Barracks gym.

Later, Lance Corporal Schmidt explained how he pounded it out on a typewriter while awaiting the commanding officer’s annual Christmas holiday decoration inspection. The other leathernecks strung lights for the contest. His contribution was a poem for his section. It was so touching that copies were made and passed around all over the world. Soon it was published in the Marine Corp Gazette and later in Leatherneck Magazine in 1991.

Over the years, the poem was adjusted (dare I say plagiarized?) and claimed by other branches of the Armed Forces. The Internet version is Army. (Well, I think it’s the Army. The verse mentions a soldier.) Other versions are credited to Marines stationed in Okinawa and Afghanistan and one version to an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. And if you are Navy, there is even a “Sailor’s Christmas” piece. You can find it at: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1941076/posts

The following version is the original, as printed in “Leatherneck” back in 1991. Schmidt, the author, was evidently a good Marine as well as a writer. He was a recruit and infantry school honor graduate and selected for security at Camp David, Md., under Ronald Reagan. He is now an attorney in Los Angeles. May God bless us all.

Merry Christmas, My Friend
By James M. Schmidt, a Marine Lance Corporal,
 stationed in Washington D.C., in 1986

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
and grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said, "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Battle of Good versus Evil continues

11/12/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Battle of good versus evil continues

I lost my cool last week. Big time. Sitting in my office reading the International news on my computer screen I came completely unglued. No, it wasn’t about the Nov. election results, Obama Care, the Ebola quarantine debate, Honey Boo-boo or any other controversial topic consuming us here in the U.S.A.

My tirade was directed at an arrogant, bloodthirsty sadist clear across the world in Nigeria. I cried. I ranted and raved and wished that I knew how to apply some vile curses. The target was Abubaker Shekau, a Nigerian Islamic extremist and the leader of Boko Haram. A name that means: Western Education is sinful.

Of course, he couldn’t hear my hysteria and he wouldn’t have cared if he did. Extremists only hear one voice and that is their own.

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf (now dead). It advocates a strict form of Sharia law, seeks to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria. It opposes education and the westernizing of Nigeria—half of which is Muslim and the other half Christian.

Coexistence is not possible. Boko Haram is interested only in “battle, hitting, striking and killing with the gun, which we look forward to like a tasty meal,” said Shekau.

Until this year, millions of people, myself included, weren’t aware of this group because of the many other power struggles going on around the globe. Our attention was diverted to Nigeria on April 15 when 276 girls and young women were kidnapped from a boarding school in the remote village of Chibok. Some escaped. Most didn’t. And since then dozens of others have been kidnapped.

Appeals for their release came from around the world. Social media posted “#Bring Back Our Girls Now” to create awareness, spark conversation and demonstrations about the kidnappings. It was hoped that somehow this would encourage the families, especially the vulnerable children. The girls remained captives.

Thus, my rage when on Nov. 1, leader Shekau gleefully announced to the world that the girls (children!) had been converted to Islam and married off. Then, he dug the knife a little deeper and said to the parents, “If you knew the state your daughters are in today, it might lead some of you…to die from grief.”

That statement put me over the edge. I have sometimes been accused of being a Pollyanna but I do know EVIL when I see it. I wanted to destroy this guy and save the girls. Finally, I calmed down. I know this is a God-sized problem. And it is time to pray. The Bible says if you are disheartened…to pray without ceasing. That’s what I do daily. Please join me in praying for these girls.

On the other side of evil is goodness. Evil means “profoundly immoral and malevolent; wicked, bad, wrong, dishonorable, villainous, malicious” and more. Good means “that which is morally right; virtue, righteous, integrity, fine, superior, quality” and more.

Well, just as I didn’t have far to look for evil, I quickly found examples of goodness. Right here in Cottage Grove, I heard about a man who couldn’t afford to get dentures. One day, out of the blue, a complete stranger struck up a conversation with him, handed him a card and told him to go get his teeth fixed—and he would pick up the tab!

My friend Jeannie volunteers for Pro-Bone-O. It operates two free clinics per month and provides free veterinary services, food and supplies for companion pets of the homeless. Another friend, Patty, has a clothing ministry. She collects gently worn clothes and gives them to those in need.

Churches are always a good source of goodness. There are many churches that go on mission trips to Mexico and other countries. Their mission is usually to preach the gospel by first providing for people’s physical needs: food, clothes, shelter and medicine. Help. Not harm.

First Baptist Church in Albuquerque was on such a mission when they discovered a young boy with a massive, fluid filled venus lymphangioma on his shoulder that literally has taken over his upper body. The area in which he lived was so dangerous that Homeland Security picked up him and his parents and brought them to the states. Thanks to the church he will have the surgery to remove the tumor and reconstruct his shoulder bone. It will be a long haul recovery but he will have his life restored—because people cared.

Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed more than 7,000 people; kidnapped and enslaved an unknown number and displaced at least 650,000 civilians from their homes. They use abductions, rape, forced labor and marriage as weapons of war. They plan to continue this rampage and carnage of innocent people until they are martyred and go to their version of paradise. It’s sick!

In the meantime, the virus Ebola has been running rampant in Western Africa. The latest statistics from the CDC confirm 13,042 cases with 4,818 deaths. As horrible as these numbers are, there is hope. Billionaires like Bill Gates (who puts his money where his mouth is) are investing in vaccines and drugs to prevent the virus and others like it from becoming recurring epidemics.

Organizations like Doctors without Borders and individual medical teams are flying into the Ebola ravaged areas from around the globe to heal and comfort. Recently, Samaritan’s Purse chartered a 757 jumbo jet to airlift 100 tons of supplies to the villages for basic needs, feeding, hydration and sanitation. Tens of thousands of lives will be saved—not lost—because of people who are caring not killers.

From the beginning of time there has been a battle between good and evil. It continues today. But my money is on the side of goodness to prevail. Pray for peace in the hearts, minds and souls of all mankind. And the Golden Rule to prevail.

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Small town project = Big time decisions and price tag

10/15/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

For months, our town has been buzzing with pros and cons about the proposed Cottage Grove Main St. Refinement Plan.  Tonight, the planning commission will convene a public meeting at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall to consider the latest revision of the plan, including the controversial tree removal segment.

Are you coming to the meeting? Or have you seen the plan? If not, check it out at http://www.cottagegrovemainstreet.com/. Visually, I find the proposed changes to our Main St. landscape very sterile. Thirty years from now visitors will know exactly when the renovations took place. On the other hand, it addresses practical aspects that should have been done years ago.

Those positive changes include removing the crown that has built up in the middle of Main St., better drainage, upgrading sidewalks and crosswalks to ADA standards and more. Personally, I don’t agree with some of the proposals like redoing All America Square but I’m sure looking forward to no longer scraping our car doors on the sidewalks.

This is a small town project fraught with emotion and a big price tag. Naturally, the rumor mill has been working overtime.

So let’s put one rumor to rest. I have repeatedly heard this statement: “This plan is a done deal. These public meetings are just a formality. ‘They’ don’t care what we want. There is no reason to attend.” I heard this so many times that in true reporter fashion I took my questions to City Planner Amanda Ferguson.

I asked her if the revamped Main St. meeting was just a formality or if there was still a place for public input. I asked if the plan could still be altered to reflect both the city’s needs and the public wants or if it was a “package deal” that we had to accept or reject. After all, if there were no flexibility (as rumors suggest), there would not be reason for any of us to show up. Amanda immediately set me straight.

She said, “Certainly we want public input. (This is a work in progress.) It’s just a plan. It’s not code. It’s not regulation. It’s not finalized. It’s not been legislated. It’s just a recommendation. Plans are never final until they are final. Plans are subject to change and I fully expect that there will be changes to this one and it will be referred back and forth to (other) committees.”

Amanda also reminded me that this is government that we’re dealing with and it could be years before all of this comes to fruition. There will be more meetings, more changes and of course, searches for funding. The actual project is expected to cost millions of dollars and could take years to pursue the funds one block at a time. So there you have it. It’s just a plan and it’s complicated.

 “Adopt a plan and stick to it.” I found that statement buried in one of the Main St. documents. It is a number one goal of the project.  That’s good advice for all of us. This Main St. remodel is going to define us for decades. Come to this meeting prepared to articulate your idea for the plan. To do that you will have to distill your idea to its essence. Be succinct and direct. Or, as my neighbor Sally used to say, “Eat the meat and throw out the bones.”

Frankly, I don’t want to be on the losing end of another battle. Many of us backed the carousel project and we still watched it go down the drain. We tried to save the Dr. Pierce Barn and failed. Well, now I want to keep Tree City USA green on Main St. I want us to look like our name not some inner city redevelopment. I’ll be at the meeting.

Charm is the operative word for Cottage Grove. People like looking at the past. Most find us to be charming and hospitable. We are not a sleek lines and modern architecture town. That’s why so many groups advocate a historic district that reflects the warmth and history of the early 20th century. I agree.

But refinement is not bad. In fact, bringing things up to code and cleaning up the roads and sidewalks is a plus to add to the attraction of our murals, museums and covered bridges. Just don’t change our personality.

So what do you think? Our town needs your input. It’s human nature to mumble and grumble when we disagree about things that are either near and dear to our hearts or going to cost us money. But it’s not enough to just complain to yourself or your friends. You have to make your opinions known in a larger forum and work with your allies.

Are you coming to the meeting? Well, if you want your voice to be heard by something other than the four walls of your house then get up out of your easy chair, turn off the television and come to City Hall. Say hello to your neighbors, make new friends, mend some fences and work together to fashion the Main Street Refinement Plan in such a way as to make us all proud of downtown for years to come.

P.S. Remember: “It’s just a plan.” Get involved. Be patient. Be nice.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail — bchatty@bettykaiser.com

Questions for a rainy day

9/17/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

After a long hot summer of company, cooking, canning and unending yard work, I’m beat— bone weary and brain dead. Maybe you are too. So it’s time to share a column of emails to help us all smile, relax a little and enjoy the coming rain.

The first group of thoughts I filed under “Why?” No answers just head-scratching questions. In fact, I ask myself the first question every time I drive I5 between Cottage Grove and Eugene. After that, the thoughts range from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Why do cars on the freeway rush up to your bumper at 75 mph, go around you and then slow down to 55 mph?

Why do supermarkets make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front? 

Why do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in our driveways and put our useless junk in the garage?

Ever Wonder Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?

Why can't women put on mascara with their mouth closed? 

Why don't you ever see the headline 'Psychic Wins Lottery'? 

Why is 'abbreviated' such a long word?

Why is it that doctors and attorneys call what they do 'practice'? 

Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavoring, and dish washing liquid made with real lemons?

Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?

Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes? 

Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes?  Why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff?? 

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains? 

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together? 

If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal? 

Why do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke? (Well, I understand that completely!)

Now we come to a challenging quiz from my sister-in-law. She says, “Today is National Mental Health Day. You can do your part by remembering to send this email to at least one genius challenged person. And don’t send it back to me, I’ve already flunked it once!”

This Genius Quiz is supposedly for people who know everything. There are only nine questions. They are straight questions with straight answers. There are no trick questions but I found a few to be deceptively difficult.

I suggest that you take the quiz, let me know how you do and then file it away under “Questions to ask any know-it-alls in your friends or family.” No peeking allowed! Answers are at the bottom. Here we go:

1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?

3 Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on

their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?

4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?

5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?

6. Only three words in Standard English begin with the letters ' DW' and they are all common words. Name two of them.

7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?

8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.

9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on

your feet beginning with the letter 'S.'

Answers To Genius Quiz:

1. The one sport in which neither spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends: Boxing.

2. North American landmark constantly moving backward: Niagara Falls. The rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.

3. Only two vegetables that can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons: Asparagus and rhubarb.

4. The fruit with its seeds on the outside: Strawberry.

5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bottle? It grew inside the bottle. The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the


6. Three English words beginning with DW: Dwarf, dwell and dwindle...

7. Fourteen punctuation marks in English grammar: Period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation point, quotation mark, brackets, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses.

8. The only vegetable or fruit never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form but fresh: Lettuce.

9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet beginning with 'S': Shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts.

So there you have it, folks, your points to ponder for the day. By the way, I tried putting on mascara with my mouth closed. It is possible but I had to continually remind myself to close my mouth. Enough said. Have a good week!

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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

You can make someone's day

August 20, 2014 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

For a news junkie like myself, this has been a depressing summer. If you just look at the Israel, Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine and Ebola situations, it has been one unbelievably bad news story after another. It’s enough to make you throw up your hands and say, “I give up!”

But as a wife, mother and grandmother, I would like to make things better. You know, do the impossible: Be Wonder Woman! Step in as an arbitrator to make peace. Rescue the weak, the halt and the lame; find homes for the homeless; wave a magic wand to quell wildfires and develop a vaccine to stop Ebola.

Unfortunately, these are all bigger problems than any single person can solve. One particularly bad news day my neighbor called and put life in perspective. Her day had started out badly but she wanted to share how a perfect stranger brought joy. Read to the end of this column, and her experience will make your day.

Her story caused me to start looking around for good news on a small scale. I started with my rant about Tree City USA possibly losing its Main St. trees under the proposed Downtown Refinement Plan.  Well, it seems that many people agreed that we need trees. In fact, they wrote letters and spoke up at public meetings.

As a result, The Community Development Director announced in July that the City had entered into a contract with Sperry Tree Care for a certified arborist to evaluate the existing trees along Main St. and prepare a report. Yea! Sperry Tree Care has been taking care of our property’s trees for years and I know they can be trusted to make wise decisions. Mark your calendars for Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. to receive a first hand update.

Thank you to the citizens, who cared to get involved and shared ideas; and to the city officials that listened.

Kudos also to Travis Palmer, Executive Director of the Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce. His newsletter about the vandalism, graffiti, littering and lack of respect for local properties was sure an eye-opener for me. I shop in town but live outside city limits and was not aware that some of these problems had escalated.

I was particularly surprised about the graffiti or tagging that is going on. Palmer suggested that folks use the CG Smartphone App to report it and other problems to the police department. Last week, thanks to a tipster, a suspect was apprehended who may be responsible for the graffiti. Hopefully, word of his arrest will get around and tagging will cease to be attractive.

Many of us who live outside of town patrol the perimeters of our property and pick up the broken glass, beer cans, fast food wrappers and other trash that people toss out the window as they drive by. No one likes to clean up after the general public but wherever you live you can clean up your own place.

Another big thank you goes to the Humane Society of Cottage Grove. Everyone knows that they do a wonderful job of rescuing animals, fostering, teaching, helping pet owners with spay and neuter coupons and so much more. Our recent spate of hot weather reminded me that they also have lots of helpful printed information.

Recently, I was in the BiMart parking lot when I noticed a small, furry dog panting heavily in a locked car. The temperature outside was 97° F. The windows were rolled up! The pet’s owner was nowhere around. I was just getting ready to go into the store and ask them to make an announcement when the owner returned. I looked at him and shook my head. He glared at me and drove away.

I had in my hand one of the bright red cards from the This ‘n That Shop to put on his windshield. It says (in part), “Your Dog May Be Dying. We understand you meant to be kind in taking your dog with you today but you could be risking his or her life. On hot sunny days, the inside of a car heats up very quickly—dark colored cars especially. The temperature inside can climb to 120° F. in 30 min. even with windows slightly open.

“The inside temperature is too hot for anyone especially your dog…they can withstand a body temperature of 107-8° F. for a very short time before suffering irreparable brain damage or death. If overcome by heat exhaustion immediately soak or wet him or her down with water and take to a veterinarian.” Read and heed, people.

Finally, here is the really good news that you (yes, you!) can make someone’s day. My friend, Pat, who was recently widowed, was at the market when the checker asked how her day was going. She said, “Not very well. I’m having a bad day.” The conversation continued and she repeated the statement. As she got ready to go, the checker said, “Wait a minute, you forgot your wallet! That would make a very bad day!”

Pat made her way out to the car, put the groceries in the trunk and was getting ready to leave. As she turned around, a young man walked up to her with two small bouquets of flowers and said, “I hope this makes your day a little better.” Nearly speechless she thanked him as he walked away. And yes, his kind gesture did make her day better. Mine too.

It reminds me of an old saying that goes something like this: “None of us can do everything but all of us can do something.”

I cannot save the world and neither can you but all of us can make someone’s day. See you at the flower stand.

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

Oregonians vacation at home

7/23/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

There’s no place like Oregon in the summertime. So if you ask me where I’m going for vacation this summer—or any summer—the answer is always the same. I’m staying home in Oregon. Living in the Willamette Valley puts us in the center of one of the most beautiful states in our country. Why not enjoy it at it’s summery best?

Oregon is a small state so mountains, forests, waterfalls, beaches, high deserts, volcanic landscapes, canyons, wetlands and lakes are all within a day’s drive of us. Most locations are blessed with mild to warm weather throughout the month of Sept. Each place offers a variety of outdoor recreation and relaxation for everyone in the family—mom, dad, kids and grandparents.

Usually our out-of-state guests are exhausted when they arrive. Most of them just want to stay home, eat, relax on the deck, swim in the lake or go fishing. Still, I have suggestions for places to go—an unending list of outdoor treks and local summer events are posted on the frig. But just in case someone wants to go on an overnight adventure here is my short list of places to go:

1. Crater Lake National Park. Located in southern Oregon it is a must see. Formed when Mt. Mazama erupted over 7,500 years ago, the lake’s brilliant blue color and clarity are exquisite. On our first trip we took a boat tour and a hiking tour to grasp the immensity. Long a favorite of European royalty, we happened to be there in 2008 when members of Jordan’s Royal family visited on motorcycles!

2. The Historic Columbia River Highway. I never tire of this highway designed specifically for scenic touring. Built from 1913-1922 it begins in Troutdale and goes 75 miles to The Dalles. There are gorgeous views from Crown Point, unforgettable waterfalls, awesome wind surfers, the powerful Bonneville Lock and Dam and more.

3. Lewis & Clark National and State Historical Park is located in both Oregon and Washington. The Fort Clatsop Visitor Center is the major Oregon site. We visited the original reproduction of the Lewis and Clark winter encampment before it burned down in 2005.  It has since been re-built and will give you a real sense of the hardships they endured before their return trip east to St. Louis.

4. National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. This Baker City center is one of the best ways to get a grasp on the life that the Oregon pioneers lived on the trail beginning about 1836. Outside, there are miles of actual preserved wagon ruts in the trails and mountain views to take your breath away. Inside there are local pioneer history exhibits, a theater and gift shop. FYI: my favorite detail was the eyelashes on the oxen pulling the wagons.

5. Oregon Coast. It’s only a short two and one-half hour drive from Cottage Grove to shopping in Florence. The coastline includes pounding surf, beach trails, sand dunes, the Yaquina Bay Bridge, Heceta Head Lighthouse, the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach and gaming casinos! Taking the side roads from a few familiar places will pay different dividends.

7. Salem. A tour of the Oregon State Capitol building with its Golden Pioneer statue is mandatory. The Bush House Museum, the Historic Deepwood Estate and the Willamette Heritage Center are well-preserved buildings worthy of touring near the capital. And The Oregon Garden is located in nearby Silverton.

8. Southern Oregon in the summer offers music-music-music, along with wonderful camping and jet boating on the river.  The Britt Festival in Jacksonville, features world-class artists in classical, jazz, blues, fold, bluegrass, pop and country music. But the world renowned Shakespeare Festival in Ashland is often sold out!

9. Portland. There is so much to do. Where to begin? We have taken grandchildren to the Oregon Zoo before heading up the Columbia to Multnomah Falls and our favorite camping spot. You can spend an entire day at Washington Park’s International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Garden, Museum, Arboretum and more. It’s all good.

10. Cottage Grove. Think covered bridges, museums, bicycle trails, campgrounds, lakes and rivers, fishing and waterfalls.

Personally, I’m a waterfall tourist. Wherever we go, I research a trail to someplace where the water flows. We recently stayed a few days in Yachats that culminated in a trip to Sweet Creek Falls, south of Mapleton, in the Siuslaw Forest. It was a little tricky to find (the signage isn’t the greatest) but well worth the effort.

It is billed as an easy, family friendly 2.2-mile hike involving wooden bridges, damp dirt trails with small wet puddles. It doesn’t mention that you’d better be steady on your feet as the trails are not flat and you’ll be walking on large rocks and raised tree roots. We took the Homestead Trailhead to see all of the falls.

The series of about a dozen waterfalls cascading down the lush green gorge is absolutely enchanting. The short hike up the trail took us well over an hour because we kept stopping to ooh and ahh and take pictures. Then we had to come down and take more pictures. You don’t want to hurry with places like Split Creek Falls, Punch Bowl Falls and Ledge Falls to enjoy.

As we returned to our car, some young adults were debating whether or not the climb would be worth it. We convinced them that if a 70-year-old couple could do it they could too!  So they stayed and we gave them our parking space (there aren’t many) and headed back to Cottage Grove.

Home sweet home is the best place to be in the summertime.

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Violence calls for vigilance

6/25/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The recent gunning down of police and another school shooting triggered this column commentary. Our country seems to be running amok with an abundance of serial killer mentalities—Illogical, deranged people killing their fellow citizens. Again and again, we have questions: Why the killer rage and hostility? Why is it not recognized or reported? Why are the targets often school children?

The answers are elusive. These questions have been asked for decades without solutions. The United States has the dubious distinction of the highest number of school related shootings in the world. A shooting being defined as when weapons are discharged at a school, in a school bus or near a school when school is in session.

The shooting list begins in the 1800s but escalated in the 20th century. Schools such as: The Michigan Bath School, Columbine, The Texas Clock Tower Shooting, Virginia Tech, Thurston High School and The Newtown massacre. The weapons include rifles, guns, bombs and knives. But the problem starts in the mind.

Motives are usually rage and revenge. The Internet can now be added as a contributor. In fact, an on-line computer simulation game surfaced after Newtown. Titled “The slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary School,” it encouraged users to re-enact the slaying!

In the first two weeks of June 2014, individuals planned and carried out a variety of horrific murders. None of the devious deeds seem to have a common denominator. It is one or two deranged individuals acting out for their own deluded satisfaction.

June 4, two 12-year old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin, were charged with stabbing and nearly killing a ‘friend.’ No gun. Just knives. They lured her into the woods, viciously stabbed her 19 times and left her for dead. Amazingly, she crawled out of the woods onto a path where a bicyclist found her. She is now out of the hospital because, as she said, “I wanted to live.”

The motive for the planned murder was to please “Slender Man,” a fictional online horror character. “He” is a paranormal being who lurks near forests and absorbs, kills or carries off his victims, often targeting children. The perpetrators show no remorse and their school principal says, “All three were good kids…no issues…nothing on the radar.” Wrong. Good kids don’t kill.

That same day, in Moncton, N.B., a gunman went on a shooting rampage that left three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers dead and two others injured. Video images in the usually peaceful wooded area showed him roaming the streets, dressed in camouflage and a headband; armed with a crossbow and rifle carried bandoleer style across his chest. He was apprehended after a 30-hour manhunt but not before he put an entire community on lockdown.

June 5, a man walked into a Seattle Pacific University hall fired a shotgun, killing one person and wounding others. A quick thinking building monitor (armed with pepper spray) tackled and disarmed the 26-year-old suspect who is rumored to have a long history of mental problems. His diary said, “I just want people to die and I’m going to die with them.”  Did anyone know he felt this way?

June 8, a young married couple, in Las Vegas, gunned down two police officers having lunch. The officers died from their injuries but not before one of them fired back. Still armed with guns and ammunition the couple walked next door to Wal-Mart and killed a customer before the wife shot her husband and then herself.

According to witnesses the couple wanted to start a “revolution” and constantly talked about killing cops. Later a swastika was found at their apartment leading to speculation that they were involved in a white supremacy movement. Why didn’t someone report them?

June 10, a teen gunman armed with a rifle, shot and killed a fellow student at Reynolds High School in Troutdale Oregon. He also wounded the teacher who sounded the alarm. Then he killed himself. His parents are a loss to know why he did this.

All of the above killings were planned. None of them were spur of the moment choices. Most kill their victims and then kill themselves. Their actions are unfathomable. There is no rational answer or antidote for this kind of behavior.

My generation likes to think that the triggers include: violence in movies, TV and computer games; cell phones, lack of discipline, too much idle time, no moral compass, availability of illegal drugs, etc. Professionals point to the proliferation of unrecognized and untreated mental illness. Everyone has an opinion but that’s as far as it goes.

We only agree on one thing…we want the killing to stop.

My grandsons go to schools where safety is serious business. Betsy, my daughter-in-law, is a middle school teacher and in charge of safety for her wing of the school. In evacuations or other emergencies she puts on an orange vest, dons a hard hat and carries a walkie talkie. Teachers take their roll books as kids form lines outside. All must be accounted for as they leave and return. At school!

A “Shelter in Place” drill over the intercom means the doors are immediately locked, blinds pulled and everyone presses against the walls away from windows. Kids take the drills seriously or are suspended. What a burden those teachers and youngsters bear.

We cannot afford to be apathetic. This “problem” is not going away. Experts are full of advice about what to do when something happens but we don’t know how to stop it from happening. If ever there was a time that we needed the Wisdom of Solomon, it is now.

I guess we all need to be a type of Solomon—alert and prepared to make wise decisions when chaos unfolds around us. We can’t let evil win. We must be vigilant, ready to act and pray. God help us all!

Friday, June 6, 2014

American heroes of all stripes

5/28/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

America: Home of the free because of the brave. That sentiment is so true that it’s even on tee shirts and bumper stickers. On this day we stop and honor all those who have died serving our country. And so many of the brave have died to make us the home of the free—including four-footed critters.

Our country’s wars began with the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and have just kept coming. They are: the First Barbary War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, American Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Then came the Gulf War, Vietnam War, Iraq War and the Afghanistan War that continues on.

All of these wars and other skirmishes were unique except in one way—the unspeakable horror of loss of life and suffering on both sides of conflict. In our country alone, according to one source there have been approximately 1,343,812 deaths; 1,529,230 wounded and 38,159 missing in all U.S. conflict casualties.

These staggering numbers sadden my heart as I consider the battlefields all over the world. Then I received several email copies of concocted heroism that just plain made me mad.  There are so many true stories about ordinary people. Why lie about actors?

Two WWII heroes were highly praised. Actors Lee Marvin and Bob Keeshan (aka Captain Kangaroo). Marvin is quoted inaccurately as saying that he was in the initial Iwo Jima landing, earned the Navy Cross and was severely wounded. According to snopes.com part of that is true but not accurate. So folks, don’t believe everything that you read.

Marvin did enlist in the U.S. Marines; saw action as Private First Class in the Pacific during WWII; and was wounded by fire in the buttocks which severed his sciatic nerve. However, his injury occurred during the battle for Saipan in 1944 and not Iwo Jima. That took place in 1945. He also received a Purple Heart and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. The man was a true hero just not the Internet version.

Another Internet legend has Marvin serving under Keeshan and calling him “the bravest man I ever knew.” Well, that’s not true either.  Keeshan did enlist in the U.S. Marines shortly before his 18TH birthday but months after the fighting at Iwo Jima. He was too late to see any action during WWII. In 1977 he was quoted as saying he  “saw no combat because I signed up just before we dropped the atom bomb.”

The legends get even worse when Fred Rogers gets thrown into the mix. His popular television program “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” ran for 30 years, enchanting millions of children. A Presbyterian minister, his critics looked for ways to malign him. This popular, decent, clean-cut guy was rumored to have a violent, criminal and Vietnam military background. Again, it is not true! Rogers was a pacifist and he never served in the military.

I believe that all those who serve our country—particularly in times of war—are heroes. And some of those are of the four-legged variety. In the early days there were horses. Today, dogs coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq are awe-inspiring. Their contribution to the safekeeping of their two-legged counterparts is priceless and their stories are true.

Historical reports say that dogs were common during the Civil War as soldier’s companions. During the Spanish American War, “Old Jack Brutus” became the official mascot of Company K, First Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. But it was during WWII, Korea and Vietnam that dogs were formally used as guards and patrol scouts.

“Stubby,” a brave soldier dog of the 102nd Infantry (Connecticut), during WWI is widely regarded as the grandfather of the American War Dogs. Connecticut military legend has it that he wandered into the encampment and befriended the soldiers, especially Corporal J. Robert Conroy. In Oct. 1917, when the unit shipped out for France, it was part of the 26TH (Yankee) division of Massachusetts. Stubby (covered in an overcoat) was smuggled aboard the troop ship S.S. Minnesota and sailed into doggy legend.

Fighting in France was treacherous. Trench warfare combined with deadly gas took a steep toll on the men and their spirits. Stubby boosted morale with his early warnings about gas attacks and by waking a sleeping sentry to alert him of a German attack. He was gassed a few times, a grenade went off and his foreleg was wounded.

After the American troops recaptured Chateau Thierry, the women in the village made him a chamois blanket embroidered with the allied flags. The blanket also displayed his wound stripe, three service chevrons and numerous medals. They presented it to him in Neufchateau, the home of Joan of Arc.

Stubby and his wounded master Corporal Conroy ended up in a hospital but spent the remainder of the war with the 102ND unit. He was smuggled back home the same way he entered—and mustered out with his regiment, as officers looked the other way.

At home, he was hailed as a hero of 17 battles, became the mascot of the American Legion, was honored by three presidents and General Pershing presented him with a gold medal. While his master studied law, he became the mascot for the Georgetown football team. He had his portrait painted by Charles Ayer Whipple and in 1926 he passed on. His obituary in the New York Times was three columns wide and half a page long! He was a genuine hero.

America’s military personnel come in all shapes, sizes, and colors; male and female; two and four-legged, furry and clean-shaven. They demonstrate loyalty, courage, selflessness and dedication. They are always worthy of our respect and care. Take time to thank them as they work for the greater good of us all. They are priceless treasures.

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Betty's tribute to Erma Bombeck

4/30/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Humor columnist Erma Bombeck was a household name in an era of serious news. If you were a housewife in the 1970’s and 80’s, she was also your best friend and mentor. She inspired mothers like me to believe that my wacky, out-of-control life with three kids under the age of four was—normal. She laughed and we laughed with her.

Erma Louise Bombeck did not have an easy life. Born in 1927, she was an English major at Ohio University and worked part time as a reporter for the Dayton Journal Herald. About that time, she was diagnosed with a kidney disease that would ultimately take her life. But not until she married, raised three children and became one of America’s beloved columnists. She was a homemaker’s sanity.

As a young mother in the late 1960s through the 1980s, I religiously read Erma’s column “At Wit’s End,” in our local newspaper. She started by writing a neighborhood newspaper ($3 a week) until the Journal Herald, invited her to write a three times a week column that became syndicated nationally and morphed into books with titles like "Motherhood, the Second Oldest Profession."

So, what was so special about Erma to young women such as myself? I guess you had to be there—in that place and time—to understand. Ours was an Ozzie and Harriet era. Families were portrayed as perfect. Dad left home every morning and went to work. Mom wore a perfect housedress, covered by a clean apron and ran a perfect household with no dust, dirt, or hair out of place.

On television all problems were solved in 30 minutes by perfect parents. And if the parents were perfect so were the children. Nothing so bad ever happened that it couldn’t be fixed or corrected by a smile, a pat on the head or a talk with dad. At the end of the day, all was well. Every day. All day. But at my house things were different. Life was hectic. Good but not perfect. I was not perfect.

Many of us less-than-perfect mothers felt we could never measure up to the uptight, humorless expectations of society. Our kids went to bed screaming and kicking. During the day they argued and pushed and shoved one another. At dinner if one didn’t want to eat peas no one would eat peas. And homework? Usually there was outright rebellion. Perfect we were not.

Along came Erma. After years of reading Dr. Spock, she was a breath of fresh air. As Phil Donohue said at her funeral, “Erma was irreverent in many ways. Motherhood was sacred i.e. ‘how blessed you are to have children.’ Erma came along and said, “Oy, I want to sell my kids!” We mothers understood.

In her writings, Erma put the TV lives of Donna, Harriet, Barbara, Shirley, Marjorie, Jane and Florence into perspective. She said, “Among them they had 22 children, 6 husbands and three maids. For two decades they were motherly role models …they never lost their temper, gained weight, scrubbed a toilet, were invaded by roaches or shouted. It was the age of God, Motherhood, Flag and Apple Pie. All you had to do to be a mother was to put on an apron.”

We nodded our heads. The TV life style was not real. It was abnormal. We were normal. She taught us to laugh at our foibles and appreciate our imperfection. Her columns even helped teach our kids and I sent many of them to our boys in college. This clipping in my Erma folder helped me explain the word ‘NO’ to my young teens:

The column title is “No, is a many splendored thing.” As she concludes the piece she says, “Parents live in hope that kids will thank them for saying ‘No’ as often as they did…I actually sat down once with one of my kids and tried to explain the meaning of No.

“It means I love you enough to want you to have as smooth a journey through life as is possible…When I see you going in the wrong direction, I have to say “No” to get you back on track. I don’t want you to be hurt of hurt someone else. A lot of No’s can make this possible. I want your trust that I will say ‘Yes’ as often as I can but say No when I must.

“My son sat there for a long time without speaking. Then he said, ‘So, why don’t you ever want me to have a good time?’”

I read that last line and laughed until I cried. She was talking about me! I had a kid like that and it was a replay of so many conversations at our house. By telling us that we knew we weren't alone. She also reminded us that it’s easy to become shortsighted about what is important and what isn’t.

In one column she wrote that she was upset because her grass wasn’t growing. The kids were playing on it and it was dying. She'd plant more grass seed and it would grow until the kids would play on it until it was brown. Pretty soon the kids went away to school. Then they got married. The place where the kids had played was green and the grass full and vigorous. She missed that bare spot.

Because of Erma, I learned to revel in youthful energy and growing pains; to enjoy all the ages and stages and seasons of young life. Those years leave lasting, precious memories that can’t be bought.

Erma was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991 and survived. She died after a failed kidney transplant on April 22, 1996. The light of her laughter dimmed but not her spirit. So every year at this time I celebrate her life and inspiration and pass on her wisdom to those who missed knowing a great lady. She was a national treasure.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Downtown Tree Talk

3/26/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

“Trees or no trees?” That is the question currently facing Cottage Grove residents regarding refurbishing downtown Main Street. My first response was, “Oh, no! Not again!” I have lived in this area for 25 years and trees on Main Street have always been controversial.

Among other things, the new Main Street Refinement Plan offers a choice of reduced tree plantings or no trees at all in downtown’s future. It’s a strange conundrum for a town that is called “Tree City USA.” A town recognized for excellence in urban forestry management.

Many shopkeepers are averse to the cost, maintenance and mess of trees. I understand that. Customers might even grumble if they pick up a few wet leaves or mud on their shoes. I understand that. But wait a minute. I really don’t get it. This is Oregon and we are green!

 Sure, it costs time and money to water trees in the summer and energy to sweep the sidewalk in front of stores. And no, I don’t like to get my shoes dirty. But are trees really the reason why people don’t shop downtown? Are they hindering access to shops? I don’t think so. Let me play the devil’s advocate and offer another opinion.

The whole purpose of owning a business is to draw customers into your store. In this day and age it takes more than great merchandise, wonderful customer service and easy access to draw people downtown—especially those with vacation dollars in their pocket. It also takes a charming visual package.

Studies have shown that consumers actually enjoy having trees in shopping districts and are more willing to spend money where trees are present. Check out the following website that visually shows the difference between trees and no trees in shopping areas and why people prefer trees. You will be surprised:

Why do trees make a difference? The reason is simple. They provide curb appeal. For many of us, shopping is more than buying. It is about “ambiance.” Cold, sterile and boring doesn’t cut it. I zip in and out of those kinds of shopping areas. No looking around and wondering what’s going on elsewhere. I buy and get out.

On vacation, I bypass the big shopping centers. Instead, I look for a street of charming, tree-lined shops to draw me in their doors.  Whether I’m shopping for fun or necessity, I look for that elusive thing called “character.” What is this place about?

In a town that advertises itself as “Tree City USA,” trees do more than give us bragging rights. Attractive trees are not only eye candy but they foster a sense of community, improve air quality, reduce traffic speeds, and provide shade and wildlife habit (think birds). They’re also a distraction from some of the less desirable aspects of an urban area such as empty buildings or closed shops with ‘flexible’ hours.

In a spirit of fairness I considered whether or not I’m barking up the wrong tree by suggesting we keep the trees. I know that from a sidewalk and street perspective, trees can be trouble. Is there a right tree to be planted in a downtown area in a small sidewalk space, near shops and a busy road? I wasn’t sure.

So I checked out a few websites that led to the conclusion we do have options for practical plantings. If you want to check out what other cities are successfully doing, I suggest the following websites:

The Main St. Refinement Plan contains many ideas and suggestions. They range from removing the crown in the road to wider sidewalks, increased bicycle parking, a “festival square” and more signage. Here’s my take on some of these ideas:

Do we need another gateway arch at the west end of Main St. and delineation of the historic downtown neighborhoods? Not yet. First we need to get some other pieces in place. We need unity and purpose. We need a common theme that says this is our history; this is where we’ve been; this is where we are now and this is where we’re going. We need cohesiveness of design and architecture. Bike racks we’ve got. We need access for disabilities. We need our car doors to stop scraping sidewalks. We need a plan that includes the right trees.

But enough about what I think. What do you think? If you’d like to chime in and say yea or nay on redesigning Main St. check in with city hall for the next public comments opportunity. The entire Main Street Refinement Plan can be seen at the project website: www.cottagemainstreet.com.

Cottage Grove has been a Tree City USA for 20 years. Every April, cities across the U.S. celebrate Arbor Day. In Oregon alone, there are 57 Tree City USA Communities. On April 25 at 10 a.m. there will be a tree planting at Bohemia Park. Put it on your calendar and show your support. Let’s keep and celebrate our trees. Speak up! We’ll be healthier and happier if we do. Trust me.

Readers Write
Our town is known for volunteering and showing support for worthy causes. I always appreciate input on volunteering and other story items. Recently, I received this note:

Hi, Betty,
"Did you know that the Veterans put the flags downtown the 11th of each month to honor all Veterans? Paul Tuco Aka at Buster’s was the motivating force behind this great idea and gives them a free lunch on that day. Thought it might be a good story. From S.D."

Thank you volunteers! You all make this world a better place.

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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Trivia Time!

2/26/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

February has been a dark and dreary month. It has rained—a lot! And that much-needed rain has been accompanied by day after day of gloomy skies. A day or two of blue skies and sunshine would be nice about now. You know, like the ones we had in January when it was supposed to be raining cats and dogs.

You can tell that I’m not a native Oregonian. The first clue is that I’m whining about the weather—I only like rain if I’m out of it. The second is that my daily cold weather ensemble of several layers of sweatshirts is getting worn. The third is that over the sweatshirts I wear a jacket and carry an umbrella at the first sign of a real downpour.

The real-deal, born and bred Oregonians revel in this cold, miserable winter. They often are wear shorts when they go outside. Rain? “We need it,” they’ll say, as they dash out of their cars in shirtsleeves and into stores between the raindrops. Jackets are so unnecessary in this mild weather. Snow? Ice? Freezing rain? No problem. No umbrellas. Oregonians are exceptional, hardy, practical people.

That practicality has been demonstrated in the emails I’ve been receiving this winter. I’ve not been bored while I’ve stayed warm and cozy in the house this winter. Here’s an assortment of trivia that I’ve been mulling over while sipping hot chocolate. It ranges from elbow licking to bulletproof vests to Tic Tacs.

*Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.
*Men can read smaller print than women can but women can hear better.
*Rumors that Coca-Cola was green are not true but it was originally bottled in green bottles.
*It is impossible to lick your elbow.
*The cost of raising a medium-size dog to 11 years of age is $16,400.
*Mark Twain was the first novelist to use a typewriter.
*The San Francisco Cable Cars are the only mobile National Monuments.
*Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of their birthplace.
*The most popular boat name requested by boaters: Obsession.
*The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work is not Oregon—it’s Alaska!
*The percentage of Africa that is wilderness is 28 percent. The percentage of North America that is wilderness is 38 percent.
*Bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser printers all have one thing in common. Women invented all of them.

“Everyday products you probably use the wrong way” was the subject of another enlightening email. Since this isn’t a magazine you’ll have to visualize these ideas for yourself. They are mostly about food. I’ll save the rest for another time.

You may be surprised that Tic Tacs come with a built-in dispenser. There’s no need to violently shake the container into your palm for too many pieces. Instead, tip the box and let a mint gently glide into the tiny crevice on the lid. So simple.

Did you know that those little individual serving cups of applesauce come with a spoon? Well, sort of. You can pull off the foil lid and twist one-half of it into a handle that connects to the wide part like a spoon.

And speaking of applesauce, juice boxes are hard for little ones to hold. Just pull the little ear sides up so your child has something to grasp and stop them from spilling so much. After all, kids will be kids.

Jars of natural peanut butter tend to separate the oil and get dry on the bottom. Store the jar upside down, so the oils distribute evenly.

Honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil. It may crystallize but just sit it in a pan of warm water until it returns to its normal state. Remember, that infants should not eat honey until 1 year old.

And how about those tiny little paper cups that fast food places give you to pump a little ketchup into? Pull them apart at the edges for twice the space. Just be sure to carry them on a flat surface!

And speaking of food… Did you know that Chinese takeout containers are made to fold out into plates? You unfold the box to eat your meal and then reassemble it to store the leftovers. My hubby saw this on the TV show “Castle.”

Here’s a handy hint if you eat the kind of Greek yogurt that comes in two sections: Chances are you’ve been scooping the topping onto the yogurt. It’s much easier and neater to fold the topping holder and pour it directly on top of the yogurt! Who knew?

Here’s a couple of ideas about soft drinks. If you drink out of the can with a straw, turn the tab around so that it acts as a holder and can stop the straw from rising out the can as the soda fizzes. Plastic ‘go’ cup lids can double as a coaster. There are three bumps on the top. You can set your cup down and the ridge in the lid fits the bottom.

Most aluminum foil boxes have press-in tabs on the ends of the box that secure the roll in place so you don’t have to worry about the foil flying out every time you rip off a sheet. I checked and it’s true. You just punch in the tabs and it securely holds the roll.

Oh, and one more thing, 75 percent of the people who read this will try and lick their elbows! (It didn’t work did it?)

Spring and sunshine are coming. Until then—stay warm!

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

Valentine Trivia!

2/12/2014 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser
Puppy Love

It’s February. It’s cold and miserable outside. One minute it’s hailing and the next minute it’s snowing. I’m grumpy and ready for springtime. But wait. Can you feel it? Something warm and fuzzy is about to happen—Valentine’s Day is coming—love is in the air!

The day, of course, is named after St. Valentine. But who decided that Feb. 14th would be the day when sweethearts declare their love with gifts and romantic cards? Some say because it was the day when birds chose their mates. I think that’s a stretch. But really, who cares? It’s a day for young and old to celebrate romance.

Valentine’s Day is a fun tradition. But when it comes to celebrating and gift giving, the most important thing to remember is: don’t forget!  A 2013 survey conducted by the Retail and Marketing Association found that 53% of women who didn’t receive something for Valentine’s Day would end the relationship!

Every year, about one billion cards are purchased and sent—mostly by women for men. About 40 million boxes of chocolate are purchased—mostly by men for women. About 198 million roses (the flowers of love) are sold—mostly to men for women. Jewelry is another hot item and accounts for about $4.1 billion in spending—again by men for women. It sounds good to me.

So ladies, we get off relatively easy. A recent survey showed that men prefer a gift certificate to their favorite store over that other “stuff.” Of course, we may have to cook dinner. The survey also found that the vast majority of couples prefer to enjoy a romantic dinner at home for a fraction of the $150 cost at a fine restaurant.

Today we enjoy this holiday but we don’t take the meaning of it as seriously as couples did hundreds of years ago. I think that the following traditions maybe coined the term “blind date.”

You’ve heard the saying, “wearing your heart on your sleeve?” Well, in Colonial America, young ladies would write their names on slips of paper. At a Valentine’s party, young men would draw names out of a hat. The guy would wear the name of this lady on his sleeve for days to proclaim her as his valentine. Interesting. It makes me wonder how things worked out if the wrong name was drawn.

Across the pond, in England, a suitor would leave a basket of gifts on his beloved’s doorstep and run off. Surprise! In Italy, young ladies would awaken before sunrise and look out their window. Tradition said the first man they saw would either look like their future husband or be the man they would marry. Another surprise!

In Denmark, a man would send a woman a Valentine letter containing a rhyme and sign it with a series of dots to represent his name. If the woman guessed his identity correctly on Valentine’s Day he would reward her with a gift. But I wonder, what if she didn’t like the guy and didn’t want his gift?

Today’s generation is a bit more cynical. One Valentine’s season, Meg Pickard and her housemate David Pannet were joking around about the lack of available cards for those who don’t like the hearts and flowers hype of the season. According to an article in The Telegraph, UK, their anti-valentine card idea was born and their first cards were on the web within an hour.

Meg took the idea and ran with it. The cards were cynical, fun and immensely popular. Most of the sayings can’t be printed here but with slogans like, “Oh, my ***. Thirty and still single,” they poked fun at the commercialism of Valentine’s Day. In 2000, they sent out a couple of thousand cards. By 2005, the cards went past the 200,000 mark.

Meg has since moved on, married, had a child and shut down the website. But there are others that feel as she did. November 11 is Singles’ Day in China; a type of anti -Valentine’s celebration. It's a day for young people to celebrate being single and an excuse to log onto websites where products are sold at half price. Last year, just six minutes after midnight, $164 million was spent on Tmall.com, China’s version of Amazon and eBay.

Call me silly but my most memorable Valentine’s Days were in my youth. As a child, the love and appreciation for others was pure and innocent. I can still remember sitting at my desk at home and carefully choosing the person who matched the pictures and verses on each card. I envisioned my friends doing the same.

All of us then took the cards to school and placed them in a shoebox decorated with red tissue paper and doilies. Near the end of the day we had the familiar red punch and homemade cookies party. It was such a thrill to open the envelopes from your friends, bask in their attention and nibble Sweetheart candies that said, “Be mine.”

Simple sentiments made us giggle with appreciation: “Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, just like you!” And it was really special if a card said, “You’re sugar and spice ‘n everything nice. Say that you will be my valentine!” Or, “They call it puppy love.” In High School, some of the more brazen teens would write: “Plenty of love, Tons of kisses. Hope one day to be your Mrs.”

Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all! (And whatever you do, don’t forget your sweetie!)

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

Friday, February 7, 2014

The adventure of life goes on

Ah, youth! Betty circa 1946
1/15/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

“The adventure of life is to learn.
The purpose of life is to grow.
The nature of life is to change.
The challenge of life is to overcome.
The essence of life is to care.”
William Arthur Ward

Today’s column is a bit self-indulgent because it’s my birthday week. I’m celebrating 75 years of living and learning by taking a look back at what the world was like in the year I was born. I was born on a Friday the 13th, 1939. Some say that day is unlucky. I beg to differ. Sometimes attitude helps make your own luck.

So it's true, I've been lucky but I’m also blessed. I was born to birth parents who for some reason couldn’t keep me. I spent time in orphanages and was finally adopted when I was six years old. As a child, I always had a roof over my head, food to eat, education and wonderful friends. As an adult, I have had love, purpose, a fabulous family and priceless friendships.

Yes life has been an interesting challenge. But I’ve followed my heart and been here-there-and-everywhere! I couldn’t ask for anything more. Still, I have questions. What happened in 1939 besides me? Well, as I learned, it was a tense time in this world.

The Great Depression was grinding down the USA. The Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Grapes of Wrath” described in graphic detail a family that lost their farm and livelihood and traveled to California looking for hope. That era surely resonates with those who lost jobs and housing and hope in the Great Recession of 2008.

In April 1939, The New York World’s Fair opened. A bullet shaped time capsule weighing 800 pounds was buried and not to be opened for 5,000 years! Yes, you read that correctly. In the year 6939 it will be opened along with the one buried in 1964.

Rumblings of World War II were beginning in Europe. On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland. That was considered a prelude to the beginning of the war. Germany earlier had annexed Austria and invaded Czechoslovakia and Italy’s Mussolini invaded Albania in April. War was coming.

Joseph Stalin was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in both 1939 and 1942. They chose Pope Francis as Time’s Person of the Year in 2013. Journalists are an interesting bunch.

In sports, the New York Yankees won the World Series Championship (again). The Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants 27-0 to win the National Football League championship. And the NCAA Basketball Champion was…wait for it…Oregon!

Compared to the late 20th century, 1939 was an entertainment era of innocence. Today our movies and music bombard us with graphic violence, sexuality and profanity. “Swearing like a sailor,” as the old saying goes, simply didn’t drive the media like it does today.

However, here’s an interesting bit of movie trivia: Clark Gable’s line at the end of “Gone with the Wind,” when he said to Vivien Leigh, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” was voted the number one movie line of all time by the American Film Institute in 2005.

Many wonderful movies were released in 1939. They included: Goodbye Mr. Chips, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Wuthering Heights. Each film was an incredible work of art but Judy Garland’s “Somewhere over the rainbow” is still bringing hope to broken hearts today.

Actresses wore more clothes in those days. These “hot” movie stars and fashion icons of 1939 strutted their stuff in swirly dresses with shoulder pads, hats or (gasp!) two-piece bathing suits: Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Greta Garbo, Betty Grable and  Hedy Lamarr (famous for her sarongs).

So what else was going on in 1939? Aviation progress was in full swing. The Sikorsky helicopter was invented and the first commercial flight over the Atlantic had people talking. Einstein wrote a letter to FDR about building an Atomic Bomb. Sigmund Freud died and a major earthquake in Chile killed 30,000 people.

Television was in its infancy. It made its debut at the World’s Fair with the first presidential address by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The New York Times reported that the broadcast was received in strategic locations and the pictures were clear and steady. It would be another 10 years before it was widely available to the masses.

Of course, I was a newborn. I don’t remember anything about 1939. I do remember the 1940s as the time when my grandfather held my hand and walked me into my new home and later into school and my first grade class; drinking milk and eating cookies after school; playing hopscotch; listening to the radio and reading under the covers at night by flashlight; looking forward to summers in the mountains and wondering what life would hold for me.

By the 1950s I was tall and lanky, a serious student and violin player. I dated, got my first job, went to college, married and started a family. The 1960s and 1970s were the best. They were all about the changing ages and stages of a growing family: church, school, clubs, dancing, parties, swimming, music and sports. Mostly they were fun!

By the late 1970s we were well established in business and volunteer work. Soon it was the 1980s and the kids were off to college, getting married and starting their own families. And for the last 25 years Chuck and I have had great adventures here in Oregon.

Looking back, I can honestly say that I have no regrets. Life is good. It’s not easy but most adventures are meant to be challenging. If the object is to learn, grow, care, serve and dare—I’ve done it all—and then some.

Praise God for these 75 years of endurance and joy!

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