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.