Friday, January 20, 2017


1/11/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Birthdays, Life and Laughter

I remember when I was young and always looking forward to my January birthday. Celebrating a birthday meant bringing cupcakes and Kool-Aid to my first grade class. It meant a birthday party at home with presents, games and (of course) my favorite birthday cake. It meant turning 16 years old and being allowed to date boys. It meant getting married at 19 and at 21, being legally allowed to vote and drink a cocktail in a fancy restaurant.

Until recently, the only birthday that I really didn’t like was the year I turned 30 years old. For some reason, leaving my 20’s was scary. It meant that I was no longer young (little did I know how young that was). Of course, I survived turning 30 and I didn’t fear aging in my 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Turning 70 didn’t even bother me.

Each of life’s milestones was good. There was always a reason to be going forward—raising children from infancy to adulthood, welcoming their spouses and each new grandchild, establishing a business, volunteering, serving in the church, traveling the world, moving to a dream house and job in Oregon. I felt blessed. 

It was a fall on the ice in January of 2012 and a fractured back that brought me up short and said, “You’re getting old.” Not “older” but “old. Surgery helped repair the crushed bones but the residual effect of that hard fall was chronic pain. I had lots of time on my hands that winter to think about the ramifications of aging and it was sobering.

I quickly came to the conclusion that it’s not looking older that bothers me. All this gray hair and wrinkles has its advantages. I never have to worry about opening a heavy door to enter a business or restaurant. People will stop; open the door and say, “After you.” I find that young children in strollers will smile and wave at me as I walk by. At the same time, they look at their parent, smile and say, “Grandma.” 

No, the thing that bothers me the most about aging is the physical limitations. Myself, friends and family are having hips and knees replaced, heart surgeries, cancer treatments, losing spouses or downsizing houses because they can’t take care of them. Some are no longer driving because of eyesight and reflex problems. Some of us just need help getting out of bed in the morning! Oy!

 My Achilles Heel is poor balance. If I fall down, I break something. No matter how much physical therapy I endure, falls and breakage keep happening. It started with a compound fracture of my left arm as a teenager. Longtime readers will remember my falling off an 8 ft. tall ladder and nearly cracking my skull open. Twice I slipped and broke bones in my right foot. The 70’s have included a fall that completely tore my ACL with complications from a fall on the ice that fractured my back.

Last year was a hard year for many of us. It is difficult to laugh and enjoy life during pain and suffering. Suddenly I felt old. My husband had serious health issues, I lost several dear friends and the world’s suffering was hard to comprehend. The appointments on our calendar were mostly to doctors or hospitals. Something had to change. Fun needed to make a comeback.

Then I read this piece of wisdom:
“You don't stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing."—Michael Pritchard

Ah, ha! I don’t know who Michael Pritchard is but he’s a wise man. I looked up laughter as medicine and was reminded that while laughter can’t save us from getting old, it can make aging palatable. Although not all researchers agree, most believe that humor helps people of all ages cope with stress and keeps our immune system healthy.

This quote from a cancer researcher really hit home:
“Humor works like a shock absorber in a car,” he says. “You appreciate a good shock absorber when you go over bumps and cancer is a big bump in life.”

So my goal for this birthday year is to install new shock absorbers. It is said that children laugh 300 times a day. We adults laugh only a few times a day— maybe 4. I think it’s time to up the ante at our house and start looking for the funny side of everyday life. We need to exchange more jokes and less bad news. Following are a few comic one-liners from readers that started me giggling.

 You know you’re older when:
*You’re startled the first time you’re asked if you’re a “senior.”
*Your children begin to look middle aged.
*Your back goes out more often than you do.
*You sit in a rocking chair and you can’t get it going.
* Your mind makes contracts your body can’t meet.
*You finally reach the top of the ladder and it’s the wrong wall.
*The little grey haired lady you help across the street is your wife.
*You have a party and the neighbors don’t even know it.
*My favorite: People call at 9 a.m. and ask, “Did I wake you?”

So, dear readers, here’s the deal. We can’t stop the aging process but we can put it into perspective. Then we can offset and absorb some of life’s shocks and discomfort by laughing at a good joke long and often. It works for me. Try it and let me know how it works for you. And by all means, share the fun with friends, family and me.

P.S. Happy Birthday to my fellow Capricorns!

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


12/14/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

A plaque over my desk reads: “Kindness Matters.” It is a great encouragement to me on those days when I helplessly watch the world spinning out of control, knowing I can do nothing to stop it. I can’t stop young women from being kidnapped, beaten, branded or killed. I can’t stop road rage, random gang shootings, child abuse or the bombing in Aleppo. As the world turns, I’m pretty helpless.

I can, however, be kind to the people around me. Tim McGraw’s recent country hit song, “Humble and Kind,” inspired today’s column to share some random acts of kindness and inspire all of us at all seasons of the year. First we’ll start with an abbreviated version of the song’s reminder to always stay humble and kind:

“Humble and Kind”
Tim McGraw

"You know there’s a light that glows by the front door
Don’t forget the keys under the mat
When childhood stars shine, always stay humble and kind
Go to church cause your momma says too
Visit grandpa every chance that you can
It won't be wasted time

Always stay humble and kind

Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb but

Tim McGraw and his wife Faith Hill practice what they preach. Some call them country music royalty. Others say they are two of the kindest people in show business. According to an article in the Huffington Post, they recently surprised a few Wal-Mart shoppers in Baker County, Florida with their generosity when they paid of $5,000 worth of layaway purchases.

TV station Action News Jax, reported that McGraw’s mother, Betty Trimble, told a shopper that she was playing Secret Santa and delivering the gifts. Jessica Lumpkin was one of the shoppers. She told the news outlet that she received a signed card and cash. “I didn’t have anything on layaway, I was just picking up a package and Tim’s mother gave me this. I’ve never had this happen to me. I’m glad I call Baker Co. my home.”

There are many simple ways in this song to be humble and kind but the list is endless. One of my readers recently sent me some inspiring photos that brought me to tears over the kindness of others to strangers. Kindness comes in many forms. I can’t print the photos but you’ll get the idea when you read the captions:

1.    A tourist in the tropics takes off his sandals and gives them to a homeless girl. That’s empathy.
2.    A motorcyclist stops, gets off his bike and helps an elderly lady across the street. That’s thoughtfulness.
3.    A retired barber in Calif. offers haircuts to the homeless for the price of a hug. That is caring and sharing.
4.    A police officer handcuffs himself to a woman ready to jump off a ledge. She doesn’t jump because he would die too! That is compassion beyond the call of duty.
5.    A box of tennis balls sits on a sandy beach. The sign says, “In loving memory of Phoebe (a dog). Help yourself to a ball for your pooch to enjoy…” That’s making memories.
6.    A grocery store clerk kneels down and ties the shoes of an elderly gentleman. That’s helpfulness.
7.    Spectators hoist a young man at a concert, above the crowd in his wheelchair so he can see the show too. That’s amazing!
8.    An elderly man had a heart attack while shoveling snow from his driveway. The paramedics took him to the hospital and then returned to finish shoveling the snow. That’s compassion.
9.    A stranger noticed a stray kitty sleeping in the rain. He covered her with his umbrella to keep her dry. That’s precious.
10.   Another stranger noticed that a homeless man was reading the same book over and over. He gave him his Kindle. That’s feeding the soul.

Finally, at a time when sometimes even religions don't trust one another, you will love this story of one religion helping another. It's a story of kindness, generosity and acceptance. It’s also a new tradition at Unity House, a Christian organization in Troy, NY, that offers services, including meals, to victims of domestic violence.

According to the Albany Times Union newspaper, it started when a volunteer from the Muslim Soup Kitchen Project approached Unity House and offered to serve Christmas dinner. The tradition continues. The 15-18 Muslim volunteers prepare enough meals for 100-200 people. That’s 400 meatballs, 26 pounds of spaghetti, 40 pounds of salad and 200 buns.

Why do they do this? “This is a seed that we’re planting for our young people,” said Azmat Ahmad who presides over the kitchen. “We’re supposed to practice charity every day. Having a day of service on Christmas is a way of introducing our young people to sharing. We like to do it,” she added as she watched her sons and other young volunteers prepare the meal. Last year, in the same spirit of giving, they also served spaghetti to children and their families at Ronald McDonald House in Albany, NY. That is generosity of spirit.

Kindness is a gift we can all give. Pass it on and we will all be blessed.

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