Saturday, April 21, 2018

Crosses to bear

4/11/18 Chatterbox

Every generation has its cross to bear

Scientific studies suggest that we remember best the things that happen between the ages of 15 and 25 years old. Researchers in this sort of data call it a “reminiscence bump.” It includes remembering everything from your first kiss to public events. If that is true, today’s young adults are certainly going to remember a time when it was frightening to go to school. Good for them for taking their “never again” cause to the streets! Sadly, it is their cross to bear.

I can vividly remember where I was and what I was doing when certain things happened in those early years of innocence. In this new social media era, victims are being publically targeted and bullied or silently stalked to a violent end. People get so angry they plot how to mow down their neighbors. There's always a cross to bear.

My point of bringing up this subject is not only because of recent atrocities. It’s because those of us over the age of 50 have also had front row seats to all kinds of terrorism and violence in our lifetimes. I interact daily with people who feel like they’re suffering from PTSD, remembering wars and other evils. We seem powerless to stop the madness.

According to a Washington Post article, the United States is NOT the most violent country in the world. It just seems like it. (Think Mexico, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan.) However, in comparison to other rich, capitalist democracies, we have a society where an unusual number of people die violently yearly. A cross to bear? Or a problem to solve?

So, come along with me on a little walk down memory lane. Senior citizens will recognize and remember where you were when these so-called incidents happened. Unfortunately, we had front row seats to most of these tragedies. Still, the violence goes on.

I vividly remember the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Nov. 22, 1963, I was barely in my 20s and driving my sweet pre-school daughter home from having her birthday photo taken in Inglewood, Calif.  As the news of J.F.K.’s death came over the radio, traffic visibly slowed and it was obvious that we drivers were all in shock. Our nation mourned together. We were glued to our television sets for days and the images of a mourning country are imprinted on our hearts forever.

This year was the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Who can forget his “I have a Dream speech during the march on Washington? Because of him, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or nationality. MLK was the most important voice of the movement.  He was 39 when he was shot and killed on April 4, 1968. His death was a shot in the heart of the movement.

Two months later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the late president’s brother, was assassinated. He died at 42, after being gunned down by an assassin at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Another deranged shooter. His killer, Sirhan Sirhan, is considered one of our first terrorists and is still in jail! That’s not fair either.

The on-going Vietnam Conflict was never officially declared a war but it lasted nearly 20 years. On May 4, 1970, brave Kent State University students protested the war in a bloody clash with the Ohio National Guard. Four students were killed and their protest became the focal point of our country’s division. The war ended five years later. PTSD goes on forever.

April 19, 1995, I was jolted awake by the radio news of the Oklahoma City bombing. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols decided to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building where 168 people were killed (including 15 children) and 680+ were wounded. Why? Because they were angry at the federal government. McVeigh and Nichols are alive but in prison.

I think that the whole world watched the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, killing 2,977 victims. Those 19 Islamic extremists seem to set the bone chilling tone for the 21st century. Lives were lost and trust broken to never be regained. The madness goes on.

Each of these horrible incidents happened in a different decade. Mankind never seems to learn, compromise or change. The perpetrators never show remorse. It seems that angry humans always have a reason to kill one another. Every generation has that cross to bear.

The Apostle John said, “Little children love one another.” Love and acceptance begin with you and me at home, on the freeway and at school or work. It’s good advice. Always be considerate and respectful. And if we can’t get along, that’s why we have laws. Obey them. God help us all!

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A hearwarming love story

Shirley and Herald are newlyweds!

2/14/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

This is a love story that will warm your heart. It is a whirlwind romance that is pure enchantment in every detail. The bride and groom are adorable octogenarians who are still young at heart. The new bride says that their story is proof that “God works in mysterious ways….”

Last year, Shirley McDaniel and Herald Callison celebrated Valentine’s Day at a church dinner—separately. They were acquaintances but not sweethearts. Both were now widowed but they and their families had belonged to Cottage Grove Bible Church for about 29 years. During that time, they had established respect and rapport for each other through casual meetings in his Bible classes and her service as a Deaconess.

Shirley was born in West Virginia but met her first husband Aaron McDaniel at a Bible College in North Carolina. They had four children together—Sue Allen, Veronica, Dennis and Jennifer. That now includes 15 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. During Aaron’s ministry career, they lived in many places before they moved to Cottage Grove in 1987. Here, Shirley worked for Operation Independence for 18 years. They had been married 49 years when Aaron passed away in 2008.

 Shirley, now 81, had been a widow for 9 years. She had not thought about re-marriage—at least not much. She kept busy with her work, family, church and travels to visit her extensive family across the country. In fact, she had told Pastor Singer that she was planning a trip to Nicaragua to stay awhile with her sister. She loves to travel.

Herald was born in Santa Rosa, Calif. but later moved to Portland, OR where he married Rosalee Schmidt. They had three children together—Kathy, Douglas and Melvin. Four grandsons and 3 great-grandchildren came along later. They moved to C.G. in 1985. Rosalee was a longtime kindergarten teacher at Oak Park Christian School. Herald was an electrical engineer and retired from Kimwood in 1995. Rosalee passed away in 2013 after 59 years of marriage.

Herald, now 87, was busy but lonely. He decided to have a talk with Pastor Singer who asked him if he had thought about getting married again. Herald nodded his head yes and the pastor asked whom he was interested in. The answer came quickly—Shirley McDaniel. “Well,” the pastor said, “She’s about to leave town. You’d better get with it!” Herald wasted no time in complying. Shirley was clueless what was coming.

That next Sunday, Shirley and another couple joined Herald for lunch at his house. After the other couple left, Herald asked Shirley to stay—and he proposed marriage! He recalls blurting it out because…there was no time to waste. Shirley was shocked but replied, “Let me think about it.” Three days later she called, accepted his proposal. She momentarily wondered “what have I done?” Followed by, “Goody, goody!”

And that was that. When I asked, “How did the first date go?” They burst out laughing and said, “There wasn’t one.”

The next week at church the pastor announced that Shirley was getting married. I’m told that everyone looked around and said, “Who’s she marrying?” Herald stood up and said, “Me!” The congregation erupted in laughter and applause. Pastor Singer now has the title of matchmaker. In the space of a two-week courtship there were no naysayers. His family had been encouraging him to ask her. Her family didn’t have the foggiest idea what was going on but were thrilled.

They chose July 8, 2017 as the wedding date—just a few months away. Everyone pitched in. His daughter made the cake. Her daughters helped with the planning and organizing. They used the punch bowl set from Shirley’s first wedding and all the attendants were (of course) family. Everyone played a part. Even the photographer was family. It was, as the bride said, “A really big deal!”

On their wedding day, the bride wore a gorgeous lace wedding gown and the groom wore a striking navy-blue suit. The dress and suit were purchased in Florence at a Goodwill store! Seeing Herald’s face light up at his first glimpse of his bride is priceless. I am told the ceremony was warm, loving and hilarious as pastor admitted his ‘meddling’ in setting the couple up. They said their vows, slipped on their wedding rings and were pronounced husband and wife.

Shirley’s smile says it all. Single no more, they happily walked back up the aisle as husband and wife. After the reception, they jumped into a 1952 Chevy truck (it was Herald’s dad’s) for the honeymoon. As they drove away to life’s next chapter, “Just Married” was on the window, tin cans were clanging and a bright future ahead.

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Callison! God knew what He was doing and the best is yet to come!

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Another Year. Another Birthday. More Decisions.

1/17/1018    Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

At my age, birthdays aren’t as much fun as they used to be. In fact, they can be downright depressing. This process of getting older and aging gracefully is serious business. My recent birthday was particularly sobering. I’m not 80 years old yet but I’m sure looking at it. Instead of a fancy dinner, cake, ice cream and balloons celebration, I find myself saying, “Let’s just go to a late lunch so we can be home before dark!”

I am, however, still looking at the future but it looks a whole lot different than when I was 12, 24, 36, or even 66 years old. Instead of singing “Happy days are here again,” I look in the mirror and somewhat incredulously say, “What happened?”  Some say that age is only a number. The mirror disagrees.

The following quote reminds me that time marches on but I still have work to do: “No one gets out of this world alive, so the time to live, learn, care, share, celebrate and love is now.” To those words, I would add…it’s also time to plan for the inevitable end of life changes because these years are more complicated the beginning!

A “normal” Biblical life span was about 70 years. Today, an average life expectancy in the 21st century, ranges from 76.4 years for a man to 81.2 years for a woman (subject to change). That means that some of us will miss the target and others will be over-achievers. (It’s also a reminder to tell our loved ones often that we love and appreciate them.)

One of the ways we can do that is by letting our families know how we want to be remembered. There is so much stress at the time of a loved one’s passing that the least we can do is to put together a packet of information about ourselves that will spare them a world of grief: Birthdate, birthplace, places we lived, marriages, children, jobs, etc. You may think that everyone knows these things but you would be surprised at what a mystery your early life is to most of your family.

 Finn John, my long-time editor, mentor and friend asked me several times to write a column on obituaries but I procrastinated. Then, my mother died and I was tasked with writing her obit. How does one sum up a lifetime of living in a few words? It was no easy task. She was an only child and died at the age of 94. She had also outlived most of her peers and relatives.

Clearly, neither I nor my siblings knew as much as we thought about this woman we called mother. Fortunately, my Aunt Kathryn was still alive and able to direct me to the correct information. i.e. I thought that mother was born in Butterfield, Missouri. No, she was born in Duenweg, MO. Oops! Putting in the wrong birthplace could have confused generations to come.

Putting together mother’s obituary inspired me to write the requested do-it-yourself obit columns. My husband and I followed the advice and wrote our own obits. They are now safely filed on my computer. Then we had to bite the bullet and let the family know how we wanted our “stuff” distributed—A Will or a Trust? We decided to go with a revocable living trust, a will, advanced directives and powers of attorney. Ugh. There are lots of do-it-yourself kits for this process but we went to our attorney and said, “Help!”

It was hard for us to wrap our brains around some decisions —how do you chose one person over another to be “in charge”? Carefully.  But now that it’s done, no one should worry and wonder about our wishes. Although they are subject to change. Our process consisted of decisions on such things as:
1.    A Trust, a Will or both?
2.    Appointing someone(s) to be alternate, successor trustee.
3.    Appropriate document information.
4.    How property will be dispersed.
5.    Health Care Directives.
6.    Anything else that is important to you.
7.    Signing the documents and getting them notarized.
8.    Storing the trust document safely.
9.    Reviewing the documents periodically.

Our decisions were all made many years ago. Now we’re re-thinking some of the things that seemed crystal clear then. As we have aged and our needs have changed, old decisions need to be re-evaluated and prior decisions updated. People move. Life changes. That’s why periodic review is necessary.

So how to sum this all up? Well, I know that getting this legal stuff done is a pain in the tush. But it is important. But if you are over 65 years of age and haven’t gotten your thoughts down on paper don’t delay any longer. Begin today. You’ll be glad that you did and you can get on with living the rest of your life in joy and peace. Can I get an Amen?

P.S. Be sure and tell someone where all the important stuff can be found!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Marvel Stephen's Christmas story

12/20/17 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

It’s tradition! For nearly 20 years it has been my pleasure to tell an old-fashioned Christmas story in the month of December. It brings joy to my heart to share how generations past celebrated this sacred holiday. Money was usually scarce, gifts were homemade and there were no glitzy shopping centers to buy “stuff.” It was all about family and church—and the birth of Jesus was the reason for the celebration.

I vividly remember the inspiration for one of those first columns. Her name was Marvel Stephen. She wrote me a note asking if I would be interested in one of her stories that had just been published in a Christmas edition of Country Woman magazine. Of course, I was interested and an appointment was made.

 Sitting quietly in her tidy living room, Marvel Stephen, then 82 years old, exuded a serene peace and dignity that is often absent in today’s world. She was born in Montana, but grew up in Sandpoint, Idaho. She married Sandy Stephen and they moved to the Cottage Grove area in 1943.

 Her voice reflected a past that had seen both joy and pain. She had fond childhood memories of riding into town on her bicycle to get groceries in the 1920s.  She loved being a mother but later she suffered through years of being treated for lymphoma with massive doses of chemo and prednisone. Sandy then began a downward slide into what she described as “a nightmare disease—Alzheimer’s.” He passed on and she was living alone but said, “This is a nice time.”

So how did she get to be a writer? Well, as an only child living way out in the country, Marvel loved to read, and hoped to be a writer. But when a high school teacher asked her to be editor of the school paper, she “couldn’t be bothered.” She was too busy. Later, as a wife and mother of two she was still too busy.

She was the leader of her daughter’s Brownie Troop when she learned that the mother of her daughter’s best friend had won $5,000 in a cake-naming contest. “So,” she said, “I called her and she told me how she did it.”  It turns out that there was money to be made in contests that extolled the attributes of a name brand product in 25 words or less.

Marvel thought it sounded easy, and she started entering contests.  “It was a long time before I won anything. Local contests were the easiest. A group of us got together and encouraged one another. It was a lot of fun. The biggest prize that I ever won was a statement about a mattress. I won a trip for two to Miami Beach!”

When we met, she was long retired as a weekly columnist for the Dead Mountain Echo newspaper in Oakridge. Farm Life News had published her first story and she was still writing for magazines. Here’s one of her favorite heartfelt Christmas stories that happened about 90 years ago: 

"The year Papa decided I should learn to ski, deep snows covered the land, the buildings, even the towering trees on our small farm.
Our rustic house was bursting with excitement and activity. Christmas was only a few weeks away.

 "December's early sunsets urged us to finish our chores and supper fast so we could get to work on our Christmas gifts. Having recently mastered the art of making French knots, I chose to embroider dish towels cut from flour sacks. Mother was tatting lovely lace to trim her presents and Papa was creating a pair of skis for me. Working close together in our cozy kitchen made it impossible not to be aware of what each other was making — but we were clever at pretending we didn't know what they were doing.

 "No one mentioned anything about Papa crafting skis for me, but I knew what he was doing."

Her story goes on to describe the excitement of Christmas morning. New skis! She was so excited. Sadly, the homemade skis were a failure! Somehow, the tips of the skis had straightened out and instead of gliding down the slopes Marvel tumbled down the slopes. Her Papa was embarrassed and he apologized profusely,

Marvel remembered sighing, "Oh, Papa. This is the best Christmas I've ever had. I wanted to say more as I put my small mittened hand in his large gloved one, but I couldn't find the words to tell him he'd already given the greatest gift of all...his love."

After all these years, love, gratitude and understanding are the best gifts of the season. May they bless your heart, mind and soul.

Merry Christmas to one and all! 

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