Saturday, December 15, 2018


11/21/18 The Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Every November, I like to look back at the humble beginnings of this place that we call home— the United States of America. This year, as usual, our super-power country is in the midst of controversies of every kind. They include on-going wars and conflicts, political differences, homelessness, inequality, devastating climate changes, and more. It has ever been so. Nevertheless, we have a mighty fine place to call home.

I love stories of our founding parents and what life was like in 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock in the Americas. And yes, I know that long before the Pilgrims arrived, the area had been visited by sea-going travelers from Africa, China, Europe and the Vikings. And we all know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492!

But it was the Pilgrims who settled into the land when they arrived on our shores in 1620. They had previously lived in England under religious persecution and moved to Holland where there were other problems. So, off they sailed to the Americas. Now if that wasn’t bravery, I don’t know what is. Because this was no cruise ship that they were on.

They had planned to cross the ocean on the Speedwell, a passenger ship, but it developed mechanical problems. Instead, they boarded its sister ship, the Mayflower. A freighter, it was not built to carry passengers. Quarters were tight, food was rationed, the seas were rough, storms caused leaks and weakness in the structure, people were sick and one person died.

It took about 66 days to get to the new world. Their planned destination was the Colony of Virginia but the winter weather forced them to return to Cape Cod. There were about 30 crew and 102 passengers aboard.  

After the ship dropped anchor on Nov. 11, 1620, the new settlers had the foresight to write and sign the Mayflower Compact. Some of the passengers were non-Puritans who wanted to proclaim their own liberty. The Pilgrims wanted to establish their own govt. while affirming allegiance to the Crown of England. The result was an agreement in which all 41 of the male passengers consented to follow the community’s rules for the sake of order and survival. They were off to a good start.

That first winter was brutal. There was no local lumber yard to buy supplies. They had to build crude shelters from whatever was at hand. Food was scarce and there was no medicine to treat diseases like pneumonia.  Sources say that at one point each person could only eat 5 kernels of corn daily.

 Starvation, disease and exposure soon killed half the population. Only 53 adults survived that first winter. Fourteen of the 18 adult women died. Weak and hungry, they gave their children food and herbal medicines. Eleven of the 31 children died. Orphans were taken in by other families. Two baby boys had been born on the Mayflower journey. One died at 2 years of age. Another boy, Peregrine White was born nine days after they landed and he lived to be 83 years old.

Strangely enough, the Pilgrims had landed in an area where some Europeans had settled in the mid-1610s. An epidemic wiped out most of their coastal population. According to historian Charles Mann, “Plymouth was on top of a village that had been deserted by disease. The pilgrims didn’t know it but they were moving into a cemetery.”

Enter Squanto. He was the only living Patuxent Indian in the area. He had survived slavery in England and knew the language. He taught the Pilgrims to grow corn, fish and negotiated a peace treaty between them and the Wampanoag Native Americans.

The arrival and generosity of the Wampanoag’s saved the Pilgrim immigrants from starvation and death. They welcomed the newcomers and taught them what they needed to know to raiser bumper crops of corn, beans and more. Both sides abided by the peace treaty.

So where does Thanksgiving come in? Well, the religious Pilgrims yearly celebrated days of thanksgiving—days of prayer, not feasting. In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag celebrated the colony’s first successful harvest with venison supplied by the Indians. The feast lasted three days and was attended by 63 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. Two years later in 1623, the colonists gave thanks to God for rain after a two-month drought and Thanksgiving feasting became a yearly event.

This year, as we celebrate Thanksgiving and our many personal blessings, let us also remember our foundation. We are a unique, mixed nation of people, laws and compassion—built by immigrants and mutual respect. Let us never forget that we are blessed in so many ways.

Happy Thanksgiving and God bless you all!

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Life and laundry before computers

10/24/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Today’s column subject was triggered by a cartoon in the Register Guard newspaper. “Another View” shows a man reading a newspaper headline that says, “Sears files for bankruptcy.”

Sitting on the floor are two little kids. The boy says to his playmate, “My dad says that when he was a kid, they had to drive to a store to buy stuff.” The girl, looking at Amazon on her computer screen replies, “People had it so rough in the olden days.”

At first I laughed and then I said to myself… life without computers was not rough. Computers make some things easy but they don’t solve all problems. Shopping wasn’t really a problem because we had people. Store clerks were your friends. They asked you how they could help, knew your dress size, advised you when something was going on sale and asked how your family was doing.

As I recall, we lived simple, uncomplicated, organized lives using common sense.  Electronic devices didn’t tell us what to do or how to do it.  Our households somewhat followed these simple rules:

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday

Those rules are embroidered on a set of tea towels (aka dish towels) that I received as a bridal shower gift in 1958. In that era of homemaking, we took daily chores very seriously. I still loosely plan my week around the above suggestions. Especially the washing, ironing, cleaning, baking and resting part. I was never very keen on mending or churning.

Again, life was not always easy but it wasn’t for lack of a computer. Doing the laundry? Now that was rough.  In fact, it was a homemaker’s full-time, never ending job. Come along with me as I reminisce about laundry day before running water or electricity.

For generations, washing clothes in a river was the normal way to get clothes clean—even when the river was frozen. Stains were treated at home by soaking in a lye solution, a washing bat or board was used to scrub them. Soap was used sparingly and could be made at home by those who had ashes and fat mixed with salt. The clothes were rinsed in the river and spread on bushes to dry.

Women often didn’t have time to wash clothes weekly. It was hard, time-consuming work. You can imagine that clothes were practically filthy before being washed. Often, groups would get together and help each other at a big laundry session every few weeks or months.

Lee Maxwell is 87 years old and vividly remembers when his family did the laundry. He says, “I remember my grandfather wearing his overalls until they literally stood up. Washing was washing. Today, we don’t really ‘wash.’ We kind of refresh. Your shirts don’t get that dirty.” Lee has a Washing Machine Museum in Eaton, Colorado.

Some areas of the world still wash their clothes in rivers but most of civilization has progressed. Wooden tubs and factory-made metal tubs made the chore easier. Tongs replaced sticks for lifting the washed items. Boxed soaps and starches were introduced in the 1800s. Clotheslines, pegs and pins made drying easier. Women found employment as washers or had a box mangle to do ironing.

By the time I came along, my mother and grandmother were still in the wringer washer era. I remember being scared to death to go out to the wash house where the machine was located. It was dark and damp and creepy out there. The machine was plugged in and hooked up to the hot and cold water of a deep sink. I think it took two people to do a load of laundry. Someone had to feed the clothes through the wringer to another person who caught them on the other side. Then they had to be hung out to dry.

I’m told that early on (before my time), mother’s long hair got caught in a wringer! Fortunately, grandmother was there to quickly unplug the machine before she was scalped!  By the 1950s, washing machines were greatly improved. A Speed Queen pamphlet touted that a 7-load washing could be done in one hour with one tubful of water! To my mind that’s questionable but all women had to be thrilled and I’m sure my mother was over the moon.

A final word on shopping and the cartoon. Chuck’s dad worked for Sears and his mother introduced me to Sears catalog shopping. Over the years, we bought a lot of things that way—curtains, sheets, tools and washing machines.  But our kid’s crib and changing table came from Sears brick and mortar stores as did their clothing. Shopping? Catalogs and neighborhood shops were our computers. No problem.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Bye-bye Bats—for now!

9/26/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

This has been quite a year for animal stories at our house. The latest one has left me shaking my head and wondering how pioneers ever survived various scourges let alone wolves and bears. It all began a few months ago when I went out to Chuck’s workshop. He works downstairs and I store important things upstairs like holiday décor and outdoor furniture.

A few months ago, I was climbing the stairs when I heard what sounded like a herd of mice scurrying around in the ceiling. Then it was quiet. This happened several times until I asked Chuck to give a listen. He didn’t hear any scurrying noises but to appease me he put out extra mouse traps. We found lots of droppings but caught no mice.

A little background. We are used to dealing with unwanted critters. We bought our house in 1989 and there were mice in the walls. One morning early on I found a bat in the shower! Periodically our dogs would spy a bat flying around the house at night. We would capture it with a butterfly net and take it outside to fly away. A new roof solved the problem. The original cedar shake roof was their home. The day the old roof was removed, hundreds of bats were awakened and darkened the sky overhead. Bye-bye bats? Nope.

Fast forward to summer 2018. The bats were still living outside. We thought all was well. Our son John and grandson Josh were visiting and we were going to Bohemia Park for the Eugene Symphony. Josh and I went upstairs and brought down four folding chairs. They were strangely dirty.  Each one had a large, black blob in the middle of the chair. A closer exam revealed sleeping bats!

You would think that I would get hysterical but I found them kind of fascinating. I took the chairs to some nearby trees, moved the bats and we went to the park. End of story? Not by a long shot. The so-called mice noises got so loud in the shop ceiling that Chuck could hear them. An exterminator came who was “pretty sure” that the droppings were from mice. He put down some new-fangled traps scented with pheromones and we caught…wait for it: nine (9) bats! This time I got pretty close to hysterical. We were bat killers!

I spent that evening googling everything I could about bats. Did you know that next to rodents, bats are the second most common land mammals? They are an invaluable insect predator, sometimes eating half their body weight in mosquitos. They eat insects that could damage crops and can live to be 20 years old. They have a bad rap about rabies. And finally, they are feeling a housing crunch because their favorite hollow trees, old barns and houses are disappearing.

Thus, we ended up with not one but two colonies of bats in our warm, sheltered shop. They found an entry and exit area where birds had picked holes in the walls. Then I learned that once they nest in your home they will come back to the same place year after year. So, I went looking for a professional who could evict the bats humanely.

Here’s a quick overview of how to evict bats:
    •    Find all outside entrances
    •    Install one-way bat check valves that allow bats to leave but not return.
    •    Leave in place 5-7 days
    •    Check to make sure all bats are gone.
    •    Remove the check valves and seal the entrances.

Sounds easy. Right? Wrong! Fish and Game regulations apply to Oregon bats. The company that we chose came out in mid-August and explained that our bats would soon be migrating to Mexico! They could not be evicted until after the first of Sept. Their babies had to be strong enough to fly with them to hibernate over the winter. Then, they will return next spring to their favorite new home at CG Lake.

This was getting so complicated that it made my head spin. What to do?  Well, one evening around the first of the month, Chuck was out pottying the dogs. Suddenly, he looked up and saw hundreds of bats circling and taking flight. The next day, the bats were gone out of the shop. We had dodged one bullet. Then came the cleanup. If I had more room, I would tell you the process in detail. Suffice it to say that it involved men wearing masks, removing ceiling panels, vacuuming guano, sweeping, sealing holes and quarantining the area.

We were told that the bats have good memories. They will return next year—to our house. So we’re going with a plan to put up bat houses and attract them with some of their saved guano. I’ll let you know how that works out.

 Hasta la vista murciélago!

 Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox Sept. 2018 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Military news from Cottage Grove and more

8/29/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Colonel Kirsten M. Palmer
I have been following USAF Colonel Kirsten M. Palmer’s career for 20 years. She continues to amaze me. A local girl, Col. Palmer received her commission, as a Second Lieutenant, from the U.S. Air Force Academy in May 1995. Last year she was promoted to a full Colonel after receiving a Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy with concentration in supply chain management at National Defense Univ., Ft. McNair, Washington, D.C

This year, Kirsten’s parents, Ron and Linda Palmer, were thrilled to learn that a promotion and a new duty station for her will be on the west coast. On Aug. 5, 2018, they, along with other family members and invited friends, attended an Assumption of Command Ceremony for their daughter at McChord Field in Washington State.

Col. Palmer is the new commander of the 446th Maintenance Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. She is now responsible for directing all aircraft and equipment maintenance support for three squadrons of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. She will also oversee the quality and quantity of training for over 400 Reservists, ensuring they are prepared to perform the wing’s mission in peacetime and during combat.  Very impressive.

On the lighter side, her promotion means that for the first time since her career began, her parents will be close enough to often visit Addyson, their now 9-year old granddaughter, and her parents on a regular basis. Another change in the family life is that dad, Col. Roger Lang, a former USAF pilot has retired and is now a pilot for United Airlines. They will be living in Gig Harbor, WA. It doesn’t get much better than that. Congratulations, Kirsten!

On another note, I would like to say a few words about the passing of local resident Leonard Waitman. His military service reads like a page out of Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation.” 

Leonard was both a soldier and scholar. His time as a soldier began before his graduation from Grant Union High in Sacramento. The day that WWII was declared, his entire class of seniors went down to enlist. He received his high school diploma while in training and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, a precursor to the U.S. Air Force.

His obituary related some of his 3 1/2 years of service without liberty in the war zone. At his memorial service those stories came alive. He had first-hand experience with people and situations that we’ve only read about in books: Invasions of countries, aiding Col. Doolittle, Gen. George Patton, blessed by Pope Pious XII, seeing the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. etc. Each one gave him insights into the real world of war that would be with him forever.

Leonard’s years as a scholar came after the war. His degrees and accomplishments are impressive. His education included both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees and a PhD.  He taught for 32 years and wrote several books. He was a dedicated Christian and served as president of Bethesda Bible College. He and his wife retired to Cottage Grove.

I met Leonard around the time of the 9/11 attacks. He and his fellow Veteran of Foreign Wars buddies were fountains of information for me as I struggled with what was happening and how to communicate it to my readers. A gifted communicator, he was front and center at every CG Memorial Day remembrance ceremony. Our city was blessed for having him amongst us and he will be missed.

I recently read that for many Americans, today’s wars are closer to Reality TV than to reality. War is not at our back door so we’re oblivious. Some of the hotspots around the world where we send our young men and women in the armed forces are Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Niger, the Philippines, Somalia and Syria. Many of us don’t know where those countries are or why we are there.

At Leonard Waitman’s memorial, little toy soldiers were given to each person who walked in the door. We were asked to put the soldier in a conspicuous place in our house to remind us that freedom is not free. Somewhere in the world, right now, real people are fighting, dying and being maimed in real battles. The toy soldier can be a reminder to pray for their protection and wisdom on the part of those who send them to war.

Finally, as I put this column to bed, news came over the airwaves that Sen. John McCain has died. He was a good man. Whether you liked or disliked his politics, he served his country well. God rest his soul.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at  

Friday, August 10, 2018

Mother Nature surprises city girls

8/1/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Fish in the trees and Blue Jays in the pond!

As a former city girl, I am constantly amazed at Mother Nature’s surprises. Living in the country has been a whole new learning experience. My latest wildlife encounter had me shaking my head and my heart pounding. It seems worthy of sharing on this hot summer day. Feel free to sit back and laugh at or with me.

First, I am not a fisher woman. The closest I ever came to catching a fish was at the Blue Jay Trout Farm in the San Bernardino Mountains. My family spent a month every summer in nearby Crestline. My grandfather wasn’t a fisherman either but he loved trout. He would pile us kids in the car and off we would go to the trout farm where you paid to fish.

Grandpa said it was the most expensive activity of the summer. There, an employee baited the hook on your fishing pole and the fish would practically leap out of the water into your lap. Fortunately, I not only didn’t have to bait the hook but someone else took the slimy, squirming fish off the line and into the bucket for me.

Fast forward a few decades and I’m living at C.G. Lake where fishing is a regular pastime. But not me. I’m more like someone out of a Justin Moore Country song: I can’t even bait a hook. That all sort of changed a couple of weeks ago. A strong wind had blown through our six acres of trees and branches were scattered on the deck and under the trees closest to the house.

I got busy with my rake and wheelbarrow and began cleaning up. That’s when I saw what looked like a 12-inch log covered in mulch about 3 ft. inside the tree line. I went over to pick it up and it moved! It was breathing. Yikes! I practically jumped out of my jeans!

I gently nudged it with a stick and it rolled over and fanned out what looked like tail feathers. A bird? And it was still alive? Eek! I ran into the house, filled the tea kettle, dashed outside and poured water over the “bird.” Well, the bird was a fish and its gills were opening and closing. I had to rescue it!

I covered the fish with a damp cloth, laid it in a box, grabbed the car keys and drove over to the lake. At the boat ramp, I gently put the fish in the water, it briefly swam a few inches and was still. A fisherman was nearby with his little girl. I asked him if he knew anything about fish. Duh. Of course, he did. He was fishing in the lake.

I told him my fish story and could tell that he thought I was a few bricks short of a load. Finally, he got curious, came over and said, “Doggone, it’s a Catfish.” (Or something like that.) He called his daughter over to check it out as he nudged it into deeper water. The fish, however, had other ideas and kept coming back onto shore!

The fisherman asked me where I found it. I told him it was covered in mulch under the trees but came alive when I poured water on it from a tea kettle. I still didn’t know how it got there. Then it dawned on me. There’s an osprey nest nearby. Sometimes other birds try to steal their fish when they’re coming home. Perhaps there was a tussle and he dropped it on our property—but 3 ft. under the trees?

By this time my fisherman’s daughter is asking questions and he is describing the fish as identified it by its whiskers. Then, hoping to get rid of me, he assured me that my fish was going to be fine and I drove home—still shaking— to ponder what had happened.

Later, I was telling this story to my friend Emily who proceeded to confound me with her own Mother Nature story. She lives in a house on a city lot in Eugene. Her backyard has a nice big deck overlooking a little stream that runs into a pond. A small Blue Jay (slightly handicapped because of a chopped off tail!) has been frequenting the pond to drink water and check out the tadpoles.

One day while Emily was relaxing outside, she noticed that the tadpoles were now frogs. Suddenly, a HUGE Bullfrog leaped out of the water, jumped on her bluebird and swallowed its entire head!  Emily leaped into action and eventually was able to free her bird’s head from the bullfrog. The frog dove back into the pond and the bird has never been seen again. Emily will never trust her bullfrogs again. Evidently, they are carnivores and will even eat their own young. That’s Mother Nature at work. We city girls sure have a lot to learn.

 Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox by email

Thursday, July 12, 2018

U.S. Immigration needs the wisdom of Solomon

7/4/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser
"On the 4th of July, my patriotic heart 
beats red, white and blue.”

This quote (source unknown) pretty much sums up how I feel every year on the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

This year, as a proud American citizen, I am also saddened by the current asylum/immigration situation in our beloved country. It’s a mess. Our country was not prepared to deal with the thousands of people wanting to cross our borders illegally for work and family safety. We have never seen anything of this magnitude. The children situation is worthy of the wisdom of Solomon.

The Declaration of Independence (for the most part) does not address immigration. The document is profoundly basic: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if you don’t do anything illegal or violate the rights of others. When this was written in 1776, it is estimated there were about 2.5 million people living in the 13 colonies. They probably never envisioned a nation of 327 million residents.

Illegal immigrants have always tested our entry rules but now we have a lot of unhappy U.S. citizens doing the same. The uproar is over the separation of illegal immigrant families. As I sat mulling over recent headlines, I wondered how our founding fathers would respond to this dilemma.  I also realized how little I know about immigration laws in the U.S. or other countries.

Before moving to Oregon, my husband and I were 50 year residents and business owners in Calif. We employed Mexican workers who were holders of green cards issued by the U.S. To be a resident and work in this country (legally) one needs a green card proving their identity and status. As employers, we knew that we would get in trouble if we hired illegal employees. They complied with the laws and so did we.

I haven’t thought much about green card holders and illegal immigration since moving to Oregon but suddenly, immigration is a hot news topic all over the world. Now, thousands of people from war-torn, gang ridden or famine situations are leaving their homelands and seeking refuge for safe living in other countries everywhere.

So, I Googled a few questions to gain a current perspective on immigration here and around the world. The top 10 countries accepting the most immigrants in 2015 were:
The United States, 1,051,000
Germany, 686,000
The United Kingdom, 378,800
Canada, 271,800
France, 256,500
Australia, 226,22
Spain, 194,900
Italy, 160,900
The Netherlands, 146,800
Switzerland, 131,000.

According to the US News, our 1,051,000 figure does not include migration to the U.S. by other means. We are the top country for immigration in the world. We are also the top refugee resettlement country with most refugees coming from Myanmar, Iraq, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bhutan. Our foreign-born population is 13.3 percent.

Immigration deals with the transit of people across its borders but especially those that intend to work and stay in that country. Rules are different everywhere but always confusing. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) provides for the U.S., an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants, with some exceptions for close family members.

Legal immigrants to the U.S. number about 1,000,000 per year of whom about 600,000 are already in the U.S. The total legal immigrants living here are now at their highest level ever— just over 37 million. There are also about 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. The American Immigration Council says that—both documented and undocumented—contribute billions of dollars in taxes every year.

If you are from a foreign country you must have a Permanent Resident or Green Card to live and work in the U.S. A green card is a photo ID permit that allows you to stay here as long as you want. You may also apply for a Social Security Number.

There is a difference between a green card and a visa. With a visa, your permanent residence is outside the U.S. It is a temporary pass for a specific period of time. In both visa and green cards, you remain the citizen of another country. Therefore, you do not have the rights of a U.S. citizen. i.e. to vote in elections, apply for a U.S. passport, etc. There are also serious consequences for criminal behavior.

There is so much more to say about this subject but these are the answers that helped me understand the basics of immigration. I could find no mandates to separate families. I hope this is as helpful to you as it has been to me as we go down this path of uncertainty.

Despite our problems, we are blessed to live in America. Together, like generations before us, we can work through the uncertainties of this era with grit and determination; respect for the law and different opinions while helping others and our country.

We can also pray for the wisdom of Solomon to enlighten us all in decision making. May God help us all!

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox  

Monday, June 11, 2018

Pahoa Hawii, paradise erupts!

6/6/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Paradise erupts!

This column brings you greetings from Pat Deter, a former Cottage Grove resident, who is now living in Pahoa, Hawaii. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. Yes, she is now living in the small town on the big island next to the exploding Kilauea volcano. It began erupting in early May, destroying everything in its path including Pat’s new home and all her belongings. It shows no signs of stopping.

Pat and her husband Ralph were my CG neighbors but they raised their family in Whittier, Calif. Ralph was a lithographer and after serving in the Navy, he bought a print shop. Pat worked alongside him until she went to work as a bookkeeper for the Red Cross. She says that they brain washed her to become a volunteer!

In 1994, the couple retired, sold their business and moved to CG Lake. It wasn’t long before their little red car was zooming up and down the hill to volunteer tasks in town. They were members of Prospectors and Golddiggers who are known for raising money for non-profit organizations. Ralph belonged to the local Masonic Lodge and Pat, the Eastern Star. He was a driver for So. Lane Wheels; she was a hospital volunteer and a member of the Episcopal church. They were also excellent neighbors.

Ralph died suddenly in 2014. Pat continued to live in their house in the woods with her cats and a new dog. During this time, her daughters Debbie and Vickie moved to Hawaii and suggested that she do the same. It was tempting. Last year, at 88 years old, she made the decision to move and put her house on the market. It sold and she began preparations to move to paradise.

Moving to rabies-free Hawaii is complicated if you have animals. There are many hoops to jump through and it takes lots of dollars to prove that your pets are rabies free. Fortunately, Pat has the patience of a saint (and some good friends). She also had the foresight to buy a fully furnished house sight unseen. Then there was the garage sale of a lifetime and packing up the rest. Finally, she breathed a sigh of relief and boarded an airplane in March with her cats and dog for a new life of leisure on the big island. Or so she thought.

Hundreds of earthquakes woke up Pahoa in early May. Pat said the 6.9 quake really shook everyone up. Then the volcano blew up and massive lava flows began. The earthquakes continue to come every hour. Pat lived in Leilani Estates, one mile from the downhill lava flow. A voluntary evacuation was announced. Her daughter Vickie called her to pack an overnight bag—a change of clothes, robe, nightgown and medicine.

They were headed for her Vickie’s house on higher ground. Pat said it was like a war zone and they decided to leave the cats and pick them up the next day. Before they left there was a mandatory evacuation so the cats had to be pulled out from under the bed.

Later, a couple drove by her house and noticed the patio furniture on the lanai. They packed it all up including a large television and put it in storage at their house for her return. A local Eastern Star group gave her a generous contribution to buy clothes. Everyone was looking out for each other.

Suddenly, the lava came and destroyed her house. The last shipment of boxes from Oregon was unpacked prior to the lava flow. She lost everything. All important papers, birth certificates, banking information, phone numbers (no cell phone), computer were all gone. Most precious were her pictures of Ralph. Her granddaughter in Calif. put out a plea on Facebook for anyone who knew her grandparents and had photos of them to contact her. She’s had a good response.

New cracks bubbling with lava are everywhere. Housing is scarce. In some places, three families are crowded together under one roof. Amazingly, a lady Pat didn’t know offered to take her and her pets in to live with her for as long as needed. Her daughters and husbands are under evacuation and looking for housing.

Pat has not gone back to her former home site but she has been told that there is a lava wall eight feet high, that looks like black popcorn and is razor sharp. No house. Through it all, she has had a great attitude. How does she stay calm?  Here’s what she said when I asked. Notice her sense of humor:

“There’s nothing I can do about it. There’s no end in sight. They can’t predict when it will stop. I’m grateful that I have my animals and a place to stay where I’m welcome as long as needed. My insurance is providing living expenses. I’m okay. And I have a whole new wardrobe.”

The real meaning of Aloha in Hawaiian 
is that of Love, Peace, and Compassion. 
Aloha” to Pat and all those in Pahoa.

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at

Friday, May 18, 2018

Grandmother and Me

5/9/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

My grandmother and me

I was six years old when I was adopted into my “forever family.”  They quickly learned that I was a child who loved to talk and ask questions. They nicknamed me the Chatterbox. The 1940s were an era when children were supposed to be seen and not heard. So, I grew up with many unanswered questions about my new family and life in general.

My grandmother was probably my favorite person in the family. I had never known another grandmother and she became my anchor in every storm. She never raised her voice and always had time for me. In stature, she was short (4’11” tall), round and cherubic looking. In the style of the era, she always wore a house dress, an apron, stockings and sturdy shoes. She was always baking, cooking, working.

Grandma and Grandpa lived in a big Spanish style house where he grew a Victory Garden. My parents, sister, brother and I lived across the street. Our quiet neighborhood was high in the hills above Los Angeles before it became a mecca for the world. Sundays, we all went to church. Always. After Sunday supper, Grandpa and I went to evening services where I was a violin soloist.

I often walked to grandma’s house just to chat, eat a cookie warm from the oven, cry on her shoulder, feel her love and soak in her wisdom. If I was having a hard day at school she would smile, pat me on the back and say, “This, too, shall pass.” I would go home happy.

Cora Mae was born in Missouri in 1894 and married J.D. Rush from Texas when she was only 14 years old! Three years later their only child Portia LaVaughn was born. Their little family lived many places in the mid-west before moving to Mexico where grandpa was an oil field roustabout before settling in California. It was a hard life.

Looking back, I realize that I thought my grandmother could do anything. An expert seamstress, I watched her create beautiful quilts, doll clothes, church and prom dresses. She canned fruits and vegetables, entertained large groups and cooked scrumptious meals topped off with hand cranked ice cream on homemade pies.

 She had also lived through two world wars; experienced women being given the right to vote and endured the Great Depression. Technology advances made her life easier. Things we take for granted: radio, electric refrigerators (formerly ice boxes), frozen food (remember Bird’s Eye?) and television opened a whole new world. She never learned how to drive.

In March 1957, Grandpa was taken to the hospital and not expected to live. I spent that night with grandma. She made it clear that she didn’t want to live without her husband. She was hospitalized and died quickly. Grandpa shortly after. I was 18 years old and It was the shock of my young life. But she trained me well. Life would go on.

I loved my grandparents but I poured out my heart to grandma. Selfishly, our relationship in life was all about me. What I was feeling. How I was doing. What I wanted to do with my life. Now, I look back and wonder why I didn’t ask more questions about her life. I wonder what her hopes, aspirations and frustrations were. What events had shaped her life to be a perfect grandmother?

As this Mother’s Day approaches, I would encourage you to remember that life is short. If your grandmother or mother are still alive you are blessed. Don’t miss any opportunity to get to know them better. They are special. Ask them about their lives as children and young adults. Find out what shaped them to become the people they are today. They will be thrilled that you care enough to ask and you will have memories to pass on to the next generation.

In retrospect, here is a short list of questions that I would ask Cora Mae, my wonderful grandmother:

1.   What were your parents like?
2.   Growing up what did you do for fun?
3.   Where did you go to school?
4.   Did you graduate from high school?
5.   Did you have any special dreams for your life?
6.   Where did you meet grandpa?
7.   Why did you get married so young?
8.   Did you have a wedding?
9.   Who was your best friend?
10.What was it like living in Mexico?
11. What was the worst time of life?
11. What was your favorite time of life?
12. If you could have one wish granted what would it be?
13. What is your greatest joy?
14. Would you do anything over again?
15. Was I your favorite grandchild? (Please say ‘yes’!)

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and grandmothers!

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