This blog is coming to you from Cottage Grove, Oregon where I am a columnist for the local newspaper. My 'Chatterbox' column is about reminiscing the experiences of real life in the 1950s to the present. The 'Cook's Corner' segment features updated, country-style cooking.
Real life. Real food. Enjoy!
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
The United Kingdom, 378,800
The Netherlands, 146,800
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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.”
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
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
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
11. What was the worst time of
11. What was your favorite time
12. If you could have one wish
granted what would it be?
13. What is your greatest joy?
14. Would you do anything over
15. Was I your favorite
grandchild? (Please say ‘yes’!)
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers
Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at email@example.com
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!
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
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
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
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!
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!
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.