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Day: December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

The world does not come to a full stop just because it is Christmas week, although it would be nice if it did.

We all need a respite from the constant barrage of less than good news from around the world and around the corner. We should all be able to celebrate the holidays in peace and harmony with friends and family.

Let politicians in Washington continue to debate and argue; let the world scratch their heads over the future of North Korea. Here in Keizer and Oregon we will observe the holidays in familiar ways. All the Christmas events are just about completed with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. This weekend families will gather to exchange gifts and enjoy homemade feasts featuring traditional recipes.

Those who are less fortunate in our community will not face a dark holiday. The Keizer Network of Women, the Keizer Elks Lodge, the Miracle of Lights in Gubser and other organizations have gathered and distributed thousands and thousands of pounds of food. Some of these organizations have also collected toys and clothes for those children in our community who otherwise would find a figurative lump of coal in their Christmas stocking.

At this time of year, especially after the year we’ve had in 2011, we need to put away contentious political issues and selfish motives. This is the time of year to look past ourselves, offer a warm greeting or a smile to those we meet. Though some may prefer the innocuous “Happy holidays” greeting over “Merry Christmas,” that issue should not be fraught with ideological contention.

We don’t say “Happy Spring Day” at Easter.  Easter is Easter and Christmas is Christmas, it says so on the calendar. It is akin to renaming Tuesday because someone may find offense.  Today you can find somebody to be offended by anything and everything.

But it is just such disagreements that need to be set aside.  You say ‘holiday,’ I say ‘Christmas.’ Can’t we just mark the season without turning it into verbal warfare?

Whether one celebrates Christmas, Chanukah or nothing at all, this is the time to embrace joy, grace and giving. Too many of us look upon the holidays as a chore; many boast of finishing their shopping months earlier.  Many endure the traditions of the Christmas season with a resigned shrug when the payoff would be better if those traditions-—decorating, caroling, shopping, wrapping, cooking—were enjoyed.

Christmas has morphed into a day for the children. Millions of families will attend church services and observe the birth of Christ; at the same time millions of children will spend a restless Christmas Eve night, trying to stay awake to hear the bells on nine reindeer. Christmas is alive in the hearts and minds of the children who find that Santa did indeed come down the chimney, finding beautifully bowed gifts under the tree with their name on them.

Christmas isn’t just one thing.  It is not only presents.  It is not only church services or midnight Masses. It is not only Santa Claus. It is not only gift exchanges. It is all of those things and more.

The staff of the Keizertimes will be celebrating the holiday near and far with their families and friends. And we’ll remember that it is better to give than to receive. And it’s best to give to those less fortunuate who should be able to have a Christmas.

Merry Chistmas, Keizer.


The lessons from nine lives

Moments of Lucidity

I’ve always been a dog person, which is why I held out for three years. Zippy was nothing if not persistent.

He was my neighbor Tammy Shepherd’s beloved Siamese with frosty eyes that held wisdom in their depths. I don’t remember the day we met. I was too busy with a new career, a new baby, a new house. Zippy arrived with the rest of it.

When the Shepherds adopted a quartet of labradors, Zippy decided the grass was greener on our side of the fence. No water was set out. No food was offered. But he’d sit at our sliding backdoor and wait for someone to come out and acknowledge his efforts. We often did, and in return Zippy showed boundless patience as our toddler, Ameya, explored her backyard and the wonders it held, himself included.

On a damp and cold Thanksgiving, he got a can of tuna and a threshold was crossed. A few weeks later, Tammy called asking after Chloe, her daughter, who was playing at our house. I promised that the two girls were fine, but before I could escape she asked the question I’d been dreading, “Eric, are you guys feeding Zippy?”

I hesitated and sputtered through an answer that was more of a plea for forgiveness.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I just wanted to make sure he was eating somewhere.”

Backpedaling was an impossibility. Soon there were water dishes, food bowls, a dog carrier five sizes too big that would keep Zippy sheltered from the rain and Ameya picked a pillowy pink bed to put inside it.

We never claimed ownership, we just cared for him and loved him as though he’d been ours all along. He became a two-family cat, but I didn’t know how important that would become.

Three years later, Tammy passed away far too young. Our neighborhood mourned and I made a silent promise to her that Zippy would be loved more than ever. Instead of sleeping outside on cold nights, he was let into the garage where we would find him, or not, when we woke up or arrived home from work.

When Tammy’s children visited, Zippy was a frequent topic of conversation: who owned him, what constituted ownership, and lots of love and attention. I hoped Tammy heard all of it and smiled at the connection two families shared over the cat she brought into our lives.

There were quieter moments, too. I don’t know when I started going outside specifically to visit Zippy, but he was a good listener and didn’t go around telling others our business. I respected that and tried to do the same for him.

Things took a downturn earlier this year. Zippy lost too much weight too quickly for it to be simple preparation for the summer months, a diabetes diagnosis followed. He moved slower, his hips hitched at odd angles and his medium-length brown and black fur lost much of its sheen. Solutions were sought out, but it had been clear for a while that his 11 years were catching up with him.

I picked him up two weeks ago as I left to take part in an intense study session that’s part of my pursuit of a master’s degree. I nuzzled his face to mine, kissed him and told him, “Be here when I get back.”

In the year I’ve been studying with the same group of writers, I’ve pushed myself to develop friendships with the people I met when I entered the program and the ones that have followed in my footsteps. I’ve tried to be part of the connective tissue that binds the writers of our tribe. Zippy taught me the importance of those types of people.

The call came while I was gone. Zippy wasn’t here when I got back. His ashes will be returned to us soon. They’ll be spread on the property line where a feline became more than his species or a breed, where a friend discovered two homes were better than one, where a dog person learned more than he ever believed possible from a cat.

Eric A. Howald is Associate Editor of the Keizertimes.

Welcome home


“He finally said something,” the man in the elevator said to no one in particular as he turned away from the little screen that entertains us with traffic, weather and news as we ride up and down between floors.

I figured “he” was President Obama, but I got to my floor too quickly to see for sure.

As it turned out, what he said “as commander in chief and on behalf of a grateful nation” was “welcome home.”

Obama marked the official end to the United States military mission in Iraq on Wednesday with soldiers returning to Fort Bragg, N.C. — purely by coincidence, a potential battleground state in the upcoming election.

In the old days, North Carolina was the sucker punch in Democratic politics. You’d go to the Research Triangle and think, “This is a state Democrats could win,” and then invest money and lose and remind yourself that North Carolina was the state that sent the legendary Jesse Helms to the Senate five times. Helms was a guy famous for injecting race — actually racism — into politics. He was the sponsor of the “White Hands” ad in 1990, which vilified his opponent for his support of affirmative action.

But North Carolina is different these days. Helms is gone (he died four months before the 2008 election), and Obama was at his campaign-style best in welcoming home the troops. He walked the line between praising the troops without praising a war he opposed and promised to end; between celebrating the great battles without mentioning the weapons of mass destruction that we were fighting about and never found. To borrow a Bill Clinton staple, he felt the pain of those in the crowd: “There have been missed birthday parties and graduations. There are bills to pay and jobs that have to be juggled with picking up the kids. For every soldier that goes on patrol, there are the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters praying that they come back.”

While Republicans are enmeshed in an increasingly nasty battle among those who hope to replace the president, Obama — in his trips outside of Washington — is showing flashes of the style and substance that excited both the party and the nation in the last campaign. Having told the other troops — the activists who will be his own ground force in 2012 — that we will have to “grind” out this campaign, the president on these occasions manages to give hope, even for a moment, that the election could be more than that.

My old friend Paul Tully, the late political organizer who taught a generation of us how to do politics, used to have what he called a “48-hour rule.” He tried, and mostly succeeded, never to spend more than 48 hours in Washington, because he knew how easy it was to lose touch with what mattered once you dove into the political swamp.

When I watch and listen to Obama on the stump, I remember Tully’s 48-hour rule. If only a president could govern from somewhere else. If only this president could hold on to his message, his spirit, his optimism, his ebullience — all of the things that were on display at Fort Bragg — while he grinds it out in Washington. At a time when the country so desperately needs that sense of hope and optimism, it often seems — particularly in those awful, hostile, intensely political press conferences — that the president has lost his.

Watching him in Fort Bragg, it almost seemed possible that the president could get back his soul. In leaving Washington, in pressing into the crowd, in praising the troops and reaching out to them, there were moments when it seemed like the troops were not the only ones who were coming home. So was President Obama.

Welcome home, Mr. President. Here’s hoping that Obama, like the returning troops, finds his way back.

(Creators Syndicate)

Respectable city council

To the Editor:

I recently read a couple of letters in the Keizertimes questioning the integrity of the Keizer city councilors because of their vote on having one fire district in the city.

The letters implied there was a quid pro quo agreement between the city and the Keizer Fire District. I believe the councilors who voted for the annexation did so because they thought it was best for the city and the one councilor who voted against, believed it was not. It was simple as that.

Recent action by the Keizer Fire District clearly illustrates independence and separation.  When the city asked the Keizer Fire District to support the extension of the urban renewal district the Fire District voted no. After much discussion it voted no because it would hurt its ability to provide service on the terms presented. The city and the Keizer Fire District agree on some things and disagree on others. I believe the City Councilors are very honorable folks and have the city’s best interest in mind when they decide issues. I don’t always agree with them but I certainly respect their integrity.

Bill Quinn

Support for Roland

To the Editor:

When I first moved to Keizer a little over six years ago, it seemed like every time I would be in a store or on my morning walk, people would come up to me and ask if I was related to Roland. At the time, I didn’t know who Roland was but after being told many times how he was such a nice guy and how he is so willing to help out anyone who needed it, I wanted to meet this guy.

Well, as it turns out, a few years later , Roland winds up moving into my neighborhood and I finally got to meet him. After getting to know him, I can honestly say that all the good things that I heard about him were true ! I personally saw the kindness of this man a few months ago when I was digging a fencepost in my yard. In my haste to get the hole dug, I ignored the obvious and wound up breaking a water line. As I started to panic, my wife said, “call Roland “!

I called him and told him what I had done . It seems like I had just hung up the phone when Roland rolls up to my house on his scooter . He not only helped me shut off the water but also helped me repair my broken line. To top it off, this happened while he was still recovering from recent surgery !

As a retired union firefighter ( IAFF Local 3340 ) who was actively involved with and understands union policy and procedures, I struggle to understand how the city of Keizer can justify what was done to Roland. This whole process was wrong on so many different levels ! Anyone who knows Roland knows that he is truly one of the “good guys”. But in this imperfect world, sometimes bad things happen to good people.

I hope that not only for the sake of Roland and his family but for all Keizer citizens that the city of Keizer reconsiders their decision and corrects this injustice.

David Buitron

True Love goes shopping

Of the Keizertimes

It’s been tough times for True Love since we last visited his holiday budget.

You know him well from the timeless holiday classic “12 Days of Christmas” tune. What you may not know is how pricy those days can be. On top of that, if he really wants to go all out that would be 12 partridges in 12 pear trees, thank you very much.

Almost whatever you want can be ordered online, but we’re sticking as local as possible to find out just how much credit card debt True Love would rack up if he bought each of the gifts listed in the song.

In sum, to purchase all the gifts listed in the 12 Days of Christmas would cost True Love $17,841.28, or $3,130.90 if each were only purchased once.

A partridge in a pear tree: Chukar partridges can be found at local farms for a pittance throughout the summer months. Getting one now requires a little bit of ingenuity – or a gun.

In 2008 True Love ventured over the mountains with his shotgun, hunting license and upland game bird to get one the old-fashioned way. But his sweetheart, who still has 12 game birds never flitting, still sitting above her chamber door, urged True Love to think outside the box.

If his muse will accept a creative interpretation, Keizer Florist is happy to put together a bird figurine and a Norfolk pine tree for about $50.

To buy 12 partridges in 12 pear trees, that’s $600 flat.

Two turtle doves: What luck! True Love couldn’t find a store in Salem-Keizer that carried them, but there’s a breeder in Sweet Home selling them for just $5 each! At $10 per day for 11 days, that’s darn near a steal at just $110 to buy 22 doves.

Three French hens: Barbara Palermo, who led the fight to legalize urban chickens in Salem (and who pitched in for Keizer’s effort), pointed us to Craigslist. Full-grown hens are selling there for about $10 each. Track down 30 and True Love is now $300 poorer.

Four calling birds: Oh no! Petco in Keizer no longer carries canaries. But fret not True Love – Lancaster Drive’s Petco location does. And they’re a bargain at just $119.99 for yellow, or $139.99 for the red factor variety. Buying them once will cost True Love $479.96; nine days would be $4,319.64.

Five golden rings: Boucher Jewelers has True Love covered – $150 each for your basic 14k gold band. Five of them is $650; over eight days True Love tacks on $5,200 to his credit card.

Six geese a-laying: With the seasonal phenomenon of roosting geese – and, often, geese that were formerly roosting but subsequently die – at Staats Lake, a little ingenuity and planning could get you these not-quite-golden geese for free.

Then again, Oregon Fish and Wildlife officials report this is not exactly legal. Removing wildlife from habitat is a Class C misdemeanor in Oregon. Also, it’s illegal to discharge a firearm within the Keizer city limits.

The meat department at Roth’s Fresh Markets has a better alternative: An 11-pound goose will set you back about $65. They will “a-lay” on your dinner table just fine, we presume. Six of them is $390; doing that seven times costs True Love $2,730.

Seven swans a swimming: Tundra and trumpeter swans are native to Oregon, but like geese you can’t just go snatch them up.

Here mute swans are considered an invasive species, but you can pick up the plastic variety at Toys R Us for just $4.49. Seven of them are $26.94; over six days that’s $161.64.

Eight maids-a-milking: This article is inspired by the PNC Price of Christmas index, which uses the prices as a fun way to show year-to-year trends in the commodities market. You can’t buy a maid to do your milking, but you can hire one. The financial firm classifies maids as unskilled labor likely to be making close to minimum wage.

Luckily for your maids – perhaps not so much for your wallet – Oregon’s current minimum wage of $8.50 an hour beats out the federal requirement of $7.25. With the average working day of eight hours, eight maids at that rate is $544. For five days that’s $2,720.

• Nine ladies dancing: What a bargain! True Love catches a break from the France School of Dance, who will send his muse a free dance troupe. Even with four performances, it’s still free.

• Ten lords-a-leaping: Despite the recent fascination with the British royal family, we still have no actual royalty in the United States. The closest thing locally is the Keizer City Council, who volunteer their time to the city for nothing. Given that there are elections to win, we presume if you ask nicely they might just come leap for free. Of course, a modest campaign contribution never hurts.

• Eleven pipers piping: For just $750, the entire Oregon State Defense Force Band will come by, bagpipes and all. They’ll even bring a drummer or two. And who doesn’t love bagpipe caroling? Do it twice and True Love is set back $1,500.

• Twelve drummers drumming: The drum corps of McNary High School’s band are happy to come play for True Love’s true love. The suggested donation is $200.

Ward, Walker resign from MHS

Rick Ward, McNary High School football head coach, talks with D.J. Harryman between plays earlier this season. Ward resigned last week. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Two McNary sports programs – football and volleyball – are without head coaches after Rick Ward and Dustin Walker turned in their resignations last week.

Ward tendered his resignation on Thursday, Dec. 15, and was followed by Walker on Friday, Dec. 16.

“Both men have worked hard to make their teams successful, but also to create leadership opportunities, build character and keep their athletes focused on their studies,” said Ron Richards, McNary athletic director.

The school district will begin accepting applications in January for both positions. A statewide search for replacements will be conducted with the goal of filling the gaps as quickly as possible, Richards said.

“Our students and athletes deserve the best and we want to make sure we consider all the options,” he said.

Richards plans to convene a screening committee of coaches, faculty and community members to review applicants before moving onto the interviewing process. Of the two, football will take slighter urgency as the sport now requires nearly year-round preparation.

Ward, a former NFL punter, exits the McNary football program after five years with a 22-29 record. In 2008, the Celtics went 9-3 overall, took second place in the Central Valley Conference and made it to the second round of the playoffs. However, the program has struggled to recreate such success in more recent years as McNary has not won more than three games in the past three seasons.

“The team has had ups and downs in regard to competitiveness, but Rick was always good at the intangibles and pushing his players to be successful in other areas,” Richards said.

Ward could not be reached for comment, but will continue as a physical education teacher at McNary and as the boys golf coach.

Richards said Walker’s resignation was “not unexpected.” Walker will remain a teacher at McNary High School, but will become an assistant coach in the George Fox University volleyball program.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to experience college volleyball as a coach and, especially, to work alongside [Head Coach] Steve Grant,” Walker said.

Walker has coached in the McNary program for 17 years starting out as an assistant coach and progressing to head of the program five years ago. He will continue to teach at McNary while coaching at George Fox.

McNary achieved berths in the state playoffs all five years of his tenure and produced back-to-back CVC championships in 2009 and 2010 while going on to compete in the state tournament. The high mark was a sixth place finish in the state in 2010. The team never finished lower than third in the CVC under his guidance.

“It was a great experience,” Walker said. “It was a blessing to work with the support of the community that we receive at McNary.”

B’ball team adopts family

Athletes from the McNary High School boys varsity basketball scour the aisles of Target looking for gifts to deliver to a local family they adopted for the Christmas holiday. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

When they’re on the court, the young men of the McNary High School varsity basketball team focus on small things: finding the right lane at the right time, the positions of their opponents, passing to an open post, etc.

On Tuesday, Dec. 20, the team stepped away from the courts and gathered in the aisles of the Keizer Station Target for a look at the big picture, and it had nothing to do with basketball.

Instead of marking up with opponents, the Celts divided forces to tackle Christmas lists for a Keizer family struggling to make ends meet. Their first stop: toys.

“I think it’s pretty cool to meet a family that doesn’t have much and realizing that not everyone gets a full Christmas,” said Justin Burgess, a McNary senior and one of three leaders on the project with Garren Robinett and Dylan McHugh. “We have a list for them. Three gifts that they each picked. They all want mittens and three or four of them want R/C cars.”

The team, led by the seniors, adopted a local family intent on making their holiday brighter with some leftover money from last season’s fundraising projects.

“Basketball is important, but you get to see those things that are even more important and be involved in our community and get acquainted with everybody,” McHugh said.

While picking out gifts for the family with six children provided logistical challenges in the Target aisles, Robinett was even more excited to deliver them.

“I’m excited to see their reactions and for them to know that we’re taking care of them, it’s a reminder of how much I have,” he said.

All three were looking forward helping raise funds to assure the adopt-a-family program would continue next year.

McNary Head Coach Ryan Kirch instituted the program alongside new offense and defense strategies when he joined McNary earlier this year.

“We certainly want to win as many games as possible, but that’s a secondary goal. When kids leave our program as seniors, we want them to be young men of high character,” Kirch said.

Celts take out Olys 36-35

Justin Lowe locks in an arm bar during the match the won a dual meet with Sprague. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Since they started practicing last month, the McNary High School varsity wrestling team was eager to hit the mats with Sprague High School’s Olympian squad. Twenty years of straight losses in dual meets will do that for a team.

“Sprague has been the winner of the annual dual. Many times it has been close, but tonight, the Celtics were able to overcome the 20 year run,” said Jason Ebbs, McNary head coach after his team beat the Olys 36-35.

Major decision wins by Devin Reynolds, 10-2, Edgar Jimenez, 9-1, and Ajay Urban 19-11, put the Celts in good position to take the dual meet, but Sprague kept the score tight with four falls, a forfeit and a technical fall. The Olys led 35-33 heading into a match between Celtic Justin Lowe and Olympian Clifford Baxter.

“Justin scored a takedown with 9 seconds left in the match to go up 5-4.  He was able to restrain Baxter for the remainder of the time and win the match and the dual,” Ebbs said.

Other Celtic winners in the Sprague dual, which was part of a four-way meet at McNary, were: Jeremy Lowe in a 3-1 decision; Rob Phelps who won by pin in 45 seconds; Anthony Flores who won by pin in 34 seconds; and Mason Ross who won by pin in 1:20.

McNary also handed a 44-24 loss to Tualatin High School in the meet.

Celtic victories in individual matches went to: Mike Mata by fall in 31 seconds; Caleb Connor by forfeit; Ju. Lowe by decision, 9-3; Reynolds by fall in 1:15; Je. Lowe by major decision, 19-7; Urban by fall in 3:06; Grant Gerstner by 6-4 decision; Cody Ratliff by a 10-2 major decision; and Ross by fall in 1:17.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Celtics also came out on top of an eight-team tournament at Liberty High School Friday, Dec. 17. McNary led the pack with 165 points to Lebanon High School’s 132.5, Oregon City High School’s 129.5 and Liberty High School’s 124.

Placers included: Mike Mata, first at 113 pounds; Mike Phelps, fifth at 113 pounds; Hector Maldonado, first at 132 pounds;  Andy Downer, fifth at 138 pounds; Ju. Lowe, first at 145 pounds; Reynolds, first at 145 pounds; Jimenez, fifth at 145 pounds; Je. Lowe, third at 152 pounds; Urban, fifth at 160 pounds. Gerstner, fifth at 170 pounds; R. Phelps, sixth at 170 pounds; Zach Hammerschmith, fourth at 170; Steven Satter, fourth at 182; Cody Ratliff, first at 195; Joey Delgado, fifth at 195; Ross, third at 220; and Flores, fifth at 220.

McNary’s next event will be the Northwest Duals on Dec. 28 and 29 at Westview High School.

Lady Celts cruise to 6-0

Lady Celt Teresa Peterson makes a charge for the hoop against West Albany. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

The undefeated Lady Celts of the McNary High School varsity basketball team will face their toughest challenge yet when they roll into the Nike Interstate Shootout next week.

The Celts must contend with the No. 1-ranked Oregon City High School team.

“We’re just going to play hard and see how we do,” said McNary’s Teresa Peterson.

Coach Molly Gehley said the team members will each need to have one of their best games, but she’s happy for them to compete with a talented team.

“Oregon City is going to pressure us and we need to be able to handle the ball on the full court well,” Gehley said. “If we can do that and utilize our opportunities on offense, the team will do fine.”

The Celts (6-0) chalked up two more wins last week with victories over Sheldon High School, 55-48, and West Albany High School, 57-49.

Against Sheldon, the Celts ended up fending off a late-game surge as the Fighting Irish poured in 21 points in the fourth period.

“Our first half was really, really good and then we just kind of came out flat and all of our fundamentals started to go,” said Celt Aerial Rice.

Deven Hunter paced the team with 20 points, Peterson and Averi Wing had nine apiece, Jessica Darras and Izzy Strand had six each, Rice put in three and Jasmine Ernest had two.

The Celts fell behind shortly after the tipoff in the game with the Bulldogs, but a stronger second half put them over the top. It took a few minutes to shake off the dust, Peterson said, but she was encouraged with how the team finished.

“Our whole team was just rocking that game and we needed to beat them,” she said.

Peterson put up 16 points in the outing followed by Hunter with 11, Darras with 10, Wing and Stacey Titchenal with eight, and Ashlee Koenig and Strand with two points each.

Hunter, an Oregon State University recruit, said the team is doing a good job of picking up where they left off last season, but there’s still room for improvement.

“I think we just want to work on more consistency and knowing where everybody is,” Hunter said. “We’re still working on transitions and things that need a little more polishing.”

Gehley cited Peterson and Darras for their efforts on the court this past week and throughout the preseason.

“Jessica is one of the toughest players I’ve ever had and she does a lot of the intangibles, she’s blocking her players off, keeping them off the boards, she’s down on the floor and doing it all well. Teresa s learning how to drive well off of the wing position and she’s finding her outside shot,” Gehley said. “We get the same kind of game from them each and every time.”