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Day: November 27, 2015

Bids come in low for roundabout

Crews work on a gas line Tuesday at the intersection of Verda Lane and Chemawa Road, in advance of the roundabout. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Crews work on a gas line Tuesday at the intersection of Verda Lane and Chemawa Road, in advance of the roundabout. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Like it or not, a roundabout is one step closer to coming at Chemawa Road and Verda Lane.

Bids for the project were opened last week by Oregon Department of Transportation officials. The project is expected to start next summer, having been delayed a couple of times.

Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, said the project is on schedule.

“It’s on track,” Lawyer said last week. “Prep work is being done now. First it was the phone company contractor, then last week it was the gas company. They are moving lines.”

Construction bids for the project were opened last Thursday, November 19.

According to ODOT figures, 10 bids were submitted for the project. The low bid of $838,731.60 was submitted by North Santiam Paving Co. of Lyons. The next lowest bid was $867,725.63 by R&R General Contractors Inc. of Salem.

Of the 10 bids, six were less than $1 million. The highest bid was $1,173,163.15 submitted by 3 Kings Environmental Inc. of Battle Ground, Wash.

Keizer City Manager Chris Eppley noted the low bid is about $140,000 under the engineer’s estimate for the construction phase of the project. That figure does not include other phases such as engineering and right-of-way acquisition.

“The bidding contractor is a solid company, so this is all good news,” Eppley said in an e-mail last week.

Lee Cronemiller, Region 2 Area 3 Local Agency liaison for ODOT, emphasized the bid has not been awarded yet.

“Please keep in mind that these results are preliminary only and that the notice of intent to award has not been issued yet,” Cronemiller said on Monday. “There was excellent competition with the low bid coming in below the engineer’s estimate.”

While underground infrastructure and moving of lines continued this week, above ground work around the intersection of Chemawa and Verda will be done next year.

“Unless approved otherwise, trees conflicting with the work will be removed sometime in February, prior to the March 1 start of the migratory bird nesting season,” Cronemiller said. “The fences will be dealt with during the course of construction, estimated to start June 1 or shortly thereafter.”

Per statute and specification, ODOT awards contracts within 30 days of bid opening. After the decision has been made to award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder, ODOT staff must determine the bidder in question meets certain criteria, including having a satisfactory record of performance and integrity, available resources and is legally qualified to do the work.

The roundabout, a source of controversy since being announced, was originally going to be constructed in the summer of 2014. The approximately $2 million project was brought up due to long lines on Chemawa during peak traffic times in the morning and evening.

The roundabout was then going to be built this past summer, but in February the project got delayed another year. At that time, the Nov. 19 bid opening date was set.

Construction is expected to last about three months. Depending on when the work starts next summer, it could be completed before the 2016-17 school year begins.

‘It’s a gift she’s still here’

Elizabeth Smith and her daughter, Samantha. (Photo courtesy Elizabeth Smith)
Elizabeth Smith and her daughter, Samantha. (Photo courtesy Elizabeth Smith)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Most of the time, Elizabeth Smith is a strong woman.

Part of that strength comes from fighting for her daughter, Samantha Nixon, who nearly died of a heroin overdose in July 2012, to get clean.

In order to help her daughter, Elizabeth had to learn dark truths and be exposed to friends of her daughter who were also fighting drug addiction.

Some of those friends have died of heroin overdoses. Samantha was a lucky one.

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During a two-hour conversation with the Keizertimes for this latest Chasing Dark story, Elizabeth broke down once: when asked why her daughter survived her overdose when others didn’t.

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth whispered, breaking into tears. “I don’t know. It’s a gift she’s still here. You can’t just take that for granted. Everything happens for a reason. Samantha and I have discussed this many times. You feel really guilty as a survivor. As a parent, you always worry you’re going to join the club; the club of parents that have buried their children who have lost their battle to drug addiction. It’s a club you never want to be a part of. At the same time, fighting addiction can consume you and ruin you, or you can harness this hell and make it something powerful. I’m not going to let it ruin me, I am going to fight it. I owe it to them. That is why we made the decision to tell our story.”

Elizabeth estimates the problems for Samantha, now 22, started when she was 12 years old, after her parents divorced. She started drinking and smoking weed. When Samantha was 16, she started doing methamphetamine.

Samantha was sent to the Deer Creek Adolescent Treatment Center in Roseburg. It wasn’t long until she bolted, just as Elizabeth had predicted.

“They told her she couldn’t leave,” Elizabeth said. “She laughed and said, ‘I’m not here because I have to be by law. So, good luck with that’ and she walked out.”

A furious Elizabeth got the call, went into mama bear mode and got in her car.

“I had never driven down I-5 so fast before,” Elizabeth said of her trip to find her wayward daughter. “I was driving to Roseburg at 100 mph. I got there in two hours, praying the whole time I didn’t get pulled over.”

Fortunately, Samantha ran into a lady at a store who recognized immediately she was an addict running away from the treatment facility, having been in the same position herself before. She took Samantha in until Elizabeth got there.

Elizabeth removed Samantha from McNary High School and sent her to Chemeketa Community College’s Early High School College. Medicines were removed from cabinets and there was no alcohol in the house. When not in school, Samantha had to sit in Elizabeth’s office.

“She wasn’t allowed to be by herself,” Elizabeth said. “I think she hated me during that time, but I didn’t care. You’re just fighting all the time.”

Samantha finished her high school diploma and received enough credits to transfer to Linfield College in the fall of 2011. For a while, things weren’t so bad.

But then a series of events happened that triggered a downward spiral for Samantha. Her grandfather died in November 2011, causing her anxiety to spike. It brought back things she had not dealt with during her initial addiction battle and with the death of her best friend the year before.

“Burying emotions and pain eventually played into her addiction, as she was now dealing with things she had not dealt with before,” Elizabeth said of Sam. “There’s a lot of emotions there.”

Samantha hit her bottom in July 2012. She had received a prescription for Xanax to fight her anxiety while in school, triggering the addictive cycle all over again. She dropped out of college and wasn’t allowed to move in with her mom, who knew her daughter needed inpatient help. So Samantha moved in with her dad. When he came home on the 4th of July weekend, he kicked her out of the house.

“It was disastrous,” Elizabeth said. “Bottles and weed were everywhere. Her dad kicked her out and called me. Her Facebook page was on the computer and it was open to messages about getting heroin. She had shot up on heroin. That was the night she almost died.”

Samantha had gone to a house with other users, shot up and passed out. When she stopped breathing, no one knew what to do.

“The next day, I found her on River Road, walking with a friend,” Elizabeth said, noting Samantha believes her best friend and grandpa saved her. “I drove past her. She was so bloated and dirty, I didn’t recognize her at first. I flipped a u-turn and stopped. They were both high on heroin. I asked her to get in my car. Once she did, after she looked at me like a zombie, I told her I knew everything and I would do anything to get her help. She asked, ‘Why? Why do you care?’ If she only could have understood.”

Elizabeth got her daughter a sandwich and made her take a shower before taking her to the emergency room.

“I was terrified,” Elizabeth said. “I had no idea what heroin does or possible reactions. When I brought her home, my husband and my other daughter Erica just sat there. No one really knew what to do or say to someone who was clearly high and out of her mind. You sure don’t read that in a parenting book.”

Things only got worse from there.

“She yelled at Erica,” Elizabeth recalled. “Erica went into her room and cried. Erica was 16 at the time and didn’t understand why Sam was making these choices. Sam was all strung out, but she felt bad about she’d done to her sister. Erica told her, ‘You’ve always been my hero and promised you would be there for me. You’re breaking my heart and killing yourself.’”

That ended up being Samantha’s turning point. Breaking her sister’s heart was the worst feeling in the world for her, so Samantha agreed to get help.

Elizabeth took Samantha to the ER, then brought her home and stayed with her for three days and nights as her daughter went through severe withdrawals from heroin.

“Watching someone withdrawal off of heroin is awful,” Elizabeth said. “She couldn’t even walk to the bathroom. I had to help her to the bathroom. She couldn’t keep food down. I shut down into emergency crisis mode.”

As if seeing her daughter nearly die of a heroin overdose wasn’t bad enough, the next step was just as tough in a different way: trying to find a way to help Samantha.

“The hardest part is finding help,” Elizabeth said. “There was not a list of names or a website with names out there. I never imagined I would find myself in this world.”

Elizabeth found out about Hazelden Treatment Center in Newberg, with her mom paying the co-pay to get Samantha in. Three weeks later Samantha was kicked out, with the recommendation to check out Balboa Horizons in Southern California, a 90-day rehab program. Insurance picked up the bill and Samantha was on her road to recovery.

While Samantha was at Balboa, Elizabeth and Erica went down for family week, where family members are taught about the addiction. Elizabeth had the stereotypical image of drug addicts coming from trashy-looking families in mind.

“We walked in and I thought it would be all these drug addicts,” she said. “But it was families that looked just like us. I started crying, just broke down. It was so good to know I wasn’t alone.”

Elizabeth, who is still friends with some of the families she met that week, said Jim, the class instructor, taught about enabling. For example, often parents of addicts will make conditions such as buying the addict a car if they get clean.

“You have to empower your loved one to believe in themselves and to fight for their sobriety,” Elizabeth said. “If not, you’re crippling them.”

In another example, Jim had a parent sit in a chair while he portrayed an addict struggling to cross the room to sobriety. The parent wasn’t able to get out of the chair to help, meaning Jim had to fight to get himself across the room.

“A lot of parents were angry when we got down there,” Elizabeth said. “Erica and I were. We did an emotional check-in every day. Throughout the week, the anger was lessened because you start to understand what you are dealing with. When you don’t understand, the fear overwhelms you. It’s usually because you’re scared to death.”

Among other things, Elizabeth learned that when youth become addicted to drugs at a young age, the frontal cortex of the brain’s growth is stunted, leading to obsessive behavior and allowing impulses to take over. In other words, things aren’t firing correctly in the addict’s brain.

“The drugs stop their maturity,” Elizabeth said. “They don’t have the necessary logic or the stop zone, because the control center hasn’t kicked in yet.”

For Samantha, Balboa Horizons was an answer to prayers as it put her on the road to recovery. In May 2013, she did a video for Balboa, telling about her story.

“It was really cool, because like most people I’ve talked to here, I haven’t really had the close relationships with women,” Samantha said in the video. “Coming to Balboa, in an all-girl’s facility, we really formed a sisterhood. Everyone could really relate to each other and you could get just completely open and honest about everything going on. It was like family support.”

After her time at Balboa, Samantha moved into a sober living house with several friends she made at Balboa. They had to stay clean, do random urine tests three times a week and went through a 12-step AA process. Samantha and two others then moved into a condo, followed the same rules and went to work at rehab facilities.

“The biggest thing is to have a lot of people around you who understand, who’ve been through the same battles,” Elizabeth said. “I’d love for her to be at home, but Orange County is the largest area for rehab and sober living. Plus it’s sunny around there, which is so nice for addicts with depression. She needs to have a sober support group of people her age. That is lacking in the Salem/Keizer area. The people she’s with down there, she can’t bullshit them. An addict can spot an addict faster than anyone and is so quick to call you on it. They’ve all been through it.”

By contrast, Elizabeth said there’s a lack of awareness of the issue in Keizer.

“This town needs to wake up,” she said. “People assume it will never happen to them. We want to bring awareness to Keizer. We’ve got to talk about it and have these conversations. When one more kid gets buried, that breaks my heart. We live in a nice neighborhood and look like the typical American family. Don’t ever think it can’t happen to your child.”

After Samantha was on the road to recovery, Elizabeth reached out to the young man that was with her daughter shortly after her overdose.

“He came from a good Christian family, in a nice Keizer neighborhood,” Elizabeth said. “His parents both worked during the day and he did heroin while they worked. He said he didn’t think his parents would listen. I told him, ‘You’d be amazed. It’s a lot better for them to learn it now than to find out after you’re dead.’ Sam said he got his life together and is married now.”

Elizabeth would like to have a public meeting in Keizer to talk about the issue and would like to see more treatment options and facilities locally.

“We need to develop a website of resources,” she said. “Oregon is lacking the resources. I had to go out of state to save my daughter. That needs to be addressed. Balboa needs to open a place up here. We have people dying left and right. You need to get them around people who’ve been there because they speak their language. I don’t speak it, but they do. There are no things like narcotics anonymous for young people up here.”

Elizabeth has suggestions for parents.

“Watch your pain pills,” she said. “Watch your medicine cabinet, your prescriptions, your kids. It’s just way too easy for them to get their hands on the pills. Don’t bring pain meds into your house. It’s so important that we talk about it. We’re losing an entire generation to prescription medications. A lot of kids are dying because they got into heroin more than they thought they would.”

Even though her daughter is doing better, Elizabeth battles living in fear.

“The risk of relapse is real,” she said. “It’s always going to be a threat. A relapse can always happen. I am always on edge. I sleep with my phone next to the bed, just waiting for that call. I pray it never comes. I’m more afraid of that knock on the door in the middle of the night.”

Elizabeth put the struggle into simple terms.

“It’s like staring down the devil,” she said. “I’m not going to blink.”

The whole experience has left Elizabeth infuriated, especially in regards to how dealers get youth started.

“They give it away at parties just to hook them,” said Elizabeth, who has shared all the information and contact information from Facebook messages with police to help their efforts. “You know how we tell our kids don’t take candy from a stranger? It’s the same with drugs. If you knew taking that one hit, to give you that high, could end up like Sam that next day, unable to walk, throwing up because every muscle in her body hurt, you’d realize it’s not worth it. It’s horrifying. Plus it could kill you the first time.”

Having watched her friends Jeff and Hollie Crist bury their son Brandon, who died at the age of 22 in September due to a heroin overdose, Elizabeth knew she had to publicly share her family’s story. She posted about it recently on Facebook and willingly shared the story with this paper in the hopes of making people aware of the dangers.

“The one person who was going to call 9-1-1 to save Samantha’s life that night was Brandon Crist. I don’t believe we’ve gone through this to just be quiet about it,” Elizabeth said. “We would miss the whole point.”

Is it free enterprise or defacing of public property?

A business is going about Keizer neighborhoods painting address numbers on the curb in front of houses.

A flyer is left at the door by a person calling themselves an Address America Indpendent agent. The flyer asks for a $5 ‘donation’ to have the house number painted on the front curb as a security service. The flyer says “This is an essesntial service as FIRE,Police,Paramedics, and Neighborhood Watch personnel will look first to the curb for your address.”

The flyer continues on saying the curb painting is a communtiy service project and that the homeowner is free to decline to the representative that calls. But, if a homeowner accepts the offer, they will be charged the $5 fee and they are invited to ‘donate’ up to $20 more.

Painting addresses on the curb in front of one’s house is a good idea and makes it easier for public safety personnel in case of an emergency, but the outfit currenting trolling Keizer for business makes it seem like this is a project of our local police and fire services. They are not.

In a health emergency seconds can be the difference between life and death. The less time that police, fire or medical personnel spend trying to locate a specific house, the better for the person in trouble.

The public is not required to have a number in front of their home and homeowners should certainly not feel pressured to pay for somethng they neither asked for or ordered.

The city has received a number of citizen complaints. Keizer’s department of public works does not authorize the work, according to director Bill Lawyer, but they do not prohibit the painting of address numbers on curbs.

Keizer residents faced with a flyer regarding curb painting have the freedom to accept the offer, pay the fee and make an additional donation. They are free also to ignore the solicitaiton.

Over the years there have been a number of organizations that have swept through our neighborhoods citing safety, security and timeliness as reasons to pay up. A homeowner can just as easily paint their own number on the curb in front of their house.

Painting addresses does help public safety personnel more easier locate a home they are looking for. Driving down many streets in Keizer the driver would be hard pressed to see house numbers, especially in the dark. Address number painting would be an excellent project to discuss at neighborhood association meetings, at block parties during National Night Out, or it can be a fundraising project for the police cadets or other youth public safety organizations.

We are not opposed to house numbers painted on the curb, if it is done well. We are opposed to entreneurs scaring homeowners into buying something they don’t want and paying a fee when they don’t know where the money ends up, especially the ‘additional’ donations the current flyers ask for.

— LAZ

Young talent does Keizer proud

By this time those who live for sales have waited in the dark for doors at local malls and stores to open so they could rush forth and grab their own “must have” item for this holiday gift giving season.

Those who don’t want to hassle with the crowds might migrate to e-commerce and order gifts from the comfort of their sofas.

Regardless of what is happening in the world the holiday season will arrive and we will each celebrate according to our own tradition. Some traditions are steeped in the religiosity of the season—church services, being charitible to others, reveling in the warmth and spirit of the holiday—be it Christmas, Chaukah or Kwanzaa.

The season can be enjoyed even more when we look about us and partake in the events that mark the season. It doesn’t matter if one has children in school or even in arts programs in one of local schools. Salem-Keizer schools has some of the best arts programs anywhere and that is never so true as now.

McNary High School just came off the rousing success of its production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (a sell out).

The Whiteaker Middle School choir will join the Willamette Master Chorus for three performances of Vivaldi’s Gloria in December. We’re duly impressed by that—these are sixth, seventh and eigth graders joining professional-grade singers in a classicial concert.

Students from Keizer schools will be performing at the state capitol during the holidays. There will be singing at the annual Christmas tree lighting on Dec. 1.

If one wants their holiday season to take on a less ‘gimme’ mood, they should see our young people embody the spirit of the season whether they are a parent of a school child or not.

  —LAZ

The Trump effect, still understated

By MICHAEL GERSON   

The presidential candidate who has consistently led the Republican field for four months, Donald Trump, has proposed: forcibly expel 11 million people from the country, requiring a massive apparatus of enforcement, courts and concentration camps; rewrite or reinterpret the 14th Amendment to end the Civil War-era Republican principle of birthright citizenship; build a 2,000-mile wall on our southern border while forcing Mexico to pay the cost. He has characterized undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, and opposed the speaking of Spanish in America.

Republican candidates have proposed: to favor the admission of Christian over Muslim refugees from the Middle East; to “send home” Syrian refugees, mainly women and children, into a war zone; to “strongly consider” the shutting down of suspicious mosques; to compile a database of Muslims and (perhaps) force them to carry special identification showing their religion. They have compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs,” ruled out the possibility of a Muslim president, and warned that Muslim immigration to America is really “colonization.”

There are, of course, Republican presidential hopefuls who have vigorously opposed each of these proposals, arguments and stereotypes. But Donald Trump has, so far, set the terms of the primary debate and dragged other candidates in the direction of ethnic and religious exclusion. One effect has been the legitimization of even more extreme views—signaling that it is OK to give voice to sentiments and attitudes that, in previous times, people would have been too embarrassed to share in public. So in Tennessee, the chairman of the state Legislature’s GOP caucus has called for the mobilization of the National Guard to round up Syrian refugees and put them in camps. Many Republicans are now on record saying that Islam is inherently violent and inconsistent with constitutional values (while often displaying an ironic and disturbing ignorance of those values).

Vin Weber, a prominent GOP strategist, told me that many Republicans remain in “denial mode” about the possibility of Trump’s nomination. “How can you be the leader in national polls,” Weber says, “and in the early states, and maybe even in money, and be counted out?” In spite of saturation media coverage, Weber thinks the Trump effect on the GOP is “understated.” The attention of commentators has often been focused on the horserace aspect of the campaign or on the narrative of insider vs. outsider, rather than on what Weber calls Trump’s “transformational message.”

That message comes in the context of a long period of political pessimism —more than 10 years in which polls have generally found more than 60 percent of Americans believing that their country is on the wrong track. There has been an angry decline in respect for most social institutions, including government. This has left some Americans more open to radical political answers—more prepared, in Weber’s words, “to roll the dice on the future of the country.”

“We’re going to have to do things,” says Trump with menacing vagueness, “that we never did before.” And if disrespect for institutions is common, Trump is its perfect vehicle—combining the snark of Twitter with the staged anger and grudges of reality television.

But in all this, it is easy to miss Trump’s policy ambition. He would spark trade wars with China and Mexico and scrap the world trading system—which Republicans have helped construct since World War II—replacing it with an older kind of mercantilism. He would make the seizure of Middle Eastern oil the centerpiece of his regional strategy—turning a spurious liberal charge into a foreign policy doctrine, and uniting the Arab world in rage and resentment.

And Trump would make, has already half-made, the GOP into an anti-immigrant party. Much of Trump’s appeal is reactionary. He has tapped into a sense that an older America is being lost. In a recent poll, 62 percent of Republicans reported feeling like “a stranger in their own country.” This is a protest against rapid and disorienting social change, against an increasingly multicultural country, and against the changes of the Obama years.

It does not take much political talent to turn this sense of cultural displacement into anti-immigrant resentment. Only a reckless disregard for the moral and political consequences.

As denial in the GOP fades, a question is laid upon the table: Is it possible, and morally permissible, for economic and foreign policy conservatives, and for Republicans motivated by their faith, to share a coalition with the advocates of an increasingly raw and repugnant nativism?

(Washington Post Writers Group)

Head wins over heart regarding refugees

Divided as we Americans are over President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by next year, there are many other concerns we share.  Primarly because there may be Jihadist terrorists among those seeking safety and they will die without hesitation for their cause due to the promise of heavenly rewards. The terrorists are dedicated to destroying America as they see us as modern day “crusaders,” coming to drive Islam out. Then, too, Americans are Infidels seen as worthless because they are non-believers and can be destroyed by true believers without guilt or moral compunction.

Persian Gulf states are afraid that the refugees’ arrival will cause huge social disruptions and plunge them into greater turmoil than what’s already underway. The European nations of southern climes are currently on the economic “ropes” and anxious already whether they can remain stable enough to see any future. Northern European nations are most willing to accept refugees but are edgy about how many terrorists will attack the native population to revenge the bombings of ISIS.

Regarding Iraqi and Syrian refugees, there’s a struggle in me over whether to follow my heart or my head.  When I deliberate on the fleeing refugees my humanitarian side says, “Let’s give these people a new chance” while my rational side urges, “Don’t be silly, these people cannot be trusted.”  Then there’s the question of why these people won’t stand and fight which may be explained by the spread of Wahhabism so certain other Saudis, especially the royal family, will not die for the cause.  The bottom line in my thinking on this matter is to confess a fairly deep-seated fear that so many young, male single refugees coming here harbor a desire to bring about not only my demise but the demise of everyone I care about and love.

In the 1980s I was an American civilian working for the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) in Saudi Arabia, and having also traveled widely in the Middle East during those years, the experience afforded a front-row seat to getting acquainted with Arab customs, traditions and the practice of Islam there. Saudi Arabia is the most conservative of the Islam nations, yet other nations in the Middle East maintain a fairly strict following of Islam’s code of conduct.  It is difficult for an American to see how the females in the population put up with being what we’d call second class citizens at best, while the males pretty much do as they please within the dictates of Islam. I speculated that the reason it appears easy for the women is that they are born into a male-dominated society to which they get perfectly assimilated.

Meanwhile, the men can break the code as long as they keep quiet about it.  I got to know several Arabs quite well, including many who worked for ARAMCO but hailed from other nations in the Middle East, including many a Palestinian for whom the Saudis have great sympathy and hire them often for no other reason than to free them from what’s perceived to be the Israeli yoke. There are Muslims working there also from, for example, Pakistan and The Philippines.

In several Arab nations  the fighting age men are disinclined to fight for their nation but have been ready of late to join up with the likes of al-Queda and ISIS operatives. This is most important in understanding Saudi Arabians. Saudi Arabia’s oil revenue is a source of money to support the extremist Sunni Wahhabism; it is the money establishing madrasas wherever possible, dedicated to the spread of the Muslim around the world.

Politicians ask why we Americans let these people use our troops to fight their battles with those who would like to get control of oil in the petroleum-rich nations of the Gulf States.  The reason I can give to answer that question has to do with the fact Saudi Arabia and its immediate neighbors are very rich from oil sales and can afford to hire others to do their dirty jobs.  Before ARAMCO was nationalized in the 1970s, it was mostly Americans and the British that established and maintained the oil fields and managed the enterprise.  The American and British managers still do most of that work with figurehead Saudis pretending to be in charge.  The get-your-hands-dirty work remains the prerogative of Muslim men recruited from third world nations.

This question of the refugees is a tough one in which to find one’s way.   Nevertheless the final score in my mind’s struggle is head 1, heart 0.

(Gene H. McIntyre’s column appears weekly in the Keizertimes.)