Thursday, February 8, 2018

102 Years Young: Trudi Timpone Writes Her Life Story

When Trudi Timpone strolled into Linn-Benton Community College’s class entitled “Write Your Life Story,” she had 102 years of experiences to consider for her assignments. Her daughter was the one who enrolled her, and since Timpone stopped driving at the age of 99, her daughter also drops her off at class.

With dangling earrings and the Star of David hanging around her neck, Timpone took her seat at the table and instructor Lori McNulty moved her four-wheeled walking aid with a padded seat out of the aisle. 

“Trudie, I’m going to move your Cadillac,” McNulty said with a smile.

Class began with the ring of a handheld bell. Around the table sat 10 ladies, most with salt and pepper hair. Each had a handwritten nameplate in front of them. Each had come prepared with a story and photos they brought to accompany it. They were ready to share aloud with the class. 

The first volunteer shared a story about her husband, then boyfriend, and how they got together. Another told a story from her cat’s perspective entitled “Tiger’s Thoughts on Travel,” that recounted the struggles of her feline friend during a move. Someone else told the story of a wedding bouquet she made as a floral designer that was a replica of the one Princess Diana held.

Each story read was detailed, using imagery to place the audience in an exact time and place. Some were light-hearted or funny, others were sad or serious. Conversations sparked between stories, and, at times, the room was filled with a cacophony of chatter. With the ring of her bell, McNulty would refocus the class and give constructive feedback before the next person read.

When it was Timpone’s turn, she shared the story of “Sam,” a painter she knew as a child. A family friend much older than her at the time, she recalled sitting in silence in Sam’s studio and watching him work. Her delight in recalling Sam, a character long in her past, shown on her face as she credited him for her lifelong love of painting. 

“I painted just about everything I could - it’s fun,” she said.

She told the class that after decades of it being lost, last year she found a painting she did of Sam. It’s one of her prized possessions, she said, and now hangs in the Corvallis Arts Center. She passed around a photo of her painting of Sam, and tears came to her eyes as she looked at the face of a man who clearly inspired her many years ago. 

In the notebook she held in her lap, Timpone kept other stories she wrote for class. There was the one about the July day in 1943 when she met her husband, Ted, and after a whirlwind courtship how they were married by mid-August. Her favorite song to this day is Begin the Beguine by Cole Porter, a classic from 1938 to which she and Ted danced on the night they met. 

In her collection, there were stories of job hunting during a time when women got limited work. There were stories about her dad and photos of him in a World War I uniform. There was the story of “The Lost Nickel,” a time she walked from Wall Street to 44th Avenue in New York because she was embarrassed she didn’t have the nickel it cost to ride the subway. 

“I grew up during The Depression so a nickel was very important,” she said. “I don’t think I’d want to live that again, but maybe we have too much now. Things are a little too easy for people today.”

She moved from New York to Los Angeles in her 20s. She served meals to soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II. She joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps to help further with the war effort. She remembers President Roosevelt and “all he did for the children.” She’s amazed we’ve had a man on the moon. 

Although she can no longer type, with over a century of stories to tell, her family is helping her write her stories so that her three children, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren may continue to know her after she’s gone. 

“I have a wonderful family,” Timpone gushed. “They are all so wonderful.”

But, despite her 102 years, she has no plans of going anywhere soon. Her mind is sharp, her laugh is contagious, and her wisdom is beyond what many have the chance to gain. She plans to take more classes, maybe a pottery class next time, she said. 

We, at Linn-Benton Community College Extended Learning, are proud to be part of Timpone’s story. Are you ready to start writing yours?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Cheers to the Dream

I have a new book on my nightstand. It arrived a few days ago and happens to be the first book written by my friend of 20 years, Morgen. The publication of her book reminds of the importance of passion and perseverance in chasing your dream.

As kids, we’re often told we should decide what we’re going to be when we grow up. We’re supposed to consider what the job stability for that chosen career will be, if it will provide a sustainable income, and if it will allow a lifestyle we want to live - as if we have any idea what the real world is like as children still living at home.

But, at the same time, many of us already know what we love to do from a young age. Yet, somewhere along the way we get distracted by what we’re told to be focusing on - college, careers, cash flow - and we often lose sight of the very talent we were gifted naturally.

In high school, Morgen and I made a game of writing. The rules were simple: Pick a topic and stick to it. One of us would take a sheet of paper and write our sentence, then fold over the paper so the other couldn’t see it. Then the other person would write her sentence. This could go on for pages. It didn’t matter what we ended up writing, we just loved that we were writing together. It’s a fond memory to this day.

About eight years ago when I was living in California, I got a manuscript in the mail from Morgen. It was a rough draft of a book she had been working on for fun. I was absolutely delighted to read it, and had much time to do so on the bus I rode each morning to work.

On the bus, I would pull out the hefty manuscript from my bag and become immersed in it. Since the bus I rode was specifically for those commuting to work in West L.A., I often sat near the same people. Some of them became interested in what I was reading because it was clearly a raw version of something, hundreds of single-sided, 8.5 by 11 pages stapled together.

As time went on, those curious commuters began to ask me about the book, so I told them about it. After a while, they routinely asked for updates on the characters. I was so proud to have such a talented friend and happy she would trust me with her unfinished work. But, somewhere along the way she got discouraged and put the project aside.

Fast-forward to this January when she made a surprise announcement that her book is published and available on Amazon. I purchased it immediately.

The news of her book becoming a reality brings me back full circle to all the times we spent together writing, imagining, creating. It’s ironic that we are both writers who never really thought we would be. I had my ah-ha moment about five years ago when I realized that in all the things I’ve ever done, no matter how successful I was, writing has stayed with me as my passion. It was then I realized it was time to make it part of my job.

But that wasn’t easy, because of the comments I heard while growing up. When I would tell people I wanted to be a journalist, more often than not their response included a statement of how the profession “doesn’t pay any money” - as if that should matter if you are doing what you love. It took me a long time to get those remarks out of my head, as I imagine the same for Morgen.

Authors, like Morgen, who want to make a living with their words, are told on a regular basis that very few will ever hit the jackpot like Stephen King, John Grisham, or J.K. Rowling. But, in the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder how many people told that to Stephen King, John Grisham, and J.K. Rowling.

Passion and perseverance can go a long way for any dream as long as you keep focused on your dream and not the one that others have for you.

So, for this Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to not forget that love begins with you. Love your talent. Love your passion. Love your dream. Love yourself. And even if it takes  20 years, you can be what you want to be if you don’t lose sight of who you were meant to be.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christmas tree time capsule

In what feels like the land of Christmas trees, I must admit, we have a fake tree. Its lights permanently woven within its branches, the branches made from hidden wire under the faux fir needles, our tree must be straightened and fluffed each year after its 11-month stay in a box. 

It’s a small tree, maybe 4-feet tall, and although it doesn’t have the refreshing scent of a real tree, our tree does everything we need it to doit tells the story of us. For me, the actual tree is the least important part of the Christmas tree tradition. Each year we bring our fake tree to life with the ornaments we hang from it. 

On a typical Christmas growing up, we dedicated a whole day to picking out and decorating the tree. Once we got it home we would make hot chocolate or pour a glass of my mom’s homemade eggnog. We would turn on Christmas songs, pull out the ornaments, and hang them one by one. It was not a task to be rushed because many of our ornaments had a story and we liked to reminisce about those moments together.

Now that I’m an adult, my parents have passed down some of the ornaments I’ve looked at for much of my life. I continue to add new ones as my story evolves, but each year I’m reminded of decades passed as I unwrap them. Like a time capsule, ornament by ornament our tree is a place for the past and present to collide, history dangling from its branches.

When my parents were married, the symbol of their union was a moon and star. In our family home, there were several places that symbol could be found, including ornaments on our Christmas tree. Each year I hang one such ornament, a half moon with a star dangling from its corner in honor of my parents.

A gold metal ornament in the shape of a little girl with wings and a halo bares the engraving, “Allison 1982.” The ornament was given to me on my first Christmas. As a small child, I hung it from my own mini tree that sat on a bookshelf in my bedroom. As I have grown, it has come with me to all the homes I’ve lived, all the trees I’ve had, and will hopefully continue to do so.

There are a series of ornaments that represent the East Coast, where most my family still lives. There’s a painted blue crab shell symbolizing the crab feasts my family always has when we come visit. A ball ornament that was hand-painted by my cousin two decades ago has what looks like the Baltimore skylinethe area much of my family grew up.

Other ornaments were made by me, and my parents insisted on saving them. There’s the origami star I made in 4-H fiber arts class, dipped in wax to preserve its shape and sprinkled with sparkles to give it some bling. In kindergarten, I made an ornament using the lid of a can. With a string pulled through a hole to hang it, my school picture is glued to the front; two pigtails on the side of my head and wearing a plaid jumper my grandmother made. 

Then there’s the bungee jumping Santa. Santa is in a pose as if skydiving and attached to a slinky-ish wire that allows it to bounce up and down when pulled. Around since my childhood, two years ago we hung it from a lamp in our living room and our young nephew pulled too hard, sending Santa crashing down on the wood floor, breaking into a half dozen pieces. Last year, we were gifted back Santa, whose pieces had been picked up after the accident and glued back together with expert precision. With barely-there “scars” from where he had been broken, he is now whole again with new stories to tell.

But the ornament that often gives me the biggest smile is one closest to my heart. Although its construction was simple, its nostalgia runs deep. On a square piece of paper in which a young me drew two holly leaves, centered in between them is a red footprint. Just below her footprint is a picture of my beloved Elsa, a black and white fur ball with an arrow shape running up her nose. As my first best friend and companion for 17 years, that ornament is always front and center on the tree.

This year, as our tree is lit up once again and embellished with all these memories and more, I stare at the stories that hang from it. I think of all the trees the ornaments have hung from, all the homes they have been in, all the people who have touched them. With this thought, I realize it’s not the tree that makes it feel like Christmas, it’s the ornaments that adorn it.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Praying mantis: hunters of hummingbirds

Ive been protective around our hummingbird feeder since I’ve learned there’s an unlikely predator on the prowl.

The feeder hangs outside our dining room window and is a constant waterhole for our hummers. We spend much time watching them, and sometimes, they rest on the feeder and watch us in return. We welcome them in our yard’s mini-ecosystem because, after all, they are pollinators.

My protectiveness began a few weeks ago after we saw a praying mantis in our yard. We were excited because we had not seen one there before and because they are such unique creatures. To think the mantis is a relative of the cockroach and termite, creatures humans often detest, is surprising. But because the mantis has such a regal poise and sophistication, we often underestimate their dominance in the food chain. They are predators.

A praying mantis patiently waits and ambushes its prey. While they appear peaceful, often stoic in a “praying position,” they have spikes on their legs for snaring and are equipped with large mandibles made for munching. With the ability to camouflage itself and a head that turns 180 degrees, they are superior hunters.

As in any ecosystem, both predator and prey are needed for a healthy balance. That’s why it’s a good sign when a praying mantis is in your yard, and for that reason, I was excited when we saw one on our porch, not far from our hummingbird feeder.

While much of the mantis diet includes insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and flies, I found out they also have an interest in lizards, frogs, and small birds — such as hummingbirds.

I came to find this out when a friend posted on Facebook a picture of a praying mantis in their yard. One comment on the photo said they eat hummingbirds. Someone replied to that comment and said they had seen this happen. But I was skeptical, having never heard of such a thing.

I began my research of more “qualified” sources. I read articles published by National Geographic, Newsweek, The New York Times, and even The Bend Bulletin. Those articles quoted experts and scientists on the matter.

I also found YouTube videos that caught the event as it happened. Most of the videos showed the attacks occurring on a hummingbird feeder. I was shocked to watch one. And one was enough. I thought about the mantis we saw just a few feet from our feeder and realized what it may have been up to.

As it turns out, a praying mantis may see a hummingbird feeder as a honey hole. It positions itself in stealth and silence until an unsuspecting hummer comes to feed. It strikes at a speed faster than the blink of an eye and snatches the hummingbird, often stabbing its leg through the bird’s skull. The mantis then uses its strong mandibles to bite through the skull and eat the nutrient-rich brain.

Watching that video reminded me of when I was on a safari in Tanzania years ago. One day, as we drove on two ruts in the middle of the Serengeti, we were stopped by a lioness and her two cubs out for a hunt on a group of gazelles. The lions were using our “road” for their stalking zone.

Since drivers can’t leave the road, we were stopped indefinitely as the lions went about their business. When the cubs made a break towards the herd, after a short and slightly sloppy chase, the gazelles bounced away to safety. It was a rare gift we were given to see such an incredible event.

I was relieved to not witness them get captured, but I soon realized how selfish that was. The family of lions may have gone without food that day. That could have been the meal they needed to sustain the next few days. For them to thrive something else had to die. Like the gazelles, hummingbirds are also part of the food chain and satisfy the hunger of a predator.

I know every species must eat to survive. But I feel so protective of the hummers that fly above me without fear and chirp at me when their feeder is empty. Since learning about the praying mantis and its brain-sucking tendencies, I’ve been watching our feeder closely. I don’t think I could kill the mantis, but I don’t want to see the mantis kill a hummingbird. I do know, however, I want my feeder to be a mantis-free-zone.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Philomath High School names 2017-18 homecoming queen

Philomath High School named the new homecoming queen during halftime at Friday night’s Warrior football game.

Five homecoming princesses walked in front spectators at the stadium anticipating the results of who the student body voted as their 2017-18 homecoming queen. Each princess wore a gown and crown. Just after 8 p.m. on Oct. 6, Sarah Buddingh, senior, was announced as queen.

“I feel very honored,” Buddingh said. “It’s a very special experience.”

Princesses were selected by their peers during two rounds of voting. First round voting named nominees within each class. The top five from each class and six from the senior class were then voted on again. High votes from each class become nominees for queen.

When asked why she thought she had won, Buddingh’s best friend, Hailey Davis, who stood next to Buddingh after her win, quickly answered.

“Because everybody loves her,” said Davis. “And she’s also the student body president so everybody knows her.”

Buddingh added that her win made her proud because her mom, Connie Buddingh, was also the senior homecoming queen when she attended PHS.

Another princess, Ashlynn Wulk, sophomore, also shared the title of homecoming princess with her mom, Shannon Smith.

“My mom was very proud because she was a princess in high school,” said Wulk. “And my dad was surprised because I’m so quiet.”

Wulk believed she was nominated because of her involvement with basketball and the number of friends she has on the team. She plays wing position.

Upon hearing Buddingh named as queen, Wulk and the other princesses—freshman Danielle Beck, junior Jamie Chambers, and senior Mariam Coskey—gracefully congratulated Buddingh.

Buddingh has been on the student government cabinet the past two years but this is her first as president. Because of her duties on the cabinet, she was also involved in organizing homecoming week festivities which began on Monday, Oct. 2.

The week included theme days such as Mega Action Monday, Cartoons Tuesday, Western Wednesday, and The Classics on Thursday. Friday was Fear the Tribe day, a time for Warriors to get pumped up for the evening’s football game against North Marion. Friday morning also included the homecoming parade.

On Wednesday, the underclassmen claimed victory over the upperclassmen during the Powder Puff football game. A bonfire for students and their families followed the game on Wednesday evening.

Saturday night ended the week’s festivities with the semi-formal homecoming dance.

Overall, Buddingh was happy with the turnout and participation of homecoming week.

“Involvement has been incredible with all the activities planned,” she said. “I’ve been really impressed with the student body and cabinet.”

Buddingh plans to attend Eastern Oregon University after graduation. She wants to study anthropology and sociology in hopes to become a youth counselor. She will return to next year’s homecoming game to crown the new queen.