Sunday, March 25, 2018

Local organization ready to award $35,000 in scholarships

Photo courtesy of creative commons.

Local organization readies to award nearly $35,000 in scholarships to Linn-Benton Community College and Oregon State University students. Deadlines approach in early April.

Each year, Zonta Club of Corvallis awards scholarships to OSU and LBCC students. An international organization that works to empower women through service and advocacy, Zonta has 67 clubs worldwide. 

“We want to support women in pursuing careers that help improve the status of women,” said Debrah Rarick, scholarship committee chair for Zonta of Corvallis. “And to help women pursue careers in non-traditional fields for women, particularly in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields.” 

The hope, according to Rarick, is that the scholarships for a technical field of study will encourage women to enter the field and break down barriers, and that recipients will then serve as role models for women to also choose fields less populated with women.

“Giving scholarships is one way to show students that we believe in them and want to help them reach their goals,” said Rarick.

To raise the money for the scholarships, Zonta of Corvallis holds fundraisers throughout the year. The main event is the Zonta Auction and Dinner held each November. The event features auction items and the opportunity for attendees to give tax-deductible donations. 

From donations last year, this year at least seven $3,000 scholarships will be given to women pursuing careers in STEM fields. Other scholarships with specific criteria are the Starns, for a single parent attending LBCC, the Grateful Nation, for a woman who has served in the Armed Forces, the Career Technical Education, for an LBCC student in a CTE program, and the Klausman, available for women in business.

At least four $3,000 general scholarships will be given to LBCC or OSU students who had a minimum of a one-year delay in pursuing their college studies, have an interest in pursuing a career that advances the status of women, and have financial need.  

Although Zonta focuses much effort on service to women, men are not excluded from applying for scholarships, as long as their field of study supports the advancement of women.

Full scholarship descriptions, requirements, and deadlines are listed on Zonta of Corvallis’ website.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Century of Stories to Tell

Trudie Timpone, February 2018, 102-years-old.
I’d never met someone with a century of stories to tell, until a few weeks ago when I met Trudi Timpone. She is 102 years young.

A few days before I met her, the house next door was demolished. I watched one morning as it disappeared. With each swing of the excavator, I thought how unfortunate it was that a house standing since 1901 disappeared in about the same amount of time it took me to make and drink my coffee.

As I watched the excavator slam its boom into the second-story of that old, red farmhouse, I heard the sound of its walls caving in, collapsing under their own weight, crashing down, and swallowing all the stories held between them, forever. 

I heard from neighbors that the house was one of the original homes in the area. It used to be surrounded by a vast orchard, they said. It was built just decades after Philomath was renamed from its first given name by pioneers, Mary’s River Settlement.

I began to think of what the world was like when that old farmhouse was built. In 1901, baseball had not yet held its first World Series game; Henry Ford had not yet founded Ford Motor Company; the first silent film had not yet been made. 

On the day I met Trudi, my experience watching that century-old house disappear was fresh on my mind. Then, I realized, Trudi was almost as old as that house. She was a keeper of stories, just like that house had been. 

Many of Trudi’s stories are from a time I’ve only read about: The Roaring Twenties, The Prohibition, The Great Depression. I was overwhelmed thinking about all she has witnessed in her 102 years. And I was eager to ask her some questions. 

Her answer to one particular question resonated with me for days. I had asked what she thought people and society have today that is for better or worse. Her answer was quick and matter of fact.

“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.”

After pondering a few days about what she had said, I came to understand how Trudi may think we have it too easy. I began to notice the things that frustrated me throughout my day - wifi being too slow, lines at the store being too long, Facebook making another annoying update - none of which threatened my well-being. 

Trudi, however, remembers a time when people stood in the cold for hours just to get their daily ration of bread in hopes of surviving another day. A time when people, such as herself, walked the eight miles from Wall Street to 44th Avenue in New York because they didn’t have the nickel it cost to ride the subway. 

The thought of this comparison gave me a moment of clarity I won’t soon forget. I’ve come to realize that the hardships that Trudi and many others from her generation faced are foreign to my middle-class, Millennial mindset. I don’t worry about where my next meal comes from, or if our house will be heated this winter. I do, however, worry about whether I have cell reception or if I can charge my laptop. 

Since meeting Trudi and witnessing the demise of the old farmhouse, I’ve spent much time thinking about time. I’ve concluded that time really does change everything. That life is full of fleeting moments that will never happen again. That our tomorrows may bring things we’ve never even dreamed possible. That our todays are like time capsules, made of stories that forever hold the essence of time passed. 

I can’t help but wonder how lucky we would all be to get the chance to collect a century of stories to tell.

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.