She’s a mild-mannered superhero

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Dakota Victoria Angeli has touched more lives in her 18 years, than most people do in a century.

Eleven years ago she brought people together to heal her ailing body and to realize the fleeting quality of life on this Earth. She could have chosen to be withdrawn and frail, but she glimpsed the worst and has relished every experience and adventure.

As she graduates from high school and heads off to Oregon State University, I am not alone in remembering the heart valve that nearly took her life. The summer of 2006 caused many of us to know we are braver and stronger than we really know.

Her parents, Mike and Diana, were at loose ends. What would the future hold? Would they close the family outdoor store for Mike to find other employment? What would Diana do next?

Her brother, Alek, witnessed the fear and the resolve. It’s made him the outstanding man he’s become. He’s pursuing the healing arts, with the knowledge of what it means to see the totality of the human experience. Everyone is someone else’s loved one.

I’d like to believe I’d love the Angelis without Dakota’s illness. Mike and I are cut from the same piece of cloth, and Diana patiently tended to both of our needs when we worked together. How she survived raising two true children, and Mike and me, I’ll never really understand.

She’s a strong woman, and a role model who will always inspire Dakota. The same is true of Lou Ann Angeli, a woman who took her grandson on outings in Portland as his sister was confined to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

Dakota and Alek have outstanding futures ahead. Both will excel where they place their attention and effort. Nothing has been handed to them in this life, which has made them thoughtful and appreciative for things others disregard.

To rear outstanding offspring in an age of disposable products, including relationships and values, is a success beyond measure. Come fall, the Angeli home will be a little less populated, but Mike and Diana have earned a new era of focus on each other.

Faced with surgery and needle pokes, Dakota had to grow up quickly. Watching her mature into the woman she is today has provided the opportunity for many of us to stand a bit taller.

Come what may, all we are ever promised is this very moment. It is up to us to make the most of it. Here’s wishing Dakota many more sublime moments to come. You’ve earned them.

Well, I guess we are all mortal

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The original Valeree Lane in a pose that can only mean: And, what of it? I believe the ring around her neck is actually the string from her straw hat.

The unthinkable has happened and the Unsinkable Molly Brown, otherwise known as Debbie Reynolds, stepped into Eternity.

I’d like to think that it is unlike me to be drawn into a tragedy that is none of my business. However, the Brown movie means a lot in my family. It, and Reynolds, were favorites of my mother’s. My Aunt Carolyn remembers that Mom took her to see the film at a downtown Los Angeles theater. I believe it was Graumann’s Chinese Theater, and Aunt Carolyn has related that the sound system had them believing the flood scene was happening right below their feet. The character made such an impression that my aunt named a chocolate Lab Molly Brown.

I didn’t mentioned that my mother’s maiden name is Brown. There was probably a sense of kinship in the overall appreciation. Reynolds, a Texan just like Mom, was portraying a character who was most likely a distant cousin.

Mom had a strong belief that life would be just like her beloved musicals. If you keep a song in your heart and persevere, you’ll be rewarded in the end. In her lifetime, I thought that was naive. Now, I know I’m rather naive in thinking that people will do the right thing for the appropriate reasons. Only in the screenplay in my head.

Most of us run around acting like we are immortal, assured of another moment, day or year. That’s the most naive behavior of all. No one gets out of this experience alive.

I feel bad for the immediate family and other loved ones who are mourning  Ms. Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher. Loss is an ongoing process. To weather two deaths in the course of 36 hours is heart rending.

My spiritual belief is that we will be reunited with our loved ones in Eternity. For now, the loss of a family icon reminds me that we don’t know how long we’ll be separated before the reunion. For Fisher and Reynolds it was a day. Mom and I are starting our fifth year.

Every day is moving us closer together. Meanwhile, I need to remember that being naive is not a fatal flaw. A lack of faith and hope will kill you before you stop breathing.

Maybe we can take a lesson from the musicals, and greet each day with promise and a song. Just like in Singin’ in the Rain’s Good Morning sequence.

 

Santa dropped in for a special party

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Ross and Marcy Kelly receive the Jim Kelly Distinguished Service Award from Linkville Kiwanis Immediate Past President Melissa Clinton.

Straight off of two spectacular weeks of the Snowflake Festival, Santa made a special trip back to Klamath Falls Wednesday for a local children’s Christmas party.

The Linkville Kiwanis party for children with disabilities has been a club favorite since at least the mid-1970s. No one can remember when it began, but one partner has stood the test of time. The Kelly family, who have owned the Klamath Falls McDonald’s franchise since 1999, have made an indelible mark on the celebration.

The Kellys’ late patriarch Jim, looked forward to the party each year, and Linkville Kiwanis recently recognized his family with the first-ever Jim Kelly Distinguished Service Award.

Jim Kelly was a service-oriented example of civic-mindedness, who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross during his service in Vietnam. Those who knew Jim would agree that he never sought the limelight but was always there to cheer on others. He was extremely generous with his time, energy and assets. He always enjoyed pitching in on a project and was often the first to arrive and the last to leave.

In previous years, the Kellys provide the meals for the families in attendance. This year, a new approach was taken, with McDonald’s providing drinks and cookies for the occasion and a special gift of a Happy Meal gift certificate for each child. The children will be able to visit one of the local restaurants, and prolong the joy of the celebration.

Epicenter and Kiwanis worked together to provide pizza for those in attendance. As always, Santa mysteriously knew what each child desired as a present. The 28 children are students at Conger and Stearns elementary schools.

Kiwanis clubs, located in 80 nations, help their communities in countless ways. Each community’s needs are different—so each Kiwanis club is different. By working together, members achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone. When you give a child the chance to learn, experience, dream, grow, succeed and thrive, great things happen.

Service is at the heart of every Kiwanis club, no matter where in the world it’s located. Members stage nearly 150,000 service projects and raise nearly $100 million every year for communities, families and projects.

There are two Kiwanis clubs in the Klamath area: Linkville Kiwanis and Klamath Falls Kiwanis.

Panelists share personal culture in We Are Klamath event

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We Are Klamath speakers, in the front row left to right, Bonita Fillmore, Raquel Poteet and Laty Xiyavong are surrounded by those who attended the event to hear about their cultural history.

We Are Klamath speakers, in the front row left to right, Bonita Fillmore, Raquel Poteet and Laty Xiyavong are surrounded by those who attended the event to hear about their cultural history.

We Are Klamath speakers, in the front row left to right, Bonita Fillmore, Raquel Poteet and Laty Xiyavong are surrounded by those who attended the event to hear about their cultural history.

It was a dark and stormy night when 42 people braved the elements to learn more about their friends and neighbors.

The We Are Klamath speaking panel featured Czech descendent of Malin’s Victorine family Bonita Fillmore, Raquel Poteet, an immigrant from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Laty Xiyavong, a Laotian immigrant of Thai heritage. Invited speakers from the Klamath Tribes and the Hispanic community were unable to attend.

While the speakers came from distinctly different backgrounds, each expressed a common theme in the willingness of those already in Klamath to help them find a home here. Fillmore shared that the Czech settlers arrived in September 1909 and immediately set out to clear sagebrush. W.C. Dalton provided his personal equipment on loan, as long as the borrower left a note written on the Dalton barn door.

Xiyavong’s parents received help in establishing the family restaurant Thai Orchid from local people who provided information and support in obtaining a building lease and opening a bank account. He believes the 17 years the family has lived in Klamath is the longest span the Xiyavongs have lived anywhere.

For Poteet, she needed to gain personal confidence in her new home. An educator in Brazil, her first job here was cleaning houses. Taking psychology courses at Klamath Community College prompted her to seek a job closer to her calling. She spent time as a preschool teacher, but now works with families through the Women Infants and Children program at Klamath County Public Health.

She says she has not experienced discrimination here, and feels at home with the Hispanic people and culture. The foods are very similar, and the people are inviting. Poteet and her husband have discussed leaving Klamath, but she is insistent that they keep a house in Klamath, as this is home.

The continuity of connection is something Xiyavong sees through the family restaurant. Many of Oregon Institute of Technology’s international students find their way through the establishment’s doors. The food and familiarity feels like a visit home.

Food is not the only connection to the past. Fillmore related that less than 20 years after the Czech settlers established Malin, the community hosted a large Sokol, or gymnastics, competition, drawing participants from across the United States. She also mentioned that Malin is named after an Eastern European town where horseradish is grown, as settlers found horseradish while clearing fields. Also, the Czech settlers brought the cultivation of potatoes to the Klamath Basin.

In a divisive period of American society, it is not always easy to see the commonality of humanity. For 90 minutes on October 24, it was easy to see that we all crave connection, communication and a place to call home.

We Are Klamath was sponsored by the Klamath Regional Health Equity Coalition, a program of Klamath County Public Health. The coalition seeks to help all individuals attain the highest levels of respect, health and wellness.

Audio podcasts of the speaker’s presentations can be found at krhec.org.

Mammy: Always have one good woman friend

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Lucille and Eddie Brown on their wedding day, February 1936.

My maternal grandmother, we called her Mammy, was a woman of many opinions and action. One of her pearls of wisdom is resonating with me tonight, and I’ll share it with you.

Always have one good woman friend.

Well, truth be told, I’ve always been given to friendships with boys and men. I love them. They are straight forward and communication never leaves you guessing.

When Mammy imparted this gift to me, I assured her she was my woman friend. “It doesn’t work that way. You are not getting off that easy,” she said.

I’ve been friendly with women, but I watched my Mammy, too. A strong personality, she could easily be on the outs with any of her women friends, or family, at any given time. Her discipline was abusive, and her relationship with my mother was both difficult and complicated. All of that is another story.

Tonight, I count more than one woman my friend, but there’s been conjecture that I’m feuding with one because we don’t share the same opinion on a single topic.

We live in a society of disposable convenience. Not happy with a relationship? End it. There will be someone new.

That’s not how I operate. I feel things deeply. If you are my friend, you are my friend for the long haul. I am, however, discriminating. I know the difference between friendship and acquaintances. I have a few fine friends and many acquaintances. Either place you find yourself on my spectrum, I’m loyal and it takes more than a difference of opinion for me to walk away.

If you are looking for a cat fight, move along. There’s nothing to see here. If I do get riled up, you can expect to hear another of Mammy’s phrases, “You want me to show you how the cow ate the cabbage?”

Seeing independence through a new lens

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I love my nation and its history. Of late I’m in a pattern of learning that has caused me to view our history in a different way. Our 240 years of democracy is a small drop in the barrel of time, compared to the thousands of years this land has been home to its indigenous peoples.

Perspective is everything. Recently, I viewed a video where a Tribal young man explained that Abraham Lincoln was an emancipator of one group of citizens, but he began a policy of enslavement for Native Americans. I had not placed history in that context.

It is important to realize that as the nation was engaged in the Civil War and Reconstruction, Tribal people were being herded on to reservations or slaughtered. Sequestering these people was not enough, as forced assimilation broke families apart and removed children from their natural sources of support, strength and culture.

We are a nation that values freedom and bravery. Native Americans have shown great bravery throughout our history together, with a determined interest in freedom.

It surprises me that a melting pot nation that pays lip service to the strength of diversity, but take every opportunity to illustrate differences and drive people apart.

I’m proud of my nation and would defend it unto death. However, I believe there are some lessons from the past that can help us work better together moving forward.

It is not lost on me that I spent part of the day in Malin, where the waters of Tule Lake once lapped at the shoreline. The land was trod by Native Americans for thousands of years before the first white scouts made contact. Many interactions were tenuous, but our society didn’t take note of how to work well with others.

Throughout the decades there would be immigrants from Ireland and what is now the Czech Republic come to the area and tame the desert, making it produce crops. Each new group was met with discrimination and derision.

What surprises me is that in most instances we’ve moved beyond the fear of other cultures, but there is still anxiety associated with the Native peoples.

I can’t fix the past, but I can offer to be an ally. I respect the history of the aboriginal people of my nation, and I’m sorry that even today most Native youth are asked to walk in two separate worlds — one of their culture and the other the dominant culture.

I hope it won’t take another 240 years to learn how to allow people to walk their own path, alongside others, without forcing them to conform. Isn’t that the most essential form of freedom?

Kinetics is a special community unto its own

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Dawn Jennings Peterson, known in the kinetic world as Vixen, entertains the audience at the 2016 Klamath Kinetic Challenge Awards.

We all inhabit a subculture of one. None of us are exactly alike anyone else in the world, but  there are moments when you find those of a similar mindset with whom you can enjoy special moments.

The Klamath Kinetic Challenge was born of the dedication of Denise Currin. She’d seen the World Championships in Arcata, Calif., and knew Oregon Institute of Technology could provide a place for fun sculptures to be created. There were few better sights on campus than the tall-wheeled vehicle coming across the quad, during my last professional stint there.

Over the years, Denise grew tired of the responsibility and the Challenge was thought abandoned. Dawn Jennings Peterson, then a medical resident, saw the story in the newspaper and didn’t want the Challenge to die a premature death. She recruited volunteers and led the effort for a number of years.

Her leadership salvaged the Challenge and built relationships near and far. She and her family are known to crew for the Bedfords of Medford at the World Championships; Sam and Lily, the children of Peter and Jeri Wagner of Davis, Calif., have grown up together with the Peterson boys along the Challenge course; and the mutual admiration between the Vixen, as Jennings Peterson is known in kinetics, and James Brown is palpable.

Kinetics aren’t for the uptight or stuffy. Anyone who takes themselves too seriously will certainly find themselves alone in the span of a weekend. Run along, if you’re not interested in fun.

What is especially winning about Jennings Peterson is that her professional life could count for her community involvement. She delivers babies, helps families make difficult medical choices, and gently explains complicated information– often all in the course of one day. Her husband, Marcus Peterson, is a dentist who not only helps improve a person’s smile, but is able to encourage patients unto a path of better all-around health through better dental practices.

As Marcus began his own kinetic team, Vixen pulled away from being the local Supreme Organizer, but her contributions are still visible in the friendships and goodwill she’s built.

The 2016 Challenge is over, but the esprit de corps  continues.