Our Family Loves the Graffiti Weekend cruise

NOTE: This was published 5 years ago but still holds true. Folks all over Oregon and beyond love Graffiti weekend!

Over thirty years ago a few local car clubs joined together to relive the 50’s by cruising classic cars through a main area of town. It was a one night event that now lasts the better part of a week, growing from one event per year to fifteen. Our little burg fills up with shiny Chevys, Fords, Plymouths and cars I’ve never heard of. Starting tomorrow, Graffiti Weekend events will go on daily through Sunday. My family loves it.

Even before we had “Betty Lou” (our ’58 Chevy Bel Air) we found ourselves planning our vacations around this week. When my girls were little they wore poodle skirts, pony tails and saddle shoes to get into the spirit of the Saturday night cruise. We planted ourselves on a curb on Jackson street, usually in front of a restaurant we like, waiting for the rumble of the motors. My husband would point out cars he once had. I showed him the ones I wanted. If we were really lucky we would spot someone we knew cruising so we could ride the loop.

We have met great people over the years. It’s more than the love for cars that brings folks together, it’s the sense of community. All of the different car clubs sponsor various events with most of the proceeds going to charity. Every year we do something a little different except two events. The cruise of course is the highlight but there is one we find just as fun but more fulfilling: the Retirement Home Cruise.

Cars line up in a local parking lot to make the rounds at various retirement, nursing and assisted living facilities. The residents often meet us in the parking lot to walk up the aisle of memories. Many will stop to tell stories of owning a car just like ours. Their eyes glisten as they recount tales from a different time. It’s beautiful.

This year we’ll have family in town. It’ll be a great way to show them this place we love so much. A place where our children have grown up with this tradition for years and are bringing their tinies along for the ride. All too soon they’ll be the ones remembering the nights where exhaust and laughter mingled in the air. They’ll show off their favorites and it will be beautiful too.


When hosting get-togethers, keep it SIMPLE

It was a Saturday and I was expecting guests the next afternoon to celebrate my 6-week old baby. I was staring at a tray of cake crumbs stuck together with blobs of icing. They were supposed to be Petit fours. I had followed Martha Stewart’s step-by-step instructions in a book on loan from the library.


But these didn’t look anything like the photos. These weren’t even these. They were a big pile of this.

Mom listened as I poured out my dilemma to her over the phone. I had several other dishes to serve, but this was going to be the showstopper. The ooh and ahh moment of the buffet table.

It was at that moment that my amazing mom calmly told me how to fix it.

She said, “Take a spoon and the dish into Russ and tell him to enjoy it.”

Then she asked, “Do you know the difference between hospitality and entertaining?”

I didn’t yet, but I was about to find out.

I don’t remember her exact words, but I have never forgotten the idea. Entertaining is about making yourself look important, hospitality is about making the other person feel important.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could tell you that from that point on I “got it”?

Alas, that would be as far from the truth. The truth is, I’m still getting it. It is still so easy to get caught up in hosting the perfect get-together. Impeccably cooked food on an elaborate table with all of the right guests. Everything would be served at the perfect temperature with no stress and a perma-grin plastered on my face.

What I can tell you is I have learned (for the most part) to keep it simple. That doesn’t mean I’m never daring. What it means is when I try new things, they don’t take too long and they don’t use a lot of ingredients.

Saturday morning, we invited some friends over for dinner and firepit in the yard that night. When they accepted, I threw a casual tablecloth on the outdoor table and wove a table runner through some paper lanterns. Grabbing some pork chops out of the freezer to thaw, I paired them with a peach/mango/habanero sauce and we were ready to go.

While everyone else sat around the fire, I ran into the kitchen. I quickly whipped up a berry cobbler, stuck it in a cast iron skillet and set it on the fire. It took forever to cook. We all took turns trying to solve the mystery of an outdoor cobbler in between telling each other our stories.

The cobbler never really got done. We finally gave in and dished it up. It was still delicious, albeit imperfect. What was perfect was the fun we had. The memories we made added to this new friendship. It built relationship, which is what having people over should be all about.

As we were putting things away that night, I remarked to my husband, “It’s fun to do just enough for people to feel special but not so stuffy that no one is comfortable.” It was one of those moments that I know would have made Mom smile.

It made me smile, too.


(This was originally posted at The News Review website)


Dear World, From Roseburg – Part 2

Note: The day after the shooting at UCC on Oct. 1, 2015,  I wrote a letter to the world that quickly went viral across the globe. Two years later, this is my sequel to the original commentary. This post was featured in the New Review and at nrtoday.com.


Dear World,

Two years ago you were introduced to Roseburg. On October 1, 2015, our tranquil valley became known for the tragedy that the face of evil brought to our town. Our name became part of a list of cities whose schools became the seat of violence, and like all cities that bear the same mark, we didn’t want to be known for the horror of that day.

We hoped you’d see us for the way we came together and for how deeply we care. We want you to know that we are stronger than ever, and our resolve is rooted as deep as the Douglas fir that covers the hills throughout our county.

Like most of our community, I didn’t sleep that night. When the unthinkable happened, I couldn’t shut off my brain. Instead of sleeping I began to process grief. At 4 a.m. I shuffled into my husband’s office and penned a piece, pouring my troubled heart onto the page. My message began a discussion between friends and strangers. It became evident that there were far more people who love this peaceful community than those who feel trapped by this small-town life.

As details began to unfold, stories of those we lost became our stories. We sat in a collective waiting room for those whose wounds weren’t fatal but still, we recognized that bits of their lives were stolen. We prayed with the families of both survivors and victims. We baked cupcakes, welded yard signs, printed decals, poured coffee, lit candles and held vigils.

Local churches opened their doors for the countless volunteers who came simply to comfort. Home-grown businesses donated, collected and sacrificed while the world watched us grieve for a short while.

During that first week, I had several conversations with different media outlets. From a local Seattle station to a reporter from CNN, the question was the same: What makes Roseburg different? The question was merely for the interview because they had already noticed on their own.

As the list of tragedies he had covered was recited, one reporter told me this, “No one has ever been as kind and cordial to us as the people here.” He wondered if we were anxious to have the media lights dimmed. I nodded and assured him that the first order of business was to create a safe place to heal.

As often happens during times of grief, there are those who return to their lives as if nothing happened. Media loaded their trucks and moved on to the next story. Through memorials, prayer vigils and fundraisers, we leaned on one another and those who had reached in when it was too painful to reach out.

We woke up soon after to a “new normal” where the quiet left us feeling raw and disoriented. So much loss so fast, and to this day, there isn’t a part of this that makes sense.

We’re here two years later and still standing. We’ve come together in ways we hadn’t before and survived the pain as well as the controversy. When public figures and outside forces tried to change the conversation, we stayed strong. As the reports of the investigation were released just a few weeks ago, opinions of how the information should be handled varied. We still have our own viewpoints and passions to be sure, but we still have our community.

We have inspiration from the lives we lost and the wounded who fought to stay alive. From the first responders to the emergency room personnel to the long-term caregivers, their stories have become our stories. The pastors and neighbors who have sat with the tearful have offered comfort through unimaginable loss. Community leaders continue to meet in order to chart a course in hopes that we can continue to heal and grow.

We’re here, caught in a place where we’d like to forget that day and mindful that there is so much we need to remember, like being kind and gracious to each other. We can disagree and be angry yet find it in our hearts to be civil. We can actively give and peacefully listen to those still carrying the scars of that day.

As time moves forward, so will we. There will always be hearts that need mending and victories to celebrate. Our friends will continue to heal, and new classrooms will be built, and we’ll be right here. We’re ready to listen, bring meals for some, and for others, save lives and comfort souls. We’ll continue to welcome visitors and new neighbors. We’ll work hard to improve our community and teach our children what it means to stand strong and proclaim, “We’re still here!”


Dear World, From Roseburg

Dear World,

Before yesterday most of you had never heard of the City of Roseburg. Now when you hear that name you will link us to the tragedy that happened on our small community college campus yesterday.

That is not who we are.

We are a logging community tucked into a beautiful valley with some of the most beautiful tree covered hills you’ve ever seen.

The waters of the Umpqua river flow through our town and Umpqua Community College sits above its banks.

The same interstate that brought reporters and government officials is the same road that’s welcomed back our own Charlie Company from more than one tour protecting our nation.

Our children bring their livestock to show at the county fair on the same fairgrounds that welcomed busloads of students to frantic families anxious to see them step off the bus. Local pastors, relief workers and counselors were waiting too.

The Thursday night sky filled with candlelight in the park where music fills the air every summer on a blanket covered hill.

In July our streets fill with classic cars as families line the sidewalks of downtown, waiting for a history to roll by. The same streets rocked by an explosion more than 50 years ago.

On Veterans Day, those same streets welcome war heroes, marching bands and flag waving children, sometimes in pouring rain.

Photographs of the injured being rolled into the hospital doesn’t tell the whole story either.

Most of our babies have been born at Mercy and lives are saved there everyday, not just the tragic ones.

Umpqua Community College is the place where too many will remember for the wrong reasons. You won’t speak of the thousands of graduates who’ve learned to be nurses, dental assistants and anything that would put them back to work in our once thriving timber economy.

We’ll still show up at Jacoby Auditorium as it fills with local actors and musicians throughout the year.

In July, the track on campus fills with walkers as we join the Relay for Life.

There is so much more to remember about us than the day this tragedy tore into our lives and changed our community forever.

Today you will hear names and get to know a small bit of who we lost.

We will hear the names and feel the loss.

After the media is gone, we will still be here. We will return to celebrating in our streets, dancing in our parks and holding each other up when they are too weak to stand.

As the story continues to unfold and details emerge and you speak the name of our city please remember this, our city and college is not the name of a tragedy.

We are not here to provide an argument for your agenda or to be on a horrible list somewhere.

We are here because Roseburg is our home and that is the on thing about us that can’t be changed.

This post originally appeared at NRToday.com/moms


That (2nd) Time We Moved a House

Driving up to our home, it’s hard to forget that it hasn’t always been in that spot.

For the first 110 years, the white farmhouse sat on the other side of Roseburg, nestled into the trees along with a smaller home and barn on N.E. Winchester Street.

Local hotel owner D.C. McClallen had the home built for his family in 1895. Although the McClallens weren’t native to the Umpqua Valley, they were well respected in the community. It would seem that the house was built shortly before McClallen and his wife passed away, a couple of years apart.

Soon after, it is believed one of the McClallen grandchildren occupied the house.

Over the years, other well known families have owned the property.

Pete and Nelle Motschenbacher moved to the Winchester Street location in 1941.

Their daughter, Susan, remembers raking leaves in the front yard as the news broke that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

As a teen, Susan spent summer nights sleeping on the front porch. She recalls cool summers and large parties her mom loved to host in the front yard. Susan’s mother, Nelle, worked for Roseburg Lumber owner Kenneth Ford in those days and her yard parties were well known throughout the Umpqua Valley.

Another popular feature was the fish pond that spread 10 feet across the front lawn.

In 1996, Nelle was unable to continue living in her beautiful family home and passed away shortly after moving out. Susan’s daughter occupied the residence for the next four years until the family decided it was time to sell.

In January of 2003, an article about the house was placed within a display advertisement in The News-Review. It proclaimed, “Wanted: Good home for a historic home.”

With a few bits of history woven throughout the piece, it was asking the public for help in finding someone who would be willing to save this bit of history from being torn down.

The owner at the time, Cascade Community Federal Credit Union, had been advertising the house for months with no real prospects. A friend of ours suggested we take a look to see if there was something we could do with the home. He had plans to mention it to my husband, Russ, but I made it clear he was to keep it to himself.

While Cascade was looking for someone to move the house, our family was settling in to our freshly renovated home on Calkins Street in Roseburg.

For the first 15 years of our marriage, we moved every two years. Purchasing a home that needed loving care, he’d fix it up and we’d move on. It was never planned that way. Each time we’d say, “This is the one we’ll stay in.” Of course, something else would catch his eye and we’d move again.

Weary from renovating and breathing in drywall dust, I was settled into our sweet traditional home. But it wasn’t long until he caught wind of the opportunity to save a piece of history. Almost one full year after the printed plea in The News-Review, Russ made a proposal to Cascade. The offer to move the home and remove the remaining buildings from the property was excepted.

Moving a home isn’t as simple as putting it on a trailer and dropping it on a piece of land. Usually months of work are involved from preparing the land to renovating the home once it’s placed. It’s a huge undertaking, but Russ has never shied away from hard work when beautifying a home was a possibility.

The work began early in March 2004. Preparing the home to move was a full-time endeavor.

It took four months to get ready. The most difficult job was deconstructing the top floor to avoid issues with overhead fiber optic lines on moving day.

We planned to also transfer the beautiful rhododendrons and bulbs that had been part of the house’s landscape for several decades, but the night before Russ arrive with buckets to dig them up, someone had come and helped themselves to the plants.

On Sunday, June 6, 2004, the day of the house move, Susan (Motschenbacher) Gerretsen gathered across the street with longtime friends and neighbors to bid farewell to her childhood home. I recently spoke to her on the phone and she remembers being grateful that this piece of history would be safe.

Anyone who has moved will tell you it is always stressful. Moving an entire house takes it to a whole new level.

With tarps on the roof and boards over windows, Russ and our daughter Rachel walked behind the sad looking structure during its move. We often tell people that it looked like Dorothy’s house from the Wizard of Oz after it was dropped on the wicked witch.

For several months, Russ spent 10- to 18-hour days building up the foundation and restoring the old home. It was ready to be occupied by February 2005. Landscaping and finishing touches would come later.

For the past 10 years we’ve nestled in to our piece of Roseburg history. With joy we huddle together with family and friends, adding to the legacy of the home Mr. McClallen lovingly built for his descendants.

The address may have changed but its purpose hasn’t.

It’s still a place to fill with laughter as we build on the loving legacy of other generations.


This story originally appeared in the News Review.