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My Three Daughters’ Meal Planning Tips

Another Way for week of September 23, 2022

My Three Daughters’ Meal Planning Tips

Third in a three-part series on keeping family dinner. And don’t miss the cookbook giveaway offer at the end.

When I asked my oldest daughter how she does meal planning, she laughed and said it was like, “Oh dear, it’s 5 o’clock! I have no idea what we are having for supper.” She easily handed off the meal planning crown to her younger sisters, who we’ll hear from in a bit.

Michelle does have a “retroactive manner” of getting ideas for what to fix next. She faithfully keeps track of what she’s made recently on a calendar, which helps her dig back in the fridge to use up leftovers before they spoil. Plus, as she looks back over a month’s meals, she spies things that are timely to make again. They have three sons, ages 4, 6 and almost 9. “I basically shop for staples every week,” Michelle adds. She keeps black beans, rice, lentils and frozen veggies always in stock. Her husband Brian cooks breakfast for the boys and washes dishes. AND cleans the house.

Our grandsons love playing chef or maybe “fast food drive through” in our playhouse, recently dubbed “The Food House.”

Tanya, our middle daughter, and her husband have two boys, ages 9 and 6. She writes: “We have a three-week rotation of meals. I keep a notebook with shopping lists for a running calendar of dinner entrees. Sometimes I plan two weeks out (but only buy groceries for the immediate week). All I put in the notebook is the main course: Sun Aug 28 Lasagna; Mon Aug 29 Grilled Chicken; Tues Aug 30 Sloppy Joes, and so on. The notebook helps me make sure I buy necessary ingredients to make entrees, for things I don’t usually keep on hand. It also reminds me of how many/types of proteins to buy (ground beef, usually two packages, chicken tenders, cottage cheese, etc.). I can also look back and see, oh we haven’t had chili for three weeks, we’ll have that again this week. We generally grill something twice a week in the summer. We buy takeout pizza every other Friday night.”

This birthday boy asked for his favorite special meal, Chicken Pot Pie and we were lucky enough to enjoy it with him recently! He began loving it when he was just two.

She points out “a big factor in meal planning is thinking through the family schedule for the week. Since Jon gets home earlier, he can now cook about 30 percent of our repertoire and make a few entire meals, plus get started cutting chicken up or put things in the oven if it’s something I made early morning (meatloaf, chicken that has been marinating, etc.). If we have baseball, Scouts, or other activities in the evening and I have to commute, I schedule a meal that Jon can make all by himself or a frozen lasagna I made previously. More extensive/laborious meals I usually plan for Saturdays or Sundays when I have time for things like lasagna, fajitas, stuffed peppers. I generally keep a stock of side dishes like rice, pasta, frozen vegetables which I don’t plan in advance.”

Youngest daughter Doreen says she and her husband Ahmed have tried the meal app, “Eat This Much” which was originally designed for very strict portions and diet requirements. “It’s a good tool for meal planning—including shopping lists, but if you’re not good about sticking to it (by eating out or eating other things in your pantry because you’re ‘not in the mood’ for that food) then you end up with more groceries than you need. So I’ve utilized it more for meal ideas for the week and pick and choose which ones I do.” She also checks what’s on sale in weekly circulars. “Sometimes there are whole meals on sale: you buy a pound of ground beef, and get the taco shells, taco mix, lettuce, tomato and cheese for like a dollar each.” She also has a list of entrees she makes and checks occasionally for things they haven’t had in a while.

She adds, “I also enter oddball stuff on my phone that I don’t buy every week but don’t want to forget like toilet paper, salt, toothpaste, etc.” Michelle also uses a free app “Out of Milk” and appreciates that it saves what she’s put on the list in the past, “so sometimes I can just run through the old items and check them off as ‘yes, I need that.’”

Great easy standby meal: spaghetti at Doreen’s house after a recent move.

I am happy that my daughters manage as much cooking as they do, and all working full time—and they mostly figured out their own preferred routines—with not much help from Mom. I do love it when they call with a cooking question—and I’m reminded of the busy busy lives they lead.

I’m giving away FREE copies (as long as they last) of my 2010 cookbook Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime. Just pay shipping of $3.00. Send cash or check and your request to: Another Way, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. Or email me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com

Figuring Out What to Have for Dinner

Another Way for week of September 16, 2022

Figuring Out What to Have for Dinner

Second of a three-part series on organizing meal planning.

Perhaps you’ve seen the meme: “Who knew that the hardest part about being an adult is figuring out what to make for dinner every day for the rest of your life.” Yeah.

But if you’ve read my book Whatever Happened to Dinner you know I’m a big proponent of eating together as a family or couple. And I’m not just talking about holidays. I’m talking about the everyday.

My confession is I’ve never been much to plan ahead. I have frequently said I love meal planning, though, during the sweet corn days of August-September. We normally grow three to four plantings of sweet corn which spread out over those months and very often my meal planning is complete when I’ve settled on a meat for dinner—plus sweet corn and tomatoes or green peppers. How sweet it is. (I get tired of corn for supper quicker than my husband, but it does make meal planning a breeze.)

Who doesn’t like sweet corn … well I do know a few folks ….

The rest of the year, I am never happy on a given day until I’ve settled on what to fix for supper. And while my husband is a happy griller and helps out that way, he doesn’t cook much else and I’m happy that way too. Truth be told, he messes with my way of doing things—wants a special pan or utensil for specific things and doesn’t know where to find them—and after all these years, I just prefer to cook.

But not plan. I did not teach my daughters good meal planning skills, I must admit. Next week you’ll hear from each of them!

However, this year, after becoming better acquainted with my cousin’s wife, Sharon, which I shared last week, I have been working on doing a better job of planning ahead. And I love it, when I do it!

My meal planning now still boils down to what meat or main dish to have. Stuart is a big meat eater (although he has cut back on servings) but a meal is not a meal for him if there is no visible meat. But, he readily enjoys dishes like spaghetti, taco salad, lasagna and some chicken and rice/noodle casseroles. So when I’ve settled on a meat or main dish, the rest is, shall we say, a piece of cake. (But not for dessert! Cake, cookies, or pie are saved for special occasions and usually we just have ice cream or fruit for dessert, or fruit on ice cream.)

Here in no particular order are some of our go-to meat entrees: pork chops, grilled or baked; meatloaf; pork barbecue; sloppy joes; grilled hamburgers or hot dogs (sometimes he cooks a big batch of these at a time and we freeze for easy meals); country ham (the salty kind); steak or steak and cheese sandwiches; baked fish fillet; a bean and hamburger casserole; Costco roast chicken; BLTs; taco salad; beef roast; hamburger stroganoff; pizza; goulash. For sides we add various veggies or salads, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, mashed or baked potatoes, fried potatoes. I’m sure this sounds way too boring and meat centered for many readers but it works for us. The helpful thing about planning is making a list—which you then have to refer back to.

We both enjoy beef stroganoff: on rice.

I must confess we do eat out a lot more now than when the children were home. Which is a pattern I observed in my parents and their siblings—they went out to eat much more often after we left home. Duh.

Speaking of the later years: if you are single or have lost your partner, what then?

Of course, that’s a way different story and I remember when my mother, widowed for 15 years, reverted to often just eating cheese and crackers for supper, saying that’s what she liked. Plus, a bite or two from her beloved chocolate bars. She had her healthy noon meal with others at her retirement facility and often saved entrees or dessert to eat for supper, and that was ok, but gradually she lost weight and became quite frail. Which led to two major falls. Plus, it was not much fun to eat alone in your room amidst the worst of the pandemic.

If you have a companion or friends to share meals with from time to time, that can make up for lack of family. And I hope you’ll look for my daughters’ meal planning helps next week! Bon Appetit!

***

I’m giving away FREE copies (as long as they last) of my 2010 cookbook Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime. Just pay shipping of $3.00.

Send cash or check and your request to: Another Way, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

What are your go-to meals? How do you do meal planning?

Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Thousands of Recipes Waiting to be Tried

Another Way for week of September 9, 2022

Thousands of Recipes Waiting to be Tried

First of a three-part series on keeping family dinner.

About 12 years ago, I wrote about the importance of keeping family dinner in a book we called Whatever Happened to Dinner?

Family Dinner Day (September 26, 2022) is a national effort to promote family dinners as an effective way to reduce youth substance abuse and other risky behaviors, as researched by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. I contend that keeping family dinner—at a table (or kitchen island)—is still a habit that older couples (like my husband and I) benefit from.

Sharon Risser cooking up some fantastic dishes in her well-equipped kitchen.

Last year I became better acquainted with my cousin’s wife, Sharon Risser. She allowed me to share her passion for cooking—a different meal or recipe six days a week—in a Mennonite magazine which I have written for occasionally, Anabaptist World. They published it this summer and I’m sharing a shorter version of her story here for column readers.

Sharon is married to my first cousin Doug, and is a former nurse. She is part-time manager of Waterford Crossing Condo Association, at a retirement facility she helped launch in 1999 in Goshen, Indiana. Doug and Sharon live in a condo on the campus and share meals almost every evening with Sharon’s 90-year-old father, Charles Shenk, who lives across the street. The Rissers have one son, Jay, and two grandchildren, Jaxon and Teagan. The Rissers opened their home to us for a place to stay as we visited my mother when she was in her last months.

Sharon and Doug enjoying a meal with Sharon’s father.

When Sharon showed me a stack of recipes roughly three inches tall which she was planning to try from various magazines, I was almost dumbfounded. She said she normally cooks a different recipe every time she cooks, usually six times a week.

Sharon’s adventures in cooking began when her mother offered her a “job” at the age of twelve, planning and cooking each evening meal, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, plus ironing. “I’ll pay you $20 a week,” her mom proposed, and Sharon thought that sounded like a lot of money, which it was, in those days.

Sharon wanted to go to college and become a nurse. While her parents encouraged this, they said she’d need to earn some money for college. Opportunities were scarce, of course, for a twelve-year-old to earn any real money. Her mother worked “pretty much full time at her own bridal business,” according to Sharon.

A longtime bestseller, for which I got to write a special “65th Anniversary edition” history in 2015. 🙂

So, Sharon scanned her mother’s cookbooks such as Mennonite Community Cookbook, Good Housekeeping Cookbook, Betty Crocker, and others. “I liked the cookbooks with pictures in them so I could see what something looked like,” she recalls. She’d plan menus by Thursday evenings so her mother could get the needed groceries on Friday, which is how Sharon operates to this day. She’s a diehard menu maker with a kitchen full of spices and flavorings I’d never heard of.

She started out making things like meatloaf, sloppy joes, or spaghetti. She knew her brothers might complain if she made a casserole with “food all mixed together.” But Sharon has widely expanded her horizons and meals since those days!

Sharon throws away almost all the recipes she’s cooked: “If I kept everything, you’d call me a hoarder.” She estimates she has thousands of recipes she’s pulled from magazines she wants to try: “I have about 10 three-ring-binders holding the untried recipes!”

When I probed for her most favorite recipe or dish to make?

The next one,” was her final answer. Here’s one recipe her family enjoyed for a fish dish (adapted slightly from Eating Well magazine).

Middle Eastern Spiced Tilapia (not pictured here)

Mix together ½ teaspoon each of: salt, ground coriander, turmeric.
Add 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon.  Apply this mixture to one side of 4 (6 oz.) tilapia fillets.
Place the tilapia on a sprayed baking sheet.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter and add to it 1 tablespoon lime juice.
Drizzle the butter mixture over the tilapia.
Place in the oven under the broiler for 6 – 7 minutes until fish is flakey.
Garnish with cilantro leaves and sliced limes. Feeds two to four. One serving is 185 calories.

***

Do you plan menus? I’d love to hear about your practices! Comment here or share with me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Adding a chopped avocado for her yummy meal. She and her husband Doug enjoy most meals with Sharon’s father who lives nearby.
Sharon definitely likes to create appealing and beautiful food!

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Some True Cat Tales

Another Way for week of September 2, 2022

Some True Cat Tales

So, if you’re not a cat person, you may want to skip this and read about the weather. Or something.

But I loved the picture a friend painted of her two cats recently. Not literally, but she lives alone and is very fond of them, whose names I’m forgetting. Recently Glenda has been struggling with her 14-year-old feline who was fighting her as she attempted to give him his antibiotic for an ear infection. She showed me the bruises and scars on her arms—she is probably fifteen or so years older than me and as we age, such things show up so prominently.

My friend needs a suit of armor with her cat.

The cat resists the medicine of course and since this friend lives alone, she has a hard time holding the cat wrapped in a towel in one arm, opening his mouth and inserting the medicine without him biting her and trying to get away. Yeah. Sounds like an armful. But her other cat makes up for it right now, who jumps in her lap and gently puts both paws on Glenda’s face: “It’s like she’s giving me a hug,” Glenda smiled. “And then she licks my face.” That part is not for me, but she loves it and I’m sure she finds great company with these cats—unless there is medicine involved!

It made me think of one time when my husband and I were just dating and he came down with flu. He was feeling lousy. He lived by himself in a small mobile home. At the time he had a huge male cat, Tanjo, who could be as fierce as the cat in the story I just related.

So I made some soup or something and took it over to Stuart’s trailer and knocked on his door. He called “Come in,” but when I opened the door, Tanjo instantly dashed to the door hissing, not about to let me enter. I slammed the door, scared! Tanjo did calm down, and looking back, he was probably just trying to protect his owner who was sick. Tanjo and I eventually made friends. [Sorry to say, we have no photos of the actual Tanjo.]

Stuart’s male cat after Tanjo was this guy he named Caesar.

When our daughters were small, they all loved cats, especially baby kittens. So for a period of years, we had cats who spawned litters (I know, shame on us for not spaying them right away), but we were always able to find homes for the baby kittens when we advertised.

Boots, cuddling in blankets, was one of the kittens birthed by the mother, Shelly, standing. Michelle adopted Boots until the beloved Boots had cancer and she had to be put to sleep.

Eventually our daughters settled on one favorite cat each; my oldest daughter Michelle became very attached to one she named Boots. Boots was a calico cat and very loving and gentle, especially with Michelle.

An early computer where of course Boots loved to distract Michelle from her homework.

Our middle daughter, Tanya, claimed a beautiful sealpoint cat, Bubbles. She had beige fur and black ears and looked almost Siamese, but with a better disposition.

Bubbles: How can you resist a cat that looks like me??

Doreen’s favorite cat came much later when she was living with us after college and working at a bank. A friend of hers knew of an orphaned kitten that Doreen brought home and fed from a dropper. Doreen named her Paisley. When Doreen moved to another state to pursue a master’s degree, Paisley claimed my husband as her favorite, and loved riding around on his shoulder.

Paisley meets Riley.

My true love in cats was a male cat named Riley, who also needed a home. He was about eight when we got him and I fell in love at first look: long white fur, beautiful blue eyes, and a gentle and loving disposition.

He was amazing but we couldn’t let him outside because the previous owner had him declawed. Late in his life and with health failing, we left him pad about the backyard one evening for fresh air.

Riley on one of his final walkabouts. Our dog Velvet (laying in the background).
The neighbor’s dog is peacefully next to Riley. We were astonished.

To my husband’s amazement, a neighboring dog who was visiting, completely held back and didn’t even try to chase him. Soon after that sweet Riley died at home from old age.

Don’t I pose well?

Those are my cat stories! I understand National Cat Day is October 29: not in celebration of Halloween, but as a reminder of so many cats needing homes—and a reminder for owners to get them spayed.

God surely enjoyed all the world’s amazing creatures!

***

I’d love to hear your cat or dog stories!

Or maybe your offspring wanted to have hamsters or fish or gerbils in their rooms. That’s fun too, ha! Getting up in the middle of the night to search for a missing hamster?? Your story?

Comment here or write to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication. 

The World is So Big, So Amazing: Nature Tidbits

Another Way for week of August 26, 2022

The World is So Big, So Amazing: Nature Tidbits

Recently I wrote about the almost-5,000 journey my husband and I took this summer. This column is not about the sights we marveled at. Perhaps you could say this is about the things we didn’t see.

We didn’t see nearly as much traffic as we see in the east. The west is so huge, the U.S. is so vast—and indeed the world beyond the U.S. is even more massive.

And remember this: the earth is covered by about 70 percent oceans/water. Land portions cover only 30 percent. What a planet we live on! I love exploring the small parts we have been able to visit.

Endless road along I-90 in Minnesota

The Bible tells us to take care of the earth. It’s fun to ponder why God created the world. My friend and former seminary president Sara Wenger Shenk writes in her recent book, Tongue-Tied: Learning the Lost Art of Talking about Faith, “Surely God didn’t create the world out of some sense of necessity.” Think about some of the wondrous things she mentions: The melodic bird music that fills the air on a spring morning, the clouds that “boil and throb with flame and darkness, the neon colors and frills of all manner of marine life flashing their iridescence through blue green waters.” Sara concludes, “I imagine that God made this all out of pure joy.” She says more but that is the gist (p. 231).

We may wonder what God thinks now of this creation and the difficulties we find ourselves in regarding how we are taking care (or not) of this earth.

A blogger—and a nearby neighbor—shared a story recently of how she was feeding good fresh milk to pigs. And why.

They have a mini-farm and were milking two cows because they enjoy fresh milk and Jennifer has learned to make buckets of cheese of various types and names—some I’ve never heard of or seen in a store. I should add they have refrigerators full of cheese as the cheese goes through its aging process.

Our visit to the Murch mini-farm a few years ago.

She writes: At first, feeding our fresh, wonderful milk to the pigs felt terribly wrong (it’s hard for me to silence the voice in my head that says I gotta make the most of everything), but it’s not actually a loss. Feeding the milk to the pigs saves on feed costs and goes towards our future sausage, and when I water plants with the whey (or milk!), the nutrients build up the soil. In other words, “dumping” the extra milk isn’t wasteful — it’s just a shift in perspective. Food production is cyclical, and sharing the milk with the animals (and land) is as valuable as using it up directly ourselves. (You can check out her interesting cheesemaking trials and tips at the YouTube channel: jennifermurch.com/youtube/). Eventually they sold the extra milk cow for someone else to have.

So, I stopped feeling guilty about composting some of our rotting cucumbers and tomatoes, because we can hardly keep up with picking, canning, and freezing everything. We’ve given lots away. But even giving things away becomes time/gas consuming. Composting waste helps replenish the critters that live in—and busily work the earth around and beneath us. The Compost Learning Center (online) put it this way: “Nutrients follow a cycle: soil provides nutrients to plants, plants provide nutrients to animals, plants and animals provide nutrients to decomposers in compost, and these decomposers return nutrients to the soil.”

Ants doing their busy work. And then one day the sand just disappears!

One more nature story friends shared from a trip they took years ago to Phillip Island off of Melbourne, Australia . They enjoyed watching penguins, and there were bleachers set up near the ocean where visitors could watch the penguins after nightfall—if they (people) were quiet enough! The penguins apparently send out a penguin scout to check whether the human visitors are quiet enough for them to come up to the shore. “During nesting season, they have to return to their nests [in the sand] to feed their chicks,” says one website about the phenomenon. If the humans are too noisy, the penguins refrain from coming to shore for this important job.

How vast is our world! How awesome! I can imagine God smiling at these and many other quirks of creation.    

This is not Australia, but the Rockies in Colorado. In July.

***

What quirk of creation have you pondered?

What do you enjoy in this world?

What part of nature could you do without?

Comment here or write to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. Deadline: September 2, 2022.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

It All Started in the Chicken House

Another Way for week of August 19, 2022   

It All Started in the Chicken House

I’m excited to finally introduce readers of my column to a book I’ve worked on for the last year and a half, titled Memoir of an Unimagined Career: 43 Years Inside Mennonite Media. Masthof press is the publisher. In the book you will learn how this column, Another Way, came to be. Along with many many other things you likely never knew. If you read to the end of this column, you’ll find out how to enter a drawing for a giveaway!

This is my tenth book and this one took a good deal of research, checking facts, digging in my memory, and resurrecting stories from 43 years ago. It took writing, editing, rewriting, proofreading and also choosing photos which help illustrate the story—and I hope, bring this history to life.

Here’s one of the opening stories in this book:

My mother gathering eggs in our longgggg (at the time) chicken house.

“I spent most of my time while in the chicken house daydreaming about what I would grow up to be, reflecting on my Mennonite faith (which only permitted Sunday work like gathering eggs and feeding animals, no field work), and boys.

“I also sang to the chickens, and enjoyed watching them cock their heads sideways at me, likely in horror at my sometimes off-tune voice. If I went opera on them or gobbled like a turkey, which I loved doing, they responded with a swelling chorus, cackling back. 

“It was in this earthy, smelly place of great contemplation and musical excellence where I first penned out my ambition in life on a scrap of paper. I still have it to this day, hidden in a file.

This is the original copy. On file in a cabinet. When to toss it??

“On this day, November 18, 1967, Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m., I decided what I want to be: a Christian writer.”

“I was 16 years old and by then had my first poem published in WITH magazine, our church magazine for teens—my second snort of the addictive drug called “Byline”.

“In retrospect I felt just a bit of holy awe as I wrote those words down, with no idea—not a clue—of how to get there as a young farm girl. Everyone else and my two older sisters were aiming for more traditional careers for women of the day: nurse and teacher.

“What would people say if I said I wanted to be a writer? I had been a faithful reader of the Mennonite church Sunday school papers and publications over the years put out by the denomination’s publishing house in Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Words of Cheer, Youth’s Christian Companion, Gospel Herald, Christian Living.

“But a writer doesn’t just write for bylines in church publications and ten-dollar checks. Writers want to make sense of things and perhaps offer a hint or a help to others going through dilemmas. Some people need spread sheets, equations, formulas. Writers need sentences and paragraphs.” (Page 5 in the book.)

***

You may ask, a work memoir? That sounds tedious. Who wants to read the ups and downs of an ordinary woman working in media for the Mennonite church? Here are a few more stories I tell in the book:

Yours truly on far left in the ABC Television newsroom when it was based in Washington D.C. Center is Ron Byler, another staff person and producer at Mennonite Media, leading a tour of Eastern Mennonite University students to the newsroom. Circa 1980s.
  • Escorted out of a large city mall for testing magazine ads there—without getting permission.
  • A national civic club demanding that Mennonites cease and desist from unlawfully using their name in a TV spot.
  • A church editor surreptitiously finding a workaround when Mennonite Media’s print director refused to divulge how much a full-page ad in Newsweek was costing the Mennonite denomination.

Mining years of memories (and files), in the book I aimed to combine personal memoir with the colossally changing media landscape of a Mennonite mission-oriented communications agency from 1975 to almost 2020. Not your thing? That’s fine, but if you’d like to register for a chance at one of three free copies I’m giving away, see the information below!

Obviously, our cat is not quite into “work memoirs”.

***

Comments or questions? I’d love to hear from you.

***

To enter the giveaway for my new book, send your name and address to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. Deadline for this drawing is September 2, 2022. The book can also be purchased on Amazon or the publisher at Masthof.com

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

A Home of Their Own

Another Way for week of August 12, 2022

A Home of Their Own

I stared at my daughter’s sweet photo of the first real meal she’d cooked in their new home. It spoke volumes to me. I was so happy for her. For them.

This daughter, our youngest, had waited a long long time—and worked hard —for her own kitchen, her own dining room, their own home. She had lived in apartments with roommates, in dorms, at home with us for several years after college. There was always shared refrigerator and freezer space to squirm over, shared cupboard and counter space, and coping with roomies—some who were great friends of course—who had different standards of neatness in the bathroom or elsewhere. And living with your parents after college? Well, it went well, but most people yearn for their own space, right?

Daughter got married in the midst of the pandemic and enjoyed sharing a townhouse with her husband and mother-in-law for over two years.

But there is nothing like your own digs, your own kitchen, your own little backyard.

They worked hard to find a suitable, affordable place. Of course this was all in the midst of rocketing home prices. And naturally they were quite green about how to go about financing and shopping for and bidding on a property. Hey, we’re all pretty green when we buy our first home, right? Their experiences really took me back to those long-ago days, and how the reality of shopping for a home was totally and remarkably different. NO internet shopping for previewing homes, for example. No signing papers online or by email.

They had disappointments, and faced some shocking finds as they swiped through photos online of possible homes for them. One place, for all practical purposes, had an unusable kitchen: one wall faced a kitchen sink with walking space so narrow that anyone other than a very small person would be able to use the sink or open the doors beneath it. That place had been beautifully renovated and looked impressive online, but with such a major flaw that after a tour, they walked away.

They fretted and stayed up late completing bids for homes. How much was too much to bid? What would the sellers scoff at? All the while they were wondering what we all wonder: can we really afford this? How will we make payments? What will the home market do next? Should we wait? How long?

They settled for a townhouse in a community a 25-minute drive further out, but a little more affordable. It was not the dream house you might long for, but as we moved their belongings in on a recent sweltering Saturday, my heart soared for them. Our daughter had waited long for a guy she wanted to marry, and together they seem like a dear pair. We love them and they us. Our pizza lunch (doesn’t everyone have pizza on the day they move in somewhere?) with a small gathering of several family helpers was a meal of happiness.

First home cooked food in their new home.

They had found a dining room table and six chairs on Craigslist (of course) and brought that furniture—with some difficulty—to their new place a week earlier. Now the table sported a lovely homemade tablecloth, cloth napkins, nice stemware. A laptop sat on the other end of the table: they are still settling in of course, still unpacking—but it all said “home” to me. We’re so happy for them.

A home of one’s own is a precious commodity and one that millions of folks around the world have never had, with little hope of ever owning one. A table to sit down at with your spouse is a luxury. A spaghetti dinner may be a simple meal but it is indeed savored and something to celebrate. I’m glad they want to hang on to the tradition of keeping dinnertime—as much as feasible!

***

Your own memories or experiences of the first home you owned as a married couple? Or with a friend or companion?

Perhaps you prefer to rent, or have no other options! We want to hear your experience as well.

Chat here or send your comments to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Carrying Each Other’s Burdens

Another Way for week of August 5, 2022

Carrying Each Other’s Burdens

I kept squeezing back emotional tears. I was moved that my husband wanted to help with a major shipment of clean bottled water, toilet paper, paper towels, Clorox and the like for the folks experiencing the devastating flooding in Kentucky. The waters are receding from the banks of creeks like Troublesome Creek where I lived for a year, but the cleanup will take a long time. I had worked as a church volunteer in Appalachia near Hazard, Kentucky as a 19-year-old just out of high school.

So off my husband and I went to Costco wondering if the store still had plenty of supplies, and ran into at least four other parties doing the same thing we were. This made me tear up, big time. Some Costco clerks told us they were planning to do the same thing tomorrow—on their day off. We had all heard about it on our local TV news the night before, and like many others, wanted to help. One man who noticed what we were loading in the parking lot, offered a $20 bill to help with gas, to add to the $50 we donated for gas.

Our smallish truckbed groaning under the weight of much water.

Most people are good-hearted when it comes to such disasters and I know that recipients for the most part are incredibly grateful amid the mud and ruined homes and the disarray of lives that surround them. Kentucky is a beautiful and homey state but rain cascading down steep hills overflows creeks and rivers and dams so quickly. My heart especially goes out to all those who have lost loved ones. The heartrending stories. The children ripped from their parents’ arms amid currents that were just too much. 

As I learned when living in Kentucky, it isn’t easy to pull up roots and move away from family and friends and start over in a new location where other disasters perhaps lie in wait. A guy I dated while there took the almost-annual flooding as just something they had to endure. “Oh, its just one of those things. Happens most every year. It’s home. The mountain people don’t leave home just because the water rises,” Donnie told me. It takes money to start over. 

My husband (green shirt) loading more water for Kentucky. We also sent paper towels, toilet paper, and Clorox.

Children and youth were helping load that semitruck, women and men, old and young. How many others in surrounding states were engaging in this same kind of goodwill? I’m sure hundreds, perhaps thousands.

It reminds me of the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 that we read about in scripture. Perhaps, as others have said, the miracle in Christ feeding the multitude came not from some magical wand multiplying the boys’ lunch of two fish and five buns. Rather, the miracle might have come from others seeing the generosity of the little boy and then digging into their own bags to share the lunches they had. However it came about, the disciples were dumbfounded and I think some of us at Costco were a little astonished as well, noticing that others were also stocking up to share the same necessities as we were: water, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies.

This is part of why I married my husband. He has a trait like my father’s: often reaching out to help others. My husband’s father too was a generous giver: he received much joy from sharing tomatoes and other veggies from his garden (sold some for “pin” money too).

The Bible has much to say on sharing with others:

  • If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in them? (1 John 3:17)
  • Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
  • And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)

We send prayers for the people of Kentucky and the many other millions who are suffering all around the world. May they have strength and wisdom and love for another day.

***

You can find the first book I wrote, On Troublesome Creek here. It was about volunteering near Hazard, Kentucky for a year. (If I were writing the book now I would probably write it differently.)

Your stories or comments? Share here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Yes, this column is posting a day or two early, because I learned the Millcreek Church of the Brethren is having another collection day tomorrow evening for Eastern Kentucky, August 12. Information here.

***

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

So How Did the Garden Grow?

Another Way for week of July 29, 2022

So How Did the Garden Grow?

A vacation is not a vacation unless there is a home to come home to. And if you garden, the first thing you want to know is, how did the garden do?

Gardens in May or June look so nice.

I promise not to write any more columns this summer about vacations, but after our two-week trip out west we were greeted back home by a garden that looked like it had never been touched by a human hand. Tomato vines had grown by two feet, astray between rows. I had diligently tied them up on stakes as is our practice but it didn’t look like they’d ever been touched. Potato bugs had returned: I thought I had them under control, too, before we left. Our young pole bean plants: lost in an array of weeds. My husband despaired of ever finding the pole beans amidst the weeds.

This isn’t this year’s garden but a photo would have been much the same.

Weeds were everywhere. How could everything grow this much in two weeks? Not to mention the flower bed in front of our house. (Note to self: do not plan a vacation for two weeks in the middle of summer. August or June, may be ok, depending on the season and where you live.) But this summer, we have been richly blessed by frequent rains. Praise be! So far. August may be the cooker in terms of drying up the soil.

But little by little, as I told my husband we would, we made progress in cleaning up the garden.

Then came a sharp fierce wind and rain that felled three rows of sweet corn. Would they recover? Time would tell.

So sad, frustrating, and pitiful: corn laying over after a storm.

Then there was another windstorm, and things looked sad for a while, but the corn is popping back up. The pole beans are wending their way up Stuart’s strings and are chest height now … and of course the bean beetles have returned, just waiting to have their ornery chance at the beans. The sun beats down and coaxes the tomatoes to ripen beautifully.

Gardens are hard hard work. Someone has to care for them, nurture them, get rid of pests, pick the produce (which isn’t all that easy either when you’re 70). And then there is canning or freezing the abundance. We also enjoy taking extra produce to the retirement home where we exercise in its nice pool. Our friends there enjoy the free veggies and we love watching folks go for the green (cucumbers) and red (tomatoes).   

Each morning, the garden beckons. I first pick all the cucumbers, look for any tomatoes that have ripened, and then search for bugs on the potato vines. If it’s not too hot, I will keep going with killing bean beetles. This year especially, we prepare for winter knowing there could be sky high inflation and trucking firms who fail to get everyone’s groceries through.

Daughter Tanya on a long ago trip to Niagara Falls.

But the morning also reminds me of my mother’s faithful music coming from her garden, or the kitchen sink. I try to imitate her: “My God I thank thee who has made the earth so bright; so full of splendor and of joy, beauty and light; so many glorious things are here, noble and right.” Adelaide Proctor’s beautiful hymn from 1858 still works for me.

I sing the second verse: “I thank thee too that thou hast made joy to abound; so many gentle thoughts and deeds circling us round; that in the darkest spot of earth, some love is found.”

Amen and amen. Mom’s 98th birthday would have been this weekend. We miss her, but the memory of her lilting music lifting me up remains.

***

What foods do you like to buy fresh out of a garden or farmer’s market or local produce stand?

Hymns you like to hum or warble that remind you of your father, mother, grandma …

Or other comments? Share here or on Facebook or write to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication. 

The Almost 5,000 Mile Road Trip

Another Way for week of July 22, 2022

The Almost 5,000 Mile Road Trip

Remember the song “500 Miles Away from Home” popularized by the band Peter, Paul and Mary?

Crossing the grand Mississippi River

My husband and I went on a two-week road trip driving almost 5000 miles together: surely an exercise in marital companionship! We drove more miles than we ever imagined when we first started planning it, and overall had a wonderful trip. Although it certainly had its, umm, moments.

When you embark on a long journey, you learn to be flexible and go with the flow. We joined my sister’s family, which has grown a lot over the years, and also visited my husband’s cousin in Omaha, Nebraska who has been fighting cancer for several years.

An amazing gang–mostly my sister’s family plus boyfriends, girlfriends, grandkids and great grandkids. And two sweet dogs. My sister and I are kind of in the middle of this photo, she with a hooded sweatshirt and me with a flowered top.

When we finally got to our first four-day destination in Estes Park, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, it was supper time. We were hungry, but I knew we needed to buy a few groceries for the first couple days at the cabin we’d rented with one of our daughters and her husband (front row, left). I’d brought lots of staples but we needed some fresh things.

McDonald’s was loaded but a very nice couple gestured that we could join them at their table. Complete strangers. Spanish-speaking couple but very proficient in English, which felt really welcoming. After wolfing down our hamburgers, we hurried to the nearby Safeway and were blown away by a checkout line that was half-a-basketball-floor long. I sent my hubby to get in line while I dashed madly up and down aisles to find what I thought we still needed. Once we actually got to our cabin I was flustered and exhausted as we unpacked our van.

But that first Safeway line was nothing compared to the jammed-up store two days later when I helped one of my nephews get the grub he needed for the dinner he was in charge of that night for approximately 35. I volunteered to help him since his wife had been unable to come but she coached him over the phone regarding her yummy goulash recipe. The line at the store that night, at approximately 5:30 p.m., went half way around the perimeter of the store—a very big store.

Nephew Bob (second row, third guy from left, red sweatshirt) has the amazing ability to be chill: I would have been frantic that we were still in the store at 5:30 p.m. and he still had to cook a huge amount of food. I noticed there were a lot of other men in line at that hour. Supper went well-despite the rainy evening where we had to move the meal inside to one of the larger chalets rather than the outside picnic area.

Rocky Mountain National Park on Trail Ridge Road, up past the treeline and plenty of snow on July 4.

After the family get together, our destinations as a couple were the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone (Wyoming) …

The Tetons, including a glacier that stays year-round, and a lake that had to be drained to send water back to Idaho for their potato crop!
Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park: the rainbow was a bonus!

… Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument (South Dakota); and some other more minor but interesting attractions we found along the way, such as the Buffalo Bill Dam near Cody, Wy.

Last, we also hit the Wisconsin Dells (far right photo) and “Witches Gulch” which we’d heard much about. Then it took two long days of driving from Wisconsin to get home to Virginia. Though tiring, my husband was very happy to have seen as much of the country as we did. [We marveled at the thriftiness and resourcefulness of South Dakota farmers who made hay (3rd photo) in the median strips and shoulders of the marvelous (but endless) Interstate 90.]

I had never been to the Tetons or Wisconsin so those two items on my bucket list were very special—especially the Grand Tetons. They were well worth the drive and I’ll never forget their towering presence right up from the ground—and the glaciers that were still apparent in the middle of July.

My favorite lodging however was in the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone that I had surveyed in awed silence as a 13-year-old, wishing so hard that we could stay in the Inn. But back then, we were camping in a small travel trailer. So my childhood wish finally came true many decades later–even if it meant going down a hall (like older dorms!) to go to the bathroom and shower. But most importantly for us as a couple, our time together gave us space to have conversations and share thoughts that we rarely take time for at home.

The incredible and historic lobby of Old Faithful Inn that I fell in love with as a teenager.

Just don’t ask me how much “fun” we had trying to drive through Rockford (near Chicago) without getting on a toll road. Next time, we old country folk are going to have to purchase one of those EZ passes rather than fight modernity!  

***

What was the best road trip you ever took?

What was the worst?

Or, what’s on your bucket list?

Or other thoughts or memories? Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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