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One Lone RN: Second Knee Surgery

Another Way for week of November 11, 2022

One Lone RN and an Awesome Therapist

We knew the shortage of hospital workers was real and acute. My husband’s surgery was not a life and death matter, and he’s now recovering nicely from his second knee surgery. But I can only imagine how frustrating and deadly the labor shortages have been in some places.

At 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, a single RN was the lone visible staff person on our end of the hospital’s large hall for hip and knee replacement surgeries. And we were itching to go home!

His surgery went smoothly, the doctor was optimistic. But we made the mistake of accepting a Friday surgery, for which we checked in at 10:15 a.m. By that time the doctor’s schedule had been slowed with two other knee surgeries. My husband’s surgery edged later and later. This meant he wasn’t returned to his room until about 3 p.m. that afternoon. He was still hazy from anesthesia and a spinal block. And by that time, most of the physical therapists at the hospital were either busy or getting ready to go home. Which meant his first therapy session and walk down the hall would wait until the next morning. So, he bent and stretched his leg himself, which was almost painless due to the lingering effects of a spinal block.

On Saturday, we took note of the sign in the room which said most discharges would happen by 11 a.m. But it was almost 11 by the time any therapist even came for him, and lasted about an hour. The lone RN was tasked with making sure patients on both ends of the hall would be getting the right medications for home. My husband had seven different prescriptions, which all had to be entered in the patient’s record.

Hospital physical therapist helping Stuart walk down the hall for the first time.

Meanwhile, patient and wife were growing increasingly impatient and just wanting to go home. A dog and cat were anxiously waiting, we knew. We had thought we would easily be home by 12:30 or so, but it got later and later. We began to rumble loudly about our predicament, along with our stomachs. Where were other staff? Few and far between, which I guess is normal for a Saturday.

Pathetically sad pets, patiently waiting for “Daddy” to come home.

The nurse (who overheard us, I’m sure) had a nearly impossible job to finish: pages of electronic paperwork as well as thoroughly explaining to us and other patients what they would need to do to change the bandage, when to take medicine and when not to. The nurse also was dealing with a patient with memory problems at the other end of the hall. She was visibly frustrated using a neck device to call for a wheelchair for hubby’s departure: the neck device was like getting put on hold with a cell phone or other company. Waiting endlessly.

We tried to be more understanding but it was hard not to get upset and anxious about when we could go home. It is almost always harder to get checked out of a hospital, in our limited experience, than in. So be it. In the end, we apologized for mumbling and complaining so loudly. She was almost a saint in understanding and forgiving us regarding our frustration. I’m sad now I didn’t get her name.

So we made it home by 3 p.m. and the dog and cat were, of course, just fine. We are extremely grateful for the care of skilled nurses, CNAs, doctors, housekeepers, cooks, and custodians.

Back in the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, I wrote here how Stuart’s knee surgery then was hampered by his chosen physical therapy place being completely closed down because of the pandemic and all patients were dismissed. Luckily, after three weeks we were able to find a different physical therapy place which suited him very well. The therapist helped him get back to almost full use of his right leg. We’re very thankful and his recovery on his left leg is going very well.


Have you or a loved one ever had a long wait to be released–or admitted–to a hospital?

Has your family experienced lack of staff in a hospital stay?

Comment here or send your hospital stories to 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, most recently Memoir of an Unimagined Career: 43 Years Inside Mennonite Media. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  


Driving: Getting Our Focus Where It Needs to Be

Another Way for week of November 4, 2022

Getting Our Focus Where It Needs to Be

I was reading about athletes who approach their sport with a razor concentration that helps them be focused and aids their success. I envy that.

Think Serena Williams for one. I’ve picked a tennis player for illustration because they are able to hunch down and peer to the competition and totally focus their eyes on the opposing player, her racket, and tennis ball. A field goal kicker enjoys similar time out to kick the ball with great care with eyes absorbed on those goal posts—albeit with opposing fans yelling loudly.  

A mother helps her son get that laser focus. We hope!

An article on the BBC website called it a “quiet eye, a kind of enhanced visual perception that allows the athlete to eliminate any distractions as they plan their next move.”

David Robson, author of the article points out that the quiet eye phenomenon becomes active especially under moments or minutes of stress for the athlete. Some athletes experience what they call a “flow state” when they can block out the audience and concentrate totally on the game.

Most of us will never be that kind of athlete but all of us would also benefit greatly in using that kind of laser focus when we drive.

Driving would be easier if it always looked like this.

Yes, drive. What is the biggest threat to your life? Heart attack? Worries about cancer? A stroke? Yes, all of these are possible bad curves in life’s road but what do most of us take risks with every day of our lives? What is worth paying more attention to if we want to live long and happy lives with our family and friends?

Keeping a razor focus when we are driving. Especially if we are beginners and definitely as we age.

Okay, most of us, young and old, do what we shouldn’t do: we may risk an occasional text while waiting at a stoplight, glance at GPS directions, talk on the phone, drink coffee, change radio stations, and let our minds wander to everything imaginable. And we take our own lives and those of others into our own hands.

Not my favorite place to drive.

I wrote about this topic years ago (while my mother was still living) and suggested an idea that had popped into my head, and that is to perhaps use driving time to pray for our neighbors as we go by their homes. My mother called me up short on that one, writing me a letter exclaiming that she needs to use all her focus on driving. She was absolutely right. Our focus should be on our driving—especially as we get older.

That was good advice from Mom. I always remember Dad’s advice too to keep a roving eye on the rearview mirror, the side mirrors, and of course the vehicles in front of you.

Think about it: What is the biggest threat to your life? What do most of us take risks with every day of our lives? Our vehicles! Including the increasing numbers of bicycles—and bicycle lanes—on our highways.

Which brings me to another point. We live on a lovely back road complete with hills that challenge a cyclist and also thrill them when they get to the top for an exhilarating ride downhill. Friends often cycle together and even side by side, sometimes waiting far too long to drop back and ride single file while a motorist tries to navigate curves and hills and oncoming traffic. Yes, car drivers need to keep all of us safe by observing posted rules and bike lanes, and practice much patience while waiting for an opportunity to pass. But blessed are the cyclists who do not travel side by side unless they are very sure the road is empty of motorists. I used to walk on back roads and would always stop my hike, get off the macadam, and wait while cars passed, for my safety and theirs.

In the weeks ahead as we may be driving and thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas plans and all there is to do, let’s also focus on the drivers and pedestrians around us and prayerfully keep everyone safer and saner. And please for your own good and ours, avoid road rage!


What works for you regarding safe driving? Tricks? Practices?

Pet peeves about drivers? Or driving?

Share here or send stories privately to 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, most recently Memoir of an Unimagined Career. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

How One Family Helps Feed the Hungry

Another Way for week of October 28, 2022

How One Family Helps Feed the Hungry

A few years ago I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing one of the most giving persons in our community, Bucky Berry. When he was just five years old, he remembers living in a shack in our city. His family did not have enough money to put food on the table every day. He remembers, though, how the Salvation Army came and brought food bags and toys for Christmas.

Today Bucky is an entrepreneur with a heart of gold and the willingness to work hard. He says he would give away his last quarter. But he started earning quarters and dollars as a child—mowing lawns when he was just a boy— three to four yards a week. He started an official lawn mowing business in 1993, and you sometimes see a rig marked “Bucky Berry Landscaping” parked around town. He cuts 25 to 30 residential and commercial yards through the spring, summer and fall. His wife has worked as a clerk at Kroger over 32 years. 

About 25 years ago the Berrys were thrilled to be expecting a child, who ended up being premature and weighed just 1.8 pounds. Little Brent struggled for his life at a children’s hospital for two months and was finally released. Today Brent loves helping with the food drives which are named in his honor.

Brent and Bucky are a team at the various collection sites they set up around town. Son Brent hands out a slip of paper to customers going into stores listing the various products that work well for the food drives. Bucky happily receives what the shoppers bring back out of the store to donate.

Brett handing out slips of paper with food donation ideas for shoppers.

“This is a pretty giving community,” Bucky explains further. “We meet a lot of people, and businesses come and donate lunch or supper for us or the other volunteers,” notes Bucky. He also enjoys ringing the Salvation Army bell and has done so for 30 years straight. Locally, the Salvation Army food pantry also gets donated perishable food from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and other community donations.

“There are many who may be down on their luck and go to bed hungry. If the Salvation Army wasn’t here, they’d be up a creek,” Bucky points out. He notes that about 70 percent of our city children receive free or reduced price lunches and breakfast, which means their family has a low income and may go hungry on weekends or summers when they don’t get two meals a day at school.

Bucky describes the work involved in setting up the food drives, such as securing insurance, permits, banners that cost $700-800 which he arranges for sponsors to cover. “It takes weeks to plan it a big event like that,” he said. “You gotta get meals and drinks lined up for volunteers and 25 different sponsors; there’s a lot involved.”

His memories from childhood when his family was going through hard times drive him forward. “My family wondered where we would get our food, and the Salvation Army kept us from going hungry.” He adds that none of us know when a bad accident or illness means the loss of a job. Anyone can end up needing help.

The Berrys live in a humble house and do so much for our community. Bucky says, “We’re going to keep going at this until we die or Jesus comes back. We do it for the citizens of this community.”

As we get into the Thanksgiving and Christmas season and spirit, you can find a list of suggested items that work well to donate for community food drives, which Bucky put together. Go to It will be posted November 4, 2022.


Send stories or comments to 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 a week after newspaper publication.  

Sidebar: Brent Berry Food Drive suggested items:

Proteins: canned chili; canned stews; soups; canned tuna, chicken, meat, or beef; powdered eggs; peanut butter, baked beans; canned nuts.

Grains: Cereal (hot or cold), rice, pasta products, oatmeal, pancake mix, flour, dried beans, crackers, mashed potatoes, granola bars.

Fruits: Canned fruit/fruit cups, dried fruit (raisins, plums, cranberries), applesauce, 100% juice and juice boxes, jams/jellys.

Vegetables: Canned vegetables, tomato products – spaghetti sauce, etc. V-8 juice

Dairy: Dry milk, evaporated milk, instant breakfast drinks, canned or boxed pudding

Other: sugar, vegetable oil, syrup, homey, salad dressing

Baby products: diapers, wipes, formula, infant cereal, Ensure

Hygiene Items: feminize products, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, soap, shaving items

Have You Ever Studied a Pear?

Another Way for week of October 21, 2022

The Fruit of All Creation

Have you ever studied a pear?

Me neither. But at a recent church retreat at the lovely Massanetta Springs retreat grounds, besides enjoying fantastic October weather, gold and red trees, and an hour of creative enjoyment, we had a brief meditation service. We were told to focus on objects we had with us or creative projects various members had worked on.

We had just eaten lunch and the pear I grabbed for dessert was not ready to eat (they ripen so slowly!) so I studied my pear. How does a pear grow, anyway? From a blossom of course, on a tree, but what first spawned the tree? Did they grow in the “Garden of Eden”? Are they native in North America?

A nature website in Wisconsin says this of pears: “The ancient Greek author Homer described them as ‘gifts from the gods’ likely due to their sweet, juicy flavor.” Another gardening website, says the way you start a pear tree is to put just one pear seed in a pot. Then “put the pot or pots in a sunny place and keep the ground moist. The seeds should germinate and produce green growth in three months. After the pear trees grow one foot tall, you can place them in the ground.”

They make it sound unbelievably simple but I doubt mine would grow so easily. They may have first grown in China where they are extremely popular, according to one source.

As I studied my pear—wishing I could chomp into it—I noticed that a star shaped blossom remained imprinted on the bottom of the pear. At the top is the place where the pear had once hung from a branch on the tree. There were scuffs and bruised places on the pear, a hallmark on most pieces of this quick-to-rot fruit. Pears do not ripen on the tree, the experts tell us.

Since this was a church meeting, I especially enjoyed the song we sang following our meditation:

“For the fruit of all creation, thanks be to God….
For the plowing, sowing, reaping,
Silent growth while we are sleeping,
Future needs in earth’s safekeeping, thanks be to God.”

It is sung to an old Welsh tune, “Sleep, My Child and Peace Attend Thee, All Through the Night.” You may have heard that lullaby as a child or sung it to your own child or children.

Pears, apples and peaches are some of my favorite fruits, all grown on trees in much the same manner as written above. That reminds me of an apple story my oldest daughter shared recently.

She was a bit surprised when her just-turned-four youngest son asked her while watching one of his brother’s baseball games, “Mommy, can I have the apple I packed?” Her four-year-old had packed himself a snack? She said she was like, “What?!” but soon surmised that “When you’re the third child, you pack your own snack in Mom’s bag for big brother’s baseball game.”

And way to look out for yourself, Edward.

But back to the pear. One resource says “The early Romans developed 50 varieties of pear and planted them across Europe. Pears are not native to the United States. The first tree was planted in the U.S. in 1620.” I’m sure no actual pear survived the long journey to North America, so I’m guessing someone brought a seed or perhaps small plant in a pot.

My husband is not a big pear fan (he loves apples and peaches though) so I more often buy those fruits than pears. So I will enjoy my solitary pear. In a few days!


Studied an apple, or banana? Or an orange?? Let us hear thoughts on your favorite!

Or, did one of your children or grandchildren surprise you recently?


Comment here or Send to 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 a week after newspaper publication.  

A Family Reunion Back the “Holler”

Another Way for week of October 14, 2022

A Family Reunion Back the “Holler”

How does his family become your family? Or hers–yours? How can people you never knew growing up, become as precious as the cousins and aunts and uncles you knew as a little tyke?

My husband’s cousin, Johnny owns a piece of heaven. He and his wife Judy were happy to share it with the broader family recently, for our first family reunion in three years if my calculations are correct. (I’ll only use first names here.)

My husband, right, and cousin Johnny, left.
Judy, hostess, and cousin LaraBeth.

We headed out to the nearby Appalachian/Allegheny hills, and drove back a long long holler (holler: a small valley between some mountains or hills).

There’s a small creek and a still active spring of water near the old homestead. We packed our lawn chairs, our coolers, our old photos and bumped our way there on a beautiful September Sunday afternoon.

A still active spring.

It was an emotional homecoming for me and even though I didn’t grow up playing in the creek back there or sipping from the spring, my husband’s family has become my wider family and I had to squeeze back some tears although I couldn’t have been much happier.

Catching up.

The other sentiment that surfaced for me was how my husband and I are now part of the older generation, because those older than us are all gone. Done with this life on earth, awaiting us in a better place. But I think they would have been emotional and happy too, to know we were gathering in the same space they did for so many years. Johnny’s father was named George and he and his wife Mae farmed there. George’s father, Perry lived there until Grandpa Perry needed to move to a daughter’s home near town for old age care. Stuart’s mother, Estella, grew up on the property there, though in a different house (which burned down) than the one shown in these photos.

I once wrote about the dinnerplate-sized dahlias you could find at Aunt Mae’s house. No dahlias are grown there anymore but Johnny still raises a few awesome huge vegetables in that ground. The kitchen and cookstove were the same that he grew up with, the living room and its potbelly stove were the same, even though the flooring underneath is weakening with the passage of time.

George and Mae’s beloved garden

And so we were glad to watch the new little adorables toddling about, or cuddled napping in lawnchairs,

and racing down hillsides with plastic riding cars, or begging a 13-year-old cousin to wade in the somewhat muddy creek from recent rains.    

My aunts and uncles are all gone now too, along with my mother who was the last surviving “aunt” for many in my “Indiana family.” The anniversary of her death last year, at the ripe age of 97, was October 11. She was seven years younger than my father, and he was the “baby” of his family, so there was considerable spread in the ages of the siblings in his family. (Below: George and May’s kitchen, cookstove, and potbellied stove in the living room.)

This year has brought a reckoning: how many years do my husband I have? Twenty years is a hope. Psalm 90:10 says most of us will live three score years and ten (about 70) or perhaps are lucky enough to live until 80. “But most of those years are filled with hard work and pain. They pass quickly and we fly away,” one Bible version puts it. However long or short the years may be, it is a time of summation. How many grandsons will I see graduate from high school, or marry, or have children of their own? Will we live to see great grandchildren, as many of my friends and relatives already have? (We began our family a bit late—not our fault but I would say by the mercy of God we finally had children.)

We all live because of the compassion of the Gracious One. I am thankful for the seventy years I’ve had and especially thankful for my extended family, both sides, scattered all over the U.S. Today we can connect by computer and Zoom, Facetime and Google. Nothing is better than a real live hug, but we’ll take the connections we can get!


Meeting one cousin (on right) for first time.
Chowing down and visiting.

Did you have family get togethers or reunions this year? What things stood out?

Are there special places you love for the memories?

Comment here or write to me at or Another Way, 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, most recently Memoir of an Unimagined Career. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

A Book for These Difficult Times

Another Way for week of October 7, 2022

A Book for These Difficult Times

I recently read a most beautiful and unusual fiction book—a story about a blind girl, her father and uncle, and what happened to them during World War 2. A book about war that’s beautiful? Only in terms of how caring, giving, and faithful some folks are in the midst of such trauma. It is called All the Light that We Cannot See (Scribner, publisher).

My husband and oldest daughter at a huge World War 2 American military cemetery in Luxembourg, 2002.

It took the writer, Anthony Doerr, about ten years to write. If you read it you will see why in terms of the exacting research he did related to that dreadful period. The book, published in 2014, won a Pulitzer Prize.

The first unusual thing I spotted were short, short chapters, many only a page or even half a page long, some 3-4 pages. That makes for great bed-time reading because you can easily cut off your reading if you’re about to fall asleep. Doerr also doesn’t worry about complete sentences. He makes his sentences as short as he needs. So, you keep moving in the book.

But we also jump around a lot between main characters and then side characters in the book, so it was a little hard to keep track of who was what. The writer also zooms forward a time or two to the future, which didn’t help confusion. That was my biggest complaint, and maybe some of the dialogue—once we got among actual soldiers using language that you might expect of soldiers fighting a horrible war.

The book starts in 1944 with the sightless young Marie-Laure living with her uncle in Saint-Malo in the Brittany region of France. Named for a monk, Saint-Malo was built on a rock at a naturally defensive position near a river. The city goes back to before Roman times. In the introductory pages, Marie and her uncle are awaiting whatever comes next: annihilation? Death? Severe injuries?

Then we skip to 1934, and the back story where Marie-Laure is only six and her father works as locksmith for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Her mother died giving birth to Marie-Laure. Eventually Marie completely loses her sight. But gradually dad and daughter adjust. He takes her along to work. He makes miniature wooden models of every house, store and apartment in their neighborhood of Paris, which Marie-Laure memorizes to help her navigate the city.

We also become acquainted with a German lad named Werner, seven, who in the 1930s, shows keen skills and interest in radio and short-wave technology. Werner and his sister are orphans who live in a children’s home. They look out for and love each other as siblings. We soon guess that Werner and Marie-Laure may eventually meet in this far-flung story.

As the book follows these characters through the difficult war years (rations, little to eat, keeping water in the bathtub to drink,) eventually Marie and her father move to live with her uncle at Saint-Malo which is deemed safer. Unfortunately, the war soon whisks her father off to prison leaving Marie bereft but always hoping he’ll be able to fulfill a promise that he will return.

In this year in which the world has experienced the outbreak of war and fighting in Ukraine, as I read this book my mind went to the thousands of children we saw (on TV) in warm winter jackets as they sought safety as refugees from the bombing and tanks and men being sent off to war. This time, instead of Germans advancing, we have Russia fighting for territory.

Visiting a memorial, Luxembourg, 2002. We were visiting our oldest daughter during a semester she spent in Belgium.

Reading this story of Marie-Laure, Werner, her father and uncle, I prayed anew for safety for children, mothers, and fathers involved in wars all over the world. We wonder: which children will lose a precious father or mother? How will everyone manage? Why oh why do good men (and women) have to fight for their country’s freedom? I cannot stomach war. We pray and pray. May it come to a quick and just end. And may women and men be as resilient and loving as Marie-Laure and her father and uncle.


Do you read books about war? Or not? And why or why not?

Other thoughts? I’d love to hear from you here, or write to me at Another Way, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834, or email at

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 a week after newspaper publication.  

Stepping Up

Another Way for week of September 30, 2022

Stepping Up

Verna, a great storyteller and enthusiastic leader of the local Valley Girls Red Hat Society, had a handful of us gathered around her as we waited for our water exercise class to begin.

She recalled missing out on the very first meeting of the Red Hat Society, but went to the second one. “I wanted to join, but with the intention of just being there.” She certainly didn’t have in mind volunteering to help with major events and projects since her goal was just to “be” in the club.

“Then they brought up that they planned to participate in a local parade as a club, but needed a red truck,” Verna recalled, (to go with great red hats of course). Verna rolled her eyes and kind of squinted at us. “I said to myself, I’m not saying anything. I’m not saying anything,” she repeated.

But the club members kept talking and no one seemed to have a red truck in that group. So yes, Verna finally opened her mouth, kind of mumbling that she and her husband had a red truck. And yes, she could drive it. She shrugged her shoulders. Oh well.

Then someone said they’d need a trailer to pull behind the truck. Verna sighed inwardly, and kept quiet again until she finally admitted they had a trailer that was red. So of course, Verna had to help decorate the truck and trailer. Beautifully, she added. With plenty of red and purple hats on it, of course.

The club was all set for the parade but the next day our area woke up to snow. The parade was called off. Of course Verna had to help un-decorate it. She said eventually, they had the parade and all had a great time. In spite of wanting to stay quiet, she is always up for a new adventure.

As we age into retirement, many of us would prefer a back seat and just go along for the ride. But volunteers are needed in so many places and ways. Groups at church need helpers for just about any project they undertake or assist with, such as “Backpack Programs” which provide food for children in homes where they may not get very nutritious meals on weekends or other times.

Volunteers enjoy serving their annual Lion’s Club pancake breakfast.

I still remember how stunned I was 20 years ago talking to a local high school class on the topic of eating together as a family. I asked a simple question, “Who does the cooking in your family?” Their responses were mostly along the lines of “it’s each one for himself or herself,” they claimed, and I believed it. Many had afterschool jobs or parents who worked late into the evening.

Some churches offer food pantries or clothes closets—a great way to not only help with a need, but to meet members of the community who might have special needs. Other volunteer opportunities: helping at Thrift shops, reading to those who can no longer see very well, volunteer receptionists at hospitals, retirement centers, and nursing homes.

Residents in nursing homes or their own homes almost always enjoy visitors, especially from children!

Scout leaders can use help—even if you no longer have children that age—in leading troops, events or helping out with activities.

Kids need help from adults as they learn and participate in various sports.

Which reminds me that so many civic clubs are aging out—and need new blood and younger participants. Some nonprofit agencies and organizations also need office helpers or those who are willing to help with one or two day projects—along with long term regular volunteers. Plus, there are always older folks who need rides to church, events, or the doctor— so drivers are in much demand.

Providing transportation makes it possible for older folks to enjoy small group study and fellowship.

My husband is quick to step up to help repair homes that have been devastated by flooding, hurricanes, or tornadoes. But he has also volunteered as a Big Brother, and as a buddy for children at a day camp for children on the autism spectrum.

As retirees, we often use the worn out phrase “give back” for all the opportunities we’ve been given. Ironically, giving back often succeeds in giving us more blessings than we can count. Amazing, isn’t it?


What volunteer opportunities have I forgotten here?

What are your favorite ways to “step up”?

Your stories or experiences? Send to 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 a week after newspaper publication.  

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

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 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 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 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 a week after newspaper publication.  

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