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What is Summer without Squash Casserole?

SquashCasserole

I got this recipe from a dear woman, Vivivan Knepper, whose husband belongs to the same Lions Club we’re in. Almost every summer they invite the club to their home or their cabin and we enjoy a potluck with Lion John usually sharing some of his exquisite smoked Salmon brought home from his almost annual fishing trip to Alaska. (Yes, he had to miss last year because of covid lockdowns.)

I asked Vivian if I could share this recipe and she gave me her blessings. She’s an avid gardener and farmer and they call their farm Green Acres! This is an easy recipe and for many, squash  always abound in gardens and growers are happy to give theirs away. Enjoy!

Vivian Knepper’s Squash Stuffing Casserole

¾ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
6 cups sliced yellow summer squash (1/4 in thick)
1 small onion, halved and sliced
1 can 10 ¾ oz condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 pkg (6 oz) instant corn bread stuffing mix
1 can (4 oz) green chilies, chopped – optional
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese

Directions: In a large saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Add squash and onion. Reduce heat, cover and cook until squash is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Drain well; set aside. In a bowl, combine soup, sour cream, stuffing and the contents of seasoning packet (or if the stuffing mix already has seasonings mixed in that’s fine), chilies, salt and pepper; mix well. Fold in squash mixture. Pour into a greased, shallow 2 qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until heated through. Yield 8-10 servings.

Originally from Quick Cooking Magazine, March April 1999.

–Vivian adds, “I use more cheese on top because I love cheese.”

The recipe writer, Tara Kay Cottingham, Munday, Texas, says “She often freezes the leftovers for another day.“

Four Quick True Stories: Planning ahead and aging

Another Way for week of June 25, 2021

Four Quick True Stories

Granddad and two boys.

I was quite amused—and pleased, if the truth be known. We were taking care of two of our grandsons for a couple days and their mother had left some ideas for activities for us to enjoy. She’s also quite an avid planner, with a job which entails thinking through things ahead of time, making lists, schedules, and then following through.

The boys and my husband and I had decided that on the first day, we would go do one of their very favorite things: visit a nearby Petsmart store where they loved watching the cats, dogs (in for grooming), fish and snakes in tanks, birds in cages, and other small creatures. We also needed to buy and eat lunch somewhere, preferably in a park with a playground.

The four-year-old (almost five) sat me down and said “You need a plan.” I almost coughed and swallowed my deep smile. Oh this little boy was his mother’s son, for sure.

I asked “What should the plan be?”

Owen said, “Well, let’s first do lunch, and then go to the pet store.”

Again I almost choked. It sounded like an excellent plan to me. He was obviously saving what he thought would be the best for last. That always suits me fine!

***

A guy from our church ran into us (not literally) in a parking lot. We were talking about aging and our parents.

Our friend said he recently needed to hide the keys for his dad’s vehicle. His dad is in his upper 90s, and of great mind, but there were increasing stories floating around about his dad’s driving. Reflecting, this son said, “I’m not sure if it’s better to have your right mind as you get older, or if it’s better to be sorta confused and not know what’s going on,” he paused. “Then you don’t know who to be mad at. My dad is mad at me and not my sisters for taking away his keys.” 

***

Along the same lines regarding aging, another church friend was reflecting on the death of a longtime church member. The man had died unexpectedly overnight and we found out right at the close of our morning worship. Bill, in his mid-90s, told us his own doctors were encouraging him to check out an issue with his heart. Bill said reflectively, “I’m thinking that all of us are going to go through this someday. I mean, I’ve got a tumor in my brain, cancer on my scalp, cancer on my back. I’m just not sure at this stage whether I should worry about my ticker.”

***

Our friend Charles, lying on his bed at the nursing home, was dying. I watched his breathing, somewhat labored, his heart visibly beating in his tightly drawn chest. Charles had always been thin but durable, his small size and frozen knee making him appear weaker than he was. His knee had a steel rod in it, a procedure more common longer ago before knee replacement surgeries were as common as they are today. At any rate, at age 92, his heart had proved to be incredibly strong, surviving episodes of palpitations, not being able to breathe well, falls, setbacks: a hard physical life. But now he was approaching the end. I felt honored to sit with him for a spell. We will never forget him and his deep friendship. I know he is now in a better place.

***

Four true stories and memories (in my mind), from opposite ends of life. Whatever happens this summer, whether vacationing, working, or spending time with your children, grandchildren, or friends, take time to jot down a quick story or quip you hear. You’ll grow to treasure these quotes and stories as much as the photos that stuff your phone. Whatever media you use to preserve stories and memories, just get it done.

Write down the memories, before they are too distant to remember.

***

What is a strong memory, quote, or incident from this summer? I’d love to hear!

Comment here, or send your memories and stories to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. Let me know if I have your permission to share them in a future column.

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.  

Following the Foggy Blue Ridge Parkway

Another way for week of June 18, 2021

Following the Foggy Blue Ridge Parkway

James River in southern Virginia.

My husband was able to (mostly) check one item off his bucket list over our recent 45th anniversary weekend. He has long talked about driving the Blue Ridge Parkway from end to end. It runs 469 miles from Waynesboro, Virginia (not far from us) to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

He had an aunt and uncle who married late in life who made the trip on their honeymoon and reported it as “something you need to do sometime.” It was so local and under our noses that it always got overlooked in favor of maybe more exciting adventures. Like the Atlantic Coast beaches or the Rockies or California and eventually Alaska. My parents had the travel bug and so do I and I’m happy to say it also resides in my husband.

So, even though the thought of driving some 380 miles (we didn’t drive all the way to the Smokys, where we’ve been before) at or below 45 miles per hour sounded a little tiring, it was fascinating! There were splendid views and enough interesting stops and side adventures to placate my pandemic-starved (read: homebody) self. Yes, we’d made several trips to Indiana during the last 15 months but they were necessitated by two falls my Mom had, one in early 2020 and also 2021.

This latest trek had some bumps and less than ideal traveling along the way: two detours that we knew nothing about that took us off the Parkway for about 40 miles into Roanoke city traffic at one stretch, and another for 10ish miles in rural backroads. (He thinks we should go back and do those 50 miles sometime. Would you?)

But the worst conditions were the first two hours when morning rain, mist, fog and clouds made driving extremely precarious. The lights on vehicles or motorcycles in front of us were very hard to see and it took all four of our eyes doing their best to stay alert. The rain itself was not such a big deal. We reminded ourselves that it rained on our wedding day too, and we had to change plans at the last minute and have an indoor ceremony. But the fog and mist on the Parkway for miles on end made us nervous and a bit stressed.

Foggy morning blues.

Along the way there were more than enough parks, visitor centers, waterfalls, trading posts, overlook knobs, and cultural stops (recalling the mountain culture of the past) to keep us more than entertained. We were grateful we’d ventured out, rain and mist or not.

Delighted that the sun came out for our stop at Mabry Mill!

My favorite stops were walking down to the James River which threads through much of Virginia—a delightful place to stretch; the old Mabry Mill with waterwheel for power to grind wheat and make flour—which is one of the most photographed spots along the Parkway, they say. The water still flows but no grinding is currently done although in full summer tourist mode, you might see some demonstrations of old timey work.

Peaks of Otter, a beautiful spot especially in fall, boasts lovely lodgings and a rustic restaurant where we were able to look out over the small dammed up lake.

Resting and waiting to order a delicious lunch at Peaks of Otter Lodge.

And finally, in North Carolina we enjoyed, Mt. Mitchell, because you can drive almost to the top. We hiked the final short quarter of a mile to the summit. In spite of the mostly rainy morning, at each of these spots the fog and rain lifted enough for us to enjoy some views and snap photos. You see a lot of scenery, flowers, and mountains without exerting a lot of energy (perfect for some less-mobile senior citizens) but there were also children with families out enjoying the sights and small hikes. It’s all free (except for gas) and you can get on and off whenever you wish. We were also able to finally visit a cousin and his wife again near Gastonia, NC.

No, we didn’t climb to the top, but enjoyed walking the last section on a chilly Sunday.

When my daughters were younger, after a trip or outing, I would usually ask, “What was your favorite part?” I suppose they got tired of that question but it helps to cement in our minds a special memory or happening that we hang on to. Whatever you get to do this summer, find a way to savor the experience.

***

What are places you would love to go back to?

Where have you been that you don’t really need or want to return to?

Best vacation ever?

***

Comment here or send stories 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.  

Take Me Out …

Another Way for week of June 11, 2021

Take Me Out

I’ve never been much of a baseball or softball fan. Games are long. Slow. Often hot, or on the other end of seasons, freezing. Or let’s talk about rain delays. Fun.

My great step-niece with one of Odicci’s many young fans, years BEFORE these playoffs ever happened. See footnote at bottom. Photo by grandmother Lisa.

As a kid I didn’t mind playing softball in the backyard or at school. But I didn’t like being on a team once I reached high school, and lasted only one season. I played that year because my best friend loved the game and wanted me to play too. I, on the other hand, lived for basketball at that point.

So when I was on the high school team with my friend, I was glad for any outfield position where I wouldn’t have to deal with the ball much. It made me nervous to be in the spotlight like pitcher or first base. I was so scared of getting hit by the ball at short ranges.

I wrote earlier about how my interest in the game began to grow during the 2019 Major League Baseball playoff season when our “local” Washington Nationals went on to win the World Series in 2019. My daughters who live near Washington, D.C. have been faithful fans, and we began watching the Nationals during the playoffs. I learned a lot about the game, funky baseball traditions, and “Baby Shark.”

This year one of our local universities, James Madison, in a covid-shortened season, nevertheless sent its women’s softball team to the Women’s World Series National (WWSN) playoffs in Oklahoma. I was surprised to learn that both of Oklahoma’s state schools, Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State were long running successful teams on that “world series” stage and earned the right to host those playoffs in their own city.

The games were hot, loud, and competitively, the best softball I’ve seen played anywhere (and many coaches/commentators agree about that). It was a thrill to watch the women on all the teams supporting each other so enthusiastically. And it really isn’t boring, when you study and watch the pitchers, coaches, catchers and in our case, a player holding down third base like it was a fortress. Our pitcher, Odicci Alexander, from a very small town in southern Virginia had wowed fans throughout the season. Then they started beating ranked teams as they eventually earned the opportunity to bat in the WWSN playoffs. Eight schools made it to that level and JMU players were able to defeat their first two opponents and go on to additional games.

Alexander was not only a pro at pitching fastballs and racking up strikeouts and shutouts, but polite. She didn’t appear to let the fame she was earning go to her head. It doesn’t hurt that Alexander not only has a beautiful face, but she gave the games her all, especially after a bunt where she was able to stretch in a long reach as she fell and tapped a player out on home base. A huge tribute for her playing and demeanor was given as she was finally removed by her coach from the last playoff game when she was visibly tiring and letting too many hits get by. The whole stadium appeared to stand and applaud, including opponents. A nice touch for those of us in the Shenandoah Valley was nearby Page County’s Kate Gordon, an excellent starting hitter who holds the program’s “career home runs” record. Another fan favorite was the third base player, junior Lynsey Meeks, a 4’11 dynamo who was a live wire covering the home stretch, while also serving as a spark plus for other players. And all of us. She caught my attention the first time I saw face: focused like a determined fighter as she went to bat. Finally, the look of concern and empathy on her face as she greeted senior pitcher Alexander leaving the field for the pitchers last time still makes me tear up.

JMU players Lauren Bernett, left, and Lynsey Meeks, right, wait for Odicci Alexander, center to get control of emotions after she is taken out of the game after days of pitching in the Women’s College World Series. Photo by Sue Ogrocki, AP.

Little girls were surrounding these players for autographs when they got back to our town (below). I think I’m in love with a new sport and this brand of noteworthy sportsmanship.

Teammates are greeted when they returned to Harrisonburg after a triumphant effort, including beating the eventual WCWS champion, the Oklahoma University Sooners. Odicci, center, has been invited to play for USSSA Pride professionally. Photo courtesy JMU Sports Information.

Your favorite sport? Stories? Send comments 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.  

Footnote for first photo: “Payton originally picked CiCi as her “person” as they had the same number on their jerseys. Payton was playing t-ball and CiCi playing college level both had the number 3 and from that moment, we cheered her on as our “person” as well. From getting her autograph and waiting till after her interviews for hugs from her, to seeing her in Chick-fil-A with the whole team. She has always had a smile and enjoyed seeing her biggest, little fan waiting for her.” –Footnote by her mother, Ashley.

A Rock (or two) and a Hard Place

Another Way for week of June 4, 2021

A Rock (or two) and a Hard Place

Two weeks ago we were betwixt and between, frustrated and at sea. How could we get ourselves out of the pickle that we’d gotten ourselves into?

If you follow this column, you know we’re gardeners with a fairly large space for a couple of retired empty nesters. We enjoy canning and freezing and sharing vegetables with friends and relatives and so we continue to plant much more than we can consume ourselves.

The soil was getting worn out, frankly, by 17 years of production. We finally found a guy this year selling topsoil at an affordable price. We went to see the topsoil—didn’t want a lot of rocks. He had a pile of sifted dirt that looked gorgeous. We ordered 5 loads and the delivery—after much waiting and leaving messages and wondering—took place over a couple of days. The wait delayed the start of our gardening this summer by weeks.

Three of the five dirt piles. Sorry the photo is so dark. Matched our moods.

The young man promised to come back and spread the dirt around—no charge—as part of his delivery. We understood he was busy. Over-committed, I decided. Stretched way thin on what he could accomplish. We began shoveling it ourselves and Stuart used his ramshackle garden tractor with a snow plow on front to shove the dirt piles around.

A neighbor usually used a tractor tiller to prep our garden patch for us but that looked iffy this year due to health concerns for his family. They also make hay and it was high haying season. We hated to ask him. We debated renting equipment and Stuart was toying with the idea of how to make or repurpose a device to spread the soil around. He wished for an old metal mattress spring like he’d seen someone use. Maybe he could use an old trailer frame that sat under our deck? It was nearing Memorial Day weekend when we’d hoped to take a long weekend trip to the mountains, celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary. Perhaps we’d work all weekend instead.

On Friday morning our neighbor’s retired son asked if we needed help with the garden soil. An elderly aunt had died the previous week so their family obligations impacted his life of course. We were overjoyed at his offer, even though we knew their own spring work was also behind. But nevertheless he was willing to bring over their box blade implement which smoothed things out, and then he also tilled it with their tractor tiller.

It was like a miracle, an answer to prayer we hadn’t dared to pray. That night before our weekend getaway, I hurriedly planted some of the plants that were waiting patiently to be put in the real dirt. We were so very thankful and breathed a thank you to God.

Garden now, 2 weeks later. (Lettuce, radishes, and onions had been planted earlier, before the new soil delivery.)

The young man never did show up with a device for spreading the dirt around, and neither did he bother to respond to messages left on his phone. Suffice it to say we do not plan to buy any more topsoil from him. Lesson learned.

The moral of this story? We need each other. Neighbors who reach out and help when you are in a difficult situation whether it is illness, poor planning, a car breakdown, or getting locked out of your truck. There are always debts of gratitude to repay.

We still have more rocks than we wanted but many of them are round, smooth rocks from the great river bottom area of our county, reminding me of the richness of this soil that many years ago lined the river bed. I will use some to mark the edges of flower beds and a sloped mulch patch at one corner of the house.

A smooth garden (yes there are rocks) but the corn is now up and potatoes pushing through.

Let us always be grateful for the kind deeds done for us. I hope I will also be reminded of the generous help of our neighbor and vow to “go and do likewise.”

***

When did someone last help you out of a pinch? Or returned a favor?

I’d love to hear your stories and lessons learned!

***

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.  

Look at the Ants!

Another Way for week of May 28, 2021

Look at the Ants!

I was just weedeating the thick grass at the edge of our cement driveway. But apparently I was the disruption of an entire community.

As I walked back along the weedeated surface, I noticed bits of brown sand and thousands if not millions (most likely!) of busy wiggling ants, all aghast and probably angry (surely!) about the loud weedeater that had hurricaned its way through their slice of earth and sidewalk edge.

Ant hill on our driveway.

But, perhaps I didn’t need to feel too guilty about my disruption: ants are the busy organizers of clean-up and rebuilding. Before I even had much of a chance to feel badly, within an hour or two I noticed the disturbance was pretty well abated—the ants had scurried back to their homes under the sand. What do ants do besides rush around when we see them?

If you haven’t googled “ants” lately to find out what their role in the environment is, stop reading this and do some googling yourself. If you’re not online, I’ll include a summary here. If we don’t love ants, they at least deserve our fascination. We can educate ourselves about their many virtues.

If you’ve forgotten your biology classes, ants are amazing. A website called “Harvard Forest” says among the work they do is gardening: turning and aerating the soil which helps water and oxygen reach plants.

Lonely ant …

They help spread plants around too—taking seeds into their burrows and chomping on parts of seeds that have protein and lipids, thereby opening the seeds which sprout into new growth. Okay, sometimes the plants are weeds.

They eat pesty bugs such as termites, chew away at dead animals, and help wood and logs decay into richer soil for the forest floor. And in turn, in “the cycle of life,” ants supply food for birds, mammals and even some plants!

But to me the most fascinating part of these little ant societies is the role of the queen ant. There are three “genders” of ants: queens, males, and worker ants. Workers are female, but cannot reproduce. Only the queen ants can lay eggs making new ants. Mostly the queen lays eggs that become worker ants (hmmm, how nice, I hear my female readers saying), and the males, after mating in the air with the queen, go off and die (how not nice, male readers might say).

Even wise King Solomon’s attention was riveted by ants. A paraphrase about ants in Proverbs (chapter 6: verses 6-8) goes like this:

You lazy fellow, look at an ant.
    Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two.
Nobody has to tell it what to do.
    All summer it stores up food;
    at harvest it stockpiles provisions.
So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?

Now, ants are not all fascination. They are a lot of frustration. Each year I get them in my kitchen. Grrr. As another website, “thoughtco.com” puts it, “If you live in an area where stinging, imported red ants are common, you might despise them, ,,, [but] entomologists and ecologists argue that we literally can’t live without them.”

Antblog website says “Over their lifespan, which can be as long as 15 years, a queen ant may lay millions of eggs, more than enough to populate their own colony and found others.” A 15-year lifespan! I found another website that says they may live 30 years. Who knew?

Isn’t creation amazing? This year, my grandsons who live in an area where constant cicada serenades have joined their lives, are teaching me about these bugs. They are utterly fascinated. The two year calls them “bug-caidas.” The five year old informed me that the red ones are “boys … males, and the orange ones are …. are …. are [he was obviously searching for the right word] …. they’re females.” So, they’re learning not only about bugs, but the peculiarities of language!

As summer launches (I usually think of Memorial Day weekend as the beginning of summer), get out in nature as much as you can. Enjoy cool evenings on a porch, patio, or backyard. Or better yet, by a lake, creek, or beach. Thank God for our remarkable earth and the gift of life God has given you—and remember God’s commands for humans to not only take care of and love each other, but to tend and take care of the earth. And now you know that ants also help tend the earth.

What insects have you enjoyed observing? What have you learned from ants?

Which would you rather not see, ever?

Ever have drama with an ant colony?

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.  

Messing with Memoir: How books need to serve readers

June 2, 2021

A few years back my boss decided to send me to a Christian women’s blogger’s conference called Allume which brought together speakers and potential authors that our publishing company, Herald Press, wanted to nab.

It wasn’t far from where my middle daughter and her husband were living at the time, with our first grandchild.

Did I say jump at the chance?

One of the speakers was Rob Eagar who presented a seminar on marketing. He’s written a book called “Sell your Book Like Wildfire: The Writer’s Guide to Marketing and Publicity.”

Publishers have always expected authors to work hard in helping to sell their own books, but the difference between the 1980s when I got started, and the 2020s that we’re in now—is like being on a different planet. In the 80s, I had never heard of a “platform” unless it was the thing a speaker stood on when invited to give a speech somewhere. Only the most popular and bestselling writers were sent on book tours—planned and paid for by the publisher. Who gets that treatment nowadays? Not. Very. Many.

So, I’ve been keeping Rob Eagar’s book in the event I get to make use of it for this memoir.

Then more recently, the first thing I read one morning just stopped me. It was written by Margot Starbuck, author of numerous books. I got to meet her once and she’s as fun and down to earth in person as in her videos. In a newsletter, she wrote that whatever you write, make sure your book has an innate appeal to your reader. An author needs to be able to spell it out to a potential purchaser in a sentence or less. Most of us want to read things that we feel will benefit us, entertain us, or give us information that we wouldn’t get otherwise.

I’ve signed up to receive her updates and helps. Margot is such an encourager of writers, and of helping others find their calling and a solid avenue to publication. There are of course many myths out there and misconceptions and she is a wonderful help as she shares about those.

She really hammered me the other night, with a post about making sure your nonfiction book — including a memoir — are about more than you: they should be a help and inspiration to the reader.

Yes and yes, of course! I knew that. But now I must ask myself: is it coming through sufficiently in the chapters and prose I’ve written? (I’ve made notes to make sure I check myself as I soon take a pass through the whole rough draft, working towards a final edit.)

Here are some tips from Margot Starbuck in a FREE Wordmelon coaching doc: About the Reader.pdf. And here’s a link to the website with much more!

(And wouldn’t you love to drink a cup of that wonderful coffee this morning?!)

Grandson learning the art of sending cards–a first step in pleasing readers!

A Revival of Roadside Picnic Areas

Another Way for week of May 21, 2021

A Revival of Roadside Picnic Areas

My husband and I have been enjoying a renewed use of roadside rest stops and picnic tables. That’s one good thing I’m celebrating from our months of you know what.

When I was quite young, I remember roadside picnics with a cement or wooden picnic table or a blanket on the ground. We would often either pack sandwiches and chips for a day trip. Or, on a longer trip, we’d stop in a grocery store in a strange town and go wander the aisles and pick out our favorite cold meats, cheeses, loaf of bread, chips or other snacks, and some fruit or Twinkies. And a carton-sized container of juice or chocolate milk. If memory serves me correctly, this would have been our family “motoring” in a 1949 era Chevrolet.

Are you old enough to have experienced this kind of family fun?

Roadside parks began in the early days of “autotouring” or motoring in the 1920s which today we would call the road trip. Herbert Larson is credited with coming up with the idea of saving strips of land along the ever-increasing highways spreading across our country. He had in mind helping to preserve virgin hardwood trees “so that posterity could see and enjoy nature…” and serve as a place for picnicking. The very first such roadside park was located north of Indiana (where I lived) along U.S. 2 near Iron River, Michigan. I first experienced this kind of roadside lunch on our way to Little Eden, (MI) which was a church camp. A family photograph shows one such picnic on a blanket, where one of us children spilled a bottle of drink and dear Mom was trying to clean up the mess.

Then along came restaurants and fast-food. Over the last 40-50 years instead of packing a picnic lunch and stopping at a roadside table or park, most of us stopped at fast-food restaurants. Or more recently, perhaps food trucks.

A Wikipedia entry says that 10 years ago an estimated 2000 highway rest areas helped wake up motorists. I was not able to find reliable data on how many are open today. As recently as five years ago, an online article bemoaned the closing down of many of these roadside oases.

But I’m sensing a revival—at least in the parks I have seen where more people are taking advantage of outside tables to stretch legs and hips, walk dogs, and let the children run free for a while. In some ways it’s another form of today’s football tailgating picnic before a game.  

Enjoying a sunny lunch at a wayside park near the eastern Ohio line on I-70.

Of course you want to use such roadside spaces carefully, bringing along a tablecloth or simply a roll of paper towels to cover your eating area, and hand cleaner. Bring your own water or drinks so your picnic will be as hygienic as possible. I pack a very lightweight ice chest and keep in outside pockets a wrapped sharp knife and some plastic (or not) spoons and forks so those basics are always on hand without extra packing. And with the ice blocks that arrive with every shipment of one of my husband’s medications, there’s always plenty of ice readily available to keep things cold at least two days (perhaps not in hot summer).

A country store on historical Route 11 in Virginia keeps picnic tables in the parking lot for those who want to eat their yummy fried chicken while it’s hot. Notice I just used paper toweling for a tablecloth. I forgot plates and the clerk allowed us to borrow two which they keep on hand for the purpose.

I’m happy for a new interest and use of road side parks or picnic tables. When I lived in north Florida, there was a wayside park at the beach and since the beach area was in a relatively rural area, we were happy picnickers when we arrived and were able to claim the free table for a half or full day. There was even a concrete grill available to cook some meat or toast some marshmallows.

Such parks are absolutely free to visit (well, maybe other than paying state taxes if they’re in your home state) and a great way to enjoy the natural beauty God created. Bon appetít!

Send your memories, comments, or stories 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.  

The Final Days of Nixon

Another Way for week of May 14, 2021

The Final Days of Nixon

I recently read The Final Days, about President Richard Nixon’s extremely troubled second term in office. Why read a book from almost 50 years ago? It was written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the same pair that wrote the first book about that drama, All the President’s Men. Hang on and we’ll reach my point which applies to all.

I love history, and this happens to be a piece of history I lived through but didn’t have a very complete picture. I was studying in Spain during the aftermath of Watergate, from the fall of 1973 to summer 1974, and we never knew what we could believe in the Spanish papers. Spain’s “dictator” Generalissimo Francisco Franco was still ruling. We experienced the press there as somewhat hard to believe, but maybe it was just because we (and me especially) weren’t that good at Spanish, and missed or miscued some statements. At any rate, in the days leading up to when Nixon actually resigned (August 9, 1974), I was glad I was back home because I could read the papers in English.

A friend shot this photo of me on a Saturday afternoon excursion in Barcelona, Spain.

This book spells out the details of the final days of Nixon’s presidency in almost tedious, plodding fashion with so many names that still ring a familiar bell in my head: Joseph Califano, Charles Colson, Archibald Cox, John Dean, John Ehrlichman, Alexander Haig, Leon Jaworski, Henry Kissinger and many more. But the plot (even though we kind of know it) gets increasingly involved and detailed. The authors interviewed over 400 people, helped by two other full time writers sorting things out and organizing timelines. What a monumental effort.

Some non-political details that struck me in this book: frequent references in descriptions of how tanned someone looked. This was in reference to men, (there are a lot of men in this tale). The tan was actually a marker that they were rested and had enjoyed some golf or cruising the Potomac on the Presidential yacht, “The Sequoia.” In 2021, most of us don’t consider being tanned something to aspire to—at least not in my family with numerous precancerous skin tags.

The church youth group in Barcelona sitting at an outdoor cafe for coffee and chatting after worship on Sunday morning. Note the 1973 era”Telefono” booth in the background.

I was also startled by a reference to one staffer being given a dime to go make a phone call. I checked that illustration with my husband: “In 1973 did it only cost ten cents to make a call from a public phone or booth?” We finally agreed that yeah, it was probably a dime. A dime. A phone booth. They also sent telegrams. I can only imagine the fast and furious texts they would have sent back and forth if cell phones and smart phones had been invented. Things (like Nixon’s stewing over the decision to resign or not) changed by the day and sometimes by the minute.

The book started out slowly and frankly, boring. But as it went, I was taken in by the incredible details that Woodward and Bernstein incorporate. The writers include intimate, insider descriptions of how the family members were reacting to the drama—and not agreeing on whether or not Nixon should resign. I felt sympathy for Pat Nixon who never wanted her husband to end up in that job anyway, and then to face impeachment and resignation.

The ending—even though we pretty much know what is coming—is devastating. No matter what your politics, no matter that Nixon was guilty of some of the coverup and lied as necessary to protect his friends and his office, to see (described) the heartache and pressure and emotional turmoil the whole family went through is heartrending. At one point we learn that both Alexander Haig (Nixon’s chief of staff) and Nixon got down on their knees together—well, I’ll let you read it and decide. The book should still be available in any good library.

Numerous photos in this historical book by White House photographers.

Given what the U.S. has been through here in early 2021—another impeachment, a contested election, an assault on the Capitol itself, killings—it seems we all need to get down on our knees praying for our leaders and ourselves.   

What do you remember about this era? Phone calls for a dime?

Do you enjoy reading and learning about history?

Some of the histories, memoirs, and biographies

Comment here or send stories or,questions or stories 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.  

Let’s Hear it for Teachers: Three New R’s

Another Way for week of May 7, 2021

(Editor’s Note: Last in an eight-week series on “Let’s Hear It.”)

The head principal from a local high school spoke at our Lions Club in March sharing how their school was doing amidst the pandemic. I’ve written several times about the experiences of my own small grandsons in virtual learning, but it was extremely moving to hear about the new realities that have faced our teachers and administrators across North America and around the world. Perhaps there have been three new R’s added for education: Revolutionary, Resilience and R’extraordinary.

Head principal at Broadway High School, Donna Abernathy, said that last fall she shared a quote with staff from “teachergoals” twitter page: “The upcoming school year might be one of the toughest ever to be an educator. It might also be the most revolutionary year ever. Mindset will be critical.” They found this to be true, admitting there were tears, stress, frustration, many long hours, angry parents, and pivoting in their planning. “We pivoted approximately 422 times in the course of the year” she jested. Her frequent response when someone raised a new issue was, “I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out.”

I’m thinking teachers, administrators, parents and students have all had a huge and careful climb this year.

When you think about everything our schools, administrators, and teachers have endured, we can better empathize with what children in war zones have experienced—no schooling for sometimes years on end. I know parents who pondered whether the experience was adversely affecting their kids’ futures. Would their children fall behind on college choices, job opportunities? I think the key word here though is the R word: Resilience.

Staff and students showed resilience as they came up with new ways to present theater, concerts, graduations, parades. The principal noted that kids have learned to be self-advocates, speaking up, asking questions, developing skills in managing schedules, and getting things done. There have obviously been drawbacks and health concerns for some including an increase in eating disorders and unstable mental health. Some have seen grades plummet in the less structured atmosphere.

Managing bus transportation was also a huge challenge. Initially, buses could only have one child per seat, with an empty row in between. As parents juggled childcare options before and after school, it sometimes meant changing bus routes. Abernathy said, “This caused changes for other families’ assigned buses, routes, and pick up times.” Parents were encouraged to drive their students to school. On the tech side, some teachers got up at 5 a.m. to deliver print materials to students without good Internet access. And of course, if someone was identified as ill with covid, staff spent hours doing contact tracing which took “just an incredible amount of time,” Abernathy noted.

The room layout of classrooms changed dramatically for the first time in 100 years, from classrooms with straight rows of chairs and desks to triangular layouts. School custodians added duties of fogging buses every day, hourly wipe down of light switches, revamping air handlers and changing filters, installation of plexiglass in offices and other rooms. Traffic lines in hallways and steps were created with paint or stickers.

On the positive side, approximately 70 percent of students in our area recently returned to four-day schedules at schools, with others opting to continue “virtual only” classes. Schools in our county cooperated with teachers from other schools to provide the needed virtual (video) classes, either live or recorded.

But the kids who came back to actual classrooms, “are just so excited to be back in school,” Abernathy said, and willing to obey protocols, following traffic lines like “bosses.”

An outlet for many students, sports, added new challenges. Games or schedules could be cancelled at the last minute due to covid cropping up. Teachers and administrators had to turn into “mask police,” especially at sporting events. But the administrators are willing to play that role because “our kids need that outlet of sports” from their pandemic confinement and frustrations.

But perhaps the most outstanding gift of the greatly disrupted schooling she mentioned was “more compassionate kids.” That brought tears (and still does) to my eyes. They may have also learned not to take the privilege of going to school and friends and life itself for granted. What amazing side gifts. May these learnings last them a lifetime.

How have your local schools and students handled education challenges this year?

As a parent, how did you feel at the beginning of the year, and how do you feel now as we near the end of the school year (in most areas)?

If you are a teacher, what has been your experience?

Post on Facebook or send comments or stories to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Also a reminder that I’ve got a giveaway going on: Send your name to enter a drawing for one of two copies of my 1983 book, Working, Mothering, and other “Minor” Dilemmas. Please makes sure it is postmarked or emailed by May 22, 2021.

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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