Camping, fires naturally inspire story swapping

Day by Day

Camping, fires naturally inspire story swapping


November 11, 2015

This Week News

Nothing sparks storytelling like a campfire on a cold night. The flames reach toward the sky and faces are lighted by an orange glow.

Step away from this ring of fire and cold and dark greet you. A friendly voice might call you back and you gladly comply.

Conversation is easy, often animated, and uninterrupted by cellphones, computers or televisions. The only “electronics” would be a flashlight to push back the darkness outside the ring.

Most adult campfire stories hold none of the spookiness children have shivered to for ages. Adult stories are history, with a little embellishment thrown in to make it more interesting. History, no matter the timespan, is best told by those who lived it, or what’s passed along generation to generation or camper to camper.

Gather people in the same campground — campfire or not — who are invigorated by fresh air and an unhurried pace, and the stories begin.

As my brother-in-law, Richard, says, “You get complete strangers, with almost nothing in common, together in the campground and suddenly you are best buddies!”

He’s right on target.

“Did you know there’s an 82-year-old woman who camps here all summer? Pulls the trailer herself and her grandson sets it up for her.”

“I thought you could only camp here two weeks?”

“Well, don’t cha know, after two weeks, she goes to town for a day and comes back!”

Did you hear about the woman who hiked every day and to the 6,593-foot summit of Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 718 times, the last time in her 80s? Many people hiked with her over the years and remember her as a gentle leader.

In our much younger years, we hiked almost all the trails in the Smokies, with three children leading the way. We never hiked as far or high as Mount LeConte, but made it partway.

Those days are gone for us, but we have the sweet memories of long, quiet hikes with our children in nature. Yes, blisters, too, but those were long since deemed part of the experience.

These days, we walk the campground roads while we look, listen and take it all in. Twice we set out for such a walk but we got no farther than two campsites spaced a good distance apart, where we stopped to talk with fellow campers as young as 2. Twice we talked long enough that it was time to head back to our site.

“Your goldens (retrievers) are beautiful,” I said from a fair distance.

“They’re old, like me.”

I moved closer to visit. This man, Bill, reminded me of my late father-in-law, a great storyteller. Bill and his wife, Jean, were from Knoxville and their goldens were 12-year-old brothers. That I learned in less than two minutes.

All it takes is a wave and, “It’s a beautiful day,” or “Did you hear the storm last night?” or something similar. Then you wait and listen.

People camping in a national park are typically from all over the U.S. and beyond. In the Great Smoky Mountains, we have met people from Canada, the West Indies, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Michigan, Mississippi and, of course, Ohio.

Regional accents abound. Of course, being from Ohio, we have no accent, right? Wrong, or so I’ve been told.

“You from up North?” someone might ask. But it sounds more like “Noruth.”

Listening to a story told by a man from Mississippi was a real experience. Correction, stories. Once he got started, he couldn’t seem to stop. We had nowhere to go and nothing to do. The lilt in his words made us want to listen; made us “smaale (smile).”

My cochlear implants allow me to hear speech clearly, and accents from different places in the U.S. and from other countries are music to my ears. I take every opportunity to listen.

I wonder if Southerners go home and talk about the Northerners they met?

During our October trip, we also met an X-ray technician who has retired five times; a photographer from Florida waking early to capture the sunrise over the mountains; friends from Tennessee we’d met two years ago; and others whose stories still crop up in conversation.

But mostly we met people yearning to feel a connection to others and to nature, if only for a short time.

Thanksgiving is near. After the pumpkin pie, why not swap a story, or two? Campfire optional.


When learning new skill, desire is half the battle

Day by day

When learning new skill, desire is half the battle


October 13, 2015 This Week News

When I was a single mom, thankfully not for long, I made do with what I had — whether it was food, clothes, a car or any tangible, everyday item.

My daughter calls them our “oni-oni days.” Macaroni and cheese was 10 cents a box in 1977 and sometimes I added pepperoni, thus the oni-oni. Not completely nutritious, but we did fine.

Sometimes I bought juice bottled in glass jars with small openings. Once emptied, I washed the jar and used it to make juice from concentrate or tea. I used the thin end of a wooden spoon — one of my favorite kitchen utensils to this day — to mix the liquid. The spoon end, obviously, would not fit in the small opening. I never gave it a second thought.

When my daughter started her own family, she was mixing a drink in a gallon pitcher with a typically large opening. When her husband saw her mixing the liquid with the thin end of a wooden spoon, he asked her why.

“Because my mother did it that way,” she answered.

She realized the humor in it and asked me. Once we figured it out, we laughed. Funny the things we do just because our parents did something a certain way.

My cooking skills didn’t really improve for years to come, probably because I had no interest as a youth. As a teen, I even messed up Jell-O the only time I tried to make it.

Once I was remarried, with both my husband and I working full time, it meant a lot of quick meals for hungry children when we got home from work. I became a short-order cook and made a lot of what I called “skillet suppers,” with whatever we had on hand.

I became creative in how to make fast meals such as chili or Johnny Marzetti with many different ingredients, hiding vegetables at times. No one went hungry, for which I’m thankful.

This was pre-Food Network, and cookbooks such as The Joy of Cooking and Better Homes & Gardens were guides for home cooks. I gathered recipes from family and friends, too.

When I called from work to check in at home one day, our oldest daughter asked what was for dinner.

“Whatever you’re cooking,” I told her.

“Really?” she said excitedly.

And we had Joe’s Special for dinner, which was delicious. I likely cleaned up, as a special thank you.

Soon all three children were taking turns cooking and baking — and they excelled. Their children followed suit and know their way around a kitchen.

This proves we can learn new things, if we’re willing to try and be taught.

In my journey to improve my cooking skills, 35-plus years ago I decided to make noodles. Eggs and flour, right? My mistake was cracking eight eggs into eight cups of flour. (If you make pasta, you are cringing right now.) Disaster.

Seeing my dilemma, in the form of a huge blob of flour and eggs, my husband said to call his sister. Gin had already given me tips on pie crust, so I called her, knowing she wouldn’t laugh into the phone.

After I told her what I’d done and what my goal had been, she said: “Liz, throw it away. But not down the drain.”

This much I knew.

“Then take one egg and a partial cup of flour and mix it, adding flour as needed and maybe a little oil.”

I made noodles. With this experience, I learned to ask first and that I was teachable. But to this day, when I make pasta, I think of Gin’s advice and start with one egg and a partial cup of flour, not eight of each.

More than I’d like to think about, I have heard excuses such as, “I can’t cook,” or “I don’t cook,” with the latter puzzling. Or “I can’t write/read well,” and general statements about a person’s inability to do something they’d apparently like to be able to do.

I’m living proof that most things can be learned, if the desire and willingness exist. No excuses with finding resources. Libraries are packed with books, and the Internet has recipes, how-to tips and information about any topic. Julia Child led the way and now cooking shows and cookbooks abound.

If the people in your life have experience they want to share, be willing to learn. If it’s cooking, have your children join you.

It might make for a tasty meal. I guarantee good memories.


MADD shows grassroots effort can change world

Day by Day

MADD shows grassroots effort can change world


September 15, 2015
This Week News

A mother can be as formidable as a lioness protecting her cubs.

Mothers have shaped many a child and organization throughout history. In most cases, we want these women in our corner, as children and as adults.

In 1980, one such mother, Candy Lightner, made a pledge when her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a repeat drunk-driving offender. Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Drivers that same year.

Cindy Lamb — whose daughter, Laura, became the nation’s youngest quadriplegic at the hands of a drunk driver — soon joined Lightner in her crusade to save lives.

Lamb wanted to do something about the outrage of drunk driving. The decision of these two women inspired a handful of grieving, determined mothers to join in the fight.

United in mission, they had no wherewithal to proceed. It is said, in MADD’s material, these women “initiated one of the great grassroots successes in American history.”

These mothers did not back down to politicians who “knew the stats but did not act.” To an industry that valued profit over safety. To a society that found drunkenness, including drunk driving, something to laugh at.

These mothers showed the human side of the results of drunk driving, putting faces to the statistics.

In 1984, MADD changed its name from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. This change was made because MADD is opposed to the criminal act of drunk driving, not against individuals.

MADD also updated its mission statement to “Mothers Against Drunk Driving provides grassroots leadership to create major social change in the attitude and behavior of Americans toward drunk driving.”

In 2015, MADD defined its role to include the fight against drugged driving. “The mission of MADD is to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking.”

MADD’s website shows that drugs other than alcohol are involved in about 18 percent of motor vehicle driver deaths. Fifty-seven percent of fatally injured drivers had alcohol or other drugs in their system; 17 percent had both.

Today, volunteers include mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, other family members, friends and neighbors to create and sustain the foundation of MADD. These people are dedicated, determined and committed men and women of all ages and all walks of life working as one to achieve MADD’s mission.

“It’s not smart to drink and drive under any condition,” said Doug Scoles, state executive director for MADD.

We may not think teens listen to us, as parents, yet extensive research reports 75 percent of kids age 8-17 say their parents are the leading influence on their decisions about drinking.

To give parents the tools to talk with their children, MADD has a program, The Power of Parents.

“We provide free 30-minute workshops for parents which includes how to talk with your teen about choices involving alcohol,” Scoles said.

Randy Young lost his daughter, Tanya, in 1990.

“She was in a vehicle with five other individuals. All had been drinking and the driver hit a patch of ice and went off a county road, down an embankment and struck a tree head-on. Tanya was in the back seat and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. The impact of the tree caused her to break her neck and (she) died instantly.”

He wishes there had been programs like The Power of Parents when raising Tanya.

“We were parents that either missed the signs or we knew what was going on but felt both uncomfortable and maybe unqualified to talk about alcohol use to our children.”

It took almost nine months before the driver was actually put on trial, later found guilty of two counts of vehicular homicide and received five-year terms for each death.

“We became involved with MADD during this time as they provided victim services to us through the pretrial and during the trial process.”

A quote by Margaret Mead captures MADD’s success. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

For more information or to schedule a workshop, contact the MADD Ohio office at 614-885-6233 or 800-552-864 FREE. If you or a loved one has been affected by drunk driving, MADD operates at 24-hour victim helpline at 877-623-3435 FREE.

The local MADD chapter is one of 60 across the country that will host 5k walk-runs this year, to raise money for for its mission to end drunk driving. The central Ohio Walk Like MADD will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 3 at Heritage Park in Westerville. To participate in the walk or donate to the effort, visit


Secret to sleep lies in daytime activity, habits

Day by day

Secret to sleep lies in daytime activity, habits



August 19, 2015

One of the first things we might say or hear after “Good morning,” is “How did you sleep?” We innately know sleep is important.

One-third of our lives are spent sleeping. Sleep is responsible for “how full, happy and rewarding our waking hours can be. Good sleep habits help our bodies’ process and save memories, repair muscle, boost our immune system, control appetite and recharge,” according to WebMD.

Sleep can be elusive. In my quest to eliminate chronic insomnia, I have researched, talked with my doctors and with others, and tried various suggestions to sleep regularly. I have found an adequate path to sleep, most nights.

During my search, I learned that many people are afflicted with insomnia — either the inability to fall sleep initially, or waking in the night and not being able to return to blissful slumber. An informative National Geographic program, now available online, is Sleepless in America (

What I gleaned from that show, my doctors and online at WebMD, the National Institutes of Health and the Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute helped me understand my issues.

Getting a good night’s sleep can depend on the conditions in our bedroom, our bedtime routine and what we do during the day.

Many of us learned good sleep habits as children. Our parents had a regular schedule for our bedtime. As young children, we napped at least once a day. A good suggestion for adults, when possible.

Physical activity, what we called play, was natural for us as children, and still should be. We might have had a warm bath before snuggling into our pajamas. A bedtime story and evening prayers were typical fare as well. Our rooms were darkened, with the door sometimes slightly ajar.

In summer, most of us older than 50 remember the windows were open and the fans lulled us to sleep. Even in winter, the windows were left open a crack, letting the cool, fresh air flow into our rooms.

Sleep experts agree the best way to set the stage for a better night’s sleep is: being physically tired; a regular schedule for going to sleep in a quiet, dark room with cool temperatures; and a shower or bath, reading or listening to quiet music prior to lights out.

Today, electronics give our world a surreal glow. Professionals warn us not to watch TV or read our smartphones, iPads, computers and other electronics, at least one hour before bedtime. Our brains will continue to think it is daytime and time to be awake. It is recommended to keep electronics out of the bedroom, especially if they continue to glow or make noise.

According to the NIH, “Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that roughly follow a 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in our environment.”

These rhythms are important in determining human sleep patterns.

“The body’s master clock, or SCN, controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. Since it is located just above the optic nerves, which relay information from the eyes to the brain, the SCN receives information about incoming light. When there is less light — like at night — the SCN tells the brain to make more melatonin so you get drowsy.”

Taking in light during the daylight hours — especially sunlight — can strengthen circadian rhythms and help to avoid melatonin deficiency. Melatonin levels rise in the body after dark and drop during daylight hours. Artificial light in the evening hours can delay melatonin release and disrupt sleep-wake cycles.

Common “snooze foods” include: banana with almonds, apple with low-fat cheese, carrots with hummus, or whole wheat toast with peanut butter.

It is a fallacy that as we age we need less sleep.

The Upper Arlington Commission on Aging had many requests for more information about this topic and is hosting a free Senior Sleep Symposium Sept. 23 at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, 2300 Lytham Road. Registration is required by calling 614-583-5326614-583-5326.

Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m. The program runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch is included.

Drs. Samit Malhotra and Asim Roy from Ohio Sleep Medicine will present on topics: why can’t I sleep; a review of common sleep disorders affecting seniors; why is adequate sleep important; and effective treatment for sleep disorders.

A line from a Frank Sinatra song featured in Sleepless in Seattle fits: “In the wee small hours of the morning, while the whole wide world is fast asleep, we lie awake…”

It helps to know we’re not alone and support is available.


ADA’s passage brought rights, responsibilities

Day by Day

ADA’s passage brought rights, responsibilities


 July 20, 2015
This Week News

The signing of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990, was in some ways just a start. But in many ways, it was a long time coming.

Something this momentous doesn’t fall from the sky, as I’ve heard said. It happens because thousands of people with disabilities have said, in one form or another, “See me. Hear me. I’m a person with rights, just like everyone on this earth.”

The ADA is the nation’s first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations and telecommunications.

President George H.W. Bush stated, after signing the ADA, “Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. Today we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another ‘independence day,’ one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark ADA, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

Those doors Bush speaks of are literal and symbolic. Yes, entry into a physical door, for someone using a wheelchair, was nearly impossible, but entry into employment and many educational situations held the same barriers.

Legally, the historic shift in the direction of the 25-year-old ADA began notably 42 years ago, in 1973, with the passage of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.

“Section 504, which banned discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal funds, was modeled after previous laws which banned race, ethnic origin and sex-based discrimination by federal fund recipients,” said Arlene Mayerson of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

Mayerson also wrote that it was the first time that excluding people with disabilities was viewed as discrimination. Generally, it was assumed that problems faced by this group, such as unemployment and lack of education, were “inevitable consequences of the physical or mental limitations imposed by the disability itself.”

Before public education showed what could be done to include those with disabilities in society, it was an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Ramps and curb cuts were rare, if in existence at all.

Here we are talking about the physical limitations, but many disabilities are invisible, such as hearing loss and emotional or psychological struggles.

The word disability seems to hold a negative impact. Whereas, in the past, the word handicapped was widely used, then disability, now special needs is being used more easily. The dictionary defines disability as “a disadvantage or deficiency, especially a physical or mental impairment that prevents or restricts normal achievement.” Separate the word as dis-ability and put special in front and you have special ability.

Defining normal achievement might be impossible. What is normal for one person might be an exceptional achievement for another.

Learning to adapt to restrictions, even as we age, is status quo for many, even without a defined disability. Conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, insomnia, diabetes, depression, and knee and other joint problems all create some sort of need to change how things get done.

Besides medication, it might mean physical therapy or special diets. But I am convinced, since our bodies will never be perfect, that we all struggle with some kind of deficiency, or lack of ability to operate at full speed. Call it disability, if you will, because we are not performing at optimal ability.

At the 10-year ADA anniversary celebration, U.S. Sen. Bob Dole said, “Disabilities do not discriminate. At any moment, anyone can become disabled.”

He knew this personally as he became disabled with a serious war injury. His recovery was slow, leaving him without the use of his right arm. He said a doctor who treated him “inspired me to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it, rather than complaining what had been lost.”

Those of us with disabilities with a medical diagnosis do just that: focus on what we can do, not what we cannot.

Many of the outcomes of the ADA are good for society as a whole. Ramps and curb cuts allow everyone to cross a street without stepping off a curb; automatic doors, and ramps into these same doors, make entry into any building a breeze. And if we find our physical or psychological needs changing, we know we can safely talk with our employer to accommodate us, even for the short term.

Thank you to the unsung heroes who stepped forward for those who could not.


Baseball field fulfills special sports dreams

Day by day

Baseball field fulfills special sports dreams

June 22, 2015

Playing baseball and cheering your team on from the dugout or bleachers is a dream of many young people.

Omar Berete, 16, of Grove City, is one such boy. “My nickname is OB. I love to run the bases!” he said, smiling.

Crystal Carter, 15, of Galloway, said, “I keep playing hard, just like a baseball! I’ll never give up till I get a home run!”

In 1950, the very first Central Ohio Little League team was formed in Grove City. The Lions Club was the original sponsor and 65 years later continues in that role.

“Some of us played in the Little League in the 1950s and got help. We are giving back,” Ron Gabriel said.

Along with Gabriel, Jack Widner, Larry Thomas, Jay Pozz and Jimmie Harris all played and still play today, only in a different way. These men are members of the Grove City Little League Executive Board.

Gabriel said there are a lot of children who need a lot of help. These children have special needs. Omar and Crystal are two of many.

The Miracle League, started in 2000, allows the fulfilling of children’s dreams to do the typical baseball moves that thousands of children perform. Boys and girls who need assistance physically to walk and move, whether by canes, crutches, walkers or wheelchairs, are able to play baseball and feel the thrill of the game.

Using a buddy system, these children get to swing a bat, round the bases and, hopefully, score. The majority of buddies are siblings and parents of the children. Otherwise, All Star ball players make sure the children move safely about the field.

Lexi Spohn, 10, of Grove City said, “I love playing ball with my buddy!”

“The children have nicknames and get excited when they hear it called over the PA system,” Widner said.

Zach Attack, better known as Zachary King, 20, of Columbus, said, “I love hitting the ball!”

Currently, there are Miracle Fields in Dublin, Zanesville and Cincinnati. But this summer one is being built in Grove City. Right now, the closest Miracle Field for Columbus and surrounding areas is Dublin and it is swamped with kids playing.

“We are members of the Miracle League but we chose to call our field the Dream Field,” Widner said. “We have kids from all the suburban neighborhoods around Columbus. We have children from as far as Ashville, Circleville and Chillicothe. We get calls from all over and recently a resident from Madison County called hoping to have kids play.”

Widner told the caller they don’t turn anyone down but all must abide by the rules. There is a committee that is responsible for the field and all aspects of the operation.

The executive board has been told that at least 250 children would play at the new Dream Field. The season lasts from 12 to 14 weeks, one to two days a week. When the special needs children aren’t using the field, it will be open to T-ball players.

“We want to fill the void to give special needs kids a chance to play organized baseball,” Gabriel said. “There are so many children wanting to play. There are no losers, only winners.”

That includes players such as Joshua Johnson, 21, of Columbus who said, “I love to hit!” and Haylee Shaw, 15, of Grove City whose aunt, Ashley Valentine, said she looks forward to it every month.

Grove City’s Dream Field is being built at Windsor Park and is fully accessible. The parking lot was built first, followed by the concession stand, and plans are to have the field completed by the end of June and open in July.

To make the field safe and smooth for people using mobility aids, it takes three semitrailers full of tires to make the tiles.

“It costs about half a million to build the field,” Widner said. “The Little League’s portion is $252,000 and Grove City is paying the rest, which is the entire infrastructure.

“It’s important to note we are doing this with all private funds, no tax dollars. The community has been fantastic.”

Organizations helping include: Community Club, Lions, Noon Lions, Rotary, Sertoma and the Women’s Civic Club of Grove City.

The Miracle League brochure says it all: “If you build it, they’ll have fun.”

Curtis Greczyn, 22, of Grove City, fist bumps his buddy and said, “fans and friends” make it fun.

To donate funds, call Widner at 614-906-6500. For more information, go to and

I am only one…

“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” Edward Everett Hale, American Clergyman and writer 1822-1909

This quote was in a memorial service program of a woman I grew up around the corner from in Westerville in the 50s and 60s.

I read about a woman who was employed in her adult life as a housekeeper in the White House. Each day she cleaned the Oval Office, she knelt and prayed for the president.

A small thing? Time wise, yes, but powerful .

One person, one prayer, something each of us can do. Maybe not in school any longer, but silent prayers are heard as well.

We all need kindness. Often the simplest act can make our day and these are typically done by one person. Someone opens the door for us, and smiles. A neighbor leans over the fence with a bag of red tomatoes (and probably zucchini!) from their garden. Somebody walking down the street replaces windblown garbage can lids. A friend calls to say hello. We receive a letter from our grandchild.

It doesn’t take much to make a person’s day a little brighter.

I always believed God let me become deaf for a reason. He allowed my two cochlear implants to restore my ability to hear clearly for that same reason: To enable me to listen and show His love one person at a time.

Reading the quote above, I know I can’t do everything – and don’t really want to – but it’s not all about me. No matter how small, or seemingly insignificant, I believe God is the orchestrator and someday it will all make sense.

Meanwhile, during these turbulent times in our country, each of us can do something. One day we will learn how the dots are connected and see the whole picture.


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