Dear Nolan

Dear Nolan,

As Poppy and I prepare to get in the truck and travel to your first birthday party, we wanted to send your gift ahead. We will not be bringing a new plastic toy or a snappy new outfit. We promise to your parents that a new puppy in a box is not on the list either! As a gift for this special occasion, we are sending along a brief and heartfelt message that we hope your parents might save and share with you each year as your grow.

One year ago we welcomed you into the world with such joy. It is our wish for you to experience lifelong joy and it is joy that we want to write to you about now

We wish for you, our precious boy, that you might live a life full of joyful moments. That does not mean that all of your wishes will come true or that all of your wants will be fulfilled. I means something much deeper.

We wish for you that you grow to be the kind of person who awakens each day with the committment to make this day meaningful. Not perfect, not without human ups and downs, not even without suffering. Just meaningful. Outwardly focused on all of the good that there is in the world and what your own unique and creative contribution might be to it.

For us, your loving grandparents, the path to joy is by way of compassion and loving kindness. We can live in a meaningful world when we  awaken each day with a compassionate worldview. If we open our eyes on the new day  thinking about what small kind thing we might be able to do for one other person to lighten their burden, then we create our own happiness.

For this, your very first birthday ever, we are sending along this message. Be kind, be compassionate as you grow in the light of a loving universe. It will come back to you as a joyful life.

See you in a few hours. It will be a joy!


Love, Poppy and Tanta

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The Church Supper

Image result for campton baptist church campton nh


Last Saturday night, Arnie and I had an opportunity to attend a church supper at the Plymouth United Methodist Church, my Mothers church home in Plymouth, NH.  We always look forward to timing our visits right to be able to stop in and catch up with local folks we have known for years and enjoy one of the best meals in town for $10.00. We always hope for a Chance Encounter with someone who we have not seen in a long time and we are never disappointed. Going to the local church supper links us directly back into a familiar place and time.

I grew up in Campton, a small  neighboring town steeped in community and tradition. For most of us young kids, social activity revolved around the sturdy brick Baptist church that stood rooted on the common. It didn’t matter whether or not you were Baptist, if you wanted to be where the other kids were, you went to Youth Fellowship and Sunday School and all of the church suppers at the Campton Baptist Church.  Unless you could drive, it was the only game in town. It was what you did during that spiritually unconscious time of life when you just simply went where your Grandmother told you to go and enjoyed the company of friends (right Ann and Mary?)  because they were doing the same thing. And it was good.

Campton Baptist Church gave me a foundational immersion in a theology that I would later use as an architecture and a springboard to think critically about what path really fit my worldview best. While I moved gradually in another spiritual direction I would contend that all of the great religious thinkers have much more in common than they have differences. While the details may vary, a concern for the greater good is woven into all legitimate schools of religious thought. Therefore, I would contend that spiritually, I haven’t moved much at all from that little church that still sits overlooking the Village. Perhaps we never completely leave behind the indoctrination of our childhood, but rather build upon its foundation?

In this gentle and small church community, I learned about greater community. Here we gathered to celebrate life and mark all its important transitions. One of those transitions that we gathered for was the changing of the seasons; a significant event  in New England. where the seasons bring such dramatic shifts. Church suppers marked the advent of spring, summer, fall and winter. with all of the seasonal foods represented, especially the annual harvest supper. Church suppers gathered families from the Village and beyond to share a meal and then tarry over a cup of coffee and a piece of pie to catch up on one another’s lives. Undeniably symbolic, the ritual of gathering for a meal has brought people together for eons.

Church suppers are a very old concept based in practicality and finance as much as serving a social function.  Originally, churches supported their minister’s salary with a town levy. But after the Revolution, funds were spare and had to be diverted to other needs. It fell to the  Women’s auxiliary groups to get creative and  organize ice cream socials and church suppers to cover costs. Leave it to the women to save the day! also  It was not unusual to see local politicians stop by and shake hands, recognizing a grassroots opportunity to connect and fund-raise. I recall this from the suppers of my childhood, but I don’t know if this still happens or if social media has taken the place of in person connections.

Thus arose this effective method of generating funds that would evolve into a treasured New England tradition.  Meals are often Ham and Beans, built around a variety of made -from-scratch dishes brought along by church members. Cole slaw, mac and cheese, green bean casserole, homemade yeast rolls and brown bread, corn pudding and  of course, the pies line the serving table. Here, things haven’t changed much over the years, and that’s what’s wonderful about it. People mostly don’t cook this way at home anymore, but this is comfort food that brings back memories. Milk glass sugar and creamers and jelly jars set the table with flowers picked from someone’s garden create a country cooking ambience. Growing up, there were tin foil covered donation baskets on the table and I recall my Dad, a committed agnostic, putting a then generous five dollar bill in the basket for our meal. He didn’t go to church, but he never missed a meal!

All of the wonderful family recipes handed down through generations are represented and eagerly anticipated by supper goers. Women in the church are known by what they make for the church supper. If you want some good old New England food, here’s a cookbook that includes some great recipes:  the Church Supper & Potluck Dinner Cookbook published by Yankee Magazine.  And if you want a fun recipe, google Scripture Cake!

As we travel, we have discovered different specialties in different regions of the country : in the South it is fried chicken dinners, in the Northeast it is bean and ham suppers.  Amish dinners in Pennsylvania are popular and  Chowder suppers along the Mass and Maine coast catch the summer crowd.  But everywhere, there are the pies! Church supper pies are legend. You cannot talk about church suppers without special mention of homemade pies. A separate table is usually laid out with slices of cherry, apple, peach and blueberry.  Lemon meringue and chocolate cream peaked with meringue make your mouth water. Strawberry rhubarb in the summer and pecan in the fall are favorites. And we cannot forget apple!  All with homemade crusts; no boxed desserts here! The women in the congregation have their own following! Once a month now, my Mom still makes a pecan pie that disappears very quickly and our dear family friend Lois crafts an exquisite Lemon pie too.

But it is not just for the sustenance alone that attendees come back faithfully, it is  the social aspect of church suppers that is equally as important as what is on the menu. Folks arrive early to get their seat and stay after to “sit a spell” while they savor their coffee and pie. It’s a friendly down home chance to see folks and catch up on the latest. When people gather around food cooked with love, magic happens. Get out your local paper and find a church supper near you………….connect with old friends or make some new ones. I promise that you will leave with a smile on your face and meringue in your moustache! How sweet it is!





The Times They are a Changing


Good Friends, Good Fellowship, Good Food

The times they are a changing. This will be the year that we take a big plunge. We are currently working our way up north to MA for our second summer as Park Hosts with the West Hill Park Ranger team. In the fall, when we finish at the park and leave MA, we will journey back to Florida to put our home on the market. At that time, we will commit to living in the RV full time. While another traditional home is likely in our future at some point, we do not know exactly when that will be. We’ve been taking increasingly longer trips and practicing for a couple of years now to get comfortable having no designated home base, but there is still an element of mystery about what it will truly be like to be completely itinerant. It’s been a real process reconciling our longing for travel with our love of our home and, sometimes, we still think, “Yikes!”, are we ready for this? But after many discussions, much research, and a number of informative trial trips, we are as ready as we ever will be to take the plunge.

We know that we are not alone in our decision to shed the burden of belongings and consciously chose a simpler life. Boomers are entering retirement each year eager to realize their dreams of travel and exploration after decades of raising kids, paying the mortgage and holding down nine-to-five jobs that many found necessary but uninspiring. RV sales are soaring as excited new buyers pick out their home on wheels and hit the Open Road to begin their new phase of life. In our travels, we have met some who embark and never look back, tackling the mobile lifestyle with enthusiasm and confidence. Others, hit some unexpected bumps in that road.

Perhaps the greatest challenge in moving forward in life is letting go of what we will be leaving behind. It’s hard to focus on what is in the headlights when you are more concerned with the loss of what is fading in the tail lights. What we hear from many RVer’s, is that moving forward means that they have embarked on a new adventure, but left behind their familiar community. That community may consist of kids and grandkids, good friends of many years, a church home or work colleagues. Familiar places to shop, restaurants and watering holes, social clubs and groups, the family doctor, etc all change now with the new mobile lifestyle.

Arnie and I can attest to that challenge. Saying good-bye to the daily comfort of familiar community, for us, is the hardest part. We will no longer be living near friends who have been next-door for years. Phil won’t be able to text and tell me to send Arnie over for a beer on a hot summer day. Judi won’t be able to stop by with an extra tomato or better still, chocolate chip cookies. John won’t be there to assist me down the stairs when my back goes out. What will the holidays be without Bert and Deb? And, who could ever make a layered berry shortcake like Chris? I can make ice cubes one tray at a time, make do with considerably less clothes and only three pair of shoes, use a laundromat, get accustomed to air TV and all of the other compromises necessitated by RV living. But, oh, how we will miss being in close proximity to our beloved community of people dear to us.

We recognize that embracing such all encompassing change would rock the boat of even people who are comfortable with sweeping adjustments to their lifestyle. This is a major life shift and the burning question for many people who decide to leave home and hearth for a mobile lifestyle is how to replace the sense of community and belonging while moving from place to place. While staying in touch via social media and cell phone is easier than ever, as humans. we still need some level of direct interpersonal contact to live a soulful life. Arnie and I have looked long and hard at the question of how we will find and build meaningful community while we travel about?

We know from the last two years of travels that we will need to be very purposeful about constructing community in this new way. Tolkien’s character Gandalf said, ”Not all that wander are lost.” I would suggest that Tolkien’s wanderers may not have known exactly where they were headed next, but they were okay with that because they knew that they were still grounded in community in the form of their steadfast traveling companions and those friendly folk they met along the way. Therefore they are never truly lost.

Over and over while camping we have struck up casual conversations with diverse fellow travelers only to find that we know or enjoy some of the same people, places and things. We are always struck by the fact that we have more in common than separates us. There is a culture of warm welcome and friendly assistance in the RVing community that seems to assure that no one is truly alone. We have been invited into people’s lives through chance conversations and, in turn, we have welcomed folks from all walks of life to our campfire. In sharing the fire, that communal experience that is so much a part of the human DNA, we have been blessed with new friends and a much appreciated circle of support that now extends around the country. Traveling the open road has much in common with moving to a new neighborhood. It is just that that your neighbors change every time you hitch up.

As we move about in the coming year, we will be interviewing people about their RVing lifestyle and how they share their fire. We will continue to hold conversation with retirees who are seeing the nation, parents who are home schooling their children with the parks as their classroom, traveling nurses, pipeline workers and work campers. We are interested in learning about how a meaningful community of interdependence develops for the ever expanding group of people who choose to live mobile. We know that a mobile community of compassion and kindness exists because we have repeatedly experienced it. The outcome of these interviews will (hopefully) be a book in which we explore the nature of the new mobile community and how we can build upon its very best features. Folks are connecting with one another as they experience that common bond of going places. As we all travel our separate roads, our Chance Encounters with kindness and compassion reduce the distance between us. Sharing the fire might just contribute in some small way to reducing the metaphorical distance between us in a troubled world.

“However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. When we are sick or very young or very old, we must depend on the support of others. There is no significant division between us and other people, because our basic natures are the same. If we wish to ensure everyone’s peace and happiness we need to cultivate a healthy respect for the diversity of our peoples and cultures, founded on an understanding of this fundamental sameness of all human beings.”

~ The 14th Dalai Lama


Windmill Village 2015 The Times They are a Changing

Stoned in Stone Mountain for Easter

I saw Fluffy Little Bunnies everywhere on Easter this year. And I don’t mean on the shelves at Wal-Mart amongst the chocolate eggs and the Peeps. I saw Fluffy Bunnies at the ER near Stone Mountain, GA where I spent Easter evening trying to pass a beast of a kidney stone.  Thanks to two consecutive doses of morphine, I was definitely stoned in Stone Mountain for Easter. Fluffy Bunnies  abounded!

In the moment, there is not much funny about having a kidney stone. But, like all of life, after the crisis is over, there is always a retrospective humorous side. I gained this perspective when I read the instruction on the drug information sheet for the medications that the ER doc sent me home with.

My first chuckle came when I read that I’ve been prescribed a drug that is usually given to men to treat the signs of an enlarged prostate. I am not sure what I should be aware of for side effects, but I am watching carefully for chin whiskers and a stache. That would add insult to injury. I am supposed to tell my doctor if I am pregnant. The medical community should stop asking me that. I don’t get carded in pubs anymore, so stop asking an old lady if she is pregnant.

Also, no one told me that this medication would kick in suddenly on the second day while I was in the car in rural Georgia with no bathroom in sight. Oh dear Lord have mercy! First, I cannot pee and now I cannot stop. What kind of cosmic joke is this? The instructions suggest that I talk with my doctor before I drink alcohol. What should I do? Ask him out for drinks? Because, I definitely need a drink.

And then the informational flyer lists other side effects. First on the list is “a change in sex ability.” Given the rest of the list, which includes cough, loose stools, runny nose, mood changes, gas, vomiting and headache, who would want to have sex with me anyway?

I am further cautioned not to share my drugs with anyone. Who would want this drug which causes you to constantly plot a course between bathrooms and become a public nuisance when there is a line for the lady’s room.

You might ask where Arnie was in all of this fun and games. When it became clear that we would be at the ER for an extended period of time (all night and into the morning), I sent him home for a few essentials. In the chaos of leaving the house in excruciating pain, Arnie had grabbed whatever garb was within near reach for me to wear and he decked me out in a pair of his own men’s dress socks along with a fetching inside-out zebra print pair of skimpy panties belonging to my daughter in law. He pulled up  the beaten-up jeans I had gardened in all day and topped it off with a striped nightgown, no bra, no shoes. Out the door we flew, with me doing a striking imitation of  a Ringling Brothers circus clown in that ensemble. It was Homeless Chic. I was in danger of being mistaken for an escaped mental patient, especially after the second dose of morphine kicked in leaving me in a sleepy slump in the wheelchair.

These are the times that might make a weaker man question his choice of brides, but Arnie took vows and so, off he went to get some supplies to clean up my act. Time marched on and, after several hours, I began to be a bit concerned that he had been gone quite awhile. As our only cell phone began to lose the last little bit of charge, I fantasized about him wandering the streets of downtown Atlanta in the wee hours trying to locate the place he left me behind. Knowing he would never ask directions and was relying upon our unreliable GPS in the truck, I prepared to send out a Silver Alert on my husband. About this time, he walked in the door sheepishly denying that he had been lost. He was instantly forgiven because he brought me coffee and breakfast. I might add that this somewhat congealed breakfast  had clearly been cooked several hours prior, but who’s looking for clues or hard evidence of his being lost.? Not me, Lost Boy. I am just glad you made it back.

Here’s to Fluffy Bunnies and Lost Boys! We leave GA on Friday to go make some more tender memories!



A Time to Depart

Barb and Hana; Scott's wedding


We are packing and preparing to depart for cooler pastures up North and so here we go with the blog again. As some of you know, I’ve been on blogging hiatus over the winter while I was working on a book. We love staying in touch with all of our dear ones and hope that this year’s Chance Encounters posts will keep you a part of our lives while we are away.

But, least you think that this post is about departing on another fun trip, let me clarify that it is sadly not. It is about another kind of departure. A bittersweet departure.

Yesterday, we said a loving goodbye to Hana, our friend of 14 years as she departed this life gently and peacefully while Arnie and I held her and each other, thanking her for being with us. Hana has been our much-loved  surrogate child and traveling companion, so her final departure is a bit heartbreaking on the eve of our own leaving. This morning I got up out of habit at the usual ungodly hour that she needed to go out in her old age. I knew she wasn’t there, but I got up anyway. I changed the water in the dish. I picked up the dog bed I couldn’t touch yesterday and went out on the porch with my coffee alone. And then I heard an early morning bird call out, seemingly telling me to sit for a spell and just heart-talk with Hana.

Chin’s are an odd little breed of dog that are full of mixed emotions. One the one hand they shun  close contact, keeping themselves at a polite and aloof distance. On the other hand, they greet you with wild abandon after even a short separation. Even a five-minute trip to the garage could result in a greeting that would be more appropriate for after a long weekend away. Hana had the short-term memory of a sixties stoner. But those spinning, circling greetings accompanied by joyful squeaks and snorts were reaffirming. You never doubt that someone loves you with their whole heart when you are greeted by a Chin after being gone for only five short minutes. This morning when I talked with Hana, I told her how deeply reciprocal that love has been.

Hana came to me at the time of another transformational departure in my life. I had just lost another beloved dog and was full-blown into a grief process that was really challenging me to recover from. I was vulnerable. Not only that, I was puppy vulnerable, that awful state of being where every sighting of a puppy brings on a painful longing that you really are not yet ready for. Your head knows that, but it is a visceral response. A friend who did rescue work for Japanese Chin Rescue called and shared that he had just gotten in some puppies that needed homes. I went to see them thinking that I might just foster one, but  when he put that tiny ball of fluff in my hands I was hooked. It was that gut-wrenching puppy longing fulfilled and all intelligent thought vanished.  I had a bug-eyed, snaggle-toothed, crusty nosed instant Princess. This was perhaps the ugliest puppy I had ever seen. Not withstanding, I loved her instantly. I went out and bought her a dress.  I thanked her for sparking the kind of adoration in me that pulled me out of a dark, sad pit of grief over the loss of her predecessor. So this morning , I also thanked Hana for turning me into one of those dog ladies who unapologetically expressed their mental issues by dressing their dogs in clothes and parading them around local farmers markets in a dog-stroller.

Hana in raincoat

Chin ‘s are  known as a brachlocephalic breed. Their short faces are  artificially selected for by breeders who are going for a particular look. Pugs, Pekingese and Boston Terriers are examples of other breeds who have been developed for shortened faces. Along with this kind of breeding can come physical deformities and disabling conditions. Hana had a cluster of issues. Her face and head were twisted slightly, making one eye protrude prominently. Both eyes drifted lazily out to the sides and her jaw jutted off at an angle Her nose resided jauntily off to one side as if it were God’s afterthought. Although she snored and snorted enough to carry the nickname “PigPig”, none of these endearing attributes affected her in the slightest. But more than one vet was to confirm that she probably was a not “all there”. Hana’s head injury likely occurred at birth, resulting in challenges to her IQ that only made me love her more. I made sure she was home schooled in the special class and we made out just fine. The heart condition that finally precipitated her departure yesterday was more critical. This morning, I thanked Hana for reminding everyone around her that there is intrinsic value and something to celebrate in every individual no matter what they look like or what makes them different and unique.

Most of my life, I’ve had athletic dogs such as run-with-the-wind greyhounds,  a razor-sharp  Australian Shepherd,  and working German Shepherds that live to do your bidding. I’ve always prefered dogs that can do a job. An unlikely choice made at a vulnerable time in my life,  Hana was a born pillow-sitting Diva by nature. By her superior attitude she communicated her demands on the whole household. She could stop other dogs in their tracks and interrupt that introductory sniff with a stiff glare that said, “Keep away from the royal self.” Hana knew no commands, only invitations.  She followed a daily routine if rewarded in accordance with her wishes. She knew the words Treat and Cookie before she knew her name and she trained me early on that I was expected to pay a tariff for her cooperation. This morning, I thanked Hana for keeping me humble for 14 years. I told her that I appreciated the constant reminder that we are all only here to serve in some way or another. To make the life of another creature better, safer, more comfortable or happier is a gift. As the giver, we receive beyond measure.

Back in my pre-Arnie days when I tent-camped all over Florida, the other  dogs happily roughed it with me. Hana staked herself out on her pink fluffy blanket, wholly disgusted with the accommodations. No dog in the campground was too big for her to grump and growl at from her royal vantage point. She loved a nice hotel room with a balcony but she hated tent camping.  Today, when I talked with Hana, I told her I admired a woman who could claim her rightful place in the world. I especially admire a woman who can get what she needs with one withering look.

And finally, I talked to Hana about how much we are going to miss her. Our household is an interlocked puzzle of animal personalities and there is a missing piece this morning. We are all feeling it in our own ways. For awhile, Cracker the African Grey will call her name and she will not come. Wicca the Cairn will wait for her at the door and Hana will not bounce back into the house alongside her pal. Arnie and I will reach for her and and miss the silken touch. And then, one day, we will Chance Encounter her somewhere again and recognize that it is sweet Hana.  We hope that we sent your spirit off in love to drift gently into that next life where you have more lessons to learn and more lessons to teach. Thanks for being with us just as you were. Continue to love well little Hana and we will touch noses with you again and soon.


Leo and Hana morning smooch



A Slice of American Pie

We like to take the long way home. Rural Georgia has some of the prettiest scenery anywhere. It is without pretense. Cotton fields roll out as far as the eye can see making it look like it snowed last night. Peanut field ready for harvest lie waiting for the men and equipment. Straight lines of pecan groves line the fields like statue soldiers at attention. It is still possible to see tenant farmers’ cabins quietly decaying at the edge of the field. They still stand in testimony to harder times.


A sea of cotton near Americus, Ga
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Peanuts waiting for Harvesting


A pecan tree grove near Leslie, GA


By the roadside in DeSoto, GA

The back roads of Georgia are also filled with interesting places to stop off and sample some local color. The little town of Andersonville is one that we really enjoyed. Below is some historical background information that I gleaned from various local publications.

The little hamlet of Anderson was named for Mr. John Anderson who was a Director in the Southwestern Railroad at the time it was extended from Oglethorpe to Americus in 1853. It was known as Anderson Station until the post office was established in November 1855 and the government changed the name of the station from Anderson Station to Andersonville in order to avoid confusion with the post office in Anderson, South Carolina.

If you read the blog that we published  about Camp Sumter, you will know that during the Civil War, the Confederate army established Camp Sumter to house incoming Union prisoners of war. The town of Andersonville served as a supply depot during the period, and it included a post office, a depot, a blacksmith shop and stable, a couple of general stores, two saloons, a school, a Methodist church, and about a dozen houses.

Until the establishment of the prison, the area was entirely dependent on agriculture, and, after the close of the prison, the town continued to be economically dependent on agriculture.  Andersonville changed very little over the years, until 1968 when the large-scale mining of kaolin, bauxitic kaolin, and bauxite was begun by Mulcoa, Mullite Company of America, which turned 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of scrub oak wilderness into a massive mining and refining operation. Bauxite is a chief ingredient in the production of aluminum. The company now ships more than 2000 tons of refined ore from Andersonville each week. I did not know anything about mining in the South and in doing some research to learn more, I came across this paper which gives good background if you are interested:

In 1974, long-time mayor Lewis Easterlin and a group of concerned citizens decided to promote tourism in the town by turning the clock back and making Andersonville look much as it did during the American Civil War. Now today Andersonville welcomes tourists from all over the world who come for the History, Museums, Eateries and to step back in time. It is charming with a big dose of friendly. We learned from chatting with some folks that the community comes together to foster a spirit of cooperation and commerce that is the best that small towns have to offer. One of the things we loved most about this little place was that there is a Town Dog. He was a stray from who-knows-where, so the folks around town just built him a dog house in the square and everyone feeds and cares for him. This caring seems to epitomize the spirit of the town.

The Andersonville Station Confederate Restaurant sits on the small square in the Historic Civil War Village of Andersonville, Georgia. We pulled into a parking spot and were greeted warmly by the owner/cook, Kimberly Ward and her waitress who were sitting on the front porch in rocking chairs recuperating from the lunch rush. A friendly old lab/cur cross  got up to meet us and let us know he was open to any leftovers we might have. It seemed he doesn’t presently have a home and Kimberly is caring for him until one can be found. Needless to say, it was hard to leave without him, but we have such a full house already there was little choice. Kimberly assured me not to worry about him as a friend of hers was on the way to help.  A cat rounded out the welcoming committee. For a variety of reasons, this stop called out to us as a Chance Encounter we simply could not pass by without learning more. So, in we went for lunch.


The Andersonville Confederate Restaurant


Butter Beans, cornbread, sweet potatoes, collard greens and a slab of beef. Typical fare at the restaurant. Everything sounded delicious! Photo courtesy of their FB page.



Any question about where we are?
Anderson station is the brainchild of Jarad and Kimberly Ward. It is a labor of love for them. For special events, they dress in full regalia including hoop skirts. Photo courtesy of their FB page.
Local honey is for sale. Photo courtesy of their FB page.
Specials of the day
We shared a huge dish of this delicious Peach Cobbler. It was authentic and perfect!

We love the juxtaposition of the local landscape with the local people. We try to get as close to the earth and the local culture as possible in the most respectful way possible. In keeping with the purpose of our travel and blog,  when we are eating or  visiting with folks we try hard to support local businesses and agriculture. We hope that you might have an opportunity to take the back road to Andersonville, stop by and visit the nice folks at the Andersonville Station Confederate Restaurant, 107 E. Church Street, Anderson, Ga  They are working hard to preserve a slice of American pie, no pun intended.

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We hope you fare well sweet boy.

Andersonville National Historic Site

We headed out early on an overcast Georgia morning to go see another of our National Historic Sites. We were planning about an hour’s drive to Plains, GA, home of President, Jimmy Carter to visit his museum and childhood homestead. Passing by cotton fields and pecan groves along HWY 90 we spied another Historical Site called Andersonville National Historical Site. Being easily distracted, we took a quick left and entered the park just to check it out quickly before continuing on to our intended destination. Three hours later, we would come back out, silent and spent.

Arnie’s Great Grandfather on the Jaquith side served in the Union army as a seventeen year old boy. His job was to care for the officers horses. Arnie has his discharge papers, so he had a special interest in learning more.

Established in 1970, Andersonville National Historic Site has three main features; the National Prisoner of War Museum, which also serves as a visitor center; the Camp Sumter Prison Site; and Andersonville National Cemetery. It is maintained by our National Park Service.

We began our visit through this entry, admittedly a bit nervous about what we might see. From the first step in, this place set a somber and respectful tone.


National POW Museum
The entry to the National Prisoner of War Museum

The Museum focuses on the POW experience across time and not solely on the Civil War experience. It clarifies, through educational exhibits who exactly is considered a POW and takes visitors through the ages with artifacts, photos and interactive exhibits that are sometimes really hard to experience………..especially the two films. Deep questions come to mind; questions we don’t really want to grapple with. Some of it is just too close to home. I have embedded some of the questions that came to my mind in this blog. I want to go back and think about it some more after some time has passed. Perhaps you will give these questions some thought too? Perhaps peace can start with a state of mind?

Depictions of housing for captives during the Vietnam War


QUESTION: Does the concept of a just war exist?

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There are artifacts from all the major wars


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QUESTION: What joy is there in winning a war when so much loss and pain is associated with it?

Bridging the museum and the grounds is a moving courtyard commemorating all prisoners of war. Entitled “The Price of Freedom Fully Paid”, this memorial also captures a portion of the tributary of Sweetwater Creek that flowed through the grounds as the only water source. Today, it runs crystal clear, unlike the muddy trickle that served so many souls in the fourteen months when Americans imprisoned Americans.



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QUESTION: After every major disastrous war, humans vow to never let it happen again, yet that event comes to pass again eventually. Why is that?

The prison site itself was profound. We visited on a comfortably cool fall Georgia day, but it was easy to imagine the site in the heat of summer or the bone cold of a snowy winter. Andersonville was hastily built to relieve crowding in Richmond prisons and to relocate Union prisoners away from the battlefront. Camp Sumter, commonly known as Andersonville was not even finished or supplied when the first prisoners arrived in February 1864. Essentially no more than a giant pen intended to hold 10,00 men, the 16 1/2-acre pen had a 15-foot-high stockade wall and two gates. Nineteen feet inside the stockade was the “deadline” marked by a simple post and rail fence. Guards stationed in sentry boxes shot anyone who crossed this line. White posts still stand showing this line and walking along it, I imagined the thousands of souls who stood here suffering and, of course, those who perished here. I felt my hiking boots rooted to the footsteps of men in unimaginable circumstances. I could walk away from here and go home. They could not.

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The North Gate through which prisoners entered Andersonville.


Conditions at Andersonville in its 14 long months of operation were among the very worst in the history of war. The camp was covered with vermin, there was no clean water supply and flies and maggots tortured the men. The surface was swampy mud. Here, a prisoner of war was more likely to die than a soldier in combat. The overcrowding, short food supplies and inadequate shelter allowed disease to run rampant.

QUESTION: Why do prisoners of war and the civilian citizens have to face the consequences of their nation’s decisions?

Exactly how many prisoners died is not known. Surviving records suggest some 30,000 or 15 percent of Union prisoners and about 26,000 or 12 percent of Confederate prisoners died. Some states have erected monuments to commemorate those who died from their states. There are monuments that honor the contributions of nurses also.

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After touring the museum and grounds, visitors return to their cars and drive over to the cemetery. Anderson National cemetary was established July 26, 1865 as the permanent resting place of honor for deceased veterans. The first interments were soldiers who died in the prison. Burials continue today for veterans and their spouses who chose this place as their final resting site.

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The NPS brochures and films tell an interesting story of a 19-year-old named Dorence Atwater who was with the  2nd New York Cavalry. He was captured in July of 1863 and spent eight months in Richmond, VA prisons before arriving by rail at Andersonville. In June of 1864 he was detailed to work in the hospital where he recorded the names and grave locations of the deceased. He secretly copied this list and smuggled it out when he was released. He later worked with Clara Barton to mark the graves of the dead . His death register enabled many families to locate their loved ones and thanks to his work, over 95 percent of the graves were identified.

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Dorance Atwater
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Clara Barton

One final question: How long will we continue to bury veterans who perish in wars in this cemetery? 

Arnie at the spring monument. 

The Bakery: A Foodie Chance Encounter

One of the joys of traveling here and there is stopping in to places that we might bypass if we were not on the lookout for Chance Encounters. We are easily distracted by interesting places and often hit the brakes and turn around to investigate. Since we are committed to eating locally and adventurously, we are especially alert for new food experiences and the stories of the people behind the food. We stumbled upon one such person and his place recently and it proved to be a real palate pleaser.


Vinny is a vibrant, energetic fellow who’s welcoming smile radiates from behind the counter of Padira Bakery. We had a few minutes to spare while our laundry dried, so we strolled down Main Street in Milford, Massachusetts to explore a group of shops whose signage was all in Spanish. Padira Bakery called to us on this hot day with the full color pictures of fruit smoothies on the window. What we discovered inside was an enchanting array of baked goods and a young man by the not so Brazilian name of Vinny, who is extraordinarily proud of work.

Vinny shared with us that he is a nutritionist by training. He wanted to combine this perspective on food with a business concept started by his Grandmother two generations ago. She had made bread from her home kitchen to help support her family. He also felt that some of the healthy aspects of his native cuisine could be adapted to please an american palate. And so the Padira Bakery was born.

Vinny bought the bakery a year and a half ago as a failing business in need of much updating and hard work. It is right on Main Street in Milford under the green awning. His business provides employment for extended family and it is really fun to walk in and be greeted by their enthusiasm and smiles.


Brazilian cuisine has European, African and Amerindian influences. It varies greatly by region, reflecting the country’s mix of native and immigrant populations, and the size of this large continent as well. When I explored the subject online, I learned that this mix and size has created a national cuisine marked by the preservation of regional differences. There is not an exact single “national Brazilian cuisine”, but there is an assortment of various regional traditions and typical dishes. This diversity is linked to the origins of the people inhabiting each region.

We actually have some really good Brazilian food in our surrounding home community in central Florida, but because the menus are often based around meat, we have not sampled much in Florida. In the Southern part of Brazil, the influence and focus on meat shift due to gaúcho traditions shared with its neighbors Argentina and Uruguay. With many meat based products, due to this regions livestock based economy – the churassco, a kind of barbecue, is a local tradition and that is much of what we see in Florida now with the emergence of the Brazillian steakhouses. So the Padira Bakery was a nice opportunity to try a different aspect of Brazillian cuisine with the focus being on less meat and more on lighter fare.

Ingredients first used by native peoples in Brazil include yucca, cassava, guava, coconut. All of these influences are represented in the bakery. The acai ice cream is made from fruit imported directly from Brazil and the deep red color looks like beets. It dances on the tongue with a partnering of tart and sweet. Other tropical fruits such a mango, papaya, orange, passion fruit, and pineapple are all fruits we are familiar with from living in the tropics, but they are used  creatively in the bakery’s cooking in a variety of delicious manners that we were unfamiliar with. The coconut cake made with yucca flour was delicious. I served it with fresh picked strawberries and whipped cream for dinner with friends one night and it was an all around hit! Vinny loves to share his work and we left stuffed with generous samples that he insisted we eat and take with us. We had days of yummy in the tummy to look forward to!


A few days later we picked up meat pies and a smooth as silk flan to take to the kids house for lunch. Everyone kept going back for flan all through the day! We have lots of great Cuban food in our area of Florida, but this was some of the best flan we have ever sampled…….smooth and not overly sweet.

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The national beverage is coffee and what bakery doesn’t need a great coffee? Vinny’s brand is imported from Brazil and roasted in Boston. The beans are delivered daily from a roaster in Boston and the bean bags are often still warm…….now that is fresh!

Arnie and I shared a  pães-de-queijo, a large filled concoctions similar to a pierogy of Polish cuisine or a kibbeh from Arabic cuisine. It is a common finger food items, that is a meal in and of itself. In the center is a melted volcano of Queijo Minas Cheese is surrounded by  spiced pulled chicken encapsulated in a gluten-free dough made from yucca flour. The egg-shaped result is rolled in cornmeal and deep-fried like a donut. This is what the workmen line up out the door for at 5:00 each morning. They come to fill their lunch pails, grab a coffee and breakfast to go.

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Given the predominance of the beef/dairy industry in areas of Brazil, cheese figures in as a common ingredient. Queijo Mnas is a soft, mild-flavored fresh white cheese usually sold packaged in water. If our Florida friends will journey over to Rt 127 and visit La Isla grocery, across from the Pulix Plaza, you will find this cheese in abundance and we hope you enjoy trying it!

In addition to the pães-de-queijo, we tried Pateis, similar to empanadas. These small hand-held pastry envelopes are wrapped around assorted fillings, then deep-fried in vegetable oil. These are filled with either spiced beef, chicken or just cheese. They look like the jam filled tarts that my Grandmother made to use up leftover pie crust with their crimped edges and golden brown hue. It was interesting to learn that these delicious hand held goodies are actually an Japanese influence. There has been a significant Japanese diaspora into Brazil and this street food is an easy fast food pick up with their different shapes  used to tell apart the different flavours. The two most common shapes being half-moon (cheese) and square (meat). Some resemble chicken croquettes.  We washed it all down with a big glass of passion fruit juice which Vinny said would leave us calm with a feeling of well-being. Not sure if was the great food or the passion juice, but we did feel really good after that! 

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Of course, the deserts are the highlight at Padira Bakery. Bolos, or cakes line the trays,; cut into big slabs that would easily feed four people for desert (or Arnie and I on a glutinous night). We didn’t have enough time this year to try them all, so we obviously will have to set a goal for next year!


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  • Bolo de rolo is a rolled cake, a thin mass wrapped with melted guava and a delicacy of Southern Brazil

  • Pão de mel is honey cake, somewhat resembling gingerbread and  usually covered with melted chocolate

  • Bolo de cenoura  is a scrumptious carrot cake with a chocolate cover made with butter and cocoa

  • Bolo prestígio is a chocolate cake with a coconut and milk cream filling

  • Bolo de fubá (corn flour cake)

  • Bolo de milho (Brazilian-style corn cake) resembling cornbread

  • Bolo de maracujá (passion fruit cake)

  • Bolo de mandioca (cassava cake)

  • Bolo de queijo (literally “cheese cake”)

  • Bolo de laranja (orange cake)

  • Bolo de banana (banana cake spread with cinnamon)

    As the weekday crowd gathers early in the morning, we think it is not only for the food.  An additional benefit is being greeted by Vinny and his friendly family to start your day off right. That is food for the soul!

Flannel Mornings

via Daily Prompt: Stylish

 At 6:00 each morning as the alarm broke the peace this summer, I rolled out of bed, grabbed coffee and threw on my not so stylish outfit. The center-piece of my wardrobe was a drab brown plaid flannel shirt. One pocket is ripped a bit, two buttons are missing and it has a stubborn coffee stain on one sleeve. I originally got it at a rummage sale in Virginia, knowing it would take the chill off an outdoor Massachusetts morning. I love this shirt.

Now mind you, this shirt is not pretty. Some women can sport a man’s shirt and come of as pretty, even sexy. Remember Annette Bening in The American President?  Michael Douglas almost gave up an election for the love of her in his crisp not-so-virginal white shirt. I don’t think she would have had the same effect in flannel.

Flannel is almost a genre. Labels like Pendleton, Woolrich and L.L. Bean have made a classic out of its comfort. And then there’s red flannel hash, that staple of New England church suppers that makes little children gag. It is a traditional corned beef hash with beets added for color and it is definitely an acquired taste. I guess it probably derives it ‘s name from the Red Flannel underwear that our Dads used to wear in the winter when they went out to shovel snow or hunt deer or some other freezing New Hampshire endeavor.

Each day this summer, I had chores to do and two hours to do them. Under the flannel shirt, bleach spattered jeans and a t-shirt completed the ensemble. Loosely pulling my graying hair back in a twist-tie  and lacing up sturdy hiking boots, I headed out for the morning’s honest work, stylish in what would best be described as a rumpled-crumpled look. I never wasted a moment this summer thinking about what was stylish. Clothes were as practical and as honest as the work.

Now, summer has passed into fall and the chores are done until next spring. Tonight, I dress up for dinner. As I squeeze into a dress, I will spend a moment though, imagining the hug of a familiar flannel shirt and the tug of jeans. I miss my summer style already.

One rumpled-crumpled July morning, as I headed out for chores with my sweet husband I turned to him and jokingly said, “Why don’t you ever tell me I’m pretty anymore?” We looked at each other and just laughed. I snuggled my flannel shirt around me and off we went to do our chores, caring less about what is stylish.

When the Walk Becomes a Hike

via Daily Prompt: Hike

This morning I woke up early while the rest of a house full of adult kids slept off the big meal and wine from last night’s feast. We arrived yesterday to babysit the Grand-dog; that substitute for the real thing that many of us accept when no Grand-babies are part of the plan. They leave this morning to go to a couple of concerts and the beach and to spend precious time together.

 These are hip, mobile, urban thirty and forty somethings who know how to live their friendships fully. They have walked a path together for years and kept firm the bonds of friendship. As they age, that walk will become a hike. It will be harder. They don’t know that quite yet. Keeping friendships strong and close will become more arduous with hills to climb and valleys to descend into. It will call them to be committed and to work hard to both give and receive friendship. They will need to hike in each other boots and be there in person when encouragement is needed.

This morning, my friend Penny lies in the hospital recovering from bypass surgery. My friend Karen lies in rehab recovering from a double knee replacement. This morning I walk for you both. I walk up and down a steep Decatur, Ga hill, thankful that we are friends of so many years and rejoicing that we will hike again together through this short life when you are well again.

For us all, the walk one day becomes a hike.