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Clean Mugs and Emptied Trash Cans

Another Way for week of January 5, 2018

Clean Mugs and Emptied Trash Cans

Every time I pick up my mug from my office desk—and it still has some of yesterday’s stale coffee—I’m reminded of one of the reasons I’m missing our office housekeeper from the last 34 years.

If you follow my column closely, you know that my office changed locations in mid-November. It was a downsizing maneuver to a downtown location where we are renting space; Doris, the woman who had been the office housekeeper at the older, larger place for over 34 years decided she would not make the move with us. She just happens to be 89 years old, but that never—or rarely—stopped her from performing her daily duties over three floors of offices, no elevator.

One of the reasons she was able to keep working for us is that she lives just across the road from our former office location. So she didn’t have to drive far to “go to work.” In fact, she used to walk over until her adult children insisted she drive herself across the very busy five-lane highway. But getting to our downtown location is a bit dicey with one-way streets, many stoplights, and bad traffic at certain times of the day. So, she made a good call in using this move as a time to quit. She still happily cleans daily at another office near her home.

I miss Doris and we all do. For the last 34 years, she has watered my plants, seen the disgusting stuff I toss in my wastebasket (chewing gum, for instance, that I sometimes forgot to wad into paper), scrubbed my forgotten lunch dishes, and several times a year, took extra time to scour stains out of that “stainless” steel mug. She prided herself in knowing which Tupperware or Glad plastic container belonged to which worker, and usually delivered them back to the correct employee who, like me, frequently left them to drain and dry in the office kitchen.

Doris went far beyond the call of duty: one day she brought back to me my well-used 9×9-inch pan which has baked many brownies, batches of cornbread and other goodies over the years. She had taken it home for her extra-special Doris treatment, using scrubbing powder and lots of “elbow grease.” She got that ancient pan the cleanest it has looked in years. I was humbled and amazed. She went the second mile.

She also tidied and periodically cleaned the bathrooms and made sure they were stocked with necessities. Earlier she also did heavy-duty cleaning: vacuuming and washing and waxing the kitchen and bathroom floors. Eventually she accepted an outside cleaning company doing the deep cleaning.

Beyond these mundane duties, Doris also very much enjoyed checking in with office staff to keep up with our lives, even with the executive directors over the years. She truly cared about us and our families: asking about new babies, who was sick, who was on vacation, who was getting married. When her son was struggling with leukemia and a bone marrow transplant, she shared his ups and downs. I think she was one of our friendliest employees over the years, never hesitant to strike up a conversation with anyone. She has visited us twice in our new location in the six weeks we’ve been there and I have no doubt she’ll keep checking in as long as she can still drive.

Earlier I talked to her about why she kept working at age 86, 87, 88, 89. Her response: “I don’t like sitting around.” In May 2015, she fell and broke her wrist at home, requiring surgery. But she came back to work just six days after surgery, washing dishes with one arm in a brace.

All of us hope to have the vigor and capacity well into our 80s exhibited by Doris. She is happy to be a member of a large non-denominational church on the edge of our city. I hope she can continue to feel useful and “not sit around” for a good many years to come. Happy New Year, Doris!

Some older office staff photos from past years. Can you find Doris in each photo??

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I wrote more about Doris’s work in our office building in 2015, here.

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What do you enjoy or enjoyed about your work life, job, or career? What have you not liked? Share here if you dare!

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Any words of congratulations or way-to-go’s for Doris?? I’ll print them and make sure she sees them!

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Also still sending out the 2018 lighthouse-themed monthly planning calendar, suitable for purse or pocket. Email me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or request by mail from Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at http://www.FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.

 

 

 

 

 

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What We Leave Behind

Another Way for week of December 30, 2017

What We Leave Behind

So, what do you ship family members the day or week after Christmas or New Years and all the children have gone home?

Last year after Christmas, I saw my boss and his wife boxing up something in our shipping department when his wife said with some chagrin, “This is called shipping your kids the stuff they left at your house for Christmas.”

I blushed and drew my hands to my cheeks. “Oh dear, my mother is shipping stuff to me today, too.”

And I don’t need to remind you how old I am.

“So, it never ends,” said my boss.

This year we took a trip between Thanksgiving and Christmas to visit my mother. I took along my own breakfast cereal that I like for fiber reasons. Of course I left it in her cupboard! Mom has always willingly shipped (or saved for a future visit) our left-behinds.

And I don’t really mind doing that for my kids and grandkids either. If you show me a household where Mums and Dads willingly ship the left-behinds of their offspring, I’ll show you a family where the kids WANT to come home on holidays and at other times. Especially if they don’t hear too many reminders of “You never did remember to pick up all your stuff” or other snide, unhelpful remarks.

Taking care of what family members or other guests leave behind is just part of getting together. Perhaps more important is what feelings are left in our wake? Resentment? Exhaustion? Misunderstandings? Worse?

Read any advice column online or in the newspaper and it doesn’t take long to hear about the spiteful ways family members treat each other. Some of it might be in jest, but even good families with loving relationships who have good times together, accidentally push buttons (and sometimes not accidentally). Most of us know how to get under someone’s skin. Try to be mindful of what may be motivating someone’s behavior or putdowns—often insecurity, or feeling “less than.”

Other issues that may arise include whoever is in charge of cooking, often ends up feeling they have spent most of their time in the kitchen over holidays. I’m grateful for our large “great room” where the kitchen includes our dining and living room space as well. So at least the kitchen isn’t closed off. I’m grateful to our daughters who after a big meal, kick me out of the sink and say “Mom, we’ll clean up.” That did not exactly happen when they were ten.

Depending on how many bathrooms you have in your home, sharing bathroom space often requires extra grace. There we don’t want to leave behind reminders from our visit—or our personal shampoo!

What do we want to leave behind?

  • Memories of stories told and laughter shared
  • Good impressions and examples of manners, grace, and love
  • If sharp words have erupted, leave behind apologies and hugs
  • Leftovers so the chief cook won’t have to cook for the next two days
  • Rooms even neater than when we arrived
  • Beds stripped and blankets neatly folded at the edge of the bed
  • Small messy fingerprints left on windows are fine.

Finally, always go back for one more peek under beds, behind shower curtains, and in refrigerators for items you might have overlooked. And—one last hug or peck on the cheek. In our family, one outstanding memory is the time our oldest daughter had not had a chance to hug her 88-year-old grandfather goodbye when we left, because he was still in bed. A mile or two down the road, she said as much: she hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to Dad. We did go back—and she was very grateful, especially when Dad died eight months later.

I wish you and yours happy and blessed comings and goings in this New Year. 

 

 

 

 

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What was the most important/crucial thing you’ve left behind on your travels?

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Any tales of memories you’re glad you made? We’d love to hear your stories, whether sad or glad. 

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There is still time to request your small 2018 lighthouse-themed monthly planning calendar, suitable for purse or pocket. Email me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or request by mail from Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at http://www.FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of the movie, “The Post”

Because of my three-part blog entry about Katharine Graham, I’m reposting my daughter’s review of The Post from over at Third Way website. Sign up for weekly media reviews from five excellent writers who tackle new topics each week! 

The Post

How the press, and the Pentagon Papers changed history

By Michelle Davis Sinclair

Streep. Hanks. Spielberg. With Oscar-bait like that, The Post could have rested on its headlining laurels and cranked out a movie that would have made money and won recognition regardless.

Fortunately for history, the film is every bit as good as advertised. The classic book and movie All the President’s Men immortalized the most infamous event of the Nixon years, but the lesser known scandal that preceded it and positioned The Washington Post as a newspaper powerful enough to take on the president has faded from common knowledge. This is the story of the Pentagon Papers–both an indictment of five presidents lying to the public about the Vietnam War, and an exploration of the importance of a free press in sustaining democracy.

It’s 1971, and Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) is about to take The Washington Post from being a local, family-owned newspaper to a publicly-traded company. She’s understandably nervous–she inherited the company from her late husband, who inherited it from her father–and wants nothing to jeopardize the company she has loved her entire life. Meanwhile, the New York Times has obtained a top secret government study of the Vietnam War that taints the legacy of every administration since Truman. When the Times begins to publish the papers, Post editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) practically froths at the mouth over getting his hands on some of these documents.

The movie doesn’t shy away from illustrating the tectonic shift in gender roles taking place in this era. In fact, Tom Hanks said the film could have been called “Katharine” and been just as fitting. In the movie, Kay Graham starts out as very much a woman of her time, deferring to the men in the room, the male advisors and businessmen who have so much more experience in this world than she does. But the indignity of it all–men talking at, talking over, and talking for her–has a transformative effect. Streep does a masterful job of taking Kay on this journey. Watching this woman come into her own as the pressure inches higher and the voices around her grow louder is nothing short of thrilling.

The entrance to the old and historic Washington Post building, with my daughter, Michelle, pointing out memorabilia to my then-83-year-old mother touring at Christmastime, 2007. Daughters Tanya and Doreen at far left.

It wasn’t possible to film The Post at the old Washington Post building because it was torn down at the beginning of 2016 (I am a thirteen-year Post employee myself–my review is my personal opinion and does not represent the views of The Washington Post), but the filmmakers did a superb job of recreating the essence of the place. Several times, my heart skipped a beat at the pans of the building exterior before my eyes clocked the differences. And just like they distilled the hallmarks of the old building well enough to recreate the place, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks strike the right notes in recreating two larger-than-life figures in newspaper history. I didn’t know Katharine Graham, but I interacted with the late Ben Bradlee enough times to recognize the mannerisms in Hanks’ performance. Does Hanks look like Bradlee? Not really, and Meryl Streep resembles Mrs. Graham not at all, but between the excellent costuming, hair, and of course world-class acting, they embody the stellar working chemistry between Mrs. Graham and her “pirate” of an editor.

Spielberg sets a blistering pace, refusing to let his story wallow through a few days of American history. Even at that pace, the movie uses careful brushstrokes to paint the characters while also raising existential questions that resonate today: What exactly is the role of the press? How can the press, which depends on reporters gathering information and standing witness to events, do their jobs while also risking alienating the very people who give them access? And at what point does keeping information top secret stop serving the needs of the country, and start protecting the interests of the powerful?

Streep’s Katharine Graham uses an old quote of her husband’s (a quip that remains popular among us Post employees), referring to the newspaper as the “first rough draft of history.” Movies exist to entertain, and this one is more interested in telling Kay’s story than getting every bit of history onscreen (the New York Times people have some legitimate gripes about being presented as supporting players in this story). Overall, though The Post is an excellent polish of that first draft, ready for presenting to a new generation.

The Post is rated PG-13 for language and brief war violence. The film is on limited release until its national release January 12.

Reposted from Third Way Media Matters pages.

 

The Compassionate Jesus

Another Way for week of December 23, 2017

The Compassionate Jesus

At Christmas we recall the birth of baby Jesus many many years ago. Too often we forget—and certainly pop culture forgets or doesn’t know the beauty of the man who baby Jesus grew up to be. We focus on the surroundings of his birth: the dramatic story of his family’s last minute trip to Bethlehem for a census, not finding any decent overnight lodging, being forced to settle for shelter in a cave or stable for animals, snuggling a newborn in a manger, and angels announcing the birth to common shepherds.

Jesus of course grew up to be a loving and caring man who went about doing good, the Bible tells us in Acts 10:38. He spoke to crowds, fed them, healed the sick and reached out to outcasts. He had no use for religious hypocrisy and confronted leaders with no words minced. He took children on his knee and blessed them, took time to engage women in theological conversation (unheard of in those days) and didn’t worry about the religious rituals with stringent cleansing requirements for followers at that time. He ate with “sinners” and was criticized and questioned for it (Matthew 15).

Several months ago a seminary intern in our congregation, Rebekah, led a devotional for a meeting I participated in. That I still remember it three months later is an indicator of its impact, which is no mean feat. A devotional may move us at the time, and then we can’t recall it later. Indeed I don’t remember the specific Bible passage she used but it had stories like in the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, such as Jesus’s compassion for a man afflicted with an evil spirit (probably a mental illness), touching a man with leprosy in order to cure him (also unheard of). Jesus was soon confronted by some teachers of the law ready to condemn him for ignoring religious laws. Rebekah had us write some descriptions on a folded up piece of paper, reflecting on the nature of the man Jesus as he went about his three years of ministry.

Then Rebekah had us take our folded paper (like a brochure) and write on the cover one word which described the ministry of Jesus—what he was like as a person. I chose the word compassion and wrote that on my cover.

On the inside flap, she had us write a few words describing the characteristics we read or knew about Jesus that related to the word we’d written on the front. I wrote down:

–moved by the illness or grief of others
–helped those who suffered in poverty
–emphasized strangers helping strangers (as in the story of the Good Samaritan)
–neighborliness
–motivated to generally help others

On the next panel she had us write a descriptive statement capsulizing Jesus in the Bible passage we’d read. I wrote: “Jesus is a person who gives all of himself to love and care for us.”

Have you met that kind of Jesus in the Bible and through the teachings and stories you’ve heard over the years?

Finally, Rebekah asked us to write on the last panel that same line we’d written about Jesus, but substituting the pronoun “I” in place of the name of Jesus in that sentence. So my sentence read: “I am a person who gives all of herself to love and care for others.”

I am still moved and challenged by the words of that sentence—which I in no way truly live up to, I will hasten to say. I’m almost embarrassed to share this statement here on the blog. Those who know me know it is not totally true. I am also self-centered and miserly at times. But the point of the exercise was to remind us how beloved we are in Christ, and that we are to aspire to be like the Jesus who walked on this earth over 2000 years ago. We are to be “little Christs” which is what the word Christian means.

Readers, I kept that little “brochure” we’d created as a reminder of this profound challenge: to live each day in the way Jesus demonstrated and taught—loving and caring for others.

That’s my Christmas story for this year, and I’m sticking to it! A blessed Christmas to one and all.

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I’d love to hear about any special moment this Christmas when the story of Christ’s birth came to life for you.  

Or a memorable devotional time you’ve had in a group, or personally. 

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Rebekah Nolt, a seminary student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, generously gave me permission to share this beautiful devotional here. 

My Christmas gift to all readers this year is a small 2018 lighthouse-themed monthly planning calendar, suitable for purse or pocket. Request it by mail from Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850 or email me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at http://www.FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.

 

 

 

When Old Wounds Afflict Us Again

Another Way for week of December 8, 2017

When Old Wounds Afflict Us Again

I watched a boy maybe 9 or 10 get off his bus on a street in the city. He dashed down a hill in jubilation for it being a Friday afternoon.

I understood his joy in getting out of school for the week, but oh I sucked in my breath that he not fall head first as he scrambled pell-mell down the street. It reminded me of the day I ran to my bus as a first or second grader and in my haste, stumbled and broke a tooth on the steps of the bus. That haste still can be seen in my not-perfect smile. A small but lasting injury.

When we’re young, our bodies heal well; we think a broken arm or ankle or torn ACL will keep us out of school or resting a few days, and will normally heal in a few weeks. And that’s the end of it, right? Athletes especially are tempted back to the court or field too soon.

As someone who’s turned another year older this week, I hate to break this news: old injuries have a way of coming back and haunting us in our 50s, 60s and 70s.

A fall, sports injury or car accident that happened to us in our teens or twenties often crops back up in arthritis, stiffness and pain in later years. Both my husband and I had injuries and accidents that are now showing repercussions as we have edged over 60. I think the osteoporosis in my spine and the mild pain I experience now stems from a fall from scaffolding I had in my early 40s. I know I was extremely fortunate to not have any actual breaks from that fall. But now as I try to move or roll over in bed, I can feel those parts complaining and speaking to me. That’s life.

When we are young we think we are invincible and indeed the body God planned and gave us is amazing in its ability to heal. I wrote about that not long ago in terms of a skinned finger I had in late summer. Now as I look at my finger tip on that hand, I cannot see any trace of a scar.

But I’m also thinking here of the emotional wounds and scars we often carry which may flare up in unexpected ways.

Family relationships are often a source of deepest pain. Divorce, abuse, drugs, alcohol: all these cause severed relationships. Or it could just be something mean a brother or sister said or did when we were ten or in our teens, gnawing at our soul and spirit. Outright abuse, whether verbal or physical, is of course the worst kind of wound and takes years of counseling and emotional work to cope and heal.

Holidays bring families together—and along with great memories and stories—sometimes offhand comments or attitudes still have the ability to get under our skin. When these things keep relatives apart, I find that immeasurably sad. That’s also life, but there are ways to work toward healing, even many years later.

When an accident or serious illness happens, people usually surround the person or family with extra attention and care: cards, emails, visits, meals brought in. Those around the injured or ill person pull together to help the person who is healing. The acts of kindness help to cover the rawness of our wounds. This can be similar to new skin stretching to cover over the raw flesh of a cut or wound. But doctors warn we can become emotionally maimed if others are allowed to take over things we need to do for ourselves in this process.

Time can help heal emotional wounds as well, and we need to open ourselves to that possibility in order for it to take place. The wound can be deep and the grieving process may last over many years. But arduous and perhaps extended group or individual therapy can bring insight, healing, and even forgiveness. So I’m encouraged by those I know who have gone through horrible abuse and have gone on to become beautiful people. They often have the kind of skills and compassion which helps others.

I admire those who dig deep within themselves to keep going—after major surgery on a limb or back, through therapy (physical or emotional), trudging through pain. We all know strong examples of people who keep plugging away well into their 90s. Old wounds—emotional or physical—don’t always cripple or keep us from becoming the fun loving and caring creatures God planned for us to be.

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In our local area, the Family Life Resource Center is a great resource for help dealing with these kinds of issues and more. 

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My Christmas column will appear December 26, 2017. Until then, I hope you have a beautiful and meaningful Christmas.

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My Christmas gift to readers is a small 2018 lighthouse-themed monthly planning calendar, suitable for purse or pocket. Request it by mail from Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850 or email me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at http://www.FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City Girl, Country Girl

Another Way for week of December 1, 2017

City Girl, Country Girl

I hear the roar of a bus, a fire engine, feel the crisp autumn air. I walk past a coffee shop, a pizza shop, a newly opened Middle Eastern café; I go by a bike shop, walk past my two banks. I learn I need to watch for pigeon poop on the walk between the rows of cars in the parking deck, which button to push to make the light change, discover that I’ll need to allow at least 5-10 extra minutes to walk from my car to my new office.

Ginko trees beside my new downtown office. We went from fall to winter when the ginkos lost all their leaves in one windy day.

In mid-November my office sold the building I have worked in since 1975. I have spent more years in that space that any home I’ve lived in, including the house my family called home for 30 years. I was just 23 when I started working there. A lifetime ago. So it was a transition not without its moments of melancholy and nostalgia, but as I’ve told many, it was easier walking out of that long occupied space with 11 others, rather than by myself.

Now walking the downtown streets, I feel like I am back in the city of Barcelona, Spain, where I lived as a student for nearly a year. That year I discovered I really enjoyed city life in spite of having grown up on a farm, which I also adored.

At lunch I run an errand, and decide to try out a different (free) parking deck for the afternoon when I return to downtown, and then realize I have walked an extra block out of the way back to my new office. I don’t feel as safe on that particular street—not as many shops, it is mostly the back end of buildings, someone could easily corner me, pull my purse off, knock me down. I wonder about the man with the big coat slowly walking the street. He looks cold.

Leaving work when the clock is nearing 4:30, I whiff the delicious scent of fresh dough rising from the pizza shop, sniff sizzling burgers from the nearby fast food, walk past a ballet dance studio where children and parents are waiting in a lobby, a free clinic, inviting restaurants with fancy schmancy names, a bakery that also sells gelato and offers samples. Now I feel back in Italy!

When I get back to my afternoon parking deck, I discover this one—which is actually closer to everything—has fewer 10 hour parking spaces. It is now full.

Twenty years ago, our downtown was dead, killed by the local mall which had been built and welcomed so eagerly back in the late 70s. Now a revitalized and lively downtown attracts the young: students, young adults, young couples, a few with babies. The mall area is far less lively. Not dead as in some areas, but harder to walk to places. I am SO glad our office did not move to that pricey area which is all streets and few sidewalks, and not very walker-friendly.

The farm I lived on the first 17 years of my life near Middlebury, Ind.

As a farm child, I wished I could live in town like my friends who were able to walk home for lunch. Does anyone still do that these days? Or maybe I’m just imagining they walked home at lunch. At any rate, I envied them walking to and from school. When I was in 5th or 6th grade, I screwed up the courage and stamina to at least ride my bike to school, which was about four miles away. I felt almost like a town kid. Whee.

Downtown Middlebury, Ind. This Varns and Hoover hardware was there in the 50s when I went to school in Middlebury.

Now at the end of my work day, I am happy to drive out to the country for the restful atmosphere, the hills, and the bright bright stars at night.

I will miss this woods close to my former office where I enjoyed noon time walks for many years.

The going-home traffic is intense in places, in this formerly small town now a city edging 53,000 in population, (80,000 when the college students are in town) but it has nothing like the crazy traffic where my daughters live. Once one of my daughters observed that her normally shy and quiet college roommate became an aggressive type driver when she was back home in her metropolis. You have to, she said, to get anywhere.

The sixteen file drawers I got rid of. Purged most of it, sent some files to Mennonite Church USA archives.

I’m happy to make this adjustment to new space—greatly downsized where I had to reduce my “file imprint” from 16 drawers to two—knowing that just as I’ve gotten through the last several months of downsizing and change, I trust that my husband and I can manage more change as we get older.

My thank you gift to all readers this year is a small 2018 lighthouse-themed monthly planning calendar, suitable for purse or pocket. Request it by mail from Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850 or email me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com.

Me settled into my new space (on a Saturday).

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Do you favor city or country living? Small town or suburb?

Mountains, plains, farmland, or oceans?

If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, what place/country would you like to try?

Comment here or by email!

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at http://www.FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.

 

 

 

 

Enchanted: Story Circles Across Generations



Another Way for week of November 24, 2017

Enchanted: Story Circles Across Generations

After spending time with my grandsons in two different storytime circles, I am pretty amazed. Not by my grandsons (hey, all grandmas think their grandkids are amazing, right?), but by the storytellers!

Circle 1: Northern Virginia

Talk about energy. I wasn’t sure who was more keyed up: the two and three-year-olds who circled me, or the young librarian in charge of story hour at a library near my oldest daughter’s house.

I had my then-two-year-old grandson James with me, and it was the first time for both of us (well, the first time in 30 some years for me, since the time his own mother was a preschooler). I felt new along with James.

James enjoying This is a Moose read by his grandpa.

First the storyteller: short with jet-black dyed hair with edges of red, a small tattoo running up her arm, and wearing old style sailor blue jeans (wide legged). She looked in her 20s and practically bounced as she valiantly charmed about 18 little minions mostly with her voice, hand motions, and electric smile.

Each child came with a parent or caretaker, although we were a kaleidoscope of Asian, Arabic, Indian, Latina, and plain old beige like me.

My grandson was mesmerized too, so much so that I had to nudge him to go up to participate in the group type activities. He preferred just watching the others from my lap.

Owen mesmerized by a storyteller at a Thomas the Tank Engine Day.

Circle 2: Spencer, North Carolina

More recently I was able to watch the faces of another daughter’s two boys at a Thomas the Tank Engine excursion and surrounding activities at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.

We had enjoyed the main “event,” a brief train ride with hundreds of other eager and excited mostly preschoolers, parents and grandparents. We browsed the gift shops and each boy picked out what they wanted in the way of new Thomas paraphernalia. We posed with trains for photos, played with wooden tracks and train cars and engines at various train tables. There were kiddie-car-sized trains to ride on going in small circles which Sam, the oldest grandson, could operate by pushing a button. There were huge model railroad train layouts to admire and point out the tiny figurines and flag men waving and signaling, lights flashing, and engines chugging away. And more!

Then I spied a large rug with a handful of children and parents or grandparents sitting cross-legged on the floor in a far corner of the warehouse, which also functioned as an antique train restoration facility. Another energetic woman, this time maybe in her late 40s or early 50s, was reading huge Thomas the Tank Engine books to the small gathered fans. Ah, a chance to sit down, rest, and regroup from the super stimulation of taking in so much fun.

She mostly told rather than read from the poster-sized storybooks, pausing to answer questions from the tykes if they just couldn’t wait until the end, and drew my two grandsons in like she was the original pied piper. Ms. Piper’s smile, eyes and enthusiasm were captivating and I was especially fascinated by how my 14-month-old grandson drank her in like she was his fairy godmother. His eyes barely left her as we sat there through three tales from Thomas land. It wasn’t great literature (many hero-themed books fail in that department) but it was a book, not animation, not a video, not a movie, not a play. We talked to her after the reading—and indeed she is a teacher in “real life” too. How lucky her students!

Both of these women reminded me how great is the power of a face and voice, spurred on by deep love for children, plus commitment to engage a kid’s powerful imagination and brain. The readers were educators, actors, and drama queens who adored children—in the very best sense of being drama queens!

I love the way my grandchildren are helping me see life through new eyes—and indeed it was that way with when I had my own children—and even a “little sister” (and little brother for my husband) in the Big Brother/Big Sister program before we had children. I so remember going to the mall and the toy store and county fair with her and enjoying everything through younger eyes. And I know my husband felt the same way as he enjoyed childhood activities with his “little.”

How thankful I am in this season to have been blessed with both children and grands—something none of us should ever take for granted. And to relearn the wonderful gifts children are endowed with by their Creator.

But back to the magic of stories and books: don’t overlook these old standby Christmas gifts in your shopping!

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What are some of your favorite books for small children? Here are two we discovered this year:

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

A Farm for Maisie

My thank you gift to all readers this year is a small 2018 lighthouse-themed monthly planning calendar, suitable for purse or pocket. Request it at anotherwaymedia @ yahoo.com.

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Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at http://www.FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.

 

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