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Soccer and Baseball Moms and Dads

Another Way for week of May 6, 2022

Soccer and Baseball Moms and Dads

Mommy-coaching of the goalie here. 🙂

Are you a soccer or baseball Mom or Dad, or perhaps Grandpa or Grandma? As spring unfolds into summer, you certainly see many a minivan or Suburban trekking to wide athletic fields, chockful of little ones decked out in red, blue, or green, and so so proud of their uniforms.

We enjoyed a whirlwind Saturday recently with our oldest daughter’s family and managed to celebrate a birthday, take in two soccer games, a “Fun Fair” fundraiser held at their elementary school, rest time, and a super quick birthday celebration. We had gluten-free cupcakes and apple slices before the next game at a field eight miles away. And just a few wrinkles in between, like the food truck that didn’t show up offering lunches at the elementary school fair.

We have joined our daughters, sons-in-law and grandsons several times at baseball or soccer fields here in Virginia and Ohio. If we lived nearby, I’d love to go more often. But! I’m reminded also of how stretched and strenuous keeping up with multiple games and practices—along with managing jobs, homes, and dinner—is.

Grandson on base!

I will add that to me, neither family is excessively scheduled: so far, they’re not doing music lessons or multiple sports leagues at one time. One family does Boy Scouts and the other is currently doing TaeKwonDo lessons each week.

“We’re doing something every night this week except one!” one grandson exclaimed to us on their weekly Sunday night phone call. I chuckled inside—knowing that makes for a lot of go go go. The whirlwind birthday my oldest daughter experienced reminded me of the time we had a rolling birthday party years ago in the minivan for her—moving between band practice (I think) and her French horn lesson, maybe. It’s a bit fuzzy now.

And thus I will remind all moms and dads and maybe grandparents too that the stress and running and juggling of so many balls eventually subsides. They go off to college (some), find jobs and move out (some), get married (eventually, for some). If families are scattered across time zones or oceans, the grandparents try to juggle traveling to visit as often as they can—and stay in touch across Zoom and Facetime.

Some grandparents are raising second families—now that is a real challenge and sometimes a heartache. As our bodies age, it is ten times harder to do all the things we were able to do in our 20s or 30s. My hat and heart go out to all who find themselves in that role. In such families there is neither time nor energy nor funds for any extracurriculars. But the love these grandparents share with their little ones comes in bushels.

The important things these experiences teach is not just a Sport and Sportsmanship, but Exercise, Effort, Friendships, and Fun. Remember these SS, EE, and FF goals.

You might be like my daughter who took a look at the soccer program for three-year-olds and shrugged her shoulders and said “Why?” Why stress out getting a third little guy to a playing field at an appointed time? His time will come, but it’s ok to have some little ones sit on the sidelines or kick a ball around in the back yard. The strategies in playing a real game are a little beyond the brains and bodies of kids just out of diapers, right?

Grandson in the backfield here.

We were amiss and afoul of sports for wee ones with our own girls, and yes, they may have missed out on some opportunities. When our girls finally went out for softball and basketball, we realized that other girls their ages had been playing since they were four. So we were clearly behind the 8-ball on that. But they took up music and drama which were their bonding and friendship circles through both high school and college (in one form or another). So we never looked back or regretted not really getting into extracurricular sports.

Enjoy what you can but don’t worry about making future NFL or MLB or WNBA players. Help children choose sports and activities that interest them, cheer them on, but keep it fun.

***

So, how did you or do you handle sports and other extracurricular activities for your family? We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.

Drop a note here or share with me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

When a Puppy Goes to Prison

Another Way for week of April 28, 2022

When a Puppy Goes to Prison

Have you heard of dogs going to prison? No, not a dog pound or a shelter for homeless pets, but living in a real prison?

Well, I hadn’t but learned of a heartwarming program that helps at least a trio of creatures: two or more people and one dog.

At a number of medium to high security prisons where some inmates are doing life sentences, some are involved in a program that rescues young puppies who might otherwise be euthanized. Inmates spend a year teaching a dog how to follow the commands of their eventual blind owner.  

Leader Dogs for the Blind, a program of Lions International (my husband and I belong to a local Lions Club), provides training for these service dogs. There are many individuals involved in this training. Not all breeds of dogs are suitable and the program works carefully to make sure the service dogs have the right personalities for the job.

After the dogs are trained by the inmates, they are donated to sight-impaired individuals who continue training the dogs as they live with and love these loyal canines. They must develop absolute confidence that the dog will guide and protect them even crossing busy streets in city traffic. The dogs enable those with sight issues to pursue education, jobs, and family life.   

Can those who are serving time be trusted for this job? Do they and the dog succeed? Yes and yes. The inmates have been very successful in training the dogs—carefully guided—partly because they can work with them all day in their cells or outdoors and have them basically 24 hours a day. In one video on YouTube, you can see an inmate telling the dog to stay behind a line at the door of their cell, and the dog stays. The dog doesn’t know it is a prison, it is just his/her home. Leaders say the inmates enjoy feeling useful and being a contributing member of society—even if currently imprisoned.

Jim McKinney, warden at an Iowa prison wanted the program for their facility. Some were at first uncertain that it would work. But McKinney says that when they first brought in puppies, some inmates responded in excited little kid voices: “Oh look, a puppy!” Seeing that, McKinney felt there wouldn’t be a problem getting inmates to participate. “Prison-raised dogs are more likely to successfully become a Leader Dog than those trained in a home setting,” noted McKinney. There were about 90 puppies in the program in their facility at the time a video “Leader Dogs for the Blind Puppy Raising Program” was made.

The sad part is saying goodbye to the dog when the training time is complete. But that is part of the bargain. The prisoners get a puppy and begin the dog’s training from day one, and many of the inmates come to feel totally attached to the dog. But they know that the dog will go on to help a person who cannot see—who will have a less difficult life as a visually impaired person.

After dogs have been trained, in the Lions’ program, sight-impaired persons at least 16 years old (no upper age limitation) go to a facility in Michigan and meet and work with a dog for 26 days to bond and learn commands. If things work out, they take the dog home and continue honing their relationship and leading/following roles. The program is free for the recipients.

The good news is that very few of those who’ve trained dogs end up going back to prison themselves. I was delighted to learn there are many other “dogs in prison” programs, and not just training dogs to guide the blind. One report said there are 290 prisons across all 50 states that have implemented dog programs. In 2017, Kevin Earl, from University of New Haven researched the trend. He notes that dog-training programs in prisons are “working toward goals related to recidivism.” (Recidivism is the rate at which people end up returning to prison after being rehabilitated and released.) There are waiting list of inmates who want a dog—those hoping to do something better with their life.

The inmates, the service dogs, and the people they help get a second chance at life.

***

Your thoughts? Have you heard of these programs?

Do you know someone with a leader dog? I’d love to hear!

Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com , or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Doing Life

Another Way for week of April 22, 2022 by Melodie M. Davis

Doing Life

Two of our grandsons (and their parents—important people!!) visited recently and we got out our old game of Life. The grandsons had never played before (ages 5 and 8) and we had probably not played in 20 years. So we were a bit rusty and also intrigued and fascinated by the salaries offered and the expenses of raising those little plastic stick children that you plug into the back of your six-seater minivan. Reaching the goal of a million-dollar nest egg, though, seems about as far off now as it did 20 years ago.

Playing with Lego pirates

The five-year-old soon bowed out and played nicely by himself as five of us entertained ourselves with what we children found to be an exciting board game back in the day. The creator of the game of Life, Reuben Klamer, died last fall at the age of 99, two years older than my mother who also died last fall. The game has gone through various incarnations and versions.

On the TV game show, Jeopardy, recently there was a Final Question phrased something like “A game that can be played by literally everyone on earth.” I begged to disagree with the Jeopardy question writers because while technically it can be played all over the world, I think residents of Antarctica, farmers in Iowa, miners in various countries of Africa, or the Australian outback would have trouble connecting with the North American suburban setting of the game.

After doing some online research, I have an inkling of where the question writers came up with that phase “can be played by literally everyone on earth,” which was first used in marketing the game. I understand the idea that Klamer was playing with—that life is something that “every single person experiences, so the market … was literally everyone on earth,” as New York Times quoted the maker (September 20, 2021). The Milton Bradley game company had earlier invented a game called the “Checkered Game of Life” which “rewarded virtue and punished vice.” Klamer’s Life game didn’t include much about vice, but as the game evolved over the years in various versions, playing options included cards that rewarded players for their community-building and charity efforts—that help build a more rewarding life.

As we moved our little vehicles around on the board, a different kind of “reckoning” (as you do at the end of the game) occurred for me as I thought about my age now and how young I was when we played with our daughters. And how VERY young I was when I played with my sister’s homemade Life game. (She concocted game boards for Life, Clue and Concentration!). Now I have lived through many of the seasons of real life: choosing a career, landing a job, a marriage partner, having children, grandchildren, buying a home, paying taxes, collecting a salary, donating to charities.

The boys decorated our driveway.

What a gift we’ve been given: one solitary life to live as we choose—but having no choice about where we were born or to what parents. Those of us with Christian parents are blessed to have been given the chance to grow up in a loving atmosphere. Of course, not all Christian parents choose well though: meting out abuse of many kinds, emotional instability, parents who have wrong ideas about what it takes to raise children. Kids as they grow up also bear responsibility in choosing wisely—steering clear of drugs or friends and places that drag them down. Heartbreak, trauma, and bad choices occur in the best of families and the best of locations.

Our hearts must go out now to those in the worst of circumstances such as war, famine, pandemic, losing homes as refugees, and natural disasters. God loves all and though we don’t understand how these terrible things are afflicting so many, we pray and pour out our hearts for all in harms’ way in this journey through life. Amen.

***

What memories does this stir for you?

Did or do you have the game of Life? What was/is your favorite board game? (Candyland is one I always refused to get our daughters… not my fav.)

Comment here or share with me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

A Happy Easter For All/It’s Still Easter!

Another Way for week of April 15, 2022

A Happy Easter For All?

Easter Sunday when I must have been about 3 or 4. Sisters Nancy, Linda and Mom and Dad at North Goshen Mennonite Church, Indiana. Daddy was not the pastor, but the deacon: hence the straight coat. Eventually he progressively coaxed the pastors he worked with into wearing bow-ties and then neckties.

What do you remember about Easter when you were young? For the three girls in our family, there were new dresses—sometimes homemade by mother. When there was more money than time, she bought dresses for us and I remember being very excited by a satiny flowered lavender dress with a large skirt and puffy sleeves. There might have been new shoes and socks in a really good year. Sometimes even hats! My younger brother would sometimes get a new suit (never homemade)—which was usually outgrown by the following year.  

From left to right: Linda, Nancy, yours truly and our long awaited little brother, Terry. Probably just a summer Sunday.

Certainly, we colored Easter eggs—real eggs that were plentiful because we lived on a poultry farm. Mom would save some back for a week or two before Easter to make the eggs easier to peel for making deviled eggs or pickled ones. My oldest sister would help with organizing the cups we put the dye in—older stained or chipped mugs or coffee cups that we kept on a shelf in the basement pantry—and only got them out once a year to dye Easter eggs. It was a messy affair, but by spreading newspapers on the old metal kitchen table, clean up was easier.

We always played “hiding Easter eggs” long before Sunday. Inevitably we’d forget where one or two were hidden and Dad discovered the stinky evidence while mowing many weeks later. Dad and Mom never bought us Easter baskets, a tradition in some families. I think they figured new clothing was enough. We were sometimes given hand-me-down baskets from aunts or friends—so we did have some to play with.

Our most memorable Easter Sunday morning was the Sunday we woke up to our house on fire. It was a roof fire, and Dad was able to mostly get it extinguished before the firemen arrived. But it was a hot mess in an upstairs closet which the chimney bordered. We were late to church, but oh so thankful that the fire wasn’t worse.

This Easter I’m especially remembering my mother and father, now both in a place we call heaven. Whatever it looks like or wherever it is, we know our spirits will be in a place of joy, happiness and love, and somehow in the presence of God and Jesus. Dad died in 2006 on a Sunday morning about three weeks before Easter. He had to walk with a cane the last dozen or so years of his life after being confined to a wheelchair for a period of time. He had been told by Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN that he would never walk again. He worked hard to prove them wrong, advancing to a walker and then just a cane. But, I remember him saying how happy he would be to discard his cane in heaven.

Our Easter blessings (probably after church): Michelle, Tanya, Doreen.

Of course this Easter my siblings and I are certainly thinking much about Mom, who died this past October. I feel she is thrilled to finally be reunited with Dad and so many friends, family, siblings this Easter—and not have to worry about the physical problems that she dealt with in her final years. 

But this season we are distraught by many other presenting problems in Ukraine and bordering countries, in many parts of Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, the Far East. We are burdened and dismayed by the millions of refugees longing for their own homes, pretty clothes, and Easter eggs to paint or hide. Even in our own country, people beset with personal, drug, financial, and family problems, are left on our streets and in homeless shelters.

However we conceive of a future spent in the presence of God, I believe that Christ’s death on the cross—out of his everlasting and deep love for us—has made it possible (in spite of problems and suffering on earth) for all who love Jesus to have an “Easter morning” resurrection. Not literally on Easter, but after death we will be welcomed into the presence of God. Alleluia!  

***

At our church, it is the Easter Season–seven Sundays when we sing Easter songs and celebrate as well as reflect on the meanings. What is the practice at your church or congregation, or privately?

***

Your Easter memories? Hopes and joys?

Comment here or send privately to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Disarmed: A Brave and Radical Life

Another Way for week of April 8, 2022

Disarmed: A Brave and Radical Life

I don’t like books with murder, not even in a novel. In many novels a murder appears within the first several pages of the book.

So it goes with a book I recently finished reading: the biography of a young man, Michael “MJ” Sharp. The book is called Disarmed (published by Herald Press 2021), written by a seasoned journalist, Marshall V. King.

Author Marshall King

It was hard to read. The cover reveals the killing up front. The book goes on to show how this brave young Christian man gave his life because of his strong desire to facilitate peace and save the lives of others in countries where young children (seven to twelve age range), are often given guns and even sticks to join local militias.

I wanted to read this book even though I knew it would not be pleasant. I had heard the sad and heartbreaking news in 2017 when Michael and his United Nations co-worker, Zaida Catalán were kidnapped and killed. It was not the first time that people I knew through my work connections were slain for the principles they held near and dear, and were trying to share/teach others. Everyone knows war is hell, war is terrible, war is to be avoided at all costs. Unarmed, MJ was doing something about it.

I never met MJ even though his early life eerily parallels some of mine, despite my being roughly 35 years older. We attended three of the same schools: public middle school, a Christian high school, and Eastern Mennonite College. My friends told me some of the hi-jinks MJ and his buddies got into, especially in high school and college. He was editor of the college newspaper The Weather Vane, where 30 years earlier I began my writing career.

Michael’s father, John Sharp, pastored a church in Scottsdale, Pa. which sponsored my column in the local newspaper. Later, I met John at a book signing for a 400-page biography he wrote about a well-known Mennonite leader, Orie O. Miller, who began some of the far-reaching peace-building work headed by Mennonite Central Committee. (Orie O. was also a second cousin of my Dad’s.) John is an awesome historian and writer himself, but chose to leave another talented writer the gut-wrenching job of gathering facts, stories and details about his son’s death. Marshall King did diligent research, even in the midst of the Covid pandemic these last couple years. He interviewed tirelessly, more than 100 people in addition to combing through papers and files.

MJ was a popular kid who early on loved exploring and playing tricks on others. He enjoyed deep relationships with men and women, and was beginning to yearn for a family life with a wife and children, but that was not to be. As a seasoned traveler, he practiced the utmost care and safety measures, encrypting information on his computer and cell phone as he mingled with leaders of various guerilla groups or authorities. In his last engagement with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he had called a friend to let him know where he was and what he was doing. He always told his family he had no “death wish” and tried to protect himself and others.

MJ was far from perfect, and discouragement sometimes bogged him down as he worked for various international agencies. He had bouts with depression. But MJ followed a purposeful, important calling and puts many of us to shame for the timidity we sometimes show in not standing up for our deep beliefs.

That is the reminder that MJ leaves me with: I am far too timid in not voicing my concerns, beliefs, and vision for our community, nation, and world.

As we approach Easter, let us remember the bold way Jesus faced the religious and political leaders of his day. He urged his followers to put away their swords. Let us also take courage as we speak up, volunteer to help others, boldly reaching out with love and care for.

***

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comments or questions here, or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

So Many Beautiful Things

Another Way for week of April 1, 2022

So, What’s Right with the World?

We lament and grieve all that’s wrong with the world, but there are many beautiful things that keep me inspired, thankful, and pushing forward. So, what is right with the world? What is worth celebrating for you? I saw this “writer prompt” on Facebook and thought it would make a good column. Here are mine:

Adult children caring for their aging parents.

Grandparents taking care of their grandchildren.

Parents adopting children that weren’t born to them.

Good soil in which to plant and grow some of our food each year.

Flowers to brighten the scenery.

Mountains which heighten the landscape here in our lovely valley.

Creeks and rivers which roll into bays and oceans—flowing almost endlessly all around the world!

My grandchildren going to schools where they are surrounded by children and teachers and languages from all over the world.

Kids with musical talent who find their way to Hollywood or Nashville or New York City to make their dreams come true, often cheered on by bigger stars than they’ll ever be.

Kids who stay in their hometowns or countryside near their parents and grandparents and cousins.

Our grandchildren getting to visit the amusement park where I once applied for a job after high school—a famous park in Florida which is now 50 years old—where I never ended up working.

Churches which have gone through the roughest time they’ve probably gone through in decades, coming back with new vision and outreach and love for each other.

A cat and dog both curling up on my husband’s lap or chair, keeping him warm on a windy night in late March.

Volunteers who sort donated eyeglasses that will spread to people all over the world, who will maybe clearly see their family’s faces for the very first time.

Firefighters who willingly go into burning buildings for people they don’t even know.

Police officers who walk into a mess where they don’t know how it’ll turn out.

Doctors and nurses and janitors who walk into hospital rooms and bathrooms without knowing whether they will fall ill next.

People praying daily for the safety of people they’ve never met in countries they’ve never seen.

People planting trees they won’t see grow to their full height.

Kids cleaning ditches and roadsides and creeks they didn’t dirty.

Hot water to bathe in. Cold, clean water to drink.

Men and women who work on cement warehouse floors all day for 20-40 years.

Maybe sometimes, columnists who write short lines instead of long complicated sentences and leave space in the newspaper for others!

The sun coming up every single morning, whether we see it or not.

A God who is there, whether we see or sense this presence or not.

***

So what’s on your list? What is right with the world? Try your hand! You might surprise yourself.

Comment here or send to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Easy Hamburger Stroganoff

Hamburger stroganoff, salad, water: easy meal.

Hamburger Stroganoff

I have always loved Hamburger Stroganoff since first introduced to it when I served one year in Kentucky as volunteer through our church’s service program. The head cook of our household made it with noodles. Later I was introduced to this dish served with rice, which my husband prefers to noodles. So rice it is at our house. I usually use a sauce mix but the packets are consistently hard to find for the last two years in my local Food Lion.

Beef stroganoff is the classic version of meat for this dish, but hamburger is cheaper (normally) and easier/faster to cook. In my opinion, it’s just as savory. I found this “Betty Crocker” recipe online and adapted it to comply with the contents of my pantry. I also have Betty Crocker’s Cookbook as my go to (and now old fashioned) book of cookery on my shelves. What’s your standard?

Prep for mushrooms, garlic, onions.

Recipe:

2 tablespoons butter
1 box (approximately 8 oz) fresh mushrooms (slice)
1/4 cup chopped onions (more if desired)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb lean (at least 80 percent) ground beef
1 1/2 cups beef-flavored broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sour cream
ÂĽ cup milk

Directions:

In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook sliced mushrooms, chopped onions and garlic in butter for 5-7 minutes, until tender. Stir occasionally. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Turn up heat to medium high and using the same skillet, cook the hamburger 5-8 minutes until just brown (no red). Drain off grease. Stir in one cup of the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper. Bring to boil. Beat flour and remaining ½ cup of beef broth with whisk until smooth-ish; stir that into your beef mixture. Add mushrooms, onions and garlic; heat to boiling, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, until mixture thickens, and flour clumps are gone. Take off of heat and add sour cream and milk.

Finished cooking.

Serve with rice or noodles as desired; parsley garnish is a nice touch.

Yum.

Comment here! The recipes I share here continue to get the most views over the years. 🙂

Two Surprises Amid the Terrible War

Another Way for week of March 25, 2022

Two Surprises Amid the Terrible War

This week I had two surprises. I found a piece I wrote for our church newsletter in 1990 about a woman from the Soviet Union who we hosted in our home. Tatyana, an English teacher, was from the city of Kyiv (or Kiev) in Ukraine, then a province. The USSR was just opening up for persons to travel to the U.S. and elsewhere.

I was a bit stunned to find that newsletter article just now. Then I remembered the book from her that I rarely opened: all about the beautiful city of Kyiv. Tatyana gave it to us as one of her thank-you gifts. It is full of photos of Kyiv with descriptions mostly in Ukrainian, but an introduction in other languages. She gave our daughters: a nesting doll, brightly painted Easter eggs, and a T-shirt in Ukrainian that fit our oldest daughter. We enjoyed knowing that her name “Tatyana” is a longer version of the name Tanya, which is our middle daughter’s name.

Our family with Michelle (oldest daughter) wearing the T-shirt with Ukrainian words.

Our church had agreed to host six teachers from the USSR who were studying English in Washington D.C. for a month. The planners of the trip wanted the guests to see the countryside here in Virginia—and meet locals.

We were all fascinated with our guest. She seemed to feel at home right away, slipping her shoes off as soon as she walked in our house. I apologized for not cooking “Russian” but she put me at ease assuring me that while in the U.S. she wanted to eat what we eat, and said she loved our box cereals! She also fell in love with our southern iced tea and watched me making it. We took her to Riven Rock Park—a beautiful escape from city life out in our mountains, where she took endless photos of wild flowers.

On the way back, my girls were hungry so we stopped for snacks at a country store where Tatyana took pictures of the gas pumps, a farmer’s tractor and wagon, and the store. Inside she browsed for at least 15 minutes, checking prices, asking what this or that item was for—and said she was comparing prices to what she’d seen in Washington D.C.!  We took her on a tour of a nearby quarry because our neighbor was a foreman there. She had studied music for years and that Sunday at our church, we were dedicating a new hymnal. She loved the singing. In a letter to us later, she wrote about how difficult it was to be a Christian where most people no longer have any faith at all.

We took her out to eat at a mall buffet. The food looked so good she heaped her plate full—and then looked dismayed when she (a small petite woman) couldn’t eat it all. I assured her she didn’t need to finish it.

It was an amazing weekend, reminding me of the many visitors from countries around the world my Mom and Dad hosted on our farm. I concluded that article saying “If we can’t afford to travel everywhere we’d like, the next best thing is hosting persons from other countries.” The weekend was far too short, as my husband said at its conclusion.

The book full of photos of Kiev which Tatyana gave us has sat on our bookshelf since 1990. I especially treasure it now.

I so wondered where Tatyana is now and whether she and her family were ok. On a whim, I used her business card to look her up on Facebook. I found a woman with her full name and photo that looked like it could be her, some 30 years later. I shot off a private Facebook message and was ecstatic in the morning when I found a message back from her! We exchanged a few messages, and I knew it had to be our visitor because she remembered how my husband made our dog stay away from the kitchen table while we were eating. You can’t make that up. I sent her a picture of our family in 1990 with Michelle wearing the Ukrainian shirt. I told her we were praying for Ukraine daily and she said “We are grateful to American people for their support. My husband and I decided to stay and help here in Kiev [She used the English spelling]. We strongly believe we shall overcome.”

What courage. We will continue to pray for all—and not only Ukraine. Let us not forget those who have been in conflict and living as refugees for years in so many countries of the world.

Can anyone tell me which river this is?

Fellow blogger and online friend, Marian Beaman, also wrote about Ukraine this week, where she and her husband spent time in 2012. Check out her post here.

***

Thoughts? Prayers? Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Do You Talk Cat?

Another Way for week of March 18, 2022

Do You Talk Cat?

We recently caved and adopted a cat who was looking for a home. My husband especially had been on the cat hunt for several years; our last cat had to be put down about three years ago and a friend kept pleading that there are so many cats needing homes. There are just too many feral barn cats in our area, and people failing to “fix” the problem by neutering in time.

We recently heard a speaker from our local SPCA – not associated with any national organization – share how naïve some are when it comes to how new kittens come into the world. He said more than once people surrendering kittens to the SPCA said or hinted their bewilderment that their young cats got pregnant so fast because they “hadn’t been around other cats.” Except, oh yeah, a cat from the last litter was male and the person said they weren’t sure that sibling cats would mate. True story.

You might recall we also have a dog, Velvet. How would she adjust to a new member of the household? Would they be friends, companions, or hiss and bark at one another? Were we too old to adopt a new pet?

So, the new member of the family is Pumpkin (we kept the name the former owner had chosen) a sweet name for a brown and orange cat who had a rough start. Pumpkin had been attacked by dogs on their farm and the youngish owner was to the place she couldn’t handle two dogs and a cat financially.

But soon Velvet and Pumpkin were snuggling up during naps on a sunshiny floor. Not that everything is perfect: dog is jealous, as any smart canine worth their dog chow should be. I mean, she’s had the run of the house and yard for the last three years and of course doesn’t really remember our cat Paisley. (An orphan my daughter brought home who needed to be fed through a dropper the first week or so.)

Then there is cat language to decipher. Do you know what a cat’s different meows mean? Right now, we know in early morning if we hear a loud mea-rare with an accent on the second syllable: it means Pumpkin is hungry or demanding something. Other times of day she is contentedly happy and murmurs a softer, gentle meeeeow. Or a soft, velvety mrrr.

Animals make us laugh. And cry. They engage us in disgusting clean up duties. Dogs or cats in a house are not for everyone. Dad’s policy on the farm was animals belong outside. My farmer neighbor across the road is the same way.

Many older people, especially those living alone, develop great bonds with their pets that give them purpose in living and serve as great company. I saw an older woman carefully pushing a dog stroller, which appears to be a trend. I’m not sure if all stores allow stroller dogs to enter without being a service dog, but most stroller dogs that I’ve seen are well behaved. Once I saw a dog raise a fuss barking at another customer who got too close.

Pets are work, of course. Children are work, spouses are work—relationships take work. A dog or a cat in the house is not for everyone. Animals can make older people accidentally fall. Dogs need walking. They cost money, sometimes dearly. We have never been able to justify spending thousands on a dog or cat to keep them alive or living more comfortably. But that’s up to each individual and their budget and what they can afford.

Children of course also beg for pets, but parents need to carefully consider the pet’s and family needs. Sometimes a kid’s begging can be appeased by trips to a pet store or zoo. And a firm parent able to say “no.”

We know that our Creator must have loved animals to have blessed the earth with so many species!

.Our neighbor’s sheep. I always love their spring lambing season

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My grandsons were all recently spouting off their favorite animals in Marco Polo videos we exchange. Some very exotic! What are your favorites and why?

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Or, or other cat or dog stories? Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

When Unimaginable Things Happen

Another Way for week of March 11, 2022

When Unimaginable Things Happen

I wanted to write about Ukraine and the deep sorrow I feel for everything that so many folks are going through in this terrible time: innocent children, worried wives, the elderly, and the poor guys left behind to fight. It truly seems unbelievable. But what can I write or say?

My friend, who I first met 52 years ago, was resting at the side of the pool at the wellness center where we both go and are thankful for the availability of water “therapy.” She had her eyes closed. I know that’s a sign not to strike up a conversation. Most of us—if we don’t feel like talking—use the closed eyes to signal: I’m resting, meditating, not in the mood to talk, just being quiet.

When she finally opened her eyes and saw me nearby, she smiled and said she was just trying to “be.” To breathe deeply, let the mind go blank, to rest in the presence of God. I don’t recall her words exactly, I wasn’t taking notes, but I deeply appreciated her sharing her thoughts and moments with me.

We met when we were both entering a Mennonite voluntary service program over 50 years ago, something my father had encouraged us to do. We were roommates during our orientation and even though we have not been close in recent years, her spirit spoke to me that morning as we both were mourning inwardly over the horrible war proceeding in Ukraine.

“I’m leaving it in God’s hands; God is God,” she noted.

As I was contemplating her example and wisdom, the next day the same kinds of truths spoke to me again in a devotional book I use, this one reflecting on Psalm 91 and “the reality that all people die … God is our protector, yet even true followers suffer. Why can’t we quite make this fit? Because we are not God. We do not hold all the pieces of the puzzle” (Rejoice!, March 4, 2022, p. 10, by Barbara Krehbiel Gehring).

I have not been one to say or think that God has a purpose in things like war or the untimely death of a loved one. But when as humans we have no way to change or correct things that are out of our hands, I must ultimately trust in someone bigger than worldly powers.

 One of my favorite Psalms, especially in times like these, is the promise and truth of Psalm 62:

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. God alone is my rock and my salvation; my fortress, and I will not be shaken. … Trust in God at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to God, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62: 5-6; 8).

No, these are not from Ukraine but are handmade Romanian dolls which are similar, in old-timey garb. Romania shares a large northern border with Ukraine (see map below). A long time friend and colleague of mine is currently working in Romania.

So what can we do? We can pray, pray as often as the news bombarding us comes to mind. We may not see answers immediately or at all, but prayer can be a comfort. We can know that God is as grieved as we are when world troubles threaten, or a loved one dies of cancer way to soon.

Reach out in whatever ways feel good to you to help. Send money? Make sure you send to or through an organization that you can trust. Clothing may be needed but often, far too much clothing is sent. Locally, donated food or water can offer sustenance and hope after disasters or in hard times.

What else? Work to be at peace with your own family and friends. Too often we also suffer from discord, arguments, and pettiness. Evil thoughts, comments, and arguments usually don’t do any good, and cause a great deal of grief.

Instead, we should do all we can to lovingly foster understanding, forgiveness, and community. As Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Europe Map, Political, Peel & Stick Removable Wall Decal

wall decals on Houzz

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Your thoughts? Write your prayers here?

***

How do you meditate, if you do? Share tips?

Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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