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Things to Know Before Opting for Knee Replacement

Another Way for week of July 3, 2020

Things to Know Before Opting for Knee Replacement

After I first wrote about my husband’s knee replacement (which took place four days before most of the country shut down because of the pandemic), things got dicey with Stuart’s recovery. He started having inflamed IT bands—the part of your upper leg that runs from the outside of the hips to the knee and connects to your shinbone.

IT stands for “iliotibial” and WebMD.com explains the problem like this: “If your IT band gets too tight, it can lead to swelling and pain around your knee.”

If you’ve never heard of it, you’re lucky. Most of the time it keeps the leg hanging together and functioning, but when it gets painful, it can be miserable and the sting can strike any time. It’s a common overuse injury from repetitive movements.

Overall, Stuart’s therapy, although he did his at-home exercises faithfully (often taking three to four hours a day in two sessions, including warm up and icing down afterwards), he felt like he was hitting a wall. It appeared the inflamed band along the side was firing the pain and halting progress.

At his two-month check-up, the doctor said he felt a manipulation was called for, because of how progress seemed to have stalled. In a manipulation, they put you under anesthesia (or opt for a spinal block), and the doctor pushes your leg back to the maximum bend he or she can get. Yes, that would be excruciating pain if you were conscious. The object is to break up scar tissue, which Stuart had plenty of as mentioned in my previous column on this topic. The scar tissue not only made it difficult to get a proper bend in his knee, but together with the IT band, caused a lot of inflammation and pain.

A manipulation doesn’t always work, and sometimes, in very rare situations, a bone breaks. So we were uncertain regarding the risks but Stuart definitely felt stuck, unable to make progress.

After the manipulation, he would have to use a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine at home for at least a week, to keep his knee moving slowly and gently. These are very common to use on various parts of the body. He would need to be strapped in 16-20 hours a day. How would he even sleep?

Getting measured and fitted for the continuous motion machine rental.

He did manage to sleep some in the contraption, and overall, averaged being literally tied down 15-18 hours each day using it. Both of us were ecstatic when the week was over.

So what was the outcome? Overall, he achieved much more bend in his knee, found walking easier—especially when needing to go down slopes. Generally, his pain level went down. Now the trick is to keep that agility and bend thriving, which is not easy.

Continuous motion machine at least came with sweet fuzzy straps for the tie down.

At some point Stuart gloomily told his therapist* he would be doing his stretching and prescribed exercises for a year. To which the therapist responded, “No, you will need to continue to do some exercises for your knee the rest of your life.”

The ultimate therapy: putting the new knee through some real bends going up the ladder.

Let us hasten to add: everyone’s experience with this type of surgery is somewhat different; our pain thresholds are different, each body make up is different in terms of the afflictions it has faced (high blood pressure, prior injuries, diabetes, heart surgery), and all these health issues can complicate outcomes. Stuart is allowing me to write with this much detail about his experiences in the interest of helping others know what they may be in for when deciding on knee replacement. We were both quite anxious about the manipulation but at this point, 3.5 months after surgery, Stuart is happy he decided to accept the manipulation ordeal.

The recovery has been depressing, exhausting, and difficult, but it’s not chemo, it’s not dialysis, and it’s not Covid with isolation from your mate/family. There have been moments of celebration, such as when the therapist finally got Stuart’s knee to the degree of bend stipulated by the surgeon. He is still working to gain another five degrees or so. We’ll continue leaning on each other and on the good Lord.

Daughter Doreen helping her dad on the roof of our future wood shed.

I would welcome stories of your own experiences, good or bad.

What have you learned?

Share here, or write to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834, or comment on the blog.

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.  

* Stuart received the bulk of his therapy from Center for Hand and Physical Therapy and received great professional care.

The Common Surgery: Bigger Deal Than You Think

Another Way for week of June 26, 2020

Inch by inch, degree by degree, my husband is working to recover from knee replacement surgery he had March 10. He says now he will have to be in deep pain and unable to walk before he would ever decide to have the other knee replaced. His recovery therapy has been very painful and tedious with hours of aching and icing and later also using some heat to help heal the insult to his ligaments tied into the amazing knee cap.

Knee replacement surgery is very common. At the small but locally well-known and respected hospital where he had it done just four days before most of the U.S. closed down all elective surgeries because of the corona virus—they do a thousand or more a year. My mother had one knee done maybe ten years ago. She fared well. At our church, I can barely keep up with who is having which knee done. But, as Stuart would warn, it is no walk in the park.

Stuart’s new knee, about 2 weeks after surgery.

When you think of the trauma inflicted on that critical joint, one nurse painted the picture like this: They take your knee and cut through all the ligaments and tissue above it for several inches and fold all that open to cut loose your knee cap, then lift it out. Then they put in the artificial parts. When she described it like that, I thought, oh my, what have we done? Only the assurance that approximately 600,000 people a year in the U.S. have this done, and successfully recover and now feel less pain than they were living with before, gave me hope.

In Stuart’s defense of his difficulties, you should know that 35 years ago he had a fall at work resulting in a torn ACL (the key “anterior cruciate ligament” that stabilizes your knee) in this same knee and had surgery. That, plus arthritis, probably led to his current issues. His knee has not been fully functional in the way it should have been all these years. Later he also had another fall, and a doctor at the time said maybe he would need to get something fixed at some point, but it never bothered Stuart a lot, so we lived with it.

About six weeks after the knee surgery, we came to the realization that recovery was not going to happen in a sweet six weeks. The post-surgery therapists at the hospital warned that PT (physical therapy) stands for “pain and torture.” The doctor stressed that the important thing to remember is to push through the pain in order to make progress.

A physical therapist guides Stuart on his first walk down a hall.

But the therapist that Stuart went to emphasized not exercising to the point you have to grimace and grit your teeth. She said rather, to push yourself—yes—but you shouldn’t be experiencing extreme pain.

Many people have complications. Prior surgeries, scar tissue, one’s own conditioning, all contribute to how people recover. After the surgery was done, Dr. Pereles said the knee was in bad shape and he had found an “extra knee cap” floating around in there which he removed—probably tissue that had torn at one point.

We don’t want to scare off anyone else but it is serious surgery, and many who have had other surgeries, or had both a hip and knee replacement, say the knee was far more painful.

Stuart has showed grit and determination along with extreme frustration and pain. I was encouraged immensely as I watched (before limitations were placed on extra people being in the studio) a much younger man receiving therapy. He was well-muscled in his arms and legs and looked to be in very good shape, yet as a therapist pushed on his one knee (I’m thinking he may have had a sports injury), he began to shake and squirm and sweat like a woman in childbirth. I have helped at the bedside for laboring daughters for three of my grandsons. His sweating and grimacing and eeks and groans sounded as difficult as THAT labor. Yet he did not give up and got through.

Next week I’ll share part two about what came next on Stuart’s road to knee surgery recovery.

***

If you’ve had knee surgery, we’d love to hear all about it and how recovery went. Was it better or worse than you expected? Advice for others?

Of if you have permission to share someone else’s story, we’re all ears.

Stories here!

Want to share your story or a comment? Reach 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.  

What the Flu of 1918 Can Teach Us Now

Another Way for week of June 19, 2020

Revisiting the Flu of 1918

I had an aunt who died from the Spanish Flu of 1918 at the age of 21. But that fact never became real for me until the Corona-virus pandemic of 2020 when I started reading how just like today’s battle with a major virus, citizens at the time wore masks, schools were closed, churches shuttered, businesses tamped down, and outdoor cemetery funerals were held, all in an effort to halt or slow down the spread.

In fact, apparently attending an open-air funeral for a teacher who died with the flu is how my aunt Mabel apparently caught it from others present. Mabel died of pneumonia a week after she attended her friend’s funeral.  

Of course I never knew Mabel nor another aunt, Mary, who died as a one-year-old child (not of the flu). But Mabel always had a visual presence with us through a framed, old-fashioned poem titled “The Absent One” which included a beautiful photo of Aunt Mabel as a young woman inserted with the poem. There was also a lock of her hair and a piece of fabric and button from one of her blouses. That framed poem and memorabilia still hangs in the guest bedroom at my mother’s apartment.

As a girl, with Grandma and Grandpa living in quarters attached to our farm home, I often looked at that poem, photo, and lock of hair when spending time with them. The hair in particular made her feel real. I’m sure we asked about Mabel, but I don’t recall anything Grandma or Grandpa might have told me. Our focus was on the marvelous large family that survived: Susie, Irma, Adeline, Elnora, Arlene and Truman, plus my Dad, the baby. He was only one-and-a-half when Mabel died. I can imagine Grandma’s deep grief not only in losing her first child at age one, but then losing beautiful Mabel in her prime. The heartache must have been heavy.

That pandemic seems to have spread towards the close of World War I; recently our local paper mentioned that two Virginia army camps had high numbers of Spanish Flu cases. By October 8, 1918, our paper noted that half of the students and faculty at the State Normal School (a women’s teacher training school which is now James Madison University) had the flu. Thus the college was closed along with city schools. The article stated that people speculated that students heading to school in September by train may have come in contact with infected troops. I found it interesting that over 600 miles away in northern Indiana, my aunt died October 11 during this same rampant time of spread.

College students in Virginia then returned to school again on November 6, only to be hit by a second wave of cases by Thanksgiving, which extended into February 1919. The article also states that the economic pressure to reopen businesses was very much in play, just like today. They had to do social distancing, masks and had much the same kickback. But the cities that stuck with the safety measures during the Spanish Flu, especially in the second wave had better outcomes with fewer illnesses and deaths. It’s an interesting article and should serve as a grim reminder of the things we keep hearing, to “watch out for a second wave” in the event that cases and deaths go on an uptick again (Daily News Record, May 22, 2020, by Jessica Wetzler).

I’ve visited my aunt’s grave at the Miller Cemetery near LaGrange, Indiana where my grandpa and grandma are also buried. They lived very long lives and I feel especially blessed to have spent the first 10 years of my life with both of them next door. I am indebted to my second cousin Melissa Mann, whose grandmother was my Aunt Adeline, for details from Mabel’s obituary she retrieved online (see below). The obituary says her last words were of hope, love, and everlasting joy “beyond the river.” My cousin Dennis Risser notes his mother Arlene was four when Mabel died, and remembers hearing that Mabel had probably taken care of her a lot when Grandma was busy with my toddler dad. Dennis also remembers his mother Arlene had an amaryllis plant that had been Mabel’s. How precious.

What will our children and grandchildren remember of this pandemic? What stories will they tell? I will wear a mask in memory of Mabel and will continue to do so as long as necessary, both to protect myself and others.

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A bonus you’re getting on my blog, is a little deeper history than I found before I wrote and sent this to newspapers.

In addition to the photo above I had long seen in Grandpa and Grandma’s home, I just discovered a photo of the friend who died a week before Aunt Mabel, below.

***

Note typed in my Aunt Susie’s photo album, given to us by Susie’s daughter Joyce. I think it was typed by Aunt Susie at some point. They call it Asian flu here.

Here’s a link to the obituary that my cousin Melissa Mann found in Mennobits from Gospel Herald.

Miller, Mabel Edith, daughter of Bro. Uriah M. and Sister Barbara K. Miller, was born in La Grange Co., Ind., Dec. 11, 1897; died at her home Oct. 11, 1918; aged 21 y. 10 m. Death was caused by pneumonia following influenza. She leaves father, mother, 5 sisters, (Susie, Irma, Adeline, Elnora, and Arlene), 2 brothers (Truman and Uriah Vernon), an aged grandfather, uncles, aunts, cousins, and a host of relatives and friends. Her oldest sister, Mary, preceded her to their home in Glory 23 years ago. Sister Mabel left us a bright evidence that our loss is her eternal gain. Her last words were of hope, love and everlasting joy, telling her friends to prepare and meet her in that beautiful home which is waiting to welcome her in. Her only comfort was to have us pray with her and have the Word of God read to her. She accepted Christ as her Savior and united with the Mennonite Church while yet in youth and was a faithful member until death. Open air services were held at the home Oct. 13, by Brethren O. S. Hostetler, D. D. Miller, and A. S. Cripe. Text, John 16:16. The remains were laid to rest in the Miller Cemetery.

The Savior has taken our Mabel away;
But we know it is not forever.
“Come follow, come follow,” we hear her say,
“It is beautiful beyond the river.”
(Written by a sister.)

This photo also made Aunt Mabel more real for me. It shows her in the context of friends and family; Mabel is on the far left, and my Aunt Susie is on the far right. I have no idea what the occasion was but I’m guessing it could have been a baptismal group, or at least a church gathering, judging by the dressy dresses and shoes.

***

How is your family doing? How is your area — city, county, state, country — doing with restrictions still in place? Or not. I’d love to share ups and downs, hopes or fears.

Write to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834, or comment on the blog.

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 Photo Stirs Summer Memories

Another Way for week of June 12, 2020

A Photo Stirs Summer Memories

My oldest sister has always been the photographer in the family. A few years back she gave us siblings some blown-up black and white prints which I treasure highly.

One is unposed from 1960, when I was nine. The photo shows our family eating our first supper “back at the cabin” after Dad satisfied his dream to build a pioneer style cabin out of hand-cut logs. My sisters confirmed it was the first supper there because in the picture, the cabin’s door was not hung yet.

The cabin was about 12 by 18 feet, with cement floor and “chinking” (like cement) packed between the logs to keep air and critters out. There was one door, two windows, and a fireplace and chimney built by Uncle Lester. A loft inside extended over the front “porch” area of the cabin, with a ladder made of smaller logs. Friends loved that “secret” loft with a mattress squeezed in. For a while we had a bed downstairs, but we soon learned that with the actual bed frame removed, you could pack in a lot more kids for a slumber party.

My middle sister helped cut the logs and apply the chinking and when they finished, she took a nail and etched “Linda’s Cabin, 1960.” She got a bit of flak from the rest of us for that. Dad always said his only expense for the cabin was $50 for the tin roof. It made a cozily raucous sound when it rained. Later we added a cement block grill given by Uncle Woody and Aunt Arlene.

The cabin faced a small pond that Dad had someone dig. He filled it with blue gill, where we learned to swim and pluck off bloodsuckers. We also soon learned to beg Mom on Saturday nights, “Can we have supper back at the cabin tonight?”

The details this photo preserves are precious. That evening, we had a card table to hold our food, and Dad is sitting on the door’s threshold, eating with a plastic plate balanced between his knees. Mom and my five-year-old brother Terry, are sitting on a plank Daddy put up between the outer wall of the cabin and the front post. Mom is smiling while eating and wearing a polka dot skirt and white blouse. Her long jet-black hair (not dyed, mind you), is fashioned into her usual roll. Terry’s face is almost covered by a hot dog or other sandwich.

My middle sister and I are standing behind the card table, no place to sit. My oldest sister who took the picture, must have also stood to eat. Linda (now Pert) had on jeans and a t-shirt, a telltale sign she’d been in the field or barn that day helping Dad. I’m wearing a dress. Yes, you read right, dress: that was what we wore unless we were working on the farm.

The table has on it a large gallon jug—probably Kool-aid, a chip bag, plastic boxes and maybe one tall jar of dill pickles. A cardboard box sits under the table, which Pert recalls Dad loading onto his tractor to carry the picnic supplies; the rest of us walked the short lane. I’m so grateful to Nancy who captured this “evening out” so well.

The picture reminds me of a slowed-down time before TV (didn’t get one until 1963), a time for family meals, a time when Daddy could fulfill his dream of a pond and cabin beside a small creek and windmill that pumped creek water to the pond. We also had a shallow well nearby for drinking water, probably only 30 feet deep. Dad loved nothing better than for he and Mom to throw together a party with relatives or a Sunday school class from church.

It brings tears to my eyes, missing Daddy, but so thankful for the strong foundation he and Mom gave us all to grow up to be honorable women (and) one man. Dad and Mom’s strong faith, amid the struggles they faced give me confidence that we will not only get through earth’s calamities and challenges, but will one day be reunited in spirit with Dad in the better place.

Perhaps you’ll want to dig out an old picture that you’ve seen many times and use it to stir your pot of recollections and stories and love.

I’d love to go back to that old cabin, but it is no more; it only exists in our memories and a few treasured photos.

A later photo of our finished cabin–this time VERY posed for a family Christmas card about two years later. Photo probably by David Yoder, an uncle and hobby photographer. L to R: Pert, Terry, Dad, Nancy, Melodie, Mom

My thanks to sister Pert for helping me remember some details here, and to Nancy for the old B&W photo.

Comments or your own memories? Write 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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Let’s Hear it for the 2020 Teachers!

Another Way for week of June 5, 2020

Let’s Hear it for the 2020 Teachers!

Now that school is really finished for most kids, I want to do a belated salute to the teachers, parents, administrators and kids who navigated a couple of harrowing months during the first stage of the pandemic. What teachers managed to do with and for their students is just incredible. A year ago, we couldn’t have imagined this, at least I couldn’t have.

Our two oldest grandsons started kindergarten this year. One school was well prepared for a switch to virtual school by Zoom and other instructional videos from the teacher. The children already each had their own iPads, courtesy of the county-wide school system. My grandson was elated to be able to get on Zoom like his mother working from home. She and her husband have another son, not in school yet, whose schedule, safety and overall activity they still needed to manage. (Her husband has a job he can’t do from home, but is off Sundays and Mondays.)

One day about two months into the shutdown of schools, we were privileged to sit and watch Sam sign onto his iPad to listen to his teacher and get his instructions for the day’s focus and assignments. In one of the videos I saw, his teacher was dressed in a sweatshirt and ponytail, obviously casual in her home. But you could tell she loved her pupils.

On another day, this teacher was dressed up and juggling what appeared to be a six-month-old baby in one arm as she shared instructions for her students for the day. All the while, she was taping the video. That’s a lot of multitasking.

Sam felt SO grown up using the iPad like his parents, and these months have helped him mature in other ways, like sharing his iPad learning with his younger brother, helping him pronounce the words they see there.

Owen and Sam enjoying our dog Velvet, in the pandemic era of no haircuts.

Our other grandson lives in one of the most well to do counties in the nation (in a modest home and community), but their county had three massive computer fails which infected their educational system for a couple weeks. The local newspaper said hackers were to blame; teachers could not log on. But the article also pointed out that “needed technology updates were neglected for more than a year.” Getting up to speed proved monumental, and one spokesperson said, “No one predicted a pandemic.” Yeah.

After they finally got online education working, James had to learn to deal with the boredom of waiting: being patient waiting to talk, turning his microphone on, raising his hand to be recognized, and then waiting while other students also try to get the right buttons pushed to give their answers.

As I assured his mother, children are often more resilient than we expect. His mother and father were frustrated by the whiplash of schedule changes (do we have lessons today or not?) while the school system processed its problems. The parents were working their own jobs at home while guiding the activities, safety, and education of their three little boys. Plus: cooking, cleaning, endless laundry.

One teacher in New Jersey wrote in the early days of the shuttering of schools, “We teachers have to figure out on the fly how to use different online services to keep meeting the needs of our friends [students]. That is going to be very different in each district and grade, depending on the technology available in the district and the level of home support” (nbcnews.com).

Most homes today have large collections of books to choose from, but Sam’s teacher gave the students access to many new additional books he could read online.

I’m sure that most teachers felt like my friend Lauren at the close of this tough year as she posted on Facebook, “I closed up my classroom yesterday: bagged up all the students’ belongings, put away the books we were reading, pitched the permission slips for the field trip we never took, threw away the activities we hadn’t finished. The hardest part was clearing all the ‘love notes’ off my desk. I’ll miss these students and all the time we didn’t have together! The year didn’t go as planned, but I loved every minute with these sweet children. I hope they remember this year fondly and not with bitter disappointment. Everyone is missing out on something they were looking forward to. Let’s appreciate the expected and routine when it returns, and savor the special occasions for the gifts that they are!”

A hardy “Hats off” salute to all the great teachers out there. May your kind increase, even when the pay can’t!

***

A local teacher, Scott Showalter, produced more than 100 instructional videos for his students–that were pretty wild, educational, and just so fun. Last summer, he and a team of teachers and volunteers also ran the daycamp for children on the autism spectrum I wrote about here.

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What have your children or grandchildren or YOU learned during this pandemic?
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What experiences are you missing? Sometimes it helps to just air the grievances.
***
Any stories or examples or kudos to specific teachers
or persons who’ve gone the extra mile?

Comment below or may write 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.  

The Bad Dream that Doesn’t Seem to End

Another Way for week of May 29, 2020

The Bad Dream that Doesn’t Seem to End

Does anyone else think our life now has a dreamlike quality? Not in a good way as in experiencing a wonderful vacation, celebration, or concert, but hazy and unclear with things changing around you, over which you have little or no control. It’s like a bad, endless dream.

My husband’s therapy office at Center for Hand and Physical Therapy.*

So much has changed. I take a long walk while waiting for husband at physical therapy. I can no longer sit and wait in their reception area or observe and learn from his therapy. If I come in, that’s an extra chair they need to clean, and one more body to count or risk losing their license if they have too many people in the building.

As I walk, I see staff outside the local Department of Motor Vehicles with plastic shields over their faces, like visitors from a distant planet or an old sci-fi movie. The shields at least let you see smiles and read lips if you don’t hear so good. The sign says everyone needs an appointment now. You can book online, the sign says. That leaves out some who don’t have email or ability to navigate online, or access to the technology.

I circle two motels at 8:30 a.m. in this semi-suburban area with townhouses towards the rear. Curious about who’s traveling, the tags at the motels include five from New York state, five from Virginia, one each from South Carolina, Texas, Missouri, New Hampshire. A week ago we ourselves were checking out of a respected hotel chain in northern Indiana after visiting my 95-year-old mother. We stayed at the hotel because my husband brought equipment to use for his ongoing therapy and it would have overloaded Mom’s small space.

The whole time I was at that hotel, I had a nagging worry: were we safe from the virus? Had the cleaning woman disinfected every single thing in our room? Had she washed down the whole bathroom? What about the refrigerator? The microwave? (No complimentary buffet breakfast of course, no coffee in the lobby, no pool or gym room open.) What about the room’s coffee maker handle and buttons, the little paper packets of decaf and regular? It can drive you crazy if you let it, as in that bad dream.

The lobby and the whole hotel were very vacant: maybe two or three other parties staying there. And even the staff were sparse—only one on duty and a housekeeping person who came in if there were guests leaving. We made our own bed.

The sad and scary part is that none of us are waking up from that nightmare, but adjusting to the new altered world we live in. Our church council (Presbyterians call it Session meeting) met on Sunday afternoon (by Zoom of course) looking at how to open our church back up to worshippers, instead of just Facebook livestreaming. The devil is in the details. Who will disinfect folding chairs and hymn books between services?

I feel for the pastor who has the brunt of this responsibility on her shoulders, as well as two small boys at home. I ache for a friend facing few choices at this point in her journey with cancer. And for her husband who cannot accompany her on medical visits. And for my 95-year-old Mom who pulled up her big girl pants when my sister was not allowed to accompany her for a recent X-ray, but she managed to navigate the halls and directions (though hard of hearing and having a difficult time reading lips through masks). But hallelujah, the X-ray showed complete healing from her February hip break. Sometimes even bad dreams have their celebratory moments.

My friend, Carol Honderich who resides in Elkhart County, Indiana, urging all residents to wear masks especially when out shopping. Who could have imagined this a year ago?

You have had your own worries, disappointments, utter fails and falls—your own maze of “I can’t believe it has come to this.”

Hang in there. The refrains from worship services online and beautiful music emanating from Zoom recordings (where you don’t have to worry about infectious droplets spreading from the joyful noise we love to make in worship) can lift us up until we find new paths, new technologies even, to help us navigate this not so brave new and old world. We will persevere. There is hope, there is love, there are still good people all over the world. Time to shake off the nightmare, be kind to each other, conquer this beast of a virus.

 

 

 

 

Any dreams or nightmares you want to share?

What have been your encouraging moments?

What are you learning?

***

Comment here or write 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.  

* Stuart’s first physical therapy place for his knee surgery closed down about two weeks into the overall shutdown. We were then thrilled to find Center for Hand and Physical Therapy still open, and are receiving great care following CDC cleanliness and about keeping space and washing hands.

 

Oh the Places You’ll Go

Another Way for week of May 22, 2020

Start Somewhere and You Never Know

Forty-five years ago this month I did not know what I was going to do after college. I took walks up the hill at school and cried out to God for guidance. Would I find a job anywhere close to my interests and capabilities in writing or journalism? Where? When? Who would hire me?

Senior picture from college yearbook, on one of the hills I loved.

I feel especially sorry for this year’s seniors whether they are graduating high school or college amid our sea of uncertainty. A couple weeks ago you heard from one of my great nephews, about how the lockdown in Michigan affected him. Then I learned of my great niece in Florida who was named valedictorian of her class: but what do you do if there is no gym or football stadium full of admiring parents, teachers, and fellow classmates? You give the speech anyway, to a small group outside your school building. These two kids have great families and I know they will go on to become fine adults and citizens, despite the recent huge disappointments.

As a college grad, what do you do when you or your parents have spent from $40,000 to $100,000 on four years of college and you need to land a job in one of the worst worldwide economic downturns since the great depression? Languish in your room or your parents’ basement for months? I hope not, but inevitably, it’s going to be hard to find work. There are jobs to be had—locally the poultry companies are offering sign-on bonuses to work on production lines.

Moving into the paid work force is a leap for most of us and I remember how stressed and worried I felt as I sent off resumes and cover letters the last several months of college. My Spanish professor asked, as everyone does, what I was going to do after I graduated. When I told him about various places I was applying, he said “Why don’t you apply where my wife works?” His wife, Ella May Miller, was a fairly well-known radio speaker for Mennonite Broadcasts. They had an opening for a secretary.

Anyone remember using a microfiche reader? This is me in a senior year yearbook photo with my head buried.

A secretary? My lofty ideals crashed into reality. So I took their typing test. I passed. And I got the job! I always say it was my high school typing teacher who gave me the main skill I needed for my first job. And the woman who was leaving taught me everything I needed to know working in an office. Running a copier. Fixing the jams. Coding a piece of mail. How to make the right number of carbon copies. (If you are younger than 40 you probably have no idea what a real carbon copy is, which is not just a CC on an email.) I was forever grateful for how Linda Brubaker patiently taught me the basics. You learn from the bottom up the way an organization works—always valuable.

I’m also indebted to my bosses at the organization, who allowed and encouraged me to move far beyond running a copier. They read through my portfolio and within several months, I was able to begin ghost writing for Ella May’s Heart to Heart program once a month, which meant attending brainstorming meetings. For my first writing project, I got to interview my Aunt Susie about the art of quilting. We offered a quilt pattern on the radio, and letters requesting the pattern came tumbling in: almost 2000. I was off to a good start and some years later, in 1987, I began writing this column which technically was a spin-off of the radio programs we were producing at the time. Those columns got spun into books. I enjoyed my work immensely.

The future journalist/writer/producer.

So you never know. Don’t be too proud to start with typing, or working in a poultry plant—which is where my husband-to-be worked when we started dating. Don’t be too haughty to wash dishes like I wrote about last week. And good luck to all the seniors!

***

What was your first job out of high school or college?

***

Thoughts and memories when you were at this stage of life?

***

I still have some postcard/bookmarks from the Heart to Heart radio program which we called “Beatitudes for a Busy Day.” It makes a nice bookmark. Request yours by email 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.  

Restaurant Disaster Stories

Another Way for week of May 15, 2020

When the Waitress Has a Really Really Bad Bad Day

My first “work study” job as a college student was washing dishes in the college cafeteria. I don’t remember much about that job but I sprayed off dirty dishes, put them in racks, loaded racks into washers, which finished in a drying cycle. The process resulted in sanitary cafeteria trays and plates out of the mayhem of garbage and leftovers. This was in the days before buffet service in university dining rooms.

I don’t remember all of the options presented by the work study advisor to earn part of my way through college. I think there were options to work in the library, DJ at the college radio station, or washing dishes. It seemed like the least challenging job for me to choose, but maybe I liked the hours, I don’t know. With the mealtime-focused employment, my evenings were free for study and extracurriculars.

I did more dishwashing my second year of college in a position that required a little more thinking: short order cook, server, and clerk in the college snack shop. At the end of a shift, we were to wash up any dirty pans.

But I never really thought about how crucial dishwashing was and is in the restaurant industry until I read a piece by food critic Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post Magazine. Two years ago he spent one shift washing dishes in an upscale restaurant to learn from the inside what it is like. He said that numerous employees who start as dishwashers work their way up to other restaurant jobs including chefs—after having learned the lay of a restaurant and how things operate. Like being slammed on a busy Saturday night. Broken dishes on the floor. Getting stabbed by a knife hiding in water.

In a restaurant where good plates, real utensils and glassware are used, everything revolves around good dishwashing—including the huge pots it takes to make restaurant-sized batches. Frequently those who wash dishes don’t get much pay or respect—although that is changing. However, Sietsema indicated that even chefs who have risen from the ranks of dishwasher are sometimes snobbish in regard to dishwashing staff.

My sister thought quickly enough to snap this photo of the meal disaster. (And white socks?? But this was a trip, dark socks were forgotten. :-))

I give all this as background to my main story, how a half rack of ribs landed on my husband’s lap and shoes at one of our favorite eateries near my mom’s apartment. Fine dining it is not, but they have good edible food in large quantiles at reasonable prices, served restaurant style (not buffet).

On this day we went to Lux’s a bit late after church. I could tell as we walked in that it had likely been a busy lunch period; our waitress seemed a bit distracted and weary. She neglected to give us eating utensils and napkins, so I got them myself.

My husband ordered a half rack of ribs, enough to save for a second meal. But as the waitress brought out the steaming dish on her smallish arm, the whole rack slid off the plate, onto Stuart’s good shirt, the table, and eventually his pants, socks, shoes and floor. As it tumbled downward we watched in shock. How did this happen? Was she new?

The waitress apologized profusely, said she’d comp the meal for him, and then disappeared to reorder. She removed the plate but neglected to have anyone clean up our messy barbecue sauce-covered table and floor. I called over a table cleaner to do that, and then I wiped up the floor myself with napkins.

When the waitress finally brought his meal, she apologized again and said she’d worked there seven years and that it had never happened before.

Later, my sister could hardly stop giggling. It was a funny picture, but not when it happened. We did not make a scene, although we were a scene for sure! It was undoubtedly our worst restaurant experience. Ever. The mess did come out of his clothes after soaking half a day.

But you know, in the scope of the world’s problems, it was nothing. Can I get an amen?

***

Can your restaurant story top this? I’d love to hear it here!

Do you have experience in commercial dishwashing? All tales welcome.

 

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 It’s Easier to See the Other Person’s Flaws

Another Way for week of May 8, 2020

What I Learned from King David, and Mom and Dad

I was reading again the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah in the Bible, but this time written as a novel. The poetic and powerful author Walt Wangerin, Jr. wrote The Book of God: The Bible as a Novel (Zondervan, 1999). I’m not going to write about the adultery part. (We know it was common for a king to have a whole harem of wives who took turns coming to his bed, so the problem here was David coveting what he didn’t have, and basically forcing Bathsheba into bed with him.) When Bathsheba ends up pregnant, David arranges for her husband Uriah to be conveniently killed in battle. Then the prophet Nathan confronts David with a story subtly reminiscent of what David has done. David quickly responds, “Anyone who can do such a thing deserves to die.” He then confesses his sin and cries out to the Lord for redemption.

It is always easier to see someone else’s mistakes and faults than your own. No where is that truer than in marriage and families, where we live in each other’s faces day in and day out, especially during this “lockdown.”

I was fussing at my husband for misplacing the strap of Velcro we’ve been using to secure ice pack holders when wrapping them around his knee after exercises (for knee replacement surgery March 10). The dandy holder they gave us is looking a little tattered after twice a day home therapy. (He also goes twice a week to a therapy office.) Stuart came up with the idea of using a short strip of Velcro to keep the ice pack from unrolling around his knee. I won’t go into here how many times he’s misplaced his best set of keys (currently missing for weeks), or how often I’ve helped him hunt for tools in the workshop.

Do I really NEED 3 jackets of the same type?

It was not long after I read this story of David (and others where David recognizes his own grave sins and failures as a father) when I remembered that I left my jacket that day at the therapy office. I hung it on a hook and by the time we left, it was warm enough that I never thought about wearing my jacket. So it was me, not my husband, who had again misplaced or forgotten something.

I had also left a different jacket in Indiana after our trip out there in February. So, two misplaced jackets should equal missing car keys and a Velcro strip. Guilty. I told Stuart that I had forgotten my jacket at therapy and was guilty of the same lack of attention to where I’d put my things that so frustrates me about him at times. After almost 44 years of marriage, these things are easier to take in stride and keep in perspective. Usually! Especially when we know the peccadilloes go both ways.

My parents had a love story that carried them through more than 60 years of marriage, even though the last years were especially difficult as Mom took care of Dad as increasing dementia affected their relationship. Here I want to do a Mother’s Day salute for the love and attention Mom gave Dad, and the affection they showed each other. She demonstrated how love gets you through the times when you dislike your spouse, and how being kind and generally peaceful and patient keeps you going. Us kids often talk about the example they gave us, cemented by a big hug and kiss as Dad left the supper table to go watch the news, or relax after a long and often hard day farming. We kids mostly took turns doing the dishes. Later in life, when Dad retired from farming, he took over washing the dishes.

Together they illustrated that it is more important to learn to love one another, and worry less about being loved. Philosopher/psychoanalyst Erich Fromm wrote in the classic The Art of Loving (1956) that love is a skill to be honed the way artists apprentice themselves to the work on their way to mastery. Growing in our love takes both knowledge, effort, and steady practice. I’ve edited slightly to modernize his words: “Love is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached … all his/her attempts for love are bound to fail, unless he/she tries actively to develop his/her total personality … it takes true humility, courage, faith and discipline.”

I’m still growing and learning on this journey.

***

What have you learned in the journey of marriage?

What have you learned about your own flaws in other relationships?

For my free booklet “Secrets of Long Marriage,” send $1 for shipping to me at Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. Or if you have comments, email me at 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.  

Go on an Alaskan Adventure with These Books

Another Way for week of May 1, 2020

Go on an Adventure with These Books

Yours truly at the port of Haines, Alaska.

When I started writing this column back in early February, I had just finished reading three memoirs, two by women who lived in Alaska as far back as the 1930s. A third is currently a resident of Haines, Alaska who blogs, writes obituaries for a local paper (which lead to books), and has been a correspondent for NPR.

I had very little in common with the two older, now deceased adventurers, but their books left me with an awe and admiration for our beautiful and still wild 49th state. I admired their ability to rough it, work incredibly hard under extreme conditions, eat mundane diets and understand that plane accidents, drownings, and avalanches too often claim loved ones or people they knew.

You may recall reading here about our long-awaited visit to Alaska last summer with four others. This year, you couldn’t get me on a cruise, so we’re doubly thankful we made the trip last year.

My sister-in-law bought two books while there which she shared with me. Tisha: The True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness, by Anne Hobbs Purdy, (as told to Robert Specht) was captivating. “Tisha” is the name Alaskan natives called her (think “teacha, as said by a child). First published in 1976, it covers the journey of a 19-year-old teacher to Alaska when it was not even a state. Some children had no school at all if local leaders couldn’t find a teacher willing to come and live in the primitive but fascinating wilderness.

The story, as compelling as any novel, had me on the edge of my bed numerous times as “Tisha,” adopted two indigenous children who were orphaned when their mother died. The prejudice of white settlers towards the original peoples is fairly startling, at least to this reader—and to Tisha.

Two in the Far North by Margaret E. Murie, is not as well written, but again gives readers rich insights into what life was like in Alaska before cruise ships started making tourism one of Alaska’s main industries. Margaret first lived in Alaska as a young girl herself. She finished college in the “lower 48” and then went back north and eventually married a biologist, Olaus. Together they spent many years documenting, researching and preserving much scientific information there: animals, flowers, trees, rivers, tundra lichens. His research showed that caribou, for instance, seemed to know when the lichen they munched on was getting scarce and needed time to grow. The caribou then traveled in great herds to new ground to find fresh food.

The most amazing part about Murie’s book was how she and her husband had their first child and took him along at 18 months on one of their summer-long research projects in the wild. They had to guard constantly to not only keep their son from sliding off their boat, but also protect him from the swarms of mosquitoes that make summers difficult in the backwoods of Alaska. (How do you feed a toddler when mosquitos zoom into his mouth?) Olaus and Margaret became champions of preserving the remote landscape of Alaska and elsewhere, to keep as much of the territory and now state in its natural condition.

Finally, I heartily recommend the books of a current author, Heather Lende. If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name is inspiring and life-affirming. Currently she’s sharing readings on YouTube of another of her bestselling books, Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs, for people to enjoy during this stay-at-home time.

Now it is May and we’re three months into this pandemic. I can identify very much with a comment lifted from Murie’s book. A man who originally came from Vermont and moved to Alaska talked about living where sometimes he didn’t see another human for months:

“You get so you don’t care [about how you look]; there’s nobody to care if you do care; you get in an awful rut … and after a while the life up here gets a hold of you so you can’t fit in anywhere else.” (p. 147)

Most of us can identify with this man. But reading any of these books or a multitude of others will surely lift us out of a rut, help us learn from other times and places, and survive this period of quarantine. And when I think I just can’t do something, I think about these women who survived excruciatingly hard circumstances, and grit my teeth and dig in.

***

What takes grit for you to get through it?

***

Which of these women’s adventures sound the most exciting to you?

***

What book has taken you on an adventure?

***

Read more about our Alaska adventure last summer here.

Comment here or write 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.  

 

 

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