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That Creative Spark Within

Another Way for week of January 24, 2020

That Creative Spark Within

[Editor’s note: Third in a ten-part series on physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health. #Kashi]

Do you remember arguing or fighting over who got to read which cereal box as a kid? (And kudos to those parents who keep the TV or other screens off during meals or morning routines.)

I was amused and gladdened recently when our visiting grandson, Owen, eagerly grabbed for my cereal box of “Kashi Honey Almond Flax Crunch” (I know, quite a long name). The box on its edge has a large print list of great invigorating words I’m using for this series of columns. Spark is our word this week. Owen is only three, so he cannot read but certainly recognizes letters. I think he was studying this box because of the letters he knew.

One of the most frequent questions I have been asked as a columnist over the years is “Where do you get your ideas of what to write about?” Teachers and writing instructors sometimes give word prompts to start students’ minds churning and perhaps unclog a writer’s block. That list of action words on the cereal box serves as a source of helpful prompts or thought starters. A spark.

In general, anything that stirs my interest or strikes me as an interesting thought or statement, or an incident that happens—whether good or bad—can serve as an idea or prompt for my writing. And yes, staying fresh and finding new ideas is sometimes hard—especially when you’ve been at it at least 50 years (counting my upper high school years when we did a lot of writing).

A former pastor said she liked planning sermon series for her summer messages because pastors, like columnists, sometimes scrounge for topics. Many pastors use the Common Lectionary of scripture passages as a guide to their subjects. Of course, a single scripture or verse can point one in multiple directions for an actual sermon focus, so again, sometimes a structure or series is healthy for the weekly anxiety of “what shall I write (or speak) about this week?” Anything that sparks a direction is a gift.

How does that apply to those who are not pastors or writers? How is your imagination sparked to tackle a new direction?

Grandpa and grandsons, “creatively” putting together a wooden racing car (kit).

My husband is not a writer or pastor (and he would laugh and shake his head at that comment), but he is very creative and likes to make stuff. He does welding, wood working, minor construction, improvising, fixing up jigs or ways to approach something that make the outcome easier. Especially now that he has some mobility issues that make it hard to get up from the floor (as in the garage), he’s frequently inspired to build props or rolling carts or use an old-fashioned fulcrum to lift a heavy item. If he gets stuck trying to solve a given problem or next step, he has to ruminate on it for a while. Eventually sparks fly and an idea is conceived. The point is, sparks of creativity hit us all—or they should—whether we’re trying a new recipe, painting a picture, composing a song, dealing with a child’s problem, or a difficult customer. You get the idea.

A spark is like an epiphany that hits your brain and probably literally lights it up, according to those who study such things. God gave us our brains and the ability to imagine solutions or responses to the dilemmas that face us. I think of Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome. The painting shows the creator of the universe reaching out to give life to the first human. A spark!

If words are your thing, think of James Weldon Johnson’s memorable and moving poem about creation you may have memorized back in high school, like I did. “And God stepped out on space, and he looked around and said, “I’m lonely, I’ll make me a world.” A spark!

Thanks be to God for the world and life given us, our brains, our creative impulses, and how we can continue to spark new ideas, activity, love, and life.


What sparks your imagination?

What is your favorite creative activity?

What do you wish you could do?

Have you ever launched out on a new hobby or skill or sport, and how did it go?


Share here, or send to me at 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 a week after newspaper publication.  

The author has received no remuneration for this series of columns on “Go” words inspired by the Kashi cereal campaign.


Why We Need to Play

When play imitates work.

Another Way for week of January 17, 2020

Play: Well-rounded People

[Editor’s note: Second of a ten-part series on physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health. #KashiActionVerbs]]

Last week our topic was Rise and this week it’s Play. As adults, we don’t often think of those items in the same breath but of course that is the first thing many children think of when they get up in the morning, as it should be.

Early childhood teacher and Mennonite author Alta Mae Erb wrote long ago, “Play is a child’s work.” I’m sure she got that thought from psychologist Jean Piaget who put it “Play is the work of childhood.” The beloved children’s television program host Fred Rogers added, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”

Toys all put away, and then. Someone wakes up.

When our grandchildren are at our house, most of them enjoy getting out toys first thing in the morning even though they had to be cajoled for ten minutes to help put them away the night before. (Well, one who wakes up more slowly, prefers to sprawl in a chair or on Grandma or Grandpa’s lap for a while. Nice.) But overall, for a child, play is the thing to do when you get up, even if you should be getting dressed or ready for school.

Even babies should be played with from Day One. As you engage their eyes to coax the first smile, or conduct a quick game of peekaboo, the child is playing and learning.

Early morning play in pajamas.

A children’s book, When a Boy Wakes Up in the Morning (Alfred Knopf, Inc., 1962) by Faith McNulty, digs into the dilemma for a child. The child knows and remembers that his mother or father reminded him not to wake them up when they want to sleep in. Mother says, “Jamie, do not call me when you wake up. Don’t hammer on your blocks or on the floor. Don’t hammer on your cars or trucks.” But of course, that’s exactly what Jamie wants to do in the morning. He doesn’t disobey his mother, but when he decides to build a tower with his blocks and they fall down making a clattering noisy sound, he can’t help it, can he? His mother comes in, not smiling. But the boy is smiling because now he is no longer lonely. (And as the book says, soon she is smiling too.)

As adults, we don’t think of play as part of our work but indeed it should be a priority in our lives. How do we play? By doing things we don’t have to do, but enjoy doing. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to play: to pick up a book just for fun, take a quick walk, join a friend for lunch. Are these things play? Yes. If we’re heading to a gym or basement for some exercise, we need to tell ourselves it’s not a workout, it’s a playdate.

Attend a concert, walk the dog, go for a swim, stroll through a museum—anything you truly enjoy doing. Watch TV? Well, maybe that’s play, but we probably need to be encouraged to go beyond looking at a smart phone or resorting to “entertainment” that doesn’t make us do anything but sit there.

Play is art, books, movies, music, comedy, flirting and daydreaming, writes Dr. Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play. What, there’s an institute for play? I guess some of us need to be taught that a game of cards, arranging flowers, fiddling with photography—or a fiddle—all of these constitute play for adults. Play can be taking a nap, listening to a podcast, even trying a new recipe.

Admittedly, when you are working full time, raising a family, engaged in church or other civic activities—play has low priority. But, the secret is mindset: have your brain and life open to finding just minutes of fun or diversion as you can grab them. You can boost your spirit from drudgery to dancing—in the head or heart. And recharge your spirit!

So, we rise. We need to play. Next week we’ll take on the word “spark.” I hope these explorations of how to have better physical and mental health will challenge and encourage you.


As an adult, what is your fav form of play? What did you love to do as a child?


How do you make play or recreation a priority (find time for it) in your life now?

Comments here or write to me at 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 a week after newspaper publication.  





The Blessing of Rising to a New Day

Another Way for week of January 10, 2020

The Blessing of Rising to a New Day

[First of a ten-part series on physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health. #KashiActionVerbs]

I have just gotten up on the first morning of a new year. As I write, it is January 1, 2020,* approximately 7 a.m. (I write and send out columns about a week in advance of calendar dates, and newspapers may use them whenever it suits.)

Seven a.m. is “sleeping in” for me, which is a new luxury after retiring last spring. My husband and I rarely sleep past 7:30 and it is not unusual for me to still rise around 5 or 5:30 to get some writing done before the rest of the day launches into chores, exercise, errands, naps, making meals. We are both still ecstatic NOT to be blared into wakefulness by a 3 a.m. alarm, which was our life for at least seven to eight years before my husband retired several years before me.

I have already eaten my breakfast and am sipping decaf coffee; breakfast is typically a crunchy bowl of Kashi cereal, topped with sliced almonds for extra nutty flavor and nutrition. The recently updated Kashi cereal boxes caught my eye with a list of marvelous action words that I’ll use for themes for Another Way for the next ten weeks. These are: Rise, Play, Spark, Flow, Crush, Defy, Love, Wander, Shine, and Go. Go is the biggest word in the graphic design of their list. I hope to probe what these powerful words can mean for our lives. Of course the “Go” here with this fiber-filled cereal can definitely help to keep you “regular” if you get my drift. (Sorry if that is too much information.)

At this age, getting up in the morning is a blessing in itself. In our teen years, we may not appreciate the gift of waking up. I remember sleeping until noon after a slumber party; or talking into the wee hours of the morning with a date about so many delicious things which kept us from saying goodnight or goodbye. And then sleeping in Saturday morning.

Especially in our working years, the morning bell comes all too soon and we long to snooze just another five or ten minutes. So I count it a profound privilege to have reached my retirement years and welcome the opportunity to sleep in a bit. But I still love the early morning hours for quiet thinking, reading, and yes—writing.

Poet and prolific author Maya Angelou added new depth and beauty to the power of the word “rise” with her popular poem, “Still I Rise,” about overcoming injustice and prejudice, especially in light of black history and issues that still confront us today. Angelou is said to have loved writing in the mornings. I’m happy for the clarity of thought that often comes with the break of day, when you see things in a new light. I often feel empowered and energized with new thoughts in the morning—that sometimes need correction or tweaking later in the day. I know others who feel that way about the evening or nighttime—that their best creativity or imagination is sparked by the evening hours. It takes all types to make the world go around, right?

The word “rise” also makes me recall the baptismal ritual in the church of my youth. In my church we kneeled on the floor and were baptized as the pastor poured a small amount of water on our heads. I can still hear our pastor intoning after each baptism, “I give you my hand, arise. As Christ was raised from the dead, so now you shall also rise to walk in newness of life.”

Perhaps that’s another way to think of the blessing we have to rise to another day. We are alive! We have another day to do the best we can, to help others, to be kind, to accomplish the tasks that we set out to do.

So rise! And now I must see to my other tasks, including making my bed and morning exercise. Thank you, Lord, to see a new day.

* A reader reminded me that the current decade doesn’t officially end until December 31, 2020–and the next decade begins January 1, 2021.


What is your best or favorite time of day? I’d love to hear!


What gets you going in the morning?


Comments or questions? Post here or write to me at 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 a week after newspaper publication.  






When the Kids Grow Up (Redux)

Another Way for week of January 3, 2020

When the Kids Grow Up (Redux)

I took a breather from column writing as we enjoyed a “late Christmas” with our family, and resurrected and updated this column from 1990, thirty years ago, dreaming of when our kids would be grown up. I’ve included my 2020 updates in italics.]

We all know that childhood is characterized by frequent sighs of “When I grow up,” heard with increasing anxiety and independence as kids get older. Now I realize that parents have frequent sighs of their own, mostly starting with “When the kids grow up.”

I was trying to find the front of my refrigerator the other day when I decided that when my kids are grown up, the front of my refrigerator will be so clean I’ll be able to see myself on it and furthermore I won’t keep a single drawing or memo there and I won’t even own any refrigerator magnets! [Ha! My refrigerator door is still full of pics of the grandkids, their drawings, and yes, plenty of magnets.]

When my kids are grown up I’ll go to the mall without making three different emergency trips to the bathroom. [Who goes to the mall?]

When the kids are grown you won’t see shoes permanently planted in my living room. [Oops, wrong again.]

I’ll drive right by McDonald’s and eat something nice and Chinese. [Now it’s senior decaf coffee, to go.]

I’ll go to the doctor’s office and read grown up magazines instead of yet another repeat of The Cat in the Hat. [Um, usually read my smart phone now.]

I’ll walk by the most dreaded place in the grocery store and not even buy any gum or mints. [Wrong again.]

I’ll sit down to breakfast without people fighting over who gets to read which cereal box. [Blast from the past.]

I’ll go to the mall without going to the toy store. [Not many toy stores anymore, with the advent of Amazon and online shopping.]

I’ll take a nice hot bath without removing 42 bath tub toys first. [This one is true. Still a few toys there for when the grandkids visit.]

I’ll leave on a business trip without worrying that the school will call and say one of the kids is sick. [I do not miss this!]

I’ll wake up on a Saturday morning and bake bread, sew a skirt, or take a hike in the woods at my whim just like I did when I was younger instead of yelling for the 99th time, “Do you have your rooms cleaned up yet?” [I made them clean their rooms?]

When the kids grow up my husband will be able to finish a complete sentence, maybe even a whole conversation with me without interruption. We’ll go out to eat and get by for a small sum instead of a ransom. [My husband would say now I interrupt him. And yes we can eat out much cheaper sharing the smallest size of fries and buying senior drinks.]

I’ll sit through a worship service without shushing anybody or passing out pencils, gum, or offering money. [Update: the three to seven-year-old’s at our church now go upstairs for their own lesson during the sermon and I frequently help with that.]

I’ll suffer occasional pangs of nostalgia for all of the above, but altogether miss these things about as much as I now miss changing diapers in the middle of the night. [I do not miss diapers, but ponder our own eventual need for them, most likely. Sigh!]

Of course, I thought growing up to be a wife and mother and have a career would be indefinitely better than having to study and be bossed around and live on an allowance. [Enjoying being a wife and grandmother now that I’m mostly retired.]


I now (2020) realize empty refrigerator doors look kind of lonely and where would I keep all our doctor appointment cards anyway without all those magnets? Happy New Year!


If you’re a younger parent, what are the things you look forward to as your children grow? If you’re older, what do you miss or not miss? Share here!

If you are at the stage of your children soon leaving home, you might benefit from this beautiful book by Brenda Yoder, Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind.


Or send your comments to: 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 a week after newspaper publication.


“I Can’t Believe I Did That!” Mistakes I Made This Year

Another Way for week of December 27, 2019

“I Can’t Believe I Did That!” Mistakes I Made This Year

Ah, taking-inventory time. I’m supposed to be in the older but wiser years of my life, but how can I personally improve my game and have fewer “I can’t believe I did that!” moments in the year to come?

And please don’t tell my daughters about this column, lest they decide to check me in early to one of our splendid local retirement centers. Here are three of my most embarrassing/stupid moments from the past year.

1.The scariest thing I did, at least from the standpoint of potential jumping-through-hoops fallout, was leaving my passport on a table in a very busy tourist store in Alaska. The back story is this: my husband wasn’t feeling well and I went to the port to find acetaminophen. We brought along aspirin and ibuprofen but not a fever reducer. We had been told to always carry our passports with us if we left the ship so mine was in a slim purse hanging from my neck. But I must have got out the passport as I took out some postcards to mail at the store’s mail drop. Next, I searched for first aid things, found some pills, some ginger ale, and hurried to check out. As I was leaving, a young male employee who appeared to be native Alaskan, handed me my passport saying “I think this is yours.” I gushed my thanks. I didn’t even remember having it out! As I continued to marvel at my stupid act and this guy’s sweet return of the precious passport, I left the shop shaking my head and thanking the good Lord for honest store workers.

2. Probably the most chilling thing I did, at home, was lying down too soon after swallowing a coated ibuprofen pill. I wanted to put lotion on my legs; to increase blood circulation, I often put my feet up in the air as I apply moisturizer. But that pill refused to melt or wash down for about three hours. I tried to go to sleep. I coughed, hem-hawed, took drinks, and generally was worried that I could have more serious choking going on. Too many friends and relatives have choked (two died) to just brush it off and hope I would sleep ok. It all finally went down about 2 a.m. and I was able to sleep, but Lord help me, I’ll never try that again.

3. But my biggest snafu this year also happened in Alaska. When disembarking from a cruise, (usually in the morning), you put your suitcases outside your room door when you go to bed, for the cabin stewards to pick up during the night and load onto carts to go to the airport or wherever. Our travel agent and the stewards had reminded us to keep clothes out to wear in the morning, something we could pack in our carryon bags or backpack. I had four pair of shoes along on that trip, and somehow packed ALL of the shoes into the luggage we placed outside our room door. I never thought about what shoes I’d wear to the airport. In the morning, as soon as I discovered my mistake, I began to panic, and went down to the room services desk to see if they had slippers I could use. No, they were just made of paper for use on ship. In desperation I sought out our room steward and told him my dilemma. He thought three seconds and said, “Wait, I have some slider sandals you can have.” He got them and gave them to me. I was stunned. Did he give me his own slippers? They were nice, probably $40 new. Perhaps someone else had left them onboard previously. I thanked him profusely and wore some socks (which I had saved out) with those huge man slide-ons. At the airport I was able to open my luggage and wear my own shoes the rest of the way home.

Bon voyage into 2020! What kind deeds have others done unexpectedly for you? Let’s be grateful that most people are really good at heart, as Anne Frank wrote.


Share your stories and comments here! It could be your biggest/worst mistake of the year, or a kindness someone else showed you.


Or, send them to me at or write to Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. Please indicate if it is okay for me to share your story.

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 a week after newspaper publication.





What Mary Knew

Another Way for week of December 20, 2019

What Mary Knew

There’s a popular and haunting contemporary Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know?” which explores the future of Mary’s tiny baby. The lyrics mention things that Mary has no way of knowing while awaiting the birth of Jesus, such as did she know her baby would walk on water? Mary’s thoughts in this song focus on the miracles and servant posture that the future Jesus would adopt as he grew to be a man.

I’d like to explore the earthy reality of what Mary might have known about her pregnancy after the heavenly visitation she received announcing her dramatically changed future (found in the first chapter of Luke).

Mary, to say the least, was at first “greatly troubled” at the angel Gabriel’s revelation.

She knew that being pregnant and unwed in that time and era—was pretty much the end of her normal life, if not her actual life. She knew she could be stoned.

She knew that at the very least her betrothal to Joseph would be over. She knew he was a good man, but even good guys could hardly be expected to understand or deal with her out-of-this-world revelation.

She knew her family would likely disown her, making her flight to the home of a relative, Elizabeth, not surprising. Afterall, if her elderly relative was also with child, maybe it was really true as the angel said, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary knew it would be extremely difficult to make a life for herself and the baby, and until Joseph’s own vision/dream/revelation occurred, she surely alternated between tears, depression, and wisps of hope.

She didn’t know how what the angel said about having a baby was even possible for her. We still don’t know.

Yet what did Mary do with this heavy announcement and knowledge? She rejoiced and sang a song of praise to her God. She was young, she was open to the spiritual, she may have been a bit of a mystic. She accepted the gift that God had given her as the Jewish mother of a special baby with an unknown future. What child was this to be?

As the days drew nearer for her to actually give birth, Mary must have been filled with frustration and anxiety about making the long journey to Bethlehem for the census. Where would they stay? Why did she have to go, anyway? Couldn’t Joseph just go? What would happen if the baby came—or was harmed— after such a jostling journey on a donkey’s back? We like to imagine that traveling with relatives as they likely did, she would have had female friends and family to help her, but the Luke passages do not indicate that.

She surely had no idea of what lay ahead for the baby or herself and Joseph. Her visit to Elizabeth, who was to become the mother of the prophet John the Baptist (a relative and close friend of Jesus) perhaps foreshadowed the destiny for both these men: their gruesome deaths at the hands of kings and conspirators.

You say why ruin the Christmas season with these dark realities? Far from ruining the holiday, Christians know it was this birth, life, and death that ensures eternal and joyous life with God for all those who seek to serve and follow Jesus. It is this birth (not Santa Claus) we remember and celebrate in the coming days.

We give gifts at Christmas to enter into the spirit of the great gifts God gave us when we were created and given life. May you have a meaningful, thoughtful, and blessed Christmas.


What stories, thoughts, or ideas does this bring to mind?


For a different interpretation of Mary, and some hilarious but devoutly faithful scenarios from the nativity, enjoy any of numerous videos from Ted & Company including some of the original actors: Ted, Lee and Ingrid. We were privileged to see most of this live one year.


A blessed Christmas to you.


Send thoughts or comments to 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 a week after newspaper publication.  




Should You Use that Special Dish or Heirloom?

Another Way for week of Dec. 13, 2019

If Not Now, When?

Many of you have followed my embrace of retirement this year (officially crossed that bridge at the end of March). If you haven’t entered this wonderful stage, you have parents or grandparents who are there, are perhaps great grandparents who are (dare I be so bold as to imagine someone in her 20s reading this column?).

At any rate, I was getting ready for Thanksgiving and immensely enjoying all the preparations mainly because I had so much more time available to me: deep cleaning, washing and drying all china in the buffet, cooking all day on the big day and being almost giddy about it.

I was thinking about suitable festive dishes to use in putting food on the Thanksgiving table. I have plenty of great dishes, but somehow, I, along with you or your mother or father, grandmother or great grand have absorbed the perhaps old fashioned notion that you shouldn’t use the treasured antiques, dishes, or special household items for fear of breakage.

Of course no one wants to break a treasured dish that was passed down from your grandmother or mother or aunt, but where is the joy in not putting a beautiful piece of pottery or china to it’s intended use?

I have been saving, and using only very rarely, a beautiful handmade bowl that was presented to me on one of my work anniversaries—perhaps my 25th? It was a lovely blue-green serving bowl thrown by Dick Lehman, a well-known potter in Goshen, Indiana. Since I, myself, would never buy such a luxury, I do love the bowl. It makes me feel special and somehow wealthy just to admire or use it.

To have something special and beautiful and never share it with your friends or family is kind of a shame. If I don’t use it, will my daughters feel they should never use it either if it one day gets handed down to them? If not now here in the golden age of retirement when I still have enough energy and stamina to cook for a crowd and enjoy it, when? When will the bowl ever really get used?

So, happily I served a steaming hot bowl of mashed potatoes to those gathered around our table. No one particularly noticed it but they did enjoy and comment on the potatoes (kept hot by my newest cooking trick—make your mashed ‘taters before the last minute and keep them hot and fresh in your crockpot!). I think the thick pottery also helped to make a heat-holding cradle for our home grown potatoes.

Would I dare to use the gorgeous set of mid-century glassware we got from my husband’s dear aunt? What about the four tobacco jars passed down from a thrifty grandfather’s “chewing” habit? Will we bequeath those to our three daughters? Who should get the extra one? There won’t be enough to go around to the grandchildren, and anyway, who will care about their Great Grandpa Hottinger’s tobacco glasses by then?

Passing down knickknacks or beloved heirlooms is one way to try and preserve our life and heritage so that we will be remembered, isn’t it? The old rocking chair that I sit in as I type this on my laptop was my grandfather’s, who lived in the “daughty house” attached to our home (in-law quarters). In my mind’s eye I can see grandpa sitting in that chair in their sitting room that doubled as a bedroom. My Grandpa Miller would get up from his chair and wind his truly antique grandfather clock, passed down to him fro several generations, and we’d relish the sound of the chimes. I didn’t inherit the clock (it goes to the youngest sibling of a family), but I do love grandpa’s old rocking chair, even though it needs repair.

What about the more important things in life, that don’t break or fade away? Do we pass down the values that we cherish to our grandchildren? How do we help build a good foundation for them to thrive? These, of course are more vital and valuable than a lovely piece of pottery or china, or grandpa’s old saw or vise grip.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories regarding heirloom items.


Do your children or grandchildren seem to be interested in family keepsakes? Or not so much?

Comment here!


Send comments to 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 a week after newspaper publication.  



To walk or tramp about; to gad, wander. < Old French - trapasser (to trespass).

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