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Health Issues Part 2: The New/Old Drug Crisis

Another Way for week of March 16, 2018

Health Issues Part 2: The New/Old Drug Crisis

(The second of two columns on health and drug issues.)

A woman left a message on my office phone. The name and the story sounded familiar. She had talked to me about six years ago when our office was producing a radio program, Shaping Families, featuring interviews with various individuals and their problems. I returned her call, and sure enough, she was still seeking help for her son with addiction problems.

It was heartbreaking to talk to her and realize they were both still struggling: he with his addiction and bipolar illness and her trying to stand by and help. Their problems had way outlasted our little radio program. She had made the rounds of help: sent him to rehab programs, seen counselors, went to group therapy sessions, was acquainted with the family-oriented help of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Yet, yet. They were still just limping along. She said at church when caring people ask how her son is doing, she answers “fine” because she doesn’t want—can’t—repeat the long list of woes, again. She knows people don’t really know how to respond.

My heart goes out to them and many others with similar struggles. Those who’ve successfully fought addiction often say the will to deal with an addiction problem comes with a life change like relying on a higher power or God, if you will, and leaning on that faith every single day. Fighting addiction is a daily fight, and the support and encouragement of others is crucial, we know.

I know of one family whose struggles with drugs came because their daughter became addicted to pain medications given to her in emergency room visits for frequent migraines. Addiction is a family affair—impacting the whole family as siblings sometimes feel estranged and at odds with parents and siblings as they deal with the issues, hospitalization, or imprisonment.

The Center for Disease Control reported on spikes in overdose cases and death from opioids already this year. Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat says overdoses are up (not necessarily deaths, and not necessarily rates of addiction) but the overdose factor has risen because of “newer, highly potent illegal opioids, such as fentanyl,” according to a report on NPR. “The substances are more dangerous than five years ago,” Schuchat says. “The margin of error for taking one of these substances is small now and people may not know what they have.”

Journalist Sam Quinones is the author of a book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. Quinones said this at a recent event in Indiana that I read about on WNDU TV’s website: “It really started with modern American medicine and doctors being convinced and pressured to prescribe these pills,” he said. “We wanted a quick fix. We don’t want to deal with the issues that cause pain.”

My own doctor recently prescribed codeine for the cough I was experiencing when I had flu that I wrote about last week. As I started reading more about this opiate, I curtailed my use. There is likely a place for such prescriptions but I challenged my doctor that wasn’t it addictive? He said, “Do you think I’m going to let you get addicted?” I laughed and said no—because he’s been my doctor over 40 years and I remember him complaining about patients who wanted him to write pain killer prescriptions at a number of drug stores. Still, it wasn’t like I went to him asking for a cure or to ease the pain. As patients, we need to be our own advocates. Finding information online is easy but we need to get input and advice from several sources.

In the end, anyone can easily get addicted when the prescriptions are so common and many seek desperately needed relief from various kinds of emotional or physical pain. I’ve talked about several different issues here from mental illness to prescriptions that may be addicting. The bottom line is our brains and bodies are very susceptible to becoming addicted—whether it is an opiate, alcohol, heroin, gambling, food, shopping. Anyone can become addicted; there is no shame in it. But I also believe that with help and faith in God, who cares more for us than any parent or friend, people can and do fight their addiction every day—and overcome it.


What are you addicted to? How do you deal with your cravings?

Do you worry about any prescription medications you take or have been given in the past?

Finding Hope In Recovery - .MP4 Digital Download

The documentary we produced was called Finding Hope in Recovery and it is still available from Vision Video.


My office also produced public service announcements for radio out of various documentaries. You can listen to them here.


I would be happy to mail you a CD of the radio spots shown above, for use on any radio station or website, class, or therapy group. Write to or Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.



When the Flu Bug Comes Calling

Another Way for week of March 9, 2018

When the Flu Bug Comes Calling

Most of us don’t have many photos of ourselves sick, for good reason. Here’s one though of our middle daughter many long years ago, with a bad case of chicken pox. Caesar the cat kept her company. Winter viruses and bugs are no fun for anyone.

I’m bummed. I don’t do sick well. You would think a woman who is active all week long and juggling three jobs would be oh so happy to have a doctor order her to bedrest.

Like duh, maybe there’s a connection here? The flu that rampaged the country this year finally caught up to me, even though I had a flu shot.

Actually I don’t know anyone who does sick “well,” other than maybe a hypochondriac or someone who enjoys complaining or is downright lazy.

I found myself incredibly restless by not being able to do much. Yes, my husband made me soup a couple of times, made breakfast, and took care of me just fine. But I wanted to be up and doing! I was glad I had a good book to read about the 100 year history of my alma mater, Eastern Mennonite University. I love history and I will likely write more about that book in the future.

I also learned things from my doctor, who, I had to laugh at him, was having a “train wreck” of a morning when I could finally see him. He was over an hour getting to see me for which he apologized profusely but said it had just been a train wreck. Not literally but there was a patient who gave him trouble but of course he didn’t reveal details.

He told me not to be too quick to clear the gunk out of my throat because the mucus acts like “a film that protects the important parts of the inner nose and lungs.” Those are the words of allergist and internist Tania Elliott, MD, (since I wasn’t taking notes when my doctor told me something similar, I did some research online). Elliot is the chief medical officer at a New York City-based healthcare company specializing in preventive medicine. “The mucus [ugh] keeps nasal passages and lungs well moisturized, Elliot says, “You don’t want those things dried out!”

Protects your lungs, maybe from getting pneumonia? My doctor was surprisingly blasé about pneumonia shots. He used to push me to get one and I politely resisted. I’m sure there’s a time and a place for certain patients to get a pneumonia vaccination, but he felt like it didn’t do people that much good this year.

The website goes on to explain, “When a cold virus enters your nose, mucus production goes into overdrive. Another doctor, Thomas Welch chief medical officer of Mercy Health in Toledo, Ohio, explains: “It’s a reaction of the body against viruses, bacteria, or even particles of dust. It prevents those irritants from burrowing deeper into the lungs. Then, the tiny hairs in the respiratory tract called cilia help to sweep up the infected mucus like little brooms, so we can cough or blow it out.”

Little brooms, eh? Isn’t that too cute? (My house grew dustier by the minute and I had all this time at home but no energy to clean!)

All joking aside, my short bout with flu made me so much more aware of friends and relatives with serious illnesses, or of those who lay in bed day after day in nursing homes, waiting for someone, anyone, to come visit. I admire one woman who has fought cancer for more than 15 years, including a partial leg amputation. My hat is off to the husband who takes care of her. I also salute her children who are as loyal and attentive as they can be while raising their own children. I don’t deserve to complain one minute when I look at the suffering Donna and her family have endured. Yet she has remained cheerful through intense pain and I’m sure, not a little boredom.

Does an overly busy schedule and demands have something to do with my getting sick this year, the longest I’ve been sick in years? I don’t know. The Lord only knows but I suspect it might. I’m looking forward to another new book coming out later this year by one of my favorite writers, April Yamasaki: Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. Sounds like medicine I need.


Have you been ill this winter? What have you learned about yourself or others? I’d love to hear from you.

Email me at or at Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  



Watching Out for Hazards in Parking Lots and Buildings

Another Way for week of February 23, 2018

Watching Out for Hazards in Parking Lots and Buildings

We all know about ramps to help make buildings more accessible for those with mobility problems. Architects and building designers have gone to great efforts to make their creations easier to navigate for millions of folks of all ages.

But until recently, no one was even cognizant that building design can be a big deal for those who are not blind, but cope with low vision. It is a problem affecting at least 19 million people in the U.S. and many more millions worldwide with specific medical problems like glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinitis pigmentosa.

The fact is, more of us are living longer and longer lives (yay) leading to more people having vision problems (boo). Which means we need to plan for and include thoughtful and caring building design as a way to create spaces that are—visually and physically— not a problem for millions.

Are builders, architects, and administrators up to the challenge? At first they may squirm: no huge light-filled, airy atriums at hospitals, universities, and businesses that cost zillions and cause glares that blind some users. Atriums are particularly onerous if the light is not directed with some nifty fixes, so say members of the Low Vision Design Committee of the National Institute of Building Sciences.

Two things prompted me to write about this: my own mother’s increasing difficulties with vision in terms of light glare from glaucoma (which is well managed with medical supervision and various prescription drops and medications). My husband and I recently also attended a Lions Club regional meeting where Vijay Gupta, a retired mechanical engineer, has been lighting fires under designers and architects to improve design environments to help people with low vision live independent lives.

We’re not talking about complete blindness here—and we are talking about issues for the over-65 population. As we age, our eyes are less able to respond quickly to changing light conditions so we enter a hall or artistically designed atrium we can be completely blinded as eyes adjust, and suffer confusion and falls if we’re not careful.

Good example of well marked steps at the newly expanded MCC Gift and Thrift Store in Harrisonburg, Va. Most employees, volunteers and many customers are in the above 60 age group and appreciate this great marking.

So simple a thing as crazily patterned carpet on a stairway may make it difficult for some to see the edges of steps—they blur together; marble floors may be pretty to look at but cause glares that confuse or blind. For myself, in the last 3 years, I have fallen twice over stumbling hazards: on cement steps to a third floor balcony where edges were not painted, and once at a new garbage drop-off site (below) that had unpainted concrete parking blocks in the path between vehicles and the garbage chute. I tore some pants and crunched my big toe but it was a wake up call to stay more alert. I also try to focus on lifting my feet—not scuffing along— whenever walking over uneven surfaces. No reading the phone or sending texts!

The parking blocks are well painted now.

Since about 2012, the design committee I mentioned has done diligent work preparing complete guidelines to help designers and builders, called Design Guidelines for the Visual Environment. I won’t go into detail here, but if you’re part of a church, school, business, or medical care facility planning new space, it behooves your group to check it out. The “Design Guidelines for the Visual Environment” to find a free 80-age PDF is found here online.

A few difficulties this guide points to are:

  • Glare from windows and light fixtures
  • Confusing reflections in polished wall and floor surfaces and stairs
  • Optically misleading geometries in floor patterns and stair finishes
  • Inadequate lighting on vertical surfaces, walking surfaces and stairs

In outside space and parking lots, watch out for curbs that pop up from nowhere, drains, and unmarked balusters. I drove into a grocery store parking lot recently that had red curbs blazing everywhere and I thought, wow, can’t miss those and wondered if there had been a recent unfortunate event there.

Ultimately if all of us paid more attention to where we are going (if sighted) and work to see that hazards are removed or well identified, we will reduce falls for everyone. Accidents happen but awareness and better building design can reduce the risk for us all.


Bad fall? Or was it mainly embarrassing? One where you should have known better but weren’t paying full attention? Or, perhaps, it was life changing, and not it in a good way.
Too many older people end up dying from all kinds of household falls.


Or air your gripe about a local building, parking lot, staircase, atrium–you name it–that is difficult to navigate safely!

Share your stories and take aways so we can all learn from each other! 

Comment here or send to or Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.


See here for more about the National Institute of Building Sciences, headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication. 


He Loves Me, He Loves Me Knot

Easter 2017, at Purcell Park, Harrisonburg

Another Way for week of February 9, 2018

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Knot

My husband mutters something in loud exasperation from the kitchen.

I catch myself hunching over like Edith Bunker, dropping what I’m doing to hurry out to  see what Archie’s problem is. Then I straighten up and walk normally. I do not want to be an Edith Bunker. (Everyone over 50 knows who I’m talking about. If you’re under 50 Google for a video of the Bunker family.)

The problem he’s having, is a knot. I knotted the bread bag in the kind of knot he can’t undo very easily. His knots—technically a slip knot—you pull on the end and it comes right open. Slick. But not my knots.

I don’t do knots. Oh I can tie my shoes, sure, and knot the end of a bread bag so the bread doesn’t go stale but his specialty knot is one you twist around like a rope, he says, and then make your loop and pull up on the top till it’s tight; then you undo it by just pulling on it. I can’t even explain the knots he can make like magic all day long. Although he wouldn’t agree with me, he knows his knots: for fishing lines, tying down tarps, or ropes holding down branches and yard mess to take to the landfill on the back of the pickup. His knots come loose when you need them to with the pull of your hand.

1976, at Trinity Presbyterian Church

I do do one knot, the knot of marriage. Back in the day, we were brought up to tie marriage knots tight and they were not to be undone, unless unraveled by unfaithfulness or abuse.

And so we adjust to the idiosyncrasies of our mates even while gritting our teeth about the toilet paper roll or the toothpaste tube or the way they fold the laundry or the way they spread their peanut butter sandwich or that they insist on using salad dressing rather than mayo on a sandwich.

We weather good times and bad, joyous times and sad, and we learn to take all these little eccentricities in stride.

This is my husband making his coffee: he first heats a tall plastic cup for 3 ½ half minutes in the microwave, to warm his mega-mug (holds almost a quart, like a Yeti only far cheaper), so the coffee will stay hot longer. He heats up his French Vanilla cream in a small juice cup, about one ounce, in the microwave so the coffee will stay hot longer. He adds a packet of Stevia extract, stirs with a plastic straw, and voilà he slurps his coffee. Which he technically doesn’t even really like but he has his reasons about why he starts his day with it.

Me making my coffee: I make my quart of coffee, pour a cup into whatever mug is handy, and drink it black. Which technically is only decaf, but I still like it in the morning, not to wake me up but because I really like it, just black like that, and I don’t do caffeine. Later in the morning I perhaps add cream and sugar when it has started to taste old and tired and I don’t like it as much.

Notice, he makes his own coffee, and usually makes mine. This didn’t happen earlier in our marriage, before he started drinking coffee. I love it when he makes mine too. Archie Bunker would never have made Edith’s coffee, I don’t think.

Photo booth at a nephew’s graduation party, summer 2017.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love, for better and for worse. Thanks for allowing me to share the ups and downs of our life. I’m glad we tied our knot.


For my free booklet, “Secrets of a Long Marriage,” mail me at or at Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  




Climb a New Mountain

Another Way for week of February 2, 2018

Climb a New Mountain

In 1995 when I was in my mid-forties, my daughters and I, along with one sister who was visiting us, climbed a local mountain, “Old Rag,” famous in these parts for a “rock scramble” near the top.

I had wanted to climb it, and pondered doing so for years ever since I had heard about it in college here in the Shenandoah Valley. Finally my oldest daughter, 14, talked us into trying it because she had climbed it two times and wanted us to share the experience. My husband had to work that day so we five women (ages 9 to 40s) set out. It was a chilly day in spring, if I remember correctly.

Virginia’s lovely Redbuds laced our trail.

I recently ran across an editorial about that experience I wrote for the magazine I’ve edited since the early 1990s, now called Valley Living. It reminded me of something I had totally forgotten about my take away from that climb.

Old Rag (original name “Old Raggedy”) still rises 3,268 feet high in Shenandoah National Park, not the tallest peak in our parts but quite noteworthy both for the view and the rock scramble near its peak. The hike is nine miles up and down and takes from 3-8 hours to complete, depending on how long you linger at the top or on your rests. (You can see videos of how to do the rock scramble although I’m not sure I would have attempted it if YouTube videos had been available back then!) Also of note: the main trail is approached from outside Shenandoah Park, from a little Virginia village called Sperryville, and you now have to pay a park entrance fee.

I well remember how grueling our 3.5 hour journey to the top felt at times, when you just set your jaw a little firmer and kept putting one foot in front of another even though you felt like resting, again.

Michelle (back row), Tanya, my sister Pert, and Doreen pause on one of our many rests.

One of the narrow squeezes.

I wrote, “After the strenuous uphill hike in a mild drizzle, the adrenaline flowed freely as we faced the challenges posed by the rocks. When we did indeed finally make it to the top, I felt like I could do anything. What a rush!”

It was excruciating, exhilarating, exciting and exonerating—this last word because it cleared away all doubt that I could do it. But re-reading my editorial reminded me of one thing I had very much forgotten. It was another e-word: empowering.

And that’s the true take away from many things we attempt in life that we’re not sure we can do, whether it’s getting that diploma, getting through rehab after hip replacement, writing a book, running a marathon, or earning a promotion.

One big regret: hub wasn’t able to go and at this point I’m afraid it will have to be chalked off his bucket list. But we can start again by trying shorter hikes, smaller mountains.

Last year I read Tina Fey’s autobiographical book Bossypants and was surprised to learn she had also climbed Old Rag while in college at nearby University of Virginia. She and a friend tried it at night—and made it. Some start in the middle of the night to enjoy a spectacular sunrise. The trail is extremely busy now on weekends, they say, and you have to park three quarters of a mile away. So if you ever go on this or a similarly challenging hike, take along your energy and plenty of water, and heed posted safety warnings. Also, most folks can’t get cell service up there, a common problem.

While my husband and I can no longer do just anything, there are plenty of new challenges to conquer. I will try to remember the exhilaration and empowerment of trying just a little more than I ever had before. I thank God for safe keeping, memories, and the bonding of family as we conquered that rock scramble helping each other.

At the summit of Old Rag. The view was not great that day, but our spirits soared! L to R: Michelle, Doreen (showing no signs of fatigue whatsoever), sister Pert, and Tanya.


There are plenty of YouTube videos of various hikers; I liked this one because they had a pretty day!


What have you pushed yourself to do? What would you love to do?

I would love to hear and share your stories in a future column. Email me at or at Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  



Seven Benefits for All in Dismantling Racism

Another Way for week of January 26, 2018

Seven Benefits for All in Dismantling Racism

These days seem to be filled with needing to talk about racism because 1) it still exists and threatens to split the U.S. yet again; 2) there are so many incidents which are either racially charged or are debated as such; 3) for people of color, racial incidents happen all the time. How can we begin to truly dismantle racism in this country, for the benefit of all?

I like the helpful twist that Jodi Picoult adds to this thought in her novel Small Great Things:

Kennedy, public defender: “Do you think there will ever be a time when racism doesn’t exist?”

Ruth, an African-American nurse charged with murder: “No, because that means white people would have to buy into being equal. Who’d choose to dismantle the system that makes them special?”

When people talk about undoing racism you often hear folks talk about white privilege—the invisible backpack every white person has that gives them certain privileges without even thinking about it—or doing anything. I like the phrase “special” better than “privilege” because try telling a white man or woman living barely above the poverty line, doing the best he or she can to earn a living at around $20,000 a year with a family of four when they can hardly pay for rent, groceries and prescriptions—that they have white privilege.

Such a person already feels on society’s bottom rung. He or she may have a pretty hard time recognizing their privileged station in life. But they are privileged because at least they don’t have to worry their children will be seen as suspicious or dangerous youths while walking home from school, second guess why they didn’t get the promotion or accepted into college, or why they were stopped for an out-of-date car registration or followed all around a store. But Jodi Picoult is right with her character’s line: Who’d choose to dismantle the system that makes them special? Who would willingly give up those privileges?

We need to think of things another way. What are the positives for all in undoing the sin of racism? I can think of several potential positives:

  • Make our society and culture safer
  • More opportunities for an improved life for all
  • Move forward from the past
  • Less anger and hate in the world, more love
  • Less crime, less need for more prisons
  • Provide a stronger example to other countries of moving past racism
  • Have time, energy and money to tackle other issues such as drug abuse and sexual abuse

That is a tall order and while no one can change the color of their skin or truly shuck the privileges that come with those unasked-for-advantages, if we are white we can work to recognize ways we as whites have had special treatment all our lives in the U.S. and don’t even recognize it.

One young woman, Osheta Moore, a mother of three who happens to be black and married to a white pastor, has written her vision for change in a book called Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World (Herald Press, 2017). She asks this question: “What if a bunch of Jesus-following women catch a vision of a vibrant, whole, flourishing world? What happens when shalom sistas [all colors] unite?”

I especially like this reminder in her 12-point manifesto, “We are beloved.” If we can wrap our heads around that, and let our children and spouse and neighbors feel that belovedness, that alone goes a long way to pouring into each man, woman and child (whether black, brown, beige or with a tint of yellow), that we are indeed loved by God.

We need to look at every human through those same eyes, even when they don’t realize how loved they are and don’t act it. The writer of 1 Corinthians 14:1 urges, “Make love your aim.”

May it be so.


What are your ideas on how to truly dismantle racism?


Comment here or email me at or at Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.















The Day the Angels Fell – A book review

Why at first I didn’t like The Day the Angels Fell

Book review

I enjoy the writing of Shawn Smucker: his books, his blog and the Uber driving stories he shares on his author Facebook page. I was first introduced to his writing as he assisted Johnny Mast in writing the excellent if understated Breakaway Amish: Growing up with the Bergholz Beard Cutters published by Herald Press in 2016.

Then Smucker came out with a novel for children or adolescents, The Day the Angels Fell published by Revell in 2017. I bought a beautiful hardbound copy with a dust jacket that uses spot gloss to highlight long artistic rain smears (I would call them drops, but they are more like a mix of lightning and rain) which at first I critiqued to my design colleagues at the office. I said the gloss (shiny stuff often put on book covers to catch your eye in bookstores) made the white type font on back cover hard to read unless you held it at just the right angle in whatever light you had. Always an issue with those of us past middle age.

And at first I wasn’t sure if I liked the book enough, either, to review it. I usually don’t like to review books if I don’t like them because … I’m an author too and I know how much bad reviews can sting. But it was a top award winner late last year in the Christianity Today Book Awards for 2018 in the children and youth category (where the publisher I work for also happily picked up an award for God’s Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church) so I figured there was something wrong with me if I didn’t love the book.

Then, months later here in January, driving along a back road on a rainy wintry night and passing a country funeral home, suddenly I thought of the young protagonist in Smucker’s book, who lost his mother. His mother had gone out in a lightning storm to rescue his cat that had gone up in a tree, and he knew he inadvertently caused his mother’s death.

Suddenly I put my finger on why something in me had recoiled against the plot line of the book. Inside I was remembering the many viewings we have attended over the years at that small country chapel—the accidents, the assumed suicides of beloved acquaintances who were taken from us much too soon, and I found myself shaking those tragedies in my brain like a distraught parent shaking a child in their mind (not in real life). That was why the book didn’t sit well: not the writing or the plot, but how it shakes you up.

The book taps all of our worst fears—not in this case the death of a child, but the death of the mother of an adolescent boy, and what happens to him as he deals with his grief in the days immediately after her death. None of us want that to happen to our children, either. And therein lies the power of this disturbing book. What would happen to my kids if I should die? For the author, with he and his wife currently raising six beloved children ages toddler to early teens—a troubling question indeed.

I realized my mixed feelings about the book then were not about the writing: no, it is masterful. Underplayed in places, rarely overdone, compelling, the mysteries keep you reading along with the questions about life and death he poses through his characters. The back of the book frames it this way: “Could it be possible that death is a gift?” Not the kind of question most of us want to answer—except that these are the important questions of life itself.

Young Sam wishes to turn back time on the night his mother died so he could keep his mother from going where she shouldn’t have gone. His adventures with his best friend, Abra (both are names of the author’s own children) mingle magic and fantasy and will appeal to young readers—I think—even though magic and fantasy are not my personal favorite genres. Improbably, Sam endeavors to find and bring his mother back to life, not an unrealistic wish for any child losing a parent. It is not for younger readers (like say seven through perhaps 10-12). It takes a certainly level of maturity to process the book. It reminded me of another award-winning (the esteemed Caldecott Award) young reader book from my own younger days, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson, published in 1977. Patterson drew her inspiration from the true loss of a son’s friend struck by lightning. Is that where Smucker got his idea? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. If you’re going to be inspired by another writer, you might as well be inspired by among the best.

I was relieved to discover why I was uncomfortable with the book, and now know that it is this terrifying topic that I didn’t like: not the writing, not the premise for the book, but my own shrinking from the unthinkable thoughts.

Bravo to the author for fingering and naming the fears held closest to our hearts. In doing so, he puts his hand on the bigger theme of our struggle as humans with the nature of good and evil. One line I had tabbed early in the book hints at the underlying grand theme: “But the darkness I [the protagonist] had taken with me from the cemetery grew just a little bit inside me.” Late in the novel Smucker also pens a disturbing but not unrealistic thought: “Maybe that’s the saddest part of death, the knowledge that when we die, we will eventually be forgotten.” That too.

Back to life. If you “like” Smucker’s author page on Facebook, you likely won’t find any of his fascinating Uber #RideShareConfessional blog stories for awhile because he’s in the midst of writing another novel and while he continues to do Uber runs to put bread on the table, he has put those blog stories on hold to finish this new novel under contract. And, like another earlier great writer, John Steinback, is writing about his process, each day! And sharing those inner thoughts and insights with interested readers. If you’re a writer type you may be interested in getting his daily emails (yes, I said daily, Monday through Friday) where he shares his writerly ups and downs as he progresses.  You can sign up here. Or on a weekly basis, this page, and find the archive of all his journal type posts.

If you too become a Smucker fan and buy any of his books, know that you are helping feed hungry children. His, and all of us who hunger for meaty stories like this.


What thoughts does this review stir for you? Memories of the loss of loved ones? My own father felt he brought on his father’s death (at the age of 92) when he gave him a drink and Grandpa died choking. I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.


To my own faithful readers who perhaps wonder why I’m not blogging as much as I used to (mainly re-posting my Another Way newspaper columns here) I too am a bit overloaded at the moment with various jobs.  We also no longer get up at 3 a.m. for my husband’s job, so I’m blogging a bit less and will keep in touch here as ideas and thoughts and recipes and book reviews bubble up and beg to be written.

Here’s the novel and a link to buy it!

If the Amish fascinate you, and you remember hearing about the perversion of this overall honorable and faithful folk, you might appreciate the truths borne home by this insider look at the Bergholtz beard cutter travesty, co-written by Johnny Mast and Shawn Smucker. Check here.

And here’s the Herald Press award-winning book, God’s Country, if you’re looking! Another beautifully written book of stories about the rural church and how it can not only survive, but thrive.

Shawn Smucker

"if you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it" John Irving

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📌 Introverted ISTJ - knitting, crochet, yarn dyeing, cross stitch, books, essential oils, cats, Sprint Cars, NASCAR #mtj78

the practical mystic

spiritual adventures in the real world

Osheta Moore

Shalom in the City

Shirley Hershey Showalter

writing and reading memoir

Mennonite Girls Can Cook

A blog looking for harmony, grace and wisdom in many spheres of daily living.

mama congo

A blog looking for harmony, grace and wisdom in many spheres of daily living.


A blog looking for harmony, grace and wisdom in many spheres of daily living.

Roadkill Crossing

Writing generated from the rural life

The real Italy, as seen from the heart

Dinner of Herbs

Love for healthier foods.

Parenting And Stuff

Not a "how to be a great parent" blog

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