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People: Not Disposable

Another Way for week of July 31, 2020

People: Not Disposable

I remember a term from my days growing up on a poultry farm: “culls.” Those were very small or sickly hens that Daddy would put aside and actually butcher for our own use.

Recently I faced a silly but still difficult decision for me: culling out the volunteer petunias from pots of petunias I had on my deck. Somewhere in early May, I noticed hundreds of volunteers sprouting: simply too many to grow well. I knew I had to get rid of some of them in order for the rest to thrive. And of course, it is very difficult to transplant just a tiny seedling.

Facebook friends gave helpful feedback about what to do with my plentiful petunias. They didn’t agree on whether to just “let them be,” or be proactive and make room for the healthiest plants to mature rather than letting them all get pot bound. But I hated the idea of tossing so many delightful plants.

The petunia planter in early May with the plants I had left in to grow. My dilemma was: should I prune further?

I tried pulling out the tiniest starts, no bigger than a trimmed fingernail. I also took the larger and hardier looking plants and with a small digger, moved them to a flower bed in front of my house. After transplanting about a dozen, the pots on our deck were still fairly full. I probably threw away a hundred teensy starts. I was not happy.

But pruning and culling can be a healthy thing for a flock of chickens as well as a basket of volunteer petunias. In several places, the Bible reminds us of the need to practice the art of self-pruning.

Gardening often makes me reflect on life and growing things, especially so this summer. I guess culling is hard because for too many in the world, people are dispensable whether they are sick, old, unborn, the wrong color, the wrong abilities, brain injured, even the wrong occupation. Each precious life deserves their place in the sun to grow and be pruned and nurtured into all that God meant them to be.

We have been at another difficult reckoning this summer on the racism that continues to infect and affect so many. I was interested to read about folks at Landis Homes in Lancaster, Pa., (a retirement facility) who wanted to make sure their hearts and minds were represented on the issue of working to become an anti-racist world. Back in June, my friend Larry Guengerich, shared a post relating how a number of senior residents desired to find a way to join a public vigil in support of George Floyd’s family and in recognition of others who’ve died unjustly. But because of pandemic restrictions, they couldn’t. So they put out word that a silent vigil was to take place at the same time at an outdoor space on their own campus. Around 80 residents and staff gathered, (keeping physical distance of course), for nine minutes of silent reflection, witness, and resolve. They also signed a card for the family of George Floyd.

“The purpose was to silently express anguish about what is currently happening in our country, in solidarity with those who were gathering in Lancaster,” the post noted. In addition to the silent time of reflection and prayer, this event also elicited heartfelt comments from other residents at the retirement center. One resident, Don Tyrell, said he participated because he believes in what the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights say about equality, life, liberty, and freedom. “I’m protesting because I see these values being ignored, reviled and cast aside by too many of my fellow Americans.”

Each and every person is precious in God’s sight. Rather than culling out persons and demeaning them or even hurting and killing them, practice looking at each person you see or meet as a child of God. They may not be Christian or believe like you do, but God created and allowed them to be brought into existence. Let us nourish each other as young plants. Let us do rigorous self-pruning—weeding out the bad thoughts and attitudes in our mind, and the prejudice and racial hatred that is still lurking in and around us. We each have room to grow.

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What have you had a hard time pruning in your life?

How do you work at considering each person as a child of God?

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Comments here or 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.  

What are you missing this summer?

Another Way for week of July 24, 2020

Thoughts on this Summer of the Pandemic

What are you missing this summer?

I miss the lawn parties. The savory fried chicken, a freshly cooked hamburger and fries, and playing a round or two of Bingo while listening to mostly country or blue grass or even bad karaoke. In our community, a different civic group, rescue squad, or fire department take turns putting on an annual “lawn party” almost every weekend all summer. The events function as huge fundraisers but also entertainment. We usually are regulars and enjoy yakking with friends and neighbors.

Enjoying local chicken at Bergton Fair.

I will miss going to local fairs, admiring and comparing the garden and canned goods, browsing through the photo, craft or art entries by kids and teens who’ve done prize-winning work, cruising through the animal barns, ending the evening enjoying a freshly made funnel cake or melting ice cream cone.

We will miss a summer family reunion, the potluck lunch, the catching up and comparing babies while running after toddlers playing in the church gym where the meet up is usually held.

Cousin Eddie enjoying his grandson a few years ago.

I miss visiting my friend Martha in the nursing home where we used to play Bingo many Friday mornings. Well, she sat there, I played. She is now quarantined along with everyone else: no guests, no visitors, can’t even send flowers. I write cards and pray for her. But I’m glad Jackie and Charles are no longer suffering in that same institution. Oh. So. Glad. Lock down would have killed Charles anyway.

Martha, left, enjoys a laugh with my mother at a wedding reception.

I miss not feeling free to take a plane or train and go visit my mother or sightsee; but at least we can drive to Mom’s, being careful about restrooms and gas pump handles.

I miss going to our favorite restaurant. Sitting in your car in a hot parking lot eating Wendy’s carry out is just not the same as sliding onto a cool restaurant seat, ordering, waiting, being served water or drinks, and not having to clean up your table and kitchen afterwards.

I miss going to church: the weekly ritual of dressing up a bit, driving to church, greeting folks, singing, shaking hands during the passing of the peace, enjoying coffee and snacks together. (Will we ever shake hands again?) I’m glad our church emphasizes still being the church even though at this time we don’t worship in our building.

I miss seeing friends and family; we have seen both on a limited basis, but always with masks.

Many are missing outdoor summer music concerts—just too many people gathered in one place together. What a shame. Will there be football and marching bands this fall?

I miss carefree shopping. I hate feeling alarmed and anxious and judg-y when people aren’t wearing masks in stores. Or, are standing too close behind me in the checkout line, or when I absentmindedly go the wrong way on a one-way aisle. Mask or aisle battles are not something I want to get into.

These may sound like trivial things and they are, at least compared to losing a loved one to the virus or any of numerous diseases. We have missed so many funerals and memorials and our kids have missed weddings and other celebrations with friends.

But we have learned patience and making do. To be more aware that yes, we can survive this time and hold on to hope that the virus will someday be contained, be vaccinated for, a time we will look back marveling at this sad and impossible period. We are learning that we are not immune to terrible pandemics. It is a humbling, horrid experience, and with God’s help, billions will survive and maybe, maybe learn to make this planet a safer and better place. More filled with love and care for other persons.

I’m just finishing reading a book I’m loving (and will write about soon) but it has been a profound reminder of Christ’s dying wish and counsel to his dear disciples and all of us: “Love one another.” How we can put that into practice on a daily basis is the urgent call we all need to respond to in this time of suffering for so many.

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What special and specific things you are missing—or enjoying! I’d love to hear from you either way.

Comment here or write to me at address below.

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

And don’t forget to enter my summer giveaway:

Two copies to be given away: A beautiful free adult coloring book, “Beloved Mennonite and Amish Quilts.” Deadline to enter: August 7, 2020. I will also put your name on a mailing list to receive information about my work memoir when published.

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 Stitch from Time: Aunt Susie’s Quilts

Another Way for week of July 17, 2020

Two sample quilt pieces Aunt Susie sent me for my project at work, 1975.

A Stitch from Time: Aunt Susie’s Quilts

Within minutes of our arriving at Aunt Susie’s retirement apartment with our daughters in tow (her great nieces), if she sensed the least bit of kid-boredom looming, she put them to “work.” They would cut out, count, or straighten quilt patches in little piles. They loved it, thought it was a game and didn’t realize they were helping with Aunt Susie’s work. She made at least 130 quilts in her long life.

Aunt Susie was a bustling woman who thrived on quilting. I discovered a letter she wrote about her quilts the other week as I’m doing research for a memoir on my work life. (You’ll have to wait for the book to see what role Aunt Susie played).

Aunt Susie’s letter from 1975.

The story in her letter opens like this: “It’s Sunday morning and I’m upstairs working on quilts so I’ll answer your letter I received yesterday. I usually get up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. and go upstairs and quilt or cut patches or do piecing until I hear the tea kettle sing. Then I know Dan is up, has the bed made, and breakfast is on the table.”

This snippet gave me new appreciation for my Uncle Dan and two things that surprised me: that she quilted on Sunday morning (in our Mennonite homes, most Sunday work was forbidden), and that Dan made her breakfast and their bed. She adds that this domestic-side development came with retirement when Dan had no other chores or work away from home.

Aunt Susie and Uncle Dan probably in their upper 70s here.

Fixing breakfast for his wife does not fit my picture of somewhat dour Uncle Dan, although he was known to crack a joke or two. I do remember them coming to our house with their home decorating business to paint or wallpaper the dining room, a bedroom, the living room. They also invited us to pick yellow and dark red sweet cherries at their small two-story home in Emma, Indiana. Their huge backyard was a paradise of plants, flowers and trees. The house still stands next to an old general store and café there (and can be seen in the photo at the store’s website, linked).

Susie and Dan operated an ongoing garage sale in a large detached garage, selling things on consignment for others “which takes a lot of our time so I hardly ever get back to quilts until the doors close in the evening and I can relax after supper and piece quilts.” Quilting was not work for Susie: “I quilt for relaxation, money [at times she was paid for her work], relief [to give away to the needy], but most of all because I enjoy it. It is so rewarding to see the finished product and know I put in the best I had of my work and time.”

My purpose in writing this is to encourage everyone to reflect on the relatives and friends who impacted your life in positive ways. Susie’s response to my query about “what pointers would you give to beginning quilters” rings true for all of life, even though it is specific to quilting: “Do your best. Your quilt [or other work] will live a long time and tells many people many things about yourself.”

One of three twin sized quilts Susie pieced for us. I recognize some of the fabrics from our dresses.

As I stroke the three twin-sized quilts that Susie pieced and gave to me (I hired a quilter to finish them for us), I hope my three girls will hold memories not only of Aunt Susie but our other relatives who were special in their lives. Susie created beauty, shared of herself, was not afraid to travel to Chicago frequently (by train) where she volunteered at Gospel League Home for indigent women (an arm of Pacific Garden Mission). She also loved teaching Summer Bible School for many weeks each summer, traveling to various locations.

Dan stayed home and kept the kettles going. Some of the family pitied Dan for having to be a “bachelor” for many weeks. It was surely lonely at times. But Susie followed what she felt was God’s call to serve others. As she neared death, quite blind and fingers gnarled from the arthritis begat by all her quilting, she would speak of having chats with Jesus—at that point she was sure he was “under the bed.” I’m sure she felt that close to Christ and it gives me joy to know that she’s still having chats with Jesus in her heavenly home.

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I’d love to hear your memories of a special aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent! These are such important people in our lives.

Do you enjoy any aspect of quilt making? Do you still see appreciation for quilts or are they a relic of bygone days?

Quilters or coloring book enthusiasts? Don’t miss the drawing below!

Enter my end-of-summer drawing for a beautiful free adult coloring book, “Beloved Mennonite and Amish Quilts.” Deadline to enter: August 7, 2020. Two books will be given away. I will also put your name on a mailing list to receive information about my work memoir when published.

I helped choose quilts and wrote descriptions for this fun and interesting coloring book in 2016.

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To enter, Email me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or send to Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834, or leave a comment here 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.  

The Milk of Human Kindness

Another Way for week of July 10, 2020

The Milk of Human Kindness

Where does kindness come from? How does it grow in a child or in an adult? What things make it go on a detour? Does kindness come only from inborn nature, or can it be nurtured?

Usually we talk about kindness and say it comes from the heart. But surely kindness starts in the brain, not in the heart, because after all, the heart is an organ pumping blood.

My mind started wandering down this path as I’ve stared at a photo of our young family when our girls were about 7, 5, and 3. Cute little dumplings: most parents feel that way about their offspring. As I looked at the picture, my own heart swelled with happiness to know that each of these daughters is a kind and loving person.

The Davis family circa 1989.

Our world has been struck by both a pandemic of physical illness, as well as an epidemic of discord and ugliness. It has also been blessed by a groundswell of good and gracious deeds, and the giving lifestyles of countless individuals and efforts. I won’t focus on the hostility but rather explore how we can cultivate the expansion of kindness. 

It is truly as simple as always keeping the Golden Rule foremost, spoken by Jesus and others: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” If we all truly kept this as a rule of life, so much arguing, backbiting, crime, and even wars would be avoided.

Back to how to grow the attitude of kindness in a child’s brain and being. Children deserve to be born into homes headed by two parents, and nurtured, loved, and taught by them both. If there is only one parent, or grandparents stepping in to do the job of teaching and loving children, the children should observe and see kindness acted out every day at home and among friends and relatives. They should be taught why it is important to be nice to the brother who is destroying the towers you carefully built. They should come to understand why words can be just as painful as a pow or slap. And they should be taught to forgive and love each other anyway.

I know that unfortunately, even today, some children are slapped and treated harshly. A child who sees parents slapping or hitting is going to think that such behavior is okay for them to do too. There are many ways to discipline and teach children better behavior: a time out, taking away privileges, taking away toys, withholding treats. There are also ways to reward positive behavior and most of all, to set examples as patient and kind people ourselves. Saying please. Thank you. Can I help you with that?

Reality check: no one said teaching children kindness is easy. In these difficult and depressing times, tempers grow short, boredom breeds, and selfishness can be observed everywhere (ahem, supermarket?). As parents we just want to get something done without umpteen interruptions, before we run out of steam. We want to escape to bed and have some peace and quiet time.

Shakespeare was the original author of the phrase “the milk of human kindness” in his play “Macbeth.” Lady Macbeth accuses her husband of having too soft of heart as they deal with ambition, war, and murder. I think Shakespeare had the right idea: what we receive and give in our homes regarding kind attitudes and behaviors is like the milk that nourishes us from day one. We can’t live (happily) or long without it.

One of my daughters was blessed recently with a gracious comment from a child. Mealtimes are frequently difficult when you’re feeding three little boys. But this six-and-a-half-year-old, after a fun and hot afternoon splashing in a small play pool that they’d fixed up after it had a broken slide for a while, and a favorite supper of gluten free pancakes, said, “Thank you Mom and Dad for such a great day!”

Somewhere along the way, that child had received the milk of human kindness and was now offering it back to them. I’m happy to say I’ve seen the germination and growth of sweetness and love in our other grandchildren as well. May it be so in homes all across the land, around the world, and in yours too.

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What demonstrations or stories of love and kindness have you observed? We all want and need to hear more!

Comment here or 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.  

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.

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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.  

,

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.

***
What have your children or grandchildren or YOU learned during this pandemic?
***
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.

 

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