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Let’s Hear it for: Smiles!

Another Way for week of April 18, 2021

Let’s Hear it for: Smiles!

(Editor’s Note: Fifth in an eight-week series on “Let’s Hear It.”)

I’ve been practicing smiling like a woman I see at the pool where my husband and I work out. I find her smile contagious—just beaming at almost everything her small group of pool friends says or shares. Even when I can’t see or overhear what the other women are sharing (group of three), she smiles in empathy, encouragement, solidarity, companionship.

Long ago there as a woman at our church who was the same way. Her name was Kathryn Roller. She wore a smile that was almost endless. And she was just that kind of person: hopeful, helpful, always doing good for others. Her smile was infectious. Every time I thought of her then or even now (long since passed), I have to smile.

Mom never liked this photo if me because of the windblown hair but it was a professional photo taken at our home with a satisfactory smile. 🙂

I used to be embarrassed to smile. I’m one of those gappy front-teeth-spaced-apart persons, who never had opportunity for braces while young. Very few of us had braces in those days. They used to be reserved for either the very rich, or those with extreme teeth and chewing problems. I used to try to bring my two front teeth together with rubber bands. I would wear the rubber bands for a couple of hours and would actually see my teeth come together in the front. But of course when I took off the bands, I lost the effect. I never dreamed of asking my parents if I could have braces, nor did I ever pursue it as a working adult. Smiles can be endearing and welcoming even when we don’t have perfect teeth.   

There’s an ad on local TV advertising dentists who specialize in giving those with advanced teeth deterioration or other issues a new smile. One woman’s smile on the local ad is absolutely glorious. She says in the commercial, “Now I smile ALL the time. I can’t stop smiling.” It is truly a beautiful smile and she says her new teeth changed her life significantly.

Smiling more can even improve your health and well-being. The Henry Ford Healthcare System says that smiling not only boosts your mood, but helps release the all-important cortisol and endorphins that can help reduce blood pressure, reduce pain, stress, plus strengthen your immune system and endurance ( 

A sad side effect of our current need to wear masks when out in public is the world sees many fewer smiles. I try to practice smiling even when wearing a mask: you can see the crinkles around the eyes, and it is especially important now.

Me when I was about 4 or 5 on vacation in Kentucky.

Many people have spoken of the benefits of keeping a gratitude notebook or journal, writing down things or people or experiences that you are thankful for. This can help improve your overall outlook. This also happens when we make the effort to smile more. When you are waiting at a stop light or standing in line at the grocery store, smile. Even though having to stop or wait is irksome, most of us won’t have our schedules for the day wrecked by needing to wait. (If we are always running late, that’s another issue to work on!) So the practice of smiling while waiting can change your outlook.

Smiling at children—yes even while wearing your mask—can produce smiles back. The Henry Ford website says that “children smile an average of 400 times per day, compared to the average happy adult who smiles 40-50 times per day, and the typical adult who smiles only 20 times per day.” Just today I watched a small child ignite smiles in five other people: so magical!

We have just come through the season of Easter. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus was a frequent smiler. Yes, he got angry—he was also human. But if you read the stories and conversations in scripture, you can detect how welcoming his smile must have been.

And now that I’ve finished this column, can you tell I am smiling? (Imperfect though it is.) See how many times you can make someone else smile today!


What have you observed about smiles?

Comment here or send 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.  

Let’s Hear it for: Siblings

Another Way for week of April 9, 2021

Let’s Hear it for Siblings

(Editor’s Note: Fourth in an eight-week series on “Let’s Hear It” with thoughts on various topics.)

How do families manage care for aging parents if there is only one child?

Yes, plenty of people choose not to have children, and many stop at one. These are perfectly acceptable households and ways of living. I’m not putting anyone down for the choices they’ve made or had thrust upon them because of fertility problems or other issues.

Four siblings: Pert, Nancy, Melodie and baby Terry. I was about 4 1/2 here and my little brother was 6 mon

But at this stage of life, I am not only grateful we have three children, but that I grew up in a family with four siblings.

My mother had another fall in February. This time she broke her shoulder (last year it was her femur). She has been working heroically to recover. We are so proud of her. But it is hard for her, hard for us, hard for any family during these still-pandemic times.  

On Easter Sunday after trying multiple times to connect with her by phone, she closed out our phone call by saying “I am so thankful to have such wonderful kids.” I was in the process of hanging up, and almost didn’t hear her sweet words. She has said that to us numerous times in the past, but her recovery this time has been slower, more painful, more difficult, more depressing for her and us. The difficulties have made it harder to find things to be thankful about. She says she complains too much, but who wouldn’t?

But Mother has a team of us who take on different caregiver roles, something we’ve tapped and named in these later years. Most families are spread out in these times, and rare is the family whose children all live close by. Mom is blessed to have my oldest sister living within 10 miles. She’s a retired nurse. Nancy runs countless errands for Mom in addition to asking knowledgeable questions of the medical staff.

My second oldest sister is Mom’s power of attorney. Mom can still keep her own checkbook and pay her own bills, but Pert is her helper/overseer in this department and I’m sure she does more than I even know about. She is also the asker of hard questions—willing to push and confront staff. God bless her.

My youngest brother lives farthest away—about 900 miles. His wife and her sister take turns caring for their mother who has dementia. So Terry stays in touch with Mom the best he can and we all appreciate the pastoral role he takes on when he is able to visit: leading in prayer and holding hands—so sweet and tender. I remember that gift especially when Dad was in failing health.

Me? I’m the writer of course, trying to keep in touch with Mom by mail and phone—and also jotting down notes and then typing them and emailing them to the family to summarize conversations and decision making by the family and Mom’s Careteam from the rehabilitation unit she is currently in.

Mom about three weeks after her fall.

Of course we all interchange our roles from time to time. I’m sure those who work in nursing facilities pretty much roll their eyes when the “out of town” family members descend on the facility, demanding such and such, asking why about that oversight, or finding a new sore that has developed.

I have felt so sorry for those who’ve lost a loved one in this past year and were not able to be with their relative physically in their final days or hours. At least many facilities have now opened up visitation with compassionate care rules that allow those connections to happen for grieving and bereft family members going through the valley of shadows.

They say getting old is not for sissies, to use an old term. But thank goodness for sibs, if you are fortunate to have good ones who show up, do what they can, pray when they can’t, send flowers, checks or gift cards, and generally support the whole team through the tough times of aging. 

Nancy and me visiting Mom. My other sister came a week later, to spread things out. Mom had not yet had a shampoo (for about three weeks) but now she’s getting a weekly hair appointment which is wonderful therapy! The staff person who took the photo told us we should take our masks down for the photo. 🙂


Your thoughts or stories?

I’m sure when families disagree about care plans for elderly parents, that sometimes it might feel easier and less stressful to be the only child. I’ve talked to numerous folks when disagreements or non-involvement have caused additional grief and stress.


Comment here or send privately 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.  

Messing with Memoir: Sending off a proposal

Sending off a proposal

Last year at this time,* I was spending days in a blur, and getting extremely frustrated with how my husband’s knee therapy was advancing, or wasn’t, because of the quarantine. Days were long and unexciting.

Than I remembered my goal of getting a proposal off to a possible publisher by the end of April. My day suddenly became one sparked by purpose, by a goal beyond getting three meals on the table and surviving eight or more hours of my husband’s therapy and applying ice and making more. I was coach as we spent several weeks without a physical therapist due to Covid.

I still get much joy our of ideating, creating, writing, editing, correcting, tweaking, and finally, pronouncing it done. Well done, I hope, or at least readable, marketable and interesting to others.

I was able to snag extra time to work on my memoir because I purchased a column (for my syndicated newspaper column) from a great nephew, Stone, to use, which was well received. In early April his school had closed down for the year and he wrote a great Facebook post on being a senior finishing up his year. His “help” enabled me to finish drafting three sample chapters.

After doing my best, I left them rest a bit for breathing space before tackling another serious edit.

Then, whew. I hit send. After doing a final proofing of my proposal, three sample chapters, my vita, and a chapter outline, I was almost as giddy with eagerness as I was the first time I ever sent off a book proposal. Only now there’s no endless retyping on a manual typewriter (yes I did that!), and securing a large envelope and postage plus that all important SASE.

Yours truly, circa 1978, typing.

On a trot out to retrieve our morning paper, (yes, we still subscribe to the paper), I realized I’m still asking myself whether my project has merit, is it publishable, can I really do this, just like I did in 1982 or so! Nine books and many other brainstorms later, I still have a foot in the game, and anxiously awaited a response from a publisher.

And now, I will sit back and wait for a response, and do other things. Happy day!!


If you are a writer, do you love to spend time writing? Or do you dread or hate it?

Is it a chore or a diversion or a hobby or your livelihood?

*I’ve decided to come clean and reveal that these posts on writing a memoir were first drafted last year as I worked on a proposal and various chapters. I am sharing the ups and downs and will lead up to talking about titles and subtitle options, covers, and eventually, I hope publication and launch. I will enjoy and appreciate any feedback or your own stories!


An author I’ve worked with who helps writers be published is Margot Starbuck. Check out her robust resources and info here! She sparkles with ideas and pizazz!

Let’s Hear it for Spring—and Shots!

Another Way for week of April 2, 2021

Let’s Hear it for Spring—and Shots!

(Editor’s Note: Third in an eight-week series on “Let’s Hear It” with thoughts on current trends.)

“Come here,” my husband asked gently, pausing at the side door of our garage. We were getting ready to make a short run to town. “See what’s here.” In spring he has a fit about the flies that hang around the east side of the house, and spends much time swatting flies. So I was expecting to see a swarm of flies.

I looked out the door and saw only a beautiful gray mourning dove turning her head, eyeing us, cocking her head from side to side as if to say, “Well, I’m back!”

Creative Commons photo: Mourning dove

Mourning doves do migrate south in fall from our part of Virginia and return in March or April. She was right on time, a week before Easter. In the Bible, a dove attended the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan River at the beginning of his three-year ministry on earth. Christians consider the dove to be a symbol of the Holy Spirit which came to the disciples 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Our dove sat there until we opened the door but I’m sure she will hang around and coo gently from her usual perches on the power line crossing our field, or our front porch. I can usually hear coos as I work in the flower beds and garden. So I was happy to see the dove instead of the flies—a less-welcome harbinger of spring.

This spring many of us are thrilled to be celebrating that the vaccines which we hope will bring Covid under control are more widely available, and to increasing age groups. When my husband and I got our first shots, availability was still rather tight—a month ago—and we’re both in the over-65 age group. So we had to hurry home from a trip to visit my mother in Indiana, in order to get shots after our daughters tag-teamed openings for us. This was at two different CVS pharmacies, about 40 miles apart. Michelle made the application for us online and by the time she tried to get the second reservation, that store had filled all their slots. So she snagged a second location for us.

As I sat in a waiting area for my husband (whose shot came first), I was struck by how those coming to this pharmacy did not appear to be locals. Sure, our communities here are somewhat diverse but not so prevalent in the small town of that pharmacy. I noticed there were Asian, Middle Eastern, African folks in line—some I could tell by the accent. A young woman, about the age of our daughters, had driven her parents—I’m guessing Nepalese or Indian—to this particular CVS from northern Virginia, a distance of about 60 miles. Northern Virginia is very diverse ethnically.

A wave of gratitude, joy, and amazement came over me as I sat there—and slowly a memory came to mind. I was transported back to the early 50s when as a young child I received the small pox vaccination that saved lives in those days. I remembered that shot because the aftereffects on my arm were ugly. It did not heal well and left a big scar for years, although I can’t even see it now!

Loopy me, probably about the age I received the small pox vaccine, “dancing” in our living room, as my sister “Pert” directed.

I teared up as I thought of so many people all around the world lining up for these shots now—filled with hope and prayers for better years ahead as we continue to try and be careful, clean, and conscientious to keep everyone safer. I also thought of many millions of frontline workers who are still serving in dangerous roles taking care of the ill or providing essential services. I am saddened though to know that in less affluent countries, governments do not have the funds to buy the vaccines for their people.

May we celebrate Easter with new hope for life and love for our fellow human beings—sharing the love that God demonstrated in this beautiful season—and praying for those who will be waiting awhile.


Have you gotten a vaccine shot? Why or why not?

Your thoughts or experiences?

Comment here or send 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.  

Messing with Memoir: Dross, rubbish and the rewriting

Post 4: April 6, 2021

Rewriting things isn’t so bad. That’s where material brightens, comes alive, and gets purged of the dross, as the Bible says.

When I hovered over my word there, “dross” to check for synonyms and make sure I was using the right word, it brought up my writing professor’s favorite word for really poor writing, “rubbish.”

I like that word too. And I will pay tribute here to the unforgettable Omar Eby who truly steered me into better writing and perhaps this career I have loved so much. Maybe he wouldn’t want to own his influence, but for better or worse, he was absolutely one of my favorite professors for having the nerve to use strong words such as rubbish. Omar (as we called our profs by their first names), sadly, had dementia in his last years. At a nearby “cottage” type facility where my church caroled, he seemed to remember me but perhaps he was just being his polite self. He died earlier this year which I wrote about here.

College kid, senior year.

When you reflect on the teachers who have steered you, who stands out? I could name many more: Mrs. Galt, a middle school teacher who submitted an early essay to our very small town paper–and they published it. Miss Hoover, a high school English teacher who frequently read my work aloud in class. Gretchen, an editor in college who said I was writing like I was still in high school, but she steered me well, I think. A magazine editor who said I wrote with “verve.” I loved that. Especially since he paid me frequently: small amounts, but the money wasn’t the important thing. An eventual boss who gave me a chance to …. oh, but I’m getting into my memoir here. We’ll save that for later!!

Any teachers or editors or bosses you want to name?

Sing their praises in the comments.

Let’s Hear it for: Old, Used, Recycled

Another Way for week of March 26, 2021

Let’s Hear it for: Old, Used, Recycled

(Editor’s Note: Second in an eight-week series, “Let’s Hear It,” with thoughts on trends.)

Do you like old? Shabby chic? Vintage? If there’s an opposite to this perhaps its sleek, gray, upscale, modern.

They say Gen Xers and younger don’t go so much for old and antique and yard sale finds. What things are precious, and what things are just old?

Aunt Ressie’s sewing box (my husband’s aunt)

I have an old sewing box that is very cute, but I have absolutely no idea what to do with it other than keep it in the guest bedroom. It was a keepsake from my husband’s Aunt Ressie. We have a lot of those from Aunt Ressie because she married very late in life and had no children. The nieces and nephews—and then her great nieces and nephews—were her kids. She bought stuff for them every Christmas until they reached the age of maybe 10 or 12. The sewing box is beautiful and I’m guessing it was something that was passed down to her. It has old vintage wrappers of the tiniest needles, wooden spools, and darning eggs.

To me, the scissors–sharp as knives–is the most valuable thing here. My mother guarded her sewing scissors carefully!
Remember darning eggs? My mother used a light bulb for hers….

Things that bring memories are hard to let go of or pass on. A friend, Ronda, recently posted this comment on Facebook along with pictures of two cuckoo clocks. They moved to a different home last year in a rough year when she also lost her beloved mother.

“My dear Hubby hung two cuckoo clocks. The first one was my grandfather’s, my mother’s father’s clock. It’s old but I don’t know how much it’s worth. Priceless to me. The second one, is more valuable as it is handmade from the clock makers in the Black-forest, Germany. I watched my parents pick it out and I listened to them tell one another how much they liked the love birds. The trip down the Rhine River with my parents will always be a treasured memory and this clock represents that lovely memory. A few minutes ago, it cuckoo-ed eight o’clock for the first time in our home. I laughed out loud. Who knew I would love cuckoo clocks?”

We have a friend who had a piece of wood from an old buggy harness called a “wagon singletree.” He loves antiques. He asked my husband to use a drill press to make a hole in it to create a light fixture for his kitchen featuring upside down colanders. You may have seen such. It turned out pretty cool. Maybe I’ll think of a special use for the sewing box.

I remember interviewing a favorite professor for a radio program I worked for. I was probably in my late thirties. By that time he was in his early 60s, Something he said in that interview stuck with me. He wanted to get out of his rut as a college professor and wanted to see how different people lived. He took a sabbatical and worked in a Sears store in their stockroom. Some of the coworkers began to think he was a lackey for management. We were talking about acquiring things and he said what he was about in his sixties was getting rid of things, paring back, not buying more.

I feel like I’m somewhat at that stage of life. Especially this past year of the pandemic. New clothes seemed unimportant, especially in retirement. I’ve pondered how to cut back on what we have. I even hate to throw things away that have only been used one time—like the Styrofoam carryout boxes from a restaurant. If I can wash them and get a second use out of them, that makes it feel more worthwhile. Yet I don’t want to fill my cabinets and drawers with used Styrofoam containers. My favorite thing to do is fill them with food to pass on to my elderly neighbors.

P.S. May we all keep a sacred and holy Good Friday today. Blessings!


Precious mementos, or junk?

Do you like old things? Do your children or grandchildren?

Are they precious mementos, or junk?

Do you lean toward wanting to sell things, or just give them away to family?

I’d love to hear comments here or send your own stories 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.  

Messing with Memoir

Messing with Memoir

March 28, 2021

Blog post 3

During this past year of mostly hibernation … um pandemic, I wondered if I could use some of my “social distancing” time to truly tackle this employment memoir. I decided to work on what is an unexciting part, the chapter by chapter description of what I hope to put in each chapter. I had set a goal of getting that basic proposal including chapter descriptions together by a certain deadline. How would I cram 43 years into say, 50,000 words—the current going number of words for nonfiction books of this type, according to my former boss.

And you know what? It was actually fun and stimulating to see that I could do this and wrote at least five chapter descriptions last night to keep me awake. Overall the project has kept me enthused and happy, a wonderful thing in these dark days of The Seclusion.

I think that knowing I have done this part before with modest success—writing chapter descriptions for book proposals—fuels my imagination and energy for this mundane part of nonfiction book writing.

In talking to a novelist recently, she expressed how amazing it would be to not have to have the book finished before submitting it to a publisher, as is more routine in novel writing.

So I will keep on my journey, one word, one sentence, and hopefully one catchy paragraph at a time.

In case you’re curious, here’s what I wrote for Chapter 4, see sample below. Keep in mind that outlines can always change.

Chapter 4 When Mennonites Almost Took on Charles Stanley

The Sunday morning program “The Mennonite Hour” went off the air in 1978, after seminary professor and pastor Art McPhee served as speaker for a couple years. We launched a 2 ½ minute radio program for weekday drive times, appealing to a younger and more diverse audience. The name we landed on was perfect and brilliant, until it wasn’t—and how that snafu came out. Also, Mennonites made good use of production dollars by repurposing and re-releasing numerous successful series of Choice radio spots. The spots were Dr. David Augsburger’s brainchild, delivered in his classic radio bass. His ongoing radio presence continued to help turn Augsburger’s books into bestsellers, some by non-Mennonite publishers like Moody Press.

Can you guess what happened?

Some secrets will wait for the book to launch and I hope to include lots of fun insider stuff.

Comment below!

Let’s Hear it for: Small

Another Way for week of March 19, 2021

Let’s Hear it for: Small

(Editor’s Note: Another Way launches an eight-week series on “Let’s Hear It” with thoughts on trends.)

We were shopping for a different truck last year after my husband’s faithful 1992 Dodge Dakota pickup could no longer pass inspection. It had rusted out underneath and the body shop/mechanic who had earlier worked on it to keep it going another few years, said that this time he just wouldn’t risk it—it was not fixable.

The Dodge Dakota was often a useful helper on church clean up day. Husband in truck, Malcolm helping.

(While we’re at it, let’s hear it for state inspections of vehicles, which keep us all safer on the roads, right? I know some states have done away with these annoying, yet safer-vehicle measures.)

I basically hate shopping for vehicles because it is so overwhelming and you suffer from massive sticker shock at every dealer you visit. The fact that our roads in the rural area where we live had been pretty much taken over by ever-bigger monster trucks of the pickup variety had not really sunk in. Oh, I saw them around town and my husband growled at that from time to time, but as long as they stayed on their side of the ever-shrinking white or yellow road lines, I was ok. If they took off roaring from a stop light and dirtied our air with a bunch of extra diesel fumes, well, then I would get up in arms about that. But if a guy or gal wants to drop $75,000 on a huge pickup to pull a travel trailer or boat or whatever, well, that’s their business.

Yes. $50-75,000 was the going price—way more than we paid for our first home. I also remember the heart attack I had when we bought his old ’92 truck (in ’94). Used, they were asking around $12,000. I about coughed my way off the truck lot, but ultimately shrugged my shoulders and Stuart went for it. Suffice it to say we got our money’s worth—some 26 years’ worth. About $444 a year, or $37 a month, not counting repairs and maintenance.

The Dakota did well in snow … once the lane was cleared.

Speaking of breaking down prices to monthly or yearly totals, who signs seven-year (84 months) car or truck loans? That’s almost a mortgage for a vehicle. Many financial experts say if you can’t pay for a vehicle in three years, you need to shop for something more affordable.

I was reading an article on the size of pickups, detailing how hard they are to park, you need a ladder to climb in, unsafe to see shorter pedestrians (wheelchairs or kids) crossing intersections, and noting that too many don’t seem to be actually used for pickup type activities. The ones that really get my husband’s goat are the ones that try to get by with “farm use” cheaper tags on them. For real!

Now, not to be all judge-y of the folks who actually need the large cab pickups (and we have a nice two row cab pickup now, which would easily have held our family of five). This time we got a used 2006 Dodge Dakota which was quite nice and within our budget.

Shiny new-to-us 2006 Dodge Dakota pickup: Neighbor Harold, dog Velvet, and my husband check it out.

Other things that may have grown too big: I hear that houses have pulled back from the monster square footage that some had reached, especially as lumber and construction prices remain on a pandemic high.

Smaller plates make servings of food look larger and more plentiful—and may end up being just as satisfying. Small cans of pop (if you enjoy and still drink sodas) also stay fresher and bubblier than a big liter of sugary drink. If you go for diet drinks, don’t get me started on that. I drank diet sodas for years but when I realized I was paying good money for caffeine-free diet drinks, I realized I might as well just drink water. From my reading, diet sodas are very rarely helpful in trying to lose weight anyway.

To your health on the food front, and on our highways!


Any trends you want to praise—or put down? Comment here!

Or send 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.  

Messing with Memoir

Post 2 – March 21, 2021

Arriving at a workable outline is often the first task of any major piece of writing whether it is a thesis, a theme paper, or a book. The bigger the task, the more you need an outline.

For a book, it can serve as your eventual table of contents if you have such. Even my first-grade grandson had to write an outline and table of contents for the booklet he was writing. What really shocked me was that the teacher even assigned them to edit their chapter titles—to tighten and improve them. First grade!

Virtual first grade. Dog is optional.

As I began this book, I struggled with bits and pieces of stories and narrative that I wanted to go into this memoir of my media life. I frequently hurried to jot them down as they came to me like spurts of memories from almost 44 years of work. Sometimes a memory came to me in the middle of the night, and then I had to get up and jot down or a note or else face forgetting the memory. And of course can’t get back to sleep after such a moment!

How do you even condense 43 years of energy put into hundreds if not thousands of separate projects whether they were hour-long TV documentary scripts, 30-second radio spots, metro transit messages, full page ads in Newsweek, board reports?

I can’t tell you how too good it feels, finally, to be working on another book, before I get too old. Before the memories don’t come, before I no longer need to make sense of it.

If you haven’t started on such a project yet but have dreams of doing so, now is the time.

An author I worked while I was an editor is Margot Starbuck, and she has come up with some marvelous tools to help writers and would be writers with outlines, proposals, and more. Check out her stuff here!

I also found this resource very helpful for me personally.

Happy first Sunday of Spring!


Do ideas or memories ever keep you up at night?

How many years was the longest job you held? Share highlights?

Comment here!

Prepare to Learn about Daddy Penguins—and Our Awesome Immune Systems

Another Way for week of March 12, 2021

Prepare to Learn about Daddy Penguins—and Immune Systems

Soaking up some rays at the fabulous Columbus Ohio Zoo. Photos by yours truly.

Sometimes it takes children—grandchildren—yours, your neighbors, or anyone’s—to bring us more in touch with the natural world. Do you agree? At least on their good days! I love the things I’m being exposed to educationally as I watch or hear what my grandsons are learning and exploring. And they are teaching others!

First story. I guess I’ve always loved penguins just because they’re so cute and make us giggle when they toddle back and forth walking, but I was especially impressed when I learned about the active role the father penguins play caring for their offspring. I was “supervising” my oldest grandson, Sam, watching some of his virtual video instruction from a book called Little Penguin: Emperor of Antarctica. I definitely enjoyed it as much as Sam.

Did you know that father Emperor penguins on the continent of Antarctica carry the baby penguin still in its egg—almost as if in a womb. After the female lays the egg (almost five inches long), the father penguin tucks the egg under a flap of fur at the bottom of his legs, like a little insulated curtain, officially called a brood pouch. So the father carries the egg for about five months on his feet. After the baby penguin pecks its way out of its egg, it stays warm under that fluff of fur—very cozy as it grows bigger. When they can no longer fit under that flap, they are ready for the outside world and have enough fur of their own to stay warm.

Sam at “school” and our dog Velvet keeping him company.

Furthermore, penguin couples are pretty much monogamous, and even though the mother and father frequently spend months apart getting food for themselves and the little one, they usually come back to the same nesting area each year to mate. Videos show the male penguins gathering in a huge huddle, keeping each other warm and protected somewhat from the fiercely cold temperatures. And they take turns staying on the coldest outside ring. How much we can learn from our furry friends! Meanwhile, the mother penguin is “off duty” for about nine weeks, feeding and fattening herself up to share regurgitated food with her young penguin later.

The World Wildlife Federation notes that even their feet are adapted to the icy conditions, containing special fats that prevent the feet from freezing and strong claws for gripping the ice.

Always a zoo favorite. Our grandson Owen admiring his friends.

My second story is from my second oldest grandson, now seven. The boys were born only two months apart. Unfortunately, they don’t live near each other but were enjoying sending videos of themselves back and forth when we visited one family. We use the Marco Polo phone app, a video messaging program named after the swimming pool game. They were sharing things they had learned in school or from their own reading.

James gave us what his mother called “The Immune System Lecture” which apparently, he’d been sharing with anyone who’d listen, including neighbors as they took walks. In his words:  

James working hard on a card for Great Grandma Miller.

“There are many ways to fight germs. We have our five defenses, not just the immune system. First, when we breathe in a virus or a germ, some get trapped in the nose hairs. The ones that get past, get stuck in the nose. And the liquid in our nose, we swallow it and it goes down into our stomach which breaks down the germs. And the ones that get passed by the immune system, there is a type of white blood cells that shoot out antibodies that attach themselves to the viruses and germs. White blood cells come on to attack and eat them and some white blood cells devour them whole. Our skin acts like a suit of armor! And there are other ways to fight germs: washing our hands off lots of times, getting a vaccine, lots of exercise, sleeping a lot, and taking pills and medicines.”

Like one of my grown daughters said, “I’m not sure I knew all that!”

Children keep us young and our brains active, right? What a blessing they are in our lives!

What have you learned from children?

What things of science or nature fascinated you? Do you remember wondering about stuff?

As always, comment here or send your stories 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.  

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