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For Those Who Aren’t Moms or Grandmas

Another Way for week of May 11, 2018

For Those Who Aren’t Moms or Grandmas

I have no right to write this, but I want any women who wished to have children, whether as birth moms or adoptive moms, or stepmoms, to know that those of us who have been fortunate in this department sometimes forget the miracle of a child does not occur for everyone.

Those who take their Mom role for granted can be unbelievably ignorant, unaware, forgetful or callous. We sweetly go on blabbing about the children (or worse, complaining); bragging about the grandchildren (and worse, talking about how parents used to raise their children, cough cough); or endlessly passing around phone photos (or worse, posting all the cuteness online).

Beyond the trials and pain of infertility, I know it simply does not work out for some to adopt. Illness of a spouse, worry about not knowing the genetic or health background, or the expense and risks makes some wary about adopting.

But, each of us had a mom and that mom gave us the gift of life, a beautiful, precious thing. Even if that mom failed you, was not there for you, or even abused you, as long as you have breath, the gift of life is a miracle. You are a wonder! With or without kids, you have so much to offer the world besides offspring.

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One sister, through the circumstances of life, ended up not having children. But she loves kids. They feed something in her soul while cuddling babies (or puppies, kittens, lambs and goats, but that’s another story). All of her nieces and nephews adore her probably over their other aunts and uncles who have their own kids. Funny how that works in many families.

I love that she also looks after many of the financial details for my mother (at least the big picture stuff) and she and I are both fortunate to have one sister who lives near Mom (almost 94), taking her on a weekly errand run. My sisters are mothering my mother—and Pert wears that role well even though she’s never been a mum. My other sister Nancy, a nurse by profession and a mother, grandmother and great grandma many times over, excels in her roles—including watching out for Mom’s needs. Let’s hear it for women and men who mother even if they are not physically mothers.

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In churches, where motherhood is right up there with godliness, Mother’s Day can be excruciatingly painful.

Our church has never given out roses or had moms stand up or otherwise made a practice of producing humiliation for those who have not had this role.

Icon image of prophetess Anna in the New Testament

Hannah (eventual mother of Samuel), Sarah (Isaac), Elizabeth (John the Baptist) and Anna (prophetess) in the Bible all suffered this way and were childless long after they were expected to have become moms. Back then you can believe they felt shame and neglected by God in their dilemma. But then God, or something intervened for them. Why not for all? Life is not fair. Small moments often produce fresh grief.

Jesus and Paul apparently didn’t have children. In fact, Jesus is pretty hard on families at times. The New Testament book of Matthew tells us, “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12: 46-50).

Sounds pretty harsh, but it was probably a rhetorical question and Jesus goes on to make the point that communicates across centuries and cultures: we may encounter difficult paths in life, but doing the will of God is what God wants us to do. The early Christians would have likely experienced rejection from their families for following the way of Jesus.

To my dear friends and relatives who have not had children or grandchildren by choice or happenstance: you are loved and appreciated and please forgive us when some of us behave badly—around Mother’s day or any old day. Godspeed!

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Comments, or stories? Leave a comment here or write to me at @anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Word Pictures from a Great Day with Grandsons

Another Way for week of May 4, 2018

Word Pictures from a Great Day with Grandsons

Since none of our grandchildren live nearby, we have not had as much opportunity to be grandparents for a day or overnight or help out as much as we’d like. Plus I am also still employed full time.

But one Saturday in April our daughter and son-in-law went to a daylong seminar on raising fruit trees, and we gladly kept their two little boys from about 8:30-5:30.

It was a good exercise to reenter that preschool world, with a four-and-a-half-year-old and a tyke who just turned two.

We had visited their house on Easter and the older boy was very sad when we had to leave. We told him he would get to come to our house that week on Friday night. He quickly looked at the calendar, counted the days, and said “that’s not very far away!” So he looked forward to it all week.

The younger boy of course doesn’t get time concepts as well and Saturday morning, after his mommy and daddy left, he wore a sad face for a while. I sympathized and tried to cheer him up saying mommy and daddy would be back for supper. He cuddled and stroked the well-worn tail of his favorite stuffed animal, a zebra “Za-Za.”

I consulted my list of “things to do” and began to pull the different pieces of our old Fisher-Price airport out of the toy box. The youngest one is a big fan of “heh-copters” which often fly over their metropolitan community, so we found a “little person” figure to fly it, and the remaining pieces of our daughters’ much-loved set. The boys enjoyed it, but that lasted like, five minutes.

We played with a mechanical train the older boy brought along, and fixed it when it came apart. Both sets of our grandchildren have lots of wooden trains and tracks (Thomas the Tank Engine variety) at their homes, but the battery-operated train didn’t provide hours of fun like arranging and rearranging trains and track as the Thomas trains do.

Then we settled on Zingo, a Bingo version for little ones that was perfect even for the two-year-old. I think we played two or three rounds before they were ready to move on.

Another hit was the bouncy balls I bought them—light and small enough they could throw or roll carefully—but then that got a little wild too.

One wanted to play in the playhouse my dad originally built, and the older went with his grandpa to the garage to do some hammering of nails and other explorations. But what he really loved was “helping” Grandpa fire up the woodstove. He showed me how the flames went up using his hands—and of course Grandpa was careful to teach safety.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, I prepped veggies for my favorite homemade vegetable soup, under the theory that our daughters were always more willing to try food they helped prepare. I let the two-year-old have a plastic knife and some partially cooked (blanched) garden carrots that I unthawed from the freezer. I supervised as he tried to cut those up for the soup. He was moderately successful. But Grandma was not successful in getting him to at least try the soup. He loves lentils, rice and other yummy creations from his Pakistani caregiver at her home, but very stubborn about not liking vegetable soup, just like his mommy said.

Which leads us to: willfulness. We have a nice little play table with two tot-sized folding chairs and they often center their table activities there. Then I caught the older one using an ink pen (left there by grandma) writing on the top. I scolded him mildly so he would know he was not supposed to write on the table, only on paper or coloring books. So I was especially disappointed when I discovered an even longer trail of ink on that table after they went home. I had to think of the walls my children wrote on—like children everywhere, or the day my toddler unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper at her caregiver’s house.

Don’t take any of this as a complaint of this dear day, but an acknowledgement that for most of us as adults, raising children takes energy, imagination, creativity and presence —and those things can come at the price of activities we might be doing otherwise. We make the sacrifices as parents because of the overarching love and commitment we have for our children—and years later wonder how the precious years ever went by “so fast.”

We all can use reminders that no matter what age of folks we’re around, big or little, the gift of presence—truly listening, engaging, interacting with our loved ones and especially new friends—are moments to remember and treasure.

Here are some great activity ideas I found and downloaded as a photo. If you click on it, it should enlarge to where you can read it.

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For my free book, Working, Mothering, and other “Minor” Dilemmas (Word Books, 1983) with many stories from the growing up days of our children, send $3 for postage to Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA. (Amazon also has links to used copies here.)

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.  

 

Some surprises in Eastern Mennonite University’s history

Eastern Mennonite University: A Century of Countercultural Education
Book by Donald B. Kraybill

Review by Melodie M. Davis, class of 1975.

A Countercultural History, Part 2 (See Part 1 here.)

Last week I introduced some of the things I liked about Don Kraybill’s 100 year history of my alma mater, Eastern Mennonite University: A Century of Countercultural Education.

Some surprises in the history:

  • I had never known that an early attempt at starting an eastern Mennonite school was first located in Alexandria, near Washington, D.C., within a mile or two of the Mt. Vernon home of George Washington, the first U.S. president. Of course the early Bible-focused short semester was two centuries after George, but how different EMU would be today had it been located in the metropolis surrounding our nation’s capital.
  • My sister, a Goshen College student at the time (and later a faculty member) used to tease me that students wore capes and coverings at Eastern Mennonite. By the time I got there, not true, but if you are an alum of either Goshen or Eastern Mennonite, you need to check out the intense rivalry and rancor that existed between the two schools, not because of dress, sports or academics per se, but theology—almost to the point of splitting families and friendships.
  • J.B. Smith, EMC’s first president, just four months after he became president, implored the Mennonite Board of Education to “drive out the enemy,” (the liberalism that he blamed Goshen College for spreading across the church). How Smith came to be president early on when founders were desperately seeking one, and then resigned under pressure, is another surprising story in itself.
  • Although EMC turned away the first several African American students who wanted to attend (fearing the local community wouldn’t be happy about it), they later broke color barriers at a time when people in Virginia (the old South) weren’t very much inclined that way. In 1971, I was matched with an African American roommate, 23 years after the first black student was admitted to EMU. Paula and I had a good Freshman year and I learned much about her culture while she became acquainted with Mennonites, after bravely coming to a campus she had never set foot on, among Mennonites she had never heard of.
  • I found another whole definition of “millennials” than what we use today, as Kraybill sorts out the many theological battles of the first half of the 20th century fundamentalists over premillennialism, amillennialism, and millennialism.
  • The current (2017) enrollment of actual Mennonites in this long time Mennonite institution was only about 31 percent, which creates a very different campus environment than what existed in the 20th My roommate would find an entirely different campus today, but sad to say we’ve lost touch.

Some things or people I’m tickled to say I had first-hand (or almost first hand) experience with, that are mentioned in the book:

  • An eccentric professor who was an inventor and believed firmly in UFOs, E.G. Gehman. Gehman was someone I picked to interview for a feature writing assignment. His second wife was a loyal and longtime volunteer for may local Mennonite agencies, including ours, Mennonite Media. Some of Gehman’s “political” cartoons (about EMU/Goshen conflicts and the fight over dispensationalism) are included in the history book.
  • Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee (and an EMU grad school aluma) visited campus in 2011, author of a marvelous read, Mighty be the Powers; I was pleased to attend her press conference and meet her afterwards.
  • Mary Emma Showalter, the first woman on the faculty to earn a doctorate, (although I was not on campus at any time when she was) compiled the bestselling Mennonite Community Cookbook published in 1950. Years later I got to research and write a 65th anniversary retrospective on the book (which is now published in the back of that historic cookbook). Can I be secretly proud and remain Mennonite-humble?
  • One of my roommates my senior year of college, Sara Wenger Shenk, who now serves as president of Anabaptist Biblical Seminary, is the granddaughter of, A.D. Wenger, the second president of EMU. It blew me away that her grandpa grew up only 4-5 miles from where I live today. He lived near a village called Greenmount. (I didn’t know it ever was a village, although one old storefront still stands from that time). After losing his first wife to illness just a year after their wedding, out of grief and loneliness he decided to travel all the way around the world, perhaps the first Mennonite to do so, which became a launching pad for a remarkable preaching career and eventual invitation to be president of the college.
  • Later I would infuriate the dean of the seminary, George R. Brunk II over an ill-conceived stream-of-consciousness description of Eastern Mennonite Seminary (mostly male at the time) in the EMU Shen (yearbook). Years later I apologized and received his gracious forgiveness, to keep peace with the man whose preaching once inspired me to walk the literal sawdust trail of a large tent revival meeting.

I found the second half of the book fascinating as well, although in not as personal of sense, because while I worked 42 years next door to the EMU campus and walked the grounds (or the indoor track) almost daily for exercise, I was not as involved with the daily and yearly workings and issues of the university.

For anyone interested in Mennonite cultural history and understanding some of the early dilemmas that were just as heated (maybe more so) as today’s divisive issues, this book brings, intellectual intrigue, delicious detail, inspiring insight, and admirable analysis.

When We Sing

2018 Mass Mennonite choir singing at the Eastern Mennonite University gymnasium on April 6, over 400 teens, hosted by Eastern Mennonite High School. Photo by Melodie Davis

Another Way for week of April 27, 2018

When We Sing

I grew up with a singing mother. I could count on hearing her lovely music from the kitchen almost every day of my 18 years at home, unless she was ill or had a cold. I started to write “or if she was in a bad mood” but I think she sang or at least whistled even then, to help chase away the blues.

Songs like “I’ll Praise My Maker, while I’ve Breath” and “I Owe the Lord a Morning Song,” come easily to mind from among her frequent tunes. What a beautiful habit and heritage.

I thought of Mom as I recently heard over 400 teens singing their hearts and souls out. Not only was the event beautiful and moving, the teenagers gave it their all, causing me to reflect on the role of music in our lives and worship.

The Mennonite Schools Council (of the Mennonite Education Agency) has been the supporting organization behind these mass choir events for 56 years, if my research is correct. That means some of my high school musical chums would have participated in this event while I attended Bethany Christian High School (Ind.) from 1966-1969.

Bethany Christian HS 1969 photo of me (top row) and one of my friends, Tobi Brenneman Goldfus, front, in the Varsity Chorale (not top choir).

Like many children born into a Mennonite household, I grew up enjoying singing. I dabbled in piano, and eventually tried out for choir in high school. I do not do well at holding pitch when singing by myself, so that is likely what kept me out of the top choir at school. So I sang in the “also ran” choirs in high school and college.

Our daughters were fortunate to grow up in a Presbyterian congregation that sings enthusiastically (no organ), with a pastor who organized a children’s choir directed by her musical husband, John Held. Dear John died way too early of cancer so I must sing his praises while he is enjoying the mass choir of the realm beyond. Two of our daughters went on to sing in the top choirs at their school which, even though it was a public high school, gave religious concerts in churches all over our valley. Their sister chose instrumental music, flute and piano. So I’ve been moved to tears by performances of all types.

The kids in this mass choir of hundreds of voices joined in so vigorously, their faces by turns angelic, intensely focused, and sincere. It left some of them almost panting as they hurried off the risers and gymnasium bleachers. I admired two young women who, though severely challenged with their gait from birth or injury, struggled to keep up. I was thrilled to see a good mix of ethnicities sprinkled through these “Mennonite” choirs, which now look like most of the colorful U.S. rather than the pale European blondes of earlier Mennonite lineages. Admirably, the music also represented a wide variety of countries and singing styles. I was also motivated to attend because my longtime friend’s husband, Jay Hertzler, was honored to direct this choir as perhaps a capstone of his long musical career, recently retired from directing at two different Mennonite high schools.   (Do take time to listen to at least part of this gorgeous program here )

I know that for many of the kids it was a deeply spiritual experience, moving to their bones, one they will remember the rest of their lives. Carol Penner, author of a forthcoming book called Every Day Worship, (Herald Press, June 2018) uses a line in her book I love: “When we sing we use our whole body in conversation with God.” Those kids looked like they were having deep soulful conversations with God which I hope they don’t forget.

I’m not so naïve to think none of them will be touched by drugs, alcohol, unwanted pregnancy and all of the pitfalls of our times through the teen and young adult years. As I watched them, I speculated that some of them were already involved in heavy relationships, or perhaps new crushes as they mixed with so many kids from other schools.

Next year, the mass choir will convene in Lancaster, Pa. Probably too far away for me to run to on a Sunday afternoon, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to another, but I treasure greatly this deep reminder of how music stirs our souls—and brings us closer to God. What a gift God gave us when creating us with the ability to sing—or at least to make a joyful noise in the “also ran” choir.

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 For fun, send me the name of your favorite hymn or spiritual song. I’d also love to hear stories from your choir days or other musical highlights. Write me at @anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA.

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Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

 

 

 

 

 

When History is Us

Eastern Mennonite University: A Century of Countercultural Education

Book by Donald B. Kraybill

Review by Melodie M. Davis, class of 1975.

A countercultural history – Part 1

I have discovered in recent years an amazing affinity for historical books that touch on my own history–and none as revealing as Donald B. Kraybill’s newest tome, Eastern Mennonite University: A Century of Countercultural Education. History matters because we can all learn from the rich legacy left by those who came before us.

But a history book about one’s alma mater? Dry as dust, my mother might say, except for the subversive word in the title, “countercultural.” What does that mean? That we were learning to be hippies, revolutionaries?

No and no, but Kraybill, a sociologist by training and an expert on the Amish that even the Washington Post and TV networks call upon when they want someone knowledgeable and quotable, puts his own particular stamp on this history. Not in a personal sense, but in the context of Christian social history from a Mennonite values perspective. Kraybill says in his preface “Institutional histories … are social constructions—stories crafted by the researchers who write them … [and] this is not a conventional one.”

As an author, Kraybill has made Christian social history in his own right, with at least two bestselling books which shed marvelous light on both Jesus and the Amish—not in the same book. I also have had the privilege of working with Kraybill in my role as an editor at Herald Press—where we’ve just released the 40th anniversary edition of his Upside Down Kingdom, and he’ll soon come out with another revised bestseller with a new title, Simply Amish, (updates the perennially popular The Amish: Why The Enchant Us).

But this book, the EMU history, was not published by our publishing company (I would not be reviewing it if we had). EMU contracted with Pennsylvania State University Press to publish the very readable volume.

Okay, why I loved it: On so many pages I stepped into my own history, not just on campus, but my growing up days near Goshen, Indiana, and my now decades-long sojourn here in the Shenandoah Valley where EMU makes its home. The first half of the book especially mirrored so much of my own life which is always a fun thing in a book. It touches on thousands of people I have been fortunate to either know personally, or I know as the son or granddaughter of teachers, administrators, and various presidents. It offers a rich understanding of the conflict we touched on as kids approaching our college choices–where my two older sisters chose the backyard Mennonite college–Goshen College which, according to the founders of EMU, needed to be fought for its liberalism and not just on whether or not to wear covering strings and capes.

And let’s be honest: another reason I enjoyed the book is Kraybill quotes some of my writing, from the college newspaper. Everyone wants to be remembered, and while I’ve written a few books myself, being mentioned in the 100-year history of my college feels a little more enduring. Like you know that puppy will be around in another 100 years—I’m not sure my forgettable books will have any longevity.

Ok, my name is only mentioned in Kraybill’s footnotes, and the spelling of my first name is wrong, (I’ve never been a stickler about that), and its history! The footnotes reflect his copious and painstaking research; if you check out the book, my footnote in history comes in the footnote section, chapter 8, footnote #126, regarding a piece I wrote parodying the rhetoric of our great orator of a college president, Myron Augsburger, in regard to a campus debate over whether or not to insist the grads wear graduation robes. Ironically, to robe or not robe was a dearly won right by students not too many years earlier, after decades of robes being considered too worldly and pompous, especially those worn by profs.

The really strange thing was when Kraybill emailed me about the quote, I couldn’t even remember what he was referencing; turns out though, my packrat tendencies (on some things) meant I found an actual copy of the article and refreshed my memory. The paragraph Kraybill quotes gives you the flavor of the parody:

Next spake the wise orator Myronstotle in a great flow of words: “We need to be aggressively and frontally committed to significant involvement in contributing to a positive emphasis in the graduation exercises by maintaining mature dress in the context of brotherhood.”

I was not too surprised to find another piece I had written for the EMU Bulletin was mentioned in the history book, because it was about a very sad and difficult time on campus after some unusual deaths which greatly affected morale and atmosphere on campus.

Those are some very personal reasons I found myself eager to pick up the 400-page book even though it was physically hard to manage for my bedtime reading.

Next week: some surprises and first-hand acquaintances mentioned in the book.

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Blog posts about other history/biography books I’ve enjoyed: Call Me a Menno-nerd; 

My Connections to the Orie O. Miller Story; and A Woman I’ve Admired: Katharine Graham.

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Do you like to read history books? Why or why not?

If you went to EMC/EMU let me hear from you! Why did you go and what did you find at EMU?

 

What Do You Remember about 1968?

Another Way for week of April 20, 2018

What Do You Remember about 1968?

I was just 16 the spring of 1968. The state of the world was pretty far from my mind and day-to-day life, I confess.

My girlfriends and I were pretty much focused on guys: thinking about them, stealing glances, dreaming of dates, and secretly flirting (or not so secretly). And for a while there was one special boy. Romance. First kisses.

My next oldest sister was getting ready to graduate from high school, deciding on college. My oldest sister would graduate the following year from college. Life for our family was changing forever.

And life for the world—certainly the U.S.—was changing forever. Sure, I remember seeing the horrible scenes from the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, March 1968. Just two weeks after my first kiss. The young girl running away with napalm covering her naked body—a picture we all tried in vain to get out of our minds. You can’t think about it too much, or you get shell-shocked even if you’ve never been on a battlefield.

And then April 4, the shocking but maybe not surprising news of the shooting death of Martin Luther King Jr. Later we learned what he’d he said just the day before, about threats on his life:

“But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. …Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!”

What a way with words, with such inspiring vision.

Even sixteen-year-olds became a little world-weary after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the first news many of my generation remember watching on TV. And of course then Kennedy’s younger brother Robert, was killed in June of 1968, while running for president.

I’m ashamed now that I was so busy being 16 and gaga over boys that I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have to the shape of the world. I page through my 1968 yearbook and see fish fry fund raisers, choir programs, soccer, Christmas banquets, basketball, cheerleaders: the stuff kids are supposed to be doing and enjoying—not running from napalm—or bullets from “active shooters.” In that yearbook I see mostly all white kids who never worried about what it meant to have brown or black skin in a mostly all-white town.

But in my files I was glad to discover an assignment that I wrote in early 1968. I learned I was at least aware and thinking about the problems of the world. The writing is a little wobbly, but here are a few thoughts about that year:

“When I have to think that at this very moment a sixteen-year-old girl in Vietnam cannot feel the same peace I do, cannot hear the crickets chirping—for the dropping of the bombs, cannot smell the smells of a farm—for the burning of her home, all because she is an unfortunate victim of circumstances, I cringe.

To think that she may not know the tenderness of a boy’s first kiss, or his sweet hugs, but only the brash, sex-starved love a G.I. can give her, I am ashamed. And when her “fun” for the night is over, she must wake to face the world alone, with an unwanted child, an unwanted life. And to think that she does not have the freedom to choose her vocation as I do. …”

My parents had visited church workers in Vietnam the summer of 1967 to learn firsthand how it was in that war torn land. They told us about the shame they felt as they learned how our American service men used young women that way, not really caring that any children born to such girls would live as outcasts.

I hope my cohort in Vietnam today is a grandma or great grandma herself, and enjoying a more stable life. With Dr. Martin Luther King we can grasp hope for a better world—not just in the sweet bye and bye, but as we work for change and opportunities for the marginalized and excluded today. This is what we need to remember from 1968.

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Charissa Zehr of the Mennonite Central Committee Washington office was privileged to visit Vietnam recently and wrote her reflections here at Third Way website.

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I also thank my brother-in-law who was drafted and served as a medic in Vietnam in the late 60s, early 70s. He still deals with some effects of Agent Orange.

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If you were around in ’68, what were you thinking and doing? I would love to hear what you remember for a follow up column. If you are younger, what have you heard from your parents or grandparents about the 60s?

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Comment here or write to me at @anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA.

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.  

Do You Let Your Pets Sleep in Your Bed?

Paisley in her favorite afternoon napping place, my side of the bed. A few years ago.

Another Way for week of April 13, 2018

That Cat! That Dog!

I wake up. The cat—all 15 or so paisley pounds of her (and her name is Paisley) has taken over MY pillow. This is not cool. It is 2:15 a.m. I am not happy.

I go to the living room and fetch a super plush half-blanket, designed to keep old ladies warm on couches in cool houses. It was originally a ninetieth birthday gift to my mother from a niece-in-law, very sweet. But my mom didn’t think she needed more throws like that. She re-gifted it to me. I love it.

So I bunch it up as a nest for the cat to claim, and lay it next to my pillow on our king size bed, a giant hint to the cat. Husband sleeps on.

Paisley doesn’t take the hint and moves back to claiming a corner of the pillow I have turned over so I wouldn’t have to sleep in her uh, germs and worse. I had already changed the pillow case several times that week because of this cat-and-me pillow fight.

***

My most loved cat ever, Riley. Someone caught me sleeping with another male.

Undeniably, our cat has now taken to hogging my side of the bed. I can sympathize better with what my husband was dealing with for weeks, maybe months. The cat was absolutely loving his side of the bed, near his feet, and he had to be careful not to kick her. He truly loves the cat, which our daughter had adopted but had to pass on to us when she moved to different housing. So Paisley has learned to jump out of the way of his night-time wiggles and flailing legs.

But cats change their habits more quickly than humans, and so currently I am the lucky lady having the cat sleeping on my side of the bed. I say to the husband that I’m just glad we never got in the habit of allowing dogs to sleep in our bed (no offense to those who have this custom), but as we get older, it is hard enough to get a good night’s sleep without a third (or fourth!) body in the bed.

Wendy, our first dog, meets our first baby, Michelle. Holding the two are my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law.

I grew up in a family that only had outside pets. How about you? My husband and I faced the issue of whether to keep pets inside or out after we bought our first home, the year after we were married. My husband soon wanted a dog, and he wanted it inside. At that point, we didn’t have a secure fence so I acquiesced. Wendy was a good first dog: smart, affectionate, able to do tricks. She trained me well. But no dog in bed.

Our dogs have been mixed breeds on the larger side. Our current dog, Velvet, (notice the “fabric” name theme currently going with our pet population, thanks to our daughter) is the smallest at about 45-50 pounds. I can truly understand people who enjoy sleeping with smaller breeds of dogs, and I know the loving attachments so many experience with a small lap dog.

Riley (Alpha cat, now deceased) and baby Paisley.

Paisley (left) and Velvet (right) share my husband’s lap in the evening. Along with his small notebook.

Oh, speaking of laps, both the cat and the dog like to share my husband’s recliner chair when his footrest is pulled out. Now that makes a chair full, and I’m thrilled that they cuddle up there on his leather rather than my fabric couch. In the winter, they keep him warm; when I’m away, they are great company. Sometimes, though, he wants to shift around or get up, and they have other ideas. Many times the cap plops down five minutes before I call Stuart to supper.

But we try to make sure the cat and the dog know who is boss. No alpha dogs or cats.

***

My first published poem. Click to enlarge.

My first piece of published poetry when I was a teenager was a poem about a cat and how humans and cats are similar but different, especially in their ability to love. Yes cats give and receive love, but they are not human in terms of what they are able to give. As that poem ended, “For, whoever heard of a cat dying to save all the other cats?” My theology may have deepened or expanded since my teenage days, but there is still truth there, that we remembered especially over Easter weekend. God has given us so much love, even more than that extended by the dearest cat or dog.

For that we can be so grateful, even when the cat gets us up in the middle of the night.

***

Do you let your pets sleep in your bed?

Do you have different rules for different pets?

Are you a cat person or a dog person or neither?

 

 

 

Comment here, or send stories to me, pro or con, at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

 Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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