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The Many Faces of Mom: Entertaining Her Children and Friends

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My mother had a hobby, or perhaps it would be better called a pastime, that enchanted me when I was a young girl.

She doodled or sketched women’s faces. For a Mennonite deacon’s and farmer’s wife, kind of an unusual pastime and especially because of this: the faces looked like fashion models, usually because they had lots of make up, full lips, glorious eyes, long skinny necks, and frequently sported fancy necklaces or necklines. They also looked like models on a Simplicity or McCall’s pattern if you have sewn your own clothing. My momma was good at drawing, sewing and designing variations on her sewing patterns, and making us laugh.

She would sketch while waiting at the doctor’s office, or at the desk writing letters, or making a list for the grocery store, or planning a menu if company was coming—her lists often had one or more drawings on them. And, we would beg her to draw faces to entertain us while we were in church, on the bulletin. Gasp! The deacon’s wife! (For more on the proper and traditional role of a deacon’s wife in some Mennonites’ tradition, follow my link but scroll down to “Father’s Ordination.”)

I recently begged Mom to draw some faces and send them by mail so I could share them here. She said she was rusty and they ended up not proportioned as well as she would have liked, but you get the idea. In the letter Mom sent with the sketches she wrote, “The more I make the uglier they get.” I think she only sent me the best ones, for they aren’t bad!momsfavedited3

When we were kids most of her sketches ended up in the trash can, but in her letter to me, she noted that the artistic bent came from her father Ivan Stauffer’s side of the family. In fact, her mother, may she rest in peace, would get mad at Mom and scold her for drawing when she was supposed to be doing other things such as chores. Of course. That is what mothers do, right?

Her classmates would also beg her to draw the lady pictures. “Why my classmates wanted them so bad, I don’t know.” She got A’s and an “A+ once” in art. She also drew flowers, especially roses, by studying an actual rose. She had a set of pastel chalks with which she drew flowers but, “too bad I didn’t keep my pastels when we moved. They were what I liked best.”

Her father Ivan (who I never knew; he was killed in a car accident the year I was born) would draw cartoons for them on the asbestos pipes in their basement. As she wrote in her letter, that’s poisonous now. She’s 92 and her mother lived to be 95, so….  (No lawsuit needed there, but I’m not making light of the dangers of asbestos.)

Her father’s cartoons were knock offs of an old comic strip known as Jiggs and Maggie, begun about a hundred years ago. You can see a sample here. Jiggs and Maggie were Irish who had come to America and won a lottery or something; as with most comics, their antics are fun and silly but apparently the deeper layer dealt with immigration, ethnicity, and classism. Still so current.

Mother’s sister, Florence, was a bonafide artist whose work was shown over northern Indiana winning frequent prizes and some acclaim, which I wrote about here.

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All sketches by Bertha M. Miller

Thank you, Mother, for entertaining me once again and hundreds of readers who may happen by this blog post.

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Do you doodle? Where, when and why?

Or do you enjoy coloring? With your children or grandchildren, or in an “adult” coloring book?

Here are links to two coloring books you might enjoy. I wrote the quilt descriptions in this one for Herald Press: Beloved Amish & Mennonite Quilts. Available now.

Beloved Amish and Mennonite Quilts
This one, Amish Prayers, is coming April 4, 2017, available for preorder now. It features beautiful fraktur drawings based on an early Mennonite/Amish prayerbook with inspirational scriptures.

Amish Prayers

Let’s Hear it for Quiet

Another Way for week of February 17, 2017

Let’s Hear it for Quiet

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert (meaning a little of both)?

Susan Cain, a Harvard Law School graduate is basically an introvert. But she left law behind and is now a sought-after author and public speaker on the topic of why being quiet is okay in spite of what some feel is a stigma about shyness. It should be noted that shyness and introversion are not necessarily the same, even though they are often used interchangeably, as I am here.

I had made a note to check out Cain’s bestselling book in 2012, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, when it rose to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. But I never took time to find out more. I still haven’t read the book but I downloaded a free summary and watched her TED talk: good stuff for this mostly-introvert.

Cain feels we often get the message that being on the quiet side is not okay, especially in our educational system. The child who speaks up in class, works well interacting with a group of others on a project, and has a lively circle around him or her in the lunchroom is not only usually popular, but also frequently well-liked by teachers. Which is fine, except when quiet students are not similarly respected and admired.

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A favorite place for writing and introspection. Photo for my college yearbook, The Shen. 1975.

A quiet child often hangs back, stammers, or studies his desk when called upon, and ends up sitting by herself in the cafeteria. Quiet and shy children are sometimes picked on and bullied, but more to Cain’s point, are not appreciated for the strengths of quiet ways of working.

Cain says that a third to one half of people are introverts, so it’s crying shame there’s any stigma against introverts who enjoying being or working alone. Cain notes our schools and work places are designed for gregariousness, such as open space environments (without privacy walls); in schools, students are frequently assigned to work in groups to research and complete projects.

She goes on to emphasize that solitude for many of us is not only a good thing, it can help restore energy and perspective after hours of immersion in activity and people.

Perhaps I’m something of an ambivert. As a writer, I need solitude to do my job, but I love to throw a big party or have company over. In a group, I’m not too shy to speak up, but I like to think I also know when to keep quiet. I enjoy public speaking, but at a banquet or wedding reception where everyone is sitting around before the real action begins, I don’t enjoy making small talk very much, but I try. I’m always quite relieved when the speaker or toasts begin. I think I have changed as I’ve gotten older, perhaps learning from my super-outgoing husband. He wasn’t always an extrovert; he was one of the kids who got picked on in school.

I also have trouble writing in a group. If I’m on a team or committee, someone is sure to say, “Melodie, you’re the writer. How would you word this proposal?” Trying to put words together in a group to express complicated thoughts leaves me stymied. I freeze. I beg off saying, “I’ll submit a draft and others can add to or edit it.”

Cain’s quote from William Whyte in The Organization Man makes a lot of sense: “People very rarely think in groups; they talk together, they exchange information, they adjudicate, they make compromises, but they do not think; they create.” (From Cain’s free PDF, “The Power of Introverts.”)

In another type of work setting, one of my daughters worked in a store which required her to try to sell those add-on warranties for certain products. She liked her job except for that. Since she was an excellent actress in high school I told her, “Just pretend you’re acting, like you’re on stage. Get ‘in character’ to be a different person when you’re pushing those warranties!”

I’m not sure it ever really worked for her because she knew she wasn’t on stage. But this can apply to other settings. Act more extroverted than you feel and see what happens. However, remember Cain’s emphasis: you’re fine just being you. If you’re perceived as quiet, God bless your creatively cogging brain!

One of the best take-aways from Cain’s TED talk is her suggestion for parents, teachers and children: “If I had one wish, it would be to reverse the stigma against introversion for children so that the next generation doesn’t grow up with the secret self-loathing that plagues so many introverted grown-ups today.”

If you are worried about your child suffering because they seem too introverted and you wish they were more “social,” Cain reminds us that we don’t have to provide the perfect environment or stimulus or protection for a child who is struggling. There may be physical, mental, or severe social issues they and you must deal with—which I won’t go into here. But for most kids, if you provide love, affirmation, acceptance, opportunities, and lots of prayer, sometimes that’s being the “good enough” parent; we have to leave room for the child to grow into his or her own skin.

Which way of life is more natural to you: introvert, extrovert? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!

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Read much more at Susan Cain’s website: www.quietrev.com or download her free PDF “Quiet Revolution.” Send comments and stories to 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, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Russ Neufeld: One Who Died Way Too Young

Another Way for week February 10, 2017

One Who Died Way Too Young

Why should a 40-year-old father of two kids ages 10 and 12 be whisked away in the prime of life when many of us far older are still tinkering around? Those of us who had been his coworkers sat in awe of his geeky techno know-how, plus his carefree joie de vie, not to mention his ability to let ideas spin around in his head as he did workarounds to make something work.

neufeld-russ-cover-1-1170x585Russ Neufeld was a whiz at many things. His most recent employer, Hesston College said Russ was also one of the most well-liked people working at Hesston and that he “knew a lot about a lot.” Good thing for an I.T. director. When he was first diagnosed with lymphoma about 18 months ago, he endeavored to learn all he could about his illness and the various treatments available, describing on Facebook exactly how this chemo thing works anyway, in terms of the chemistry.

Who does that when they’re fighting cancer? Russ. He said it was his way of dealing. He did everything the doctors knew to do, and then some. One could even say Russ beat his cancer, even though his body did not survive. One Facebook post said Russ did not let cancer define him, destroy him, or his family. My heart goes out to his dear family: wife Kendra, children Ethan and Natalie.

Russ was geared to tackle any challenge—even a tough one—with a lighthearted rejoinder, “Piece of cake.” That was his signature line that I loved; he probably got tired of hearing that from me.

One friend on Facebook said his best memory with Russ was the day he rode along with Russ to watch him sky dive. “You were a regular and they joked about how you loved sky diving so much you paid for it with your blood … selling plasma as often as you could to pay for your next jump! You inspired me to put sky diving on my bucket list and the day I checked it off was amazing!”

Russ beat his cancer because he did not let it beat him down. Just ten days before he died, he was telling all of his friends on Facebook, family and church (stealing this idea from a friend, he noted), “Take the love you’ve been sending me and spread it around. Do something positive. Volunteer for a homeless shelter …” That kind of thing. In his very worst hour (from our view) he was able to rise above his own pain, his own great disappointment and indeed tragedy to remind others: spread the love. Who does that? Only a few.

I say tragedy because anytime two wonderful, smart, loving, great kids lose a father who loved them with the same ferocity he applied to everything else, that’s more than a crying shame. It’s heartbreak.

I worked with Russ from roughly 1999-2009; some of those years he lived here in Harrisonburg; some he commuted to Elkhart, Ind. to work for Mennonite Church headquarters once a month, and some he lived in Newton, Kansas. When he started he was just a kid—early 20s—doing part time audio work in our studio while he finished a degree in physics.

Later, he worked to hand-build the back end of a major website, ThirdWay.com, using html coding and whatever tools he could grab online (before the days when anyone could get a website all coded up by just signing on to WordPress or Blogspot). His office was catawampus across the hall from me. He kept white mini-Christmas lights up year round: dorm-room-chic. He defied office protocol by frequently wearing a hat and blue jeans.

russneufeldbajaRuss was fearless, whether it was sky diving or white water rafting or riding a motorcycle across washboard rough rock in the Baja. He wouldn’t try to hide a beer he’d order at a Mennonite church convention open air restaurant after working 8-20 hour days. For several of the biennial Mennonite church conventions, he was Mr. Cyber Café, setting up and running 15-20 desk top computers (oh the work!) for the very popular “Third Way” cyber café in the early days of email. People would wait in line 30 minutes to check if they had mail.

It was Russ who beckoned me across the hall on September 11, 2001, to see (online) the crumbling World Trade Center, New York City. I quickly wrapped up the interview I was doing, headed to our assembly room TV, and sat there stunned with everyone else. It was surreal of course. Those days are seared into the memory of anyone over the age of 30.

Later when he worked with our website crew from a distance we had team meetings by phone. As webmaster, Russ showed us how he could take over our computers through cyberspace to fix or demonstrate something—another surreal feeling when another hand is guiding your cursor around the screen.

We can only ponder now what kind of view Russ has of our computers and indeed our puny lives as he’s off exploring a whole new reality.

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You can watch the memorial service for Russ on YouTube. If you don’t have time for the whole thing, don’t miss the ending music “Parting Glass” which Russ especially appreciated in his final days. Or, check out the bulletin/program for his service, including the haunting and beautiful lyrics to “Parting Glass” by House of Doc musicians, (a group no longer active).

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How can you share the love you’ve been given? Send thoughts, prayers or memories to 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, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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I am personally indebted to Russ for much of my “back end” website knowledge and comfort with “poking around” with such things to figure them out, and the courage to start up a blog. “Piece of cake.” Not always that easy, but bless you, Russ, for everything you gave to us.

 

 

 

Thoughts on a Cold Winter’s Night

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Another Way for week of February 3, 2017

Thoughts on a Cold Winter’s Night

Ruby is friend from elementary school. I have enjoyed getting to know her a bit again from a distance through Facebook, where she posted this recently:

“I find winter to be the peaceful time I really need—that’s what I love about it. I don’t have to mow or hoe or put up produce any more.”

We may think of shoveling snow and scraping ice (let alone falling on slick sidewalks/steps) as the not-so-peaceful parts of winter, but for many of us, the quiet and calm of a snow covered landscape is indeed very peaceful.

Hutterite writer Linda Maendel, author of Hutterite Diaries lives on the cold stark prairies of Manitoba. For her, winter has to include deep cold and yes, blizzards: Linda wrote recently at her blog, Hutt-Write Voice:

“The temperature’s hovering around -30°C, [-20 for those of us who stick to Fahrenheit] and with the wind chill, that means it feels like -40°C. Yes, extremely cold! But, I still wouldn’t want to live where there is no snow – my winter has to have cold, blizzards and lots of snow.”

She says you get used to the cold, dressing warmly to go out, and enjoying being cozy inside.

Even in parts of North America where there is less change in seasons than Manitoba, Indiana, or Virginia, there are subtle changes during winter.

Being cozy is usually not an option for the many who are homeless. We all know there are myriad reasons why people end up on the streets: poor choices, family disintegration, addictions, mental illness, a streak of bad luck, accidents, a lack of affordable housing. I am grateful for our city’s movable thermal shelter, Open Doors, that operates with the help of churches and the local synagogue and mosque: an interfaith effort.

Besides providing a warm safe place and one hot meal plus breakfast, the program has provided an eye-opening first hand encounter with those who are homeless. In the past I have been struck by how many of those at the shelter appear to be young–ages 21-25. Perhaps some even save up money for a security deposit or first month’s rent by couch surfing or staying at a shelter on coldest nights. Many homeless also manage to hold down jobs—amazingly. As much sickness as our family has had this winter, I cannot imagine having to be sick in a shelter or refugee camp, but of course germs and colds are rampant in those settings.

Those who follow my column regularly may remember that I spent my junior year of college abroad in Barcelona, Spain (and wrote a memoir about that year, called Departure (Herald Press, 1993). Barcelona is of course a timeless and beautiful city on the Mediterranean with basically a mild climate but with cold that seeps deep into your bones in the winters. At that time, most apartments and flats only had space heaters for use during the coldest months of the year. So even in our boarding house, which was once a Catholic nun’s convent, we bundled up with blankets, sweaters and bathrobes while studying because you just couldn’t get warm on coldest days.

I was saddened and shocked to read recently of the approximately 3000 people in Barcelona who are homeless—a phenomenon unknown to me in 1973’s Spain. I’m sure there were homeless people then, but Spain was still under the authoritarian rule of General Francisco Franco. There was little street crime or homelessness because the “Guardia Civil” (wearing their signature tri-cornered hats) or police kept things clean on the streets. Which can be a good thing when you’re a college kid coming home from a late night on the town. We, and our parents, had few worries about physical safety.

At any rate, today Barcelona has a significant problem with homelessness due—as everywhere—to many complicating factors. The article I read was about a small company, “Hidden City Tours,” offering educational tours revealing the “hidden” side of the artsy, flower-lined, medieval city. Its purpose was not all expose or to embarrass anyone, but to offer socially-conscious travelers a chance to see a part of Barcelona they likely wouldn’t see otherwise. It hires some of the homeless as part-time tour guides which brings them a small income.

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Whether you enjoy winter or not, or have frozen or flower-lined streets, the problem of affordable housing for all likely won’t just go away. But I encourage all of us to do what we can to explore and help out in ways that go beyond tossing a dollar on the street to someone with a “homeless” sign, and work for long-lasting, far reaching help.

Send any comments to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com. For a free copy of Departure about my year in Spain, send your address to Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850. Please include $3 or postage stamps to help defray shipping costs.departurebook

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

A Mole Inside Lovina Eicher’s Test Kitchen

Another Way for week of January 27, 2017

A Mole Inside Lovina Eicher’s Test Kitchen

To say people are fascinated with the Amish or Old Order Mennonites is a great understatement.

In September 2015, I got to spend a day in the home of Lovina Eicher and help her and her daughters cook a flurry of dishes to be photographed for Lovina’s forthcoming cookbook, The Essential Amish Cookbook: Everyday Recipes from Farm and Pantry.

One of my great privileges of the last several years has been working with Amish columnist Lovina Eicher. I say privilege because I know that thousands of her followers would be fascinated to be in my shoes.

Yes, it takes a long time to make a real cookbook and now I feel even more fortunate to be an editor bringing it to birth. We’re excited that it comes out April 17, 2017.

I’m grateful for my background growing up Mennonite among the Amish of northern Indiana where one of my friends in first grade was Bertha—same name as my mother—who had a big brother named Vernon—same name as my father. Bertha and Vernon were Amish and rode my bus along with numerous other Amish children in the days before there were very many parochial schools. Amish now build their own schools and provide their own teachers in most Amish communities, sparing children some of the teasing, different-ness and religious/cultural discrimination they surely felt going to traditional public school. My grandparents and father could talk Pennsylvania Dutch quite fluently and loved using the dialect in visiting our Amish neighbors, doing business, or encounters in town.

So it wasn’t altogether strange to walk into Lovina’s kitchen where no electric lights or stoves, mixers or blenders were running even though she and two of her daughters were already busily mixing and baking. The younger children had already left for school. There were gas lights of course, and a gas stove (often preferred by fine cooks everywhere), and a modern bathroom and running water.

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Tara and Lucas Swartzentruber-Landis in Lovina’s home.

I knew it would be a special day. The main food photographer, Lucas Swartzentruber-Landis and wife Tara, who is a part-time food stylist (making food and dishes pretty for photos), would be there shortly. I was there mainly to observe, be available for consulting as to final choices on recipes, and pitch in where and when Lovina needed another set of hands.

Dishes, pans, mixing bowls, measuring cups, and spoons were constantly being used and needed rewashing, so helping out with the dishwashing and drying seemed like as good of place as any to plug in and feel useful. I picked up a towel and went to work.

Oh and did I mention sampling? Of course everything was to be tasted. Such a hard job, and I was up to the task.

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Lucas finding new angles for his photography.

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Lovina’s homemade vegetable soup. The recipe’s in her cookbook!

Lovina had around nine or ten recipes lined up to be made that day—a breakfast pizza in the morning, a vegetable soup for lunch, and cookies and pies woven into the menu and baking plan for the day. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find her so well organized: she’s been part of co-authoring four other cookbooks for previous editors and publishers.

Lovina’s loyal friend Ruth Boss soon arrived bearing sweet rolls and long johns (rolls, not underwear) to keep us well supplied. Ruth is not Amish and lives at some distance, but organized a team of some 27 women to later test all of the recipes for the book.

Not all of the dishes turned out quite like Lovina wanted: perhaps too many hands spoiling the outcome? She was teaching as well as directing the cooking and it was a joy to observe how hard her older daughters worked on this project of their mother’s. They seemed to enjoy the cooking and the interaction with those of us who came to photograph and “help,” but standing on your feet eight to ten hours wears anyone down.

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The Eicher kitten and me, doing a selfie.

Even more than the food, what impressed me about spending the day in Lovina’s kitchen was how authentic she is: she is the real deal, a busy and caring mother of eight who was taking on a daunting project. She is good spirited, funny, natural, leaving no question that her Amish traditions and faith in God are genuine. I didn’t expect anything else and I was not disappointed.

We wish this new cookbook all the success in the world!

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You can get a free 16-page sampler of the cookbook with recipes by writing to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or at Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850. (If you send for it, including two first class postage stamps would be helpful, but not an envelope because it is larger than a normal envelope.) 

You can also download the sampler in a PDF document right here

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To reserve your copy of the actual cookbook, you can purchase it here and it will be mailed to you upon publication around April 17, 2017. 

 

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

Random Slooooww Takes

Another Way for week of January 20, 2017

Random Slooooww Takes

My husband and I had just been having a discussion in which a lot of negative statements about random people (drivers, slow people in parking lots, etc.) were streaming out. As we got out of our car to enter a grocery store to pick up some take-out chicken we had ordered for a family reunion, I challenged both of us to think positive thoughts about ten things or people we found in the grocery store.

For instance, I see a smiling young man and think, wow, what a happy good looking fellow. He put me in a better mood. Score one. That kind of simple happy thought was what I was suggesting.

So next, I’m waiting at the deli for the chicken as my husband scouts other parts of the store. It’s one we don’t get to very often on the far side of town, and has a wonderful selection of gourmet and specialty products. At the deli they have tickets to mark your place in line, which is fine with me. No messing up who’s next in line that way, right? In my new happy mood, I’m fine with waiting. We have plenty of time before the reunion.

One customer enjoys his third “taste sample” before ordering a huge quantity of like three or four slices (dripping sarcasm here) of one specialty meat—a duet the deli worker and customer slowly play out. (Like this: customer names a meat, they discuss its merits, deli guy cuts a sample, customer chews it, decides to take it, deli guy then cuts another sample to test the desired thickness of the cut, which customer approves, deli guy cuts the three pieces ordered, puts them in a deli bag with price, then wraps the hunk of meat and puts it away. Repeat. Three times. And THEN customer moves on to the cheeses.)

Another clerk does the same with another male customer in front of me who acts out roughly the same choosey scenario only he at least orders a stack of his preferred meats, like maybe a half or full pound. A third male customer is next in line, and then me. At this rate we might get to the reunion some time this week.

I begin to look for a secret camera filming me being Ms. Patient Customer Annoyed By Overly-Picky Male Deli Customers. It reminded me also of Zootopia’s hilarious (but oh so frustrating) scene where a sloth takes his slooooww sweet time helping a hurried customer at the Division of Motor Vehicles.

When the exceedingly lengthy session with the first customer wraps up (and he leaves), I notice that the deli workers exchange some words and carefully disguised looks of their own. That particular deli worker then exits the scene, apparently because it is HIS lunch hour now. Ok.

My real life persona is yes, getting increasingly annoyed; the wife who pledged a Ms. Cheerful resolve, long gone. My husband returns to find me still waiting. I mutter my snarky description of what’s been going on in line.

Do things like this happen to you too? You determine to think good thoughts about people instead of being all judge-y and then this happens. Frustration. Delay. People surprising you with their ineptitude or unawareness of others.

Meanwhile, what are others thinking of me: the frowny woman with messy hair and slightly stained coat? Or horrors: do they watch my ineptitude when I sometimes try to give a clerk the exact change, fumbling to find the hiding dime?

Still, the exercise in turning one’s thought positive is a worthwhile one because without my resolve, I would have been even more impatient and frustrated. I would not have paused to think about these wonderful guys, perhaps on errands for their wives who were preparing beautiful New Year’s platters for some party at home. Or who so willingly took over grocery shopping for the family. I would not have been inwardly praising my husband for having the foresight to order the chicken ahead of time even though in the time we (still) waited, we likely could have caught, butchered and fried our tasty chicken.

We know that gratitude begets gratitude and happiness; researchers have proved what the writer of Proverbs opined centuries ago: “A cheerful heart doeth good like medicine.” Or like writer Thornton Wilder penned, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

I challenge you—and myself—to train yourself to think thankful and positive thoughts as you awake in the morning, thanking God for being there, for your day, for your loved ones, your treasures. The good thoughts will help you get through waiting in lines, a traffic jam, the red light that has decided that it will never ever change as long as you are sitting there.

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If you haven’t seen the Zootopia segment, here you go.

Does just watching this drive you up a wall? You’re with me!

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What are your tips for thinking positive thoughts and cultivating gratitude? With your permission, I’d love to share them with others. Email me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or write to 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, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When I “worked” for Charles Wampler Jr.

Charles Wampler Jr., a local poultry “icon” as our paper called him, has died at the age of 101. I feel privileged to say I worked for him, kind of, one autumn. I arranged a “professional internship” with the company his family founded, which was a continuing education sabbatical for me from my regular job at then Mennonite Media. awamplerfoodsI still have “a company shirt” for WLR Foods (a company long ago swallowed up in merger). I learned a lot that fall being exposed to how working in corporate communications a for-profit poultry company is worlds different (with many similar principles) than working for a not-for-profit media firm. You can read the story of that internship here.

The wonderful stories and laudatory remarks about Mr. Wampler have poured forth. He helped to found our area’s United Way chapter, served as a state legislator, was a great philanthropist and board member for the hospital, his church, the university (JMU and Virginia Tech) and countless charities. Word on the street is that he did these things because he enjoyed them, not to make a great name for himself. He truly deserves the outpouring of praise and remembrance, from senators to employees to little country stores. (Update: Opps, this is a different Charlie Wampler! Common name in our county. But I love the sentiment and the lovely drawings Grandles Glen View Market comes up with in little Singers Glen, so I’ll let it stay.)

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One comment posted on our local TV channel’s Facebook page said:

From Tina Merica Warner: “I worked for Wampler Foods many years ago and you could not have met a nicer person than Charlie Wampler, Jr. He made a point of speaking to everyone he came in contact with and never met a stranger. RIP Charlie. My thoughts and prayers are with the Wampler Family.”

And Mr. Wampler’s daughter said this in a 2015 100th birthday article (he was born on Thanksgiving Day, 1915, so fitting for a turkey producer!) about her father in The Washington Post: “He would walk through the processing plants and call people by name, and they would call him Charlie,” recalls daughter Barbara Melby, 72. “He treated everybody with respect, and I think that was the secret.”

But 101-year-old legends have many great stories circulating about them, including this from that same Washington Post article. His father, Charlie Sr., who was inducted into American Poultry Historical Society’s Hall of Fame for his role in discovering that turkey eggs could be hatched without a mamma turkey keeping them warm, was an inventor and innovator.

“My father did all the thinking,” Charles Jr. commented when the WP reporter interviewed him. “I did all the work. And that’s a fact.” The writer recorded that everyone then “erupted into laughter at the line: daughter, reporter, photographer, even the birthday boy (2015).”

The line that caused me to erupt in inner laughter came the fall of my “professional internship” when Mr. Wampler came around the corporate communication office when my boss, Gail Price, was not there. Earlier Gail had introduced us, explained what I was doing for her and the company, and he had been content with our slightly unorthodox “grown up” internship.

This time, Charlie walked through the office, said hi and then asked me quizzically, “Are we paying you?”

Inside my head, I roared, secretly believing this told me a little something else about dear Mr. Wampler. He knew how to watch a dime. But politiely I responded, “No sir,” and added, “My own company is paying me.” (To my own boss’s foresighted credit, Mr. Ken Weaver!)

Mr. Wampler meets my mother. So, what happens when one man “who doesn’t know a stranger” and is wont to erupt with great lines, meets my mother, who absolutely doesn’t know a stranger either and has been known to say whatever is on her mind?

Several years after my internship, my mother and father enjoyed a 50th anniversary trip to Puerto Rico and like they did everywhere they went, looked up missionaries or churches. At a church there they ran into Charlie Wampler Jr. also traveling in Puerto Rico. They struck up a casual conversation and were surprised to learn Wampler was a Church of the Brethren member and from Virginia. “Our daughter lives in Virginia,” they explained. They shared their commonalty of both having been poultry farmers, even though their “career tracks” went markedly different directions in terms of monetary success. Mother of course recognized the name “Wampler” from some of their deli products she had tried at one time.

Mom, who often wrote to companies to tell them what she thought if a product did not meet her expectations, proceeded to tell Mr. Wampler that his chicken hot dogs, which she had tried because of sticking religiously to a low-cholesterol diet, were not worth carrying home. I’m not sure what happened next but I don’t think my mother will mind my sharing this story because, in her book, it was the truth and they needed to know.

I salute Mr. Wampler and the family for Charlie’s volunteering as many as five days as week as a greeter in the local hospital cafeteria up until he was 99, and “part time” as recently as two weeks ago, according to his obituary. One woman I know who works at the hospital says she’ll miss his greetings.

His grandson, Harry Jarrett Jr. reflected in the 2015 WPost article, “Everybody loved him because he was, and still is, obviously, very personable.” Harry is a former pastor and communicator par excellence himself. The Jarretts now operate the family farm “Sunny Slope” as a special events destination (weddings, events, reunions). “He cares about people. He remembers people’s names. I don’t think he was just interested in building a multimillion-dollar business, which of course he ended up doing. But he really had a heart for the community.”

We could do worse than emulate Mr. Charlie Wampler Jr. for his faith, his community spirit, and for his love of and interest in people. RIP and many happy memories to the family.

***

Any Charlie Wamper Jr. or Sr. stories to share? I’m all ears. Remembrances?

 

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