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Rhapsody on Porches

Another Way for week of September 10, 2021

Rhapsody on Porches

We have a long porch running the length of our house. This summer, my husband and I used it snapping beans for canning. I confess we use it less than we should. When the grandsons come, they run races on it, blow bubbles from the sides, and practice casting fishing rods. And of course, they love the porch swing, which still fits all five. I fancy some of the grandsons someday having slumber parties out there, once they get old enough.  

Porch swing at our home, 2020.

On vacation together this summer, the final morning of our stay at a cabin near a lake, all five of them plopped themselves on the cabin’s porch swing. The grown-ups all grabbed for their phones. I know the porch and swing at our house will figure strong in their grandma and grandpa memories.

Porch swing at Deer Creek Lake, Maryland, 2021. The boys posed themselves for this picture.

I grew up with a porch on our farm in Indiana and loved everything about it except for cleaning it each summer: the banisters, the white siding behind our swing, the windows. On the porch swing we’d wait for the bus to appear before heading 25 feet to the road. Before my next oldest sister went to school, she sat on that swing desperately trying to pronounce her middle name, Marie, thinking she would have to give her full name to the teachers, or someone. She cried because she simply couldn’t quite say it right.

On another morning when we were waiting on the bus, I was late coming out the door, down the steps, and up the steps of Bus #3. (If you rode a bus, do you remember the number of the bus and driver?) Tobe was our driver. I stumbled on my way up the bus steps that day and fell hard, chipping a front tooth. A forever souvenir from Bus 3 and a frequent reminder not to rush going up steps.

When our cousins came to visit us, we would play “Seven Steps Around the House” after dark—frightening each other silly—and used the porch as home base.

Painting by Florence Yoder, my aunt/mother’s sister. You can’t see the porch swing here, we maybe took it down for winter.

On rainy evenings my husband and I love to sit on the porch and listen to the rain pour down, something we didn’t hear a lot of this summer until hurricane season in late August and September.   

I got the idea to write about this from a blogger friend and former president of Goshen College, Indiana, Shirley Showalter. In her blog post “Porch Culture,” she sings the praises of a wonderful new or old porch (shirleyshowalter.com).

Not long after I read Shirley’s rhapsody on front porches, I was walking in a neighborhood near our church where a friend and I exercise frequently. A woman was sitting on her porch, mid-morning on a fairly warm day. When I later circled back by the same house, I saw an older woman getting out of her car there and I fancied that they were having a little morning get together. Porches are good for things like that, especially amidst this pandemic that seems to be making another unwelcome push through our cities and countrysides.

A lifelong friend and work colleague, James Krabill, shared this gem recently on Facebook: “A family visit to Maplewood, New Jersey, introduced us to the “Porch Fest” –an annual Labor Day Weekend celebration during which dozens of musicians from all over town set up shop on their own front porches and perform. Residents roam the streets, popping in on their favorite music venues. This is a super cool idea that needs to be tried in a few other locations I can think of.” James is an amazing musician himself and I have no doubt he’ll get it going in his community. Some have observed “International Play Music on the Porch Day,” on the last Saturday in August since 2017.

Start practicing for next year!

***

Share your porch stories and memories here! Or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

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

Aside

First Day of School: Welcoming Them Back

Another Way for week of Sept. 3 2021

First Day of School: Welcoming Them Back

The highschoolers spilled out of their buses and sped steadily toward their destination, the right side door of our local high school, where our own daughters once headed. Just one front door unlocked for them in a whole set of doors, and we all know why that is, right?

A few of the community citizens welcoming the high schoolers back.

It was the first day of school for these kids. A string of community leaders and well-wishers had lined up outside the doorway to greet the teenagers enthusiastically with words of welcome, best wishes, you are awesome, you can do it—along with a few printed signs with lines of encouragement. My husband and I were there through our Lions Club connections along with masked Rotary members, police officers, a state legislator, teachers and retired leaders of organizations. This kind of “welcome back” is a tradition in some communities.

The faces of the teens—behind their masks—wore expressions everywhere from resignation to excitement to boredom to glee. As a former band parent, I made sure any kids carrying band instruments got a “Yay band!” from me. Others I simply saluted with “Welcome back” and “Have a good year.”

Sample sign.

They wore torn jeans (of course) that showed parts of entire legs (except for underwear), baggy t-shirts with kosher messages. Some eyes reflected fear, dread, happiness and surely anticipation of hanging out with old friends. The freshmen among them had to be a bit scared: would they find their classrooms, would they like their teachers, would their schedules work out, would this school year work out for Pete’s sake, after the dizzying year they had lived through the year before? Last year was made up of some days at school, some at home, cancelled events and sports, rerouted buses, and parents chauffeuring many.

How did we get here? What have we been through? What else will we have to go through? Will they have to go back to two days in class, two days at home schedules?

My own toughest school experience was long ago as a new girl at a new school in the deep south for my senior year. I rode a bus for an hour each way. That year I found myself scared and bewildered at some of the name calling. I was frequently lonely, but finally made some good friends. 

As we greeted the students, I began to tear up and had trouble keeping my composure as I pondered the last 18 months—for the kids, for ourselves, for my own grandkids heading back to school, some for the first time. One was off to kindergarten in this brave new world, following slowly behind his very eager older brother. What would Henry find in a formal school setting? I remember him, at the age of four, telling his mother one day when they rode in their van in the early days of the pandemic: “Mommy, we need some masks.”

Henry following his big brother on his first day of school.

“I know,” his seamstress mommy responded. “That’s why I’m picking up some fabric today.”

Masks??? For a four-year-old? For the two-year-old? These children have learned to always play with masks on when out and about. The parents yearn for the day when their children will be able to step up for their very own shots.

The assistant principal told us later that one high schooler was asking why people were lining up to greet them as they came into school. When she understood what we were doing, she thought it was a great idea. The mother of a 14-year-old freshman responded: “Yeah, they’re [trying to act] cool, but they noticed [the community greetings].”

Later, I also learned our kindergarten grandson, Henry, was happy when the principal (it’s a nice small school) recognized who he was because he looked like his brother. “I think it made him feel like he already belonged and wasn’t a stranger,” his mother texted.

That made ME feel very good for Henry’s first day of school. May the educational adventures continue!

***

What was your most memorable first day of school? Good or bad?

Comment here or send stories to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

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

I Need to Go Watch a Flower Open

Another Way for week of August 27, 2021

Throwback Column: I Need to Go Watch a Flower Open

[Columnist’s note: I’m on vacation this week but sharing a column from 27 years ago, when my Dad was still living. Originally written in 1994.]

Since my father retired from farming, he takes great joy in raising all sorts of flowers, shrubs, vines, and fruit trees on his little acre of Eden.

This past summer, I think my parents’ greatest fun was watching an evening primrose open up each evening. Dad phoned me one night and said, “I just wish you could be here to watch our show. Do you remember Aunt Arlene’s primrose?”

Daughter Tanya at Niagara Falls flower bed.

Well, I didn’t really, but he launched into the whole story of how he had gotten her flower bush after she died and that it was bursting forth into glorious yellow flowers each evening about 8:45 during the long days of summer. Kind of like Old Faithful.

If you know as little about evening primroses as I did before Daddy got hooked, each blossom opens up like a slow motion shot on TV. You can watch it bloom before your eyes. On a big plant, that means a hundred or more surprises, one right after another. And each blossom only lasts one night. By morning, the blossoms start to droop. By noon, they are shriveled up. But the next evening another bunch of blossoms open up.

Mom and Dad invited everyone they know over to watch the show over the summer. The TV was forgotten.

I was afraid I would have to wait another summer to see their spectacle. Luckily, though, it was still putting on its nightly show when I got to visit my parents in late summer as part of a quick business trip.

My parents came to meet me and pick up the two children who had traveled with me, so that I could get to a meeting at the workaholic time of 5-7 p.m. on a Saturday evening. My father said, “Try to get home by 7:40 and you can see the primrose blossom!”

The meeting droned on and on. Seven o’clock came and went. It was a 20-minute drive to my folks’ place in the country. Would I make it? I started purposefully gathering up my things. My boss looked like he was going to call an after-meeting meeting. How could I possibly tell him I couldn’t stay, that I had to go watch a flower open?

Not to fear. The meeting ended at last. I beat a hasty retreat and rushed to my parents’ home. I remembered my Mom saying earlier the primrose had caused some thoughtful discussions among the people who had come to watch it bloom, and how life was like the primrose. Life is short; in the space of eternity, all of us bloom for only an instant, an eyeblink of time. Those who knew my Aunt Arlene remembered her and how she had died too young. People talked about how important it is to watch the flowers bloom, whatever they are –including excusing ourselves from meetings and appointments at times to take care of the things that matter.

Evening Primrose at our house, circa 1996, with apologies for the poor photo.

I flew into their driveway. It was 7:45 p.m. Had I missed the show?

As usual when we keep our priorities in line, the good Lord sees to it that there is time enough to attend to work, to family, and to smell the flowers.

One of my daughters ran to me from their garage. “Mommy, they’re starting! They’re starting!” We oohed and awed and took pictures and ate Dad’s good grapes in the gathering coolness. The show went on for another good half hour, so I needn’t have worried.

Beautiful irises in spring, one of my favorite flowers now.

***

What flowers have you enjoyed this summer? I’ve enjoyed my husband’s cousin sharing his love of many flowers in their yard and on their deck via Facebook. I never would have expected him to be a flower guy. 🙂

You can still request some helpful, stress relieving bookmarks titled “101 Ways to Manage Stress.” Send requests to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

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

It Was That Kind of Day

Another Way for week of August 20, 2021

It Was That Kind of Day

It was our third day without a TV, waiting for the new box for our satellite hook-up to arrive, after several phone calls to service technicians failed to make things work. We’re not sure if lightning hit it or if it is just old. I don’t mind being without TV—I watch very little other than news and Jeopardy. (And of course I’m especially missing Jeopardy these days with Matt Amodio’s winning streak.)

So I’m canning tomato juice and oh no, one of the smoke detectors starts chirping every minute or so. That gets the dog upset right away and she wants to hang close to me with every move I make in the kitchen. She gets extremely nervous with the annoying chirps because one time when we were gone, she was stuck in the house with that annoying and nerve-wracking beep. My husband tries to track down the problem alone because I’m feverishly trying to get the tomato juice in the canner before it rains. We use an outside portable propane tank and burner to keep the heat of canning out of the house.

Rain!! We’re elated that it finally decided to rain here—after about a month of very little rain. I want to dance, we’re so so thankful, grateful, awash in heavy rain drops and almost tears. So that makes it a good day in spite of the minor first-world problems I describe above.

Husband gets on the phone with a technician from the smoke alarm people. He tries to be very polite but it soon escalates into her (the technician) yelling into the phone and him yelling back. For a half hour or more she gives him instructions and finally, finally, they trace down which detector it is and she gives her word that they will send a replacement detector because it had a ten-year warranty and we’ve only had it seven years. Finally, there is peace in the house for the dog and us.

I pull some corn for supper. How easy summer meals are for me these days: settle on a meat, pick some sweet corn from the garden, slice some tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers and that’s dinner. Almost every night, unless I get tired of it. My husband rarely tires of summer suppers. I pull some extra corn and ‘maters and cukes to share with our neighbors, who are happy for the fresh goodies.

Meanwhile, around the world, Afghanistan is falling apart, people in Haiti are not only recovering from another earthquake, but (on the day I’m describing) a possible hurricane was heading their way. Droughts continue unabated in hot spots the world over and I feel more kinship for their dead, dried fields and baked earth. Elsewhere, floods in Europe that are receding leave wet, muggy, dirty homes and basements that must be dried out and clean water found. People the world over are trying to live within the confines of the pandemic, with new surges and patient counts and bickering and exhausted loved ones dealing with masks and covid tests and shots.

After supper I head out to the garden—before it happily starts raining again. My goal is to pick the dreaded nuisance bean beetles we’re assaulted with every stinkin’ summer. I could do without them. But somehow it is peaceful in the rows of pole beans and I’m thrilled to see ripe beans and new fresh leaves sprouting from all the rain.

By the end of the day, the tomato jars have all pinged their joyful news that yes, they sealed just fine. My husband will have plenty of home canned juice to enjoy all winter.

I don’t mind a quiet evening at home—no TV—and we spend it together in the living room: me typing on my laptop and him entertaining himself with YouTubes and news reports on his laptop.

How is or was your day here in late August?

This morning this is how our corn looks ….

***

Request free helpful bookmarks titled “101 Ways to Manage Stress.” I can send you up to five, to share. Comment here or send requests to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

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

August Bounty: Peaches at $12.50 a Bushel?

Another Way for week of August 12, 2021

August Bounty: Peaches at $12.50 a Bushel?

What memories do home-canned peaches conjure up for you? Assuming you are, like me, of a certain age.

Store-bought canned peaches, in my book and family history, don’t count. Oh, they may taste OK in the dead of winter when you can’t get fresh peaches. And I do like canned store-bought peaches just fine served with a nice dollop of cottage cheese.

But store-bought canned peaches are nothing like their fresh sister, or home canned cousins.

So, I had not canned peaches in years. Decades even.

But there was a deal on local peaches that both my husband and I simply could not pass up. Two bushels of peaches for a total of $25. That’s a really good price, isn’t it? And they were huge and beautiful and lush with flavor even in this dry year. Or especially in our dry year in these parts. I was told that if peaches get too much rain, they lose flavor because they have more water in them. Correct me if that’s wrong—or if our deal wasn’t as good as some in your area. We have a plan to eat more peaches and less ice cream for dessert next winter. Sounds like a good plan in early August, eh?

Anyway, we were getting ready to go on a trip, again, to be with my Mom. So it was hurry hurry to get the peaches canned and some tomatoes canned.

Backing up, canning the peaches was almost fun because we do love peaches and my husband said he would help skin them. Low and behold we canned 28 quarts in two days, took care of a nephew overnight, packed, and tried to keep the pitifully dry garden half-way watered, and the bean beetles at bay.

I had to refresh my knowledge about how to can peaches, and I couldn’t call Mom. So I turned to Esther H. Shank’s fine, almost 700-page cookbook, Mennonite Country-Style Recipes and Kitchen Secrets. Shank lives here in the Shenandoah Valley and her book is renowned in these parts. It is full of information passed down from one generation to the next so that such info doesn’t get lost forever.

Shank has a whole section on canning, freezing, and preserving which is worth the price of the book, in my opinion. She reveals her own methods—such as telling us that if peaches are evenly ripened, you may find it easiest to blanche them (dip wire basket of your peaches in boiling water for 1 brief minute and then dunk in cold water immediately). Then drain and cut the peach in half to remove the seed. She says peelings should slip off easily but “if this method causes peaches to become ragged [or I might say too soft and not holding shape], peel thinly with knife instead.” She then lets it be known that her own favorite approach for peeling them is to just use a knife and forget the boiling and dunking. Saves a step. She also tells you, in a separate entry, not to can strawberries because they do not turn out well. Good to know.

My husband and I had a discussion and he recalled his mother using wide mouth jars for canned peaches. I have many more regular jar than wide mouthed, so I wanted to try the smaller openings. Meh… that didn’t go so hot so the next batch we switched to wide mouthed. And of course, putting the pitted side down in the jar. The end result of peach halves stacked upside down on each other is almost artistic, right?

Now I’ll leave this on the short side because I’m sure many readers also have things to can or freeze or harvest. Bon Appetit!

My own notes for future reference, using Esther Shanks instructions:

How much sugar to use to make syrup per quart for thin syrup:

1 1/2 cup sugar with 4 cups water

or: 3 cups sugar with 8 cups water

Making syrup: Bring water and sugar to boil. Pour over peaches in cans. Process 25 minutes by open water boil method (not pressure canner).

Also note: Each half bushel of peaches had approximately 50 Large peaches in it, about 200 peaches all together. Resulted in 28 canned quarts, and many others given away to friends or enjoyed fresh. The fresh peaches lasted over a week under refrigeration. The orchard dubbed them overripe.

I’d love to hear your peach canning memories/canning hints/disaster stories. Pile them on here!

Or share how much fresh peaches cost in your area of the world this year!

Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

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

Vaccines: A Current Lesson from an Old Favorite Show

Another Way for week of August 6, 2021

A Current Lesson from an Old Favorite Show

There’s an old Andy Griffith TV show where the county public nurse is trying to get a local farmer, Rafe Hollister, to get a vaccine for tetanus.

Hello? What a great advertisement for today’s current push to get more people vaccinated—some of whom resist as hotly as the farmer in the 1960s era program.

Earlier this year a woman who I know only casually was telling me why she was distrustful of getting a covid shot. I had just received my first shot at that point (early March) but am now fully vaccinated. She is a Christian who feels that the shots are unnecessary and the push to vaccinate as many as possible is somewhat a response to the assault of our senses from the media. Then she asked me why, also as a person of faith, I was getting the shots. (And this is not directed to those who have health issues that would make getting the shots ill-advised or dangerous for them.)

I was not able to verbalize my “why get the shot?” at that point but I have done a lot of thinking since. I don’t like writing about controversial issues but if this saves one life, it will be worth it.

  • To help other people. My upbringing and training in faith has always emphasized doing our best to help others. If my getting a vaccine helps to protect not only myself but others around me or who I come in contact with, then I want to help.
  • Our children live in or near cities with more chances of infection and they’re super cautious. They wouldn’t allow us to be with or visit our grandchildren if we didn’t have the shots. I wouldn’t want shots to tear our family apart.
  • We know that in past pandemics, achieving herd immunity by means of vaccines has helped the whole world.
  • The vaccines have been well tested, especially at this point.
  • I am also returning to wearing masks in stores even though double vaccinated. That makes it look like I’m not double vaccinated but if it protects others and myself in any way, it will be worth the inconvenience or judge-y thoughts of others.
  • Yes, we could still become ill. We know when we drive on our highways that we could be in a serious accident, yet we get on roads and do our best to stay safe and pray for safekeeping for all.

Back to the Andy Griffith show, in case you don’t watch MeTV reruns. The stubborn and determined farmer Rafe comes dangerously close to shooting Barney, the young nurse, and Andy with his shotgun as they all try to convince him to get his tetanus shot.

How does Sheriff Andy Taylor work his magic? When Rafe is jailed for one night for firing at his three farm visitors, Andy serenades him with an old timey ballad about death and how everyone will be so sorry when Rafe’s gone and will look at him in the casket and say what a famous person he was (even though a bit cantankerous). They’ll put up a statue in the town square celebrating his life, and they’ll remember how Rafe’s death inspired everyone else to get a tetanus shot. Rafe tears up and finally consents to the vaccination. Not only that, he’ll talk his neighbors into getting jabbed too.

I was not able to convince my acquaintance to get vaccinated as I listened to her impassioned reasons for not getting the shots. I just wish I had done my homework and would have been able to better explain why I feel it is important.

I wrote earlier about my aunt (long before my time) dying in the flu epidemics of 1918-1919. And now we’re thinking of how the current malady is resurging, just like the pandemic did over 100 years ago. I hope and pray that all of us will do our best to protect other people to help bring the current pandemic under control.  

***

Here’s the Andy Griffith episode: https://trakt.tv/shows/the-andy-griffith-show/seasons/2/episodes/24

***

Thoughts or stories? Share them here! Or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

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

Time in a Bottle: Summer Vacation

Another Way for week of July 30, 2021

Time in a Bottle: Summer Vacation

Did anyone else wake up on July 1 and say how can this year be half over already? Where did the delightful month of June go? Where indeed does time go?

Dad and son exploring the lovely cool water near the falls.

We like to savor the days of a vacation, for instance, and time literally does seem to go slower when we’re doing new things—and that’s a good thing. It is good for our psyches to have variety, to put little highlights into our days, to try new things. Sitting on the couch or easy chair watching nonstop TV or Netflix or browsing the web doesn’t, in the long run, lead to very interesting, fruitful, or exciting days.

This is of course coming from a retired person’s perspective now. We just returned from a very short vacation with our entire family—our daughters, sons-in-law, and five grandsons. We were together four nights and parts of five days—but my one grandson called it three days because we were technically together only all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Yes, too short (all that Grandma and Grandpa could afford) but had a wonderful time.

At first my grandson didn’t know anything about shimmying up a pole. I explained how to do it but of course Grandma can no longer do it.

But instead of the routines of our home lives (they all live a distance away—from two hours to six hours distant), we got to enjoy hikes to waterfalls, jet ski rides for most (not this Grandma who elected to tend the children when they weren’t riding), short walks near our cabin, an excursion to the lake’s beach to play in the sand, a trip to the local community college’s pool, blowing or popping bubbles, making s’mores around a campfire, churning homemade ice cream, lounging in a hot tub (adults) or asking a zillion questions about such a big bath tub (kids), and an uproarish-ly fun photo session with a professional photographer. She made it so fun by giving five little boys the opportunity to shout out silly word combinations, like “Booger sandwich” which resulted in laughing, smiling faces.

Thus the days were filled with special moments and generous time together. On the way home, I carefully wrote down the things we did because they always fade quickly from memory when returning to usual routines.

Grandpa holds down the old-fashioned ice cream churn while grandsons help.

I read an article recently that explains some of the different ways younger or older experience time. Clifford Lazarus in Psychology Today writes “… beyond the theoretical and practical applications of Einstein‘s theories of relativity, almost every human knows intuitively that time is relative—because it seems to pass much faster the older we get. Hence, how a clock measures time and how we as humans perceive it are quite different. This speeding up of subjective time with advancing age is well documented, but there is no consensus on the cause” (Nov. 29, 2020).

I don’t know what time clock my grandson (who thought the time went too fast) was on. The usual explanation which makes sense to me: for a 10-year-old, one year is ten percent of their entire life. But for my mother, who is nearing 100, one year is 1/100th of her entire life. Thus, in thinking about years—time goes fast for older folks but slower for younger. But I can also argue that the days can get very long for an elderly person all alone in their room, you know? This grandson, who is almost eight, frequently flits about and runs (fast) from one activity to the next. So, you can see how these things are not easy to understand or explain, and I’m not a scientist!

At any rate, I started writing this at the end of June, and here we are already at the end of July, and just as quickly the end of August will be here. I do know that time is precious, people are precious, and the God of the universe and master of time holds all of us in loving hands.

It only took 4 tries — with rests between tries — and he made it!
Our newlyweds enjoying the falls.

***

Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

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

The Extreme Challenges of Nursing Care for the Elderly

Another Way for week of July 23, 2021

The Extreme Challenges of Nursing Care for the Elderly

(Editor’s note: Second of a two-part series on nursing care reform.)

I do not pretend—heaven forbid—to be an expert, or even that I’ve read widely. I don’t have time to research this topic in depth. But I do know that “distant family members showing up to visit their loved one” at nursing care facilities is one of the headaches of aides, nurses, therapists and social workers everywhere. Workers often dread when out of town family come to town.

Back in 2007 I helped produce a TV documentary called Embracing Aging and that’s what the nursing home employees told us. Family members throw out a stream of complaints ending with something like “We expect better care for all the money that goes into his/her care.” And it is, definitely extremely expensive.

Family members may be feeling guilt (that they can’t visit more often), grief (to find their dad this way), and a great deal of confused unknowns. Throw in the pandemic, and you’ve got a recipe for difficult sea-changing times.  

We (my sisters and I) recently had a heart-to-heart meeting on mom’s behalf with the head social worker at a beautiful and widely respected retirement facility. Last week I wrote about the new major fall Mom had this year that put her in this situation in both 2020 and 2021.

Mom and my sister Pert enjoying some fresh air.

This social worker emphasized that their facility was totally at the mercy of the federal CDC (Centers for Disease Control) mandates and guidelines—some of which were of course very necessary and understandable. But as she emphasized, “The care of our aging population needs an overhaul in terms of what works in these settings. A nursing center is not a restaurant or a sports stadium or a school – and needs different authorities managing or feeding in to the care guidelines for those in nursing care.”

She stated that “The isolation our patients have gone through has been devastating.” Patients who lived independently all their lives suddenly lost all control of their lives and their loved ones.

What is more, caretakers have been brought in from medical staffing agencies. These workers go wherever they are sent or have an opportunity to go. They are often usually young, not married, at the beginning of a career. They are well trained and dedicated—but when workers are moved around a lot within facilities, they simply don’t learn to know the special needs and moods and favorite things of individual patients. Plus they are not permanent staff.

The head social worker also talked about how difficult it has been to keep their own staff—which is a new reality all across the country. To be so short staffed and unable to find and hire new permanent staff has placed workers at all levels, including administrators like herself, under extreme stress. She expressed that there needs to be change at the governmental level of caring for the aged in advance of future pandemics, which are certain to come.

Earlier, NBC news made the statement that “America now knows that nursing homes are broken.” Residents were pretty much locked in (certain exceptions); they stated that over 170,000 long-term care residents and caregivers lost their lives to Covid 19. (March 7, 2021 website report).

The NBC report said that the chief problem (besides the pandemic restrictions) is that not enough money is invested in the caregiving itself. The hands-on care that our moms and dads and grandparents receive is often spotty at best. More and more families are opting for in-home healthcare themselves, or supplementing with visiting healthcare workers. Some of it is quite affordable, even round-the-clock. That of course is not without problems as well. Some of our parents do not wish to live with family members.

A volunteer who was welcoming guests at the nursing facility where my mother is currently living was telling a visitor, “Tell your friends to visit the people they know. Our patients have been so isolated [from the pandemic], they need their families.”

Talk about these issues with your friends and loved ones—and like I encouraged last week, there is probably someone waiting and longing for a visitor in your vicinity.

***

You can now watch the full documentary Embracing Aging:Families Facing Change on YouTube here. The documentary was filmed in 2007.

For a free booklet “Praying When You are Depressed,” by Mildred Tengbom, write to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

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

Losing Independence

Another Way for week of July 16, 2021

Losing Independence

As I watch my almost-97-year-old mother’s aging process, I am reminded again and again: we all go down this road. In not too many years it will be me and my siblings facing the challenges she is facing, unless we die younger.

Throw a world-wide pandemic into the picture and you’ve got misery. You’ve got loved ones who need and want to be surrounded by lifelong friends and family—and what they get too often is isolation. If they must live in a nursing care or retirement facility, we all have to follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) rules which are imposed for our own safety of course. Many have experienced being prisoners in their own rooms. Some are forced to greet friends and families through glass windows where rain, snow or sun make the visiting difficult. They gesture and hold up signs to communicate, if they are unable to hear on phones.

Here’s an update on my dear mom, who many readers may recall first had a fall in February last year (2020), right before the Covid close down. She broke her femur. It healed well and she made it through months of physical therapy with flying colors. We were able to visit her several times in her independent apartment and took her to a service at her church (outdoors); to a flea market; to a delicious Amish-cooked “sloppy joes and potato salad” lunch (her choice); and even to a nephew’s home. My cousin and his wife set up canopies for another outside get together they were hosting the next day, so we visited with several cousins in the open air.

Mom didn’t like the rules and close downs and masks. Who does? Plus, she doesn’t read or watch TV as much as she once did, due to eyes that get very tired, so at first it was hard for her to grasp the vast reaches of this pandemic.

Then came winter. Another February, 2021. Another middle of the night fall, this time breaking her shoulder. Much harder to heal. Much harder to do any physical or even occupational therapy involving the upper body because you can only move one arm and hand. The rules say 100 days of Medicare-paid residency in a rehab facility, and you’re out. You have to start paying your own way, unless you are lucky enough to have long term health care insurance.

My sister and sister-in-law (both nursing experience) help make sure Mother stays safe for an excursion to her favorite restaurant the Saturday before Mother’s Day, 2021.

As vaccines became possible, we all (in Mom’s family) got vaccinated, but still there were sporadic close downs for the facility for mandatory two weeks due to outbreaks—including workers, some of whom refused or were unable to get vaccinated. We visited in March, May and planned to visit in June. Then, wham, another close down. However, it was lifted again by the time we arrived June 22, which was a blessing.

It was also extremely helpful to talk to the social worker in charge of her building, who helped my sisters and I understand a few of the ramifications of the pandemic on staffing, volunteering, and continuity of care when much staffing is done through medical staffing agencies. These are trained workers but they come in completely new with many pages of notes and care directions to read and absorb for each of their patients. And then, if one wing of the entire operation needs a worker because others are out sick, they get shifted to a new section of the facility with new patients who have different, particular needs.

Although workers did their best with Mom’s needs, it is difficult for a continual parade of different CNAs (nurse aides) to be as punctual and precise as Mom always was with applying her own eye drops and eye compresses. Or to get her hearing aid in just right.

My brother and other sister help settle Mom into her place at the Essen Haus in Middlebury, Indiana.

Our family appreciates the prayers and care given to Mom. I will write more next time about the challenges our healthcare system—especially for those who have reached their 90s—face. The issues are widespread.

All of us, with Mom at the Essen Haus. The reality of Mom’s second fall and restrictions has been difficult to adjust to for all of us.

If you have friends, relatives, or church members in healthcare, do reach out to them. Go and visit if it’s allowed, and keep visits short. Your friends and the patient’s family will bless you!

***

What has been your experience with nursing care for a relative or close friend?

How did she/he cope? How did you cope?

For a free booklet “Praying When You are Depressed,” by Mildred Tengbom, write to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

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

Opening Up to Faith Conversations

Another Way for week of July 9, 2021

Opening Up to Faith Conversations

Roommates Barbra Graber, left, and Sara Wenger Shenk, right, in an off-campus apartment, 1974-75.

One of my college roommates, Sara Wenger Shenk, has written a new book called Tongue Tied: Learning the Lost Art of Talking About Faith (Herald Press, 2021). Sara is a prolific and elegant writer. In this book she explores how in the last 30 years so many of us have lost the ability to be open about our faith in God—indeed if we have faith at all. We shy away from talking about religion perhaps because we’re afraid of offending others, or it doesn’t come as naturally as talking about the weather or health.

I found the most meaningful parts of her book included personal stories—either her own or from others. The stories help us connect with her premise, that “We need a language of faith that is authentic, candid, and robust.” Here’s one sad but powerful story from Sara:

“When I was particularly distraught by a double tragedy affecting people in our community—my dear friend’s husband and her daughter’s husband, both killed within ten days of each other in separate horrific accidents—I sat at the piano, tears streaming down my face, wondering what in the world there was to sing that might assuage the confusion, anger, and grief. I happened onto the song “Halle, Halle, Hallelujah!” (a traditional Caribbean song arranged by John Bell). As I began singing, my rational brain kept vetoing the song. Wrong song! Wrong song! Who sings hallelujahs when experiencing such loss? Where’s the mad, sad, angry song I should really be singing? Yet as I pounded the keys, the song began to possess me. I played and sang on and on and on, louder and louder, with no desire to stop. In the process I found that I was transported to another place. A place where God is God, no matter what. The change happened inexplicably. Without expectation. And it was real.” (p. 146)

Sara Wenger Shenk

Singing our way into a better framework has happened to me also—in my car. Sara is a scholar and served as president of a seminary for almost a decade. I appreciate this book because it makes us think about how faith conversations can be reinstituted into our lives without taking offense at what others believe or share. Even writing about faith here in a daily newspaper should be as non-controversial as saying your like such and such baseball or football team.

In her book Sara talks about how religious arguments and even some of the old hymns we may still enjoy singing, come up short in terms of communicating a faith that is vibrant but open to listening to the experiences and viewpoints of others.

Beautifully, Sara reminds us: “Listening well, leaning into mystery, talking about what we love, and holding our convictions in gentle tension with others’ convictions, while standing on storied, holy ground, will restore a greater sense of our shared humanity and desire to know and be known by God. Our children and grandchildren will be blessed—as will the watching world” (p. 117).

Back to the double tragedy of the opening story above, told by Sara. I also knew and mourned the families and the horrible sadness it produced. Sara’s recollection brings me to the terrible condo collapse down in Miami in June with so many innocent victims. In such situations, we may be tempted (or think it is helpful) to tell families the oft-repeated truisms: “He or she is in a better place.” “God knows best.” “God wanted another angel.” (I find that last one particularly sad and not helpful for those in mourning to hear.) Instead, perhaps it is more reassuring to communicate that God grieves too, and longs to comfort us. A woman who lost her father when a gun accidentally went off, put it this way: “I never blamed God. I ever said God took my father away from me. I’ve always believed that God has been as grieved as me and put arms me and comforted me.” May it be so. And may we more naturally share the experiences of our own faith without putting down others.

***

You can find Sara’s newest book here.

Do you engage in faith conversations or are “religious” conversations not for you?

For more questions you can access the study guide I was asked to write for this book here.

Send other comments or stories to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. For more info on Sara’s book see https://heraldpress.com/books/tongue-tied/

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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