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12-24-2020 Letters and Commentary

CHRISTMAS MIRACLE… I hope this Christmas Holiday finds you among your loved ones and that the peace of the season is with you always.

Last week vaccines for the corona Virus-19 were approved by the CDC and within a couple days national distribution began.

Just when the future gloom seemed impenetrable, the darkness was swapped for brightness and joy.

Inoculations of medical staff treating the COVID-19 victims began immediately, as were the residents of nursing facilities.

With recent predictions of mid-2021 dates for completion of distribution of the vaccines, the news is certainly a miracle.

CHRISTMAS COLUMN TRADITION CONTINUED…

This is the 45th year I have published my Christmas column as being a part of the Bayer Christmas tradition.

Every year I seriously consider not printing it. When I express doubt as to running it again, I get responses from folks asking that I keep the tradition going. From family members and friends alike, all expressed that their own holiday memories were stimulated by my story.

This is close to the original written in 1976, as my first Christmas column as assistant editor of the Capac Journal. As it happens, it is also the only Christmas column I have ever written. With a few annual changes, this column just works for me. Now having grandkids Willy, Karli, Ben, Elaina, Zoya, Polly, Evie, Eli, and Kendall to share those memories and to create new ones is something truly wonderful.

Over the past four years, a new generation has been started in our Karl & Anne Bayer clan. Jaxon, nearly 3 years old, and his 4-year-old brother William Harold Loshbough V are the newest babies celebrating with us at Christmas, sons of Willy and his wife Brook. The family was also gladdened by the marriage of our granddaughter Karlianne to Tyler Burbach.

The addition of third generation of grandnieces and grandnephews has swelled the family ranks. There are hopes the canceled Bayer Family Reunion could be held this coming summer.

After all, what is Christmas without being surrounded by children, family, and friends?

My own warm, bittersweet memories of Mom and Dad; my father-in-law, Nubbs; dearest mother-in-law Elaine; and the kids and family get-togethers on Christmas morning blend with those that were in my heart when I wrote that column 44 years ago as a young father looking forward to Christmas with my kids and thinking of my Christmases past as a youngster.

From that burgeoning Chris and Margaret Bayer family of 13 children, now there are more than 290 happy souls; husbands and wives, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandkids and great-grandkids. Our happiness in welcoming new babies and spouses to the family is mingled with the sorrow of missing those who are gone. The painful remembering of their passing, hopefully, will be lessened by the recollection of the joy, love, and good times they always shared with us. R.I.P. Mom and Dad, Nubbs and Elaine, Marian, Doug, Joan, Joe, Greg, John, Steve, Rosie, Bob, Silky (Dennis), Steve T., LeRoy, Doug, and Sonny.

I hope you get some enjoyment from this column and that it evokes your own warm memories of those with whom you have shared this family and holy day… Christmas.

OUR FAMILY CHRISTMAS

This is the most exciting time of the year for the little Bayer “cubs.” “How many days to Christmas?” they ask. “Is it Christmas yet? Is Christmas Jesus’ birthday? Is it today after church?”

My own favorite childhood memories of that time are the deliciously long-drawn-out hours and minutes leading up to Christmas. Then there’s that greatest time of all, Christmas morning.

As one of 13 children occupying a five-bedroom house, my childhood memories are jumbled together with the sights and sounds of living with a large family. Those memories have become a composite of many experiences; if not happening directly to me, they’ve become a part of me in the retelling of the stories.

On Christmas Eve, there were my older sisters squabbling over use of the bathroom before Midnight Mass; my older brothers would be mysteriously busy in the basement, assembling and making toys like elves. Mom and Dad’s bedroom door was kept locked; from every nook and cranny of that room peaked bits of wrapping paper and ribbon; and one never ventured to look in the trunk of Dad’s car, for we knew that’s where many of the gifts were kept.

In our house, most family gatherings centered in the huge kitchen; that’s where Mom was, always at the stove or sink.

Christmas was the exception… that’s the day the living room was the scene of all the action. That’s where we all collected and where all of our memories were created.

The woodwork about the mantle over the fireplace and the bookshelves alongside it were festooned with greeting cards of prayers and best wishes. On the mantle itself was the nativity set laid out with plaster-of-Paris figurines, a straw manger, and a three-legged cow; somewhere off to the left, hidden behind a line of graduation pictures, the Magi waited for the cue to appear on January 6, the Epiphany.

In the corner of the long living room, up near the front windows, stood the tree… oh, that tree… Dad would go out on a Saturday morning, perilously close to “that day,” and return home with the biggest, greenest, prettiest tree in the world. He would let it lean against the back of the house for a day or two, “for the branches to drop.” He’d cut off a couple inches of the trunk and affix the stand to it by a nail.

LET’S TRIM THE TREE

When the time came to decorate the tree, it was a family affair. First, the top came off, to be decorated by us small ones and then placed atop the piano. Meanwhile, the big tree would be trimmed and wound in electric lights. Next come the small ornaments placed at the top, with larger ones placed on toward the bottom.

Then Mom would unwrap her special ornaments – old, dull pieces of thin glass, plumed birds, and tiny snowflakes; mom’s memories… a bit from her mother; an aunt or uncle; one from her first tree as a married woman; one from a friend during the war; and so on.

Lastly, the tinsel was added; long strips of thin metal-like stuff to be draped over the ends of branches and lower limbs. Never mind it got tangled up in a big ball; pop it in your mouth and enjoy the weird taste next to your teeth. It didn’t matter an older sister came behind and rearranged the clumps you left on the branches. When the job was done, the tree was the world’s most beautiful.

The decorated tree in the living room was the signal Christmas was near. Other signs were a kitchen full of baked things, holiday music on the radio, and mysterious evening trips Mom and Dad made “to see a man about a dog.”

Finally, it’s the night before Christmas. We youngsters are tucked in our beds; the older ones get to stay up for Midnight Mass. Those put to bed have no visions of sugarplums; there’s too much excitement. We scurry from bed to bed, bedroom-to-bedroom… someone calls up the stairs, “Better get to sleep or Santa won’t come!”

The years Grandma Leib lived with us, she’d guard the stairs door to thwart our childish attempts to catch Santa in the act.

Eventually, sleep takes over; long waking hours are transformed to swiftly passing ticks of an unheard clock and we hear Dad call up the stairs, “Get up, Santa’s been here!” (One year, Santa even brought baby brother Stephen Christian Bayer.)

There, below the tree, along the walls, behind chairs and in front of the fireplace… piled, bunched, scattered, and artfully composed… were the gifts: games, clothes, bikes, microscopes, dolls, trains, perfume, boots, and books (gifts mostly new, some repainted just like new, all given with love) – ready to be passed out to all in the family.

FIRST, THERE’S CHURCH

But time, the children’s great cross to bear, marches inexorably through the Christmas tradition. First, we went to 9:15 Mass. Oh, how Father Laval Landry’s sermon seemed so long, the songs never ended, Communion never came; and, then, magically, we were heading for the doors and on to home!

Home to presents – but time’s tradition is again served. To pass out so many presents, Dad needs a good breakfast and we all must eat. Mother makes homemade waffles, fry’s pounds of bacon and dozens of eggs, toasts toast until the room smokes; and the faster we eat, the more Dad dawdles. That man spent more time on Christmas (we thought) eating breakfast than on any other day of the year.

Finally, with a twinkle in his eye, Dad draws the breakfast ritual to a close. He sits in his large chair near the tree, stretches his arms wide, scratches his ankle, and reaches for his morning newspaper.

A cry, the likes never heard since the fall of Jericho, erupts from big and small throats alike, causing him to drop the paper and, with his happiest grin, reach for the presents.

Swiftly and sure-handedly (who knows how he knew where to reach), he passes gifts to everyone. Each person has something to open. It is only for a split second (there’s that agonizing time again) that he hesitated before calling out a name on a present… Christine, Marge, Greg, John, Francis, Rosie, Paul, Karl, Babette, Jeanne, Steve, Liz, Richard, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, and there’s even one for Dad.

Ah, memories… those kids around that tree have all grown; Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad are gone. Our family of 13 siblings has grown to more than 250 and the presents are scattered under Bayer Family Christmas trees from Michigan to Texas, California to St. Louis.

It takes the passage of time and children of our own to appreciate this happy day as it becomes a cherished memory for all of us… and who among any of us wouldn’t wish for a little of that time again.

God Bless you all! Have a very Merry Christmas!

How’s your “normal”?

I noticed something different as I left a large retail store recently. It wasn’t that everyone was wearing masks. That’s normal now. What was different was that I was not tired of Christmas music coming over the store speakers. Normally by this time in the holidays I would be sick of hearing about Rudolph, or about dreaming of a white Christmas. But I wasn’t bothered at all. Hmm. Maybe that music represented something different to me this year – maybe something normal. Most of us can take as much normal as possible at this point.

We seem to mourn the loss of our routines. We need to rethink that situation. Soon it will be time to take the deco down again, but we needn’t be remorseful about that either, at least no more remorseful than we usually are after the great times we normally have with family during previous normal Christmas holidays. The missing spirit of Christmas (normal) past need not make us Scrooges in the Christmas present. Maybe we just have to take the farmers’ approach, “There’s always next year.”

Recent events have been sobering in that we now realize that we can hope for better times, but we don’t have any idea what this next year will bring.

Christmas is one international event that represents the influence and presence of Christianity in our world’s cultures where it is celebrated. In its many forms Christmas tradition provides a foundation for presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It expresses John 3:16 very well: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but will have eternal life.”

The COVID assault on Christians’ Christmas connections, if it becomes an annual event, could make us forget what is truly “normal” about this holiday, the celebration of God’s gift of redemption. Let’s not abandon that.

Legislature approves $465 million in relief for workers, businesses

Last Friday, I cast my vote in support of a $465 million COVID-19 relief funding package that will deliver critical dollars to help both our health care workers combating the virus and the thousands of Michigan workers and job providers nearing financial ruin because of the Whitmer administration’s continued shutdowns.

The bill was approved by the Senate 35-2 and the state House of Representatives finalized the bill Monday by a vote of 97-5, sending it on to the governor to sign into law.

The relief dollars will make vital investments to ensure appropriate storage and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and provide resources to increase the testing of teachers to help ensure healthy school communities and keep school buildings open.

Specifically, the relief plan includes: $220 million to extend unemployment benefits until April 1, 2021; $79.1 million to expand virus testing and vaccine distribution, including funds to ramp up testing of teachers to ensure healthy school communities; $115.3 million to hospitals and nursing homes to address nursing shortages, including an extension of the pay increase for direct care workers; $45 million in Employee Assistance Grants to restaurant and other workers laid off or furloughed due to Gov. Whitmer’s shutdown orders; and $63.5 million in Small Business Survival Grants and other assistance to help small businesses shuttered by the governor’s orders avoid permanent closure.

If signed into law, it will bring the total approved by the Senate to combat the virus to nearly $4 billion.

This has been one of the most difficult years in memory. While I am proud of the relief we are providing, the truth is too many people lost their jobs, businesses and homes because of the governor’s administration’s arbitrary closures. This financial relief plan will go a long way toward helping those who still can to get back on their feet.

As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov.

Michigan’s COVID-19 Relief Package passes in time for Christmas

This week the House passed Senate Bill 748, a $465 million supplemental appropriation package dedicated to fighting COVID-19 and the associated impacts on the economy. I would like to share with you some of the most important features of this package.

Last week was a proud moment in Southwest Michigan history as the Portage-based company Pfizer began shipping a COVID-19 vaccine. This plan dedicates over $50 million to quickly distribute the vaccine across our state to help keep our families safe.

The supplemental includes $103.5 million in support for businesses and their employees. Businesses and their employees that have been negatively impacted by the most recent pandemic orders would be eligible to apply for grants to help them through this time. Total, there will be $55 million available for small business grants.

Our health care heroes on the front lines of the COVID battle – risking their lives for ours – need and deserve more support. This plan includes over $85 million for COVID-19 and antigen testing, PPE, direct care wage increases, temporary staffing, and more.

Thousands of Southwest Michigan families are hurting financially through no fault of their own. That is why I fought to temporarily extend unemployment benefits so people can buy food and pay their bills. This measure includes $220 million to cover an additional six weeks of benefits. The extension runs through March and gives employees a total of 26 weeks of benefits instead of 20 weeks. We are holding employers harmless for this extension because it is not their fault that their businesses are closed and were forced to lay off employees.

Lastly, I would like to wish everyone in Western Van Buren County a very Merry Christmas. Though this year has presented us with numerous challenges, I am thankful to represent you and to be a part of such a tight-knit community.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212, via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin.

Michigan’s COVID-19 Relief Package passes in time for Christmas

This week the House passed Senate Bill 748, a $465 million supplemental appropriation package dedicated to fighting COVID-19 and the associated impacts on the economy. I would like to share with you some of the most important features of this package.

Last week was a proud moment in Southwest Michigan history as the Portage-based company Pfizer began shipping a COVID-19 vaccine. This plan dedicates over $50 million to quickly distribute the vaccine across our state to help keep our families safe.

The supplemental includes $103.5 million in support for businesses and their employees. Businesses and their employees that have been negatively impacted by the most recent pandemic orders would be eligible to apply for grants to help them through this time. Total, there will be $55 million available for small business grants.

Our health care heroes on the front lines of the COVID battle – risking their lives for ours – need and deserve more support. This plan includes over $85 million for COVID-19 and antigen testing, PPE, direct care wage increases, temporary staffing, and more.

Thousands of Southwest Michigan families are hurting financially through no fault of their own. That is why I fought to temporarily extend unemployment benefits so people can buy food and pay their bills. This measure includes $220 million to cover an additional six weeks of benefits. The extension runs through March and gives employees a total of 26 weeks of benefits instead of 20 weeks. We are holding employers harmless for this extension because it is not their fault that their businesses are closed and were forced to lay off employees.

Lastly, I would like to wish everyone in Western Van Buren County a very Merry Christmas. Though this year has presented us with numerous challenges, I am thankful to represent you and to be a part of such a tight-knit community.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212, via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin.

Letters to the Editor

LMC Nursing Program solicits public comments for continuing accreditation

(Press Release) Lake Michigan College is seeking public comments about its nursing program in preparation for a continuing accreditation site visit scheduled March 8-11, 2021. Comments can be emailed to mstoll@acenursing.org or mailed to Dr. Marsal Stoll, Chief Executive Officer Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, 3390 Peachtree Road Northeast Suite 1400; Atlanta, GA 30326. They should be received by March 10, 2021.

Members of the public are also invited to share comments with the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) site visit team during a virtual meeting scheduled March 10, 2021, at 3:30 p.m. A link to the meeting will be published on the Lake Michigan College website site approximately six weeks prior to the site visit.

Lake Michigan College’s registered nursing program has been ACEN-accredited since 1981 and 93% of students pass their NCLEX-RN State Boards on the first try. Learn more at www.lakemichigancollege.edu/nursing.

Senate passes bill to protect firefighters from hazardous PFAS chemicals

(Press Release) U.S. Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded Senate passage of his bipartisan bill to help protect the health and safety of firefighters and emergency responders. Emergency response teams are frequently exposed to harmful per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foams as they work to keep communities safe. PFAS substances have been linked to a number of health problems, including certain cancers.

The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Actdirects federal agencies to develop best practices, training, and educational programs to reduce, limit and prevent exposure to PFAS, also known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not naturally breakdown. The bill would also require guidance to be issued on alternative foams and personal protective equipment that do not contain PFAS.

“Firefighters risk their lives every day to protect our local communities in Michigan and across the country,” said Senator Peters. “We must make every effort to protect their health and safety, including preventing potential exposure to harmful PFAS chemicals. I am proud that the Senate has passed my bipartisan legislation that will help ensure first responders and the communities they serve are safe from these dangerous chemicals, and I will fight to ensure its swift passage into law.”

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of more than 4,700 highly-fluorinated man-made chemicals that have been widely used in industry and consumer products due to their ability to repel water, oil, and heat. Over the last few decades, emerging science has shown that PFAS have an adverse impact on human health and the environment. PFAS exposure has been linked to a number of detrimental health effects, including an increased risk of cancer, damage to the immune system, decreased fertility, birth defects, liver disease, and thyroid disease.

The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Actwould direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fire Administration, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – to develop educational resources to help protect firefighters, emergency response personnel, and the communities they serve from PFAS exposure. This would include information for federal, state, and local firefighters on training and best practices to prevent and reduce exposure to PFAS from firefighting foams and protective gear, as well as resources that identify alternatives for firefighting tools and equipment that do not contain PFAS.

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