A different kind of March Madness

By Bruce Stambaugh

For the first time in our 45 years of marriage, our anniversary falls on Easter. I couldn’t be happier.

bride and groom
Wedding day.
To be honest, I have no idea why we set our wedding date for the end of March. We had to be crazy to marry at the height of high school and college basketball tournaments. I guess it was a different kind of March Madness.

Both our fathers were big sports fans. They watched baseball, football and basketball games on TV and listened to them on the radio, too, sometimes simultaneously. We wouldn’t have been surprised if Neva’s dad had walked her down the aisle with a transistor radio held to his ear. He didn’t of course.

There was another thing about our wedding date. Neva and I were both teachers. What kind of a honeymoon could we take in the middle of a school year? The answer was a very short one.

The years have flown by. Like all couples, we’ve had our ups and downs. Through thick or thin, one little gesture has helped keep us together. We hold hands a lot.

Our handholding started on our real honeymoon the summer after we were married. We ran a church camp located at 10,200 ft. on the eastern slope of Pikes Peak in Colorado.

Barr Camp, Pikes Peak
When we were young.
We cooked on a wood stove or over an open fire, drank water from an ice-cold mountain stream, and greeted mountain hikers who needed a rest stop. We met a lot of nice people that summer, plus a hungry black bear that came calling early one evening.

A lot of water has run down life’s stream since then. We are fortunate to have family, friends, neighbors and church members who lifted us up when we needed it the most. We have tried to return the favors whenever possible.

Serving and being served in and by the community has strengthened if not defined our marriage and our shared purpose. But it’s the everyday interactions with one another, with strangers and friends that have helped see us through.

No matter the situation, Neva and I automatically reach for each other’s hand. That purposefully keeps us together.

I have read Neva’s heart and mind simply by touch. Cold and firm or warm and gentle, good times or bad, we still cling to one another. It’s a constant reminder that neither of us is ever alone in any situation. I thrive in that reassurance.

I remember the joy of playing horse as our two youngsters rode on my back around the house until I collapsed. They long ago became responsible, productive adults with careers and lives of their own. Our three growing grandchildren are wonderful blessings to us now, too.

happy couple
The happy couple today.
We recently visited the pastor who married us. We thanked him for all that he did to prepare us for our wedding day and life beyond. Hand in hand, he set this young, naïve couple on a long, meandering, incredible journey together.

I’m hoping the Easter weather will be beautiful, as lovely as my bride. It’s been a while since I’ve called her that. It will be great to share this holy day with folks who have lifted us up all these years.

I’m overjoyed that Easter and our anniversary coincide this year. It’s the perfect day of hope and joy for us to celebrate our reckless, uncalculated love together.

In the evening, we’ll sit and watch basketball games on TV. I’m pretty confident we’ll be holding hands.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

The idiosyncrasies of Daylight Saving Time

pink sunrise
Sunrise in pink.

By Bruce Stambaugh

As a kid, I loved when Daylight Saving Time (DST) arrived, mostly. At first, school days began in the dark. The upside was that we had more daylight time in the evening to play and do chores.

That seemed like a fair trade to me. Excuse the pun, but times have changed since the origin of DST. I’m not sure humanity has, however.

Believe it or not, DST originated in ancient times before clocks existed. Various civilizations adjusted their schedules, not their clocks, to the natural lengthening of warmer months.

Amish volleyball
Evening recreation.
Ben Franklin’s humor accidentally credited him with the suggestion of DST. When awakened by the sun at 6 a.m. in France in 1784, Franklin jokingly suggested in an essay that the French could save a lot of money by getting up earlier in the morning. That would result in fewer candles burned in the evening.

Folks in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada were the first to use DST in 1908. The idea didn’t catch on until the onslaught of World War I when Germany resorted to using DST to save fuel for the war effort. Great Britain soon followed suit.

The same thing happened when the United States entered World War II. To save fuel, DST ran from April 30 to Oct. 31. In one form or another, DST has been around ever since.

Today’s use of DST in the U.S. dates to the 1973 oil crisis in the Middle East. DST now runs from the second Sunday in March and ends the first Sunday in November. Altogether, 70 countries use some form of DST.

Despite its semi-annual adjustments, folks still get confused by the change of time. A simple rule is spring forward an hour in March and fall back an hour in November. Note the cheeky references to “spring” and “fall.”

Farmers often get the blame for initiating DST. In fact, the farmers I talk to hate it, especially if they milk cows.

Amish farmer, hay wagons
Late evening wagon train.
When I was an elementary school principal, I often made home visits. In some Amish homes, I noticed that the household clocks remained on standard time.

Others apparently used the art of compromise. Clocks were set back a half an hour. Perhaps these methods were mild forms of protest. Whatever the reasons, people always seemed to know what time it was regardless of what the clocks said.

That’s more than others could say. This simple idea led to some chaotic timekeeping. In 1965, the state of Iowa had 23 different start and end dates for DST. Even the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Min. didn’t change time equally.

To bring order to all of the chaotic clocks, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 making DST uniform. Well, mostly. Arizona and Hawaii still don’t use DST, along with several U.S. territories.

For good or for ill, the intent of this checkered history of playing with time was to save energy. Research has shown that concept is flawed.

I can see both sides. Earlier risers would just as soon avoid manipulating the clocks twice a year. Those who desire extra playtime after work or school are happy for the extended daylight.

That remains the justification for DST. It doesn’t save time. The tactic merely adjusts the clock to accommodate more daylight for more citizens.

My less than nimble fingers protest resetting the many digital devices that don’t self-correct. The child in my heart, however, still enjoys the adjusted daylight.

kids swimming, summertime
Summertime fun.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Here’s to the year of the quirky calendar

Amish country, spring, Amish buggy, Amish school
Spring in Amish country.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Being a weekly newspaper columnist, I pay attention to the calendar. I have to if I want my columns to appear in print. If I miss a deadline, well you know.

I only just recently noticed the quirkiness of the 2016 calendar. For instance, February, the shortest month, had five Mondays. If you are reading this on Feb. 29, it’s “Leap Day.” Within its 31 days, January only had four Mondays. Go figure.

That got me delving into the rest of the year. My research revealed several interesting tidbits of facts and silliness. Every month has at lease one cause, and many weeks have more than one reason to celebrate.

Digging further, I discovered a wide diversity of day designations that I never heard of. I guess I need to get out more.

January and February are history. Here’s a sampling of what’s in store for the rest of 2016. For the sake of space, I picked the most notable ones, minus the standard holidays.

spring flowers, crocuses
Crocuses.
March brings its share of quirkiness. March 3 is “If Pets had Thumbs Day.” March 9 is “Panic Day.” Besides the “Ides of March,” March 15 is “Dumbstruck Day.” I couldn’t make this stuff up.

April is no better. By starting off with “April Fools Day,” it follows that April is “National Humor Month.” Appropriately, it’s also “Stress Awareness Month.” The first week of April is “Read a Road Map Week.” I wonder when “GPS Week” is? April 4 is “Tell a Lie Day,” followed by “Go for Broke Day” on April 5.

May is “National Bike Month” and “National Photograph Month.” Designated days include May 3, “Lumpy Rug Day;” May 11, “Eat What You Want Day,” and the only Friday the 13th of the year.
Though I love June, I’m a little confused about its designations. It is “Aquarium Month” and the first week is “Fishing Week.” Maybe I can figure that out on June 1, “Flip a Coin Day.”

keep calm sign
The sign says it all.
Surprisingly, July has only one week dedicated to a cause. Week two is “Nude Recreation Week,” which I am not advocating. I will, however, promote July as “Blueberry Month.” Besides being “Independence Day,” July 4 is “Sidewalk Egg Frying Day.”

I like August. It’s “Admit You’re Happy Month,” which goes nicely with the second week, “National Smile Week.” Appropriately, Aug. 16 is “National Tell a Joke Day.”

Just in time for football season, September is “Little League Month” as in baseball. The ninth month starts off with “Emma M. Nutt Day.” She was the very first telephone operator. You’re on your own until October.

With 18 endorsements, October is a highly regarded month. Did I mention October is “Sarcastic Month?” That must explain why Oct. 3 is “Virus Appreciation Day.”

Hold your ears in November when it’s “National Drum Month.” And is it ironic that Nov. 8 is both the “U.S. General Election” and “Dunce Day?”

That brings us to December. It seems like 2016 will end goofy, too. Take Dec. 21, the winter solstice. Besides being the year’s day with the least daylight, Dec. 21 is “Humbug Day,” “Look on the Bright Side Day,” and “National Flashlight Day.”

Say what you will, the calendar is used to promote a variety of legitimate to questionable causes and remembrances. I’m not endorsing this practice, just reporting it.

I’ll simply stick to writing my columns as the literary spirit moves, quirky days or no quirky days. Enjoy this “Leap Day.” Tomorrow is “National Pig Day.”

pileated woodpecker, shadow, winter solstice
Solstice shadow.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

The magic in my life and yours

black skimmer, breaking waves
Magic in motion.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Do you believe in magic? I do, and I’m not channeling The Lovin’ Spoonful here either.

Whether we know it or not, we all have a little magic in our lives. It’s all around if we only take time and effort to notice.

I watched with joy and affection as the six-year-old tilted her head, gently flipped her long, blonde hair, batted her eyelashes, and put her index finger to her cheek contemplating her next move in dominoes. A mirror of her mother, I mentally catapulted back 35 years to when our daughter was the same age as Maren.

birding on the beach
Birder Bruce.
I knew my friend and his wife were passing through to visit. Just seeing him leaning into his camera on a tripod focusing on a flock of shorebirds on the beach gave me chills. The loving embraces of Bruce and Helen rekindled lifetime friendships.

I could hear the deep bass pulsate as the Swartzentruber Amish buggy approached from a quarter of a mile away. The dishes in our antique china closet rattled in harmony with the subwoofers syncopated vibrations as the buggy passed by the house.

Northern Gannets knifed into the ocean as a pod of dolphins played in the unusually calm Atlantic waters just off shore. These birds usually fished far from shore in churning waves, not placid shallows. We enjoyed the free show immensely.

Ft. Clinch St. Park, grandson
Getting the answer.
I observed the unabashed curiosity of the middle grandchild as he approached the reenactment soldier to ask a question about the Civil War fort. With the answer in hand, we trekked off to view the remnants of the old kitchen.

The melodic reverberations from the church’s old pipe organ grabbed me more firmly than a human handshake. I marveled at the introspective results, peace, joy, purpose, and compassion.

Antsy man that I am, I have at last learned to wait in one spot for the birds to come to me. I am seldom disappointed.

frosted produce field
After the frost.
After the first frost of the season, I waded into the rainbow of produce that littered the fertile field. The upbeat young farmer merely said a new season had begun.

In sadness, a friend told me that police arrested her young neighbor for writing threating notes to do public harm. The family can hardly afford to put food on the table let alone this. Her compassion moved me.

A small herd of deer leaped from the protection of the woods through my neighbor’s open field across a woven wire fence and into the next farm field. I watch with wonder their white tails bob in the dreary day until they bounded out of sight.

A friend sent me a note of appreciation. His expression of gratitude humbled me, drawing us closer than we were before.

wall hanging
Pastels.
The pleasing pastels of the wall hanging rested in my wife’s quilting frame. When completed, she gave the lovely piece to a friend who said the colors perfectly matched her décor. Karen’s smile was all the thanks Neva needed.

His family about to leave after their short visit, the oldest grandchild, 11 going on 21, climbed out of the back seat of the van. Evan gave Nana and Poppy another goodbye hug. We each teared up.

There might not seem anything magical about these everyday scenarios. But there was. The magic wasn’t pulled from a black hat or a shirtsleeve. Rather, life’s fleeting wonder is all around us all the time. It’s our duty to notice.

Real magic transcends illusionary tricks. It’s the ordinary moments in our lives that create extraordinary memories.

sunrise, Atlantic Ocean
Morning magic.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Living core values is just good business

rural view, farmstead, Holmes Co. OH
A rural view.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late friend, Perry Reese, Jr., knew a good thing when he saw it. Perry could read people like a newspaper. Best known as Coach, Perry scrutinized his surroundings similarly.

That fact was one of the main reasons the talented and demanding teacher and coach loved living here. It was not easy for a single, black, Catholic man to reside and work amid the world’s largest Amish and Mennonite population. But he did for several successful years until his untimely death in 2000.

Coach Reese
Perry Reese, Jr.
Perry thrived here as a winning coach and as an asset to the entire area. Why? He embraced the same core values as those revered by local folks. Work ethic, faith, community, and family together formed his life foundation.

Paramount to making Perry’s basketball team, players had to demonstrate a strong work ethic. The same characteristic holds for area businesses, too. Honing that esteemed value keeps the local economy healthy and stable, better than state and national averages.

Perry was a very private person, including practicing his faith. But there was no question as to where Perry stood, and he impressed that on his players.

St. Genevieve parish, Holmes Co. OH
St. Genevieve Cemetery and Parish.
It’s fair to say that local businesses attempt to model that approach with their products, services, employees and customers. The goal: actions match beliefs.

Perry loved the community, and for the most part, the community charitably returned the affection. He knew the importance of positive interactions and interpersonal relationships.

It takes determined effort to work together for the common good in a close-knit community. Though not perfect, this area shines in this regard.

Individuals, groups, clubs, churches and foundations regularly join forces with businesses to assist in time of need. Share-A-Christmas and the new county fairgrounds are two examples that come to mind. Add in the multitude of benefit auctions for individuals and service organizations, the commitment to community speaks for itself.

Despite his singleness, Perry placed enormous significance on the importance of family. In fact, he considered his players his family, and many considered him a father figure.

The fact that so many local businesses are family-owned and operated mirrors that concept. Family is everything here. Any and every good excuse is used to gather the family together any time of year.

Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, even solemn holy days like Old Christmas and Ascension Day, families assemble to share and commune. That’s not to say some good old-fashioned ribbing and recreation won’t also ensue.

family, friends, gathering
Gathering of family and friends.
In that same vein, businesses also reward their employees with family days like picnics, destination trips for the entire family, and financial bonuses. After all, a son or daughter might just be part of the next generation of employees.

All that said, it doesn’t mean that businesses and owners set themselves on a higher plane than elsewhere. Nor does it mean mistakes don’t happen. They do. But incorporating these four essential core values creates productive consistency in both corporate and individual lives.

Another admirable quality, humility, ties these four values together for individuals and businesses alike. Perry Reese, Jr. successfully used that important attribute to bind his teams together as one, just as businesses strive to keep their faithful employees.

These four fundamental principles have been time-honored traditions in Holmes Co., Ohio. In truth, they are revered universal values that transcend any and all geographical, social, political, gender, religious or cultural boundaries.

Friend to many, Perry Reese, Jr. was a gem of a guy, who humbly modeled the community’s core values. To do so was simply smart business.

Amish church gathering, Amish buggies
Church gathering.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Living the rural life and loving it

barn fire, Holmes Co. OH
Barn fire.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When fire destroyed my neighbor’s old bank barn a couple of years ago, all the firefighters could do was protect the outbuildings. The fully-involved structure burned to the ground.

A month later, blessed insurance arrived in the form of neighbors, family, friends and church members who raised a new building in a day. They started at first light and had the barn roofed and sided by evening. It’s the way of rural life here.

Amish barn raising
Barn raising.
I’ve happily lived my adult life in one of the richest agricultural areas in Ohio. That’s a bit ironic for someone born in a city and raised in a suburb.

My parents influenced my appreciation for the agricultural lifestyle. Dad introduced his five children to farm life early on. Being an avid sportsman, Dad loved to hunt and fish.

Dad knew the importance of building trust with the farmers to be allowed to tromp around their property. Dad listened to their stories, and they returned the favor.

sunset, Holmes Co. OH
Rural sunset.
Mom influenced me positively on farming, too. An accomplished artist, she painted lovely landscapes of farmsteads and their surroundings. The scenes Mom created closely resemble the ones I see every day.

My wife and I built our first house on a bluff overlooking two tributaries of the mighty Killbuck. Manicured farm fields fanned out to the west from our front yard. Thick stands of mixed hardwoods that glowed in the fall filled the surrounding, steep hillsides.

When Farmer Bob came around on a hot summer’s day fixing barbed wire fence rows, I ran out with a cold, clear glass of water just for a chance to talk to him. When it was time to till the garden, Farmer Jim came up from his field to do the job. I offered to pay, but he just winked and smiled and advised using Triple 12 fertilizer.

When we moved northeast 16 miles 36 years ago, we hoped to experience the same interactions. We did that and more.

Amish manure spreader
Spreading sunshine.
When I asked Farmer Levi for some manure for the garden, he delivered it on a bitterly cold February morning. By the time I had dressed to go out to help him, a steaming pile of natural fertilizer already sat atop the snow.

I thanked Levi and asked him how much I owed him for his trouble.

“Nothing,” he said. “I don’t have anything in it.”

That earthy attitude is only one of the reasons I’m wedded to this charming, inviting agricultural community. There are many others.

produce auction, Holmes Co. OH
Produce auction.
No one would ever mistake me for a farmer. Yet, I feel right at home whether in milking parlors, bank barns, farmhouses or pastures.

For more than four decades I have admired families and circles of friends gathering crops, and sharing equipment and smiles. They work long and hard in all kinds of weather for narrow profit margins.

Farming is no longer the dominant occupation it once was here. Less than 10 percent of the Amish farm today. The recent uptick of local produce truck patches has helped continue the family agricultural tradition. I’m glad they have produce stands and auctions to turn all their efforts into cash.

As I photograph sunrises on early chilly mornings or sunsets on sweltering evenings, my mind wanders to my mother and father. I’m forever thankful they taught me to appreciate the land and the good folks who cultivate it.

Rural living has more than made its mark on me. It has wholly and wonderfully enriched my life.

sunset, Ohio's Amish country
September sunset.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Staying healthy in the throes of winter

shoveling snow, Ohio
Finished shoveling.

By Bruce Stambaugh

February is upon us. Hopefully, winter in northeast Ohio is nearing its peak.

We don’t know what that means regarding the weather ahead. We simply long for milder days when we can be outdoors without the clumsiness of thick coats.

Most of us senior citizens avoid the nasty weather by staying inside or fleeing to warmer locales. In the process, we tend to overfeed February’s cabin fever. That’s not good for our health at any age.

I have a rather restricted diet due to some inherited genes I’d rather trade away. Of course, I can’t, so I am careful about what I eat. My loving wife goes out of her way to create the food that my body can handle.

For me, though, eating has never been a top priority. I’d rather be out and about, even in the harshest weather. After a measurable snow, you’ll likely find me outside pushing and shoveling the white stuff from the sidewalk and parking pad.

When I was younger, I’d take it as a personal challenge to shovel the entire driveway out to the county road. If the snow was heavy and wet, I took my time. Neva often joined me, along with our daughter and son, if they weren’t already off sledding with friends.

Amish buggy, snowy day
At rest.
Those days are long over. After this winter’s first measurable snowfall, I was out in it as usual. I bundled up in my typical fashion, hoodie, stocking cap, insulated coveralls, warm gloves and gumboots.

Snow removal isn’t a fashion show. It’s hard work, especially for someone pushing 70. For whatever reason, that thought blew into my head like the cold north wind. I remembered to take plenty of breaks and to pace myself.

During my frequent breathers, I observed crows sail through the still falling snow, and heard a state plow truck’s discordant rumble echo in the frosty air from a mile away. I stopped shoveling after I had cleared the sidewalk and turnaround.

I didn’t want to be a statistic, a seasonal casualty to stubbornness. I knew my limits and decided not to push them. When the snow is too deep, my good neighbor rescues me with his pickup’s snowplow.

The amount he charges is a whole lot cheaper than the negative consequences if I try to exert myself beyond my physical capacities. No one needs that heartache.

northern cardinal, snow, bird feeder
Beauty in the snow.
I’d rather pay the pittance charged than incur the repercussions. My inflated male ego has to take a backseat to my bodily well-being. It’s that simple.

I know I need the exercise, but braving winter’s harsh elements at my age can prove counterproductive. I look for other options to stay physically fit though some would question whether I have ever been in that condition.

I like to walk when I can, but that isn’t always a year-round option in northern climes. Other exercise options are easy to find.

My wife and I enjoy doing yoga regularly either in our home or at class. We have found it both physically and spiritually healing. The good Lord knows I need both.

I do simple stretches daily to ease my tennis elbow pain and to loosen my tight hamstrings. Those simple practices do wonders for me.

I’ll continue to be mindful of both what I eat and the portions I consume. I’ll continue to intentionally workout my body and mind daily.

Every new day is a gift. I must do my part to welcome another tomorrow.

farm lane, winter in Ohio
I’m glad my drive isn’t this long!

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016