Trying to stay focused on the present

Red Mug Cafe, Mt. Hope OH

At the Red Mug.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I sat in my favorite café sipping a delicious cup of coffee. I often met my older brother there or enjoyed a yummy breakfast with my wife. Today I was alone, musing upon what had recently transpired, and what was yet to come.

As customers came and went, my mind raced over the events of the last days and of the days ahead. I had no regrets and no dissatisfaction. I was at peace with the world.

My friend Susan helped me arrive at that conclusion. She had just stepped to the counter to order and didn’t notice me until she was about to leave.

We exchanged fond greetings, and when Susan asked how the moving preparations were progressing, I told her of two emotional partings I had recently experienced.

Only an hour earlier I had bid farewell to one of my most precious possessions. I sold my beloved 1970 Chevrolet Malibu Sport Coupe, the car I had helped a dear friend purchase brand new at a dealership in Millersburg, Ohio.

I loved that car, and so did its original owner, the late Helen Youngs. She took good care of it, too. I tried to do the same once she sold it to me in the summer of 1988.

Now, after all of those years, someone else owned the car. A man from out of the area bought it for his wife. He told me he liked the car’s story as much as the car itself. He purchased the Chevy for his wife without ever having driven it. She had owned the exact model as a young woman.

I witnessed her joyous reaction when I drove my Chevy into her garage. I knew then and there Helen’s car was in good hands and that I could lovingly let go. I wish you could have seen her.

I needed to sell my automotive treasure. No one in the family wanted it, and I had no place to store it in Virginia. Plus, I didn’t drive it enough to justify keeping it.

grandchildren

Celebrating a birthday.

Just as it was time to sell the Chevy, it’s also time to move on in our lives. We want to experience all we can with our busy grandkids. Concerts, ball games, shuttling them to appointments are all part of our Virginia agenda.

Only the day before we came to grips with the emotion of moving. Our daughter and her family had returned for one last visit before we joined them in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

handkerchief quilt

Our granddaughter helped hold the handkerchief quilt my wife made.

All went well until it was time to leave. Before our daughter jumped into the family van, she broke down and so did we. Tears freely flowed. Tears have incredible power. As they trickle down from eyes to cheeks and are wiped away, tears cleanse us, help us to heal, force us to accept the situation just as it is.

Our love affair with our home, our community, our good friends was coming to an end.

As I watched the van drive away, I was happy that this last visit for Carrie’s family had been a memorable one. I hoped and prayed it had brought them a semblance of closure.

As my friend Susan had reminded me, we are much better to live in the present. No sense longing for the way things were or fearing what may be ahead in life.

I am most happy for the past. I joyfully anticipate whatever the future holds for us. We need to embrace the present with gusto, delight, and jubilation. I have my friend Susan to thank for that reminder.

Family home, Holmes Co. OH

Home for 38 years.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Fishing at Sunset

Amish farm pond, Amish boy fishing

Fishing at sunset.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, sunsets are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. The evening sky was hazy like the previous night’s when red, gold, and orange blazed long past sunset. I hoped for similar results this time.

My Amish neighbors had given me permission to photograph at their pond so I could catch the reflection of the sunset. Though still lovely, the sunset proved much more subtle with mauves and grays instead of vibrant, warm colors. The sky’s wispy textures made up for the more muted tones. With one of their grandsons fishing, I was able to catch this captivating scene that reminded me of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

“Fishing at Sunset” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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A lesson learned from packing to move

springtime in Ohio's Amish country

A lovely and familiar Holmes Co. scene.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The time has nearly arrived. My wife and I have worked diligently for a year and a half to prepare for this moment.

After spending our entire adult lives in one of the most beautiful, friendly places in Ohio, Neva and I are preparing to move to Virginia’s picturesque and historic Shenandoah Valley.

I’m glad it has taken us that long to transition from one place to the other. We deliberately took our time. We didn’t want to merely cut and run from the people and place we love.

grandchildren

With the grandkids.

That interlude gave us the opportunity and space we needed to adjust to this major, life-changing decision. We’ve spent much effort sorting and packing clothing, furniture, and household goods. We’ve also met with close friends and family before we exit, often over meals.

We’re moving for the very best reason. We want to be closer to our grandchildren to watch them grow and assist their busy household. Ironically, my older brother and his wife are doing the same thing for the same reason only in reverse. They’re moving from Virginia to Ohio, Holmes Co. in fact.

I jokingly tell people that we have to move because decades ago the county commissioners passed a resolution ensuring only one Stambaugh family at a time could live in Holmes Co. Therefore I have to yield to my big brother.

Silliness aside, Neva and I have learned first-hand that we don’t need as much as we have. Being snowbirds taught us that by living in much smaller quarters with limited storage space. It was a valuable lesson to learn. Since we are downsizing to a smaller ranch home with no basement or attic, we’ve been busy deciding what to take and what to give away or sell.

In sorting through drawers, closets, and shelves, and prioritizing furniture, we uncovered many fond memories. It was easy to decide I didn’t need two-dozen dress shirts. It was much harder jettisoning personal items that served only to remind us of many precious days gone by.

Amish farmers

Neighbors making hay.

We had no other choice. Our new house can only hold so much, so we identified the essentials we’d need and what we didn’t. Our current home is filled with antiques, mostly from all sides of both families, which added to our conundrum.

Our son and daughter took certain items to keep them in the family. We reached out to extended family and close friends, too. But most of them are our peers. They don’t want to add to their lifetime collections either.

What do I do with my grandfather’s first-grade reader? Can I bring myself to sell an old garden tool a friend long-deceased gave to us? Practicality had to override nostalgia.

We met with the local mover that we hired. A sincere young man, he clearly knew his business. We found the combination of his expertise and experience immensely helpful in deciding what to take and what to leave.

As we rapidly approach the moving date, Neva and I reflected on what we have learned from all of this sorting, cleaning, and packing, this drastic rearranging of our lives. The most important lesson was evident. But having lived in the same house for 38 years, we never had to confront it before.

Our most valuable possessions don’t fit in boxes. Rather, family, friends, our little church, neighbors, relationships, and memories are lovingly stored in our hearts.

blooming dogwood

In our memories of Holmes Co., it will always be springtime.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Resting

team of horses, Amish farm

Resting.

With spring well underway, this is a typical scene in Ohio’s Amish country. With each turn at both ends of the field, this wise, young farmer rested his team of workhorses. No doubt he also took a breather from cultivating the previously turned earth.

“Resting” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Clinging to hope despite experiencing the dark side of baseball

first pitch 2016 World Series

First pitch.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Another Major League Baseball season has begun. As a devoted Cleveland Indians fan, I’m hoping this will finally be the year they win it all. I say that every year. But this year is different.

Coming off of last year’s incredible run to the seventh game of the World Series, the Indians have a better than average chance of repeating as American League champions. That’s true if everything goes as planned. Like most things in life, they usually don’t. But Indians fans do what they have always done. We hope.

This year, however, my hope is less rosy, less enthusiastic. That has nothing to do with the Tribe’s chances.

It’s just that having attended my first ever World Series last year I saw the reality of professional baseball, the business end, the dark side if you will. I wasn’t impressed. My naiveté hit a brick wall.

Cleveland Indians, Progressive Field

Our “regular” seats.

As a member of a group of season ticket holders, we had prime opportunity to purchase our seats for the playoffs. Only, the seats we were given weren’t the ones we had during the regular season.

Our group discovered that Major League Baseball had confiscated our seats, and we had to purchase alternative seats two sections farther from home plate and twice as far from the field of play. MLB and the Indians treated other long-time season ticket holders similarly.

I didn’t have to inquire too far into the system to realize why. Money. Our tickets were being resold to the highest bidder, meaning they sold for thousands of dollars each.

The tickets for the substitute seats we were assigned went for half as much, if we wanted to sell them, which I didn’t. When I inquired of the Indians about the situation, I received no response.

I didn’t let that spoil my enjoyment of the World Series. I was happy for the Chicago Cubs, the World Series champions. I was elated for my oft-beleaguered Indians for just making it to the World Series.

erikkratzbybrucestambaugh

When Erik caught for the Phillies.

Still, a bad taste lingered in my mouth until the Indians signed the only professional baseball player I know personally, Erik Kratz. He’s an acquaintance of our daughter’s family. His son and our grandson played on the same baseball team and were in preschool together. Though I have seen him in those settings, Erik wouldn’t know me from Adam.

Erik is 37 years old. That’s ancient in baseball time. He is past his prime playing days. And yet, he keeps trying to make a major league team. This year it was with my Indians.

A sports writer chronicled Erik’s long and windy path to the major leagues. Even after all these twists and turns, the ups and downs, the trades, and releases, the opportunities, and disappointments, Erik gave a very positive perspective about why he keeps playing baseball.

True to his faith, Erik shared a story of hope, determination, and dedication to both his career as a baseball player and his family. His story awakened me from my first world pouting.

If Erik could endure all the circuitous travels across the country, and the emotional ups and downs between major and minor league teams, I could certainly buck it up and give baseball one more try. Hope should always triumph over disillusionment.

I decided that I would not let the bureaucratic dark side spoil my lifetime love for the game. After all, this could be the year the Cleveland Indians win it all.

Hope is a true healer of all ills, especially for diehard Cleveland Indians fans.

Cleveland Indians, fireworks

Hoping for World Series fireworks in 2017.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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The Eagle Has Landed

bald eagle, Holmes Co. OH

The Eagle Has Landed.

The frantic knock on the front door got my attention. In my dash down the hall and to the front entrance, I wondered if someone was in need of help. Had there been another crash on our busy county highway?

When I flung open the door, there stood my neighbor smiling. My negative concerns immediately vanished. I shook Doug’s hand as he excitedly exclaimed that an eagle was sitting in a tree across the road from his house. I quickly retreated to my office and grabbed my camera with the long lens. As we rushed over to his front yard, Doug told me how he came to see our nation’s icon.

As he drove over the hill south of our homes, Doug saw the eagle circling overhead and then dive to the grass on the east side of the road where a roadkill raccoon laid. As his car passed the big bird, it flew to a branch low in a thicket of trees only a few yards away.

I concealed myself as best I could behind a large tree trunk at the corner of Doug’s yard. The camera’s shutter clicked away as other drivers zipped along the road unaware of the sight they were missing. The many branches in front of the eagle made it rather difficult for me to focus the lens. When I looked down at the camera to check the quality of the shots, the eagle flew east, leaving his intended meal behind.

“The Eagle Has Landed” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Reaching the end of the roll

By Bruce Stambaugh

If I ever wrote an autobiography, I know what the title would be. I’d call the masterpiece, “The End of the Roll.”

I know this is a family blog. But I just can’t take it anymore. Please make sure your children aren’t anywhere nearby when you read this.

I have been seeking the answer to this important question for most of my adult life. Why can’t men change empty toilet paper rolls?

great egret in flght

No end of the roll for this bird.

I’m serious. If I had a dollar for every roll of toilet paper I have had to put on the holder, I’d be a millionaire. I realize most humbly what that says about my digestive system.

Nevertheless, I’m willing to come out of the stall once and for all and say it like it is. Men have to be helpless if they can’t change a roll of toilet paper.

Of course, never having been a regular in the women’s room, I can’t really know if the same is true on the skirted side of restrooms. I’ve privately asked my wife this touchy question, but she just stares at me in prolonged silence.

I’ll just assume empty toilet paper rolls in female water closets are not a problem. If I’m wrong, I’m sure I’ll hear about it.

But let’s get back to the issue, or should I say tissue, at hand. Is it so difficult a task that men can’t figure out how to take an empty cardboard roll off its holder and replace it with a new roll of TP?

Now I know not all toilet paper rolls are created equal. Shoot. Some TP doesn’t even come on a roll. Some “holders” dispense all too tiny pieces of thin paper that are, well to be truthful, less than adequate for the job, please excuse the pun.

I will say, though, that as long as the supply lasts, they have to be better than those European bidet units. The last thing I need is to be hosed down while reclining in a compromised position. And please don’t try to imagine that either.

But, again, I digress.

I mean how difficult is it to change a roll of toilet paper? These are the same men who rebuild diesel engines, send rockets to Mars, build an entire barn in a day, approve multi-million dollar budgets in the twinkling of an eye, and climb sheer mountain cliffs with no ropes or safety harnesses.

Yet these same masculine minions are so inept that they can’t even unlatch an empty toilet paper tube from its holder, discard the spent roll, unwrap a fresh roll of toilet paper, slide it into place, and secure the holder. It absolutely makes no sense.

Can you tell this is important to me? I mean I can’t be the only thoughtful, regulated man on earth. But then again, maybe I am, given the number of times I’ve had to install a new roll of TP.

dog on beach

No end of the roll for this dog either.

This male ineptitude seems to be universal. It doesn’t matter where the bathrooms are, church, businesses, rest areas, restaurants, even private homes. I’ve replaced roll after roll wherever I go.

Maybe I’m just too old-fashioned. Replacing empty toilet paper rolls with full ones just happens to be one of those important values instilled by my loving parents.

My parents set the tone. If we borrowed something from someone, my brothers and sisters and I were taught to return it in better shape than we got it. If we used someone’s car, we filled up the gas tank before we returned it. Of course, gasoline was 33 cents a gallon then, too.

Maybe that’s the problem. I’m an old guy with old-fashioned values. Replacing empty toilet paper rolls with full ones just happens to be one of those important values instilled by my loving parents. I’m sure they would be most proud of my TP obsession.

So men, please think about this the next time you reach the end of a roll. That’s especially true if it happens to be on April Fools Day.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Looking left

pileated woodpecker, Big Talbot Island FL

Looking left.

This energetic young male Pileated Woodpecker posed just long enough for me to capture a shot of it before it flew off to another tree, possibly in search of a suitable nesting site. Before this photo was taken, the incredible bird was in and out of the holes on this snag.

I especially liked the way everything in the photo is leaning left. I felt fortunate to catch this shot when the woodpecker looked that way, too.

“Looking left” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Taking time to appreciate my wife

canning, Neva Stambaugh

Neva doing her thing.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The pungent smell of ammonia tickled my nose as I sat on the living room couch reading my morning devotions. My energetic wife was already hard at work cleaning the house.

In our 46 years of marriage, I had seen this scenario unfold many, many times. Of course, I do my part to help, which is to say that I mostly stay out of the way at her request. I willingly comply.

I empty the wastebaskets and take out the garbage. I run and unload the dishwasher. After another tasty home-cooked meal, I make it my responsibility to clean up the kitchen. It’s the least I can do after Neva has done more than her share in planning, preparing, and serving the food.

Obviously, cleaning smells aren’t the only fragrances that have wafted through our house. Neva’s gift of hospitality is multifaceted.

I’m blessed by the aromas of other Neva orchestrated domestic activities like pumpkin pie baking in the oven, butternut squash soup simmering on the stove, and the spicy smell of savory tomato sauces boiling down like mini volcanoes.

canned peaches, home canning

Beauty in jars.

We both smile with contentment when we hear the satisfying pops of lids sealing on the freshly canned peaches. I could paint a long laundry list of sensory-stimulated pictures Neva creates in our household. To put it simply, Neva gets things done.

Speaking of laundry, Neva keeps on top of that, too. I help, of course, from time to time. After all of these years, I’ve learned to dance without the caller singing out her instructions. My efforts still have to pass muster, however.

But I’m no fool. When it comes to household chores, I know not to interfere with Neva’s main domain.

canned tomato sauce, home canning

Savory sauce.

Her gift of hospitality hasn’t been confined to our home either. Neva still finds time to help others.

From birthday cards to sympathy cards to comfort food casseroles, Neva puts her faith into practice for others. She has served the church in multiple positions, locally and statewide.

Our lives wouldn’t quite be the same without her devotion to volunteering at Save and Serve Thrift Shop in Millersburg, Ohio. The friendships she has made and nurtured over the years at the thrift store have enriched us individually and as a couple.

Her commitment to community doesn’t stop there. She has also served with Habitat for Humanity, the annual Christmas Church Walk in Millersburg, and with volunteer fire department auxiliaries to name a few.

Then there are our adult children and the grandchildren. Even 350 miles away, Neva watches over them as she can, too. With our son’s blessings, they are a big part of the reason we are moving to Virginia. We want to be closer to them to help whenever and wherever we can. As retirees and grandparents, it’s our primary task now as we enter the winter of our lives.

Bruce and Neva Stambaugh

Neva and me.

Career educator by profession, Neva always has taken her role as mother, wife, and domestic engineer as her chief duties. She has done so impeccably.

Why am I pontificating about my wife? It’s easy for me to take her and all that she does for granted, for me, the family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. Neva has enough Mennonite stock in her DNA to deny my praise of her. But she shouldn’t.

Our wedding anniversary is upon us. I want to publicly acknowledge how much I appreciate Neva and all that she does for me and for all those she has touched in our lifetime together.

Happy Anniversary dear!

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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On the hunt

American Robin, birds, spring

On the hunt.

It happens every year. The American Robins come out of seclusion in dense Ohio woodlots or return from a regional migration only to be greeted by a snowstorm. This year was no exception.

With no worms available due to the snow cover and cold temperatures, the Robins looked for other forms of food. The bright red holly berries fit the bill for a few of them. This male robin especially enjoyed flitting in and out of the bush next to our house. I was fortunate to be able to capture a few shots of him on the hunt for the round red delights. He would sit on a small branch in the snow, look around for a berry, then pounce on it as if it were going to make a getaway.

“On the hunt” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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