Another crazy year comes to an end

By Bruce Stambaugh

No matter what society you live in, news is an important element of belonging. As social beings, we have an innate need to know. That drive manifests itself differently in different people.

I enjoy the human interest stories that tend to consistently run beneath the mainstream media’s radar. Here is a sampling of some of those lesser known but equally important stories of 2010 that I came across.

Jan. 22 – A half-pound meteorite crashed through the roof of a doctor’s office in Lorton, Va., landing just 10 feet from the doctor, who was working on patients’ charts.

Feb. 9 – The Mortgage Bankers Association sold its building for half the amount it had paid for it, and decided to rent.

Feb. 14 – A pothole delayed the Daytona 500 race for two and a half hours.

March 31 – Minnesota Twins leadoff hitter Denard Span fouled a hard line drive into the stands in a spring training baseball game, hitting a spectator, his mother.

April 5 – Twin boxers Travis and Tarvis Simms were arrested for getting into a fight with each other in Norwalk, Conn.

May 10 – A farm in Oklahoma, where scenes from the movie Twister were filmed, was hit by a real tornado.

May 17 – It took Jack Harris of Shepton Mallet, England, nearly eight years to complete his 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, only to discover one piece was missing.

June 9 – Researchers revealed the discovery of the world’s oldest known shoe, a 5,500-year-old single piece of leather laced up the front and stuffed with grass, which was found in a cave in Croatia.

July 13 – Keith McVey, a mail carrier in Akron, saved a man’s life by performing CPR. Two years earlier McVey saved a teenage girl from drowning, also while delivering his mail. He had saved yet another man’s life 20 years ago.

August 10 – A report on the state of health of Americans revealed that, on average, waistlines have increased an inch per decade since the 1960s.

August 11 – A contractor marking a school zone in Guilford County, N.C., committed the ultimate typo by painting “shcool” across the road.

Sept. 14 – When 5-year-old Andrew Polasky won a moose-calling contest held at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, his mother said she wasn’t surprised because her son “is good at making a lot of noise.”

Sept. 26 – James Heseldon, 62, owner of the company that makes the Segway, died when he accidentally drove one of the two-wheeled scooters off a cliff near his estate in West Yorkshire, England.

Oct. 6 – National Geographic research linguists in northeastern India found a new language, Koro, still spoken by only about 1,000 people.

Oct. 24 – Jonathan Byrd won the PGA Shriners Open in Las Vegas, Nev. with a hole-in-one on the fourth hole of a three-way playoff.

Nov. 4 – A retired Canadian couple revealed that they had given away to family and selected charities all but two percent of the $11.3 million they had won in a lottery in July.

Nov. 12 – A study showed that people who take notes, scribble, or even doodle while listening have better memories than those who don’t.

Dec. 11 – A report by http://www.Forbes.com listed Ohio third in the nation for people moving out of the state. New York was number one.

I wonder what interesting stories 2011 will bring?

Giving praise where praise is due

Marigolds by Bruce Stambaugh
Marigolds highlight an Amish homestead.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It had been a difficult day.

As the silvery sunset melted into the horizon, I reflected on the last few days and the people and events that had occurred. In reviewing the various situations, it hit me that like it or not I was entering the October of my own life, and that got my attention.

Days earlier I had met my friend Steve in a Mexican restaurant in the city where I was born and raised. Steve is a long-time buddy connected to my school principal days. Steve and I have a lot in common. First and foremost is that we both like to talk, at least according to our spouses.

If for no other reason than that alone, Steve and I have agreed to meet periodically without the wives. We get more talking done that way.

Steve is the kind of friend every guy should have. He doesn’t let you get away with anything. He is a self-appointed critic of my writing, and is unabashed about finding any mistakes that somehow make it through to publication. Well, at least he thinks they are mistakes, but he usually is mistaken.

Bright Angel Canyon by Bruce Stambaugh
Bright Angel Canyon at the Grand Canyon, AZ is a favorite spot for hikers, painters and photographers alike.

That’s the kind of friends we are. He has the same theology about technology that I do. He loves to frequent the western United States and does so annually, months at a time, mostly hunting for arrowheads. Archeology and travel are other mutual interests.

At bat by Bruce Stambaugh
Baseball is my favorite sport.

Another thing we have in common is baseball. He hates it. I love it. Also, we enjoy discussing politics, until the conversation gets too political, then we switch to a more congenial topic, like baseball.

We talk about our late fathers and how our mothers are doing. And of course, we extol our wives, and try not to roll our eyes too much. Did I mention we laugh a lot?

A few days later, I took my mother on a short drive around the colorful countryside near the retirement home where she lives in Walnut Creek, Ohio. Mom always enjoys getting out when one of us “kids” can take her.

Mud Valley by Bruce Stambaugh
A typical scene in Ohio's Amish country, this one near Walnut Creek, Ohio.

This day was exceptional. The sky was pure blue, allowing the sun to heighten the already vivid colors. Since Mom was an avid and prolific watercolor painter, I always hope these short rides spark a memory of those days gone by when she and her friends would find a spot to paint, set up their easels and spend the day communing with nature and one another, beautifully interpreting what they saw.

Besides the warm hues of the leaves, a stunning red-tailed hawk flew right across our path. Around the curve, Mom spied some flashy marigolds. All in all, it was an invigorating jaunt. Seeing that Mom enjoyed the little excursion, I chose to tell her a comment that Steve had shared with me at the Mexican restaurant.

Marian Stambaugh by Bruce Stambaugh
Marian Stambaugh, 89, taught me to see and share in creative ways.

Knowing my mother was an accomplished landscape artist, Steve said, “You have your mother’s eye.” I non-verbally asked for clarification. “Instead of a brush, you paint with words and through the lens of your camera.” I don’t know if Steve noticed or not, but tears welled in my eyes. I was honored with the keen compliment. When I shared the kind words with Mom, tears welled up in her eyes, too. Despite her advanced dementia, knowing that Mom had understood at least a little of the depth and breadth of Steve’s insight made the compliment all the more meaningful.

The circle of blessing was now complete. It had returned to its rightful owner, the creative and artful woman who had taught me to see and share Creation’s beauty.

Suddenly, this difficult October day didn’t seem so difficult after all.