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A simple but sacred sound

canning, strainer

The strainer. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

It’s a simple sound, one that would go nearly unnoticed if it weren’t for all the work involved, and the anticipated joy on a cold winter day.

This time of year, the sudden, short, pleasing pop of canning lids sealing brings smiles to the faces and hearts of many folks young and old. It’s as sweet and lovely as the produce stored inside the glistening glass containers.

When I shared these thoughts on a Facebook post, I was pleasantly surprised at the immediate response from friends. Folks across several generations testified to the pleasure and joy this momentary, miniscule explosion instills.

Kelsie, said, “Just a tiny noise, but it implies so much.” Indeed, it does.

“It is the sound of successful accomplishment,” wrote Alexander from Russia. Exactly! That pop is the universal sound of delicious meals ahead. It is the announcement of another happy harvest.

“Love it!” Patty implored. “The sound of a job well done.” Knowing her family, Patty spoke from personal experience.

“Love that sound,” Vernon mused. His family history knows that blessed soothing sound, too.

“It’s always exciting and may be why I put up with the canning mess,” wrote Joanne. Professional, honest person that she is, Joanne pretty well nailed the harvest time celebration.

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Canning does have its stresses, though. Just ask Cathy.

“Boy do I worry when I don’t hear one of them,” she commented. “It’s exciting times around here to hear those pops!”

Those weren’t frivolous exclamation points either. A canner experiences great relief upon hearing that barely audible sound above rushing traffic, ornery children, and televisions blaring. Though this tinny ping of a noise lasts but a millisecond, it represents the efforts of months of intensive work and hopeful patience. Ask any gardener.

A lot of planning goes into ensuring a productive, successful vegetable garden. From the time the first seed catalog arrives in the mail mid-winter, gardeners envision what, when and where they’ll plant their seeds and seedlings.

Those who follow the almanac or family tradition have their peas planted by the Ides of March. Given Ohio’s extended winters lately, I doubt those plans played out.

Nevertheless, those who love getting their hands dirty can’t wait to plant those first seeds or set the initial tomato and pepper plants. First, though, comes fertilizing and tilling the soil.

A lot more active verbs follow planning and planting. Collectively, buying, watering, weeding, pruning, husking, peeling, cleaning, cooking, pouring outline the ground to jar process.

For those with truck patches, it’s fun to spot the first ripening tomato. It’s horrid to discover a tomato worm, however. Like it or not, that’s all part of the natural growing process.

The hope for the cunning canner is that the sweet corn, tomatoes and apples won’t all come ripe in the same week. If they do, everything else gets set aside. When it’s time to preserve the canning and freezing commence.

With burners blazing, kitchens quickly heat up often in the warmest weather of the year. It’s a sweaty but necessary price to pay for such sweet rewards.

Jeanne summed up the preserving procedure with these questions and a one-word answer. “Tomatoes? Juice? Pickles? Yum,” she said.

Come January, I just hope I remember all that went into creating a healthy meal of tasty tomato soup, pickled beets, frozen Incredible sweet corn, spicy salsa, and homemade jam. Most of all, I don’t want to forget that satisfying sound that seals the deal.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Behold the fearlessness of children

By Bruce Stambaugh

The fearlessness of children today never ceases to amaze me, especially when it comes to using technology.

A friend on Facebook posted that her young son had purchased an upgrade for an application for her wireless phone. I marveled at the child’s fortitude, yet also wondered about the dangerous ramifications given that such a transaction could be that simple.

A few days later I heard a similar story on the radio. A woman’s young son purchased a $50,000 automobile by using her smartphone while the lady was driving her car. How could that kind of transaction so easily take place?

lowtechsurprisebybrucestambaugh

Fortunately, technology isn’t the only thing that our granddaughter enjoys. She was pleased with this roll of Scotch tape she found in her Christmas stocking.

I admire the ability of children to grasp and use electronic technology as if it were innate. Our three-year old granddaughter, Maren, could teach me a thing or two about using the iPhone, iPad or any other device that begins with lower case “i.”

My wife once discovered Maren, then a mere two, under the covers in her parents’ bed nimbly using the iPad as if it were old hat. This is not a pronouncement on either her parents or Maren’s tenacity and dexterity. Rather, it is a singular example of how well young children adapt to all things technology.

I think that both a blessing and a curse. I admire their aptitude to use a wide variety of electronic devices. I am glad young people are not restrained by the anxiety that many my age and older seem to have towards fully embracing technology. They use it with ease. We complain that the buttons are too small.

However, that untamed acceptance of gaming, texting, movies on demand, live streaming and so much more at the touch of an app has its drawbacks. My Facebook friend can attest to that. In fact, several mothers shared stories of their own young children committing similar acts. And don’t forget the mother with the brand new car.

kidsandtechnology by Bruce Stambaugh

Children readily learn to use technology in their daily lives.


I find that both exciting and alarming. I am glad today’s young people so easily grasp the use of technology in today’s world. Technology really does put the world at our fingertips.

The world is growing smaller because of technology. Social media, tweeting and texting are the modern ways to communicate, including in third world countries. Even hungry children in poor, remote regions of the world know what is going on globally thanks to rapidly spreading technology.

The world is a scary place. If children can order items online or cars from a smartphone with the swipe of a finger or touch of an app, imagine the other possibilities that are out there. I like to think that most are good, expanding the youngsters’ horizons.

Unfortunately, some aren’t all that helpful, and perhaps are even harmful. The fearlessness of young children and their lack of life’s experiences make them vulnerable to the shysters of the world, and that’s not a good thing at all.

I would hate to see a family’s credit or reputation ruined because of some greedy corporation or individual taking advantage of an innocent, exploring mind. Worse still is the thought of even one child being naively duped.

I am not advocating prohibiting children from using today’s technology by any means. Children’s fearlessness toward technology should be metered with instruction, caution and supervision, applied appropriately for the age and situation.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to my concerns. If I did, people would pay me big money for my solutions and I’d be rich. Maybe then I could hire my granddaughter to teach me how to use an iPhone.

posingforaphotobybrucestambaugh

Our granddaughter posed perfectly for a picture taken on a smartphone.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Confronting life’s unpredictable perils

wading in surf by Anna Bishop

Wading in the North Carolina surf. (Photo by Anna Bishop)

By Bruce Stambaugh

Within hours of one another, I received three divergent yet emotional messages about grandchildren.

The first came after I had changed my profile picture on Facebook to a shot of my middle grandchild celebrating his fourth birthday. The picture showed Davis heartily laughing in front of his makeshift birthday cake.

The four candles signifying his age burned as bright as his smile. The candles were securely stuck in a row in the thick, chocolate frosting of a cream stick that Nana and I had bought at a local Amish bakery before leaving Ohio.

Davis' fourth birthday by Bruce Stambaugh

A cream stick for a birthday cake.

It was a fun time, with the family finally gathered for his birthday. It was the first one we had celebrated with Davis. Texas was just too hot and we always seemed to be extra-busy in the middle of July.

But now that Davis and his family had moved to Virginia, we made sure we were there with and for him. The message about all this was from his mother, my daughter, asking for the pictures from the party. I had yet to share them with her. She loved the shot and wanted to see the rest.

When I checked my Facebook page in the morning, I found a disturbing and extremely sad posting by the son of a friend of mine. His sister’s newborn daughter had died right after birth.

I shared the sad news with my wife. We are close friends with the expectant grandparents. This baby would have been their first grandchild, one they had so longed for and had happily anticipated.

Now all expectation of playful days ahead had been dashed. I couldn’t imagine how devastated they must feel. I felt guilty for having three healthy grandchildren.

Their daughter lived in Indiana and I knew they would be with her. What could I do to offer my deepest sympathies, to reach out to them in their time of need?

While I struggled with this dilemma, I received an email containing the weekly column of a friend and writing peer in Virginia. He had written about his vacation with his grandchildren and included a picture of him wading in the ocean, a towheaded granddaughter tugging on one arm, a brown-haired grandson on the other as the foamy surf broke upon them.

It was clear that both grandchildren hung on to their grandfather in trust and love as the soft, warm waves crashed against them. I was happy for him, sad for my other friends, and conflicted about being able to reconcile these seemingly disconnected incidents.

Grandparents are supposed to be wise and loving and adored. My friend’s picture clearly revealed those dynamics. But we also know that there are times when life simply isn’t fair and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

I hope and pray that my three grandchildren will grow and prosper and live lives of service to humanity. I am deeply distraught that my friends Bruce and Helen cannot now say the same thing for their granddaughter.

I am sure many of their friends will reach out to this fine couple in their grief. When I get the chance, though, I will pretend we are at the shore, standing knee-deep in the churning surf, readying for life’s perilous waves to come crashing against us, Helen clasping one arm, Bruce the other, trusting and loving.

At this mournful moment, that is all I can offer.
Seaside sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh

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