Tag Archives: Love

With the past in mind, decorating for the holidays took on a new look

holiday lights,

Our modest outdoor light display.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Decorating for the holidays is a given at our house. My wife and I have modestly festooned our places of residence ever since we were married.

Before that, we both grew up in homes that embraced the holidays with tinsel and trees, colorful lights and holiday wreaths, Christmas cookies and stockings hung with care. We carried over some of those traditions but also created new ones with our own family.

This year nothing changed, and yet, everything changed. We still decorated, just in a new location. Old traditions, long-held and revered, came to an end.

old ice skates, old wooden sleds

Holiday nostalgia.

We will miss our annual Christmas Eve morning gathering with dear friends and extended families for that meaningful and nutritious breakfast. Those warm memories are still held alive in our hearts.

With the move from Ohio to Virginia, we knew that preciousness would be left behind. We also anticipated new activities, new celebrations, and new gatherings with our daughter’s family and old friends who had relocated here, too. And one by one, those are happening.

With decent weather in late November, my energetic wife got a head start on the celebratory decorating inside and out. I had no choice but to join in. With a smaller house and fewer shrubs, our exterior lighting display lessened, too.

Just like all those years in Holmes County, Ohio, artificial greenery loaded with colored lights still got wound around the welcoming light pole that shines on the sidewalk and driveway.

Artificial evergreen wreaths adorned with burgundy and purple ribbons hang from each window. Below them, battery-powered candles offer soft reminders of the reason for the season. Strings of white lights brighten the porch and a unique old bench we recently purchased at an antique store.

Strings of cheery white lights twinkle from our little concolor fir tree we planted in honor of a dear friend, who died much too soon. Our “Jenny tree” shines brightly, just like our late friend did with everyone she met.

Christmas decorations, holiday decorations

Ready for the holidays.

Inside, we splurged and purchased a new artificial tree and hung trinkets and ornaments that hold personal memories. The same angel as previous years hovers at the top of the tree, blessing all who enter. Neva received it years ago as a gift from one of her students.

My creative wife has a magical touch in making the mundane shine with holiday cheer. A grapevine wreath wrapped with strings of little white lights bedecks the top of an old oak ironing board that Helen Youngs, our Holmes County grandmother, gave us.

The stockings hang from door pulls on the bookshelf instead of the old barn beam mantel on the brick fireplace in our former Ohio home. I’m sure Santa will find them just as quickly.

We do miss that fireplace. Its radiant heat and sweet-smelling goodness just seemed to say Happy Holidays each time I fired it up. Now, we take extra effort to share similar warmth in the season’s greetings we offer others however and wherever we can. After all, the Christmastime fire must always burn from within to ensure its joy is seen and felt by all.

Christmas decorations

Lighting up the ironing board.

The chances for a white Christmas in Virginia aren’t the best. I recall many an Ohio Christmas where that was also true. We joyously celebrated anyhow, and we will do so again this year.

At the darkest time of year, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas all are celebrated with lights. That is most appropriate.

All is well here in the lovely Shenandoah Valley. May the season’s joyous light bless you and yours whatever your holiday situation may be.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017


Filed under Christmas, Christmas deocrations, column, family, holiday decorations, holidays, human interest, Ohio, photography, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, writing

Light on the Shortest Day

Christmas lights, memorial tree

Light on the Shortest Day.

The winter solstice, the day with the least amount of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere, arrives at 11:28 a.m. Eastern Standard Time today. Historians note that ancient peoples celebrated this day with festivals of light in recognition that from this day forward daylight slowly but inevitably increases until we reach the summer solstice in six months. They further portend Christianity affixed Christmas to coincide with these secular celebrations. Regardless, Christmas has been on December 25 for ages, though it’s doubtful that is the actual date of Jesus’ birth.

Nevertheless, the holidays are filled with images of lights. Houses are decorated in honor of the season. Businesses, too, join lighting up the dark December nights. Entire towns and cities hold holiday lighting festivities and light up their downtowns with seasonal decorations and glowing lights.

Our family has joyfully joined in that tradition for 46 years. This year, in our new location in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, we planted a little fir tree in the backyard. We call it our “Jenny tree” in honor of a friend who died much too soon at age 47. Jenny was a light to the world, to everyone she met, her family, the children with whom she shared at the school where she worked, and of course her coworkers.

Accordingly, I decided to fill our little Jenny tree with white lights. They burn night and day throughout the holiday season as a reminder of the light Jenny so lovingly shared in life.

But for me, today is more than the winter solstice. It marks eight years since my father died. He loved Christmas. Furthermore, my wife’s father died 16 years ago on December 22. And Jenny’s brother, Steve, died of cancer 27 years ago also on December 22. Our little Jenny tree shines its radiance for all of these good folks that we loved and miss so much.

“Light on the Shortest Day” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017


Filed under Christmas, Christmas deocrations, family, friends, holiday decorations, holidays, human interest, Photo of the Week, photography, Shenandoah Valley, writing

Living beyond our own routines


Millie claimed my chair.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I sat on our screened-in back porch eating a light lunch with my wife and our granddog, Millie. Neva and I were dog sitting while our daughter and her family were away for the weekend. The dog duty was in the fine print of our moving contract.

As I nibbled at the delicious egg salad Neva had prepared, a mockingbird called from the crest of a roof three houses away. Not to be outdone, a northern cardinal sang its springtime repertoire from a neighbor’s lilac bush.

As I picked at my lunch offerings, I thought about a comment I had heard a couple of hours earlier. “It’s been a long week,” the man said. That caught my attention.

Anticipating a bit of bad news or perhaps a string of events that bore him negative consequences, he instead spoke far beyond himself and his own life experiences. He mentioned those in the world who lacked basic human needs, food, shelter, water, love. Every week is a long week for them.

I marveled at his keen sense of compassion, his devotion to looking and living outside his own situation, his own desires, his own problems no matter how big or small. Instead, his concern was for those in dire straits. His urging was to be observant, considerate, and helpful to those we meet in our daily comings and goings.

That hit home for me. Here we were, only a month in our new home, still trying to establish some semblance of a new routine in our new state.

Not surprisingly, Neva was ahead of me in that regard. She had already begun to volunteer once a week at a local thrift store doing what she loves. Helping others regardless of their station in life or their background or their creed is in her DNA. She had also already helped pack groceries at a local food pantry.

I’ve been slower to engage in such activities. After spending my entire adult life in the public eye one way or another, I wanted my new routine to be more personal, more private. I want my actions to continue to be purposeful, useful, and productive for others in this new life we have chosen for ourselves.


Granddaughter on the move.

Participating in the lives of our active grandchildren and their parents tops our lists. We’ve already begun to do that, Millie being Exhibit A.

My intentions are to cultivate the activities that I love besides my family of course. I’ll find some birding buddies. I’ll go hiking and biking. I have books to write and photographs to publish. But as the man mentioned, I needed to reach beyond myself, too.

I’ll have plenty of opportunities with three universities nearby, the community’s focus on arts, the multi-cultural demographics, and the rich historical and natural geographical features the Shenandoah Valley offers.

But as I sat on our porch with Neva and Millie, lazily eating, listening, pondering, I considered those in the world who have long weeks every week. I need to incorporate the lame, the lost, the least into my newly unfolding routine as well.

I’m not exactly sure how that will play out. I just want to step outside my comfort zone, my familiarities. It seems the right thing to do, especially given the horrors in today’s complex and interconnected world.

I’ll begin by meeting people right where they are. Spontaneous or planned, it must be done. Perhaps then their week and mine will feel a little shorter than their previous one.

When I saw this man setting up his flag for Memorial Day, I stopped and asked to take his photo. He gladly obliged.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017


Filed under family, friends, human interest, rural life, writing

I am my father’s son

Allegheny Mountains

I still have personal mountains to climb.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My daughter’s words cut right to the truth. In the brief silence that followed, I was once again reminded that I am my father’s son.

The situation embarrassed me. I don’t even remember what caused the unpleasant commotion. I do recall my daughter’s sternness vibrated to my core as soon as she invoked my father’s name.

I bit my tongue, preferring instead to analyze the situation mentally. Dad, God rest his soul, would have persisted in driving home his point.

It’s taken me a long time to confess my similar faults. What’s the line about teaching old dogs new tricks?

Internally confronting the reality of your negative personal behaviors, comments, and intentions isn’t easy. But it’s necessary if I want to be a better husband, father, grandfather, friend, and person. It’s just the way it is.

Being too quick to respond is only one way I am my father’s son. I had a marvelous mentor in Dad offering an opinion whether requested or not.

I’m an expert at translating an interesting short story into a novel with no climax. I might even mention the main point. That never bothered Dad’s storytelling.


Shooting with my lens.

I can’t tell you the number of times my wife has chided me for wiggling my leg while sitting beside her. At church, at home, in a theater, at a concert, I’m used to a nudge, an elbow, or verbal reminder that I’m activating global seismographs with my leggy machinations, just like Dad.

Fortunately, all my fatherly similarities aren’t undesirable. I enjoy meeting new people. They have enriched my life. Dad never met a person he didn’t like until they proved otherwise.

Dad was a man with many interests. He loved hunting, fishing, archeology, family gatherings, dancing, baseball, football, basketball, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He was a lifetime community activist.

My likes are just as diverse. A lot overlap with Dad’s, like sports and serving community. However, I shoot wildlife with my camera and frame my trophies rather than eat them.

Ohio's Amish country

Where Dad liked to visit.

Dad liked to travel, too. With a house full of children and all of those outdoor interests, we didn’t often traverse beyond Ohio’s borders. We didn’t have to. The Buckeye state had plenty of day trips to offer families, including visiting Amish country.

I had the good fortune to marry someone who enjoys exploring new places near and far. It’s often fun revisiting the same locations my family did all those years ago.

It’s interesting to hear my two sisters-in-law confiding with my lovely wife about how my two brothers’ idiosyncrasies compare to Dad as well. At least I’m not alone.

super full moon

Dad was over the moon for Mom.

Dad had one admirable quality that glowed like a super full moon. He loved our mother to death. Dad showered Mom with flowers, candy, and cards every birthday, anniversary, and holiday.

He wasn’t exactly jealous. Dad just knew he had a beautiful wife, and wanted to keep that relationship as secure as possible. He thought the solution was to smother Mom, which came across as control.

Given the spunkiness of each of our wives, neither my brothers nor I need worry about that. We appreciate and encourage spousal individuality, and celebrate our special days accordingly. We know we are as fortunate in love as our father was.

I’m thankful for all that my gregarious, energetic, enthusiastic father modeled even if I unconsciously replicate some of those talents that occasionally land me in the proverbial doghouse.

Maybe that’s why we don’t have a dog.

family vacation

Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016


Filed under family, human interest, nature photography, Ohio, photography, rural life, travel, writing

A mother who still watches over me

By Bruce Stambaugh

Though she’s been gone now for four years, my mother still watches over me. I just never know when she will appear.

This isn’t a ghost story. It’s a love story.

Marian Stambaugh, Mother's Day


Every now and then, a photo I took of my mother years ago spontaneously pops up on my computer. I never know when it’s going to happen. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to her appearance. Mom’s photo just inexpliciably shows up, and I couldn’t be happier.

I might be surfing the Internet or working on a photo project. I click my laptop’s mouse pad and boom; Mom is smiling away at me from the left side of my computer screen. She looks as elegant as ever, satisfied, happy, her wavy silver hair complimenting her rosy cheeks and her radiant smile.

At first, this sudden appearance spooked me. I can’t explain why her photo appears. But I’m ever so glad that it does. This lovely profile is the way I want to remember her.

There’s a lot of good to recall about Mom. My brothers, sisters and I were fortunate. We had a loving, lovely mother. Not everyone can say that.

Mom was everything a mother should be to her children. That wasn’t always easy either given the different personalities and demands of her five cherubs.

Our catalog of behaviors and misbehaviors revealed the alpha and omega of our mother’s temperament. She was no pushover. But she could be gentle and tender, too.

Even in the midst of the busyness of running an active household, Mom made time for each of us. She once interrupted lunch to dig up a bright red tulip for me to take to my fourth-grade teacher.

Mom knew how to discipline, too. She was firm but fair. But if we went too far, we’d hear the dreaded words, “Wait until you father gets home from work!”

wedding photo

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 15, 1942. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Besides her skills as a domestic engineer, Mom was an accomplished artist, an excellent listener, a sports enthusiast, and a much better driver than Dad. She got her license when she was 40.

When I was a senior in high school, I only attended school in the morning due to classroom overcrowding. That meant I was home alone with Mom every school day afternoon. Mom and I had some amazing talks together.

Mom related personal stories I had never heard before, and I doubt she ever told anyone else. That conveyed all I needed to know about her love and trust. She set a high standard for being a parent.

Later in her long life, things changed for Mom. She began to show signs of dementia. The Alzheimer’s prevented Mom from expressing herself they way she wanted.

We could see her frustration in that, and would just sit with her peacefully as she gazed out a window. Nevertheless, Mom still looked sharp in her color-coordinated outfits that she had picked out to wear. Mom never lost her artist’s eye.

smiling mother

Big smile.

That’s why I enjoy it when that photo of her suddenly appears on my computer screen. I pause and remember just how much I miss her, and what a beautiful mother, wife, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, and neighbor she was to so many.

When that picture of Mom appears, I can hear her reassuring voice say, “It’s all right, Bruce. I’m at peace in my new life.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Thanks for still watching over me.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016


Filed under family, human interest, Ohio, photography, writing

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


Filed under family, friends, human interest, Ohio, writing

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


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


Filed under birding, birds, family, friends, human interest, nature photography, photography, writing

A recipe that ensures lasting memories: good food, gracious friends

birthday meal, birthday celebration

Birthday celebration. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Friends. Food. Memories. That’s a recipe to remember.

Some of my favorite memories come from sitting around a dinner table and sharing a meal with friends. With the passage of time, more often than not these are folks we seldom see on a regular basis for a multitude of reasons.

The excuses responsible for the separation are many and varied. A change of jobs, retirement, relocating, even a misunderstanding are just some of the possibilities.

Funny, isn’t it, how food enables meaningful conversation, neutralizes differences and bonds folks together. That’s true, of course, as long as I’m not cooking.

food and friends

Brunch with friends © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Food flavors the conversational flow. Perhaps it’s the other way around. The intentionality of reconnecting is easier if food is the centerpiece.

The type of meal is insignificant. It could be at a fancy restaurant, or someone’s home or a relaxing picnic. The setting and type don’t necessarily dictate the buoyant demeanor that prevails. The results are the same.

My late father was notorious for instigating such gatherings. He called it the “annual Frith picnic.” Frith was my mother’s maiden name, and anyone directly and remotely connected to the Frith family of my mother and her two sisters was invited.

Grandma Frith, the mother of the three daughters, was always the queen of the feast. Us grandkids revered her. Her homemade pies had nothing to do with that of course.

Dad kept the reunion going as long as he could. We usually met at his company-owned park, along with hundreds of other employees and their families.

We played card games, softball, volleyball and miniature golf. Mostly though, we grouped in semi-circles or sat at picnic tables quizzing one another. As the grandkids grew, they began to have children of their own.

old friends

Marvin and Mary. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Attendance and menu offerings expanded, and then lessened as family cells grew and spread across the country like the measles. I miss those get-togethers. I remember the intensity of the conversations though not the specifics. Shoot, I can’t remember what I had for lunch, and lunch was an hour ago.

I recall other smorgasbords as well.

I find sitting at the same table with people you once hired, shared offices, played on the same softball team or attended church with priceless. Between bites of seasoned casseroles and homemade desserts, we sit around like old grandparents and compare notes about our greatest blessings, our grandchildren. We do so because we are old grandparents, well most of us.

Stories long forgotten are retold as if they happened yesterday. We laugh to the point of tears. Quiet reflections often follow the expressive outpourings, sure signs that those times will never return nor be repeated. That may be for the best.

family and food

Family. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

If heads turn our way in public settings, they are accompanied by understanding smiles without knowing the context or details. The other patrons acknowledge the genuine fellowship with polite nods.

I especially love extended opportunities where the conversing spontaneously spills out long past the clearing of the supper table. Raucous rounds of dominoes or card games ensue. They are new memories freshly made.

I find it even more delicious if newcomers slide into the circle of friends. They ask clarifying questions that generate new information, more laughter, a rainbow of language, and new friends.

In such situations, I have learned another necessary ingredient that spices the relational recipe. Silent listening is the honey that sweetens the relationships and keeps me asking for seconds.

relaxing before the meal

Relaxing. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Filed under column, family, photography, recipe, writing

A beautiful mother in every way

Miller farm by Bruce Stambaugh

One of my mother’s many watercolors. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late mother was a beautiful woman in so many ways.

Her physical features spoke for themselves at every stage of her long life. Reviewing old black and white photos, it was clear Mom was a looker in her early youth, as a young wife and beyond.

Dad used to tell a story about the time his co-workers first saw Mom at a company picnic. They asked Dad, who was lanky with big ears and a protruding nose, if Mom was mad at herself on the day she married him. Dad took that as a compliment.

wedding photo

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 15, 1942. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Mom looked especially stunning in the many hats she wore throughout her life. Folks in the retirement community where she and Dad spent their final years always commented favorably on how grand Mom looked in her matching outfits.

Mom’s real beauty was in her heart and soul. Though never an openly affectionate woman, Mom expressed her splendor in the way she lived her life.

Mom generously shared her gifts of kindness, patience, and creativity whenever and wherever she could. If a neighbor was sick, she was at their door with food for the family.

If one of us kids needed something, Mom would often stop what she was doing and helped us. Once I admired a glossy red tulip growing in our flower garden. Mom left the kitchen and carefully dug and potted the flower for me to take to school for my teacher.

When Mom was hospitalized for a few days, the house seemed dark and still. Though we were well cared for, we missed her light and life.

Mom at the retirement home. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Mom at the retirement home. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I’m sure my four siblings each have their own stories to share as well. It took a talented woman to balance her skills of parenting, cleaning, cooking, patching scrapes and dabbing tears.

Mom wasn’t a staid woman either. She couldn’t be with five ornery cherubs tearing around the house.

Believe me, we knew when one of us had crossed the line. The stress we caused her likely contributed to her wavy dark hair prematurely turning snow white. That made her all the more attractive.

Mom helped us with schoolwork, gave us blankets to make tents over the clothesline, and provided cool drinks on hot summer days. She laughed even if our jokes were lame, and cried when things seemed to just unravel.

Her devotion to Dad further evidenced her inner beauty. As controlling and contrary as Dad could be, Mom stood her ground in expressing her opinions. Her love for him, however, never wavered.

Dick Stambaugh, Marian Stambaugh, Bruce Stambaugh, parents

My late parents, Dick and Marian Stambaugh. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I don’t recall him ever saying it, but I think Dad clearly understood that he was one fortunate man in marrying this lovely woman. He always gave her cards, flowers, candy and other gifts on holidays and her birthday.

With Dad’s encouragement, Mom got her driver’s license at age 40. He also coaxed her into taking art lessons, knowing her natural ability to draw and paint.

Mom’s beauty radiated from her mind’s eye into her vibrant watercolor paintings. She won many awards for her still life and landscape representations.

Mom was as humble and classy as Dad was brash and bold. She never boasted about her awards nor charged enough for the paintings she sold. She was happy just to have others enjoy her artwork.

If that isn’t beauty personified, I don’t know what is.

This will be the fourth Mother’s Day without Mom. I can still see her gorgeous smile, and sense her generous love. I hope your mother was just as beautiful as mine.

landscape painting, rural road

Rural road. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015


Filed under column, family, photography, writing

In words and deeds, a President humbly true to his faith

Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter

With Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Humility, service, love, family and faith are vital pillars of any stable community. My wife and I enthusiastically witnessed these highest of human qualities at a little Baptist church in Plains, Georgia.

We knew we wouldn’t be the only ones who would want to hear Jimmy Carter teach Sunday school. When the former president is scheduled to teach, the tiny congregation of 30 swells to 10 times that amount, sometimes more.

The good folks at Maranatha Baptist Church know what to do. They are ready for the ensuing onslaught. So are the authorities.

When we arrived at 8:30 a.m. at the modest church that damp, gray Sunday morning, a police dog checked every vehicle entering the property for bombs. Though we were plenty early, a line of people already stretched from the front door, down the cement sidewalk to the parking lot.

By now, former President Carter has developed quite the reputation as a teacher, humanitarian, and world-renowned peacemaker. At age 90, he and his equally gracious wife, Rosalynn, are still putting their faith into action.

Noble Peace Prize, Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize medal. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

My wife and I joined the queue to enter the red brick building. A stern looking woman popped onto the church’s front porch to announce the procedures for entering. She spoke loudly and resolutely so everyone could plainly hear the specific instructions to make everything go as smoothly as possible.

Secret Service agents greeted us inside the door. We emptied our pockets onto a table and removed our coats. Another officer checked everyone with a wand for any suspicious objects.

We sat in a pew about two-thirds of the way back from the pulpit. Promptly at 9 a.m., the same drill sergeant like lady walked to the front of the church and introduced herself as “Miss Jan.”

Miss Jan spent the next 45 minutes kindly but firmly going over all the rules of conduct. Included were not standing or clapping for the president and no photography during the class or worship. We could take pictures during Jimmy’s brief introduction.

Miss Jan continued, “If you want your picture taken with the President and First Lady you must stay for both the Sunday school and the worship.”

After a brief break, Miss Jan, who had taught the Carter’s daughter, Amy, in elementary school, had us all bow our heads for a prayer. When she said, “Amen,” Jimmy Carter surprised the congregation when he rose and began addressing the crowd. He and his Secret Service guards had quietly sneaked in during the prayer. We hung on his every word.

Miss Jan kept watch over the assembled. She occasionally hugged or bent down to shake the hand of a Secret Service agent, as if she were welcoming them back to a family gathering. The affection they shared was for more than themselves. Their common assignment of protecting the president they loved and admired expressed their uniform devotion.

Jimmy Carter, Sunday school

Jimmy Carter was making a point during the introduction section of the class. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The topic was loving God and your neighbor. Jimmy humbly shared how organizations he supports, like the Lions Club, Habitat for Humanity, and The Carter Center in Atlanta, help him put this charitable concept into global deeds for peace and human rights.

Jimmy used the word “humble” several times, pronouncing it the old-fashioned way, without the beginning “H” sound. It modeled his southern, gentlemanly hospitable manner.

After the service, Miss Jan resumed command, dismissing us by rows to have our pictures taken with Jimmy and Rosalynn. When she came to our row, I told her she must have been an excellent teacher. Miss Jan winked, smiled, and quietly thanked me.

Miss Jan had instructed us not to either shake hands with the Carters or to talk to them so that everyone could get through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible. When the lady taking the photo with my camera clicked the shutter, Rosalynn whispered to Neva that the flash hadn’t gone off.

That was so thoughtful of her. The picture was fine, just like Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, and Miss Jan, too.

The communion cup of love, faith, family, humility, and service generously overflowed in Plains, Georgia. We were grateful to have been partaken.

Jimmy Carter quote, Bruce Stambaugh

A quote from Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015


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