Tag Archives: marriage

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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No fooling about the waffle iron

hersheysbybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I came across an article about the many uses for a waffle iron, I had to read it. The story’s headline pulled me in: “5 Outrageously Good Items You Can Make in a Waffle Iron.”

Besides the obvious and traditionally the only reason to use a waffle iron, to make waffles, the article transformed the lowly gadget into a veritable utilitarian kitchen necessity. I suspicioned the author owned stock in a waffle iron manufacturing company, and was trying to persuade people to rush out and purchase one or two.

dadandmombybrucestambaugh

My late father and mother.

The first alternate to waffles on a waffle iron listed was everyone’s favorite, unless you happen to be vegan, toasted cheese sandwich. Next to the pancake, this has to be the world’s most universal food. If you use a waffle iron, it might even surpass the world-renowned flapjack.

Next on the list was an offering for people who either are indecisive or can’t wait for dinner. The author recommended a fried chicken waffle. I am not making this up. He called it “Chicken Stuffed Waffles.” Let’s just say that the directions weren’t as simple as making the two entrees individually. But syrup on fried chicken? I think I’ll pass.

I thought maybe the third recipe would be the charm. I was disappointed. “Cheesy Pasta” for the world’s mac and cheese fans was presented. Again, the confounding recipe resulted in a crispy crust with a gooey, cheesy center. Not for me.

The next one I might try, if my wife isn’t home and I can find a gluten free recipe. Heat up the waffle iron, plop down a lump of cookie dough, and close the griddle for a minute and a half. Presto, you’ve got a crunchy cookie.

lecturebybrucestambaugh

Dad was much more comfortable giving talks on Native American history than he was working in the kitchen.

Finally came a suggestion that really made sense. Though the author didn’t call it this, the result was a waffled omelette. Just preheat the waffle iron to medium-high heat, pour in your favorite egg scramble and two minutes later you’re good to go.

All this leads me to a simple warning. It came to me as soon as I saw the article’s enticing headline. Don’t do what my late father once did. It was kind of like the waffled toasted cheese sandwich, only worse.

Apparently, Dad was home alone shortly after he and Mom were married in 1942. Now my impetuous father knew less about cooking than me. But he was hungry, and what was a man to do without his wife around to fix food for him?

waffleironbybrucestambaugh

Dad’s partner in crime.

Dad got out their brand new waffle iron, and made, or at least attempted to make, his favorite gourmet sandwich. He had all the ingredients right there before him.

Dad put a slice of plain, white bread on each side of the waffle iron, without preheating it of course. On top of each slice he carefully placed half of a plain Hershey’s candy bar. You know, the flat one with multiple rectangles with the brand name Hershey’s molded into them.

Dad squeezed the two sides of the waffle iron together, and then turned it on. I’m not exactly sure what happened after that, but when Mom got home, the waffle iron was ruined. Her only choice was to throw it out.

I think Dad was really fortunate that Mom didn’t pitch him out, too. Instead their incredible marriage lasted 67 years, in part because Dad gave up grilled chocolate bar sandwiches, not just for Lent, but for good.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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My best friend for 42 years

thestambaughsbybrucestambaughBy Bruce Stambaugh

March 27, 1971 was a beautiful Saturday. It was warm, the sun was shining, and spring was definitely in the air. The field next to the church had just been sprayed with liquid manure.

I remember it well, the wedding, not the smell. It was the day I married my best friend. Of course, I didn’t know she would become my best friend. My best friend was my best man. I married Neva to be my wife, or so I thought. It has turned out so much more than that naïve 23 year-old groom could have imagined.

We soon discovered that we had a lot in common besides amorous affection. We both liked travel, adventure, antiques, nature and Milky Way candy bars.

The summer after our wedding we lived on a mountain with no communications, no electricity or running water. As part of a church sponsored summer service project, we hosted hikers at a camp about halfway up Pikes Peak in Colorado. I chopped the firewood and Neva prepared our meals over either a woodstove or an open fire.

homewithaviewbybrucestambaugh

We never tire of the view behind our rural home in Ohio’s Amish country.

That experience helped set the stage for all that was to transpire in the next 42 years. Through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, we strived and thrived as individuals and as a couple. It hasn’t all been pretty or perfect, but we have endured, much the way we did on the mountain.

We each spent a career in public education, something we both dearly believe in for the good of our own children, our community and our country. It was an honor to serve in that capacity.

We built one new home and completed another. Both had excellent views and wonderful neighbors.

snugglingwithnanabybrucestambaugh

Our grandchildren snuggle under a blanket as Nana read a book to them on a cold winter’s night.

We raised two beautiful children, who each have an amazing spouse of their own. It’s a joy to watch them all blaze their trails through life, positively affecting others. Of course, we adore our three grandchildren as precious gifts, too.

Our similarities and differences have balanced, renewed and enriched our lives, and have helped cement our marital friendship. Neva loves helping at the local thrift shop. I enjoy photographing sunsets. She quietly quilts or sews while I write.

augustsunsetbybrucestambaugh

The length and strength of our marriage can be attributed to our many common interests, and the recognition that we try to allow space for our own wants, wishes, talents and abilities. We complement one another, and we compliment one another.

babyquiltbybrucestambaugh

Neva made this baby quilt for our granddaughter.

After 42 years of marriage, Neva and I have reached a new phase in our relationship. We love being grandparents, and seize each opportunity to host, visit or vacation with the grandkids. Being mostly retired allows us to do that.

It also gives us pause to ponder how we have made it through the good and bad that life has thrown at us. All I can determine is that we have survived for two main reasons. We have many faithful friends and family members who have unwaveringly stood by us, and we have each other.

With a mesmerizing fire in the fireplace, a cup of coffee and some of Neva’s delicious homemade cookies, we spend many winter evenings together enjoying college basketball games on TV. It doesn’t take much to make us happy.

We are still close friends with our best man and his gregarious wife. But as I look back on our life together, it is obvious that Neva and I are more than wife and husband. We indeed are each other’s best friends.

roaringfirebybrucestambaugh

The fire still burns.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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The ins and outs of a sustained marriage

Puffy clouds by Bruce Stambaugh

The beauty around us helps create a lasting, loving relationship.


By Bruce Stambaugh

Soon my wife and I will have been married for 41 years. How have we made it this far? Well, this may sound funny, but the answer to that question in part is because we manage to avoid each other.

I think I better explain. My wife and I both believe in being community activists. That is a fancy way of saying we get involved in local activities, many of them on a volunteer basis.

Over those 41 years of marriage, Neva and I have recognized a familiar pattern. She goes out the drive just as I am coming in or vice versa. When we first noticed this routine, we laughed about the happenstance. The phenomenon has continued with amazing regularity.

When Neva comes in the drive as I am leaving, we just roll our eyes in common acceptance and acknowledgment of the many paths our busy lives have taken us. We recognize the importance of accepting and encouraging our individual interests and areas of service as important ingredients of any successful marriage.

Our house by Bruce Stambaugh

Where our driveway moments occur.


With us, this is pretty much how it goes. Neva has a 10 a.m. meeting scheduled in Millersburg with the thrift store where she volunteers. I have the morning free to tinker around the house or write. After lunch, Neva arrives home, and I need to leave for a rendezvous with a local resident regarding a township issue. I’m a township trustee.

We haven’t necessarily planned these driveway moments. It’s just the way it has panned out time and again over our 41-year marriage. I come in the drive, Neva goes out. It’s like clockwork.

If anything, it’s more about trusting each other and commitment to community than intentional evasion. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons our marriage has not only grown in years, it’s thrived.

We respect each other and each other’s interests. We also give each other the freedom and space to exercise those interests. The fact that those activities often coincide with a community event is possibly the glue that has helped hold our loving relationship together.

Bruce and Neva by Bruce StambaughNeither of us would begin to pretend to be perfect or that ours is a model marriage. That innate trust, however, allows us to do our own thing while actually reinforcing our husband and wife relationship.

I’m not bragging when I say that we feel blessed to have lasted this long as a couple. Marital bliss for our generation has turned out to be a 50/50 proposition. I feel for those who have tried to hold their marriage together, giving their all to no avail. I am ever so thankful that we have hung in there, even during difficult times.

With the varying schedules and comings and goings, having a supporting community around us has certainly enhanced our chances for success. We fully and humbly recognize that we have not been on this long journey alone. We have many people to thank for being there for us through thick and thin.

Friends, neighbors, church members, and especially family have all played important roles in the success and longevity of our marriage. Our son once asked me what the secret to our longevity of marriage was. I didn’t hesitate in answering, “There are no secrets between us.”

That includes where Neva is going again when I pull into the driveway.

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For this marriage, the key to success is no secret

Bruce and Neva Stambaugh

Bruce and Neva Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Where do you begin to share about being married to the same person for four decades? After all, my wife and I have been through a lot together during those 40 years.

Perhaps the best place to start is at the beginning. And what a beginning it was.

Crazy as it sounds, nine days after we met we were engaged, although we did wait a month to make it public. We didn’t want people to think we were totally nuts. We were married nine months later. When our two children were old enough to understand, we advised them against using our expeditious courtship as a model to matrimony.

I can remember our wedding day as if it were yesterday. I was so scared that I didn’t even notice that the farm field next to the church had been sprayed with liquid manure that afternoon.

Before the receiving line had formed, I got a taste of what married life really would be like. I accidentally stepped on the train of my wife’s wedding dress, and immediately had her finger in my face. I think that’s when I started to smell the manure.

Our son once asked me what was the secret to the success of our marriage. I simply told him that his mother and I have had no secrets between us. What happens happens. Good or bad, helpful or harmful, “for richer or for poorer,” it’s all out there.

Like most marriages, it hasn’t always been pretty or blissful. No marriage is perfect, including ours. Sure, we air things out, but in so doing try to always maintain our love, respect and admiration for one another. We may have raised our voices to one another from time to time, but never a hand.

We haven’t come this far together on our own either. Family and friends have graciously helped us along the way. Our parents were excellent models of wedded commitment.

From them we learned not only to serve others, but to also enjoy each opportunity that would come along. We try our best to humbly help wherever and whenever we can.

Another plus for us is that Neva and I have a lot in common. We love to travel, enjoy quietness, sunsets, nature, and sharing a meal with guests. Hospitality is one of Neva’s greatest gifts.

Of course, we each do our own things, too. She reads. I write. She quilts. I bird.

That might be another element that cemented our marital longevity. We wisely allow each other our own space and time, without a hint of jealousy or suspicion. If you truly love someone, trust is everything. Break it, and you find yourself back at square one or worse.

For me, the best part of being married for 40 years is just that. We have been married for 40 years. Our marriage has been an investment in one another, our wonderful children and their spouses, our grandchildren, our families, the community, friends, and our church family. We have been blessed by their contributions to us, too.

Where do you end sharing about being married to the same person for 40 years? For that answer, it’s probably best to go back to the beginning, again: “Until death do us part.”

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