Tag Archives: New Year’s resolutions

In 2016, embrace the joy of laughter in your life

transposition, funny sign

Mixed marketing?

By Bruce Stambaugh

As we approach Epiphany, the Advent season of hope, love, joy and peace comes to an end. The challenge for us, however, is to keep that quartet of ideals alive in the New Year.

The Amish celebrate Jan. 6 as Old Christmas, a time of gathering with family and friends, reflecting on what has been and what may yet be. In reality, it is more solemnity than celebration. Still, they gather to commemorate and converse, glad for another year of life.

Knowing some of my ornery Amish friends, I doubt the day will pass without a few light-hearted ribbings and laughs. Everything in moderation as the saying goes.

Just like music, laughter can bind folks together so long as the merriment doesn’t ridicule anyone. Coming out of the holidays into the New Year, we had plenty of opportunities to laugh with friends and family.

humorous sign

The 11th Commandment.

My six-year-old granddaughter led the way. When visiting our home over the holidays, I asked her one evening if she wanted anything. Her reply made me laugh.

“A glass of cranberry juice and a large carrot,” was Maren’s reply. I complied with a grin on my face. She was happy, and so was I but for a very different reason.

I wondered why the rest of the world’s entreaties couldn’t be so simple. We live in a fearsome, troubled world. Here was a kindergartner who only made a simple request, and in the process innocently made the seasonal celebration even more joyful.

Her comment wasn’t the only one that made me chuckle. Given my circle of family and friends, we laughed a lot.

A gathering of the cancer support group I belong to was one such setting. The six of us met with our spouses, and given the mix of characters among the couples, laughs were guaranteed. It’s always good to face down cancer with a group snicker or two.

At a friend’s open house for his new baby, the small congregate laughed and laughed at story after story. Good-natured chiding made for one lively evening. All the while, the baby slept and slept, apparently comforted by our genuine regard.

We hosted a long-standing Christmas Eve tradition of breakfast with lifetime friends. You should have seen my friend smile when he opened his gift of a travel mug from our 50th high school reunion that neither of us attended.

reunion items, smiles

All smiles.

“Oh, you shouldn’t have,” he said. I know. But I did. It was fun.

Grandchildren at Christmas can be as antsy as any time of year. Determined to keep things moving, I challenged my granddaughter to play the board game Candyland. She got bored at winning. I adored being her patsy.

At our son’s place, the nine-year-old grandson stole the act. Prompted by his uncle, Davis’ timing was perfect when he disrupted an adult guest’s soliloquy with the man’s own conversational trick, “Sorry to interrupt you, but…” Davis brought down the house.

Other cheery times are less visible but just as productive. I put my car keys where I’m sure to find them instead of their usual location, and then I can’t remember where the surefire spot was. It’s good to go easy on yourself.

Like beads on a bracelet, each moment of laughter is strung together to brighten and lighten life. In 2016, I hope your world is filled with lots of laughter, even if it is only a cup of cranberry juice and one large carrot.

funny sign, laughing

May 2016 bring lots of laughs.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under family, friends, holidays, news, photography, writing

Lean into the wind in 2014

Damage left by an EF2 tornado that hit Wooster, Ohio on Sept. 16, 2010.

Damage left by an EF2 tornado that hit Wooster, Ohio on Sept. 16, 2010.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I never believed much in New Year’s resolutions. I prefer to view the big picture. Besides, by now, I may have already broken half my resolves.

This year, rather than aim to lose five pounds in a month, I want to lean into the wind. That should be easy for me. I’m known to be a little windy from time to time.

You can blame my young pastor for this idea. He’s young because he’s half my age. Pastor Patrick recently preached a sermon about making yourself available and vulnerable to lean into life’s daily situations, good and bad, the way you would brace yourself against a good gale.

bluebirdbybrucestambaughI liked that image a lot. I’ll share a few ways I plan to apply the concept. I want to challenge myself to embrace all that swirls around me, positive or negative, this year. We learn from either perspective.

Despite my loss of dexterity, I will lean into the wind and hold a child’s hand, steadying her wobbling stroll across a room. Though my hearing is diminished, I will listen attentively to what others have to say, even though I may vehemently disagree with their opinion or decision.

Though my eyesight is aided with bifocal glasses, I will look for the simplest pleasure nature has to offer. A breathtaking sunrise, a singular drop of water hanging perilously at the end a leaf, a brilliant wood warbler migrating north will all be part of my leaning into the wind.

doubletrunkbybrucestambaughEven though my cranky knees limit my mobility, I will do my absolute best to bend low to pick up trash thoughtlessly discarded by others. If someone else is leaning into the wind nearby, maybe they’ll help me back to my feet.

Leaning is an active verb, not passive. Life is a series of winds of various velocities that shift daily. We can only feel the wind. We measure it by the effects on everything the wind touches, whether it does so fiercely or persistently.

Regardless of the velocity, life’s winds affect us all. Leaning in enables us to practice gratitude and joy, the byproducts of vulnerability.

Life offers no guarantees. It is full of pitfalls and mistakes as well as abundant joy and beauty. I want to discard the rose-colored glasses, and recognize the good from the bad. I want to accept them for what they are, and lean into 2014 accordingly.

The blizzard winds of January will eventually subside. Before we know it, invigorating breezes of May, with their warm, sweet fragrances and life-giving rains, will arrive as a blessed balance for us all.

A friend of mine shared a picture of an old apple tree, trunk bent from age and time, some limbs broken and sagging. The caption beneath the old tree defined what I mean by leaning into the wind.

It read, “A little bent by time, shaped by the wind and the seasons, a few branches broken. Today I feel like that old apple tree. But I’m still reaching for the sky, and doing my best to take in what the world gives me and turn it into something good and useful.”

By leaning into the wind, I can anticipate enduring, absorbing and embracing all of the various breezes that life blows my way in 2014.

Who knows? I might even lose five pounds in a month.

brownongoldbybrucestambaugh

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Filed under birding, column, news, Ohio, photography, weather, writing

Keeping goals practical for 2012

By Bruce Stambaugh

It’s New Year’s resolution time, a media driven folly I deplore. Consequently, I don’t participate in the declaratory hyperbole of over-hype that usually dissolves faster than an ice cube in a frying pan.

Last year, I offered up a friendly alternative to the impractical practice of setting New Year’s resolutions. I posted a personal, grandiose bucket list that I wanted to accomplish in my life. A good friend thought the text too self-centered and exclusive.

I quickly realized my friend was right on. Knowing that resolutions again would be on the mainstream media’s New Year’s menu, I desired something more productive with which to counter publicly and apply personally.

Up side down by Bruce StambaughDuring my seemingly yearlong recovery last year, I had lots of opportunity for meditation and gratitude. At some point, I began including in my morning devotions a simple three part prompt that seemed all too obvious.

Whether I began or ended with the trilogy, I came away with a refreshing daily approach. The self-imposed, practical advice was both a reminder and a method of living that turned my bucket list on its head.

My little daily pep talk is about as simple and modest as I am. I desire to be nice, to be kind and to behave each day.

Given the fact that I will qualify for Medicare later this year, one would think I had that palpable trio already mastered. My friend, along with other contributions from my beloved wife, told me otherwise. I am human after all, and a man to boot.

Think of it as an offshoot of Kermit the Frog. Instead of “it’s not easy being green,” I submit that it’s not easy being Green frog by Bruce Stambaughnice, at least not all of the time. Nor is it always attainable to be kind, a close cousin to “nice.”

I don’t mean to be kind of nice either. I mean be nice. Be kind, and the end result will be that one will behave. Seems pretty logical to me.

I’ll give you that there isn’t much difference between being nice and being kind. I guess I see being nice as easy as holding a door open for someone. Being kind, on the other hand, is a compassionate extension of that precept.

Being kind equates with being generous. The way I see it, anyone can be nice. It takes extra effort to be kind. Kindness involves time, perseverance, patience, observation and action. I can be nice and hold a door for the next person through. I can be kind and anticipate that the person pushing their mother in a wheelchair will need to have the door held for them.
Face painting by Bruce Stambaugh
Putting nice and kind into play in my life forces me to look beyond my own immediate needs, and to watch for spontaneous opportunities to assist others, even in small ways. Other times, being nice and being kind come through planned events where I can make a difference in a positive manner.

By choosing positive, I am ensuring I am behaving. If I am behaving, I am being nice and hopefully kind, too. One begets the other with productive, positive consequences for all involved.

Be nice. Be kind. Behave. Those are constructive objectives I can live by everyday of the New Year. If I don’t, I’m sure my friend or my wife will remind me. I just hope they’ll be nice about it.

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