Tag Archives: positive attitude

Keep looking up

smartphones, beautiful sunrise

Checking the phone.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My friend innocently reminded me of something I had said to her that I had forgotten. Her timing couldn’t haven been better in repeating my words of advice.

She said I had told her always to keep looking up. That comment referenced finding birds and bird nests in her yard. When I heard my words played back to me, I realized their application ranged far beyond bird watching.

My mind flashed back to our snowbird weeks in northeastern Florida in the winter. We had rented a condo right on the Atlantic Ocean for a few weeks.

I often greeted the days from the balcony of our condo. One particular day stood out.

The sunrise was spectacular. The waves were gentle, peacefully hypnotic in their rhythmic rolling. Where the waves lapped at the gritty sand, shorebirds busily foraged for sustenance.

dolphins, Atlantic Ocean, Florida

Dolphins playing.

An orange sun danced on the ocean’s horizon, reflecting glorious beauty across the rolling waters and brilliantly painting the sky. Dolphins played and fed in the morning surf before it broke upon the beach.

A few folks were out and about, too. But many of them seemed disengaged from all the natural beauty around them. Their heads fixated down to their hand-held smartphones, unmindful of the golden sunrise, the unfolding nature, or the inspiring sea.

During our weeks-long stay, I saw this same scene repeated over and over again. You don’t have to be on the beach to see it either. In today’s technologically driven society, I’m sure you have encountered the same situations in your daily routines.

lighthouse, smartphone

Even a view of a lighthouse couldn’t keep this gentleman from checking his phone.

It’s easy to see this faulty waywardness in others. For me, it’s much harder to recognize my personal, self-absorbed participation in this 21st-century phenomenon.

If we’re honest with ourselves, all too often we fall into the same ill-mannered habit. We become so infatuated with our gizmos that we disregard all that’s happening around us, including those we love.

I know. My daughter took a photo of me with her phone, of course, sitting on a bench in front of an ice cream stand on a balmy summer evening. My baldness is prominent in the photo because I had my head down looking at the smartphone I held.

I felt guilty when I saw that photo. For the record, my daughter took it for the setting and color, not for my embarrassment. That was on my shoulders.

scrolling smartphone

Caught on camera.

It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? Sophisticated electronics designed to help us communicate much better and faster actually keep us from real interaction, like a casual conversation.

With constant, instantaneous access to information, much of it negative and harsh, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, disenchanted. We shouldn’t. No matter our individual situations, we each need to keep looking up, whether it’s for finding birds or keeping a positive attitude or noticing the events unfolding around us.

A restaurant’s entryway sign perfectly summed up the current social situation with a hand-printed message on their welcoming chalkboard. It read, “We do not have Wi-Fi. Talk to each other. Pretend it’s 1995.”

I immensely enjoyed that evening with my daughter visiting people in small towns where I had never been. We talked as we traveled, and I learned a lot, more than I did by scrolling my phone while we waited for our food.

I should have remembered to keep looking up.

sunset, cheers

Cheers to looking up.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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

Keep on the sunny side of life no matter what

Sunset rays by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

In this dog eat dog world of ours, it’s easy to get down on others and yourself. I’m much too guilty of that. Just ask my wife.

An email from a friend reminded me of that the other day. My friend, a man 14 years my senior, three decades ago survived a serious illness and now is in a pitched battle against lymphoma.

If anyone had a reason to be down, he did. Yet, he wasn’t. He has had a very successful life, one filled with both professional and personal achievements, most in service to others.

My friend wrote this email in reference to celebrating spring, the newness of life that is bursting forth all around us here in the northern hemisphere. He gratefully reflected on the lovely spring day on which he arrived home after his near brush with death 27 years ago.
Dogwood blossoms by Bruce Stambaugh
He championed the simplest things, a blooming flower, the green grass, a whiff of a refreshing scent, a tender touch of a loved one, and how we all are interconnected to all that is around us. His concluding comment of gratitude was, “And I almost missed this.”

I immediately replied by thanking him for the reminder to celebrate life in the present. We can’t change the past, and we can’t control the future. We can be positive in each and every opportunity in which we find ourselves daily.

Cockeyed optimist or bully pulpit preaching? Perhaps. But consider the alternative, a life of grumpy complaining that dulls everyone’s spirits. What fun is there in that? My friend’s note was looking life right in the eye and saying I’m glad to be here. We were all glad he was, too, and still are for that matter.

When I read that brief message, the song, “Keep on the sunny side of life,” instantly came to mind. Now, I’m no singer, but I like that song for its lyrics and its meaning. Stay positive. Life can be a bummer at times. Hardly anyone could deny that.
Spring Beauties by Bruce Stambaugh
With the temperatures warming, the grass growing, the leaves unfurling, the flowers blooming, some birds already feeding their young, and the ability to be out and about without fear of frostbite, it’s simply great to be alive.

I know times are tough for many, especially financially. There is too much illness in the world, too much injustice, too many wars, too much hatred. Yet, we are alive, and we can do something about all that if we put our mind and energy to whatever productive cause we support to help counter those woes.

I need to take on the spirit of my friend. Live life fully, completely, honestly, purely, truly, compassionately, thankfully. To do otherwise is a simple waste of the precious time we have left on this earth.
Workhorses by Bruce Stambaugh
A long time ago a lady called a school superintendent’s office. It was a miserable, cold and rainy day, and the woman was notorious for complaining. The superintendent took the call anyhow. He answered cheerfully by saying, “Good morning. It’s a beautiful day to be alive, isn’t it?”

When the lady recoiled at the positive greeting and asked how the school official could be so upbeat, he simply replied, “It sure beats the alternative.”

Yes, it does. I hope you can keep on the sunny side of life today, even if you are in the midst of a personal storm.
Wildflowers by Bruce Stambaugh
© 2012 Bruce Stambaugh

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Filed under Amish, column, family, Ohio, photography

Vivian Miller offers compassion through cards and visits

By Bruce Stambaugh

After the doctor informed Vivian Miller, 68, four years ago that she had Parkinson’s disease, he asked how she felt about the diagnosis.

Miller didn’t flinch. She mustered up her usual pluck and said, “It’s not going to put me in a corner someplace.” Indeed it hasn’t.

In the time since, Miller has spent her life quietly helping others.

“It’s not about me,” she said modestly. “God uses me as an encouragement and support for others.”

Miller, who lives in Berlin, Ohio, intentionally looks for those in need, though she clearly tries to be subtle and discreet. If she finds out about someone with health or personal problems, Miller doesn’t hesitate to help, even if it’s simply by sending a homemade card.

She uses a software program to create personally appropriate cards. Miller often incorporates a picture of the person or herself into the card’s design.

Vivian Miller by Bruce Stambaugh

Vivian Miller enjoys making personalized cards for people.

When she was unable to go on a cruise with her Sunday School class, Miller knew what to do. Instead of being envious, she made a welcome home card for each member. On the front of the card was the picture of the cruise ship on which the group had sailed.

“I wanted them to have a special memento from their trip,” Miller said.

That statement pretty well sums up Miller’s approach to life. Her doctor told her she would do well with that positive attitude, and Miller has. Miller said it really boils down to a pretty fundamental formula.

“It’s about listening to others,” she said. “Everybody has a story, and all you need to do is listen.”

Miller retired as a deputy director in the Holmes County Treasurer’s office in 2006. She had also worked in the office at Rodhe’s IGA in Millersburg for several years.

“From my vantage point in the office, I would see the same people come into the store over and over,” she said. “They usually just wanted someone to talk to.”

“I try to see the goodness in people,” Miller said, “no matter what their situation is.”

Miller credits her term as a deaconess at Walnut Creek Mennonite Church with giving her the courage and opportunities to be in a helping mode. She did hospital visits and checked in on the less mobile.

Miller looks for every possible way to help and to meet new people. She even works at the polls at times to help expand her circle of friends.

Miller especially has sought out others who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She explained that support, no matter what the issue, is critical for quality of life.

According to the National Institute of Health, Parkinson’s disease is a motor systems disorder, which is the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. The four primary symptoms of the disease are tremor or trembling in the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face.

Often times the onset of Parkinson’s is due to surgery or a head injury. In Miller’s case, she noticed the symptoms after a series of unrelated surgeries following her retirement.

For Miller, the disease has affected her left side. She discretely calms her left arm with her right hand and continues her conversation. That in itself is a physical sign of the inner awareness that Miller has. She is determined to share her compassion no matter what.

“Sometimes people seek me out,” Miller said, “and sometimes I go to them.”

Each situation is different, and Miller tries her best to be mindful of that. Miller just takes her illness in stride.

“Now it’s my turn to help,” she said. “Some of my best friends have come as the result of just being with families in need.”

Strident comforter that she is to others, Miller recognizes that she, too, needs support to do what she does. Miller credits her husband, Duane, and adult children, Valerie Gerber of Sugarcreek, and Scott Miller of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with providing the emotional and physical uplifting that she needs to maintain her active and involved pace.

“Duane has been wonderful,” she said, “and Valerie calls me everyday.” Her son sent her a laptop computer while she had an extended stay in the hospital. In part, that gift is what led to Miller’s practice of designing, printing and sending the personalized cards.

“I have been blessed by everyone I have met,” Miller said. Most likely, the recipients of her kindness could say the same thing about her.

This article was initially published in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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