I’m glad this year is over

smilebybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

It’s funny how we humans are driven by our own artificial boundaries. Calendars are a prime example. It’s simply how civilization keeps track of life. We record daily events, and then summarize them at year’s end.

Given the happenings of 2012, I’m glad this year is over. A sampling of some of this year’s escapades might explain why.

Jan. 12 A judge in Millersburg, Ohio declared a mistrial when juror number nine wore the juror button upside down, making it a six.

lookingupbybrucestambaughFeb. 14 – The Newtown Wastewater Treatment Plant, Brooklyn, N.Y. offered tours for lovers on Valentine’s Day, and 100 people showed up.

Feb. 28 – Greenwood, a town of 700 in British Columbia, Canada, received the award for having the best tap water in the world.

March 8 – Wild Birds Unlimited reported that Americans spend $5.4 billion annually on seed, materials and accessories to feed and watch wildlife.

March 11 – Four Amish youths were charged with underage drinking when their horse and buggy crashed into a sheriff’s cruiser near Sherman, N.Y.

bugbookbybrucestambaughApril 19 – Starbucks announced that it would quit using crushed bugs to dye some of its colored drinks.

May 18 – Delta Airlines offered hockey fans a free flight across the Hudson River to attend the play-off game between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils.

May 19 – A report showed that China had more students enrolled in U.S. colleges than any other foreign country.

June 14 – The youngest player to ever qualify, Andy Zhang, 14, teed off in the U.S. Open.

June 25 – A technology research group announced that for the first time ever in the U.S. e-books had outsold printed books.

July 16 – A 36-year old Bellville, Ill. woman was arrested after calling 911 six times because her boyfriend wouldn’t give her another beer.

August 2 – Two teams of badminton players were kicked out of the London Olympics for intentionally trying to lose in order to play easier teams in the next round.

August 26 – Besse Cooper, the world’s oldest person, turned 116, and credited her longevity to minding her own business and avoiding junk food.

Sept. 6 – A Canton, Ohio man was arrested for attacking his son’s mother by pouring a bottle of hot sauce on her.

Sept. 17 – In Dordogne, France, a dog shot his master in the hand when it jumped onto the man’s gun and accidentally stepped on the trigger, firing the shotgun.

Oct. 5 – After feeding on wastes at an M&M candy factory in northern France, bees were found to be producing blue and green honey.

christmastreebybrucestambaughOct. 10 – Radio station KYXE in Yakima, Washington began playing its all Christmas music format.

Nov. 10 – A 28-year-old pregnant Arizona woman was arrested when she allegedly drove over her husband with their SUV when she learned that he had failed to vote in the Nov. 6 election.

Nov. 14 – By first breathing pure oxygen, Stig Severinsen, a diving and breathing expert, held his breath under water for a record 22 minutes.

Dec. 4 – NASA announced that its Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, had reached the end of the solar system.

Dec. 12 – Kiam Moriya of Birmingham, Ala. turned 12 at exactly 12:12 p.m.

These newsy tidbits demonstrate that 2012 was another crazy year, mostly thanks to the zaniness of the inhabitants of our incredible earth. Let’s hope that 2013 will ring in a better, saner, happier life for all of us.

threecrazykidsbybrucestambaugh

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

My 2012 in pictures

During the course of a year, I take a lot of photographs, thousands to be exact. My son says I take too many, especially of the same thing. But I snap away for several reasons. My mother gave me her artsy eye to see the beauty in the world around me. She painted landscapes. I take pictures. Shooting pictures is also a way to document the year. In addition, I enjoy sharing the pictures I take, either through this blog, in magazines, on websites, or simply printing them out for people to enjoy.

With that introduction, this is my 2012 in review. With so many pictures, I didn’t want to bore you. Instead, I chose a picture a month, kind of like a calendar in reverse. I hope you enjoy my selections.

Happy New Year!

Bruce

sunsetsiestakeybeachbybrucestambaugh
Enjoying a beautiful sunset on America’s number 1 rated beach, Siesta Key, Sarasota, FL, was a great way to begin the year.
northernflickerbybrucestambaugh
I love birding. This Northern Flicker posed perfectly for this shot in Feb.
williamsburghatsbybrucestambaugh
My wife and I celebrated our 41st anniversary in March by visiting Williamsburg, VA. These hats caught my eye.
lakesidedaisybybrucestambaugh
Lakeside, OH is one of my favorite vacation spots. When the Lakeside Daisies are blooming, which they did two weeks early this year, the town is even prettier. These daisies only bloom on the Marblehead Peninsula, and this bee enjoyed the small patch of these special flowers on April 29.
rosebreastedgrosbeakbybrucestambaugh
I feel very fortunate to have Rose-breasted Grosbeaks frequent my backyard feeders. This male seemed fearless as he gorged on oil sunflower seeds in early May.
familyvacationbybrucestambaugh
I enjoyed capturing our grandchildren’s initial reaction to the surf at Sunset Beach, NC in early June.
droughtbybrucestambaugh
The end of July was the peak of the summer’s drought in Ohio’s Amish country, where my wife and I live.
sunburstbybrucestambaugh
Summer fog is not unusual in Ohio’s Amish country. I often take my camera along on my morning walk, and I was glad I had this late August morning.
amishballoonsbybrucestambaugh
A young Amish girl checked out the colorful balloons at the neighbor’s produce stand during their Customer Appreciation Day at the end of Sept.
fallcolorsbybrucestambaugh
Laundry drying against the colorful leaves in mid-Oct. in Holmes Co., OH created a contrasting shot.
novembersunsetbybrucestambaugh
The silhouettes of the corncrib and tree against the Thanksgiving Day sunset made a stunning image.
snowfallbybrucestambaugh
Watching our grandchildren and their parents play in the snow the day after Christmas was as magical as the snow itself, and a wonderful way to end 2012.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

A model for keeping Christmas

selectingthechristmastreebybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late father loved Christmas. In truth, he lived for Christmas. Dad got so excited about Christmas it was as if our poor mother had six children, not five. When it came to Christmas, Dad was a grown man who never grew up.

Dad’s exuberance for the holiday was prolific, to the point of over-spending an already limited income. No matter the economy, there were always plenty of presents for everyone under our Christmas tree. I really don’t know how my folks financially did it.

dickstambaughbybrucestambaugh
My late father, Dick Stambaugh, with Senator Bob Dole at the World War II Memorial, Washinngton, D.C., Sept. 12, 2009
His joy for the season wasn’t limited to gift giving. Dad dragged us downtown in frigid weather to watch Santa arrive on a fire truck in the annual Christmas parade. He hauled us to his workplace where we stood in line with thousands of others to receive Christmas candy and small gifts.

Choosing the Christmas tree became a family event, too. Dad would stuff as many of us kids as he could catch into the car, and off we went, oftentimes tromping through the snow to select and cut the perfect tree.

Dad made the house a priority for being properly trimmed for Christmas. The tree was erected in front of the large plate glass window in the living room for all to see. Garland, tinsel, lights and heirloom ornaments nearly hid the needles. The plastic white star always crowned the glittery tree.

decoratedtreebybrucestambaugh

A little plastic church that lit up took center stage on the fireplace mantel between a pair of red candles in glinting glass holders. Of course, the stockings were all hung with care around the hearth.

Dad’s perennial priority project, however, was outside the house. His beloved light display seemed to grow each year. It started with the six-foot pine planted on the corner of our lot at 44th and Harrison in Canton, Ohio. It was a rather busy intersection in our post-World War II suburban neighborhood.

Dad loved to load up the tree with string after string of colored lights. The single lighting option then was using strands of large bulbs, which were individually screwed in. We got lots of compliments about the tree, which only encouraged Dad all the more.

As the tree grew, he added additional cords of lights. Later, the extension ladder came out until it was no longer practical for Dad to try to decorate a 20-foot tree. Instead, he loaded up the shrubbery with lights, and outlined the ridge of the house with those big bulb lights. By then, all of us kids were no longer kids. We had grown, married and had families of our own.

christmasgatheringbybrucestambaugh
Each Christmas the Stambaugh family, like thousands upon thousands of other families, gather to celebrate the day and its meaning. We continued to do so long after our parents were unable to host the annual family gathering. Our late mother, Marian Stambaugh, is in the center of attention.

Dad kept his holiday lighting tradition going nevertheless. When the dainty icicle lights came out, Dad draped those from the multi-colored lights around the facing of the house. It was festive, but not exactly aesthetically award winning.

Dad capped off the holiday merriment with buying out the neighborhood candy store of its assortment of tasty chocolates. I think he alone kept the store in business for years.

On each Christmas Day, my brothers and sisters and I gathered with our families and extended families in the home where we grew up out of celebration for the day and respect for our Santa Claus parents. Those were magical days, made more so by a man who refused to grow up, and who bequeathed his fervor for sharing joy to the next generation and the next.

If anyone knew how to keep Christmas, our spirited father, artfully aided by our loving mother, surely did.

christmastraditionbybrucestambaugh
Keeping the Christmas tradition alive in the Stambaugh family.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Gifts come in all kinds of packages

raysofbeautybybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s the gift-giving season again. I think the TV commercials started just after Labor Day.

If you follow their lead, it’s spend, spend, spend to please your loved one with just the right gift. That certainly might help the economy, but not your budget. It doesn’t have to be that way. Gifts don’t need to be expensive to be appreciated. In fact, they don’t even need to be purchased. Please note I am not endorsing shoplifting as an option.

Gifts come in all kinds of packages. The most precious don’t need to be unwrapped. We just need to be alert enough to recognize them when they surreptitiously present themselves.

smilesallaroundbybrucestambaugh
Pick your smile.

A friend recently shared that she smiled at a stranger in a store. The man, who could have qualified in age as her grandfather, walked away, stopped and returned to her. He told my friend that her smile had made his day, and he wanted to thank her for her thoughtfulness. He said he seldom sees people smile any more. I thought that a perfect example of the kind of gift giving that really counts. The young woman was so impressed with the man’s comments that she eagerly shared the encounter with others. I hope the man passed his gratitude on with a smile of his own.

If we listen to the seasonal marketing hype, Advent is more corporate than celestial. Of course, if we take my friend’s approach, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The gifts enjoyed most happen freely everyday.

A recent sunrise was a thing to behold. Thick clouds covered the rising sun, yet bands of rays somehow squeezed through and fanning out to create an incredible heavenly display.

redbreastednuthatchbybrucestambaughLater that morning a Red-breasted Nuthatch snatched seeds precision like from pinecones my wife had gathered and placed in a bowl to decorate an old wash bench on the back porch. The little bird was too quick for my camera.

Later that evening, we sat around the dining room table exchanging touching stories with trusted and trusting friends. We lamented and laughed at our common situations. Unwavering, lifetime friendship is a priceless gift.

The perfect gift also could be something as simple as discovering your driver’s license is about to expire. The startling realization turned out to be a rich blessing. I rushed to the license bureau where the employees had just dealt with a pretty crusty customer. Not to be distracted from their normal good humor, they treated me like a king, and I walked away with a new license and an uplifted spirit.

At the doctor’s office, I meet an acquaintance I only see on occasion. We talked until I was called in for my appointment. Good thing, too, or we’d still be talking. You know how men are.

sunsetflyoverbybrucestambaughI received a card with a hand written note of appreciation from a friend. It was given for the sole purpose of expressing gratitude for our friendship. I placed the note where I can see it every morning.

A day ended with the sun showing its artistic ability. As a flock of Canada Geese flew overhead, a palette of pastels filled the evening sky. It was another fleeting and inspiring gift that cost only the time to notice.

At this special time of year, what are some of the gifts that you have received that you didn’t have to unwrap? Better still, what are some that you will give?

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Churches ready for another candlelight walk

musicatmillersburgbybrucesgambaugh
Brooke Hershberger entertained participants of last year’s church walk at Millersburg Mennonite Church.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The event has such a straightforward name. Yet, participating in the annual Millersburg Candlelight Church Walk is so much more than that.

Yes, it is a walk, unless you choose to drive from church to church. This year six churches within walking distance in and close to Historical Downtown Millersburg, Ohio are set to host visitors on Friday, December 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. Millersburg is located 35 miles southwest of Canton, 75 miles south of Cleveland or 80 miles northeast of Columbus.

The churches are chosen for the proximity as well as their historical significance, according to Kate Findley, who is the volunteer coordinator for the event, now in its third year.

katefindleybybrucestambaugh
Kate Findley (left), coordinator for the church walk, shared about the Presbyterian Church at last year’s church walk.
“We want those who can do so to be able to walk from church to church,” Findley said. “Those who cannot walk are welcome to drive to each church.”

Besides the physical exercise, people who participate in the tour will also learn about the history of each church. Findley said representatives from each congregation would be available to share about their church and answer any questions. For example, some of the church buildings have housed different denominations over the years.

In addition, the various churches in the walk have unique architectural features that people should find interesting. From ornate bell towers to stained glass windows to intricate pulpits, each church has its own structural story.

“This is an opportunity for people who might drive by these churches frequently without ever being inside them to see what they look like,” Findley said.

specialtreebybrucestambaugh
Participants in the church walk can view special Christmas decorations and traditions at each of the participating churches.

The six churches included in the candlelight walk include Faith Lutheran Church, 187 S. Clay St.; First Presbyterian Church, 90 S. Clay St.; Grace Pointe Community Church, 164 N. Washington St.; Millersburg Christian Church, 125 N. Clay St.; Millersburg Mennonite Church, 288 E. Jackson St., and St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 379 S. Crawford St.

“The walk committee is really excited to have Grace Pointe Community Church join the walk this year,” Findley said. The building formerly housed the United Methodist Church. Findley emphasized that participants can visit the churches in any order they choose. Maps of church locations will be available at each church.

“There is no starting or ending place,” Findley said. “We are encouraging people to participate in the special music and Christmas carol singing after the walk.”

A special music presentation and singing of carols at Millersburg Mennonite Church will begin at 8:15 p.m. Members of Millersburg Mennonite will perform vocal and instrumental pieces as well.

Each church will be decorated for the holidays according to the particular traditions of each congregation, Findley said. Luminaries will decorate the path to each church. Participants are also invited to relax at each church and enjoy the music presented. Participants will also have a chance to taste the culinary skills of the various church parishioners. Refreshments, including homemade Christmas cookies, will be available at each church building.

adventcandlesbybrucestambaugh

“The Millersburg Candlelight Church Walk is an excellent time for families to get in the holiday spirit,” Findley said. “It’s fun for everyone.” During the first two years of the church tour, participants represented several generations. Findley said that the church walk gained such notoriety in its first two years that people from other counties contacted her about starting one in their communities.

“I think that says a lot about the quality of the Millersburg Church Walk,” she said.

Findley noted that participants should be aware that the Grace Pointe Church is not handicapped accessible, and that parking is across the street from the church.

The walk is free and open to the public. Besides county residents, several persons from outside the Holmes County area attended the previous two walks.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

A valuable, universal gift for all to enjoy

onthetrailbybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Smack in the center of our bucolic county is a gift that can be enjoyed by all. The Holmes County Trail is a golden thread that symbolically intertwines the east and the west as one.

lovelyscenerybybrucestambaughNow December may seem like a strange time to be writing about hiking and biking. When we have a gem of a trail in our midst it isn’t. Despite living in northeast Ohio where the weather is as fickle as its politicians, township trustees excluded, the trail is a year-round treasure for hikers, bikers and birders alike.

The trail ties Holmes County’s two cultural and geographic regions together through more than its central location. This multipurpose ribbon of assimilation serves as outdoor gym, nature center, photographic paradise and transportation route all in one. Many people, local residents and visitors alike, utilize those undeniable attributes.

Though the trail has been open for awhile, it has only been in the last couple of years that I have begun to fully appreciate its value. I bike and hike the trail for the obvious reasons. I need and enjoy the exercise. The trail, however, provides so much more than physical workouts. For 15 miles from Fredericksburg to Killbuck, enigmatic landscapes of steep wooded hills and low marshlands with grasses, reeds, wildflowers, wildlife, ponds and estuaries abound.

killbuckmarshbybrucestambaugh
The Holmes Co. Trail runs through the Killbuck Marsh, an important wildlife area and fly way for migrating birds

Whether cycling or walking, memories flood my old brain much like the murky waters of the streams overwhelm the old-age valley after a summer deluge. Traversing where locomotives once chugged and whistled through the heart of the county invigorates the body, mind and soul. Truly its worth spans far beyond any personal physical or mental gains.

telegraphpolebybrucestambaughHistoric and aesthetic reminders of railroad days appear occasionally along the way. The weathered, wooden arms of long-abandoned telegraph poles still stand. Girders of old iron bridges that once ferried locomotives pulling passenger and freight cars continue as supports for the trail to cross the many tributaries that feed the mother stream.

The old railroad bed that once conveyed products between Ohio cities has a renewed and appreciated purpose. Families leisurely stroll the paved path on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Casual and serious bikers alike zoom along the trail’s smooth, gentle gradient at preferred paces. Horses and buggies pass safely from home to store with no motorized hindrance.

strollingandridingbybrucestambaugh
Horses keep to one lane and bikers and hikers the other on the Holmes Co. Trail.

I am never surprised but always pleased by what I discover on my encounters along the trail. In the spring, pleasing pastels of plants, flowers and trees unfurl, and lyrical sounds of migrating songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl and birds of prey fill the precious marshy flyway. In the shaded tree tunnels along the route, summer’s highlights include meeting fellow bikers from near and far who have come to enjoy the beauty of this special pearl.

youngredtailedhawkbybrucestambaugh
A young Red-tailed Hawk took flight along the Holmes Co. Trail near Fredericksburg.
Besides its rich, changing colors, the fall brings the joy of discovering a clamorous gang of crows spooking a bald eagle from its comfortable roost. Just down the way, gnawing beaver have encircled a cottonwood to the point of marveling that the tree still stands.

I have yet to experience winter on the trail. With the first fluffy snowfall, that will likely change.

As seasons come and seasons go, old friends meet and new friendships form along the blissful trail. Of all its intrinsic qualities, perhaps this virtue is the trail’s greatest gift to those who choose to unwrap it.

mothergooseandgoslingbybrucestambaugh
A Canada Goose gosling follows its mother through the marshy water along the Holmes Co. Trail.
familyonthetrailbybrucestambaugh
Families enjoy all the Holmes Co. Trail has to offer.
summeronthetrailbybrucestambaugh
North of Holmesville, a road parallels the trail.
redbarnbybrucestambaugh
The views from the Holmes Co. Trail are beautiful and ever-changing.
fallalongthetrailbybrucestambaugh
Fall is especially nice along the Holmes Co. Trail.
goldenthreadbybrucestambaugh
In the fall, the Holmes Co. Trial really is a golden thread.
holmescohomebybrucestambaugh
The Holmes Co. Home is visible from the trail.
fieldcornbybrucestambaugh
Crops like field corn and soybeans also add to the variety along the trail.
killbuckcreekbybrucestambaugh
The trail follows the Killbuck Creek most of the way from Holmesville to Killbuck.
olddepotbybrucestambaugh
The old depot in Killbuck marks the southern-most part of the Holmes Co. Trail.
markedtrailbybrucestambaugh
Horses are required to stay on one side of the trail for obvious reasons.
trailbridgesbybrucestambaugh
The old railroad bridges still serve their purposes along the trail.
levelridebybrucestambaugh
The trail cuts through a variety of topography while maintaining a level ride.
millersburgdepotbybrucestambaugh
Though not in its original location, the Millersburg depot serves as the hub for the trail.
killbuckmarshsunsetbybrucestambaugh
The Killbuck Marsh is both a valuable wildlife habitat and a photographer’s haven.

The Holmes Co. Trail has several access points. They include from north to south Fredericksburg, Holmesville, Millersburg and Killbuck.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Mixed emotions about joining the Medicare crowd

Sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

There is a difference between thinking young and thinking that you are young.

Despite what I see in the mirror every morning and my occasional childish behavior, I believe that I still think young. I readily acknowledge that I am no longer young. The baldhead, gray whiskers and skin creases are obvious hints.

My body reminds me I’m no longer a spring chicken as well. With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I could count the ways. I am pretty sure, however, no one wants to hear about my aches and pains. Mine are insignificant compared to those of others.

Sun rays by Bruce StambaughNevertheless, with my 65th birthday on the horizon, I am now a certified, card-carrying member of Medicare. When the card came in the mail recently, I didn’t know whether to smile or cry. It was sobering to see my name boldly printed on that red, white and blue card. Reality, as difficult as it was to accept, hit hard.

Facts are facts. The truth is that I am entering the last quarter of my life, assuming the best. I have to be realistic about who I am and what possibly lies ahead. I know I could get hit crossing the road retrieving the mail. However, with longevity in my family, I expect to live another 20 to 30 years.

The key of course is how I live them, not how long I live them. Isn’t that the case for each and every one of us?

I try to take good care of myself in every aspect of my life, physically, mentally, and spiritually. When the weather permits, I try to walk at least 30 minutes everyday. Walking not only exercises my body, but stirs my mind as well.

White-crowned sparrow by Bruce StambaughThe brisk stroll invigorates my muscles and gets my blood flowing. The soft, cheery call of the White-crowned Sparrows singing from the creek-side brush uplifts my mood.

Greeting the scholars gathering for another day of lessons at the one-room Amish school I pass brings back many fond memories of my own days in the classroom, both as a student and an educator. The hearty wave of my friend, Martha, reminds me how blessed I am and have been. Like a brilliant double rainbow, friends enrich my spirit.

Inspirations like those keep me going. I think back and recall the good times, allowing them to override any and all negative experiences, and there have been plenty. It is easy to come to a simple conclusion. I am grateful.

The secret to living a full, happy life is no secret at all. Bringing joy to others is really what it’s all about. In life’s daily clamor, it’s easy to lose sight of that basic fact.

Maren by Bruce Stambaugh
Maren, 3.
If I have learned anything in my first 64 years, it is this: Blessing others by what I do, say and write blesses me. I know I have fallen short too many times. The key is to keep on trying. A simple kindness like holding the door for someone will suffice.

I didn’t expect signing up for Medicare to be so traumatic or reflective. I sighed to myself, accepted the card and tucked it away in the most appropriate place in my wallet, right behind the pictures of my grandchildren.

That way whenever I need to pull out the card that says I’m old, the shining eyes and effusive smiles of my grandchildren will keep me young.

Grandsons by Bruce Stambaugh
Davis, 6, and Evan, 8.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012