Tag Archives: wedding anniversary

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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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

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Three spring things

progressivefieldbybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

At long last, spring has officially arrived. Let’s hope it is a spring to remember, just like the recent winter we’d like to forget.

We could use the emotional and psychological boost of spring’s vernal offerings after winter’s long, cold stranglehold on so much of North America. Winter was simply brutal.

springbybrucestambaugh

Spring!

Spring offers up its joyous splendor in so many ways. The greening of the yards and fields, the welcoming blossoms of trees, plants and flowers that gloriously unfurl intermittently the next few months. All are coaxed by spring’s gradually warming temperatures that tend to also thaw our frosted emotive reservations.

Another springtime blessing for me is the start of baseball season. Baseball is in my blood, always has been, likely always will be. I admire the skills needed to be an all-around good position player, being equally proficient in the field and at bat. I marvel at the abilities of pinpoint pitchers, too.

Since my youth, I have faithfully and humbly followed the checkered history of the Cleveland Indians with both passion and annual disappointment. Count it as a masochistic character flaw.

As a youngster, I played baseball, and collected and traded baseball cards. That hobby was passed on to my son, who bought them by the box load, instead of the pack. I still have a few my cards. Our son still has a whole bunch of his, and his mother and I wish he would come get them.

I will confess, however, that with the recent revelations of steroids and the exorbitant salaries for playing a child’s game, I have grown a bit disillusioned about Major League Baseball. It’s lost its innocent appeal. Come opening day, however, I likely will be glued to the television, and I have already purchased tickets for several Indians games.

Between the official beginning of spring and baseball’s first pitch of the new season, another more significant and meaningful event occurs in my life. My wife and I will soon celebrate 43 years of marriage.

That number alone is hard for me to contemplate. It seems like only yesterday that I accidentally stepped on her wedding train, rightfully earning my first finger pointing. We quickly got over that, but obviously I never forgot it. Neither has my wife.

happycouplebybrucestambaugh

The happy couple.

When you are married that long, there are too many other cherished memories to build on to allow the small, petty disputes to devalue a loving relationship. I feel extremely grateful for the multitude of positive experiences my wife and I have had together over the years.

Yes, like most every other couple, we have had our differences at times. I recognize that I haven’t been the easiest person to live with. Even though she talks while walking away from me and I can’t find my underwear in the underwear drawer, we somehow have survived.

I am not holding our marriage up as a model of perfection, because it hasn’t been. We have, however, held on, embraced each other and each day as one regardless of the circumstances we encounter or what obstacles or disappointments have clogged the way forward.

Indeed, gratitude has far overshadowed grief. Our son and our daughter are grown, successful adults with loving spouses. We have three energetic, creative grandchildren and one ornery grand cat.

For 43 years, we have lived, loved and persevered. That accomplishment alone is more wondrous than any fragrant-filled garden, or even a magical, unlikely World Series win by the Cleveland Indians.

fireworksbybrucestambaugh

Perhaps some day fireworks will celebrate an Indians World Series Championship.

© 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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39 years is a long time

By Bruce Stambaugh

My wife and I will soon celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary.

I could be mean and say that 39 years seems like a really long time. It has been, but in a good way. Not that our marriage has been all peaches and cream and full of roses. There have been a few thorns along the way. But I won’t presume to tell my wife’s side of the story.

Let’s just say we are both human. And I recognize I that I have not always been the easiest person to live with. But I do my best to make it interesting.

As I look back over all those years, there are a lot of stories to be told, and then there are some that will never be told. Perhaps the most intriguing is how we met.

The short answer to that is that I chased Neva around a three-acre field filled with tender cucumber plants. We were on a mission/study trip in Kentucky with the youth from my church. The group’s assignment was to hoe the weeds in the field. Once Neva realized I was hoeing faster to catch up to her, she increased her weed eradication, too.

I just took that as sign that she liked me. You know how women can play hard to get. Well, I must have been right about her feelings because nine days after we had met we were engaged. You read correctly. Nine days. And if you thought that was fast, we married just nine months later without the shotgun. I was 23, she 21, both much too young.

We made sure we told our children not to repeat such foolishness in their own romantic adventures. That bit of advice probably wasn’t necessary. I think they saw the silliness in our story more than we did.

Regardless, facts are facts, and love is love. We’re still married after all those years. Of course, we have made our share of mistakes and misstatements. But rather than dwell on details, we’ve each managed to find forgiveness time after time.

As I recalled those 39 years, certain instances came to mind as if they had happened yesterday. The wedding day was one of those recollections.

The thing I remember foremost was just how scared I was. It wasn’t that I was having second thoughts. I was so out of it I’m not sure I was having any thoughts at all, and I hadn’t even had a bachelor’s party.

Thing is, I thought I was calm until an uncle made a sarcastic comment about how nice it was that the farmer across the road from the rural church had spread liquid sunshine on his field. I had to ask what he meant.

My uncle couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed the pungent manure odor. I’m not sure I smelled it even after he had said something.

I remember that most of my fourth grade class came in Paul Rohr’s refurbished school bus. During the ceremony they were the quietest they had been all year.

I remember that it took so long for the greeting line to end that people were leaving the reception before the bride and groom arrived. I also remember accidentally stepping on my wife’s wedding dress as we exited the church, and her finger wagging in my face. I knew I was a goner right then and there.

Somehow, we have made it this far, two houses, two children, both grown and happily married, and three grandchildren later.

Through good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, at work and at play, we have tangoed together for 39 years. Here’s hoping year number 40 will be the best one of all.

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