Where imagination is not only encouraged, it thrives

sunrise, Lakeside OH

Lakeside sunrise. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Children see the world so much differently than adults. That can be a positive thing.

In my mind, there is no better place to experience that than Lakeside, Ohio. It’s one reason my wife and I return for our annual vacation respite year after year.

The inquisitive nature and creative imagination of children were on display the minute we arrived at this Chautauqua on Lake Erie. A recent wild rain and windstorm had taken down some trees where we stay. Truncated remnants of one of the smaller trees still looked freshly cut.

smiley face in stump

Natural smiley face. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

As my wife and I pulled our suitcases into our cozy efficiency apartment, a clutch of preschoolers played around those woody remains. One of the kids, not four years old, said, “Look, a smiley face!”

The child was right. Smack in the middle of the light wood rings darker imperfections perfectly mirrored the ubiquitous smiling icon. Anyone other than a child would have walked right by the gnarly stub without noticing the fascinating find.

It took a child. Spontaneous or planned, many inspirational opportunities await all ages at Lakeside. It’s the jewel in the crown that swells the summer resort town to 6,000 from the 300 year-round residents.

Inquisitive by nature, youngsters from toddlers to teens tend to view the world from an entirely different perspective than do the older generations of their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Given all of their learnedness and life experience, adults can too easily dismiss the findings and discoveries of their progeny.

At Lakeside, a stiff lake breeze blows away that theory. Imagination and Lakeside are inseparable.

During the summer months, Lakeside becomes a gated community. It’s as if when the gates close, minds open. In part, that’s by design.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Lakeside’s four pillars of purpose highlight religion, education, recreation, and arts and entertainment. Imagination is the header that secures those fundamental principles together.

The Lakeside staff and volunteers go all out to encourage participants of every generation to create, recreate, reflect and uplift. Activities befitting the quartet of categories run from sunrise to beyond sunset.

People choose how to engage their imagination. The options are limitless at Lakeside.

A young, energetic girl wearing a florescent yellow fairy skirt barked out orders to her small troop of followers as she cycled ahead. Their animated play and laughter took them past quaint cottages. In their world, they may have been exploring the Grand Canyon.

The lakeshore drew others to sunbathe, walk, read and dream as sailboats big and small tacked their courses. A roaring cigarette boat occasionally disturbed the peace. At the shuffleboard courts, still others tested their strategy skills and dreamed of winning the tournament championship.

Schools of families camped on the dock plied for whatever nibbled. Fish or no fish, their time together exceeded any catch imaginable.

Youth groups sang, studied and tested each other’s faith with blind trust games. It didn’t take much imagination to see that letting go and learning to lead truly went hand-in-hand.

Artists applied paint to brush to canvas to the delight of admirers. They dabbed their creativity into familiar scenes with stunning results.

Imagine yourself lying in a hammock strung between a pair of giant shade trees as Baltimore Orioles warble and Common Nighthawks dart overhead. That is the reality at Lakeside.

Seeing a smiley face in the middle of a stump perfectly sums up the Lakeside life. Imagination thrives there. It’s why we keep going back.

sunset, Lakeside OH

Sunset on the dock. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Beauty in the Garden

Tiger Swallowtail

Beauty in the Garden. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

My lovely wife grows beautiful flowers. One of the side benefits of that is the flowers attract a variety of insects. I enjoy checking the flower gardens frequently, never knowing what I’ll find.

On one such foray, I spotted this incredible female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly flitting from coneflower to coneflower. Backlit by the morning sun, the colors radiated on this fresh, young butterfly.

“Beauty in the Garden” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Rain or shine, I’m crazy about the weather

foggy sunrise

Foggy morning. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’ll admit it. I’m crazy about the weather.

Rain or shine, stormy or clear, I love to watch the weather. From foggy sunrises to golden sunsets and any and all weather conditions in between, I’m on it like a tornado to a trailer park.

Yep. I’m stuck on the weather. I’ve always been fascinated by the variety of weather northeast Ohio has to offer spring, summer, fall and winter. I’m cool, however, with never having lived in Lake Erie’s snow belt.

My captivation with the climatological elements goes way back. When I was a kid and a thunderstorm roared I ran to the window, not the closet. The lightning and hail fascinated me the most.

I got a reality check, however, when I thought a 10-year old could outrun a thunderstorm for home. I couldn’t.

From then on, I took better notice of the weather and gave her all the respect she required. I took college classes that taught me much about climate and the weather.

Later, when I became a volunteer firefighter, I trained to be a severe weather observer. I’ve kept my spotter certification current.

One of the first things I do each morning is review the weather forecast. If severe weather is a possibility, I check the radar frequently for rapidly growing storms. For me, safety is a priority.

I remember the first tornado I ever saw. I was a skinny preteen. My father was driving the family car, and I spotted this white, spinning funnel cloud. I warned Dad, but he ignored me and drove right under it. When he heard the whirling noise and saw it pass overhead, Dad sheepishly said, “I guess you were right.”

With that, my amateur weather-watching career was born. When it rains, I record how much. When it snows, I measure the inches that fell. When it hails, I report the size and amount to the weather officials. The same goes for any wind-related damage.

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There’s a purpose to my weather mania. I want others to be alerted so they too can be safe.

I’m not alone. Thousands of severe weather spotter volunteers are on call across the country. When the weather turns nasty, our adrenaline gets pumping.

Take the other day for example. As a severe thunderstorm moved over the county, weather radar indicated rotation in the storm.

Just as the National Weather Service issued the tornado warning, the power went out at our house. I scampered to be sure everything was secure, gathered my rain gear and camera, and out into the storm I went.

I hadn’t ventured down the road very far until I encountered flash flooding in several locations. I reported the flooding and kept an eye on the sky as best I could as I drove.

I followed the storm through torrential, swirling rain for 15 miles. I finally reached the back of the storm just as it exited into the next county. I relayed that no funnel was seen to the weather service and headed toward home, only to encounter even more flash flooding.

With muddy, debris-laden, bumper high water running rapidly across roadways, drivers still chose to risk it. Even a horse and buggy slogged through the floodwaters. The horse’s high leg kicks indicated that the horse was none too happy.

I’ve always said that if I believed in reincarnation, which I don’t, I probably would come back as either a chiropractor or a meteorologist. Given my penchant for the weather, you can probably guess which one I’d pick.

summer sunset, Holmes Co. OH

Brilliant sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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House of lights

lighting,

House of lights. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Having photographed yet another beautiful sunset over Lake Erie, I headed back to our vacation apartment in Lakeside, Ohio. well satisfied with the shots I had taken. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the glow of another kind of light, not that dissimilar to the ever-changing hues in the evening sky.

The warm reds, yellows and oranges, accented by a few cool pastels mimicked the stunning sunset I had just witnessed. The white flowers on the steps invited passersby in past the posts and pillars to the festive porch.

“House of lights” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Friends of friends become your friends, too

friends, birthday celebration

Friends Ruth, Don and Ken before Gail arrived for the surprise. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

I contemplated the circuitous route of just how I happened to be sitting beneath a party canopy in this Ontario, Canada couple’s backyard. It’s a long but enjoyable story.

It all started when my wife was 14-years-old. Of course, Neva wasn’t my wife then. We married young, but not that young.

Neva accompanied her youth group to a church conference in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in 1964. With hundreds of teenagers from around the U.S. and Canada attending, with the teens assigned to sleep in homes of local folks.

That’s where Neva met Ruth. Ruth’s family hosted Neva. Neva and Ruth connected right away, and they kept in touch. Seven years later, Ruth and her husband, Ken, attended our wedding in northeast Ohio.

They returned to Ontario. We set up shop here. We all began our careers and started families. We visited Ken and Ruth once when our daughter was just two. Now her youngest child is five. Time melts away, doesn’t it?

With the internet, texting, email, and online chatting science fiction, correspondence via regular mail diminished over time. Life got in the way of our long distance friendship.

About 20 years ago, that unexpectedly changed. Neva saw an advertisement for a tour. She called the toll-free number and guess who answered? Ruth.

friends meeting

Meeting place. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Their personal connection was restored. Ken and Ruth have visited us here in Holmes Co., and we’ve returned to their place in Kitchener. We even vacationed together once. Sometimes we meet in between.

When Ruth learned that Neva and I had become snowbirds to Florida’s Amelia Island, she mentioned that their across the street neighbors also wintered there. That’s where our life circle began to expand.

Ruth exchanged contact numbers with their neighbors and us, and the result was pure magic. In February 2014, we arranged to meet Don and Gail at a coffee shop in Fernandina Beach, the island’s only town.

Before the first sip of coffee, the four of us were yacking away as if we had been lifetime friends. Gail was born in England and still has that lovely disarming accent that is as genuine and gentle as she is. Don was from Bermuda and carries that notorious island swagger with him still, even though he’s been a Canadian now for years.

We chattered like teenagers at a soda shop. It didn’t take long to discover that both Don and I had been volunteer firefighters. As if that wasn’t enough to cement our friendship, photography and nature were also common hobbies.

Having been to Bermuda a couple of times ourselves, we knew many of the locales they mentioned. Don shared stories from his childhood until the present.

true friends

Gail and Neva. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Gail and Neva got along famously, too. While Don and I were off shooting too many photos, our wives were happy just to shop, browse thrift stores, or sit and share. They clicked like childhood friends.

A carpenter by trade, Don was intrigued to learn that the wood industry was king in our county. Over the next month, we would take day trips together, go out to eat, or just play dominoes. That pattern repeated last winter.

That brings me back to sitting under the canopy. We surprised both Don and Gail by crashing her surprise birthday party.

For that little coup, you can blame Ken and Ruth. That’s what lifelong friends do for one another. They help create other equally robust friendships.

That’s the thing about friendship circles. They enrich your life.

friends

Friends. © Don Brown 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Coneflower visitors

insects, coneflowers

Coneflower visitors. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The mission was simple. I wanted to photograph a few of my wife’s beautiful flowers at their peak summer colors. I did and got so much more.

A Red Admiral butterfly sat upon the tallest coneflower. Just as I snapped the picture, a honey bee landed on a lower flower. It wasn’t until I downloaded the photos to my computer that I noticed the Platycheirus, a flower fly. It looks like it’s in a standoff with the bee.

“Coneflower visitors” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Watching the grandkids grow from afar

grandchildren, grandparents

The grandkids. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

We love our grandchildren. No headline news in that statement, I know.

But since the oldest of the three was born 11 years ago, Nana and Poppy have watched the trio, Evan, Davis and Maren, grow up from afar. All three of our grandchildren were born in Austin, Texas. Nana made sure she was on scene to help at each birth. Poppy arrived once the excitement had waned.

It wasn’t easy having your grandchildren 1,450 miles away. But we managed. We visited as often as we could.

We went for birthday parties at fire stations, helped carve pumpkins at Halloween, and any other time we could manage. The physical changes in the kids between visits were visible.

grandkids, grandchildren

The Texans. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

When our daughter announced five years ago that they were moving to Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley, we were elated. Now they were only 350 miles away. The overland trip still took six and a half hours.

We visit as often as we can, and we still marvel at how all three change, even if it has only been a few weeks since we last saw them. A recent visit drove home that stark reality for me.

Evan is now nearly as tall as Nana. As you might guess, he is as active as any 11-year-old can be. He is a sports fanatic, with baseball his first love. That should be no surprise. From little on up, Evan enjoyed anything that would roll, or he could throw.

Davis is a very inquisitive youngster. You can tell he’s left-handed. Now nine, Davis has a gift to explore and imagine. He’s as happy playing with a stick as he is with an electronic game. How can you not like a boy like that?

At five, Maren is our pink tomboy. She is a girly girl if there ever was one. She enjoys helping Nana bake cookies. She hustles at soccer and baseball, too, even if her long, golden locks occasionally block her vision.

I remember as a youngster how much I loved being around grandparents. Though he had little, Grandpa Merle often brought us candy. Our dentist loved him, too.

I can still hear the hint of that soft, lovely southern Virginia accent in my Grandma Frith’s voice. My lips still smack at the tart taste of her made from scratch lemon meringue pies.

memories with grandkids

Making memories. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Nana and I want to create those same memories with and for our grandkids, too. It’s just a bit harder with all those old age mountains between us. Still we do what we can.

I’ve always played a guessing game with all three of them. I hide an object in one of my fists, and the kids have to find which hand it’s in. During a recent visit, Maren guessed with such accuracy that I encouraged her to go buy a lottery ticket. Her response? “What’s that?”

It’s been a joy to see each gain confidence. Davis fearlessly dove off a swimming pool diving board. He asks more questions than even I have answers. To me, it seems just yesterday that he was poking holes in Texas fire ant hills.

As the oldest, Evan strives to ensure that he is not usurped of that position as if that were even possible. Still, he’s one smart kid when it comes to mathematics and board games.

It’s nice to see our grandkids progress from diapers to where they are today. I just wish those eight mountain passes weren’t in the way.

grandchildren on vacation

On vacation. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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