It was hotter than _____ (fill in the blank)

Hazy sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
Hazy sunsets culminated the hot, humid days.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I have never written an interactive column or blog until now.

With the onslaught of the recent blast of extreme hot and humid weather that affected the country from The Great Plains states to the Outer Banks to Maine’s rocky coast, I heard and saw a lot of comments about the heat.

Some can’t and shouldn’t be repeated, much less printed. I took the prudent approach and attributed the more lewd orneriness to heat stroke.

Here are a few of the ones that can be shared. It was hotter than a firecracker on the Fourth of July. It was hotter than a pistol. It was hotter than two goats in a pepper patch. It was hotter than a cat on a tin roof. Not the most imaginative offerings I know.

Others focused on an end result retort about the oppressive heat. It’s so hot the chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs. It’s so hot I can fry eggs on the sidewalk. It’s so hot that the trees are creeping around looking for shade. These platitudes seem a little more comprehensible.

The interactive part of the post comes in here. Perhaps you have your own heat related ditty. If so, I invite you to complete the headline with your own personalized version or post it in the comments section.

With the lengthy duration of this very hot weather, there can be no doubt that summer has arrived in all its glory in Ohio and across the nation. The National Weather Service was proactive in advising the public about heat related conditions, and offered suggestions on how to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Both are serious illnesses with their own specific symptoms.

Hard work by Bruce Stambaugh
Outdoor work required laborers young and old to stay hydrated.

I felt for people who had to work outside. I was pleased to learn that many such workers were asked to begin work earlier in the coolness of the morning so they could finish up before the really extreme heat of the late afternoon. Some shops simply shut down for a day to save their workers from the oppressive conditions.

Those who had to labor out in the elements soldiered on, improvising ways to stay cool. Construction and landscape workers removed their T-shirts and wore colorful bandanas around their heads for protection from the sun and to soak up the sweat.

Popsicle days by Bruce Stambaugh
Taking frequent, cooling breaks is especially important on extremely warm and humid days.

Even though the National Weather Service warned the public with Heat Advisories and Excessive Heat Warnings, people still got sick. Unfortunately, several people nationwide died from difficulties brought on by the incredible heat. Most were elderly, who are the most susceptible to heat related health problems.

Taking the proper precautions can help avoid complications from being overheated. Keeping hydrated, taking needed breaks, and staying out of the direct sun as much as possible are the safest measures.

Horses in snow by Bruce Stambaugh
Last winter was an especially long and cold one for people and animals alike.

Besides the silly sayings, I didn’t really hear a lot of complaining about the heat. Perhaps the memories of the long, cold, wet winter and spring came to mind, and people just bit their lips and endured as best they could.

Much as I preferred not to be, I was out and about on the hottest days of the year. When I stepped from the refreshing and safe air conditioning into the outside elements, the heat overwhelmed me. It felt like I was walking into an oven. Getting back into the car after an hour’s meeting was no fun either.

I’m not complaining mind you. I’m just reporting. It was hotter than…?

Harvesting more than produce from your garden

Amish garden by Bruce Stambaugh
Large vegetable gardens like this one are everpresent in Ohio's Amish country.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Lakeside rocks and flowers by Bruce Stambaugh
Creative rock sculptures mirror the Hollyhocks in a Lakeside, Ohio garden.

I’ll make my confession right up front. I am not the most authoritative person to write about gardening.

Still, I like to think that I am observant enough to recognize a good garden when I see one. Whether vegetable, rock or flower, all gardens require much manual effort to keep them manicured and productive.

Growing up in the suburbs of a northeast Ohio blue-collar city, our father loved to garden. He saw it as a way to be out in the fresh air and to simultaneously save money by growing our own food. With five children, it was the practical thing to do. For efficiency’s sake, he recruited his offspring to help cultivate, plant, nurture and reap the garden harvest.

Rock garden by Bruce Stambaugh
Rock gardens add esthetics to any property.
Bright lilies by Bruce Stambaugh
These lilies would brighten any yard.

Our lovely mother would prepare in season feasts that included sweet corn, new potatoes, green beans, cucumbers and beets. She also canned and froze food for the cold winter months ahead. If we had had a bumper crop, we would set up shop in a busy business parking lot and sell sweet corn out of the car’s trunk.

Mom also propagated lovely flower gardens around the parameters of our small piece of suburban property. Mom used her artistic eye with the floral color selection to nicely accent the cherry red brick exterior of our post-war bungalow.

Home canned goods by Bruce Stambaugh
Home canning is back in vogue in rural, suburban and urban settings.

Those pleasant memories returned with the current onslaught of the harvest season in gardens all across the country. Television shows, newspaper stories, Internet blogs and even high-end glossy magazines feature how to properly prepare and preserve your garden gleanings.

Having a plot of garden is almost assumed when you live in one of Ohio’s richest agricultural counties. Don’t be fooled though. Contrary to what some might think, gardening is not confined to rural areas. People garden in suburbs and cities, too.

Herb garden by Bruce Stambaugh
Even small backyard plot provides fresh herbs and vegetables.

With the advent of the organic, all natural craze, and the tough economy, gardening appears to have made a universal comeback. Whether you have an acre or simply a few pots of herbs sitting on an apartment balcony, gardening is good.

Caring for tender plants, watering them, protecting them from weather’s extremes and pesky insects is worthwhile work with tasty rewards. I see it as a way to get us back to our roots, reconnected to the soil from which and on which all life depends.

Lakeside community garden by Bruce Stambaugh
A community garden in Lakeside, Ohio.

If we are mindful, we will recognize that gardening provides a solid base that can lead to other returns as well. Cooperative gardens, sponsored by both church and civic organizations, have sprung up across the country. Besides those who garden, the abundant produce often helps the less fortunate, the homeless and the needy.

An acquaintance told me how his parents would load up their battered family pickup with the excess of their giant two-acre garden, head into town and end up on the wrong side of the tracks. There they would park the truck and hand out the fresh, healthy produce to whomever needed it.

They repeated the routine throughout the growing season. The thankful recipients were so moved by the family’s generosity that they offered to help plant and maintain the garden the next growing season. Their grateful offer was accepted, and new trust and friendships were born.

Flower garden by Bruce Stambaugh
If properly planned and planted, flower gardens can brighten a property throughout the growing season.

Gardens connect us to the soil that yields our sustenance. If we are proactive, they also open our lives to much more than delicious food. Gardening doesn’t get any more satisfying and splendid than gathering two crops from one planting.

Lakeside flower garden by Bruce Stambaugh
An award-winning flower garden at Lakeside, Ohio.

No sad faces allowed

Lakeside OH dock by Bruce Stambaugh
Relaxing in the shade or sunning on the dock are just some of the favorite activities at Lakeside, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I overheard a mother tell her pouting adolescent daughter, “There are no sad faces at Lakeside. It’s a rule.”

The mother’s demonstrative point was clear. There was too much fun to be had at Lakeside, Ohio for anyone of any age to be gloomy. It’s a main reason my wife and I return year after year for a week’s vacation.

Sailing at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh
Sailing is popular with children and adults alike at Lakeside, Ohio.

Indeed, Lakeside offers plenty to do. Adults and children alike can choose from a sunup to sundown selection of activities in which to participate. They range from sailing lessons to garden walks and talks to wellness classes.

The fact that the resort town is built on the shores of Lake Erie helps expand the variety. Lakesiders can pick from activities in the categories of religion, education, arts and entertainment, recreation and planned events. It’s all part of the entrance fee.

Visitors can recline with a good book under one of the many towering hardwoods that line the rocky shore and multi-task. Waves crash the hard shore, boats sail by and elations echo from playgrounds, the dock, the beach and front porches.

Lakeside’s unadorned concrete dock is the focal point for daytime fun. Swimming, fishing, tanning, strolling all are legitimate forms of relaxing.

Lakeside OH cottage by Bruce Stambaugh
Many cottages and homes in Lakeside, Ohio feature inviting front porches.

Others prefer a leisurely walk along the tree-lined streets, enjoying the appealing cottages, many with inviting floral gardens. Some cottages date back to the town’s beginning in 1873. Most are seasonal family retreats that have served as a summer getaway for generations. A few hundred hardy souls call Lakeside home year-round.

Lakeside, Ohio flower garden by Bruce Stambaugh
Flower gardens enhance picturesque cottages throughout Lakeside, Ohio.

The old-growth hardwoods that predominate the parks and properties of Lakeside bring beauty, birds and relief from stifling summer days. Flower gardens, maintained by the help of many volunteers, are a trademark of Lakeside.

The bustling but small business district offers a break from the boredom of relaxation with an assortment of various shops. Candy, homemade donuts, ice cream, refreshing drinks and toys all offer refuge from the strain of having too much fun.

In the evening, variety shows running the gamut of entertainment usually draw a nice crowd. The magnetic dock also attracts toddlers, teens and seniors to watch the nightly disappearance of the sun behind Catawba Island.

Sunset at Lakeside, OH by Bruce Stambaugh
Enjoying a gorgeous sunset is a must for visitors and residents alike at Lakeside, Ohio.

As nice as all that is, the greatest asset of Lakeside is its friendly people. Lakeside is a family-centered, safe place to be.

Merchants routinely leave goods unsecured in front of their storefronts overnight with no theft of inventory. Pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, golf carts and dogs walking their owners have the right of way over motorized vehicles.

The strictest parents casually set their children free to roam inside the gated community with no fear of harm whatsoever. Passersby walk up onto a porch, ask what game is being played, and are invited to join the fun.

Lakeside rightfully bills itself as the Chautauqua on Lake Erie. However, occasional discordant human interactions will naturally occur when 6,000 in-season visitors multiply the regular population tenfold. Still, two-way radios are the closest things to weapons that outfit the town’s entire security staff.

Lakeside youth by Bruce Stambaugh
Youth groups routinely walk the streets singing to summer guests at Lakeside, Ohio.

Youth groups roam the streets serenading local residents, not ransacking their homes. At an impromptu lemonade stand, a grandfather sings and plays a Gibson to attract customers.

Whether they arrive for a day or the summer, Lakesiders all come to relax and have fun. With all there is to do in the resort town, everybody gets their way.

Like the lady said, there are no sad faces in Lakeside. That is a valuable virtue for any town.

Words I always wanted to use

Amish clothesline by Bruce Stambaugh
Perhaps this post, like this clothesline, is just a lot of literary laundry flapping in the wind.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I have loved words for as long as I can remember. That’s a good thing for a writer.

Following the instruction of a highly regarded journalism professor, I never tried to use highfalutin words in my written endeavors. To be absolutely clear, it was best to write with everyday, run-of-the-mill words.

I have tried to stick to that advice ever since, earnestly desiring to avoid platitudes. Over the years though, I endeavored to expand my vocabulary. I noted catchy words that I either liked or sent me to the dictionary. I gradually created a latent lexis cache for future use.

Procrastinator that I am, I never got around to incorporating most of those exotic words in my dissertations. Consequently my verbose hoard burgeoned.

I figured a quick way to rectify that error would be to incorporate a multitude of those expressive descriptors in one fell swoop. My writer’s itch would then be scratched.

If and when I did such a deed, I pontificated that I had better generate a productive manuscript that actually resonated with the readers. I didn’t want to simply create a haberdashery of verbiage. I saw no need to hemorrhage words just for the sake of typographical splaying.

No matter how many syllables they contained or how obscure, the use of the words had to make sense. I wanted such exhortation to be both sanguine and seminal. That amalgamation would be a challenge. I emphatically didn’t want my text to be blowviating.

It would be inscrutable of me if the sentences were disparate. Therein lay the quandary. There could be no dissonance to what I wrote. I had to maintain my own aplomb. I certainly didn’t want my writing to be disingenuous. The content had to be sublime and easily assimilated.

I had to be succinct, too. A sheer plethora of words would not be acceptable. I couldn’t fathom allowing hubris to interfere with my communiqué. By my own volition, my certitude had to temper my cognition to avoid a panacea of a wanton wordy warren.

I could not permeate my writing with supercilious words that meant zilch to the readers. This discourse had to have evocative consonance. I certainly didn’t want the piece to be an Archipelago of disassociated declarations.

Intuition told me that the document had to be symbiotic. Being glib would never do. Creating a cacophony of jibber would not suffice either.

I knew I had to approach this sensitive assignment with both timidity and temerity. It would be a narrow literary line to walk. I would simply have to conjure up the pluck to pull it off.

Simultaneously, I understood that this nuance of style could not be maniacal in any way, shape or form. There was no room for duplicity.

To be true to both my readers and myself, I absolutely had to use discretion. Otherwise, the entire peripatetic piece would culminate into nothing more than an oxymoron. Such a paroxysm would be extremely unfortunate.

Whether you are agog, aglow or have a sense of animus after reading this, I just hope that this quixotic, idiosyncratic reverie of mine hasn’t dissuaded you. Otherwise I will have orchestrated my own demise with this effusive enigma, this pretentious prattle, this demonstrative claptrap.

Ergo, I would have to plead for impunity. Wait. I better go look up that one.