A much needed respite at Lakeside, Ohio

Perry Park by Bruce Stambaugh
Perry Park, located at the east gate of Lakeside, Ohio, is a beautiful place to rest, relax, read a book, jog, play tennis or just enjoy the peace and quiet.

By Bruce Stambaugh

After the week we had had, my wife and I needed a respite. The most logical place for that was Lakeside, Ohio, our favorite place to relax.

We had begun our annual weeklong stint at the Chautauqua on Lake Erie. Early the second morning we received a call to return home. Neva’s mother was gravely ill.

The call wasn’t unexpected. We quickly packed up and returned home. Neva joined her sister in watching over their elderly mother, Esther Miller. Esther died the next evening at age 90.
Hollyhocks by Bruce Stambaugh
Expected or not, a death is still a death. All of the grieving emotions overwhelm family members in different ways and at different times. Time seems to stand still. All the while, the necessary preparations need to be completed. They tend to take their toll on already frayed feelings.

My wife and her sister met with the funeral home director about the services. They met with the pastor to plan the funeral. Next day, they cleaned out their mother’s room at the retirement home.

The family arrived at the church well ahead of the visitation time to set up pictures and meaningful memorabilia, followed by the greeting of mourners and the funeral itself. Afterwards, we hosted the immediate family for an evening meal at our home.

As you can imagine, it was all very draining mentally and physically. We needed a break.

Neva and I held a one-sentence discussion. There could be no doubt that the best place to renew and recharge was to return to our beloved Lakeside. The next morning we were on our way.

Lakeside homes by Bruce Stambaugh

Despite the sweltering heat, it was good to be back at Lakeside with its lovely cottages, inviting dock, marvelous entertainment and multiple activity options.

With its shaded parks and marvelous vistas, Lakeside’s location on Lake Erie makes it idyllic. Really, though, Lakeside is more about people than anything else. From staff to strangers to long-time acquaintances, everyone is family at Lakeside.

A television reporter once did an expose on this special town. He wasn’t unfamiliar with the resort. He had vacationed there as a youngster.

The reporter knew how friendly Lakesiders could be. To prove his point, the reporter casually walked into a cottage without knocking and asked for lemonade. He wasn’t quizzed as to who he was or why he had barged in. Nor was he told to get out. No. Without a second thought, the homemaker poured him his icy drink.

Lakeside cottage by Bruce Stambaugh

On our recent extended weekend retreat, my wife and I had a similar experience. After finishing a very informative walking tour of Lakeside, one of the other participants invited us and another couple to tour her newly remodeled cottage. She didn’t even know us, and yet showed us every corner of her beautiful place. That’s just the way people are at Lakeside.

Lakeside flowers by Bruce StambaughAt the end of our visit of this lovely summer home, I realized that the kind lady didn’t even know our names. We made our introductions as we profusely thanked her.

What nicer place than Lakeside is there to sit back and forget your worries? You can read a book, play dominoes, go for a lovely morning walk, or just enjoy the view while eating a refreshing ice cream cone. If you’re at the right place at the right time, you just might get an unexpected tour, too.

That’s just how Lakeside and its gracious summer citizenry are. They invigorate you just when you need it the most.

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

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Changing diets to live

Walking by Bruce Stambaugh
Bruce Stambaugh

Nearly five years ago, I was forced to change diets. That’s right. Forced.

During my annual physical exam at the doctor’s office, I happened to mention that I had recently had a couple of dizzy spells. With a family history of strokes and heart issues, the doctor ordered some tests, including a MRI.

On the return visit, I was told that I had cerebral arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries of the brain. If I continued my regular lifestyle, including my normal, unrestricted diet, I would run a high risk of a stroke.

The doctor of course prescribed medication, encouraged me to increase my exercise routine, and to drastically change my diet. The “don’ts” of the new diet far out numbered the “dos.”

Fresh veggies by Bruce StambaughThe orders were no beef or pork, no processed food, no fried food, and only no-fat dairy products. Instead, my choices were grilled, roasted, baked or broiled fish, chicken or turkey. In addition, I needed to eat at least five to six servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Basically, I could eat anything with two legs or no legs.

My head was spinning. The doctor must have sensed my tension because he did something rather unusual. He pulled up his own medical chart on his laptop and showed me his blood work scores. He, too, had the same disease, and had been on the same diet for more than a year.

“You can do it,” he said.

My doctor was right. I could do it because I did. I have been eating that way every since and enjoying it greatly. In fact within a month of going meatless and eating lots of fruits and veggies, I felt much better.

Of course I had increased my exercise, walking for 30 minutes at least three times per week. I rode the exercise bicycle if the weather was bad.

My wife, the chief cook in our empty nest home, was diligent about preparing food that I could eat. Together we followed the same diet.

Heirloom tomatoes by Bruce Stambaugh

My change in diet came right when our heirloom tomatoes came ripe. That was both good and bad. The tomatoes were great to eat fresh off the vine or in a salad or salsa or soup, but I missed one of my favorite foods, bacon, tomato and lettuce sandwiches. Having the latter two without the bacon hardly qualified as a sandwich.

At my three-month checkup, I told the doctor about my BLT cravings. He said that it was all right to eat some meat once a month or so. I looked forward to my BLTs the next year, but kept to my no meat diet as best I could.

Fried tilapia by Bruce Stambaugh
Fried tilapia and rice served to me in a home in Honduras.
If I was served meat as a guest in someone’s home, I politely ate it, but only a small portion. While working in Honduras on a mission project with a group from our church, we were sometimes served beef or fried fish. Not wanting to be insulting, I ate what was prepared for me or furtively shared with another person.

A year after first going on my new diet I received the best news possible. My homocysteine levels, the important blood work scores, were below the danger threshold. The diet, exercise and medication were working.

My doctor was as pleased as I was. I told him that to celebrate I was going out to eat and have a steak. I didn’t of course. By then, the desire for meat had long faded. In fact, the greasy smell exhausted by restaurants makes me nauseous.

Even though the dizziness about which I had originally complained was unrelated to my disease, I was ever thankful that I had mentioned it. I feel better, less lethargic, and more vibrant. I have lost a few pounds, and enjoy my regular walks, which have the added bonus of communing with God and nature as I stroll along our rural roads.

Best of all, I am able to maintain my regular routines and enjoy not only the food I eat, but the life that God has given me one day at a time.

Country view by Bruce Stambaugh

This article appeared in the July 2012 edition of Purpose, Stories of Faith and Promise.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

A drought of a different kind

Miller farm by Bruce Stambaugh
The farm of my late in-laws, Wayne and Esther Miller, as painted by my recently deceased mother, Marian Stambaugh.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Our family has experienced a drought far beyond the on-going dryness that our area and much of the country is currently enduring. My mother died in April, and now my mother-in-law, Esther Miller, recently passed away. Both were 90.

The word drought is usually defined as a long period of dry weather. Wherever they live, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Virginia, all of Esther’s grandchildren have had to endure this drought. In some areas, the drought is considered moderate while in others it is much more serious.

Funeral flowers by Bruce StambaughThe second definition of drought encompasses a much wider, deeper meaning. Drought is a lengthy serious lack of something. When you lose your mother and your mother-in-law within three months of each other, one cannot help but sense a serious lack of something.

I know I do. My brothers and sisters do. Now my wife and her sister do as well. All of our parents are gone. We are now the elder generation. I’m not sure I’m ready for that distinction yet.

I also know the grandchildren, though they are scattered across the country pursuing their various careers, feel that certain dryness, too. They don’t have to say anything. I can see it in their eyes, their non-verbal sorrowful expressions.

Like my mother, Esther was a good, God-fearing person, dedicated to rearing her family the best way she knew how. She learned those loving skills from her mother, and perhaps her own grandparents.

Reality has set in for all of us. The torch has been passed. It is up to us to carry on what was modeled for us for all those years.

Esther Miller by Bruce Stambaugh
Emotion overcame Esther Miller at her 90th birthday celebration.
I remember the very first time I met my future in-laws at their 80-acre farm east of Louisville, Ohio. I hadn’t been there long when Neva’s father asked me if I wanted to see the pigs. How could I turn down that offer?

I not only got to see the pigs, but also the milk cows and the heifers, too, and the grain bins and hayloft and the tiny milkhouse. At the time I thought Wayne was just being nice. On the way home, Neva told me that she knew her father liked me because I got to see the pigs on the first visit. It took other suitors at least three visits.

Esther welcomed me with equal warmth. Excellent host that she was, she offered me a beverage and a delicious homemade snack. She could have written a book on being a homemaker. When Neva and I announced our engagement to her parents, Esther responded in a most amicable way.

“We are glad to have you in the family,” she said. “If we had had a son, we were going to name him ‘Bruce’.” I was at home away from home.

I remember hustling our young daughter and son into the Miller farmhouse one Christmas Eve in the teeth of a blizzard. Once inside, the warmth of the gracious hospitality far exceeded that of the comfortably heated home.

Farm sunset by Bruce Stambaugh

During our times of loss this year, we have experienced the kindness and thoughtfulness of many, many others. They each found their own ways to share in our mourning via food, flowers, cards, emails or calls. We felt blessed by those expressions of sympathy.

In addition, the family has found a wellspring of refreshing comfort despite our maternal losses. We rejoice that our parents enjoy an eternity that will never know any kind of drought whatsoever.

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

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Walking by myself, but never alone

Countryside by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Even though I am usually alone, I always have plenty of company on my regular morning walk on the township road near our home.

I walk for the exercise of course, but the benefits far exceed staying physically fit. On these hot and humid summer days, I like to get an early start if my schedule permits.

If I can survive the tricky first tenth of a mile on our busy county highway to get to the road less traveled, I can relish the rest of the walk. Common sense tells me to stay alert for oncoming traffic and dodge the fleet of various vehicles by stepping to the side.

Sunny walk by Bruce Stambaugh

Once I’ve completed the macadam gauntlet to the safety of the township road, I turn east into the morning sun. After a few steps uphill, the road unfolds before me, rolling gradually down into a low, sweeping valley formed by the Wisconsin Glacier 10,000 years ago. Farm fences on both sides squeeze against the chip and seal roadway, making it seem even narrower than it already is.

Eastern Kingbird by Bruce Stambaugh
This Eastern Kingbird and it’s mate often greet me as I walk along the township road.
I fondly anticipate these next moments. It’s the same road, but never the same walk. My audience waits, and every crowd is different. It’s not the Olympics by any means. In fact, it more closely resembles a circus.

I especially enjoy the high wire acts. The Eastern Bluebirds, including the juveniles still testing their wings, play their own version of leapfrog with me from the roadside power lines. Greeting me with melodious songs, the furtive birds wait until I nearly reach them before they flutter a few yards down the lines and land again.

I walk some more. They fly some more. The pattern is repeated a quarter-mile until the power lines run out. At that point, the beautiful birds make an arch over the hayfield and light upon the wires behind me to await my return trip.

Heifers by Bruce Stambaugh

Once the road flattens out, a congregation of Holstein heifers crowded head to tail beneath a black walnut tree suspiciously eye me. As I stroll, their heads turn as one, ears twitching, tails swatting pesky flies. Sensing a potentially easier prey, a few of the flies follow me.

Thankfully, a flashy yellow ball cap saved my baldhead. Still, I flail away at the persistent insects. I’m glad no other humans are around to witness my comical machinations. By the time I reach the valley’s shallow brook, the flies relent.

Jonas Yoder farm by Bruce Stambaugh
I usually turn around and head back home at the Jonas Yoder farm a mile east of my home.

Continuing east past the newly built Amish schoolhouse, the Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Purple Martins all start chattering to me at once, circling overhead as if they were asking me to follow.

Buggy by Bruce Stambaugh

At Jonas Yoder’s farm, I break the law. A U-turn begins my return trip. I usually walk down the center of the road until I hear a vehicle or buggy. On average, only one or the other passes me on the township road.

Song Sparrow by Bruce Stambaugh
One of several Song Sparrows that I see on my walk.
The American Robins and Song Sparrows are all used to me by now, and keep on singing in place. A young flicker, still with no brilliant red on the back of its head, flits from fence post to tree to utility pole. Poison ivy vines, leaves shiny as Christmas holly, have nearly over grown every locust post. A Green Heron escorts me back up the incline until it settles atop the tallest tree in a dense woodlot.

Down the arduous homestretch again, my next-door neighbor’s dogs unceremoniously announce my arrival. I hit the trifecta. I feel welcomed, renewed and refreshed.

Purple Martins by Bruce Stambaugh
Young Purple Martins wait patiently on a dead tree limb while being fed.
Poison ivy by Bruce Stambaugh
Poison ivy vines have over run many of the locust fence posts along the roadway.
Female Mallard by Bruce Stambaugh
This female Mallard, and sometimes its male mate, is often swimming in a pool of the small stream when I walk by.

Amish school by Bruce Stambaugh
An Amish school is being built in the pasture of Jonas Yoder’s farm.

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

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Carl Maxwell leads a life worth living


By Bruce Stambaugh

Given his many maladies and his age, Carl Maxwell, 77, of Berlin, Ohio, would have every right to simply give up on life. Instead, he has done just the opposite, and many people are the beneficiaries.

The list of all the good Maxwell has done in his life far exceeds his list of illnesses. Kidney dialysis three times a week, congestive heart failure, diabetes, quadruple bypass surgery on his heart, suffering four heart attacks, staph infections and skin cancer head the list.

Maxwell hasn’t let any of that stop him. If anything, they serve as incentives to live life to the fullest everyday. He does so personally and through several community organizations for which he volunteers.

“I love life,” Maxwell said. “I want to do everything I possibly can while I can.”

Carl Maxwell by Bruce Stambaugh
Carl Maxwell
Maxwell has and is doing a lot by any measure. His accomplishments would be impressive for someone in excellent health.

Maxwell was a charter member of the East Holmes Lions Club and is a charter member of the newly established Berlin Lions Club. He served as president of the East Holmes club, and was recently presented the prestigious Melvin Jones Fellow award by Lions Club International.

“I’m especially interested in the sight aspect of Lions Club,” Maxwell said. Lions Clubs collect used eyeglasses and distribute them to needy people around the world.

Maxwell has served as either president or vice president of the East Holmes Fire and EMS District board since its inception in 2000. He is the at large member of the five-member board.

Maxwell, along with his wife of 53 years, Lorene, volunteer at Save and Serve Thrift Shop in Millersburg twice a week.

“On Tuesdays,” Maxwell said, “I cut rages with Paul Roth.” He and Lorene also help out as cashiers on Thursday evenings.

Maxwell has also taught Sunday school at several levels at Berlin Mennonite Church for many years.

“I like people,” Maxwell simply said.

If he did slow down, no one would question his decision. Maxwell goes for kidney dialysis three times a week in Wooster.

“Counting my time on the road,” he said, “each visit takes eight hours.” Maxwell is not complaining about that.

“I didn’t really want to do dialysis,” Maxwell said. “But I got out voted 5-1 on that.” His loving wife and four sons all wanted him to do the treatments. Maxwell drew the line there.

“I had an opportunity for a kidney transplant,” Maxwell said, “but I turned it down.” He said he felt someone younger than him should have a chance at the available kidney. “I couldn’t live with myself if I had taken a kidney that some 20-year old needed,” Maxwell said frankly.

Carl and car by Bruce Stambaugh
Carl Maxwell showed off his salmon and grey 1958 Buick.

Maxwell doesn’t spend all of his time volunteering. He also has some heart-felt hobbies in which he has invested much time and money. Maxwell, who once had 14 antique cars, now has three old cars and a 2002 Corvette, which he calls his “toy.” He occasionally drives it to his dialysis sessions.

At the peak of his car collecting days, Maxwell served for 16 years on the regional board of directors of the Antique Car Collectors of Canton. Maxwell also has the world’s largest collection of Sinclair Oil products and memorabilia, which was featured earlier this year in an international collection magazine. From old gas and oilcans to large advertising signs to refurbished gasoline pumps, Maxwell’s collection is clearly one-of-a-kind. He has gathered items from many states and even other countries.

That extensive collection stems from his life’s work.

Sinclair signs by Bruce Stambaugh
Carl Maxwell has two triple-check Sinclair Oil signs displayed at his barn. He said only a handful remain.

Maxwell worked 36 years for Holmes Oil, which originally distributed Sinclair products. He started as a truck driver, but after six years, he and Maynard Hummel became co-owners of the business. Maxwell sold his half interest in the business after 30 years.

“I have had an unbelievable life,” Maxwell readily shared. He credits two women for those experiences, his wife and his late mother, Edna Weaver Maxwell.

“I owe a lot to others, especially my wife,” he said. “She’s just been amazing.” He said Lorene has been an incredible help to him in his many times of need. Maxwell said he recognizes his physical limits and takes the time to rest so he can continue to keep his busy pace.

“I want to do everything I possibly can,” Maxwell said. “Life is still worth living, and it’s too short to be negative.”

Carl and pumps by Bruce Stambaugh
Carl Maxwell has collected Sinclair Oil signs, cans and even gas pumps.

This article appeared in the July 2, 2012 edition of the Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Lunch on the porch includes more than just good food

Porch view by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Everyone needs a sanctuary. For my wife and me, our back porch is our quick retreat from life’s demands. A few short steps and we are in a special place. Over the years our back porch has given us many marvelous memories.

We recognize that we are fortunate to live where we do. Our home, built three decades ago off an Amish farm, is situated between Benton, Berlin and Mt. Hope, all in Holmes County, Ohio. Our back porch provides panoramic, inspiring scenes.
Girls in buggy by Bruce Stambaugh
The open-air porch was added to our modest home several years ago. We wanted a quiet place to relax during Ohio’s warmer climes. When the weather does cooperate, we especially enjoy lunches together there. It helps to have a wife who is a great cook. I’m no chauvinist, but I’m no chef either. Neva rules the kitchen and I reap the rewards and help clean up.

Lunch by Bruce Stambaugh
A recent lunch that we enjoyed on the porch.
Somehow the food tastes even better on the porch. One recent lunch featured her homemade butternut squash soup, sprinkled lightly with toasted bread crumbs. A fresh spinach salad with crasins and vinaigrette nicely complemented the soup.

A simple dessert of sweet cherries was washed down with fresh sweet peppermint tea, spiked with basil, giving the tea a sweet-tart taste. The mint was picked just minutes before being doused in boiling water. Other than the tea, no seconds were needed. A single course of each was plenty.
Mowing hay by Bruce Stambaugh
The house serves as a buffer between our busy highway and the backyard, minimizing the traffic noise. We love the quiet.

Well, perhaps quiet isn’t the proper word. Abundant backyard activity breaks any hint of silence. While we dined, we heard the undulating hum of a mower and the rattle of horse harnesses as our Amish neighbor completed his second cutting of hay before taking his own lunch break.

Downy by Bruce StambaughIn the meantime, the birds and wildlife kept us entertained as they also dined. With the porch open on the sides, it’s not unusual for birds to zip over our heads to the feeders. That is especially true for the acrobatic hummingbirds. Their feeder hangs from the edge of the porch near the kitchen window. It is fun to watch the territorial hummers chatter and chase each other away from their own version of lunch. They wouldn’t have to do that. There are several places to perch.

If we stay immobile, even the woodpeckers light upon the peanut butter suet feeder that dangles next to a hanging basket of flowers. The little downys, however, are the only ones that aren’t spooked off by our presence. Still, they nervously but needlessly chip and jerk their heads warily as they jab at the rich mixture, making sure we keep our distance.

Wildflowers by Bruce StambaughA green frog, one of six that inhabit our little garden pond, waits patiently for lunch to fly by. The green frogs that patrol our little garden pond adjacent to the porch patiently wait in the sun for their own lunch to fly by. When I hear a plop, I know they are as satisfied as we are.

Beyond the pond, monarch, swallowtail and red admiral butterflies partake in their own flowery buffet on the patch of ever-changing wildflowers. Along with volunteer sunflowers, the coneflowers, Black-eyed Susan’s, daisies, gaillardia and bachelor buttons paint a colorful palette in the shade of the canopy of pines and giant sugar maple.

When human guests arrive, their smiles reveal their appreciation for our sanctuary. Added together these pure and pleasurable ingredients always make for enjoyable and hardy gatherings. I’m more than happy to share the recipe.

Guests by Bruce Stambaugh

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

All abuzz about beekeeping

Bee hives by Bruce Stambaugh
Brian Miller, 17, of Apple Creek, OH checked out some bee hives before a recent meeting on beekeeping held near Mt. Hope, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Beekeeping is on the rise, according to Dr. Jim Tew, recently retired bee specialist at The Ohio State University Extension Services in Wooster, Ohio. He just doesn’t know why.

A meeting held recently at the residence of Mark Miller near Mt. Hope, Ohio seemed to be proof of that. Men, women and children, many of them Amish, nearly filled the several rows of church benches set up in Miller’s spacious outbuilding where the beekeeping meeting was held.

Miller said beekeepers’ meetings like this one are held three times per year. He said there are two such groups in Holmes County, Ohio. They are geographically split into northern and southern groups, with U.S. 62 being the dividing line.

The meetings are held to keep area beekeepers informed about the latest information on beehive maintenance and keeping the bees healthy. They also lean on the informal approach to allow for extensive question and answer times.

Bee keepers meeting by Bruce Stambaugh
Dr. Jim Tew shared his expertise on beekeeping to a group of beekeepers in Holmes County, Ohio. Many of those in attendance were Amish.

Tew was asked to share his expertise on beekeeping. The gregarious and modest Tew kept the group relaxed with personal stories of his more than 40 years of beekeeping. He retired from the OSU Extension after 35 years.

The Alabama native told the group that beekeeping is extremely popular right now.

“But I don’t know why,” he said. He suggested one explanation could be that honeybee husbandry fits into the popular universal interest in providing a dependable, wholesome food supply.

Busy bees by Bruce Stambaugh
Honeybees scurried in and out of a hive across from Mark Miller’s residence near Mt. Hope, OH.

Related to that sustainability idea, Miller told the group, “I like the concept of producing our own bees here in Ohio.” Normally, purchasing commercial kits and commercially raised queen bees, which are essential for hives to thrive, starts bee colonies.

“Having meetings like this,” Miller said, “will help us toward that goal.”

Indeed, Tew indicated that when the Varroa destructor mites began to invade honey beehives in 1987, the industry took a huge hit. The killer bee scare followed that, and bee husbandry began to wane.

Mite zapper by Bruce Stambaugh
Dr. Jim Tew showed the group a mite zapper that could help control destructive Varroa mites.

“It’s unnerving,” Tew said of the disease, officially called colony collapse syndrome. “Happily those initial dark days have gone away, and I no longer have any fear of all of my hives dying.”

He shared various ways beekeepers could help deter the mites and how to properly inspect hives for any possible problems. He said the most recent die off of bees made headlines because information spread rapidly on the Internet.

“This die off was not new,” Tew said, “though it may have a different cause.” He explained that there could be many causes for hives not thriving.

“Too many of us want to find one reason for a die off,” he said. “Each of you who keeps bees will have to talk amongst yourselves to determine what system to stop the mites works best.”

Miller said the meeting was not limited to those who live north of U.S. 62. In fact, 17-year-old Brian Miller came from Apple Creek to learn about bees. He just began keeping bees last year, and said his hives are thriving.
Bee on daisy by Bruce Stambaugh
The Tri-County Beekeepers Association in Wooster awarded Brian Miller a $500 scholarship for an essay he wrote on “Why I love beekeeping.” He said the money enabled him to purchase needed beekeeping supplies and equipment to maintain and expand his hives.

Mark Miller, who began beekeeping in 2009, said he also received an award to help him get started.

“I was honored to receive the Don Meyers East Ohio Apiculture Project prize of $75,” he said. That amount helped him buy two hives and equipment to operate them.

Though he retired from his OSU Extension position, Tew continues in the bee business both personally and professionally. Besides keeping bees himself, he also serves as a state beekeeping specialist for his home state of Alabama.

He kidded the crowd by saying that he now has a 900-mile commute to work. In actuality, he travels to Alabama five times a year to complete his beekeeping responsibilities.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012