Mountains of fun on the beach

Sunset Beach NC by Bruce Stambaugh
The pier and beach at Sunset Beach, NC.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’m not a sun worshipper. I prefer an exhilarating hike in the cool, refreshing mountain summer air where the views are spectacular and the flora and fauna inspirational.

How did we end up vacationing on a North Carolina beach? When our daughter asked my wife and I to join her family on their beach vacation, we didn’t hesitate. It’s what grandparents are supposed to do. It’s what grandparents live to do.

Watching our grandchildren’s initial reaction to being on the beach was alone worth the eight-hour drive from their Virginia home. After getting things settled for the week in our rental home, we walked to the beach with the intention of simply taking a look. The three grandkids, ages eight, five and two, had other ideas.
First encounter by Bruce Stambaugh
At low tide, the impressive sandy beach served as a gradual launching ramp into the soft, rolling tide. With their parents’ approval, all three grandkids dived right in fully clothed sans shoes, laughing and giggling away.

The adults kicked off their shoes and waded in as well. The water was unusually warm for mid-June.

For a week, save for one rainy day, the weather was absolutely perfect. The morning air warmed enough that we could hit the beach before 10 each day. Steady ocean breezes kept down the humidity and the sweating while we played with the grandchildren both in the gentle, silvery surf and on the sandy shore.
Empty beach by Bruce Stambaugh
Arriving early at the beach had another advantage. We nearly had the expansive seascape to ourselves. At that time of day, beach walkers and runners easily outnumbered the swimmers.

Boogie boards by Bruce StambaughThe kids enjoyed the boogie boards they had borrowed and brought along. The two boys ventured out into waist high water to await waves sufficient enough to carry them gently onto the moist sand. Of course they didn’t always make it that far, which made it all the more enjoyable. Either way they jumped and shouted and repeated the playful process.

Breaking water by Bruce StambaughTheir sister, the two-year-old, took a more delicate approach. She marched to where the water lapped the shore and laid down atop a little boogie board facing the ocean. Apparently she reasoned that with the tide coming in why not simply let the waves come to her. That way she didn’t have to face the force of the rolling water head on.

Her plan worked. Once the water reached her, she raised her head, pushed back her blond locks and enjoyed the gentle saltwater buffeting.
Bicycles by Bruce Stambaugh
Between interplays with the sun, sand and the waves, the children and their parents enjoyed bicycle forays around the small island. The two-year old rode in the bicycle trailer. The combination of the bumpy roads and the arduous times at the beach took their toll. She returned to the beach house sound asleep.

Toward the end of our stay, the kids turned more toward plying their sandcastle construction skills than they did dips in the ocean. The relentless waves served as an excellent cleanser for their sand-plastered skin.
Sandcastles by Bruce Stambaugh
The last full day of the vacation, the two-year-old already had on her swimsuit before breakfast. With arms stretched wide, her excited “Ta Da” entrance and her big smile summed up the entire week.

We may have been at the beach, but we all had mountains and mountains of fun.

Marsh sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
Sunset over the marsh at Sunset Beach, NC.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Confronting life’s unpredictable perils

wading in surf by Anna Bishop
Wading in the North Carolina surf. (Photo by Anna Bishop)

By Bruce Stambaugh

Within hours of one another, I received three divergent yet emotional messages about grandchildren.

The first came after I had changed my profile picture on Facebook to a shot of my middle grandchild celebrating his fourth birthday. The picture showed Davis heartily laughing in front of his makeshift birthday cake.

The four candles signifying his age burned as bright as his smile. The candles were securely stuck in a row in the thick, chocolate frosting of a cream stick that Nana and I had bought at a local Amish bakery before leaving Ohio.

Davis' fourth birthday by Bruce Stambaugh
A cream stick for a birthday cake.

It was a fun time, with the family finally gathered for his birthday. It was the first one we had celebrated with Davis. Texas was just too hot and we always seemed to be extra-busy in the middle of July.

But now that Davis and his family had moved to Virginia, we made sure we were there with and for him. The message about all this was from his mother, my daughter, asking for the pictures from the party. I had yet to share them with her. She loved the shot and wanted to see the rest.

When I checked my Facebook page in the morning, I found a disturbing and extremely sad posting by the son of a friend of mine. His sister’s newborn daughter had died right after birth.

I shared the sad news with my wife. We are close friends with the expectant grandparents. This baby would have been their first grandchild, one they had so longed for and had happily anticipated.

Now all expectation of playful days ahead had been dashed. I couldn’t imagine how devastated they must feel. I felt guilty for having three healthy grandchildren.

Their daughter lived in Indiana and I knew they would be with her. What could I do to offer my deepest sympathies, to reach out to them in their time of need?

While I struggled with this dilemma, I received an email containing the weekly column of a friend and writing peer in Virginia. He had written about his vacation with his grandchildren and included a picture of him wading in the ocean, a towheaded granddaughter tugging on one arm, a brown-haired grandson on the other as the foamy surf broke upon them.

It was clear that both grandchildren hung on to their grandfather in trust and love as the soft, warm waves crashed against them. I was happy for him, sad for my other friends, and conflicted about being able to reconcile these seemingly disconnected incidents.

Grandparents are supposed to be wise and loving and adored. My friend’s picture clearly revealed those dynamics. But we also know that there are times when life simply isn’t fair and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

I hope and pray that my three grandchildren will grow and prosper and live lives of service to humanity. I am deeply distraught that my friends Bruce and Helen cannot now say the same thing for their granddaughter.

I am sure many of their friends will reach out to this fine couple in their grief. When I get the chance, though, I will pretend we are at the shore, standing knee-deep in the churning surf, readying for life’s perilous waves to come crashing against us, Helen clasping one arm, Bruce the other, trusting and loving.

At this mournful moment, that is all I can offer.
Seaside sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh

Lakeside, Ohio: A relaxing place to be

Cottages at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh
Cottages at Lakeside, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Erik Beun of Berlin was typical of the many people from the Holmes County area who vacation at Lakeside, Ohio.

“It’s a relaxing place,” Beun said. Beun and his family were enjoying their sixth year at Lakeside. Beun also brought along his parents, Henry and Julie, for their first Lakeside experience.

Their family was emulating a scene seen thousands of times a year at Lakeside. They were tooling around the quaint village on bicycles. And why not? It’s an easy way to see Lakeside’s immaculate gardens, quaint old cottages, shady lakeside parks and amazing views of Lake Erie and its islands.

The Beun family by Bruce Stambaugh
Allison, Laura, Erik, Andrew, Henry and Julie Beun all enjoyed a bike ride around Lakeside.

Because Lakeside is a gated community during the summer months, it is a non-motorized vehicle friendly place. In fact, bicycles often go faster than cars. In part, that’s because once at Lakeside, the need for a car drops dramatically.

The place is so pretty, so quaint, so relaxing and the people so friendly there is no hurry to go anyplace. You are on vacation. Sit back, relax and enjoy. Many from the Holmes County area have done just that over the years.

Kent Miller of Millersburg started going to Lakeside with his parents when he was 10-years old. That was 1982. Now his son, Kyle, is 10, and has the same sort of fun that his father did.

Miller said the family likes Lakeside because it is “a safe haven for young families to go and relax for a week.” He said they particularly enjoy the amenities of doughnuts from The Patio Restaurant, and letting the kids shop at Marilyn’s, a store with an eclectic mix of clothing, candy and Lakeside souvenirs.

Shasta Mast, executive director of the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce, and her family have retreated to Lakeside for 15 years. She said the most difficult decisions she has to make while at Lakeside are what book to read and when to get ice cream.

Beach and dock at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh
The small beach and Lakeside's extended dock entice swimmers and sun worshippers of all ages.

Like many other Lakesiders, Mast likes to read her book while sunning on Lakeside’s popular dock that juts out into Lake Erie. Others swim, with lifeguards provided during certain hours. Still others fish from the dock, while some simply choose to sit and watch the variety of boats sail or speed by. In the evening, the dock is crowded with sunset watchers with cameras at the ready.

Of course, the front porch is just as good for reading as the dock. It could be the house rented for the week, a bed and breakfast or the sweeping, screened porch of the historic Hotel Lakeside. They all provide peace, shade and plenty of congenial company.

fountain by Bruce Stambaugh
The fountain in front of Hotel Lakeside.

After all, Lakeside is the Chautauqua on Lake Erie, nurturing the body, mind and soul. That is what the Lakeside Association both promotes and provides for its visitors. Educational workshops, seminars, evening entertainment and worship can all be part of the Lakeside experience for children to adults.

Tennis, shuffleboard, miniature golf, running, walking and Frisbee are also available if exercise and competition are your game. There are businesses to spend your money if you want, and by the lines, a lot do. Specialty drinks, ice cream, homemade doughnuts, and Lakeside-specific clothing are all available.

Then, again, you can just adopt Erik Beun’s attitude and simply relax. That’s the Lakeside way.

Maxwell Hospitality House by Bruce Stambaugh
Maxwell Hospitality House, Lakeside, Ohio.

This article initially appeared in The Holmes County Journal, July 29, 2010.