We’re Not Fancy, We’re Buckeyes: A Love Letter to Ohio

Here in Ohio, on the easternmost verge of the Midwest, we aren’t known for being flashy. Just take a look at our governor and you’ll know that immediately. Governor Mike DeWine, a bespectacled, calm, public servant, is winning at leadership through this pandemic; he is not doing so through bluster and flash, but rather through measured tone, solid decision-making, and humility. Governor DeWine’s two sidekicks in his daily press conferences are Lt Governor Jon Husted and Director of the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Amy Acton.

Dr. Amy Acton gives an update on the Coronavirus situation. She is flanked by Lt. Gov Jon Husted and Governor Mike DeWine.

No matter your politics, (and please, let’s just leave politics out of this), all are sincere examples of our Buckeye can-do attitude. In fact, all three are the perfect representatives for my state in this time of uncertainty. As they’ve received national and international attention for their extraordinary leadership, I started thinking about why people seem so surprised. The truth is, folks just don’t know that much about Ohio, but think they know all they need to. We are in flyover country, after all. What could we possibly have to offer? To educate a bit about my home, here is a love letter to Ohio, inspired by Mike, Jon, and Amy, three solid Buckeyes.

Read international acclaim for DeWine here: DeWine in International News


Usually we’re known for three things: being important in election years, our rabid Ohio State University fans, and being boring. Well, how’s boring treating you now?

Boring is starting to look pretty darn good. Boring means humble, reserved, knowing when to ask for the advice of professionals with expertise. Boring means not being Chicken Little, not belittling others to make yourself look “better”, and it most definitely means having the guts to make tough decisions. It means the ability to empathize with people who are sacrificing. God bless the Governor, Lt Jon, Dr. Amy, and Fran DeWine and her homemade masks. They are authentic. They take the “servant” part of public servant to heart.

Clockwise from top left: Neil Armstrong, Stephen Speilberg, Paul Newman, John Legend, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Apparently, we do have our share of kooks and criminals, as evidenced by the recent harassment of Dr. Amy at her home, BUT the majority of Ohioans are just normal human beings who work hard, care for their families, and believe that tomorrow can be better than today.

We have our share of famous Buckeyes in entertainment and athletics–LeBron James, Rob Lowe, Stephen Spielberg, Jack Nicklaus, Cy Young, Doris Day, Gloria Steinem, Tecumseh, 7 presidents, and so many more. Our greatest pride, however, is that we seem to be especially adept at producing great thinkers.

Our inventors and explorers are second to none: Edison, the Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and a whole bunch of people you’ve never heard of, but who have done amazing things. What would our lives be without the automobile, planes, vacuum cleaners, light bulbs, cash registers, MRIs, bar codes, traffic lights, fire departments, hotdogs, or chewing gum? And I’m only scratching the surface! Recently, the crown jewel of our invention and research heritage, Battelle Institute, figured out how to sterilize 80,000 N-95 masks a day so that they could be reused. We needed that in the throes of this pandemic. Abbott Laboratories in Columbus have developed a COVID-19 antibody test which identifies if someone has had the virus and has subsequently developed antibodies. They shipped out 4 million tests in April and can run 100-200 tests on their laboratory equipment per hour. Inventing, thinking, and creating are alive and well in the Buckeye State.

Read about Abbott Labs COVID-19 tests here

Read more about Battelle Institute

Read more about Ohio inventions

Even more Ohio inventions


Ohio doesn’t have an ocean or mountaintops. We are bordered by a Great Lake and a great river. In between there are rolling hills, plains, a whole lot of farmland, and some cooler-than-you-would-think cities. It will surprise some that our capital, Columbus, is solidly in the top 20 largest cities in the US. This year it is #16–ranking above Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Miami to name a few. It would seem that its chief flaw is having a common name. It is certainly large enough and influential enough to have lost its last name (Ohio) a while ago, but since there are 22 OTHER cities named the same in the US, it is sometimes still impossible to say one is from Columbus without adding “Ohio.” Believe me, I’ve tried.

For the last 25 years of my 32 year teaching career, I taught in a district that attracted well-heeled families when they were transferred to Columbus. Invariably, if they moved from someplace more “exciting”, they bemoaned how “boring” Columbus was. I became an unofficial cheerleader for our great state in the hopes of persuading them to see the same beauty I did.


The thing is, I don’t have to see Pike’s Peak, the Statue of Liberty, or the Grand Canyon to see beauty. I have seen all those landmarks as well as many others, but they don’t have a monopoly on beauty. They are awe-inspiring, to be sure, but not all beauty has to take your breath away. Sometimes beauty is found in a quiet, unassuming cornfield or river. There is nothing more beautiful than a tranquil place to sip a cup of tea, listen to the birds, and watch the sun rise. Ohio is like that.

We don’t have a lot of dramatic places, but we do have a few noteworthy destinations and claims to fame. There are two wonderful amusement parks, including the roller coaster capital of the world, Cedar Point. The Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland; the Pro Football Hall of Fame is in Canton. We have many professional sports teams: the Browns, the Bengals, the Blue Jackets, the Cavaliers, the Crew, the Indians, the Reds. We have a lot of universities and wonderful small colleges–137 to be exact, including The Ohio State University Buckeyes, perennially one of the top three largest universities in the US.

Our state park system includes 75 lovely locations; we have one national park–Cuyahoga Valley NP. These parks range from the Appalachian Foothills to the plains left behind when the glaciers receded eons ago. The message here is that the Ohio landscape is varied; what she lacks in dramatic beauty, she makes up for in infinite simplicity. You can see everything in Ohio from deep gorges and sandstone formations to open-skied plains reaching miles into the distance.

Not only do we offer the pastoral, but also the urban. The restaurant and entertainment scene in our big cities—Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Dayton– is comparable to anyplace.

A first time visitor to the big three would most likely be very surprised at how sophisticated they really are. I don’t say this lightly–I have visited many, many metropolitan meccas, (NYC and Madrid in the last 6 months alone) and what our Ohio cities have to offer is comparable in many ways. That, and they’re much easier to live in.

There’s No Place Like Home

All the things that make Ohio so wonderful aren’t necessarily the things that one thinks of first when naming things that are wonderful. Ohio has common sense. We have humility. We care about our fellow man. We do what needs to be done. We are responsible. We are friendly. Our open Midwestern faces readily smile and lend a helping hand. We do what is asked of us. We work hard. Ohio is home.



Chicory, Ditch Lilies, and Queen Anne’s Lace: An Homage to Late Summer in the Midwest

When you live in a part of the world that enjoys 4 distinct seasons, it is possible to enjoy the sensory feast that is each one. Too often, however, we are so accustomed to our surroundings that we fail to notice the everyday beauty that is on our doorstep. Each place on this earth has a unique, purposeful amalgamation of flora, fauna, weather, and the like that makes it HERE.  Currently, in my part of the U.S., we are enjoying mid-to-late summer sights, smells, and sounds. In the Midwest, the trinity of chicory, ditch lilies, and Queen Anne’s lace is lining the roads.

Ditch lilies/orange day lilies along a Midwest roadside.

The ditch lilies (what folks around here call the orange day lilies that spring up everywhere) tap out by August 1st, but the other two will keep going strong until late fall.

Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace: interesting fact–they’re doing all kinds of interesting things with chicory these days. It’s not just a coffee substitute for pioneers anymore!

They are so ubiquitous as to become almost invisible, but if you actually LOOK, they are quite beautiful. As September comes, they will be joined by goldenrod, asters, Joe Pye weed and ironweed. The roadsides, however, will remain the domain of the periwinkle colored chicory and the bobbing heads of Queen Anne’s lace.

Another sight this time of year is the corn blossoming into tassel. When the dew starts to fall as the August evenings cool, driving through corn country with the windows down is a sweet treat.

Corn in tassel on a lovely farm.

It always makes me feel like a child again, tucked up against Dad’s side in the ’67 Chevy pick-up, coming home from the softball field. Dad ran the Old-Timers’ League in Carroll, Ohio, in the 70’s, where he spent MANY an evening supervising men’s softball games; sometimes we’d go along to watch him play. This was in the days when men generally still wore jeans to play recreationally—and sometimes even a collared shirt. “Activewear” wasn’t even a thought yet–but I digress.

Besides the fragrant corn, even grass takes on a different, sweeter smell this time of year. In the spring, it is so vibrant and fresh, but now, when it is cut—if it is cut at all— it has a golden, ripe aroma. Its fragrance is of the last swell of growth before going dormant in the fall.

On late summer nights/early late summer mornings, the air sometimes condenses into thick fog which isn’t nearly as common in other seasons.

The fog hovers above the ground on days like this and it looks like you could tunnel under it.

The fog’s cool fingers let you know that winter is somewhere out there in the white swirling around you, but it won’t find you yet. 

They say that the first frost comes 90 days after you hear the first cicada each summer. As a teacher, I always dreaded hearing that first trill since it meant that fall, indeed, was coming. The year we were painting Abby’s room, we had the windows open on a beautiful July 2, when she and I first heard the clarion call. Now that I’m retired, I enjoy much more the raucous cacophony that makes up an Ohio August. Just as spring peepers tell your ears that it is late March, the cicada lets you know that summer has reached its zenith in the Midwest. The crickets and other insects can keep up quite a symphony on a Midwest night, only abating as the birds sing the sun up.

After so many years—55 really—of living according to the rhythm of the school calendar, it still feels as if I’m playing hooky in August now that I don’t have to be preparing for a fresh year. So far this August, I haven’t had one of my anxiety dreams about the classroom (it’s still early yet, though!). It is a luxury to be able to enjoy the winding down of summer: days that are still long, but aren’t as scorching, the bounty of the garden, and the natural chronicle that lets us know instinctively where we are in Mother Nature’s world. Breathe deeply. Look. Listen. Repeat.