Anita’s Posts Archives

Saturday afternoon at the library: the May 30 haul

One of the biggest perks of living in Monona the past 16 years has been Saturday afternoon visits to the library. Such visits always lift the spirits, especially when there is a book (or three) on hold waiting for me.

Today’s haul:



An author in a recent New York Times Open Book column said this was the funniest book that he has read recently, so I figured I’d give it a try and end the spring on a light-hearted note.

And this:

I normally don’t read popular novels like these, but I want to try the book club at work and this is the one they are discussing next. I was going to take a pass on it, but then I noticed the author is a professor at UW-Whitewater and the book is set in southern in Wisconsin, so why not.



Mother’s Day Shower

TrophyMomBridal and baby showers are all well and good. But it occurs to me that there is a glaring oversight in the shower industry: we need empty nest showers for mothers. The shower could occur on the first Mother’s Day following the youngest child’s departure from home.

There is more of a need to stock up after they leave home than when they are babies.

Here is a list of items the kids use almost constantly, and therefore I can almost never find when I need to use them (your list will vary, of course, especially if you have sons, which I don’t):

  • Scissors.
  • Nail clippers.
  • Pencils that don’t have orange or yellow lead. Normal pencils can never be found. Orange or yellow pencils can always be found because you can’t see what you’re writing when you use them, so they are useless.
  • Pens. There is light at the end of the tunnel for this one because I have started taking the kids to UW Bookstore a few times per year. You can buy individual pens there and test them out in the store. Passing on my pen addiction to them is one of my great joys as a mother. They love picking out their own pens and now don’t borrow mine as often. Whew.
  • Cloth napkins – when the kids were younger they were appropriated for all manner of uses, such as blankets for dolls.
  • Measuring tape – this was usually pressed into service as a leash for stuffed animals. Currently my daughter’s pet rabbit loves to chew it if he can get near it.
  • Hand trowel for gardening. When we had a sandbox these tended to get borrowed for sand play…and buried and never found again.
  • Computer paper.
  • Cell phone charger. In addition to constant borrowing pet rabbits love to chew these too. Argh.
  • Ponytail holder and bobby pins.
  • Tissues (especially travel size packets).
  • Lip balm.

This list is substantial enough that one of my ongoing fantasies as a parent is the surprise appearance of an overflowing box of all of the above items someday. When my imagination is really getting carried away I envision what it would be like to walk around my house during the course of the day and find each of these items in the exact spot where I last left them. A mother can dream.


Tree Friends


4585079045_5fdcfeb3d2_qFortunately it is easy to make the acquaintance of trees in Monona, thanks to all the mature trees here. My favorite is the huge silver maple in our backyard that has provided shade, counsel, and held my children in a swing when they were little.

“To make the acquaintance of a tree is to gain the counsel of a wise and compassionate friend.” – Kent Nerburn

“To understand and appreciate the message of an old oak means more for a good life than all the books of man.” – Jens Jensen


“No matter where I live, I always try to make friends with a tree. I find them so much like us in so many ways. They have their feet on the ground, their heads in the sky. They respond to the movements of the wind, the changes of the season. They have moods, aridities, joys. They like company.

“In scale they are perhaps our most intimate companions: their lives are understandable in years, not aeons; their size in feet, not miles. We can watch them grow, give forth their fruit, send forth their young…Like us their roots are unseen, and no matter how glorious the front they put up for the world, their true strength lies in the hard word that takes place unnoticed beneath the surface…And they have about them a deep compassion. They provide rest for the traveler, food for the hungry. They will even give up their own lives to provide warmth and shelter for others. They welcome weaker creatures without asserting their power.” – Kent Nerburn Visit-With-Max-At-College-autumn-2010-184


The birds have chosen us

wtsThis explains perfectly why I put far more effort into watching the birds in and near our yard, – we keep a family bird register by the picture window for jotting down the comings and goings of bird visitors – rather than into going out yonder to look for rare birds:

“It is afternoon — the time of gathering. The long shadows of the day stretch out behind us. I am watching the birds land on the feeder outside our window. Grackles, chickadees, songbirds, and jays. Why have they chosen us? Despite cats, squirrels, noise, human intrusion, they brave everything to return here. I marvel as they make their peace with each other and share this common space…

They take their turns. The songbirds flutter, alight, grab a few grains, and retreat. The jays strut and preen. The grackles swoop down with impunity, take what they will. Far in the background, perched in a small pine tree, the chickadee sits patiently…[and then] swoops in and takes a small grain of corn…The chickadee flutters upward and disappears into the orange glow of evening. She was the last, and now she is gone. But she will be back. They will all be back. Though they have the freedom of the air, they have chosen us.”

-Kent Nerburn, Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life

Photo credit: Mike McDowell

The white-throated sparrows are in Monona

16611860084_628b134184_qThe white-throated sparrows arrived on Wednesday, April 22, for their annual spring visit.

I’ve been hearing their whistles every morning. They will remain another week or two before heading north for the summer to raise their young. I scattered millet in the backyard for them to feast on as they replenish their energy stores for the final leg of their spring migration.

The Baltimore Orioles will arrive in a week or so. Today my youngest daughter and I perused the various Oriole feeders and nectar at Mounds and may invest in a new Oriole feeder this year.

Now that the white-throated sparrows are here, it means that, for me, spring has officially arrived. I always mark the seasons by the comings and goings of birds, rather than by flora.

Speaking of flora, the redbud tree that my father planted in our front yard several years ago is dead. The last couple of springs were hard on it; it would begin to blossom during early spring warm days and then inevitably the weather would turn cold again. Last year this had the effect of the tree not fully leafing out.

It seems its optimism did the tree in. If only it had known to wait until the arrival of the white-throated sparrows each spring, then it could have blossomed in safety each year.



We’re Back!


After a very long hiatus we’re back.

Tom has been busy writing novels and I have been focusing on a new direction in my career.

I’ve wanted to revive this blog for some time and now seems the right time to do so.

This won’t be a source of news about Monona, as The Herald-Independent and Channel 3000 already do a more than capable job of that.

My posts will mostly be humorous, slice-of-life pieces. We also may see some of Tom’s Monona photos.

Talk to you soon and in the meantime feel free to check out our Facebook page.

The July 4th festival in Monona is the highlight of the summer for my family. It’s when I turn myself into an ATM machine and the kids go on rides, play overpriced games, beg for cheap jewelry at the art fair and I indulge in as much people-watching as possible.

This year I somehow found myself playing two of the overpriced games, which was a first for me. There was a new game this year – Angry Birds. Because I’ve spent a fair amount of time (cough, cough) playing the computer version – there’s something therapeutic about pummeling pigs and bricks with angry birds – I couldn’t resist the opportunity to play real life Angry Birds. Loading plush Angry Birds into the wooden slingshots and knocking over plush pigs was almost as satisfying as the computer game. At least I got two plush Angry Birds key chains as prizes to show for my efforts, unlike when I play on the computer.

Then somehow my daughters thought I should play the game in which you throw three fastballs at a target and win a prize every time.  38 mph was my best speed and the carnie said “you’re consistent.”  Translation: “You throw like a girl.” At least the kids got oversized inflatable bats out of it. Later at home I looked on Google and found out the highest recorded fastball for a female is around 80 mph. I calculated that the last time I actually threw a fastball with a real baseball with all my might was probably way, way back when I was 17-years-old and I was playing catch with my 12-year-old brother. Each time I would catch his fastball it felt like my hand was on fire, even though I was wearing a mitt, so after our session I walked away somewhat wistfully, knowing I would never be able to play catch with him again, as he had reached the point where he was too strong for me.

On Sunday morning I took a walk along the lagoon, across from the carnival, before it opened. It was a very peaceful walk until I reached the portion of the lagoon where the hole-in-one competition is situated. There were people hitting golf shots onto the small makeshift green in the lagoon. I immediately gave the lagoon a very wide berth, knowing all too well how golf shots can go far astray. I started thinking how ironic it would be if I would get hit by a golf ball while on a quiet lagoon walk, when all the times I played golf as a young’un I never got hit by a golf ball. Immediately a golf ball landed just a few feet from me.

I was disappointed that my favorite photographer, Cassius Callender, wasn’t at the art fair this year.

The fireworks were fun, as always, and it’s a treat to make the one minute walk home after the fireworks and sit and watch everyone else drive by.

Remember the storm that swept through here last week on the evening of June 8? There was an F1 tornado associated with that storm, which followed a path from Verona to McFarland. It also happened to be the anniversary of the June 8, 1984 Barneveld tornado, an evening I remember well because that storm kept blowing open the front door of our Stoughton home, a home which remained standing after that storm, but then was leveled during the F3 2005 tornado in Stoughton (dramatic video footage here).

Anyway, last week’s storm knocked down one of the trees in our backyard.

A normal person would have already had the tree hauled away by now, but it didn’t hit the neighbor’s fence or the power line, so we’ve left it alone for now because our two youngest daughters like to play in the “jungle” the fallen tree has created in our backyard (photos taken with my phone by my 9-year-old so excuse the poor quality):

The above photo may have given you the false impression that the green space is actually grass instead of the weed-filled rustic terrain it actually is. It would be unfortunate to leave you with that impression, so here’s a shot where you can see some of the weeds. Unfortunately the Creeping Charlie, dandelions and wild violets aren’t in bloom right now:

The jungle presents climbing opportunities that were heretofore unavailable:

Attempts to turn the jungle into a rain forest by using a sprinkler have so far been underwhelming, but the girls will probably try again.

Other advantages to the fallen tree:

It cuts down on the mowing I have to do.

It blocks my view of the “way back” of the backyard from the kitchen window so I’m unable to determine at a glance the height of the grass back there, which will cut down on yet more mowing.

It ultimately saves us some money because we were going to have that tree taken down anyway and it will be cheaper to haul it away this way.

Eventually the novelty of the jungle will wear off – probably when the mosquitos take up residence – and the leaves will die and it will look unsightly. If you know of someone who could remove it without charging a fortune,  leave a comment or send an email to info @

We’re Back

Our blog developed technical difficulties in April and I wasn’t able to figure out how to fix it. Because I was swamped with client work I kept putting the problem on the back burner.

Yesterday Tom told me someone at the pool commented on how they like the positive atmosphere on this blog, so that reminded me to contact an expert I know and get the site fixed already. I guess it’s a sign of how the Internet has made the world a small place when the first person you think of that you know you can trust to hand over the passwords to your site, and will charge you a reasonable rate, lives thousands of miles away in Hawaii. Many thanks to Inoa Technologies for bringing us back online and for their speedy assistance.

Many years ago I decided to stop watching Packers games and only watch any NFC Championship games and Super Bowl games they play in.

Watching regularly was too stressful (all those Favre interceptions) and I just gradually lost interest in watching men play a boy’s game and get paid millions for it.

Besides, living in Wisconsin, I’m usually all too aware of what the Packers are up to, even when I don’t watch.

But a recent New Yorker article listed some cool things about the Packers and why they are the only team worth paying attention to:

* The Packers are the only football team owned by their fans (112,000 of them, to be precise).

* They are located in Green Bay, which has a population of only 101,000, and not in the larger, hipper, shinier city of Milwaukee.

* The Packers GM gets to make decisions without a millionaire owner breathing down his neck and has had the freedom to do things like ditch Brett Favre in favor of Aaron Rodgers.

* Volunteers work the concession stands at home games and 60% of the proceeds go to charity.

* Volunteers remove the snow from the field before home games (imagine the response Jerry Jones would get if he asked for volunteers).

* The beer is cheaper than at other stadiums.

* Every home game has been sold out for two decades.

* Unlike other NFL teams, which tax their local communities and then keep the profits for themselves, the Packers actually aid their local community by not draining it of resources.

Now that I know these cool deets about the Packers, and now that I’ve seen how Aaron Rodgers doesn’t throw interceptions like Favre did, maybe, just maybe I’ll let myself watch a few more Packers games now. 😉

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