Parks Archives

Wedding in Monona!

There’s a faith in loving fiercely the one who is rightfully yours
especially if you have waited years and especially if part of you never
believed you could deserve this loved and beckoning hand held
out to you this way.

Our eldest daughter was married in Monona today at Winnequah Park. The appropriateness of both the location and the marriage sunk in more deeply with each passing moment of the day. This area of Monona has been the background of so many of our activities over the years. Here are some of the many charming details of the wedding:

The presence of the ubiquitous Canadian Geese:



The gazebo on the lagoon where the ceremony was held, which was festooned with flag decor that is required to remain in place through July, yet somehow added to the charm:


Peonies were used in the bouquets and the table decorations. The peonies were taken from my dear friend’s peony bushes. We have since discovered that peonies symbolize prosperity and romance and are an omen of good fortune and a happy marriage:


The bride made lemon bars (and gluten-free macaroni and cheese) the night before the wedding for the reception:


The music during the ceremony was a recording of Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major as performed by George Winston. This was the same song used during the processional of my and my husband’s wedding:

And I think of the story of the storm and the people
waking and seeing the distant, yet familiar figure,
far across the water calling to them.
And how we are all preparing for that abrupt waking
and that calling and that moment when we have to say yes!
Except it will not come so grandly, so biblically,
but more subtly, and intimately in the face
of the one you know you have to love.
So that when we finally step out of the boat
toward them we find, everything holds us,
and everything confirms our courage.

The ceremony was performed by our neighbor Carmela. She and Tom and their family were one of the very first families we met when we moved to Monona 16 years ago, so her presence was very fitting and appreciated.


The average couple spends $30,000 on their wedding. According to this research,  spending $20,000 or more increases the odds of divorce by 3.5 times compared to folks who spend $5000-10,000. For the best odds, spend $1000 or less, the price range this wedding happens to falls into, which hopefully bodes well for their future. It also pleases me that she was able to have the wedding she wanted with a minimum of interference and projections hurled her way.

According to the Gottman Institute, renowned for research into successful marriages, there are two things necessary for a successful marriage: kindness and showing genuine interest in your partner’s joys.  Fortuntaely I’ve seen plenty of both in this couple, both today and the past year, and no doubt will in the years to come.


and you want to live, and you want to love.
And you’ll walk across any territory,
and any darkness, however fluid,
and however dangerous to take the one
hand and the one life, you know belongs in yours.

– Poetry excerpts from the poem The True Love by David Whyte

Around the lagoon we will go

It wasn’t until last Thursday that I walked around the perimeter of the lagoon at Winnequah Park for the first time. Even though I’ve lived only 2/10 of a mile or so from the lagoon for 11 years. And there’s even a rain garden back there I hadn’t noticed before.

I’ve only enjoyed the Healy Lane side of the lagoon all these years because, I dunno, I guess I thought the land on the other side of it belonged to the homeowners because it looks private and there isn’t signage or clear trail markings. Or I never saw anyone walking back there and never considered that was something one could do. Or I was too busy focusing on my children all these years so I simply never had time to think much about the lagoon (first blame the children, I always say 😉 ).

Now that all four kids are in school I can pay more attention to these matters. I greatly enjoy my new routine of walking on the other side of the lagoon because it’s like looking at a different body of water entirely. I also like the great blue herons and, dare I say it, the geese. Although the public bench on that side had an unfortunate preponderance of goose excrement on and around it today so I was unable to sit and read there. Next time I’ll have to bring cleaning solution with me.

All of which is to say that it’s always a treat to discover something new and special right in one’s community.

Last Saturday my youngest daughters begged to go to the pool.

So I did the sensible thing and suggested a trip to Schluter park and Monona Bait & Ice Cream instead.

Sitting on a bench and gazing at a body of water that isn’t surrounded by concrete and throngs of people worked for me. The kids played happily and worked up an appetite for a treat. Eventually we made our way across the street to Monona Bait & Ice Cream.

Did you know they have Coke there in glass bottles… Coke made with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup? Aaaahhh.

I also had the pleasure of introducing my eight-year-old to Pop Rocks candy, which was one of my favorite candies as a kid. My daughter had never heard of it before and found it as delightful as I once did.

We also discovered that Tootsie Pops now come in new flavors, like blueberry, banana and pomegranate in neon colored wrappers. This was news to me. I stuck with the traditional cherry flavor.

I ordered french fries for myself and didn’t mind waiting ten minutes for them because there was a nice breeze on the porch.

And, oh yeah. They serve ice cream there. Just in case you forgot. 😉 One daughter had blue moon, another had chocolate.

All in all not a bad way to avoid the pool.

Hmmm… a new use for Crocs?

While making the park rounds during spring break when we had all that warm weather, I noticed that a couple of the Monona parks have a layer of black rubber pieces underneath the playground equipment.

So that set me to thinking, of course.

Using this rubber is a cool idea because it provides a soft surface without the mess of sand or the slivers from wood chips.

Then I noticed my daughter’s purple Crocs while she ran across the rubber chips and I thought: why not chop up used Crocs and use that as an alternative to the black rubber?

Crocs wear out quickly and don’t make for good hand-me-downs.

It would be a way to keep Crocs out of the landfill… and out of closets.

The kids would love the colorful array of rubber on the playground.

Anyway, just yet another silly idea that has popped into my head while spending time at the Monona parks.

Encounters of the “Public” Kind

Like all towns, Monona has a fair amount of public people who reside in it.

Recently I was told that I was rude because I did not introduce some people who I was with to a public figure who I am neighbors with.

We were at a park near our home when this happened. The public pereson in question was juggling three small children on playground equipment. It struck me as odd that I might have been rude for not introducing the people who I was with to this public figure.

If you live long enough you more than likely find yourself in the path of a public person. Long before we were married my wife and I encountered Oprah Winfrey on a street in Chicago. We kept walking, although I would have enjoyed meeting the woman attempting to get into a car.

On a train to Boston from Chicago, when we were wearing a rut in that portion of the country, we sat in a cafe car alongside John Madden who was reading. He is famous for a fear of flying. We ignored him.

This has become a pattern. I never considered it rude or questioned it, although our teenagers felt like we missed out the summer of the election when we saw our current president riding bikes past us with his wife and children during a visit to Chicago.

The year we were married Rose Kennedy turned 100. We were living on Cape Cod. All of Hyannis Port was flooded by people attempting to get a glimpse of the big Kennedy Party that July.

We had lived a few doors down the road from the Kennedy Compound long enough to come to ignore it and the sightings of United States royalty.

I went to the beach that Sunday to avoid the crowds determined to ‘encounter’ a Kennedy. That was when I bumped into Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Alone on a stretch of sand I later learned the Shriver Family owned, I was annoyed by their appearance. Who were these people who were suddenly a part of my solitude on an isolated beach I had made my own since living there?

I felt invaded by the couple with a young child in their arms who laughed and took photos, not recognizing them in my bothered state.

As I was leaving, my time alone on the shore ruined by these people, they were also leaving. On Cape Cod large green flies that bite are a part of the summer landscape. Salt boxes are positioned near the shore to attract them but they still can be a presence. This is when I realized who the couple I was bothered by were.

‘Wicked flies,” the man said in a voice that could only belong to Arnold Schwarzenegger. I nodded then left after a few moments of local small talk that never included my disclosing to them that I knew who they were.

Later when I told people this story, as all of Cape Cod talked about the chaos the birthday party for Rose Kennedy had caused, I was surprised when I was told I should have demanded an autograph and taken photos.

I was known in those days for always having some sort of camera with me. A woman my wife and I know, who is like a mother to us, said I had more grace than to do that.

It turned out Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger were the ones with grace since I was on a beach they owned and was invading their private moments.

I had the same feeling then that I did recently when I was told that I was rude for not introducing the people who I was with to the man in the park with his children.

Is it rude to ‘ignore’ a public person or perhaps ruder to not ignore them?

Would I want to be approached while I was with my children at a park?

If I had made the introduction I suppose the camera phone might have come out earlier than it did. A photo of the man and his children would have been taken instead of my ushering us to the parking area–on with our day.

I suppose I was a bit rude because I excercised a bit of control over the situation from my end. But then isn’t that what all of us do during our inevitable encounters with public people–one way or another?

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a huge pile of rocks at the end of Monona Drive:

Big piles of rocks at the end of Monona Drive

The Monona Drive road construction is in full swing (I’m not sure the precise stage they are at with the road construction – Monona Doug would probably know).

Here’s a close-up view, because I’m sure you can’t get enough of the sight of these rocks:

Close-up view of the big pile of rocks at the end of Monona Drive

When my youngest daughter saw these rocks she said, “Awesome! I want to play in those rocks!”

She said that even though she isn’t normally the type to want to climb and play with Tonka Trucks and such. That’s how awe-inspiring this pile of rocks is.

Oh, speaking of Tonka trucks, there are two vintage all-metal Tonka trucks in the sandbox at the red park (Maywood Park)!

Metal Tonka trucks at Maywood Park in Monona

Metal Tonka trucks were ubiquitous when I was a kid but they switched over to plastic in the late 1980s. Bleah. So I appreciate that Maywood Park has these all-metal trucks. It’s yet another way in which Monona is awesome.

The Secret Park

One of the best parts about living in Monona is that there is a park within a short walk of every home.

Who needs expensive backyard play equipment with all the wonderful parks?

During our 11 years in Monona we’ve never managed to call any of the parks by their proper name, except for Arrowhead Park.

In fact, I don’t even know the proper names of some of the parks.

We call the Dream Park the Castle Park.

Winnequah Park is the Red Park.

The park and beach across from Monona Bait & Ice Cream is the Ice Cream Park.

The park by the pool is the Blue Park.

And Stone Bridge Park on Winnequah Rd…this is the Secret Park.

The Secret Park is my favorite of all the Monona parks.

There is no play equipment at this park.

The view is wondrous (the capitol is in the background across the lake) and I love the vintage street lamp:

There’s also bench where I can sit and read while the girls play. Aaaahh.

And the rocks on the steps… My girls are obsessed with these rocks.

If those steps were filled with Legos, Playmobil dolls or even Polly Pocket dolls, I don’t think it would hold their fascination the way these rocks do:

Then there’s this stone pagoda that’s tucked into the hill. You can’t see it until you’re almost upon it.

At first my girls thought it was an ancient well. It turns out they weren’t too far off the mark. A plaque on a boulder at the entrance of the park says it was built in the late 1880s and helped provide fresh water for the farm that was there at that time. The children in the area used it to make lemonade. Pretty cool.