If you are looking for a zen moment: spend a few minutes at the waterfall at the Monona Community Center. A great way to start a day!


I love keeping up with the Joneses. This came to me recently as a neighbor struggling with a yard in transition this spring expressed a panic over what the neighborhood would think.

For years I lived with the fear that our yard/home ruined the neighborhood. Each spring our lawn was yellow with weeds. Summers it was dirt. Autumn leaves were all over it. So many leaves, always left for spring. One year the siding kept flying off of the house. Our driveway crumbled each time it was shoveled. Then I started keeping up with the Joneses.

A great release came the year I began to use our neighbors the way I did the growth charts for our children in the doctor’s office. Although I resist the idea of comparing the growth of children I have found comfort in my keeping up with the neighbors when it comes to owning and operating a home.

When our neighbors behind us washed their house last fall I was reminded it was time to do the same. Our neighbor across the street had her trees cut. I remembered that I had to trim some. Another neighbor had ducts cleaned. I need to do that too.

I have found our neighbors to be great teachers. Early on I rushed mowing the lawn, almost running while doing it. But when I spotted the man across the street get in a mow during his lunch from work, walking the mower with prupose but not in a frantic panic, I did the same. Another neighbor hung her clothes to dry on hangers instead of using the wooden pins. This way the clothing was ready to hang indoors. I did that too. One of my neighbors covered his air conditioner in the off season with wood to keep out leaves and debris. I do it now too. There are so many things I have learned about owning a home from my neighbors.

Keeping up with the Joneses. Great sense to me–and it makes my life as a homeowner here in Monona so much easier.


Since I no longer am able to ‘cruise’ down Winnequah Road while listening to music behind the wheel to attain my zen moment I decided to run. Something I have not done in more than twenty years. Before marriage or family. Prior to the medical belt I wear because of back trouble even to do a simple chore in the yard. I was going to run. Why not?

This was not prompted by any thoughts to be healthier. Not even the steady stream of runners I’ve watched pass my kitchen window as I have prepared and cleaned up meals for the past dozen years made me do it. I decided to run because my daughter put some new songs on the IPOD the kids gave to me for Father’s Day several years ago.

It became a group effort. My oldest son had some running shoes I could fit into. My wife bought running shorts that left me feeling as if I was in my boxers as I left the house. Armed with the IPOD and my medical belt I was on my way.

I was graced with the start of a perfect day Sunday as darkness gave way to the promise of sun that would melt the frost I saw in certain spots. For a few minutes I walked, telling myself it would be a good warm up. I remembered this, recalling how I would run through Hyannis Port on Cape Cod to the jetty where I’d sit on the rocks watching the ferry leave for Nantucket. I was just picking up an old habit. All my life I have been an avid walker. I had this.

My ‘run’ began on Baskerville–up the hill. The peak my youngest son always loved from his stroller a few years back would be a small reward–looking out over the lake. By the time I reached that point I thought I might die. Going downhill was small relief. That came on Tonyawatha during the stretch leading to the pier. There I stopped to watch the sun come up over the lake and shine upon Madison. That was when I remembered the part I liked about running back in Hyannis Port all those years ago–stopping to sit on the rocks and watch the ferry leave for Nantucket.

Another jogger appeared. He was moving slower, steady and measured–gave the nod. Lucky for me I was walking by this time so I was not exposed as the poser I was. Walking through Monona the world became familiar again. Walking–I had this.

So I tried running again. Something I hear people might do when they turn fifty. Will I do it again? I am sure that I will because the memory of standing on the pier in Monona watching the sun come up on the lake will be such a good one–when I turn seventy.

Winnequah Road: The New Stop Zone

Truth be told we do not like to stop. As a society the worst thing a person can do is to go backwards, slow down or stop. We really don’t like being told we have to stop. So Winnequah Road is sporting a few new stop signs and people want to cry in their soup about it. Too bad.

As a parent one of the first lessons one teaches children is to slow down, stop. Don’t run or you might get hurt. Take one stair at a time. But when this same command is gven to us we do not like it.

OPRAH has been very vocal about the car being a NO PHONE ZONE since January, even had a national day for it last month. Wisconsin just passed a law against texting in the car while driving. So why can’t Monona declare Winnequah Road a STOP ZONE?

I live on Winnequah Road so I suppose I am guilty of not wanting traffic to go by my home too loud or fast. That could be it–or maybe it is the years I have spent waiting for a school bus with my kids observing what people on Winnequah Road do in their cars as they zip past our bus stop. Texting and talking on a cell phone, two of the craziest things a person driving can do, are only the start of it. I have seen people putting on makeup, brushing their teeth and a man in a convertible even shaving.

This week I spotted a man talking on his phone and using his other hand to hold up a box perched on his passenger seat. When I wondered aloud how he was driving I was informed by the kids, who seem to know everything these days, that he was proably using his knees.

Will the signs stop accidents or prevent speeding? I don’t know. Is this the best solution to the problem? I am not sure. Does it change the flow of traffic to a point of distraction itself? So it might seem. But it is an attempt, frustrating as it might be.

Grief always flies in the face of change. All change is not always good but sometimes it is needed to look at something in a different way.

Of course this is not a popular view to hold. So what–this is not a popularity contest. We are talking about saving lives. I will more than likely be the first to get a ticket for missing the new signs. But will I deserve that ticket? Yes if I am guilty of being a distracted driver. I am too often distracted while driving.

When a stop sign appeared at the start of Winnequah Road off of Monona Drive I was frustrated by it. But truth be told one Sunday a few years back I nearly hit some bikers there. The stop sign makes me slow down, realize I am no longer on Monona Drive. Perhaps the signs on Winnequah Road near Maywood Park will do the same.

So I will have to take my medicine, get a ticket if I am too distracted for the new stop signs near my home–but when it happens I will more than likely be traveling at a slower speed on Winnequah Road than I have before.

Happy Mother’s Day

Enjoy your day today.

Check out Tom’s decorating blog for more Mother’s Day decorating photos.

A good drive spoiled

I have always enjoyed the leisurely, winding drive down the one mile stretch of Winnequah Road between Schluter and Bridge.

There are no stops and the scenery and beautiful homes have a calming effect each day as I leave and re-enter Monona. It’s unique for a neighborhood to have a mile long stop-free road.

Oh, wait. Did I say no stops? As of Tuesday there are two new stop signs on this stretch of road.

Monona Doug and his commenters are having a lively debate about it and I’ll leave the specifics to them. For me, the stop signs make for a good drive spoiled and I hope other alternatives to the stop signs will be considered. I’m all for safety and discouraging speeding.

Twice I’ve almost run the stop sign at Maywood and Winnequah because it’s hard to see and I’m not used to it yet. I’ve watched others blow right through the intersection.

This one mile drive still has its merits, however, even if it’s not as Zen-like due to the stop signs.

What I like most about the drive is all the flower beds right along the curb.

One of these days I should take a walk along this stretch of Winnequah and takes some proper photos of these flowers and post them. Here’s one I took today in the rain that isn’t very good but will give you somewhat of a sense of what I mean:

Winnequah Rd flowers

Many of the homeowners have flower beds like these along the road and I think this is a generous thing. Rather than keep their flowers close to their houses like most of us do, they share them with us, making the drive all the more scenic.

I’m told the ordinances require that one has to leave 18″ between the curb and your landscaping. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not but I do know that if city officials ever insisted on removing these flowers, that would upset me more than the stop signs. :-)

Take a spring walk through Monona

Here are a few photos of spring trees in Monona:




Well, well, well

No sooner did I write that I was anxious for the arrival of the Baltimore Orioles than I heard their song a few hours later. They’ve officially arrived in Monona!

So my Baltiomore Oriole feeder is up and I put strawberry jelly and orange wedges in it.

They prefer grape jelly but that will have to wait until the next trip to the store.

I’m not yet to the point where I’ll make a grocery store trip just for the birds…although if that’s what it would take to make the white-throated sparrows visit here, I would do so in a heartbeat.

The white-throated sparrows didn’t stop by Monona this year on their way up north like they always do every April.  I even went to the prairie area in the arboretum, a spot they favor, but I couldn’t find any there either. Oh the rejection. :(

Thank you note to the ducks

Dear Mama Duck and Papa Duck,

Thank you for spending all of Saturday in our backyard.

Every spring a pair of ducks spends time in our backyard for a day or two and my youngest daughters were delighted that you chose to be our duck guests this year.

I especially want to thank you for helping me see our sandbox with new eyes. It’s always full of water because the kids never remember to put the top back on it and it always makes me frustrated to look at that.

But the girls were so delighted when they saw mama duck swimming in the sandbox on Saturday! It turns out our sandbox is an accidental duck pond. Pretty cool.

I was not permitted to go into the backyard and mow while you were here. This gave me some much-needed rest, so thank you for that. We noticed that the long grass gave you a cozy place to sleep on Saturday night.

There was much excited conversation about mama duck’s condition on Saturday. “Look at how she waddles! She’s fatter than papa duck! I bet she will lay eggs here!” I hope the bird food they delivered to you at regular intervals was satisfactory. You were the highlight of their day. Even PBS Kids or Little House on the Prairie episodes on YouTube wouldn’t have pulled them away.

One of my daughters read out loud to both of you on Saturday and it brought back memories of how this daughter sang our duck guests to sleep one evening a few years ago. She woke up in the morning and ran to the window and was overcome with joy that the ducks were still sleeping in that same spot. This memory made me misty-eyed. Thank you for that as well.

Another memory: one year, on Easter, a pair of ducks crossed Winnequah Road to get to our yard. Mama duck was hit by a car and my oldest daughters (who were young then) were heartbroken and we delivered mama duck to the animal hospital. They were unable to save her.

So please be careful out there!

The white-throated sparrows did not visit Monona this year like they do every spring. I’ve not seen the Baltimore Orioles yet (they arrive in early May) and am anxious for their arrival. So thank you for being reliable and maintaining your annual tradition with us.

We really hope you enjoyed your visit here. Please feel free to visit again any time.

Kindest Regards,

The Ashland Family

P. S. My youngest daughter just said, “I really wish mama duck had lay her eggs here.” I know you view our backyard as a bed and breakfast rather than a home, but if you ever want to bring your babies here for a visit, she’d be thrilled.

Living like you are dying

For almost a year now I have been living as if I am dying. Not because I am dying but because I am surrounded by a series of lasts as our oldest son prepares to leave for college.

Just before last summer I became aware of the fact that our son would be leaving us. I suppose I knew it all along but it became real as our lives were flooded with college visits, applications and test scores. As he finishes his search this week that has taken him from California to Boston and all points in between it has seemed at times I am left with the remainder of a long lists of ‘lasts’ as he prepares to leave Monona.

Last fall was the last time he would celebrate his birthday with us at home. Next November he would be in a dorm somewhere with his friends, most likely.

The holiday season was the last that would not include the rush of travel, a bus or train for him to catch or us to meet–possibly a flight if he went far away.

During the heavy snow of January and February I realized it was the last winter I could call through the house for him to shovel for me. Time to buy that snowblower I have been putting off. Spring has brought a series of lasts as he finishes his time at Monona Grove High School.

This summer we will know the last of the lasts. Our last time gathered together to watch the Memorial Day Parade together. The last Fourth of July Celebration with all of us together? A last swim–even though the pool is not our son’s passion. What if he stays at school next summer? Is the yearly trip we take as a family in August our last together? Will he be somewhere else doing something else during that time? Can we even fit the trip in with the move to college now part of our backdrop?

But in the end college is not death. It is a birth of sorts. I remember it well as the time my ‘real’ life began. So in the midst of all the lasts and leaving that have managed to tug at me this year there have been hints of the things to come. A time of excitement and celebration. A new life for our son in a different place. It just won’t be happening here in Monona anymore–or with us.

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