An Open Dormancy policy

We spent Thanksgiving in the idyllic scenery of Sonoma county. Among the heaps of fun and food…and wine, of course, I was struck by the autumnal red, gold, and brown colors of the vines. I hadn’t thought fall would leave its colorful mark on the hills and valleys near Santa Rosa.
I was unaware the region’s grapevines took any rest. I had incorrectly heard at some point in my past that the vines continually produced.

If Mother Nature builds in periods of dormancy into her bounty, maybe it’s proper we humans follow suit in our own lives. That we take time to rest and rejuvenate. The holidays are that sort of time. When work and worry get put on the back burner so we can enjoy the company of our loved ones.

If we can be present among the presents, we can take part in and practice the holiday spirit.
The holidays are the perfect time to eat second helpings, drink another glass, and indulge in dessert. Relax and listen and smile more than usual.

Dormancy is as important a part of the cycle of life as tilling, planting and harvesting.
The holidays are the perfect time for us all to practice dormancy. So go ahead and be mindful as this holiday season is now upon us.  I gotta go…practice dormancy…which may or may not look like I’m napping.



View of Vilas

Many Madisonians have visited the Henry Vilas Zoo since it’s opening in 1911.


I went as a kid and a few times this past summer and just this weekend, Meghan, Cash and I spend some there.  This shot was taken there.


The Vilas zoo is a Madison staple, especially for local families and tourists alike.  There are some nice exhibits with a wide variety of animals, a new polar bear exhibit and beautiful grounds nestled beside Lake Wingra, an expansive green lawn with play areas and the picturesque homes and streets of the Vilas neighborhood.

Even more impressive than the surroundings is the story of how the park and zoo came to be.

William Freeman Vilas was an accomplished, respected man. He has a building, a county and a neighborhood named after him for starters. Vilas was a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate who went on to lead, as a lieutenant colonel his regiment in battle in the Civil War.

Following the Union victory, Vilas got his law degree and became a Law Professor at the UW.

Vilas was then elected as a Wisconsin state assemblyman until he was appointed the Postmaster General and then Secretary of Interior of the United States by then President Grover Cleveland. Vilas was renowned nationally as a good speaker and writer, valued by the president and the Democratic party. From 1891 until 1897, Wisconsin elected him to the United States’ Senate.

William married Anna Fox from Fitchburg and they went on to have four children making their residence on Wisconsin Ave (near the Edgewater Hotel) with views of Lake Mendota.

history - William F. Vilas and Henry Vilas.jpg

Sadly, their son, Henry, died at a young age from complications related to diabetes.

A few years later, the couple decided to donate 63 acres of valuable land to the city of Madison under the conditions “for the uses and purposes of a public park and pleasure ground.” The donation came with a mandate–that the park and zoo forever be admission-free.

A 28 acre portion of the land would be used for a zoo-the Henry Vilas Zoo-named in honor of their deceased son.

Today, the grounds are enjoyed by 3/4 of a million visitors per year–for free. Many of whom don’t know the past generosity that allows its existence. I didn’t know it until recently but for any of us who use the park and zoo for any times of recreation should learn about, empathize with and appreciate this Madison family’s legacy.

Though the Vilas’ worked with Presidents and other highly elected officials across the world, their donation to the city of Madison was a gift intended to be enjoyed by its citizens, regardless of their position in life. Citizens they would never meet and, like us, many who didn’t even know them or about them but benefit from their gift. I hope to change that a bit.

I don’t work for nor am I affiliated in any way with the Henry Vilas Zoo but I support it now more than ever and enjoy it and am impressed by its existence.  I encourage you to throw in a few bucks next time you visit and/or become a member and/or donate online if you’d like. It’s good to pause for a good cause every once in a while.

Vilas View

On a typical summer day,

Wingra’s wind gently greets the green grass

where families picnic

and children jump, twirl, crawl and play,

one could imagine a young Henry Vilas 

amongst them, enjoying the fray.   

Maybe William and Anna and see him too.

Their vision is why all are here today.


Accounting for Cash

“We expected this you know,” my dad said to me on my high school graduation day.  He was justified to not feel so impressed because I was raised middle-class, from generations of graduates at a high school with a 100% graduation rate. ( *I included this source because 100% sounds unbelievable-and certainly there were years where not everyone graduated but still an incredibly high percentage did.

Point is, it would have taken some major screwing around on my part to mess up enough not to graduate high school considering my situation.

It was a foregone conclusion that I would graduate not only high school but college as well.
The same expectations go for my son, Cash. To this end, I have opened a college savings fund for him arranged where a small amount money is deducted from each paycheck and syphoned to.  If I understand correctly, this fund can be tapped into by Cash to pay for any type of schooling after high school.
This dollar amount is not going to be any sort of windfall and at the skyrocketing rate of college tuition, may end up only being enough to buy books for his first semester by the Fall of 2033.  (Tip: Buy them used!) Wait…who am I kidding? By then, there won’t be “books,” just apps for purchase on downloads to the chip implanted in this head like everyone else will have.)
The other day I filled out a cost estimate sheet that figured we’d spend almost $330,000 on Cash to get him to his 18th birthday…that’s not to give him a silver spoon in his mouth, that’s just to have something on any kind of spoon to keep him alive and well.  Considering we’re still a month away from even getting him to his first birthday…we got some money-makin’ and money-savin’ to do!
By the way, I would love to assume Cash will be a highly-recruited strong safety/wide receiver to top colleges but ultimately, choose to play for his daddy’s alma mater, but I ain’t going to (the) bank on it.
Who knows? If Cash ends up not wanting to attend college and instead wants to learn a trade at a tech school or some kind of apprenticeship, that’s okay by me as long as it interests and challenges him, falls in line with his skill set and brings him joy when the job is finished, he has our full support.
As we prepare to scale the kid-raising, financial mountain ahead, we’ll take it step by step and paycheck by check.  Our hope is that when Cash becomes an adult and faces the rest of his life, he can take not only the money but also the lesson that in life, a little at a time goes a long way.

Caving In

I highly anticipated my first house, which we purchased two years ago.  It might not be a “dream home” that would be on any Rich and Famous list or HGTV show but it fulfilled a dream that had been sprouting in my apartment-dweller mind for years.

What did a house mean to me?  No more shared walls or landlords. A big, nice kitchen Meghan could cook in. (I’m not being sexist, Meghan loves to prep and cook food, so I knew this would make her happy.) A yard to move around and throw balls in. A garden to plant a food. And a room, a glorious room dedicated to me and my stuff-with sports paraphernalia, comfy seating and a big, flat screen to watch games and shows on! My Man Cave!


My man cave is perfectly located in our newly-carpeted basement and with boxcar, wood-paneled walls to boot! For my California friends and family, a “basement” is essentially the same size of your house, but mirrored underground. It’s where we Midwesterners keep our laundry, storage, and us men.

It quickly became evident that my tastes-artwork, lamps, furniture-were relegated to the basement. I’d hold up a great find from a store to show my wife. “Babe, wouldn’t this look great for the house?”  Meghan replies, “Uh huh…it will look nice…in the basement.”  My entire apartment before I moved in with Meghan is now replicated downstairs.

And I had my Mantuary (new word I think I just invented, man cave/sanctuary) set up…for a few days…before my bunker was invaded…by toys…lots and lots of toys of all sizes…they multiplied like insects, little plastic insects that spread all around the floor, the coffee table, and in-between seat cushions. Toys that when bumped often start a digital nursery rhyme or giggling voice…that will send a shiver up your spine when it’s after midnight and you stub your toe stumbling and shuffling your way through the room.

And with addition of a train set and little picnic table, my man cave is fast-becoming a “kid cave.”


And so, like anything in life once a kid enters the picture, your dreams get amended by reality. The baby that was going to be sleeping in his crib by 6 months is at 11 months, still in your bed sticking his foot in your ribs at 2:15am. Your vow that your child will not be plopped in front a television screen, is sitting on your lap gazing at the baby channel, both of you exhausted from exploring toy after toy on the floor.  And your plastic, colorful toys dot your man cave. So it goes.

But, it’s okay, because if a man cave is a really just a room with a collection of what I look forward to spending time with,my wife laying her head on my shoulder and my son tucked snugly into my side, feels like a great use of the space.

Feels nice to be caved in.