Category: Family

Tour of the garden – 9/27/17

After the events of the past two weeks, the garden has never felt more trivial yet has been a great refuge at the same time. I have no energy to attack the “to-do” list or even lift a shovel, but I could spend hours with the camera capturing it in all its early fall glory.

So with that in mind, here are some of the photos I’ve taken the past few days. I’m sure at some point in the near future I’ll be planting bulbs like a man possessed, but for now I’ll just bask in the peace the garden provides.

And a huge thank you to all that have provided such kind words to our family. While we’re all saddened and heart broken, we take solace in the fact that we can’t stop telling stories about my father-in-law, both with tears of sadness and of laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIP Pop D

My father-in-law John passed away a week ago today. It has been hell the past week trying to first understand exactly what happened and then trying to come to grips with the reality of it all. Decisions had to be made literally within minutes of finding out he had died. Calls to family and friends to deliver the horrific news was devastating. The 45-minute drive to his apartment after getting the text that realized our worst fears was as brutal as you can imagine. As was the greeting from the police officers upon arrival.

My FIL died from an iliac aneurysm and from all indications, it happened fast and he didn’t suffer. We all have questions as to how long prior the warning signs were there and we may never know. He wouldn’t have wanted to burden us all with his physical well being. That wasn’t his way.

I’ll never forget walking into his apartment that next day and seeing what I can only describe as “a normal week night setting”. Papers strewn on the table, an empty soda bottle nearby and the dishes from his dinner sitting on the kitchen counter. All so normal and yet overwhelmingly painful in its normalcy. A simple dinner at the dining room table and the next second you’re gone.

We have all spent so much time tying to relive what must have happened and only today have some level of acceptance. An acceptance that there was nothing we could have done to prevent it.

He was only 68 years old and ready to embark on the next chapter of his life. He had retired only 6 months ago and in a cruel twist of fate, had signed the contract to purchase a home at the Jersey Shore only days before he died. On Labor Day we had a chance to tour the home with him and it breaks our hearts now to think back and remember just how excited he was that day.

Fucking bullshit if you ask me.

No one deserved it more than him. He had struggled financially for a long stretch after being laid off from his job in marketing years ago and then going through the same thing again with another company that ultimately went under. While we knew the hardship he went through, he always persevered through with dignity and a determination to figure it out on his own.

In between those two jobs John had opened a coffee shop locally here in New Jersey. This had always been a dream of his and to watch him build it from the ground up was beyond inspirational. He not only developed the concept, built the business plan and hired a team, but he actually helped physically build it. I remember many long nights seeing him with goggles covered in saw dust, exhausted but determined. The place thrived for years before the financial reality of running your own business kicked in. I like to remember the crowd of regulars that had their own coffee mug stored at the cafe who he would chat up each and every morning. No one could carry a conversation like him and I watched as he had the crowd enthralled like a killer stand-up comedian.

I can’t possibly sum up his life in a blog post and the obituary we composed under duress will never do him justice. So instead of trying to cover it all, I just want to leave you all with some short thoughts that I’ve collected over the last 25 years that I’ve known him. For those of you who knew John, feel free to add comments and I’ll add them to this story. I know they are endless so this will be a chance to give him the life summary he deserves.

In no particular order:

Last Friday the mayor of the town John worked in gave the OK for all town employees to leave early if they needed to after receiving the devastating news. We can all only hope to have that type of impact.

My FIL could build you a deck (he did for us) and then bake you a cheesecake (he did many times). He also made the world’s greatest pepperoni bread.

Through all of the anecdotes we’ve heard and comments that have been written via social media, the most common theme has been his devilish sense of humor and warmth to go with it.

When we called the mortgage company to make them aware of his passing, we learned that the entire office was devastated. As was the realty company, and the car dealership where he leased his car from. That my friends, is a microcosm of his presence and love of people.

I will forever miss watching the New York Mets hit a big home run, and then counting down the seconds before Pop called to revel in it with us.

My son spent many a night with Pop and his girlfriend’s son watching sports, talking smack and just hanging out. Three peas in a pod. They all had a special bond and it will be crushing each and every NFL Sunday for eternity knowing we can’t watch him cheer on and curse his New York Giants.

I am clueless when it comes to doing anything DIY. My FIL and his son are like the best I’ve ever seen. To watch them navigate plumbing or electrical work or putting up molding or building a deck is a beautiful thing. Father/son bonding at its best.

My daughter, through tears, said she was going to miss the back and forth joking she had with Pop. She could take it and give it and I’ll miss watching the two of them go at it.

My wife and I still joke about how we would talk to him about something we needed to do around the house or a potential car purchase or a decision we had to make on buying a new dryer and how there would be phone call after phone call always starting with “You know I was thinking” or “I just researched”. He listened and cared.

The grandchildren were his life. Each had their own unique relationship with him and that will allow his memory to easily live on forever.

One last thought: I’m kind of an awkward giver of physical affection. The entire family knows it and has accepted it. I also never once called my FIL “Dad”. I don’t know why but I didn’t.

With that in mind, I’d like to officially send him a big bear hug and say “Thank you Dad” for all you’ve done for us all over the years.

There will never be another one like you and we’ll continue to laugh our asses off recounting all of the stories you have gifted to us. Like the one about the baby alligator … or De De and Da Da and Meatballs … or …

Comments from others:

I have lost a wonderful friend and colleague. A man who helped me through the care and ultimate loss of my mother with his kindness and humor. He brought us Philly pretzels and Rita’s in the summer. “John’s John” will always remain in the Finance Office. He is gone far too soon from all of our lives. To his family, I cannot imagine the sadness at the loss of such an incredible father and grandfather. Know that he was loved by all whose lives he touched. Love you Johnny D – I have the last dollar I won in our Yankees/Mets annual bet and I will cherish it forever!

I only knew John through our Construction Tech. Assistant Association. The times at our meetings he was such a funny, honest, and knowledgeable man. I know we discussed a few times our love of the New York Giants. I am so sorry for your families loss. He was so looking forward to the next stage of his life. He will truly be missed at our meetings. Blessings to your family.

Your father’s passing was especially sad I’m sure, to everyone who knew him. For us, it brought back a flood of fond memories of your grandparents and your dad over the years. We will never forget his distinctive voice and laughter. Simply said, he was a good man and we’re sorry for your loss. 

 

 

 

 

California Vacation

It’s been a while, eh?

This has been the longest stretch between posts since I started this tiny venture back in 2010.

Why the 3-week lull you ask? Great question. Here’s a detailed break-out of the causes:

41% – Life getting in the way

19% – Writing malaise

17% – My laptop has issues with uploading photos

15% – Garden malaise

08% – A one week vacation in California

Don’t bother doing the math, it adds up. I’m a stickler for math … and odd numbers.

Thank you to those of you who reached out with concern. Your emails put a big smile on this new-to-45-year old’s face. They are without question the most rewarding aspect of this writing gig. People actually missing my writing is all I could ever ask for. Seriously.

For today, I want to share our recent California vacation with you all and fortunately I’m able to load photos from my phone while the laptop is still under construction.

Enjoy.


It all started at Newark Airport in NJ where we willingly paid a premium to order and pay for lunch from an iPad. Kind of pathetic now that I think about it with a clear mind and not in vacation mode.

We arrived in San Francisco late that first night but made sure to find time to scope out a local “In-N-Out Burger”. It was our first trek there and I have to admit, it was just “good”. I can do without the half hour waits and chaotic parking lots. Shake Shack is still the king of the burger. Sorry left-coasters.

Still, the moment wasn’t lost on us as we took the ever important selfie to commemorate the occasion. Notice my son is missing from the pic. He is down on selfies these days.

The next day was a busy one. First up was an attempt to drive through the campus of Stanford University. That kind of bombed as there was a local high school graduation being held on campus and we got caught in the parade of traffic and over anxious parents and grandparents.

The next stop was much more successful. We took the 1-mile hike through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to consume the giant redwood trees. While the park and trees were visually stunning, I’m still consumed with the scent. I may have a deviated septum with little use of my olfactory sense, but this smell punched right through that damaged septum.

A redwood candle order has been placed via Amazon Prime.

From there we made our way to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. The contrast in mood and vibe with the aforementioned redwoods wasn’t lost on us. It was chaotic and loud and sensory overload.

Also a lot of fun in that deliciously cheesy summer boardwalk way.

My son still has no idea that the photo above was taken. Dad for the win.

After a few hours riding roller coasters and eating Thai chicken wraps, we drove the world-famous “17-Mile Drive” along the coast.

Wow. Gorgeous x 10.

We stepped out of the car at least 7 times with only one of those requiring sneaking around a golf course so I could empty my ever shrinking bladder.

The first full day ended with dinner in Carmel and the inevitable collective crash in our hotel room that night in Monterey.

The next two days were spent in Yosemite National Park. I won’t bore you with the written word because words and even photos will never do it justice. It was overwhelming in a good way. I’ve never experienced anything like it. That either means I need to get out more or Yosemite is all that it’s cracked up to be.

My crippling fear of heights was tested over and over not only within the park, but the drive to and from each day. My wife had to console me with gentle words and warnings to not look right or left. I’m thinking guard rails might be a nice addition to some of these harrowing roads.

The last 3-4 days were spent in the city of San Francisco. I was thrilled to get rid of the car and be at the mercy of buses, trains, trolleys and Uber rides.

Here are a few pics from out and about.

I can’t get enough of the Haight-Ashbury district and some day hope to spend some significant time here even if it is a shell of what it used to be.

My daughter is obsessed with the show “Full House” so we had to get a shot of her in front of “The Painted Ladies” which are included in the intro song for the show. By the way, the show is terrible other than the fact that it has the nostalgia of terribly written dialogue and laugh tracks. I hope she doesn’t read this.

When in San Fran, one must ride a trolley. It’s a lot easier when you have a pretty lady on your arm.

Plenty of interaction with that little bridge known as Golden Gate.

 

Alcatraz, that foreboding island that once housed some of the world’s worst criminals. While the history is fascinating and the tour is engaging, I didn’t need to see it again after having been there back in 2000.

So in a brutally selfish way, I ignored everyone and focused on the gardens of Alcatraz Island instead.

And finally, it wouldn’t be a Markowski trip without baseball playing some role so we capped our trip with a Friday night game at AT&T Park (my now personal favorite ballpark) watching the San Francsico Giants play … you guessed it … our New York Mets.

The Mets won easily and broke our streak of, witnessing in person, ten straight Mets losses.

It sucks to be back on the East Coast again and it’s great to be home.

New York Mets Spring Training – Day 3

Our time in the New York Mets bubble has come to an end.

Back to reality.

No more waking up in the dark, throwing on a wrinkled blue and orange t-shirt and tossing an interlocking “N” and “Y” inscribed hat on my head, preferably backwards, 19 year old frat boy style.

We’re back to khakis and hair gel and spreadsheets.

But another year of memories have been added to the ever growing repository. We’ve already relived them 8 times over and started the 2018 planning. I’m considering creating a binding contract for my wife and kids to ensure they will happily attend these same festivities through 2025. I need to know this will never end and that we will act this young for the foreseeable future.

That bubble I speak of, here is what I mean by that:

We took a detour from fastballs and fungos on Tuesday afternoon and headed for the nearby beach, about 25 minutes away. We’d find a place for lunch and then glance at the ocean for some time before heading back to Mets Land.

We found a great lunch spot and hit up the beach where it was sunny and warm and pleasantly pleasant.

After sufficient breathing in of the salty air, we headed back to the rental vehicle with a brief stop at a bench in the dunes to wash the sand off of our feet.

Within seconds, we were welcomed by a group of five who appeared to be holding some sort of ad hoc religious discussion, complete with pamphlets and funky looking bibles. They were nice folk who appeared to be interested in the fact that we were wearing Mets gear. Of course we were still in Metsville so the fascination seemed like a means to strike up conversation and then solicit our sins.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to confess to slandering Matt Harvey’s reputation and ultimately learned that one of the women was former Met Tim Teufel’s sister in law who was in town to celebrate his 35th wedding anniversary. That’s how things work down there. It is all Mets all the time, and we love every fucking second of it.

Of course once you are armed with this type of intel, you have to take advantage of it. And so yesterday, when Tim Teufel, currently a Mets coach, arrives looking to sign autographs, it is a joy to throw a “Happy 35th wedding anniversary Tim, Rose says Hi” out there just to sit back and observe his dumbfounded reaction.


Day 3 was ultimately a wash out as most of the players remained out on the field for only a short time before heading indoors, and away from the crowd for the remainder of the workout due to the rain.

The rain kept the crowds away which was great, but it also limited our exposure to balls hitting gloves and the sound of wooden bat on ball. The sounds are almost as much of a part of the sensory experience as the sights are.

It is the sound of spring and promise.

We did manage to witness some action, including the daily treat of watching the players run from the main field to other fields where they are greeted by the coaches. The kids all jump in line and await their high-fives.

 

 

The pitchers day consisted of some long toss and a few bunting drills before they disappeared and left us wanting more. I had a lot of fun capturing their long toss sessions through the drizzle.

 

 

 

 

 

Every team should be forced to carry one side-armed pitcher because to watch them pitch defies the laws of physics.

 

Once the pitchers departed, I watched the infielders warm up and even a simple act of tossing a ball back and forth is fascinating to me. It is like art. I could ogle all day.

 

 

Warm up was done and it was time to practice turning double plays. Mets top prospect Amed Rosario has the “it” factor and I made it a point to observe the future for a few minutes.

 

 

 

Soft hands and panache. I like.

Another interesting part of watching practice, is to see which players are working out at positions other than where they normally play. Like Jose Reyes fielding grounders at second base.

Versatility is king as the player gets older.

 

 

We were heading out of the complex by 11:00 and other than a quick stay in the parking lot to see if any players were signing as they vacated the facility, our day and time spent in Port St Lucie was done for 2017.

We agreed to eat lunch before heading to the airport and just as we were about to turn right towards Rt. 95 South, we collectively agreed to take one last peek at the complex. As we pulled up, there was a small crowd gathered by the security gate so we gave ourselves 20 minutes max to wait it out and see who may appear.

The stars were apparently aligned as Mets captain David Wright emerged into the parking lot as the last remaining player. He got in his car, turned it on and then shockingly headed over to the group, willing to sign before heading home. With David battling injuries and Father Time, we knew that this may be the last opportunity to spend this type of time in his presence.

Our travel companion these last two years, Jeanine, nearly hyperventilated. To say she loves “David” is an understatement. She had never met him and had never secured his autograph.

Ladies and gentleman, dreams do come true at Tradition Field.

Who is with us next year?

 

 

 

New York Mets Spring Training – Day 2

Back at it again 5:30 this morning.

The day proceeded not too unlike the day before and come to think of it, not too different from year’s past. We ogled world class athletes while they played a game and then chased them all over the complex so they could scribble their name on an expensive official MLB ball.

And then we complained about lower back pain.

I could go into painful detail about geeky Mets and baseball stuff but that isn’t really appropriate in this forum. Some day soon I’ll start an all Mets publication where like minded nerds can wax poetic about the need for a third lefty in the pen or ensuring there is a balance of lefties available off of the bench or whether or not a six man rotation makes sense.

If you understood any of that, can we be friends?

Even as the chaos unfolded in front of me and I took hundreds of photographs, I felt something more today. I felt present. I stared at my kids and realized this was a special and fleeting moment in time.

My son is 14 and how much longer will he get this excited to take this annual trip?

I could watch him organize his binders and balls all day.

I could watch that shit eating grin when he scores another autograph.

I cherish that fist pump he makes when he thinks no one is watching.

Unbridled enthusiasm and pure elation and I want to drink it in until I’m drunk and falling down.

I felt live in the memories today and while they filled me with warmth, there was a dash of bittersweet in there and I didn’t like it.

May this never end.

Jack with future superstar Amed Rosario.

 

The kids with Zack Wheeler.

 

Jamie and her Jacob deGrom autographed ball.

 

The kids and the joy of a bubble gum bucket.

The lack of sleep, endless waiting and pacing, sharp pain in the calves and disappointment when a potential autograph falls through is all worth it.

Baseball and sunshine and family and friends. That is a good way to spend a day.

Fine, here are a few additional pics for you Mets fans and baseball nerds.

The three-headed monster of a pitching rotation. Syndergaard, DeGrom and Harvey.

 

The beast that is Yoenis Cespedes.

 

Remember kids, Uncle David Wright always says look the ball into your glove.

 

I love me some baseball bats.

 

Manager Terry Collins firing up the boys.

 

Goofy stretching is a rite of passage in baseball.

 

Robert Gsellman signing for Jamie.

 

Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

 

 

New York Mets Spring Training 2017 – Day 1

Pleasant sounding alarm awakes us all at 5:40 AM.

We all slept like shit the night before. 75% of us are battling illness and the cacophony of coughing emanating from room 210 probably kept the entire hotel awake all night.

But Jack and I push on.

We get ready in 7 minutes but bump into every piece of furniture at least twice along the way. The ladies will be up for good as a result but thankfully aren’t dumb enough to accompany us to Tradition Field in the wee hours of the morning.

Quick trip through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru and we are on our way stocked with caffeine.

It is a 2 minute drive to the park because any further distance away and my son would physically attack us.

The three of us (including Jeanine, our Mets companion for the past two years now) arrive at the park at 6:07 A.M. and there are two other knuckleheads present and as insane as us.

We now wait for the players to arrive in the players only parking lot. The spots in the lot are marked with their uniform numbers so we immediately know who has arrived. Our move is to have me identify the player and then shout it out so Jack and Jeanine can plan accordingly. Some players are worthy of official major league baseballs and others fall down a bit and are worthy of a baseball card.

Within twenty minutes, we strike gold big time. Superstar Yoenis Cespedes agrees to come over and sign for us. Jackpot.

Fan for life.

We only get one more autograph but that is OK. The joy of this morning ritual is what gets us through the winter months in the Northeast U.S. We are diehards and proud of it.

The park opens up at 9:30 A.M, so we have time to head back to the hotel for a bathroom break and pick up my wife and daughter. The five of us are decked in Mets gear and ready to watch millionaires play catch.

Actually before that, there is stretching. Lots of stretching.

As they stretch, we start to sweat in the Florida heat and fucking love it.

The players then all run off to different fields to start the day’s drills.

The Mets lead the league in hair volume by a landslide.

We wander from field to field to watch infield practice.

But eventually settle on watching the pitchers because they are the main attraction for this Mets team and have been for years running now.

As the players run from field to field, we do our best to get in their way and annoy them and give them unsolicited high-fives.

That would be Thor (Noah Syndergaard) and his killer man-bun.

A favorite rite of passage dating back to 2014 is to be completely ignored by Matt Harvey and his ego and this year was no exception.

Swoon. I love a player who plays hard to get.

Practices last under three hours because baseball players are weak. I kid, they do a lot of work inside the facility away from the rabid fans where they don’t have to pretend to enjoy our presence.

And there are moments of intense exertion on the field as well.

As practice winds down, we all take our places in anticipation of the insanity that is autograph signing. And we wait.

And wait some more.

Until some of the players take the time to sign and interact with the fans.

Although, I honestly don’t know how they put up with it all day after day. Oh, they make millions? Scratch that.

We do truly appreciate those who take the time out and sign for the kids as they provide them with a memory for a lifetime. The smile on their collective faces make the trip worth it.

Each signed ball or card now has a back story that we relive throughout the year.

And f it, we’ll do it all again tomorrow morning starting at 5:40 AM once again.

 

 

26 observations from my 20th wedding anniversary trip to Antigua

My wife and I just returned from our 20th wedding anniversary trip to the island of Antigua. We expected it to be a romantic and relaxing and all time memorable trip … and it exceeded those lofty expectations and then some.

antigua

Rather than write up a summary of the trip and potentially bore you to tears, I decided to write up the highlights in list form for ease of consumption.

If you are interested, and why the hell wouldn’t you be, we stayed here.

And had the anniversary drinks/dinner here. Yes, on a daybed and on the side of a cliff while watching the sunset.

drinks

We’re still reveling in it all.

On to the list.


In no particular order:

  • Driving on the wrong side of the road (the left, sorry Brit friends) is challenging and fun. As is navigating around wild dogs and crater sized potholes. I found if I talked aloud about my next driving move, I was OK. “I’m making a left turn, don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic and will stay to the left after the turn.”

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  • I understand that vacation is a mirage and an escape from everyday life, but I like to think it removes all of life’s distractions and exposes the core of what brought you together as a couple in the first place. Our core is killer. Beyond what I ever imagined was possible as a wee young lad. I will not take that for granted. Ever.
  • Pineapple juice wins over orange juice every time. Why did it take me so long to recognize this? Oh, the quality of the pineapple makes all the difference you say? Got it.
  • My wife living in the upper northern hemisphere is akin to me growing bamboo in rural New Jersey. Neither resides in their native habitat and while we are knee deep in the native plant movement, maybe I need to initiate a move to get her back to her Mediterranean roots. Warm weather calls us. I just need to come up with a title for this movement.
  • The men in Antigua appeared to be way more friendly and engaging than the women. I wonder if that is cultural?
  • I am in the process of commissioning an artist to create a mural on our bedroom ceiling that simulates the view we had from our bed each morning.

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  • I reluctantly joined the fashion trend in wearing a shorter bathing suit and while I looked phenomenal and fit right in, I burned the shit out of my upper thigh which hadn’t seen the sun in decades.
  • Magical is an overused term and should be reserved for those moments that are truly magical by definition. Having said that, we experienced many of those magical times.
  • I am by nature, a non-explorer, so the day spent meandering through the windy and rainy and oft times terrifying roads of Antigua was a reach for me. An exciting and hilarious reach on a day we will never forget. Vasco de Markowski.

us-antigua

  • She’ll never admit it, but my wife could be a travel agent and vacation planner solely off the top of her head. Her ability to research is off the charts. From packing to flying to driving to meal planning to excursions to best local options to you name it, she had it covered. Her hourly rate is reasonable. I did zero.
  • $32.00 for a hamburger. You read that right. I’m not sure if that price included cheese or not.
  • I may or may not have flashed my passport like an international man of mystery while walking through the airport. And I did get giddy each time it was stamped.
  • Afternoon tea must be incorporated into the Markowski household. With clotted cream and scones. And a British accent.

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  • I had no idea that an Eastern Caribbean time zone existed. I still can’t grasp that we were operating at an hour later than NJ time. I’m so sheltered.
  • I may need to revisit my self-imposed ban on bathrobes. Holy comfort.
  • Give me Tetris and Bejeweled on the headrest TV screen on the plane and I can be entertained for hours.
  • I’m convinced that I could be the social media lead for a resort and be kick ass at it. The scenery sells itself and there is no excuse for not posting at least 5 Instagram photos per day. It is free advertising.

The pool at Carlisle Bay, Antigua. #carlislebay #carlislebayantigua #antigua #pool #caribbean #sun #escape

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

  • Tropical plants are a foreign concept to me and someday I’d love to invest a significant amount of time in learning all about them.

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  • I think it is a good sign that we both had tears in our eyes as we exited the resort.
  • I think it is important that the kids observe their parents enjoying time alone as a husband and wife. They should know that we missed them and didn’t miss them at all.
  • At the same time, it was fun to virtually share our experience with them via Snapchat and Instagram.

snap-antigua

  • One of the things I miss most already was the walk to breakfast each morning. Holding hands while walking through a palm tree lined path that lead to our eating feet from the beach with the entire day still in front of us. It was intoxicating.
  • antigua-3antigua-2Holding hands is way underrated.
  • Our idea of “water sports” consisted of trying to pick up shells before they were washed away from shore and giddily chasing crabs before they descended back into their holes.
  • Traveling the day after Thanksgiving is fantastic. No crowds at all. Getting to JFK airport was a dream and that has never been uttered before in the history of declarations.
  • I dog eared a book for the first time in my life while we were away. I am going to define myself as writer from this day forward. You can read more about it here. “What do you do for a living John? I’m a writer.” That feels fucking great.

Swingset trellis

“Jamie, how would you feel if we took down the swingset and put in a large vegetable garden and orchard? We could all work on it together. Wouldn’t that be fun? You could learn all about gardening. Plus, you don’t really play on it any longer.”

“Dad, you would ruin my childhood.”

OK then.

I’m still not sure if she was joking, but point taken. This swingset was put up before she could even walk and she is now 10.5.    

swingset trellis

Those are actually nicely trimmed weeds within the “playground” and not grass. At some point I gave up on mulching it and trying to fight the otherworldly weeds that emerged there each spring.

And now I’m prepared to turn that area into a deer-proof vegetable garden along with a few fruit trees for good measure. I’m still an amateur when it comes to growing anything edible but I’m ripe and ready (see what I did there?) to get all sorts of educated.

But what to do about that swingset?

I’m a nostalgic guy and all but it’s just a swingset, right? We’ll always have those memories of sliding down the slide in the snow, pushing the kids for hours on end when they were wee things and that one time when our family picnic went awry when the bees started to attack us all. Just because the swingset is physically removed doesn’t mean the memories are removed, correct?

Would you mind telling her that?

swing-jamie

And them that.

swing-jamie-and-jack

So my plan looks to have hit a roadblock. I can’t live with being a destroyer of memories.

But then one wonderful reader (may have actually been two) made a suggestion that I really should have thought of myself …

Use the swingset as trellis for beans and other edible vines. A swingset trellis solves the dilemma. 

I get it.

The swingset still stands in some capacity satisfying the children’s need to not erase their childhood and we get our long desired vegetable garden. F’n brilliant.

I haven’t approached the little decision makers with the swingset trellis idea yet but I think it could work. I can sell this. I’m even thinking we may be able to keep the set functional in ways while all sorts of deliciousness grows around them. This could actually be fun and dare I say, creative.

Here are some ideas I’ve already pulled from other sites:

Check out this swingset as trellis.

And this swingset as arbor.

And the benefit of not creating waste by doing this.

What do you think about a swingset trellis concept? Have any suggestions on how to best sell this to potentially heartbroken children? How about any creative ways to incorporate the swingset and keep it functional, like still being able to swing?

Thank you in advance for your feedback.

Weekend in Connecticut

We spent a long weekend in Connecticut after being off from work all last week. Now we return to reality tomorrow and I don’t like reality very much. Actually that’s not true, I feel ready to conquer the world and do some big things in the near future. But that could be the vacation vibe talking. But who cares, right? Enjoy that feeling while it still lasts, right?

Before I jump back into spreadsheets and conference calls and holistic synergies, here are some pics from the weekend.

Time spent at the family retreat at Cedar Lake in Chester, CT always does the soul well.

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I have a lot of fears in the water (thanks Mom) and thankfully my daughter didn’t inherit those genes. She jumped right in the kayak and took off around the lake. Deep breaths and a few beers got me through it.

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My wife and I were graciously granted a lunch date by our host and hostess. Before they could say “enjoy”, we were at the Madison Beach Hotel restaurant, a luxurious hotel housed right on the Long Island Sound.

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Of course oysters …

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Followed by beach selfies with my one and only.

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On our way to the beach at Watch Hill, RI we stopped at a legendary italian ice joint, Vecchittos Italian Ice in Middletown, CT. Beyond delish and easily the best I’ve ever had.

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When in Watch Hill, RI one must pose for pics near the Ocean House. I wrote about this grand hotel a few years ago (you can read it here) and we are still in awe each time we see it.

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Once on the public beach in Watch Hill, the kids attacked the ocean and stayed in for hours, no exaggeration.

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I could go on and on about how well we were treated by all family this weekend, but you don’t know them and I need to protect their identity so only WE can enjoy it for years to come. Just know I ate Belgian Waffles for three mornings straight and never wanted for a single beverage.

And last but not least, the return to the garden. Always a consolation prize after returning from vacation.

Still plenty of blooms …

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… but it is clear that the grasses have announced their arrival. It is their time to take center stage. Expect them dominate on this blog for weeks to come.

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karl foerster bee balm

 

panicum joe pye tomato cages

 

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QOTD – have you ever dreamed up a big idea or made a life change decision while on vacation? If so, would you be so kind as to share the experience? I think I’ve got one but it will be a secret until it comes to fruition.

Moving on to high school

How the hell did we get here so fast? How is it possible that I have a son who can now be identified as a high school student as of last night? Damn, I always envisioned myself reaching a certain maturity level and having my shit together by the time my son hit the 9th grade and well, that didn’t happen. My parents seemed so much more mature and fatherly/motherly when I entered high school and now I’m realizing they may have just been hiding it real well. We need to have that conversation some day soon.

But this isn’t about me.

My son Jack graduated from 8th grade last night and as you would expect, my wife and I anticipated some emotions to bubble up during the ceremony. They already crept in leading up to last night so we knew it could get ugly real fast. I had a masculine front to hold up in front of the other dads so I had by best lip biting routine ready to go.

Turns out, I held up fine but my wife, not so much. I managed to keep it together during the slide show presentation of the students as babies, when each of the students presented their personal lesson learned from the school year and even when Jack was presented with his diploma. Maybe it was due to the gallon of sweat hiding under my shirt or concern with how long the salmon needed to sit on the grill when we got home, but either way, I survived the ceremony.

But it didn’t end there. What eventually got me was the following photo and it didn’t even move me when I originally snapped it last night based on my wife’s recommendation. Instead, it hit me like a ton of bricks this morning, when I was reviewing all of the pics from the festivities.

grad gym cleared out

The gym was all but abandoned as most had moved on to taking their obligatory outdoor photos with the family. I look at this pic now and the gym seems to be taking a much needed breath. You can tell that the gym has done this a few times in the past and has the routine down pat. It had already moved on and for some reason that saddened me. This locale was a huge part of my son’s world and I still needed time to reflect. He had been in this school and in this gym for 8 years (the beauty of a small town) so there our memories in every corner of that red and black gymnasium.

I remember our initial orientation back in 2008 when Jack looked like he saw a ghost during the entire tour.

I remember his first year of basketball here and biting my tongue every time he traveled and playing it cool when he scored for the first time, after traveling.

I remember the first “Back to School Night” and staring out at all of the parents wondering who we would get to know well over the next 8 years.

I remember the concerts and wondering if Jack actually knew what we was doing with that saxophone. It kind of didn’t matter, he looked cool.

I remember basketball practices together from this year, forever thankful that I got to coach and hang with him one last time.

And now we’re forced to move on.

If the first 8 years of school flew by, I can’t even imagine what we’re in store for with the next four years. Based on my research and through various forms of intel, I’ve determined that we should expect those 4 years to feel like 3 months. And I still have so many questions I need answered by someone if I have any hopes of feeling any level of control again.

Do I push him hard to pursue his passion or let him find his way?

When does the college discussion become a reality?

How does a new school and new bus route impact our family schedule?

When does that baby face transition to High School Jack?

Should I be more serious about Rogaine in anticipation of the high school graduation photos?

Will he still be as passionate about the Mets and can I book Spring Training trips through 2020?

Do we have any chance of him still liking us?

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If you have any of these answers, please provide immediately and you will be fairly compensated. In fact, that is my question of the day. Give me one piece of parental advice when it comes to managing a child in high school.

Thank you.

Next post we return to the gardening world where I have so much more control.

That was a joke.

Funny.