Monona Archives

Yesterday a state trooper and the Senate Sergeant at Arms went to Senator Mark Miller’s house in Monona. He wasn’t there:

Monona Doug posted a link to an article on the State Bar of Wisconsin site that describes the history of the labor movement in Wisconsin.

Fortunately we no longer see scenes like this one, where the National Guard killed five Milwaukee employees on strike because they were demonstrating for an eight hour work day:

In May 1886 thousands of Milwaukee workers demonstrated in support of a national movement for an eight-hour day. The demonstration turned into a contentious strike that reached a climax when National Guard troops fired on strikers at a plant in Bay View, killing five of them. The “Bay View riots” triggered a wave of legal reaction: several strike leaders were prosecuted for conspiracy to boycott and inciting to riot, and in 1887 the Legislature reacted to the riots by passing Wisconsin’s first labor laws.


In 1931 Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to create an unemployment compensation system. The Wisconsin labor movement set the campaign for the system in motion and was always the prime force behind the campaign. But the system applied to all workers, not just union members, and the Legislature did not view it as a concession to organized labor.

Eight hour work days and unemployment compensation are just some of the things we take for granted today.

A sailing we will go on Monona Drive

I confess that until the recent city council discussion about it, the Monona sail site at the southern end of Monona Drive was something that never came to mind when I would think about Monona.

For one thing, I rarely enter or exit Monona from the Monona Drive ramp.

And when I do, I’m too busy focusing on merging or changing lanes and can’t see the sail and sign.

It’s always seemed to me that the sail site is meant to serve as branding for those that whiz past it on the Beltline. They are the only ones who can get a good (albeit fleeting) look at it.

For that reason, and also because there isn’t a public park near it, it doesn’t seem practical to add gardens and other bells and whistles that no one will see. I’m OK with everything else, such as the new sign, as long as it doesn’t cost $300K.

The only Monona sign that ever stands out to me is the one near the intersection of Broadway and Monona Drive that lists upcoming events and such. I don’t know what the plans are for it after the road construction is finished, but I find it useful and it’s better than the standard green population sign.

All my other entry points into Monona (South Towne exit, Pflaum/Nichols, Monona Drive from the Cottage Grove Road area) don’t have a noticeable transition from Madison to Monona. Monona doesn’t start to “feel” like Monona to me until I’m on Winnequah Road or Nichols.

I guess the bottom line is that no matter how much or how little money is spent on updating the sail site, Monona is the type of community where its branding ultimately comes more from the experience of Monona and its people, and not from architecture or sail sites.

When you have to go to a pharmacy several times per month to pick up prescriptions, it sure helps if the pharmacists are kind, quick to help and always remember your name. And offer free delivery too.

Such is the case with the Medicine Shoppe in Monona.

As much as I like our doctors – especially my daughters’ pediatric endocrinologist – the pharmacists at the Medicine Shoppe deserve a lot of credit too.  Having a disease that requires ongoing medication isn’t fun and can be lonely at times, so it’s ever so helpful to have pharmacists who care as part of your support team.

When one of my daughters was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few years ago, that was stressful enough. But then add to that the negative side effects she had to our insurance company’s preferred brand of insulin, and that company’s insistence that we pay close to full price for the insulin she didn’t react to, and I was on the verge of a meltdown.

One of the pharmacists at the Medicine Shoppe stepped into the gap for us and spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone with the insurance company to help me figure out what to do. It eventually got resolved and I was very grateful that he ran this interference for me.

I don’t mean to overlook Walgreens in Monona. There have been times when, say, an insulin bottle has shattered and we needed a replacement immediately but Medicine Shoppe was closed. Walgreens came to the rescue.

Walgreens is also the place I go to at least once a week when I need to quick pick up an everyday item like a greeting card, Claritin, school supplies and, most importantly… coconut M&M’s.

And if you ever have the pleasure of having Donna H. as a checkout clerk, it will be an awesome transaction. She adds that extra human touch that makes you walk away with a smile. Because she’s so nice you may even find yourself taking her up on her offer to buy two Butterfinger candy bars for $1 even if you don’t like Butterfingers.

Walgreens and Medicine Shoppe cover lots of bases. I’m glad we don’t have to manage our health without them.

A plug for the Monona farmer’s market

I finally, FINALLY went to the Monona farmer’s market for the first time a couple of Sundays ago. Sheesh, what took me so long? We also went again last Sunday.

We used to be devotees of the Hilldale Farmer’s market. So I was pleased to see Farmer John selling cheese at the Monona farmer’s market. We were regular customers of his at Hilldale so it was nice to see a familiar friendly face. I highly recommend his cheese – my kids love his cheese curds.

In addition to the usual veggies, there are also vendors selling honey, maple syrup, kettle corn, coffee, baked goods, and fresh homemade pasta (including gluten-free pasta – two of us in my family can’t eat gluten/wheat so this was a treat. Fresh pasta is by far better than the regular stuff).

The farmer’s market closes at 1:00 p.m. and we usually can’t arrive until after 12:00. But, as we discovered, there are deals to be had if you show up late, such as tomatoes for only $1 per pound. Huge, red, juicy homegrown tomatoes.

The Monona market is on Broadway next to the Ahuska tennis courts and the soccer field and is probably about half the size of the Hilldale market – but it sure beats fighting the crowds on the square on Saturday morning.

So, if you’ve been foolish like me and haven’t gone to the Monona farmer’s yet….go!


   Twelve years ago today we woke to our first day of living in a place called Monona.

    Although it is a blur of small children and excited energy we recall falling in love with our new town right away.

    A steady stream of new neighbors appeared on our doorstep to introduce themselves and offer us help, if we needed it.

    All these years later moving to Monona is still the best decision we ever made.



    We have had a series of houseguests since early June. It will go on pretty strong til mid-July. One of our neighbors recently told me, as our current group of guests go on their eleventh day, that houseguests are like fish–they should be thrown out after three days.

    Monona  lends itself to hosting houseguests.  Summer is the time when people seem to visit the most.  This time of year, as we approach the Fourth of July Festival, carnival and fireworks display, our modest three-bedroom ranch takes on the life of a hotel.

    Over the years there have some big adventures within these walls.  A few awkward moments also as our family of seven shares one bathroom with our series of houseguests. 

    Some guests bring their pets.  More than once we have run through yards after a wayward dog, getting to know our neighbors better than we should.  Once a guest insisted on keeping his dog on a leash in our home the entire time because we do not have a fence around our property.  A large dog kennel took over our bedroom for several visits.

     Most of our guests bring children.  We had anxious first-time parents who insisted no fans run during the entire time they stayed–because the fans would disturb the baby.  A surprise to us as our five kids slept through anything.  It was a summer visit, quite warm.  Long after a group left the smell we had been wondering about turned out to be a meal children with one group did not like.  They had shoved plates of it behind the sofa on the three-season porch.  Many a teenage drama played out before us over the years.

    We have had several types of guests over the years.

     There are the ‘spare-of-the- moment guests’ who phone that they are on their way from the road.  Could we please have a spread of food waiting?  These calls have come often, sometimes at two in the morning.

    The ‘reluctant guest’ is hesitant to come.  They must be convinced.  When it is time to leave there is always a long goodbye, sometimes taking several days as they extend their stay.

     We have had the ‘Bring Along’ guests who had to bring extra people with them.  It was impossible to leave anyone out of the plans.   We found room, of course.

     There are the ‘Early Drivers’ who insist on waking the entire house so we will all be able to stand in the driveway to wave goodbye–at three in the morning.  They prefer to drive when there is little traffic.  Blinking away sleep, holding off tempers, gather to see them off we do.

    But there is always fun to be had. 

    For years snow we saved from winter was made into snowballs on a hot July Day. Countless Christmas trees were decorated, patriotic often, for Christmas in July celebrations.  We have stayed up all night changing the themes in the house from Halloween to Thanksgiving then Christmas to get in all the holidays we would miss together.  Valentine’s Day bled into Saint Patrick’s Day one year in a long weekend visit that ended with an Easter Egg Hunt.    

    Our guests have gone with the flow. 

     One Fourth of July when the temps were near a hundred the entire time our air conditioner was not working.  We took turns taking car rides, desperate to find reason to leave the house, for a bit of relief.  A flood in the bathroom, caused by a diaper stuffed down the toilet,  rushed into the hallway and foyer over the wood floors.  Guests helped clean up.   When freezing rain hit we had guests helping to chip ice from the driveway. One weekend guests built a room in the basement for us. 

    Having so many guests has perks.  We have experienced Monona and Madison through the eyes of visitors.  That always leaves us in a bit of awe over where we live. 

    Houseguests might be like fish–best thrown out after three days.  But in the end we find ourselves like the woman with many children who forgets the pain of childbirth.   After it is all said and done we are exhausted and worse for wear muttering we will never do it again…until next time.

Home, Home on the Driving Range

Yesterday afternoon it was 86 degrees and sunny and for some reason I decided my options were the following:

* Mow the backyard OR

* Go to the driving range at the Monona golf course.

I chose the driving range.

I should emphasize that I haven’t golfed regularly since college. It’s hard to devote the time and money necessary to play golf when you have kids. Also, none of my local friends play golf. And for me golf has mostly been something to do with your hands while you talk.

For some reason I got it into my head late last summer that going to the driving range on a weekly basis could be a fun thing to do. I only went once last summer and yesterday was the first time I’ve been this year.

I like the driving range at Monona because the tees are all-grass and not those dumb rubber tees. I wish the small buckets of balls cost less than $6.50 though. Twenty cents per ball seems steep, especially when you hit as many slices as I do. If all my shots were straight as an arrow I might be willing to pay as much as a quarter for each shot, just because it’s so satisfying to hit a shot like that.

My two youngest daughters insisted on accompanying me yesterday even though I assured them that watching me hit 30-35 shots would be as boring as could be.

I had hoped that by going on a hot weekday afternoon we’d have the driving range to ourselves but, alas, another person was there, which meant I had to shush the girls regularly.

I put them in charge of handing balls and tees to me, which they did happily, and I proceeded to unhappily hit lots and lots of slices. The vast majority of my shots were 125-175 yards (I only brought a 3 wood with me), so I was pleased about that. But it’s impossible to focus on the good things when you are also making errors (kinda like real life).

I kept making adjustments to my grip and stance and back swing and it seemed the less I paid attention to correcting the slice, the better my shots were.

The downside is that, during those shots where I hit it well because I wasn’t paying attention, I was unable to recreate it for the next shot because I couldn’t remember what I did.

See why I prefer that golf simply be something to do with your hands while you talk? When golf becomes all about golf then it heads too quickly into OCD territory. Before you know it you find yourself coming home from the driving range and doing google searches about how to fix slices when you could be, oh, having a life or something. This is one reason I haven’t ever pushed golf to my kids and encouraged tennis instead.

When I was down to my last 3 shots yesterday I was exhausted and could barely hit them. I secretly hoped I had made golfing as unappealing as possible to my daughters and that they would beg never to come back to the driving range.

But as we left  they both asked about taking lessons at the Monona golf course.

It’s probably just because they are still young enough to think that the things mom does are worth emulating.

Or maybe they were just taken with my talk of pink Flying Lady golf balls (my preferred golf ball).

But who knows. Maybe it means in a few years I’ll have two golf companions and golf will again assume its rightful place as something to do with your hands while you talk.

Memorial Mile

As much as I like the Memorial Day parade in Monona, especially seeing the war veterans…

The vintage cars…

My kids joyfully collecting candy…

And Tammy Baldwin sashaying down Monona Drive…if you didn’t know what the word “sashay” meant, all you’d have to do is look at how Tammy walks diagonally during the parade and you’d see sashaying in action:

Tammy Baldwin at Monona Memorial Day Parade 2010

As pleasant as all these things are, one can’t help but think about how there is still a war going on.

There are 5480 markers in Olbrich Park right now, through June 5, in honor of those who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

It’s too easy to overlook the statistic of 5486 fallen soldiers, but this sobering Memorial Mile helps us remember their sacrifice.

I’m writing this blog post while exercising today.

You see, my preferred form of exercise is interval training.

Interval training requires that you do short, intense exercise intervals with a rest interval after each exercise interval.

The hills of Monona are perfect for interval training.

There’s a hill right outside my house that I started using for this purpose last week. Fortunately it’s not Baskerville hill.

The thing about interval training though is that it’s kind of embarrassing to do it in public.

I had a membership at the east side YMCA a few years ago during the winter because I wanted to figure out which type of exercise I like the best.

As it turns out I discovered interval training. But it’s kind of embarrassing to sprint at full speed for a minute on a treadmill and then stop and rest for a couple of minutes before the next sprint. Everyone else around me on the machines would run or walk continuously for 20-30 minutes or more.

So I felt weird and wondered if everyone in the room thought was a slacker or desperately out of shape. In reality I doubt they even noticed me because they were all plugged into their ear buds or looking at the TV.

Since then I’ve been hesitate to exercise in this way in public but this time only the neighbors can see me. They might wonder why I keep biking up and down the hill but so far they haven’t said anything. It’s probably not the strangest thing they’ve seen me do in the 11 years I’ve lived here.

Monona has a lot of hills. I see a lot of people taking advantage of them by going for bike rides, walks, etc. I’m all for using natural exercise equipment like this.

As for me, I’ll keep pedaling up and down the same hill five times a day in dorky fashion. I’m no fitness guru because the bike slightly too small for me (it belongs to one of my daughters) and I wear penny loafers because I don’t want to take the time to put on tennis shoes. I’m writing this post during one of this morning’s rest intervals. Gotta love a form of exercise that actually requires rest and lets you blog while doing so.

When describing the perks of Monona to a friend you probably mention the pool, the library, the Dream Park, the ice cream shop, Aldo Leopold Nature Center, the lake, etc.

In this series of posts we’ll discuss our favorite little-known perks of Monona.

First I should mention the Secret Park. I can’t kick off a series like this without mentioning that.

Today I will talk about the free stashes of magazines in the Monona Library break room near the main entrance.

The library puts old back issues there but people from the community donate magazines as well. I’ve scored many current issues of interesting magazines. Several weeks ago I spent a rainy Saturday afternoon paging through a few magazines I picked up there and it was very pleasant.

If you subscribe to magazines, please consider dropping off your back issues there.

And thank you to those who have already shared back issues of your cool magazines with us.

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