Tom’s Posts Archives

Hours of free entertainment in Monona

Something has been keeping me up at night. Although it’s my own doing I blame the Monona Public Library. They are too good at lending out books.

A little more than a year ago I began to devour any fiction and non-fiction I could get my hands on. It began as a means of determining what is out there andgetting to know the publishing market.

Since then it has grown to a mania finding a tower of books at my bedside. Like most people I have a limited amount of time to devote to reading. So I have been staying up at night, often.

The Monona Public Library has been compliant with this new mania of mine. Through their Linkcat Site they have been glad to provide me with hour after hour of midnight entertainment–and a fair amount of sleep loss.

Through the library I have read countless titles this past year. None of them were purchased. Last August while vacationing on Cape Cod I found myself in a bookstore having to purchase a book. The owner of the store asked if I was a ‘critic for the Times’ because I had read so many titles. I told him no–just a patron of the Monona Public Library.

Recently I came upon an article about a family who have become book critics. Their story is exciting to read.

And here’s a fun article with ideas on how to create reading nooks in your home.

If you are looking for hours of free entertainment visit the Monona Public Library and Linkcat. Enjoy and happy National Library Week!

Nestled in the Children’s Department of the Monona Library is a Joke Area that turns one year old this month.  It is dedicated to a member of our community we lost two years ago this next summer.

He came into my life the spring I was nursing a bad back.  Even in pain I could not refrain the smile forced upon me by the bundle of energy packaged in a boy who had been on the planet little more than a decade named Dan.

My children became instant friends with Dan Robinson and his younger sister, Megan.

They ran across the lawn together while I was mowing it that spring and summer. In the library Dan, a fixture there it seemed, greeted us each day out of breath with a joke or a story.

During the autumn he and our younger two spread the piles of leaves I worked into a small mountain back on the lawn as if it was a picnic blanket.

Winter was sled time for Dan and his gang.  The seasons were an adventure to Dan, it seemed.  As I recall he had a strong interest in weather.

The summer Dan was ill I missed him.  Crossing the lawn of Maywood School on our way to the pool I asked my youngest two if they had seen Dan.  We did not realize he was ill.

The library was too quiet that summer.

On a hot day in late August, after Dan lost his battle, we gathered in a church to celebrate Dan.

As we left our house the sight of neighbors wearing formal clothing climbing into their cars on their way to celebrate Dan’s life, in the very center of a summer day, spoke volumes.

Rather than a traditional sit down meal his family said Dan would not have apporved of, or sat in his seat for, a gathering he would enjoy was offered–snacks…snacks…and more snacks.

The following April a group of us gathered for the dedication of the Joke Corner to the Children’s Section of the Monona Public Library.

For the first time in months things seemed right again.  As families sat and enjoyed a laugh over a joke the library was a little less quiet.

Lend a Helping Hand

One of our neighbors is in trouble. It has taken me a long while to realize that I have been doing everything but help her.

When our fourth child was born with a recessed jaw, causing her to need a trach and feeding tube, I began to live a winter of isolation confined to a small rental home with four small children–one having special needs.

A year later our fifth child was born with the same needs as his older sister.

Upon his birth a neighbor came to bring a meal. As she stood on our stoop she said she had been telling people at her church about our situation. They all agreed we had no business having a fifth child.

I thanked her for the meal and her offer of ‘help’ she had brought to my door.

A few years ago my brother lost his wife suddenly, at a young age. People did not phone or visit. They did not know what to do or say.

After these incidents I thought often of the help people could give.
The help I wanted and needed most was for someone to lend a helping hand.

How great it would be for someone to bring a meal without a lecture about our choices in life. What a miracle it would have been for someone to arrive with groceries or to do a load of laundry. Why didn’t anyone offer this kind of help when it was so simple?

Our neighbor has been suffering from shoulder pain. I have offered various stories about my own pain and suggestions as to what she might do. Why wasn’t I offering her any real help?

At last it finally came to me, like a familiar breeze off of Lake Monona on an early spring day after another Wisconsin winter has left me numb. Offer to do something simple like grocery shop, cook–or do a load of laundry.

She was grateful for the offer but did not take me up on it at this time.

As for me I was glad to finally offer the only thing that I should–genuine help.

Another cheater caught…

These days when so many people are being caught cheating it reminds me of my own indiscretions. I have been caught cheating–in the kitchen.

While preparing a large meal with a short amount of time available for it recently I used cupcakes bought at a store. I was reminded of times in the past when I have cheated in the kitchen.

The first time was several years ago when my parents came for a surprise visit. My mother told me over the phone that she was bringing a friend she wanted to impress. She had told her all about how well I was doing as a stay-at-home father. I had five young kids at home, two with special needs. In a panic, I put the kids into the three-seat stroller and rushed to the store. Upon arriving home, minutes before they arrived, I put a store bought apple pie into the oven to make the place smell inviting.

As they arrived my mother went on and on about how I prepared things from scratch. When the pie came out of the oven everyone was pleased—but the family friend pulled me aside to tell me about the time she was caught passing off a store bought pie as her own. I was busted.

Another time my parents were visiting while I had a house filled with sick kids. I took a shortcut making chicken pot pie that night for dinner, using a store bought pie crust. In my hurry I left the paper that lined the two crusts together in the pan. My parents ate it without a word, paper and all. When I realized what I had done the truth came out, despite their being ‘polite’ about it.

Here in Monona we have a local business that will help us cheat. KEN’S MEAT MARKET on Monona Drive not only offers the perfect meals but will put them into pots, pans and dishes customers bring in to pass off as their own for last minute gatherings or school obligations.

Cheating does not give the satisfaction that the real thing does. There is no substitute for that. But for those times when we find the line needs to blur a bit it’s nice to have a helping hand. A friend right here in town. From time to time, I have been grateful for a little help in this area along the way.

Two or three years ago an interesting group of people came into my life.

They have been a welcome reprieve to spend time with by a fire on a winter night after shoveling snow, bursting with energy in the spring, relaxing to be informed by on the sun porch summer evenings as the fireflies appear and entertaining in the aftermath of an afternoon of heavy raking in the autumn.  Sometimes they are just with me when I mop the floor or bake a cake in my kitchen.

This group includes the mayor of our city, Monona, the council members, various city employees and citizens who attend the city council meetings each month.

I am not in need of extra people in my life.  Living in a modest ranch home as part of a family of seven, several teenagers included, I was not looking to fill my time or people to keep me company.  But the addition of this group has filled a void I did not realize I had.

On voting days I stand in the booth more informed and educated than I ever have before.  My decisions are made with thought and understanding provoked by the voices at the meetings. All in exchange for giving a little time in the comfort of my own home to a group of people willing to give so much more each month.

When I first started viewng the city council meetings my teenagers told me nobody watches those meetings, Dad.  One of them suggested only old people did.  Another went on to say that I, their Dad, was an Old Guy.

Lately I have had company watching the city council and school board meetings.  Although it will be denied by any red blooded teenager.  Under the guise of doing homework at the kitchen table or relaxing a few minutes on the porch our teenagers have sat in on some of the televised meetings.  They express their own views and ideas in our conversations, but the thing that surprised me the most was overhearing them defend or explain a decision being made in Monona to visiting friends in our home when topics came up after school.

Two or three years ago I opened the door to an interesting, diverse, group of people here in Monona.  Glad that I did.

City council and School Board meetings may be viewed on CABLE TV Channel 98

News at Ten: Monona Schools…

Seeing the Monona School Board meetings on the local television news lately has left me thinking back upon my experience with the schools in our town.

I arrived in Monona in shock. The youngest two of our five children were born with Treacher Collins Syndrome. Michaela and Wyatt both had tracheotomies and were tube-fed.

The first months of their lives our only interest was keeping them alive. Michaela was a year and -a-half when we moved to Monona. Wyatt was six months old.

A band of nurses and therapists arrived with us. They descended upon our home each day the way a SWAT team would. When we arrived in shock Monona received us.

During that first summer the library took us in. Various parks kept us happy. The Monona Pool taught our three oldest to swim. In the fall one of the therapists urged me to put our daughters into school. They were three and four years old at the time.

When I said I was not ready for them to go to school because I missed doing all I wanted to, busy keeping Michaela and Wyatt alive, the school principal from Maywood came to our home with a group of teachers. We sat around my kitchen table and talked it out for an entire morning.

By the end of it I felt comfortable sending the girls to school at Maywood. It was one of the best decisions I ever made–for them.

All five of our kids have gone to school in Monona. When Wyatt and Michaela had surgery to remove trachs and feeding tubes the teachers at Maywood brought meals to our home for three weeks.

During their recovery the principal from Nichols drove our oldest son home in the middle of the day when he was sick because I was home with recovering kids–without a car. A few years later when our oldest son decided to try Edgewood for high school Monona Grove High School welcomed him when he realized it was not the right choice for him.

This school year two experiences I’ve had reminded me of the gift Monona has–the teachers.

In December Wyatt and I arrived to Winnequah School to find a smoke event going on. Because there was no fire danger we were brought into the gym to avoid the sub-zero temps outdoors. Teachers arrived unsure of what was happening, their daly routines out of wack. Instantly they began singing songs with the students–giving them a sense of normal in a situation that was not.

In the middle of the winter a family I know made a sudden decision to take their children out of the schools in Monona because they had moved to a new community. It was a difficult experiece for everyone made easier by teachers who said goodbye with loving gestures, their arms extended open for future visits. The family has returned to visit, speaking often of the good quality education Monona provided.

I arrived to Monona in shock. Monona took us in. The Monona schools welcomed, embraced, nourished, educated our five children–and prepared them for who they will be. This is what the schools in Monona are. Not a headline run across the local news at night.

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