Every Clinic Should Have a Singing Janitor

While leaving an appointment at the 1 S. Park clinic in Madison today I had the pleasure of listening to a janitor sing as I waited for the elevator.

He’s an older man so the music was from another era and vastly more pleasant than the usual hits piped through speakers in stores and clinics.

As we stepped into the elevator together he greeted another employee and chatted briefly with her.

After the doors closed he told me what a wonderful woman she is and how he wished he knew Spanish better so he could speak with her more fluently in Spanish. His smile and energy were infectious.

Then he started singing again as we left the elevator.

We had only about 15 seconds together so there was no time to ask him how long he’s worked there or get any other details about his life.

Yet those 15 seconds told me volumes about him.


So who else struggled with allergies this past week?

On Monday I was temporarily disabled due to the high maple pollen count.

A Facebook friend of mine described it perfectly in her status message:

It doesn’t help that the pollen makes me feel like someone slipped a roofie into my coffee. Cripes. Today is supposed to be a writing day but I feel so loopy I’m afraid all I might be able to produce is hallucinogenic intellectual waste material. Ah, Spring.

Monday was supposed to be a writing day for me too but I could barely read the project specs through my watery eyes.

So in my allergy haze I went to the UW Credit Union ATM machine to make a deposit. I had all I could do to punch the right buttons.

Of course I entered the wrong numbers for my deposit amount and had to walk forlornly into the credit union to talk to a clerk about it.

“I’m not usually such an idiot,” I tried to assure her (and myself) and blamed my allergies. She was very sympathetic and gave me her card and told me the problem would be resolved.

Then I went to the Olbrich Gardens gift shop to buy some local honey (from a rose garden in Monroe) so as to alleviate my allergy symptoms.

I had run out of honey about a month ago and foolishly didn’t stock up before allergy season hit me like a train carrying 10 tons of roofie.

My eyes were watering so hard I looked like a woman in the throes of grief. It was very humbling to have no control over my appearance while out in public.

The clerk kindly didn’t make small talk or ask questions as I drenched my sleeve with the water pouring out of my eyes.

Then I went on my way to start chugging honey. I’ve been fine since then.

A spoonful or two of  local honey per day helps inoculate you against seasonal allergies if you’re consistent with taking it.

All I can say is that the maple leaves better give forth splendid color this fall as a trade off for making us suffer in mid-April.

And if you have to go out in public in an allergic haze, you can’t beat Monona.


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!


A new addition to the Monona library turns one year old this month

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.


Favorite library book of the week: Garfield Minus Garfield

First I want to say: happy National Library Week!

Because this is National Library Week we will have a few library posts this week.

This post also begins what we hope will be a regular Front Porch Times feature of posts about our favorite library book of the week.

I discovered the Garfield Minus Garfield blog last week and enjoyed it so much that I placed the book on hold.

Now, I could talk about other books I checked out, such as Escape from Cubicle Nation or Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit.

But why do such a minds-on thing like that when there’s Garfield Minus Garfield to talk about?

The artist removes Garfield from existing Garfield strips “in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle.”

Here are some examples:

Granted, you have to have a certain dry (warped?) sense of humor to appreciate Garfield Minus Garfield. But when I brought the book home from the library some of us in the family laughed so hard while paging through it I thought I might have to call 911.

Click here for the linkcat page if you’d like to place a hold on it.


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.


Reflections from the UW Credit Union ATM machine

While making a deposit at the UW Credit Union ATM machine this morning, I glanced out the passenger side window at this view of Roselawn cemetery in Monona:

View of Roselawn Cemetery in Monona from the UWCU ATM machine

The proximity of the cemetery to these ATM machines is always a good reminder to me that you can’t take your money with you when you’re gone.

It’s only money so I shouldn’t worry so much about it.

And it makes me feel grateful that I’m still vertical and on the ATM side of the street.


Add some Tonka Trucks and the kids in Monona would be entertained for hours…

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a huge pile of rocks at the end of Monona Drive:

Big piles of rocks at the end of Monona Drive

The Monona Drive road construction is in full swing (I’m not sure the precise stage they are at with the road construction – Monona Doug would probably know).

Here’s a close-up view, because I’m sure you can’t get enough of the sight of these rocks:

Close-up view of the big pile of rocks at the end of Monona Drive

When my youngest daughter saw these rocks she said, “Awesome! I want to play in those rocks!”

She said that even though she isn’t normally the type to want to climb and play with Tonka Trucks and such. That’s how awe-inspiring this pile of rocks is.

Oh, speaking of Tonka trucks, there are two vintage all-metal Tonka trucks in the sandbox at the red park (Maywood Park)!

Metal Tonka trucks at Maywood Park in Monona

Metal Tonka trucks were ubiquitous when I was a kid but they switched over to plastic in the late 1980s. Bleah. So I appreciate that Maywood Park has these all-metal trucks. It’s yet another way in which Monona is awesome.


Yet another way in which Monona is special

Tonight I had an epiphany…

Order takeout burgers from Red Robin!

I’m embarrassed to say that in all these years I’ve forgotten about Red Robin’s takeout option until now.

That means you can get their delicious burgers without having to sit in their loud restaurant.

Now, may I introduce you to Red Robin’s lettuce wrap burger?

Red Robin is the only restaurant in the area that offers lettuce wraps for burgers. I have to follow a gluten-free diet for health reasons so their lettuce wrap burgers are a special treat.

Plus, this is a good option for you, too, if you ever want a burger but don’t want to feel as full afterwards. Or want extra room for their steak fries or onion ring tower.

I’ve asked other restaurants if they have lettuce wraps and they always look at me as if they can’t understand what I’m talking about.

Then I’ll ask, “Do you at least have some lettuce leaves I can use to make my own wrap?”

The answer is always something like, “Lettuce LEAVES? Hahaha! What, do you think we have a vegetable garden back there? Girlie, the best we can do is shredded lettuce.”

OK, they don’t use that exact wording. :-) But being told shredded lettuce is your best option makes it feel like that’s what they said.

Also, not every Red Robin offers the lettuce wrap option anymore. But Monona’s still does.

This is just one more way in which Monona is special.


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.


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