An ode to the Monona Taco Bell

During the past couple of years I’ve developed a habit of visiting the Taco Bell in Monona once or twice month, usually with a daughter or two in tow.

I do this not because the food is extraordinary… although their tostadas hit the spot… but because the service is exceptional.

Everyone who works there is friendly and not at all a stereotypical fast food employee. There’s one employee in particular who stands out.

If you dine regularly at this Taco Bell you probably know who I’m talking about. His name is Tellie.

Thanks to the service there I could say that when I visit this Taco Bell I’m not actually buying a tostada, Wild Cherry Pepsi, and two kid’s meals with crunchy tacos… I’m buying an experience.

This young man always recognizes us and smiles and makes eye contact during the transaction at the counter.

Then he usually insists on delivering our food to the table when it’s ready so that I don’t have to.

As we eat he checks in on us and delivers mints and wipes and offers to carry away our trays. He does the same at all the other tables. I’ve often heard the people at the other tables express awe at how remarkable this young man is.

He provides as much, if not more, service than a waiter at a restaurant even though he doesn’t earn any tips.

I once talked to the manager about this young man and he says that he is having a positive effect on all his co-workers as well.

Visiting this Taco Bell is always a nice reminder that life’s too short to phone it in… it’s possible to be remarkable no wonder what kind of job or circumstances you’re in.


Grace and Understanding on Election Day in Monona

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


My favorite juxtaposition of signs on Monona Drive

An exercise facility on one side… a tobacco store on the other. A fun juxtaposition.


Happy Easter!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday.


10 reasons why I love the Monona library

My youngest daughter and I have spent inordinate amounts of time at the Monona Library the past couple of months.

I’m surprised they haven’t started charging us rent.

Which brings me to the first reason I love the Monona library:

It makes cabin fever so much more bearable.

I work from home as a writer so I would take my netbook to the library, sit in my usual spot on the bench by the aquarium, and type away while my daughter would ask the children’s librarian for assistance in finding books.

Here are 9 other reasons why I love the Monona Library:

The library bears something of a resemblance to the Starship Enterprise. I like Star Trek (especially Star Trek Voyager), so this is a good thing.

This makes my walk to the bench by the aquarium feel like a walk to the Bridge (the command center) on the Enterprise. :-)

The library is my living room away from home. This is a lot cheaper than building an addition onto our house.

The library has a lot of computers. There have been a few times my computer was temporarily out of commission so the ability to go to the library and use the computer to check email and take care of business was a godsend. So this makes it an office away from home too.

Plus, because I use laptops at home all the time, I enjoy using the library’s desktop keyboards because they are noisier than a laptop keyboard and make me feel nostalgic.

My daughter loves using the children’s computers. It’s also great how the library even has laptops available for people to use in the library.

Library fines are cheaper than Netflix, cable, and ordering books from Amazon. It seems I can’t go a month without paying a fine of some sort but I always pay cheerfully because, thanks to my library card, I don’t have to buy many books.

Also, paying the fines is like paying them the rent I feel I owe them. :-)

There’s a fireplace! It’s always a treat to walk into the magazine room, grab several magazines, and sit in front of the fireplace and read them.

This room is enclosed and is always quiet.

The fireplace really is a nice perk. How many other libraries have that?

Picking up holds feels like Christmas. When a book on reserve is waiting for me on the hold shelf, it’s always a little thrill.

I also like that the hold shelf is now self-serve and no longer behind the counter.

There are TWO self checkout machines. Many libraries don’t have any self checkouts but Monona library has two.

The only thing that would make the self checkout machines more slick is if you could use your debit card at the machine to pay fines.

But paying fines gives me the opportunity to interact with the friendly library staff behind the counter, so that’s OK.

There’s a snack room. I don’t care so much about the snacks but my children do, especially when we walk home from the pool in the summer. It’s nice to be able to sit in air conditioning for a little while and eat a treat.

I’ve sometimes used the snack room as a place to talk on the phone in peace with a client. So it has served as a conference room away from home too.

There’s a teen area. Actually, it’s not so much the teen area itself that I think is cool… it’s that my teen daughter doesn’t get embarrassed when I sit in one of the chairs next to her in the teen section.

Now that I’ve written this I’m starting to wonder why I ever bother to visit other area libraries. 😀


The Secret Park

One of the best parts about living in Monona is that there is a park within a short walk of every home.

Who needs expensive backyard play equipment with all the wonderful parks?

During our 11 years in Monona we’ve never managed to call any of the parks by their proper name, except for Arrowhead Park.

In fact, I don’t even know the proper names of some of the parks.

We call the Dream Park the Castle Park.

Winnequah Park is the Red Park.

The park and beach across from Monona Bait & Ice Cream is the Ice Cream Park.

The park by the pool is the Blue Park.

And Stone Bridge Park on Winnequah Rd…this is the Secret Park.

The Secret Park is my favorite of all the Monona parks.

There is no play equipment at this park.

The view is wondrous (the capitol is in the background across the lake) and I love the vintage street lamp:

There’s also bench where I can sit and read while the girls play. Aaaahh.

And the rocks on the steps… My girls are obsessed with these rocks.

If those steps were filled with Legos, Playmobil dolls or even Polly Pocket dolls, I don’t think it would hold their fascination the way these rocks do:

Then there’s this stone pagoda that’s tucked into the hill. You can’t see it until you’re almost upon it.

At first my girls thought it was an ancient well. It turns out they weren’t too far off the mark. A plaque on a boulder at the entrance of the park says it was built in the late 1880s and helped provide fresh water for the farm that was there at that time. The children in the area used it to make lemonade. Pretty cool.


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.


Witnesses in Monona

Welcome!

On April 1 this blog will officially launch.

When I told a friend about this blog, she wrote me an email and said:

I think that one of the greatest gifts a writer can give her community is Witnessing. Witnessing the events, overt and covert, that create shifting and movement on the many levels of life. That’s what wakes us up.

We will post stories and photos of things we “witness” as we live our lives in Monona. It will be like a conversation on a front porch with good friends. So stay tuned!


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