Author: amy mondloch

I am many things. I am a farmer's daughter, an activist, an educator, a mentor, an organizer, a person who cares about this place that we inhabit, a member of a community-- of many communities actually, a resident of a small Midwestern town, a little sister, an aunt, a friend, someone who likes to play with art supplies and spend time outdoors, a believer that people can create positive change, and a writer.

Trying To Be a Writer

I think I’m a writer. I really do. That’s why I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Well, I obviously write a blog too that’s really not for kids. But, I think I’m a children’s book writer or that at least I could be.

It’s so challenging to figure out how to be a writer of children’s literature. I have this vague understanding that I need to set some goals for myself, but no grounding from which to base those goals. In most of my work I’ve been able to find a clear goal. The group I’ve worked for has wanted to stop strip-mining, cut the use of pesticides, or teach people to organize in their own communities. In this situation I find myself looking at it and saying, “Okay, I know I want to write children’s literature, but what is that? Who’s my audience? What would success be?” It seems so broad and I’m not sure where I land in the giant world that includes everyone from Dr. Seuss to J.K. Rowling.

Yes, I do recognize that it’s a bit much to consider my own work to even be in the same universe as either of them as I’ve never published a book. I must admit that I do find something wishful to dream about in the story of Rowling once struggling to make ends meet and then publishing Harry Potter to become a billionaire.

There must be somewhere to start here, just a few words each day or even each week, an exercise of the mind. It will appear and grow I am sure. For now it remains on paper, but keep your eyes open. Maybe it will show up in cyberspace sometime soon.

We’ll See What Happens With the Book

Okay, I promised myself that I’d get back to writing my blog more consistently again so here I am hoping to return to a consistent pattern of writing. It’s good to be writing and to be thinking about writing, thinking about how it happens that the words wind up on the page and the story is told. My blog is mostly a space to let my brain spill out and simply see what happens to pour out onto the page, but it is also a tool to help me dig a bit deeper for other writing projects.

One of my goals for the this year is to draft a children’s book. I’d love to say “write a children’s book” but that seems to me to suggest that I’ll have sold the idea to a publisher in the next eight months as well and that seems a bit more audacious than I feel is warranted. I do have a couple of ideas in the starting phases. Two first drafts have gone to my writing group and come back with lots of comments, none of which was “this is brilliant!” So, it seems second drafts are the next step.

Still, poking at the corners of my mind are Uncle Walter, Tory McKannikan, and Jackie Soup. They’ve not appeared in the stories that I’ve written so far, but it seems that they warrant a series of their own, a set of adventures. Uncle Walter is loosely based, I think, on two old friends of mine. He’s a mischievous, but wise fun loving fellow. Tory McKannikan was my alter-ego when I was a little girl. She was a super hero who could do all the things I couldn’t. She was always saving the world. Jackie Soup was her best friend and husband. Yes, I married (or at least my alter-ego did) when I was probably about five years old. Jackie was a giant. He was also kindness personified.

Wow, there’s a realization I hadn’t expected. I had a dream last night. I’ve had a lot of dreams lately. It seems to be a healing process brought on by some herbal medicine I was prescribed some months ago. In last night’s dream I found myself stuck on a tall, tall pillar of sand in the middle of a huge pit that was at least a mile deep. I called out for help. The man who came and lifted me off the pillar of sand, cradling me to his shoulder as I cried asked me where I’d been and why I hadn’t called to him in so long. It was strange. I was both adult sized and yet I was tiny. He was small and yet he was a giant tall enough to see over the mile deep pit. I think my childhood imaginary love may have found me in my dream. He still loved me and cared for me, helped me, and made sure I was safe. Dreams are amazing things. I can only hope that my Tory McKannikan is finding her way out to take on new adventures and soar to new heights. We’ll see what happens with the book

Save A Walleye, An Ongoing Lie

It was in 1974 that two brothers went fishing. Mike and Fred Tribble, two Anishanabe men from the La Court Oreille reservation in Wisconsin had called the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to inform them of the fishing trip and then went out on Chief Lake, crossed the imaginary reservation line, cut a hole in the ice, and speared a fish off the reservation.

This small action would lead to more than decade in the courts resulting in the historic Voigt decision which acknowledged the Chippewa’s (name used for Anishanabe in legal records) right to 1) harvest fish, game, and plants off-reservation on public lands (and on private lands if proven necessary to provide a modest living); 2) use both traditional and modern methods in the hunting and gathering; and 3) barter or sell the harvest.

The decision took the hood off a long simmering Klan-like hatred in the Northwoods. The boat landings were filled with protesters like those in the photo above. Still, despite threats to their lives the Anishanabe stood strong and fished. Over four years, a Witness for Nonviolence made of allies from around the state grew to stand a peaceful guard along the landings.

Over time, the protestors drew their Klan hood back over their being and things quieted. Many who weren’t Anishanabe started to believe that the struggle was over, that it had become safe again. That wasn’t the reality. Whether the protests are small and quiet, not magnified by the media or loud and in the light of the cameras, they are there and they are threatening.

Just yesterday I learned of a family who were out spearfishing and attacked by white men. The men threw things and harassed the family with racial slurs and threats and one of the white men pulled down his pants exposing himself to the children who were fishing with their father and other family. This is nothing new. Some fishers can tell stories of being shot at every year. Yet they continue because they are Anishanabe and they must be who they are.

When will we learn? The Anishanabe have hunted, fished, and gathered here since the great spirit guided them to this place. Their harvest is miniscule in comparison to that of those who sports fish and the tribes work hard to care for the environment and replenish the fishing stock. This isn’t an issue about fish. This is Wisconsin’s version of the Klan and it is simply wrong and needs to stop.

Want to really save a walleye? Support Native spear fishers and keep the racist freaks off the water.

Better than Pizza Ranch Day

I didn’t go to Pizza Ranch today. Some days that’s a victory. Today was one of those days. There wasn’t anything wrong with today. It was actually a fine day, beautiful weather, laid back schedule with enough to keep me busy but not more than that. Still, this morning I found myself craving some bad for me food.

A few years ago, with the help of an old high school friend who now practices wholistic medicine, I made some major dietary changes and lost about fifty pounds. It was a strict diet that removed nine foods that appeared to be allergens for me. After a few years my gut had the time to heal and I was able to reincorporate some of the foods successfully. A few I still can’t eat without side effects. Unfortunately, these are the ones that are most addictive for me as it typically true for anyone dealing with addictive behavior. We are drawn to the things that are most harmful to us for that moment of good feeling. For me, from that list of nine allergens, I still can’t eat cane sugar or white potatoes without feeling it in my body. It comes in stomach aches, exhaustion or “sugar coma”, bloating, and just fatigue and feeling negative. It’s something that I know and something that I feel almost immediately after eating too much sugary stuff or too many fries or other potato products. Yet, sometimes the craving gets me.

The other issue that I have often questioned though it’s never been diagnosed as an allergy is dairy. There is a quite a bit of literature out there about how humans aren’t meant to eat dairy and how our body’s aren’t made to process it. I pretty much gave up drinking milk several years ago. I don’t really remember when. That wasn’t a big issue for me. Milk was good when I was growing up and we got it straight out of the bulk tank, the kind of milk that you shake to distribute the cream. That milk was good. I’m quite indifferent to pasteurized milk from the store, so I’ve never missed it. The challenge for me is cheese. Cheddar, mozzarella, pepperjack, string cheese, cheese curds, pamessan, cream cheese, the list goes on. For many years it wasn’t unusual for me to have cheese three or more times a day. In recent years I’ve cut that a bit, but I’m still a cheese junkie. I can admit it.

Reading a great deal about epilepsy in my own search to control my own seizures I keep coming across articles suggesting the possible connection between dairy intolerance and epileptic seizures. After seeing these stories for years, I’m biting the bullet and seeing if cutting my dairy consumption further might control my seizures. So, going the stove today to cook up a chicken breast and some veggies and making myself a couple of chicken wraps instead of going to Pizza Ranch was a victory that I can be proud of. I probably won’t cut out all dairy. I am, for now, not buying any cheese made with cow’s milk for consumption at home. I may have it as a treat when I go out. I will still use butter. I’m giving up yogurt made with cow’s milk too. Ice cream is already something that is best for me to avoid because of the high sugar content.

Each day, each action is valuable. I hope that others out there who read this piece might join me in doing whatever piece is right for you, making that one change in your diet that will make you healthier. We are all on a journey. Five or six years ago I was drinking pop every day and eating fast food at least five or six times a week and not eating all that much better when I cooked at home. Now, I cook almost all my meals at home with fresh organic fruits and vegetables. I use very few processed foods and drink mostly water. I feel so much better, happier, healthier. I sometimes wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t made those changes? My epilepsy was diagnosed about eight years ago now. It’s coming under control. If I hadn’t changed my diet, would I have been able to keep my seizures down? Would they have kept getting worse? I’ll never know the answer to that, but I am glad to have done what I’ve done and look forward to continuing to get healthier.

Women and the Fear of Aging

I was listening to a podcast by Michelle Obama earlier today. She was discussing women’s health and talked a bit about our fear of aging and our general dislike of our own bodies. It’s a common belief, but I’m not sure I understand anymore. Sure, I have disagreements with my body. I’m not happy that I have seizures. I would like that to change. But, at 49 years old, I have to admit that I look in the mirror and I feel pretty good about what I see.

I don’t see the image that society would call a a model or a superstar. What I see though is a story and that story is far more valuable than any commercial image that we’re sold.

I see my scars. I see where my cat jumped on my face when I was asleep some years ago, missing my eye by only an inch or so. I see where my friend’s dog took took a chunk out of my arm leaving a mark that looks strangely like a smiley face. I see that reminder on my finger of when I was maybe six or seven and I wanted to see if I was strong enough to break a glass with my bare hand, I was. I see the reminder of swimming with friends in college and jumping off the cliff and the memory of when my puppy in his over energetic play landed on my ankle causing it to break, and the lines of surgeries most notably my my VNS implant that keeps me safe from seizures. My scars are like a physical storybook of myself.

I look at my hair. It’s wild. It’s always been wild ever since it started growing when I was two years old. But now, it’s something special. It’s turned almost entirely white. It’s been turning this way for years. I never really got into coloring it. I dyed it at home a couple times, but just for fun. The white means a lot to me. My father’s hair was silver or white since black and white pictures. I don’t know if anyone remembers or knows what color hair grandma had before hers turned white. They both had the most beautiful white hair. I look in the mirror and I see them. How can I not embrace the gray that reminds me of these beautiful people who are now just memories?

I look at my body. There’s extra here and there. My muscles aren’t as toned as they used to be. But, I take good care of myself. I eat healthfully. I walk and do yoga and maybe some other workouts. Still, it’s the body of someone who’s lived some years. Yet, I think of my mom. At my age she’d lost one of her breasts to cancer, was bald, and dealing daily with the impacts of chemotherapy. I cannot feel anything less than extremely grateful for my body and all its flab.

I look at my face. I see that turkey chin that never used to be there when I was twenty and I see all my aunts and uncles and who I am becoming. I am reminded how all of these supposed imperfections tell me who I am and how proud I am to be this person. I have been gifted this life in this family and my body tells me each day who I am.

Looking Back at the Grassroots Leadership College

From 2003 to 2012 I ran a small nonprofit in Madison, Wisconsin called the Grassroots Leadership College. Our work was based in the idea that everyone is a learner, everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a leader. Starting with that idea in mind we created a coach/leader/ project based leadership education program for adults.

Over the nine years that the GLC operated we provided training to more than 500 people through our core program, workshops, and our Spanish language series. Those program participants led more than 120 different community organizing projects in the Madison area. Many of those efforts continue today.

The GLC was an amazing experience, not only for the projects that our participants led, but because of who our participants were and the community that they created by coming together to learn from each other. Madison has historically been a very liberal community. However, like many liberal towns, it has always been very much divided by race and class as well as other differences. Through very intentional work the Grassroots Leadership College was able to break down those barriers, even if only just for a moment, and bring people together. Our class groups would typically include homeless individuals, former felons, retirees, university faculty and staff, students, and professionals. The groups would often have an age range of thirty or more years. We simply created a space in which all voices were heard and honored for the knowledge and experience that they carried.

One of the people who had a great impact on me was a woman in our first class group. I’d only just begun as the director a few weeks before receiving her application. In that application she acknowledge that she had schizophrenia. I wasn’t sure of what to do, but our vision statement “everyone a learner, everyone a teacher, everyone a leader” played through my mind. Did we really mean everyone? I took the issue to my executive committee and we agreed that I would meet with her to learn more and determine whether she’d be a good fit for the program. Mona and I met at the Yahara House, a clubhouse for individuals seeking support with mental health issues. We discussed the program and her health. She explained to me her illness and told me about the others in the room that I couldn’t see, but she could. It was a wonderful conversation. She was a gifted teacher. My decision was easy and she joined the program, helping break down the fear of mental illnesses for many of our participants that semester.

After nine years of successful teaching coupled with financial struggles, it became clear that the Grassroots Leadership College wasn’t economically sustainable regardless of the good we did or the love we had for the program and we had to close the doors.

Now, it’s almost nine years later and so much has changed politically, socially, and economically both locally and on the grander scale. Still, I see good energy out there to do great things and some really good organizing going on. I think about the GLC and believe that what we did almost a decade ago could serve those doing the good work today. I don’t think that it’s up to us who led it then to rebuild it, but I wonder about how we might share the stories? What tools might be of value? How can we or should we hand on what we learned? We are in a different time with new leaders rising from the grassroots, but many of the needs remain the same and it seems there is little need to start over completely when there are models to build from. Still, one must also honor the new leaders and allow them their space to grow. It’s a delicate balance and one that I am trying to figure out.

Ikigai

There is a Japanese concept known as Ikigai or “reason for being” that I was recently introduced to by a dear friend who is providing me guidance as I think through where I might go in my next adventure. It is a bringing together of that which you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid to do.

Find your Ikigai.

I’ve been delving into this idea, seeking my Ikigai for some weeks now. I remain confused by exactly what is the difference between what the world needs and what I might be paid for. I don’t know if this is a result of having spent too many years in low wage sectors of the work force or being overly influenced by the realities of a capitalist society. But, in either case, or maybe some combination of both, I tend to believe that anything the world needs is something that one might be paid for. I suppose the question then becomes if one could be paid enough to live on, but as I said, I’ve worked a long time in low wage sectors of the workforce. My pay expectations have risen a great deal since I first began, but monetary riches aren’t really on my radar at all. These days I believe in a living wage, good benefits, and a welcoming work place. When I first began all I sought was a welcoming work place, the other two were just added plusses.

Writing my lists of loves and things that I’m good at brought back many memories. So many were filled with songs and stories, art and laughter. They were memories of caring times, whether those caring times showed themselves in miles of hiking for peace or to protect the water or raise funds for raptor rehabilitation or rocking babies or teaching adults or standing on the strike line. They were creative times filled with ideas showing themselves in a myriad of different ways. Some were sung out. Some acted. Others written in poetry or prose or simply spoken in stories.

This is what I have learned or maybe was just reminded of. I thrive on the creative, both that of others and my own. It simply feeds me. I value the opportunity to care, but care alone can drain me. The two together help me maintain a balance. As I seek my path forward I seek the creative and the caring.

I wish you all the best as you move forward and hope that we might all find our Ikigai

Restart

I wonder what it is about January that makes it such a challenge? There seems to be something maybe in the air or in my being or maybe just in the cold that makes my body reject the entire month. This year it seems the entire country is having to scrape its way out of 2020 to make an attempt to start again and we’ve not quite made it there yet.

I often look back at my memories on Facebook and I’ve learned from this practice that somewhere right around Christmas or shortly after is often time for a seizure. January is time for a nice head cold that’s bad enough to put me in bed for a few days. It’s also a time for dreams and nightmares. A few years ago I also threw in the excitement of appendicitis. Last year I spent New Year’s at the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at the Mayo Clinic hoping for seizures and asking for cold medicine.

This year I’m laying in bed waiting for my COVID test results and hoping it’s just another head cold and pondering the meanings of my most recent nightmares. I don’t normally have a lot of bad dreams, but I’ve had three in the past week. I suspect it’s both the powers of January and the changes in my life once again.

I’d thought I’d found the perfect job a few months back, but it became clear pretty quickly that the organization wasn’t ready for staff yet and that there were some people in leadership holding views that I believe to be quite harmful especially when mentoring children. I love mentoring, but not at the cost of any child. So, I had to leave. I was extremely lucky to land on my feet. Some friends of mine run The Memory Project and offered me a role which allowed me to leave the group that I was with.

So, after two intense dreams that might be called nightmares, the first of which I found myself I found myself at a circus with a tiger and a panther sniffing at my feet as I sat on a bench unable to move and the second of which I found myself again unable to move in my bed with an intruder coming in and about to rape me, I made the decision to quit my last job and start my new one.

The circus dream was an interesting one. The ringmaster was there and he told me that I didn’t have to fear the tiger and the panther. He told me that they were mine, wouldn’t hurt me, and that I had the power to move if I chose. It was interesting doing a bit of research later to find that the panther and tiger tend to be symbols of feminine power, creativity, strength, and positive change.

The rape dream was another recognition of my own choices and power. As the perpetrator attempted to attack me, my inner being assured me that this wasn’t real, told me that I had the power to move. It took great strength, as if I were breaking handcuffs holding my wrists, but I moved my arms and I awoke and was safe again.

Sometimes dreams tell us a lot. I decided I had the strength to take the leap into a new world. For the next six months or so, I’ll be sorting student art work, seeking out some freelance writing, working on a book, and deciding what I want to do next as my role with the Memory Project is just short term.

Still, my dreams aren’t gone. There’s still something figuring itself out. In last night’s dream, an intruder had again broken into the house. This time a friend told me she found my dog Buddy locked in the bathroom with a loaded handgun and an open window. She was worried that the intruder was still on the premises. The house filled with neighbors, most of whom I didn’t know as I tried to call the police. Buddy wasn’t hurt. I lost track of him for a few moments and was worried he might be, but then I saw him playing happily in the growing crowd.

I woke puzzled, but realized that in my current rental it would be impossible to lock poor Buddy in the bathroom with a loaded handgun since one of my bathroom doors is actually a shower curtain. Ah, the wonders of rental living. But, it does help me recognize the impossibility of the dream and go with Buddy’s joyous innocence approach instead.

With that, I will lay here and rest a bit more, build up my energy and get ready to leap into the next new adventure with faith that the tiger and panther and Buddy will all celebrate with me this new chapter in life with joy, fun, love, creativity, and all else it offers. Take good care and stay well my friends!

Starting the New Year

For the last few years I’ve posted my New Year’s resolutions here. This year I am a bit late, but that’s okay. 2021 seems to be getting a slow start separating itself from 2020, I can do the same. We humans have a strange time to start a new year these days anyway. It’s not the solstice or the equinox. It’s not the beginning of a new season. It’s just a day it seems to me. Anyway, moving into the goals for the upcoming. First, we start with my resolutions from last year.

  1. Getting my seizures to stop
  2. Getting to my goal weight
  3. Reading at least 12 books
  4. Cutting my screen time

Well, I got my VNS and my seizures have been been roughly cut in half and those I have seem to be less intense. So, I’d say I did pretty good with that one. On getting to my goal weight, honestly, I haven’t really worked on it. I feel pretty good about not gaining any weight and actually losing a couple of pounds during COVID. I think it’s a goal that I can let go of. I think I’m on book 15 or 16 now. A few of those were ones I read before, but they were good enough to read again. So, success on that goal. I can’t say the number of hours by which I’ve cut my screen time, but I feel certain that I have cut it. I took Facebook off my phone. I go out hiking and to dog parks more often. I’ve made a regular practice of daily guitar and piano practice, time for household tasks, and reading time all of which take me away from the screen. I’m guessing that I’m probably dropping 1-3 hours a day. I’d say I did pretty well in 2020 toward reaching my goals.

I think 2021 will be for continuing some these goals and adding in a few new ones.

  1. Becoming seizure free
  2. Reading at least 12 books
  3. Continuing to keep my screen time in check
  4. Writing a children’s book
  5. Finding my Ikigai (Japanese concept meaning reason for being)
  6. Getting back to being intentional about exercise 3-5 times a week

This should keep me going and keep me flowing. Wishing you all well in this year to come. Take good care.