Good for her

Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemesia Gentileschi.

In 2013, the painting Judith Slays Holofernes by 17th century Italian artist Artemesia Gentileschi made its way to the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s a painting of woman cutting off her rapist’s head. It’s bloody, grim and grotesque. As such, it’s unsettling and awesome to behold.

Because the woman is still in the process of slicing off the man’s head, the painting feels very alive, very active. Merely thinking about it some ten years later after seeing it in person, I think of the decapitation as somehow still happening — eternal even! Hell for the rapist because ouch. Heaven for the woman because justice. And heaven for her helper because yay team. This is the part where I mention I’m not an art critic.

Anyway, the painting was only “visiting” Chicago. (It’s currently residing at Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy.) Realizing that we may never get the chance to see it again, Jesse and I took our kids (then ages 3, 4, 6 and 8) to see it and met a family friend at the museum, too. Good family fun.

Just three pals having a good laugh after visiting “Judith.” That’s me, Ishanee “Good for her” DeVas in the middle and Jesse. (Photo by Jocelyn, age 8.)

When we were looking at the painting, I asked my friend something along the lines of, “What do you think?” and she said, “Good for her.”

My God, I love hearing women say that about other women. It just…ahhhhhh. I don’t condone violence, but there’s something about hearing someone say, “Good for her” that makes me happy.

I’ve had several “good for her” moments in my life but today I had a “good for him” moment.

A choreographer apparently smeared dog feces on a critic after receiving a negative review. I instantly thought, “Good for _____” as I clicked on the bait link to find out if the choreographer was male, female or non-binary. I saw that the choreographer was male and finished my thought. “–him.”

Yes. Good for him.

Hey, we all thin-slice. We have instincts and make split-second decisions. But by and large, my response time to violence of any kind starts with a sigh followed by, “Hold on; we don’t know the whole story.”

But the second I heard that someone smeared shit in a critic’s face, my heart filled with cheer, pride and respect.

“Good for him!” I repeated, this time with an exclamation point.

You know what? I haven’t read the full story. I haven’t even tried to get the other side. I haven’t even looked to see if the choreographer himself might possibly need some kind of counseling or anger management. Nope. The reason?

I can’t stand critics.

The reason for the reason? Oh, many, but the nutshell version is I think professional critics are part of the problem, not the solution.

Have you seen the movie An Officer and a Gentleman? In the climax, Richard Gere goes after Debra Winger in what is arguably the most romantic movie ending of all time. As he scoops Winger up and kisses her, Winger’s unlikeable friend claps for her and says, “Way to go, Paula. Way to go!”

While the the bleach-blonde “Lynette” character is far from wholesome, her cheering is sincere. As such, I recognize it is not wholesome of me to cheer for a shit smearer, but it’s sincere and coming from a place of respect.

Thanks for reading.


P.S. Fern (now 14) and Angelo (13) are sitting at the same table as me, only they are playing chess, not blogging. I just showed them a picture of the painting and asked them if they remembered seeing it. Fern immediately recognized it and Angelo said he didn’t recognize it but had seen many paintings like that. He then called the painting “disturbing.”


I would not have noticed this if I didn’t have to walk Barbara.

Today’s prompt is Where is the best place to watch the sunset near you?

I love this question because I love winter light. It’s one of the “things” that gets me through January. Though I have seen spectacular sunsets splashed across Chicago’s skyline, the best place to watch one is right here at home in the dead of winter when I’m doing regular old mom things like walking my dog or folding laundry in my bedroom.

I love how the sun sets on the little garages in my neighborhood. I would not have noticed if I didn’t have to fold laundry.

This is the last day of Bloganuary which is another thing that gets me through January. This is my second year and I’m so grateful for this challenge! I noticed I started to “crave” Bloganuary in the summer and by the time November rolled around, I was eager for it to begin. I’ve enjoyed reading the work of the other bloggers on the community page, especially the writing of my husband Jesse who participated for the first time.

Last year I set a goal of writing a blog for 100 days. I met and exceeded that goal. This year, I’m stopping today. I’m not going to stop writing; I’m going to stop writing with a prompt or a technical goal. In other words, I’ll still blog, but not necessarily every day and I won’t share it on Facebook unless it’s urgent. My goal is to see how I write when I don’t have to write.

If you want to still read my blog, you can subscribe to it and the new entries will simply show up in your email inbox.

On that, I leave you with a haiku the day before National Haiku Month begins.

january's sun has set 
time to write 
in new light

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading!


The Book Thief?

Today’s prompt is What would you title the chapters of your autobiography?

Short answer: I wouldn’t write an autobiography.

Long answer:

In high school, there was a copy of Living it Up Or, They Still Love Me in Altoona by George Burns in our house. The book was published in 1976 when George Burns was 80.

One day I saw the hardcover book on the marble table in the living room. Another day I saw it on the dining room table. Another day I saw it on the radiator in the kitchen. Another day I saw it on the radiator by the front door. I’m not sure who was moving the book, but one day I grabbed it, read it and loved it. In fact, I loved it so much I brought it to college with me. (That’s my way of saying I stole the book.) After graduation, I brought “my” beloved book with me to Minneapolis where I carted it around for another 16 years to six different apartments.

A little about George Burns, in case you are young.

Besides being an author, George Burns was a famous comedian and actor with a Vaudeville background. He was one of those guys who seemed old even when he was young but he was so funny and charismatic that he appealed to all ages. Burns smoked cigars, had an invitingly scratchy voice and seemed to be perpetually squinting his eyes. At 5-foot-7, he was shorter than most men but had a personality that was so charismatic and commanding that he was cast as actual God in the 1977 film Oh, God!

Another important tidbit about Burns is that he worked well and equitably with his wife, Gracie Allen from the 1920s-1960s in radio, film and television.

A little about the 1920s-60s, in case you are young: Most women didn’t work back then, especially on the radio or on camera or with their spouse.

Moving on, Burns’ book is filled with stories and anecdotes about his professional and personal experiences including a whole chapter about his friend the comedy legend Jack Benny. Though it’s been decades since I read the book, Burns wrote that Benny was perpetually looking for a good cup of coffee. After Benny died, Burns said something about how he hoped his friend finally found a good cup of coffee in heaven. I’m paraphrasing. I can’t remember it verbatim but I will tell you the chapter left such an indelible impression on me that I think of Jack Benny and George Burns every single time I drink coffee. Every time! That’s good writing!

Only $36 USD! What a bargain!

Since reading Living it Up, or They Still Love Me in Altoona, I have read dozens of celebrity and political autobiographies and memoirs by people I respect (Barack Obama) and people I loathe (Ivanka Trump), and I’ve never been fulfilled by any of them! I first fell in political love with Barack Obama because he’s such a good writer but I still prefer the writing of George Burns over my favorite president. And if you must know, I’m straight up pissed at myself for reading Ivanka’s obnoxious Women Who Work – Rewriting the Rules of Success. But I cannot resist reading “guilty pleasures.” In other words, you can count on me to read Spare by Prince Harry.

But Burns’ book wasn’t (or isn’t) a guilty pleasure. It has old school class, wit and wisdom. It’s warm and unique. I’ll continue to read autobiographies and memoirs but I’ll never write one.

Thanks for reading.

Enjoying my coffee,



From last night’s Twilight Hike. This was taken during “Evening Civil Twilight.” Pretty!

Today’s prompt is What is something you learned recently?

I started a new contract a month ago so let’s start there.

It’s through AmeriCorps and I am the coordinator for 815 Outside. That means for the next 1200 hours, you can find me leading free hikes in our local forest preserves and green spaces. My goal — our goal — is to get as many people outside as possible.

I work out of Severson Dells Nature Center. From there, I organize the hikes, write a weekly blog, and take care of the social media and press releases. Sometimes I have work to do outside the office in the form of board meetings, breakfast soirees or film festivals.

Most of that is stuff I already knew how to do. However, I didn’t know how to do it for AmeriCorps and that’s where today’s “What is something you learned recently?” prompt comes in.

Here is a list of the “little” things I’ve learned recently:

  • How to make a reel on Instagram
  • What a “dolomite prairie” is
  • The different degrees of twilight
  • What the backcountry is
  • What “mushroom coffee” tastes like (hint: ass)
  • How to drive on rural roads during a snowstorm
  • That I need to invest in Carhartts or some other insulated bibs
Hiking through the woods and into the twilight.

I’m still learning what it means to be an AmeriCorps member. I’m still learning what it takes to engage with the community. I’m still learning how to make the hikes as inclusive as possible. I’m still learning who the community is. I’m still learning who the public is!

Public spaces and public events are — for the most part — safe, free places for people to exist, grow, change and learn. I wish more people would go into them. Maybe I’ll learn how to effectively encourage that before my 1200 hours are up.

Thanks for reading. Sorry it’s so work-related and “link heavy.” Annoying. It’s my day off and it always takes me a few hours (at least) to transition out of my public work mode to my dark, private (and whole) self. I guess you could call this time my twilight.

Going dark in five-four-three-two,


Two gals hard at work

My mom. I don’t have a pic of Mom and Rani together but this kind of captures the collaborative moment.

Today’s prompt is Describe your perfect birthday cake.

When I was five or six years old, I remember catching a glimpse of my mom and sister Rani baking me a strawberry shortcake for my birthday. I was watching them from the kitchen door and could only see their backs. The two gals were hard at work at the counter with the cake in between them. It was the first time I had ever seen people — let alone females — let alone a mother and daughter — legitimately collaborating. It stunned me to see them behaving as equals in the kitchen. I was fascinated and wanted to keep watching but when they noticed I was observing them they instructed me to shoo.

“You’re not supposed to see this yet.”

Well, I saw it. I saw two people working together. I know I only saw a few seconds but I’m telling you their collaboration was harmonious.

Most mother/daughter and father/son moments that I observe or participate in are displays of a parent instructing a kid who wants to learn something. They’re good enough moments, but not necessarily collaborative. With that said, I have a new parenting goal.

Later, the cake was revealed to me at the dining room table in its white and red glory. It was magnificent but of course the moment of seeing two artists hard at work is what I carry with me.

Thanks for reading. Are you a leader, a self-leader, a team player or a collaborator?

Striving for collaboration,


A good-hearted woman

Today’s prompt is What are the pros and cons of procrastination?

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs I’m pretty lazy. I can sleep anywhere, anytime. It takes a no less than a gallon of coffee to get me going every morning. But I’m not a procrastinator. I don’t think there is anything “pro” about it. Whether it’s writing, chores or paying bills, I’m a “do a little bit every day” kind of person.

I wasn’t always this way.

When I was in my early twenties, I procrastinated. Though I was driven to do theatre, the pay was lousy and my bills piled up.

I applied for a loan from a place called “The Associated.” It was located in one of the suburbs. I had a beater car and drove there on fumes convinced I was wasting my time.

I knew they wouldn’t give me a loan because I had seen movies where a good-hearted woman goes into a building of architectural renown. She enters the stately building with her head held high. She is wearing a tasteful dress, hosiery and pumps. Lipstick.

A secretary escorts her into a private office that has a shade on the window. The good-hearted woman sits down and explains her financial situation to a pragmatic meanie who is sitting behind his desk.

“My hands are tied,” he says. “There’s nothing I can do.”

He aggressively stamps DENIED onto the paperwork. She says she understands, thanks him for his time and walks out with her head held high and her heart filled with goodness.

It wasn’t quite like that for me.

When I drove to Eagan, Minnesota, I chain-smoked half a pack of Virginia Slims all the way up to the door of the sleazy strip mall storefront. I flicked the butt of my ciggy into the parking lot (yes, I littered) and walked through the door. I smelled of cigarettes and flop sweat. Some kind of beep was triggered upon opening the door. A modern “doorbell” had replaced any need for a secretary. I quickly scanned the room. There were a few cubicles and desks. A man stood up and said, “You must be Constance.”

He walked over to me and passively shook my hand.

“Constance, I’m Aaron.”

He escorted me to his cubicle with the paperwork already prepared. He congratulated me and said I was approved. He explained to me I’d have a couple months of a “grace period” before I had to start paying the loan back. He showed me where to sign.

It had a ridiculously high interest rate — I think it was more than 20% — but I signed it with a sense of relief.

Of course I quickly fell behind. When I couldn’t pay my monthly installments on time he started calling me every day. If I saw “Associated” on the caller ID I didn’t answer. Too chicken.

“Call me back, Constance,” Aaron would say. “Today.”

It was the most off-putting male attention I have ever received but one day I finally answered.

“Hello?” I answered the phone with the grand innocence of a good-hearted woman.

“I see you’re having trouble, Constance,” he said. “Would you like another loan?”

I was stunned by his generosity!

An idiot, I let the feeling of relief wash over me and I took out another loan.

Within a month, my bills started piling up again. This was procrastination at its finest. It took me several years to climb out of that debt and here’s the beauty of it: I had nothing to show for it! I was doing mediocre theatre, wasn’t taking care of myself and didn’t have a clue about how to plan for “the future.”

Eventually, my beater car died. I couldn’t afford another car so I started riding my bike everywhere and the quality of my life started to improve. I stopped smoking, became super fit and found my focus. It took a few more years, but I pedaled my way out of debt, started doing better theatre and by the time I was 29 realized I wanted to write plays. Lots of good changes.

I’ll tell you something: I didn’t particularly enjoy my twenties and am not sure how anyone actually does. But I loved my thirties. I grew up, I guess you could say. I found love and health and adopted a “do a little bit every day” approach to life.

A lot of people think they “can’t write.” Some will only write when they are inspired. It’s a free country and people can do what they want, but there is one thing I believe about writing: anyone can be a decent writer if they simply write a little bit every day. And you can keep a clean house and pay down debt with the same mentality.

It’s 8:30 and I have to go to work. Ironically, this blog took longer than usual to write. And it needs an edit but I don’t have time. I didn’t procrastinate. I just didn’t like going back to this awful time in my life and it took me a long time to write about it. But it’s over now.

Thanks for reading.

Running late but not procrastinating,


Carolyn who?

Today’s prompt is What language do you wish you could speak?

If I traveled to France, I’d want to speak French. If I traveled to Mexico, I’d want to speak Spanish. If I traveled to Italy, I’d want to speak Italian. And so on. Wherever I go, I would want to do my best to learn the culture and language. Blend in.

I wouldn’t mind reading a few books in their native language. Voltaire’s Candide, for instance, would be fun to read in French, if I were fluent in French. I’m sure there is a long list of books and plays I would appreciate more if I read them in their originality.

In high school and college, foreign languages interested me so I studied Spanish, Latin, Greek and Russian. I enjoyed those classes, but it wasn’t until years later I realized I just liked having any excuse to write and fill up my notebooks. I learn best through note-taking and repetitious writing, plus I love to write. Fun fact: my handwriting was always much neater when I wrote in a foreign language.


Before I was married, I used to read an advice column in the now defunct Minneapolis City Pages. I think the columnist’s name was Carolyn, but I can’t remember and now there is a Carolyn Hax who writes for the Washington Post and I can’t tell if it’s the same Carolyn. I don’t believe so, but they share a similar look.


The Minneapolis Carolyn once wrote that parenthood is like traveling and it was one of those reading moments things that has stuck in my head all these years: parenting is like traveling. Her point was you see nearly everything with new eyes when you become a parent. I read that and I was like “I want that.” I’m 18 years in and still travel this way every day.

Sure, I would love to travel with Jesse in the traditional sense more. But for now (and the next six years) being a parent and learning the languages of my kids is travel enough.

Thank you for reading.

Striving for fluency,



My man in the snow.

Today’s prompt is How do you show love?

In the movie Love Story, Ali MacGraw’s character Jenny famously said, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Then she died.

I love that movie. The snow scenes, the theme song, the…love story. Beautiful!

But I never understood what that line meant. Furthermore, it spooked me. As I sit here writing this blog, I am realizing that I’ve lived my life in a constant state of saying “I’m sorry” because of that line! The reason? I don’t want to die young!

BREAKING NEWS: Blogger, 53, realizes she’s no longer young and decides to stop saying she’s sorry. Wonders, is end near?


What’s your favorite love story?

To answer the question, “How do you show love?” I will tell you something: I love taking pictures of my man in the snow. I love taking pictures of Jesse in all kinds of situations, but I especially love taking pictures of him in the snow.

Thanks for reading. Also: I’m sorry.

Living in fear so I don’t die,


Gone Extrovertin’

Guilford’s chess team lines up for a photo after a tournament. Chess players: introverts or extroverts?

Today’s prompt is What’s a lie you tell yourself?

I tell myself I am “extroverted” but…am I? I’ve never looked it up. I don’t recall ever taking a test that determines introversion, extroversion and ambiversion. No doctor has ever diagnosed me as an extrovert. I just decided one day, “I’m an extrovert, fuckers!”

And that was that.

What would my life be like had I “gone introvert?”

I imagine I, Connie, introverted, would have long eyelashes and pink cheeks. I’d shun politics and favor civil discourse. I’d be a Christian with impeccable posture. Cloth napkins, goblets, linen table cloths 24/7. I’d set the table with those things because introverts have taste. I’d have a Swiffer Sweeper and know exactly how much bleach to use when I’m washing a load of whites.

I read somewhere that introverts have real meaning in their lives, much more than us mothereffin’ extroverts.

What is “real meaning,” mofos?

I don’t know. All I know is one day I am going to die and while I don’t mind living la vida extroverta, please God, let my death be introverted. Let it be a quiet departure with a simple obituary in the local paper. I know they’re expensive but the introvert in me craves a quiet goodbye.

Thanks for reading.

Gone Extrovertin’,


Cursive and curtsies

View from my desk at work. See the turkey?

Today’s prompt is What was your dream job as a child?

In first grade, Mrs. O’Connor asked my classmates and me this and I said I wanted to be a mommy. Disgusted with my answer, O’Connor and my classmates promptly berated me with a first grade version of “you suck.” I clearly remember Tony Robertson swinging around in his seat and looking at me like I was an idiot.

“You could have said anything.” He was gesturing like a madman. “A doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a…anything!”

It was my first time being mansplained. Tony was cute and I confess I rather liked the attention. Hey, at least I didn’t say “housewife.”

In second grade, my mind started to open to different possibilities. There was a talent show and *anyone* (not just the 8th graders) could participate. I signed up to play a song on the piano. I thought it was so cool that anyone could sign up.

I had a private run-thru with Sister Catherine the day before the show. She told me I would have to curtsy after I performed and she showed me exactly how to do it. Sister really broke it down. If you’ve never seen a nun curtsy then you aren’t living your best life.

The talent show was a blast. I loved seeing different kids from different grades traipse onto the stage and do their thing. It was my first “open mic” and I was hooked. More please.

Second grade is also the year my Aunt Carolyn gave me a book about art. It was one of those enormous coffee table books. I thought she made a mistake in giving it to me. My mother and I share the same first name and I thought maybe I had opened my mother’s gift. But Aunt Carolyn assured me that it was for me, Connie Junior. She told me she heard I liked art and that she thought I could handle a mature book.

And second grade is when I learned how to write in cursive which I completely loved. Writing in cursive still makes me feel responsible.

I didn’t know it at the time but by the time second grade was over, my dreams were spelled out (in cursive) for me. I wanted a life of open mics (theatre), writing opportunities, art, books and, of course, kids. Nowadays I’m the music and comedy director at Tuesdays@9 where I also am a contributing playwright. And I’m the producer of the Rockford Fringe. I love those gigs wholeheartedly.

The audience from an open mic I performed at in November. Photo by Dr. Ada Cheng.

As for my day job, I’m currently enjoying my 1200-hour contract with AmeriCorps quite a bit. With the goal of getting more people outside and into our forest preserves and green spaces, I organize and lead hikes that are free and open to the public. Cool.

But Sundays and Mondays are my days off. Jesse is home from New York and we aren’t doing a damn thing except snacking and building a fire. Now that is what qualifies as dreamy.

Thanks for reading.

Yours in cursive and curtsies,