Who the heck are you?

I started this 31-day blog challenge with a personal essay about my husband and it only seems right that I conclude it with a photo of him. In the interest of keepin’ it fresh, I snapped a pic of Jesse today after I picked him up at O’Hare International Airport (ORD). With no further ado, here is my new favorite photo.

Jesse fresh from San Francisco to Chicago flight.

Now that you know what “Goldie” looks like, I want to thank you for reading my blog. I know who some of you are because you clicked “like” or commented. But most of you are a complete mystery. Who the heck are you?

WordPress metrics tell me how many people visit every day and that’s about it. I mean, I know most of you are from the United States, but I don’t know which states or what you think of my blog.

I suppose I don’t need to know who you are or what you think, but I definitely want you to know I am grateful for your readership.

Here is a roundup of the 31-day blog challenge:

My most popular blog was Here’s the thing. It’s about gratitude.

My most commented on blog was A merry old soul. This was about an eccentric theatre director I worked for many moons ago. Several people messaged me about similar experiences with their early-career directors. It was amazing feedback.

My least popular blog was Before the Ding Could Dong. No surprise there as it is terribly long short story with penis humor. Hey, I write what I write.

My favorite blog was Which item on the McDonald’s menu are you? It’s about assumptions I made when I was 16 years old.

My least favorite prompt was for There’s no place like home row. The prompt asked what I liked most about my writing. Instant cringe! But as I answered the question, I learned that my body and my mind are two separate things and so is the part of me that likes to write. Until I started this blog challenge, I always thought of myself as “whole.”

My most emotional blog was about Alfred. Writing about my old director reduced me to an absurd amount of tears but also opened my eyes to real forgiveness of self and others. I am still somewhat awestruck by the experience of writing about him.

And the blog that was shared the most was What keeps you up at night? It’s about dog poop.


When I picked Jesse up from O’Hare this afternoon, the first thing he asked me was, “Did you blog today?” I told him I was going to do it this evening, which is several hours later than usual. He said he missed it and that he had been waiting for it.

Furthermore, a few nights ago, we were talking on the phone before bedtime and he said he looked forward to reading my blog every day. He said he valued it more than talking on the phone at night because “that’s when we’re both exhausted from the day.” He said my blog helps him see what’s going on in my brain when he’s far away, which is most days of the month.

I realize nobody is going to care about “my brain” the way my husband does, but his words meant something to me and just one short month of blogging has improved my life. So I’ll continue to blog, even without the WordPress prompts. Thanks again for stopping by! -Connie

I am always high maintenance

A Promised Land by Barack Obama is the next book I will read. But first I need to I finish James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain.

I started Baldwin’s slim but deep novel a month ago. It’s short; only 225 pages long. Usually, I have my books read and reviewed within a week or two, but Baldwin’s story about a closeted homosexual coming of age in 1930s Harlem is so unsettling and ironically unspiritual that I have to carve out a specific reading time for it. It’s just not the kind of book you pick up and casually read.

Smokey snoring in the sunlight.

To read Baldwin, the house must be still. Gospel music needs to be playing softly in the background and natural light should be streaming in through the windows and glass door. At least one cat will be asleep and gently snoring. I will occasionally look up and notice dust dancing in the sunbeams. I will feel organic and peaceful and that is when I shall give this book the attention it deserves.

I’m not normally this high maintenance* but some books demand a certain reading ambience.

Why do they do this?

Obama’s book, on the other hand, will be a zippy read even though it weighs three pounds and is more than 700 pages long. In spite of its enormity, it will be fun to read, as long as I can convince my cat to stop sitting on it. Confession: I already snuck in reading Obama’s foreword and first ten pages and it really moves.

So why is Baldwin’s shorter book a more challenging read for me?

Because Obama writes for Americans whereas Baldwin wrote for a literary crowd. That’s my quick opinion.

I fell in love with Obama’s writing in the early aughts. Then I fell in love with his politics.

Both books are excellent for different reasons and I look forward to them. But before I finish Go Tell It on the Mountain and delve into A Promised Land, I need to finish this blog challenge. Only two more to #bloganuary prompts to go!

Just as I peeked ahead into Obama’s book, I peeked at tomorrow’s prompt and it looks like I’ll have to write something “mysterious.” Until then, thank you for stopping by! -Connie

*I am always high maintenance.

Roam where you want to

“Delbert. Do you hear something?”

“No, but I feel something…”

“We better get inside, just in case.”

“We’d better, Marge. Just in case.”

Delbert and Marge scooted back indoors. They didn’t even put their gardening tools away. There wasn’t time!

“Delbert. I don’t say it often enough but I love you.”

“Me too, Marge,” Delbert said through tears. “Me too.”

It’s just me! I’d think. I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean to scare you guys!

I feel guilty about interrupting Delbert and Marge. They’re good people. Sure, they bicker a lot and scare easily, but gardening is something they enjoy doing together and everybody knows they grow the best tomatoes this side of Kent Creek. They’ve won awards.

Darnit, I feel guilty! I wish they’d come back outside. I’d will them if I could, but that’s not my superpower. Elective invisibility is.

Some years ago, Promptus Maximus gave me (and a thousand other bloggers) the chance to choose a superpower. I thought about opting for something that would serve the greater good, but let’s face it: I’m selfish. I wanted the freedom to frolic without being seen.

And freedom it is! All I have to do is say “inikibi” three times and poof! I’m invisible! I’m also naked, which adds to the fun.

The spell regulates my body temperature so I’m perfectly comfortable as I cut corners, traipse through strangers’ backyards and climb their trees. I can walk in the middle of the street, the middle of an aisle and the middle of a service. You’ve heard of skinny dipping and joyriding. This is better.

I’m not interested in hearing private conversations or watching things that are none of my business. I just enjoy roaming, opening my arms and welcoming the earth, breathing it in and soaking it up.

These days I roam locally, mostly outside, but I’m saving up my money so I can roam in Rome. Until then, if you feel something strange in your backyard, that’s just me, passing through.

Woman charged with public decency

I’m a very public person. I like public libraries, public transportation, public radio, public parks, public events, public art and the public domain.

I comfortable with public displays of affection and I’m fascinated by public opinion, public enemies and people who run for public office.

I am grateful for public restrooms.

My passion for John Q. Public is personal. We unschooled our kids from 2005-2020 and I credit the public for providing them with a great education.

Unschooling is a touch more radical than homeschooling. It means you don’t follow a set curriculum. With a fervor, you follow the interests of your family.

For us, unschooling meant getting on our feet and discovering the public to the best of our abilities. It was a borderless education and we are proud of what we learned, who we met and what we did. We were invited into many homes, cultures and communities and provided with numerous volunteer activities. Jesse and I are forever grateful and the kids know it was special.

But nowadays they attend Rockford Public Schools and even when it’s stressful, they prefer RPS 205 to unschooling. Yes, they appreciate their unschooling experiences, but they’ve moved on. They value the structure and their independence, and enjoy looking ahead.

I have moved on, too, but am still passionate about my “cause” which is the public.

This morning’s haul.

On a smaller level, once a week (at least) I make it a point to take advantage of something “public.” I take a walk, I make a trip to the library, I listen to public radio, I check out public art or whatever. I just intentionally do something public. I believe every time I am out there in the world, even if I’m just picking up litter, I am adding a touch of goodness to the public.

On a slightly bigger level, a few times a year, I organize art or writing-based public events. Writing pop-ups, art parades, 5Ks, silent hikes and poetry caroling are examples of my free public events. I love them and am looking forward to figuring out what my “spring” event will be. I hope you come!

But if you can’t come, I hope you continue to read my (public) blog. I am so thankful that you still pop by for a quick visit. -Connie

The “On Your Mark” 5K was a family friendly fun run. There were dozens of art activists staged along the course to help keep the runners motivated to run…and create art!

The Goldie Rule

Got a call from my husband yesterday afternoon. He’s working in San Francisco for a few days. When he’s out of town, he usually calls in the evenings so I was surprised when I heard his special ringtone.

“Hi Goldie, everything OK?”

“I read your blog…”





“Spit it out, Goldie.”

“It’s good, it’s…Usually you aren’t so…so…”

“I know it’s bad but I couldn’t get there for some reason.”

“It’s not bad. It’s just…”




“I understand, Goldie.”

That’s when I knew the life lesson I was going to share for today’s blog. It’s the golden rule for artists: No matter how corny the prompt (line, direction, play, etc.) is, give it your best. Don’t negate. Say “yes and…” Share what’s beautiful inside you, not what’s aggravating or annoying.

So, backing up a bit…Yesterday’s prompt was to write about a challenge that I “faced and overcame.”

My challenge is my vanity. Though I haven’t officially “overcome” it, I face it every day and have for many years.

I stopped wearing makeup and jewelry. I haven’t worn makeup since I was in my twenties, not even on my wedding day. When I got engaged, I stopped wearing jewelry and a few years ago, I stopped wearing my wedding ring.

I still long to wear thick rock-n-roll eyeliner and a deep, dark lip color. And I adore my pretty diamond ring. When I stopped wearing it, my hand literally felt wobbly and weak without it, as if I’d just had a cast removed. I had removed the “thing” that I thought was helping me heal. There are times I still feel self conscious without it.

But I don’t need makeup to say “I’m at a special event.” I don’t need a ring to say “I am married.” I don’t need anything except my mind to make me feel confident.

I like presenting myself without any social borders. Not wearing makeup or jewelry means there is nothing stopping me from having a truthful conversation. It says there is nothing stopping our collaboration from being fresh and unique. My bare face and unadorned presence are intended to be symbolic of me bringing nothing but my mind and a clean slate to our friendship.

It seems to be working. Generally speaking, nobody makes gagging sounds when they look at me. And men don’t exactly fall over themselves because they think I’m single and ready to mingle.

Most people I meet are honest, direct and look me in the eye. They do not care what I look like or how much jewelry I wear. They trust me and I trust them. It’s a wonderful world. I just hope my efforts haven’t been in vain.

Thank you for reading my blog. -Connie

I am not your guru

Is this the blog where I tell you something personal and inspirational? Where I take you on a word journey to a dark time in my life when I wasn’t happy but then became happy? Is this where I share with you that I made the radical decision to love myself?

Or do I write about that time I took a leap of faith? Looked the devil in the eye? Trusted a stranger? Found myself?

Am I supposed to confess something?

Here’s the deal: I’m passive. I don’t have the backbone to stand up to people; I’ll just move out of their way.

As for challenges, I don’t “overcome” them so much as roll with them, which is to say sometimes they roll over me. Flatten me, leave me for dead. Sometimes the challenge will throw itself in reverse and roll back over me again.

But all is not lost. I have other strengths. I am patient, reliable and adaptable. I’m creative, well read and have substantial technical skills. I know how to publish books and produce plays and podcasts, even in a pandemic. But if you’re looking for a strong, inspirational, David from David & Goliath type of person, bye.

Thanks for reading my blog! If I didn’t just totally lose your respect, see you tomorrow. -Connie

Pomp and Circumstance

It’s 6-something in the morning. It’s late spring so all the windows are open and fresh air is coursing through the house. It’s not a gentle breeze; the wind has an agenda. It pushes and pulls me until I’m awake.

There’s birdsong. I recognize it immediately. The sparrows are humming “Pomp and Circumstance.” It’s the kids’ natural alarm clock. It motivates them to go to school, get good grades and eventually graduate. Every day it gets a little louder; a little closer.

Sparrows, spare me I think. I dare not say it, or anything, out loud to the birds because that would break the spell.

I sit up, blink the sleep out of my eyes and look out my window. A thousand birds stare at me.

“School day! School day!” they sign.

“I know!” I sign back. “I’m up. We’re up.” I’m always a little groggy and ungrateful, at first.

I nudge Jesse. Pat his back, his bottom. That’s definitely him.

“Morning,” I say.

“No I’m not,” he says. Our little joke.

Master Bird Sir Edgar shakes his head at our morning routine. “Let him sleep in,” he signs. “He’s still growing.”

The others flap their wings.

More breeze. More wind.

“Bye Mama, bye Dad I love you!” We hear as our roof of birds flies up into the clouds with our children trailing joyfully beneath them.

“We love you, too!” I shout back up at them. Jesse hollers, “Have a good one!” and Master gives him a stern look. Jesse pulls the covers over his head and fake snores. Master is annoyed but the cloud of kids and birds laugh as they fly higher and faster to their destination. The humming fades as the kids disappear into their education.

Thanks to the spell, we’re a family with no cell phones, no iPads, no laptops, no computers, no cars. We rely solely on our imagination and wits (and a thousand birds) to get us where we need to go and right now coffee is where I need to go because coffee is a destination, not a drink.

“Ten-hut!” Master signs. “Hut two three four, hut two three four!”

The birds are back and start marching to our kitchen. Their tiny talons tap in unison throughout the house. The sound is light and tickles my mind, my heart.

The sparrows don’t judge us for being tall and featherless, but when Master first cast the spell, he irritatedly signed, “Humans talk too much!” as he slid an ancient contract to us.

Humans may talk to each other 
but must never speak to the sparrows 
lest the spell be broken.

“You overslept!” Master signs to Jesse. “Fall in!”

Jesse and I shoulder-roll into the line of birds and join the march. Hut two three four, hut two three four.

We’re in the kitchen, all of us.

Jesse signs, “There’s not enough coffee for all of us” and winks at the birds. Their little joke.

In unison, they all mime yawning. They love him.

“Enjoy your day,” Master signs to us, this time gently and peacefully. “For the rest of us, it’s nap time.”

Jesse signs back, “Thank you for everything.”

Jesse and I bow with gratitude to Sir Edgar and his orchestra of sparrows. They fly to the top of our house and form a roof. The fill it in nicely and snugly, just as they always do. A couple of them fake snore and giggle before they fall asleep. The house is dark again. Quiet.

“Kids won’t be home for awhile,” I tell Jesse as he pours our coffees. “What do you want to do?”

He hands me my coffee and smiles.


Blogger’s Note: Thank you for reading my blog. Hope this one wasn’t too weird for you. -Connie

Something witty this way comes

It doesn’t take much but let tell you about someone my whole family finds hilarious: Paula Poundstone.

Jesse has adored her for decades and my kids have loved her comedy since they were tiny. We all love Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me and have listened to numerous episodes of her podcasts Live from the Poundstone Institute and later, Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone.

In 2018, three of my kids and I were on a literary tour in Waukegan, Illinois; the birthplace of Ray Bradbury. We had just finished reading Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes so we went to the town that Bradbury said inspired some of his writing.

Angelo, Fern and Sam.

We walked quite a bit that day and ended up downtown. Fern, then nine years old, saw a gigantic poster in a storefront and asked me to take a picture of her standing in front of it.

Mind you, Fern has never asked to have her picture taken before or since. Another thing about Fern is she rarely asks for anything but that day she asked for tickets to see Poundstone’s show. The late night show wouldn’t have been appropriate for Fern, but we were able to do something that was.

Over spring break, Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me offered Wait, Wait, Jr. at the Athenaeum in Chicago. It was the news quiz show, but the guests were all kids. We had tickets way up in the balcony but could still see and hear her and the rest of the Wait Wait talent. It was a blast. The audience was filled with NPR nerd-kids and their parents. It was so much fun. We all laughed and clapped like idiots.

Bill Nye, Peter Sagal (standing), Paula Poundstone and Maz Jobroni.

Some months later, I read Poundstone’s book “The Totally Unscientific Search for Happiness.” Then I learned that she was performing her stand-up in Crystal Lake’s Raue Center for the Arts. I had tickets through my old radio job and was helping my work friend Alex do some WNIJ outreach in the lobby. As we set up our table, I told Alex I brought my road recorder with me just in case I could interview her. He disappeared for a few minutes, came back and told me he cleared it with the house manager and I was able to very quickly interview her before her performance. Swoon!

She spoke about her stand-up process and the challenges of writing. She had the room laughing and I nearly fainted from the joy of it all. You can listen to it here:

After I interviewed her, it was showtime. I rushed to my seat and proceeded to laugh (again like an idiot) for the next hour. My only sadness was that Jesse and the kids were in Chicago and couldn’t be there.

Paula Poundstone is weird and smart and direct and present and kind. And funny. We should all be so lucky. And much like our Ray Bradbury trip, we often seek Poundstone’s work expecting one thing but always end up get something completely different and totally valuable.

Thanks for reading. Who makes you laugh? -Connie

Do mental math like nobody’s watching

I wish I could do mental math.

Mental math is the number one cause of mental illness. For me it is. This is my truth and I’ve known it for years.

If you want to see me experience bizarre, unnecessary humiliation, watch me attempt basic mental math in front of people. It doesn’t matter how simple the mental math is, I guarantee it won’t be pretty. If I have to add a 20% tip or figure out what the date will be when you say “in five days,” I start perspiring and blushing and my nose starts whistling. Immediate acne. It’s insanity. It’s hell.

But I don’t dislike writing math. I enjoyed solving math problems on paper or in workbooks. I love the way math looks on dry erase boards. It’s aesthetically pleasing to look at long, complex math problems written out on a chalkboard.

And physicalizing math with cooking and carpentry can be a pleasure. Baking cookies is a fun way to teach “the dozen” to little children, and who doesn’t appreciate the wisdom and poetry of of “measure twice, cut once?”

Even pregnancy and labor are measured in multiple styles of numbers: heartbeats, centimeters, fingertips, percentages, weeks, seconds, millimeters, etc. Though neither pregnancy nor labor are a breeze, they’ve proven to be my favorite math “classes.” So no, I don’t dislike physical math. Physical math is fun.

For a little perspective, let’s compare numbers to letters. The alphabet is easy. Twenty-six letters and that’s it. I can work with the alphabet. But numbers? They just keep coming. Numbers don’t stop.

And neither do these prompts. I’ve reconciled 16 and still have 15 more to complete. I’m just glad I could figure out my “balance” here in the privacy of my office without anyone looking at me.

Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it. I know it’s not necessarily easy or fun to read someone’s blog, but hopefully it beats mental math. -Connie

I know I’m not alone

I had many favorite toys:

  • Fisher Price airplane (it came with its own string!)
  • Fisher Price people (that fit in the airplane!)
  • Small chalkboard on my bedroom wall
  • Hula hoop (several because they “bend” easily)
  • “Drive Yourself Crazy” – a handheld game that had a miniature steering wheel
  • Magic 8 Ball (always good for a laugh)
  • Viewmaster (stunning visuals!)
  • My pink coat (technically not a gift, but Santa gave it to me so…)
  • Numerous stuffed animals (Monty and Lino)

But the standout champion toy was – and is – the baton! My first memory of a baton is from the Chicago-based kids’ television show Bozo’s Circus. At the end of each show, when the closing credits started to roll, Bozo would gloriously march everyone out and I’m telling you that clown had serious marching skills. He’d pump that baton like nobody’s business all while doing “high knees” in enormous, ENORMOUS shoes. A completely inspired performance! I know I’m not alone when I say I wanted to be like Bozo.

Photo credit: Lester Kempner on Pinterest.

At some point, probably to rend me from the television and my obsession with Bozo, my parents bought me a baton and I am grateful.

It is weirdly therapeutic to twirl a baton and downright mesmerizing to watch a professional baton twirler go at it. Bozo had great showmanship, but didn’t have the finesse of a trained majorette.

I was never a majorette. I had no training. But I could twirl a baton with both hands, do finger twirls, toss them up quite high and catch them, sometimes behind my back. Satisfying! And I shouldn’t have to tell this, but I had great fun embodying Bozo’s “high-knees” march and rhythmic baton pumping.

When I was an adult, I’d occasionally see a bin filled with batons at a grocery store. I would pick one out, impulsively buy it, take it home and give it a twirl. I didn’t do the march.* Even in my twenties and thirties, I still found twirling the baton to be joyful, stress-reducing activity.

I assumed batons were something “everybody” loved, but my kids never showed much interest in them. It’s possible my over-the-top enthusiasm for twirling and marching ruined it for them.

Probably that.

It’s been several years since I gave one a twirl. Maybe one will mysteriously appear this spring in our backyard or garage? I should probably start stretching out, just in case.

Or maybe not.

Hey, thanks for reading! See you tomorrow. -Connie

*I did the march.