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:
That I need to invest in Carhartts or some other insulated bibs
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.
Today’s prompt is What irritates you about the home you live in?
House is more than 100 years old and is in a constant state of needing some kind of humongous, expensive repair. But House is our home and I don’t feel right calling it — or any part of it –“irritating.” That would be like talking about someone I love behind their back. I won’t do it.
We’ve been with House for 15 years. We added the library in 2012 and it still gets used every week. Right now there is an abundance of self help books in there, which I’ve noticed happens every January.
House hasn’t always been purple. We painted it in 2020. Here’s what House used to look like pre-purple.
We also added a pond in the back several years ago. One afternoon Sam started digging and now we have this. It attracts toads, ducks, opossums, raccoons, great blue herons, snakes and foxes and it’s where our goldfish live in the warmer months.
Here’s what it looks like when it’s cold. I love all the turkey tracks.
Our house takes good care of my family. It provides free books to the neighborhood and a safe place for wildlife to get fresh water and food. House, if you’re reading this, please know I love you and am thankful for you every day.
As for the rest of you non-house readers, thanks for reading. I am thankful for you, too!
After I read this morning’s prompt How far back in your family tree can you go?, I took Barbara for a walk and thought about her family tree.
Who was Barbara’s mother? Who was her father? Who were her litter mates? Are they still alive?
Some animals come with papers clearly delineating their pedigree. Barbara came with cuteness and little else. Compared to, say, the Queen’s corgis that date back 15 generations, there is very little recorded about Barbara’s heritage.
Here’s what I know: Barbara is a 12-year-old tan chihuahua from Chicago.
Here’s what I was told in 2011:
A college student bought the dog from a flea market and then decided nah. The young woman told her instructor about her chihuahua woes and he took the dog from her and said he’d find a home for it. His then-wife, an animal rights activist who had previously brokered the adoption of our first chihuahua (Toddy), asked us if we wanted “Annabelle.”
We said yes.
Jesse picked up the dog at State & Wabash and the two new pals drove home to Rockford. Upon meeting the dog, the family agreed that her name would be Barbara, after Barbara Bush.
As Barbara (my dog, not the ghost of the former first lady, although who’s to say she wasn’t there?) and I were walking along the pre-dawn streets of my neighborhood, I was lost in thought about pedigrees, puppy mills, flea markets and the like. Then I felt a cosmic tug on the leash. I looked up and noticed another “family tree.”
That’s my mom’s house and that pine is her tree. It’s the tallest tree in the neighborhood. Shortly after moving back to Rockford, I was driving home and realized I could see the trees from several blocks away and felt an absurd amount of pride. I didn’t shout, “The rest of y’all trees suck!” but I certainly thought it.
There are three trees in that section of her yard and they’re lovely but I don’t know the family tree about the family trees. I don’t know their age, what kind of pine tree they are, if someone intentionally planted them or if they’re volunteers.
Here’s what I do know:
In the 1970s, my brother adorned the trees with Christmas lights from top to bottom.
In the 80s, I climbed them.
In the 90s and on, my late father hung bird feeders on them and watched the avian activity from his porch swing.
“It’s a microcosm, Conniegirl,” he told me one afternoon when I was visiting from Minneapolis.
This was the nineties. Even though I was well into my twenties, it was the first time I ever heard the word and asked him what he meant. He, a teacher and a wordsmith, explained it to me scientifically and poetically. He used their compost bin as another example of a microcosm because he and my mom frequently saw snakes, insects and mice in it. He spoke to the essence of nurturing life, the importance of “turning the pile” and respecting the order of culinary events in a ecosystem, aka the “food chain.” Whenever I hear the word, I think, “Dad.”
I have a fascinating family tree but don’t have time to get permission to write publicly about them. Just know I am very proud of my family — the roots, trunk, branches, buds, leaves (fallen or fresh) and sap.
Today’s prompt is, “What is the earliest memory you have?”
I have many. Here’s a list:
Seeing my dad pull up in his cream-colored station wagon when he got home from the newspaper.
Stubbing my toe and marveling at how the wound was a perfect brick red-colored circle.
Picking up pinching beetles for fun and marveling at their sheen.
My mom exercising throughout the house as she did chores. This is perhaps my earliest memory because she was back at work by the time I was in kindergarten. And not long after that, she ran for alderman. Didn’t win, but I am still so proud.
Having rotating art on the living room walls. Back then you could “borrow” a painting from the library.
My sister Rani performing as a grammarian dog in a play at Walker Elementary School. She and my mom sewed it and I also remember the roar of the huge sewing machine.
My mom saying “God bless America” when she was frustrated (still hilarious).
Singing “I’m a Rhinestone Cowgirl” into a handheld tape recorder while Glen Campbell’s song played either from the radio, a record player or 8 track. I think Rani was sending her friend Laura (who lived in Texas) a recorded letter. This predates mixed tapes and voice mail. Back then I think my sister would record a message onto a tape and then mail it to her friend.
My sister Rani blow-drying my hair followed by my grandma saying I looked like Farrah Fawcett but pronouncing it Faroo Fuh-rah. It’s worth noting that my very Italian grandma also liked the song Funiculi Funicula.
My brother David giving me that final push when I learned how to ride a bike. It’s worth noting that this was on Camp Avenue which means he had to keep me steady all the way around the block.
My sister Rani getting makeup secretly delivered to her in the mail. I believe she even sent cash (coins even!) to purchase it!
Ozark airplanes at the local airport that delivered our Morrison, Colorado loved ones to us (and sometimes us to them).
My sister Phyllis’s spellbinding performance in Clod Clown by Phyllis Ross. I can still hear her singing the title song:
Everyone calls me the Clod Clown
and I can't blame them cuz
every time I sit down, I fall down
every time I stand up, I fall down
and then when I walk up and down the stairs
I trip and fall and break my neck
My sister went on to write another groundbreaking song entitled, “Guess What America Is Eating Tonight?” If you’re wondering what the answer is, here’s a hint: She wrote and performed this song while popping popcorn.
Guess what America is eating tonight
Something light that you make at night
And when you eat it your pants won't get tight
All of these memories (and so many more) have obviously heavily influenced who I am today. I’ll write more about the “art” aspect of my childhood on the Rockford Fringe page later tonight. I had to write this quickly today. Thank you for reading!
Most mornings before school, Jocelyn gets up at 5-something and practices ballet. Her schedule does not allow her to train at Chicago’s Ruth Page Center for the Arts anymore, so she works the “basics” at the barre in our dining room by herself.
I don’t usually get out of bed until 6:30 but today I had an early start and when I went downstairs, I caught her dancing in pre-dawn darkness.
“Caught” isn’t the right word. “Sensed” is more like it because it was pitch black. Though I couldn’t see or hear her, I knew she was there.
I didn’t want to interrupt her but I needed to see so I turned on the Christmas tree lights. Like Santa filling the stockings in Clement C. Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, she briefly turned her head toward me and then “spoke not a word but went straight to [her] work.”
Several years ago, Jesse and I created a “man on the street” video where we asked several people the same question: “Do you believe in Santa?” My friend Christy, a scientist, said she did not but that she loved “Santa moments.”
Sensing my daughter in the dark, then seeing her materialize when I turned on the Christmas tree lights, then carry on her with her ballet was a “Santa moment” for me and a wonderful way to start my day.
Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you have your own “Santa moment” today. -Connie
P.S. Here’s that video.
Connie Kuntz is the producer of the Rockford Fringe, a playwright and the music and comedy director for Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago. She lives in Rockford, Illinois with her husband and four children.
Rebecca Ann Carver is a Chicago-born actress, model and comedian. She’s been seen (and worked on) shows for MTV, Netflix and Amazon. She’s modeled for large companies like Staples and Shure to small local and women-run businesses. She performs regularly throughout Chicago and the suburbs. Learn more at www.rebeccaanncarver.com! Then come see Carver host the Rockford Fringe Festival from Noon-6:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 9 at Walker Park.
Thanks for reading and see you at the Fringe! -Connie
Artists! Yes! Happy Mother’s Day to all the artists who are interested in performing at the Rockford Fringe Festival! I freaking love you creative mothers! Keep those submissions coming!
Look: I know it’s Mother’s Day, but I simply don’t care. I can’t think of anything else except the Rockford Fringe Festival. Once I *know* I have a lineup and have the festival organized and safe, I will resume being normal. Until then, I am strictly fringe. I have fringe on the brain. Fringe fever. Frinnnnnnge.
Reminder: It’s easy to submit your script or pitch. Just fill out this jotform. And hurry because there are a limited amount of spots available. The artist lineup will be announced on or before June 15.
Thanks for reading. Happy Mother’s Day! -Connie
P.S. Please like / follow the Rockford Fringe Festival on Facebook.
Boy howdy, these kittens sure are adorable! Not only that, they have secret talents. We caught up with Lieutenant Kitten (the kittens’ leader) and asked her what makes the kittens so special.
“We’re artists,” she said, “and we’ll be performing in the Rockford Fringe Festival!”
Awwwww. Doesn’t that make your HEART MELT?
The lieutenant said her crew of kittens is mostly interested in theatre but they also sing, act, dance and recite poetry.
“Each kitten is poised to share their unique talent,” said the lieutenant. “Just like the humans who will be performing at the Rockford Fringe Festival!”
Shame on me (Connie) for using kitten click bait to get you to read this story about the Rockford Fringe Festival. But desperate times call for desperate measures!
Shame on me again for using emotional, over-the-top language. These aren’t “desperate times” and I’m not interested in pursuing “desperate measures.” Here’s what I’m interested in: producing this fringe festival!
As you know, the performing arts add so much to a community. Likewise, a healthy, unique and robust community adds so much to its performers. It’s a symbiotic relationship and cultivating it takes some effort.
How can you help?
Click “like” on social media posts. Every time you share, follow, comment, retweet, etc., you are building a robust online community – one like at a time.
Volunteer. You don’t have to commit hours of your time! Simply committing 20 minutes of your time helps immensely! Help us cross our ‘t’s’ and dot our ‘i’s’ by signing up to volunteer.
Submit your idea or script. The shorter the better as that will allow more performers to share their unique talents. The lineup will be announced on or before June 15, 2022 at 11:59 p.m.
Save the date! Got plans for July 9? Unless those plans involve the Rockford Fringe Festival, cancel them immediately and plan on attending the Fringe instead. Thanks for reading! -Connie
A. A one-day outdoor celebration of the performing arts.
Q. When is it?
A. Saturday, July 9, 2022 from noon-6:00 p.m.
Q. The event lasts six hours. Do I have to stay for the whole thing?
A. It’s up to you. Some people will pack a picnic and make a day of the event. Others will come for a specific show or maybe a couple shows. And there will be some people who come and go throughout the day. All we ask is that you’re not disruptive during a performance. Please wait until a break to move around and talk. Most acts will be 10 minutes long but some will run as long as 45 minutes.
Q. How much does it cost to attend?
A. It’s free.
Q. What should I bring?
A. A chair or blanket. Consider wearing a hat and sunscreen. An umbrella.
Q. Will there be food?
A. It’s a pack-it-in-pack-it-out event. It’s also environmentally friendly. Though the event is free, audience should bring their own snacks and water AND a little bag to take away your trash.
Q. I want to perform. How?
A. Fill out this jotform. Hurry because there are a limited amount of spots available.
Q. Before I fill out the jotform, what kind of acts are being considered?
A. Theatre, dance, music, comedy, poetry, performance art. The shorter the better because that will allow more people to perform, but we are considering shows and acts that run up to 45 minutes.
Q. What does the set look like?
A. The OPEN Stage is two feet off the ground. It has two stair units, one that is stage left and the other is stage right. The stage is 12 feet wide and eight feet deep. It is safe for dancers. There is a hidden entrance.
Q. Tell me what kind of tech you have to offer.
A. There is one handheld mic with a mic stand and two lavaliers available that will be shared from performance to performance. There will be four speakers in the audience so up to 300 people will be able to hear. And there will be playback speakers on the stage. Performers are to bring their own music, cued up and ready to plug in. Do not bring CDs, bring music that you can plug in, like from your phone.
Q. When are you announcing the lineup?
A. On or before June 15, 2022.
Q. How much does it cost to submit / perform?
A. It’s free but artists are responsible for producing their own shows on their own time. There will be a brief partial run-through the morning of the event so everyone will be able to get familiar with stage and the order, but there will not be enough time to rehearse everyone’s full acts.
Q. Where do I go to stay up-to-date with the #RockfordFringe?
A. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast via Apple, Spotify, Anchor FM or Google.
Q. You have a podcast? May I be on it?
A. If you are a performer, a member of the artistic team, a volunteer or a Fringe audience member, we want you on the podcast! Each episode sheds insight into the Fringe community and is less than 15 minutes long. Email Connie to set up your Zoom or phone interview.
Q. Who is sponsoring the Rockford Fringe Festival?
A. This is made possible by a grant through the City of Rockford’s Forward for Fun initiative. Several sponsors and community partners are supporting the Rockford Fringe Festival. A complete list is at the bottom and you can see all of the logos at the bottom of the graphic.
Q. Where is the Rockford Fringe Festival taking place?
A. On an outdoor stage at Walker Park in Rockford; 1500 Myott Ave.
Q. Will the streets be blocked off? Where do I park?
A. The streets will not be blocked off and there is plenty of off street parking. Walking, biking and taking a Bird to the #RockfordFringe are other options.
Q. Is there a theme?
A. This year’s theme is ‘Rain or Shine’ and the event will take place rain or shine.
Q. Is this event for any particular demographic?
A. The Rockford Fringe Festival is for everyone.
Q. Why are you doing this?
A. To safely and intelligently share original theatre, music and dance on an outdoor stage with the community.
Rockford Fringe Festival Official Sponsor: Rockford Writers’ Guild.
Community Sponsors: City of Rockford; Community Foundation of Northern Illinois; Hard Rock Casino; Fehr Graham; Hard Rock Casino; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Northwestern Illinois Building Trades Unions; Rockford Area Convention & Visitors’ Bureau; Rockford Mass Transit District; Rockford Plumbers and Pipefitters.
Community Partners: 89.5 FM WNIJ; Chicago Dramatists; Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago; Rockford Area Arts Council.
Q. Who do I contact if I have any questions?
A. Email Rockford Fringe Festival producer Connie Kuntz at email@example.com.
The Rockford Fringe Festival will take place on Saturday, July 9 from noon-6:00 p.m. at Walker Park in the city’s 3rd Ward. This free outdoor event is part of the City of Rockford’s Forward for Fun initiative. If you are interested in performing, fill out this form. Hurry! The official lineup will be announced on or before June 15.
Shorter performances work best, but you can submit a show that lasts up to 40 minutes. You are encouraged to submit plays or performances that explore serious topics but we this is an outdoor event and we will not tolerate profanity or any content containing vulgar, racist, sexist or supremacist language. All plays, performances, and content must be your original work.
The Rockford Fringe will be hosted by comedian, actor and model Rebecca Ann Carver. Comedy songmaker, music director, composer and broadcaster Robbie Ellis will be featured as the opening musical act.
There is no fee to participate and the festival is free and open to the public.
Thank you to the following sponsors and community partners for their support: Rockford Writers’ Guild (official); City of Rockford; Community Foundation of Northern Illinois; Hard Rock Casino; Fehr Graham; Northwestern Illinois Building Trades Unions; Rockford Area Convention & Visitors’ Bureau; 89.5 FM WNIJ; Chicago Dramatists; Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago; Rockford Area Arts Council.
If you have any questions, email the Rockford Fringe Festival producer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more on our Facebook Page at Rockford Fringe Festival.