Thursday, August 22, 2019

FIRST DAY

This week we sent our littles out into the open sea, two of them for the first time, into the rolling waters of public school. I joined our daughter Annie when she took little Beth to Kindergarten, under the ruse of keeping an eye on baby Tess. For sure, I kept a virtual leash on Tessa, who was infatuated with all things Kindergarten. But my eyes were on Beth, and on her mama. I recall vividly that day I took Annie to her first day of kindergarten. That’s a story for another day.
The last week or so Bethy Boo has been on edge, strangely emotional about the most unlikely things. She hid in the closet at her first ballet class, too nervous to dance. She refused to eat her favorite foods. Experience told me it was rising bubbles of nerves at the prospect of going into that big brick building away from her mama and little sister, every day. The great unknown was frightening to her. We tried to be all chipper and excited that first day, but she wasn’t buying it. Nonetheless, she’s her mama’s daughter, and she doesn’t like the feeling of sad, so on the actual first day she chose happy, even with the anxiety that came with it.

As I watched her walk across the playground into the kindergarten door, I was struck at how massive that  brand new backpack looked on her little shoulders. It was actually quite comical to watch the whole stream of kiddos with their giant backpacks and new first-day outfits. After she traced her hand and cut it out, filled out a questionnaire about her favorite things (Q: food- A: clam chowder), met her teachers and listened to a storybook, Beth was a happy camper. It was Annie who was in tears.
It’s a heart thing.

Mama’s hearts have all sorts of scars. Sometimes they rip in the same places, over and over. But they are resilient and they heal and they keep on pumping, even when they hurt.
The first week of school is a heart-wrecker. It feels to me like life in a micro-span. Excitement, worry, tension, work, play, anxiety, exhaustion, triggered memories and concerned anticipation… it’s all there. 
I watch Beth and Walter head off to that big old brick building with those giant backpacks and I whisper a literal prayer as they walk. Bless them with courage, and a willingness to make mistakes in the process of learning, and if possible send them one true friend.

It seems to me fitting that this week we also celebrate my mom’s walk across the heavenly playground on her way to her higher education.
Seven years ago today she drew her last human breath and headed off, leaving her children as weepy as Annie on Beth’s first day of school. That whole first year we shed the kind of tears that trickle unbeckoned from the corners of the eye, even in the most joyful moments. Especially in the most joyful moments. They still come, but we are familiar with them now. They are the fluid sap that works its way through the bark of the tree of love. 
I picture our mom with a giant brand new backpack slung over her shoulder. She dances across the playground, her slender fingers flipping to the beat as she twirls. She sees us as she spins, and calls to us to follow, but she never breaks her stride. She knows where she is going. Her mom is there, and all her sisters and brothers, and her papa and her Jesus.
She is alive and well, I have no doubt. I have a lot of doubt about all sorts of stuff, but not this. She is alive and well. 
It’s just that she feels so far away.

GET GOOD AT GUITAR (or UKE)

September 5th we will be starting up six new guitar/ukulele groups. If you'd like to join one of them, read on:
GIRLS with GUITARS (women, actually)
Thursdays for 5 weeks, Sept 5 - Oct 3
at my house in Farmington

9:15 - 10 am - Beginner 1 (totally new to the instrument)

10:15 - 11 am - Beginner 2 ( you know basic chords)

11:15 - 12 noon - Intermediate/Advanced (we will work on fingerpicking)

$45 (materials included) BYOI (bring your own instrument)
REGISTER through Venmo @Cori-Connors-1. Put your class time and phone number in Venmo comments. I will text you confirmation and my address.
Class size is limited.
email if you have any questions: cori@coriconnors.com

FARMINGTON CITY CLASSES
Thursday evenings, Sept 5 - Sept 26 (4 weeks)
at Farmington Arts Center lower level

Beginner UKULELE -  4:45- 5:15 (ages 9 and older)

Beginner Guitar - 5:30 - 6:00 (ages 11 and older)

Intermediate/Advanced Guitar - 6:15-6:45

REGISTER through Farmington Parks and Recreation
$40 Residents/ $50 non-residents
801-451-0953 or online HERE

Both groups are half hour lessons, we just allow an extra 15 minutes to our ladies groups because we like to gab.
If we have less than five people register, the class is cancelled. I'll let you know if this is the case, and you'll be refunded. Maximum 15 per class. I teach accompaniment style, which is basically chords, strumming and fingerpicking. I do not teach how to read sheet music or classical style guitar.

Friday, August 9, 2019

LOVE LETTERS

In four decades of living with Dave Connors I can only recall two times when I heard him passionately and forcefully raise his voice. Once was as a coach on the ball field, defending one of his teenage softball players. The other was in the cafeteria of the Junior High, defending his son. I had arrived late for parent/teacher conference and when I entered the room I thought I heard my husband’s voice, but it didn’t register because it was so out of character for him to be at that pitch and that volume. I must have a husband-homing device, because it didn’t look like anyone else noticed it, except the teacher, of course. I found David in a heated discussion with our son John’s English teacher. I don’t even recall his name, but he had a particularly elementary attitude about the importance of spelling in creative writing. What started out as an amenable interchange turned into a little philosophical brawl, the teacher defending the value of correct spelling, and David defending the importance of safely expressing creative thought without the hovering stick of an editor restraining the writer. I slipped over to their table and listened, proud of what I heard my husband saying. “If you insist that this talented thinker worry about being punished for misspelling, he will train himself to use safe words rather than accurate ones. We are not willing to let you do that. He is a gifted writer, and a true thinker, and we will not let you squelch that creative brilliance over something like spelling.” It’s not that we don’t appreciate the value of correct spelling in a finished piece, but when one is in the process of creating, spelling must not play a role. The editor gets to come play after the creator is done. I don’t recall how the whole thing resolved itself. I do know, however, that this boy ended up being a lover of words, and a fine wordsmith. He has the heart of a poet, with a large diverse play list perpetually spinning in his brain, and he’s one of the most creatively gifted humans I know.
Everyone has a story.
The thing about creative people, at least the ones I’ve encountered, is that in the process of owning that piece of genius bestowed on them at birth, they tend to grow a little off center, like unpruned trees that have a split trunk where one side takes over and throws things off balance. John appears pretty balanced, at least on the outside. Not that he doesn’t have his quirks, like the rest of us. He has exceptional social skills, and unlike many introverted creatives, he has real interest in other people and how they think and work. He has this way of leaning into you in a conversation, especially if you are new to him. Like a magnet, he draws people’s gifts out, as if they were little shreds of metal shavings. He is able to see their gifts, and appreciate them. So, it is no surprise that he has made a career of assembling talents and making something of the collection. His latest venture seems the perfect marriage of his talents. He has gathered together the raw materials of human communication: Letters - and wrapped them in their finest most creative dress: Art. 
Larger than life.
For months I have watched, from my distant maternal perch, this boy-turned-man rotate on the axis of the English alphabet. All through the winter and spring I made weekly stops at thrift stores, purchasing 100 pounds of books at a time, buying them by weight from the Goodwill store, and storing them on our back porch in stacks and stacks of boxes. Each time we stopped at John and Ashley’s house there was some new creation in process: a scene from Alice in Wonderland sculpted from pages of the book; a large literary arch of books reinforced with metal rebar; wood carved letter blocks. Their home was a wonderland of creative process always in the works. Kudos to Ashley for understanding the messiness of creativity. Blessings on their children for getting to swirl in that space.
John in the rainbow library.
This week we took our family to the finished product, the culmination of this creative assemblage: LOVE LETTERS. At the Gateway Mall, where Coldwater Creek and The Gap used to be, the space has been transformed into an artful intimate look at our relationship with letters. He and his friend, renowned letter artist Becca Clason, have orchestrated a symphony of letter artists from around the world, shining a spotlight on each of their particular talents, and at the same time introducing we plain old humans to the magic that is around us every day. I am reminded how magical it is for us, in this juncture of time, to have access to beauty without hardly trying. The Love Letters Museum is an aesthetically moving reminder that we are blessed with 26 pieces of raw material with which we create unlimited things of beauty, or pain, or tragedy, or grace. Like the collection of our limited number of music notes creates unlimited magic in all its forms, so do Letters. We use them daily, on paper and audibly, stringing them together in our own way, with our own distinct patterns. I came out of LOVE LETTERS with a quiet reverence for them, for the role they play in my personal life, grateful for the tool they are in my relationships. 
Gracie learns to stamp her name.
I am reminded that we are all wordsmiths, and understanding that makes me a more conscientious steward over the tools of my trade. Even more, I am moved by the brilliance and beauty of a world of artists I had not known before, whose work stirs me. I am in awe of their gifts, as they work with the holy trinity of a visual artist: the heart, the mind and the hands. Its apparent they mold their letters with love.

Click HERE to see more about Love Letters Museum: An interactive art exhibit encouraging guests of all ages to use letters, words and art to tell their story. It's only in SLC until mid-September.
My favorite people on
giant letter blocks that move.

Goofy kiddos
You can visit wonderful exotic places and never leave your couch.
Write a letter to someone you love and they will mail it for you
John and his buddy Sophie, a partner in creative crime!
Ruby slides down the pages of Alice in Wonderland.
There is a magical art gallery where artists
were invited to paint from one of their favorite
children's books. You can open some of the paintings
and peek into a tiny spaces, one of them a
replica of the room you're in.
(or, as Anna has done here, you can enter that space!)
Tiny kids in a tiny room.
In the end, there is a large paper shredder
inviting us to let go of our mistakes
Calvin makes his own button,
My brother, George,
constructs with letters.
this wonderful exhibit lets you
walk through words, literally.
Before we can construct some things,
we must first deconstruct the norm.
Watch how this changes as you walk past it.

Thank you, Uncle John.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

SUZY FERG'S LICORICE CARAMELS

My pal Suzy Q has magical hands. You would seriously consider becoming deathly ill just to get a meal from her. Or a cake. Or pie. Or these sweet little black treasures that we have taken to hiding from visiting friends and family.
I post this for my own use, because when I am in Michigan or New York, and I need my recipes, I just turn to this blog. But if you happen upon it, well, just consider yourself lucky.

Licorice Caramels (oh, yeah)
1 C butter
2 c sugar
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (1 1/4 c)
1 c light corn syrup
1/8 t salt
1 t. anise extract
1/2 t black or red food coloring paste

Line 9x9x2" pan with foil, extending foil over the edges. Butter the foil.

In a heavy 3 qt saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add sugar, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup and salt. Mix well. Carefully clip candy thermometer to side of pan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly till it reaches 220 degrees or thread stage. dip a spoon in mixture and trickle it into cold water. if it maintains a thread-like state, it's ready. A little more firm than soft ball, but not as hard as hard-ball. Mixture should boil at a steady rate over entire surface. It will scorch easily, so continuously scrape bottom of pan. Remove from heat, remove candy thermometer, and stir in anise and food coloring.

Quickly pour candy, without scraping sides, into buttered-foil-lined pan. Cool for several hours or till firm. Use foil to lift candy out of pan onto cutting board.  Peel foil away. With a buttered sharp knife cut immediately into 1 inch squares. Wrap each piece individually in waxed paper.

WRAPPER: cut six inch strip of paper, then trim to 4 inch pieces. so each piece is 6x4 inches. Wrap around caramels and twist ends like taffy wrap.

Monday, April 29, 2019

JOHN HANSEN, MY BROTHER

When I was seven-years-old I fell from the crossbar on our swing set. My brother, John, heard me crying and ran down the hill to my rescue. He scooped me up and carried me to the house, laying me on the brown Herculon couch in our living room. He gently positioned my poor broken arm on a pillow and tucked another pillow under my head, reassuring me until our mom got home. That was the first of three broken arms for me, evidence of my inherent gift for agility and coordination.
When I was eight years old John stood in holy waters and baptized me a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was the only one in our family with the authority to do such a thing, and though he would choose to walk a path that did not include organized religion, his gift to me stuck, and has been pivotal in all that is dear to me. 
When our brother George was three or four-years-old he got his hand stuck in a scorching hot Ironrite. The rollers on the machine melted away the flesh on his little hand. Our brother John heard his cries and rushed into the room, released the safety bar on the machine, and called for our mother. George almost lost that hand, but thanks to a dutiful doctor the skin transplants took and he is able to do all sorts of magic with that scarred hand.
When I was nine-years-old I stood paralyzed with fear in the corner of our kitchen in Pleasant Hills PA as my drunken father came at my mother with a knife in his fist. Out of nowhere my older brother John appeared with a baseball bat, planting himself between my father and our mother. He raised the bat and glared at my father. “You will not touch her.” He and my father stared each other down until my father retrieved and left the house. 
Years before, when that same father had thrown our mother down the stairs in a fit of rage, before I was born, John went to live with our Aunt Mary and Uncle Archie on their ranch in Blackfoot, Idaho. Mary and Archie were never able to have children. Mom had suffered a clot to the heart and to the lungs and was not expected to live. Aunt Mary and Uncle Archie loved John, and wanted more than anything to have him for their own. But mom survived, and healed, and though Archie and Mary asked if they could keep him as their own, our mom could not give him up. A painful sort of release happened then, I believe, and their “ownership” of my brother shifted, which no doubt confused the tender heart of that young boy
John didn't get much of a chance to be a kid.
Today my big brother John enters a new decade of his life here on earth. I look at the white haired man and still see the spark of love in the eyes of the teenager who rescued me from the ground under the swing set - who facilitated my religious desires - who saved the hand of our brother - who held the reigns of Uncle Archie's horses with assurance that they would always be his, but then weren’t. And I ponder with awe and love the scene replayed in my head of my own father trying to injure our mother, intercepted by a boy with a baseball bat. Baseball bats should be swung with joy and passion on grassy ball fields. No boy should have to hold a bat in that way. 
John's hands hold gentler things.
Today I think with love and gratitude of my brother, John Hansen, the wounded warrior who rescued, in spite of his own wounds, over and over again.
Legendary icon Rosalie Sorrells loved and cherished John.
And he loved and cherished her.
He even rescued me from playing the G chord incorrectly. “Are you kidding?” I said when he told me I should change the way I was playing that basic guitar chord. “That’s a ridiculous way to play a G. My pinkie finger  isn’t strong enough, and my double jointed fingers click in and out when I try to play it that way.”

“Trust me” he said. “Watch real guitar players, at least the ones who play on stage.” Sure enough, he was right. And though I grumbled about it, I changed the way I play that G chord. And the change freed up two fingers that were able to manipulate strings with counter melodies and sustain chords. A goodly portion of the songs I have written use the free’d up fingers in that new positioning.
 
I’ve found comfort all my life in the sound of the name John. So much so that we named our firstborn son John. If you are a little girl, straddled by two little-girl-sisters, it’s a comforting thing to have a big brother named John, just old enough to seem heroic, even if he himself didn’t feel that way.
John and his old friend, Steve Eaton
play at his birthday party yesterday.
John's best loved guitars have plenty of scars.
John and Steve in bygone days.
My big brother is not without scars. In fact, he is no doubt  as scarred as our bother George’s hand. But in spite of it, he uses himself for good, planting himself, even quivering with fear that no one but him knows is there, between the great unknown and the people he loves. 
John plays with his grandkids.
He’ll be the first to tell you that he is a mess. That’s part of his charm. But we who claim the same mother, and the same distorted history … we embrace that mess. We own that mess together. And together is such a good place to be.
John's girlfriend, Garnette Edwards, threw him
the most remarkable party for his birthday yesterday!
 Hundreds of people attended. What a beautiful bash it was!

John and Garnette. 

Happy birthday, brother-o’-my-heart.
My brother and me.
John Hansen, Belinda Bowler and Rich Brotherton
See that tall guy in the pink shirt on the front page
of the Idaho Statesman paper? The solitary male among a
sea of women marching for women's rights?
Yup, that's him.
John's first band; Hard Luck and Trouble, circa 1971.
That's John in the front middle.
My brothers, John and George Hansen
We are John's biggest fans!
(and also the most obnoxious)

From an ad for the Famous Motel Cowboys Reunion Concert







Saturday, April 20, 2019

3-20-19 FOREVER (Psalm 23 part V) End of Lent

In the long-ago days of my childhood, when a show came on TV you had to stop everything in order to watch it. Kids finished up their play and their chores, rushing back home in time for Gilligan’s Island. There was something unifying in the communal pause. Netflix, DVR, Tevo and VHS recordings changed all that. We’re all on our own now.


Easter weekend we and every other Judeo-Christian family clustered around the TV at exactly 7 pm to watch The Ten Commandments or the Greatest Story Ever Told. Either one was essentially a date with Charlton Heston. 
Moses in The Ten Commandments


John the Baptist in The Greatest Story Ever Told

The movies recount in Technicolor the events of the Bible; the Ten Commandments telling the story of Moses and The Greatest Story Ever Told interpreting the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.  Both shows fit in that particular weekend because the Christian Easter holiday often falls in the calendar at the same time as Jewish Passover. It’s no coincidence that they often fall at the same time, relative to the Paschal moon. It’s central in the divine design. 
My friend Carla and I recently began attending a religion class on Wednesday mornings, sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our instructor is not only an awesome teacher, he is also a well-grounded scholar of ancient and modern scripture. This year he’s been discussing the four Gospels of Christ. Lately we’ve studied the Temple of Solomon, and we’ve discussed the parable of the Vine. We have visited the upper-room where Jesus and his apostles received what is now known as the Last Supper. It’s been a powerful and wonderful thing to have this Wednesday morning feast with Jack Helgesen and a couple hundred other students.
Search for Virtual New Testament in your app store. It's free.
There’s a free phone app called Virtual New Testament that shows the layout of the Temple of Solomon, among other things (created by BYU). I can pretend I am actually walking there. I imagine being in the marketplace outside the temple, and in the Women’s Court, and the Holy of Holies, and I imagine seeing the veil rent in twain at that particular moment when Jesus died. It’s awesome for me, because I never outgrew pretending.
I can visit the altar where animals were sacrificed. It takes me to a place where I am either a priest sacrificing, or I am a believer, bringing a lamb.


Jack the teacher told us that on the day Jesus died, in the city of Jerusalem, there would have been 256,000 lambs sacrificed at the holy altar of the temple. (reference is Jesus the Christ, pg.162) It’s simple math, multiplying the number of families living there at the time and the pilgrims coming to the holy city for the holy day. That’s a lot of lambs! This is high season for shepherds.The marketplace surrounding the temple must have had a mighty chorus of bleating lambs!  And since I am in the mode of pretending I am a lamb and a shepherd this week, it’s a pivotal time. I am thinking about the delicate balance it would take to be a good shepherd. I love and own my sheep. But they are also my business. I make my living by selling my sheep. I sustain my own life by eating my wares. An attempt to reconcile protecting the life of my lambs in order to sell them into death is the crux of Easter to me this year. (Pretending can be just so exhausting.)
He is both perfect lamb and good shepherd.
When I think about Jesus being the Good Shepherd I find it perfectly fitting. He loves us, perfectly. But we are also his business. And this is why he fulfills his task in the Garden of Gethsemane, accepting every ounce of our sins and sorrows, our illnesses, our weaknesses. He lifts our dirty feet at the doorstep of our mutual Father’s mansion and cleans them with the drops of blood shed in that moment of divine atonement. He labors away, like our mothers did in giving us birth, hinged on the hope of what would come of it. As powerful as he was, it had to have been so awful for him, or he would not have asked his father to remove this cup from him if there were any other way to get the work done. And, of course, we know now that this was the way.


I’ve read scholarly explanations about how the various cups of that last evening of the Savior’s life allude to the four cups of the Passover Sader, the Passover supper that had been revisited since the time of Moses. This last cup Jesus held up, just as he had at the supper table. He was willing to drink from it for the sake of his Lambs, who laid unawares on the altar of sacrifice.
We refer to Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb, and we are correct. While the blood of hundreds of thousands of unblemished lambs spilled onto the temple floor, Jesus himself hung on the cross that first Good Friday.


But he is also the Good Shepherd, and because of his sacrifice, no longer would lambs need to lose their lives on the altars of the Lord. His own sacrifice ended the law of sacrifice, replacing it with the law of Love and consecration.


We are His sheep. He has earned us, and he owns us. Otherwise, we would all be goners. 
I imagine myself as a new lamb, born in the Spring of that holy year, sold to a law abiding family, waiting in line for my turn at the altar. But the skies grow dark, and the earth shakes as the Maker of the earth himself gives up the ghost, his own blood spilling over the earth like a sacrament. In that monumental sacrifice, the law is changed, and I am no longer needed at the altar, He bought my life. I am purchased, and set free.

As I gather my final thoughts, turning the page of this year’s exercise in writing for each day of Lent, I turn to the last words of King David in the 23rdPsalm:
I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Because he has purchased me, and called me his own, I hold in my virtual pocket an invitation to come Home. The date is written in invisible ink. He knows it, but I don't. I have green meadows to romp in yet, and other sheep to live among for a season. But when the moment comes and I am released from my flesh, I have unbridled hope in the notion of returning to a place I once knew as home. 
There is relatively little that I know for a surety. It’s all hope. But I will be surprised beyond imagination if, when I die, I am not brought to a place that feels familiar, to a light that feels familiar, and to people I know and love. I will know then, as I know now, that my capacity to be there is facilitated by my Shepherd, whose own sacrifice released me from the altar of permanent death. He has saved me from myself, and I am forever in his house and in his debt. I can never repay him. That’s how it should be.
But I can love him. I can love him according to his definition of love, which is the truest way to love:
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
It’s no more complicated than that.