Friday, March 23, 2018


Thursdays are fabulous and exhausting days for me. Fabulous in that I get to teach roughly forty people how to play guitar. Exhausting in that I have to prepare to teach roughly forty people how to play guitar. And because I build the curriculum around their abilities and desires, and they range in age between eleven and seventy years old, it's a challenge to choose music that all of them know, let alone want to learn. That's the drawback of group lessons. The advantage is that there is an energy and camaraderie that comes in that setting. Plus, group lessons make it more affordable. 
So my Thursdays are full of fabulous people, and I could write about each individual in all my classes, or abut the dynamics in each one. But it's Thursday night, and besides the fact that my fingertips, which are currently tapping away at my computer, are a little weary from playing guitar all day, my head is craving some down time. I don't get a ton of down head time during Lent. 
Anyway, what I am getting at here is that I adore people; especially people willing to try their hands at something new. And I am graced with he gift of being able to see talent grow, and lives be changed now and then. My own life is changed because of my relationship with my instruments of wood and steel, which I embrace almost daily, their pulses vibrating against my chest. My guitars are true and faithful friends. They don't always do  everything I ask, but they will always give me the old familiar tunes that comfort me when I need it.
Tonight one of my students brought this sweet gift to class. His name is Danny, and he owned my heart even before he made this treasure. He is one of those dream students who is able to pay attention, will respond to my requests, and he smiles all the while. Besides, he's super cute, and has an angel singing voice, which goes really well with a side of guitar. 

Danny chose this quote, then made me this sweet wooden sign in Junior High shop class. 
Life is like a guitar:
Tune - Play - Repeat
I really like this quote Danny found. I tell my students on the first day of class, when I teach them how to tune their instruments, that no matter how well they do everything else I teach them, if their instrument is out of tune, it just isn't going to sound right. It's true about guitars. It's true about humans. I pray for all of them to tune themselves. Especially the young ones. Life is so much playing and repeating. Tuning first is sort of important, wouldn't you think?
I feel pretty blessed to be able to teach guitar. By this time of year I question whether or not I really want to teach. I can make more money gigging, and it would probably be wiser for me to spend my time writing and refining my own music. And I could sure use the time for other non-musical things that are pressing. But by 9 p.m. Thursday nights, even though I'm worn out,  I am always glad I do this, because I am spiritually fed by the people I spend the day teaching. People like Vickie, who is a grandmother and forcing her manicured fingertips to press into the neck of a guitar for the first time in her life. Like Anna, whose little eleven-year-old hands barely fit around the neck of her guitar, but she does it anyway. People like the women who gather in a circle around me on Thursday mornings, who rearrange their crazy busy days to fit learning a new instrument into their already full lives. And beautiful young souls turning into our leaders of tomorrow, like Danny.
Thanks, dear boy.
Tune. Play. Repeat.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


I have this friend, Leslie, who lives just up the street from me. She is the personification of understatement. She is beautiful to behold. I mean, God graced her with physical loveliness, and she's been a good steward over it. But she never appears to think of herself as beautiful. She is mother to five dynamic kids, who are adults now, and stepmother to that many more.
My friend Leslie's seen a heap of trouble in her lifetime, though you'd never guess it by looking at her in a grocery line. Without betraying the story that only she is entitled to share, I will tell you that she knows the dark places that come to families who deal with substance abuse, the heartache of love lost, and the sorrow of watching loved ones suffer in physical, spiritual and emotional ways. I've known Leslie through all of this... at least much of it... and there is a calmness she emits that belies the impact within her. A while back, when I served as Young Women's president in our church congregation, I felt deeply compelled to ask for her to serve with me, thinking it was the girls that needed her influence. But I realize now it was pretty much me who needed her. 
Les lives part time in Texas and part time in Utah, since she married Gary. It's a long and fairly complicated love story, Les and Gary, and I won't take you there but to say that I love and cherish both of them, whether they are stuck down there in Texas or back here in Utah where they belong! (tongue in cheek humor here. Leslie fell in love with a Texan. You know Texans.)

Leslie is a comma where I am an exclamation mark! She has learned to see life in threads of hope, trusting that the Lord is in charge in the end. I tend to take it in noisy chunks with solid beginnings and endings, often with a bit too much drama. So it is a great comfort for me to have such a close friendship with Leslie.
Because Leslie is understated, she is safe. Emotionally safe, for me. At girls camp one year there were not enough beds in the place we were staying. The Young Women were in sleeping bags on the floor, but my poor old chunk of flesh does not do well on hard floors. So Les suggested we share one of the beds. If you know me, this is not something I'm super excited about; sharing a bed, unless I'm sharing it with one of my daughters, grandkids or Dave Connors. But it surprised me how calm it felt to know that this understated friend was beside me. I pondered it that night, laying in bed with someone other than my family (this is getting to sound a little strange but stay with me here). I got to thinking about how beautiful it was that Leslie made me feel safe. I judge myself harshly, and feel self-conscious quite often. I remember lying there and thanking the Lord for this good woman, whose heart accepted me wholly, without judgment, and who anticipated nothing. I thought it strange that the word "anticipate" would come up in that prayer, but it seemed to fit. Leslie has learned to not anticipate the outcome. Life has thrown her for so many loops her lifeline might resemble a Slinky. But she rolls along, remaining true to herself and her God, letting others make their own decisions and not owning their decisions as if they were her own. She lives the Serenity prayer, and trusts that those she loves are entitled to do the same without her prodding. She really is quite remarkable.
Which is why she is the personification of understatement to me. She cannot see that she is remarkable. Though,she is.
Leslie and the latest of her dozens of grands

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


If you want to know the mysterious in-depth, true and unadulterated reality of who I am, you'll probably be disappointed, because you likely already know everything about me. I'm not good at keeping secrets about myself, except the ones you really don't want to know about. :-/ (This kind of self-revelation is the result of having to write personal essays every single day for 46 days straight -- ten years in a row. Do the math.)
My transparent nature came to light this past week when I received three gifts that were exactly the same, but with unique deliveries. 
First, you need to know this: I like Slurpees. I think this is kind of funny, because Dave and I both worked at 7-11 when we were first married. Most often I'd work the 11 pm to 7 am shift. As employees we were entitled to all the withered over-cooked hot dogs we wanted, and all the free Slurpees we wanted. I don't remember taking advantage of that opportunity, even when it was 4 am I was dead tired. But now, decades later, something was triggered and I have become, how do I put this, dedicated to the consumption of frozen icees, of the Coke variety. If the Coke is out, I'll go Slurpeeless.
Anyway, like every other weakness and strength in my life, it's pretty obvious. There are spare Slurpees in my freezer, for Sundays when I don't shop. There are empty Slurpee cups in my car, because refills are cheaper. And there's a little plastic frequent buyer card on my key chain so I get every seventh one free. This has replaced the gym card that I never used.
Yeah, I know.
Anyway, for my birthday last week my sister Ann Marie and her husband Mike gave me a nice stash of dough that will repeatedly fill those cups in my car.
And  then my friend Suz gave me this:
To: The Slurpee Addict
From: Your Enabler
Also, for my birthday, my son John made this awesome thing for me:

John does magical things with graphic art, in his spare time, as if he had spare time.
He created this sweet piece of art based on one of my album covers. He draws layer upon layer on his computer. Isn't it sweet?  Here's the original cover, which uses an old family photo of two of my sisters and a bunch of other kids with Santa Clause, before I was even born.

Before John printed his creation, his wife Ashley suggested they stuff the album sleeve with Slurpee cash. And then she quipped, "Maybe we should rename the album."

And so, with John's propensity to engage in all things clever, he spent additional hours  removing, recreating, and re-layering. This is the result:

Isn't it awesome?
I keep thinking one day this phase of Slurpee addiction will pass, the way garage sales did for me.
Yup, that's your's truly in a Slurpee costume
in John's family room, courtesy of their
awesome neighbor, Tatiana. 
(I have no shame)

Monday, March 19, 2018

3-19-18 WALTER

"Hey Gummy! You have some crackers!"
"That's right, Walter. You want me to open them?"
"Why you have crackers?" he asked, sounding a little confused, in a charming sort of way.
"I thought you might like them." I said.
OK, he said as he held them up to me. "I like your hat."
It took me a minute, after he held the package of Keebler crackers up two inches from my eyeballs, to realize that he thought the little white haired elf on the package looked like me.
Every elfish old woman needs a Walter in her life. Walter is a giggle-maker. Just like his father before him. He is a giggle maker and a heart melter and a kiss giver. He will be playing with his cars or his Transformer Rescue Bots, humming some little ditty he hears swirling in his creative head, and out of the blue he will stop and say, "Gummy?"
"Yes, Walter?"
"I love you."
He will repeat this about every half hour, or maybe every seven minutes.
It's like he cannot contain the love and it pops out, like those first kernels that explode in our hot air popcorn popper. Pretty soon there is a bowl full of fluffy pure aromatic love in my lap and I scoop him up and smother him with kisses and snuggle love, which he frankly does not very much care for.
Walter is exactly the kind of kid you would spend a lot of money buying gifts for, just for the pleasure of experiencing his response. You have never seen a more joyful little soul receiving a gift. He scrunches his shoulders up to his ears and hops up and down, squealing. He pumps his arms down to the ground as he jumps. Seriously, if you're having a bad day, go buy something at the dollar store and give it to Walter.
Tonight we got a good dose of Walter Wonder because today is his birthday. Four candles.
Happy Birthday, Buddy.
Any many, many more!

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Being a liberated woman in a traditional Christian church is not easy. I am trying to figure out why. In my mind, true Christian women would embrace and support each other in their divine personal callings. Instead, we try to level the playing field, I suppose, by expecting sameness. In my experience that sameness almost always involves interpretation of the woman's divine role as nurturer.
I do believe that the feminine in all of us, male and female, is manifest in our desire and ability to nurture. That's a good thing. A holy thing. And there are many ways to nurture. We nurture at home, in our neighborhoods and churches, and in our workplaces. We even nurture on the subway, or the grocery store. It's a pretty great instinct.But some people expect that the way they nurture is the way everyone should nurture.We tend to feel confirmed in the way we do things when other people do it the same way.
Just as sacred as that natural nurturing instinct is the presence of a living entity, divinely appointed to assist keepers-of-faith with their daily decision making. By expecting sameness, we discredit the power of the Holy Ghost, who is that divinely appointed entity.
Right here, right now, I would like to tell my children and grandchildren...cut it out! Not that you generally have a problem following the Holy Ghost. From what I can tell you are all (and how amazing is it that a person can say this?) followers of the general direction of the finger of the Lord. But because you exercise your faith within an imperfect social unit called a church, you will be given less-than-holy advice from other imperfect humans. I remind you that, while people may be entitled to the Holy Ghost in their own lives, they are not entitled to know what the Holy Ghost tells you. Even I, your mother and grandmother, do not have the right to know what the Holy Ghost tells you. While the Spirit of the Lord will not direct you to live contrary to the Word of the Lord, manifest in scripture, he can guide you in its unique manifestation in your own life. 
My advice is to LISTEN LESS to the promptings of your neighbors and some people who profess to have authority over you; and LISTEN MORE to those divine whisperings that are heard in quiet moments from the back of your head and confirmed in the heartbeat deep within your chest. 
Today's sabbath quote is from a modern-day apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, M. Russell Ballard.
This quote holds a position of prominence on my kitchen fridge. It is directed to women, and to men who interface with women (so, basically, all of us):
"One sister may be inspired to continue her education and attend medical school, allowing her to have significant impact on her patients and to advance medical research. For another sister, inspiration may lead her to forego a scholarship to a prestigious institution and instead begin a family much earlier than has become common in this generation, allowing her to make a significant and eternal impact on her children now.
“Is it possible for two similarly faithful women to receive such different responses to the same basic questions? 
"Absolutely! What’s right for one woman may not be right for another. That’s why it is so important that we should not question each other’s choices or the inspiration behind them."

3-17-18 MY AUNT BECKY finale

Mom and Sherry
My oldest sister, Sherry, reminds me that the mother she knew was not the mother I knew. She does not mean this in absolutes. It's true, though. She got a mom who was very young; in her late teens. And she was not only young, but her husband was off fighting battles across the sea, and her own mother was Heaven-bound. Mom and Sherry were really learning life together.

Mom's little curly haired girl was her everything. That's kind of a heavy to lay on a kid. But it's what happened to a lot of people during WWII. Young brides had babies who had no fathers. War complicates things.

I, on the other hand, was kid number 6, followed closely by kid number 7. I just sort of fell into formation. It was a rare and treasured moment if I got time alone with my mom. Nonetheless, I felt loved and cherished.

Today, in the climactic moments before we laid the body of my Aunt Becky in the ground, my cousins told brief and charming stories of their mom. Sweet little snippets of memory so we could tighten the stitches that bind her to our lives. My cousin Mary Lou stood at the pulpit and told us that she wanted to share a memory of the mom she knew that maybe the younger kids might not have known. Aunt Becky and Uncle Richard had two batches of kids. The first was a beautiful cluster of girls, four of them: DeAnn, Gail, Jane and Mary Lou. These were the ones we hung out with during our visits. I was one year younger than Mary Lou. Then, eight years later, the second batch started cooking. Michelle, Mark, David and Gina joined the clan. They all grew to be dear, close friends to us. 
The two Miskin batches combined
In her short talk at the funeral this afternoon, Mary Lou recalled a day when she was young, barely old enough to have vivid memories. She laid on the grass next to the ball field in Ucon Idaho, searching through the blades for four leaf clovers. Her attention was only diverted when her mother came up to bat. The mom she knew was a powerful hitter. A strong, well timed cut  snagged the ball and sent it flying, clear out over the heads of the outfielders. Mary Lou didn't remember what team Becky was playing on, either a church league or community team. But she did remember thinking her mom was super awesome, and so strong. When asked how she was able to swing so powerfully, Becky responded that she thought it was good strategy so she wouldn't have to run so fast.
Tonight I am remembering all of the women in my mother's family, down to the very youngest. Strong women, every one of them. Unique, every one of them. 

Beloved, every single one of them. 
The Parrish girls
Back: Edna, Ruby, Ruth, Mary
Front: Mae, Becky, Afton 
I remind my sisters, my cousins, our children, and their children, the same thing I remind myself: We come from solid stock. Quit the whining, straighten up our slumpy shoulders  and step up to the proverbial plate. Keep our eye on the ball, and when the pitch is good, swing for the fences!
It's in our DNA.
What became of Richard and Becky Miskin
This is how I imagine my mom felt last week.

Friday, March 16, 2018

3-16-18 MY AUNT BECKY part 7

We took Old Clairton Road all the way out through Jefferson Township,PA,chugging along in our big blue Pontiac station wagon. Back in the day, when gas was 36 cents a gallon and we had to count on finding a stray quarter in Dad’s easy chair cushion to even afford gas, Mom used to put the gear in neutral at the top of each hill and only switch to drive if it didn’t make it up the next hill on its own. We kids would thrust our upper bodies forward on the count of three, trying to help it along. All this effort was to get ourselves out to Bry and Ann Nelson’s house.
Bry and Ann had a palace of a place, with air conditioning, and plenty of yard and toys and kids to play with. I thought it was paradise. But I recall the grownups talking as they stood on the back porch, their eyes scanning the landscape behind the house. The lush, thick, sweetly scented hillside just past their upscale neighborhood was being scraped clean. Strip mining had, almost in one deep breath, torn the top layer off the face of the earth and left the under-layer raw and flat and exposed. I remember looking out over the scarred earth, where cicadas once gathered for their nightly chorus, where deer had nestled in beds of green, and whole flocks of birds once nested without being seen. I remember, even in my mindless youth, feeling a pang of loneliness when I first really noticed this stunned piece of newly exposed earth. I felt sorry for the loss.
Last night, driving home from a day full of teaching, I pondered what my cousins might have been doing that day. I imagined them gathered from their distant homes; Alaska, Florida, Texas, and Tennessee; reunited in the place where they had been raised. They have been brought together in love and grief around their mother, my Aunt Becky. I imagined them dressing her well-spent body in sacred robes, smoothing her hair, kissing her forehead; touching her with the strength required of one trying to shift a lifeless body and the tenderness borne of love and loss. Few things compel grown children to return in such a united way.
I thought, too, about myself, and my siblings, and the other cousins of our generation. We have lost our top layer. With the passing of our Aunt Becky the last of the familiar scene of our sheltered lives is gone. We are now the top layer. The comforting carpet of those who were the protectors of our childhood has been scraped away and we find ourselves exposed.  I realized that the next series of passing’s will be us. We position ourselves, like it or not, like the layer of earth back East where they stip-mined for coal behind Ann and Bry Nelson’s house.
I think it fitting, don’t you, that Rebecca Parrish Miskin was the last to go? She, whose name is pressed into the side of powerful farm implements: Miskin Scrapers. Earth movers.
Even more fitting, because she, and all those who shared her home and her blood in that generation, really did “move the earth” for us.
The original Miskin Scraper
Tomorrow we will move the earth for her, there in the familiar Idaho soil. Once she is soundly tucked in, it will forever thereafter be hallowed ground.

If you want to know a little more about her, click on this:  Becky Miskin's Obituary