Friday, June 26, 2009


What are the odds?

What are the odds that when you put your penny in the gumball machine (yes, young-'uns...they used to cost a penny) you are going to get the EXACT gumball you want AND the tiny cracker jack toy that you were wishing for at the same time? What are the odds that on your first cast of the day you catch a sweet little Brookie with a nice sharp upper fin that hasn't been worn down by swimming his whole life on a fish farm; one that has perfect fight and leaps into the air in front of the rising sun? Who gets so lucky to actually be assigned to the absolute favorite fifth grade teacher? Or win that puppy in the penny auction down at the middle school?

Not that I am one to keep track of these things; but I am a pretty lucky gal. I should bet on me, really! I find money lieing in the road when three people in front of me have missed it. I found a dime right in front of my shoe just yesterday. I won the class election by something like three votes my junior year. Goodness...DAVE CONNORS married me!! Talk about LUCK! (that was 32 years ago yesterday, by the way. Happy Anniversary, Love!)

Luck in its purest form came drifting down from heaven and charmed me 50 years ago today. It remains with me still. I was just teeny, barely walking and still getting used to having a body. My Mom brought Luck home in a blanket, swaddled around her like a papoose. Her orange red hair made her swaddled body look like she was an early summer carrot. They named her Elizabeth, after our grandmothers, but I didn't know that for many years. To me she was just LIBBY.

She was the perfect playmate! And I mean PERFECT! She was always happy to play whatever I wanted to play. Pioneers and cowboys riding horses on the basement banisters. Dressing Barbies for a play on the Camelot stage in the basement. Rocking back and forth in the attic in pretend rocking chairs, our matching Madame Alexander Pussycat dolls snuggled in our arms. If I wanted to experiment with Elmer's Glue and string, she thought it was a brilliant idea. If I wanted to pretend the crab apple tree was a space ship she was co-pilot. If it was a rainy day and we couldn't play outside she spent six straight hours on top of our twin beds with me, never once setting foot on the ground because that was the ocean and our beds were boats and we were lost at sea but at least we had each other. At least we had each other.

A few years ago when Guillain Barre smacked me upside the head and knocked me over, Libby picked me up and set me in a wheel chair. Pushed me through the corridors of the hospitals, taking notes; researching on the Internet in the wee hours of the night, arming herself with questions for the doctors the next day. Even still she is sensitive to how I might feel, years after most people forgot how sick I was. Almost two years ago she and I sat side by side while the doctors told us not to expect our mother to live through some emergency surgery. We clung to each other, shaking our heads, looking into each others eyes for long long moments, unable to process the possibility. We waited for our other sisters to arrive. They drove through the night from California. Our brothers came, too. We clustered there in Mom's hospital room for two weeks, all through the night and all through the day, taking turns playing songs and telling stories. Everyone rotated going home for rest now and again. But Libby never left. She is devotion personified. She is faith and tenderness and determination. She is gentleness and sincerity. And she is laughter. Tell me if there is a finer recipe for a human being?

Libby considers herself lucky, too. She reminds me of that when I watch her bend her knees and lift our mother into her wheel chair. "I am so lucky" she will say, then she will look in our mother's eyes and whisper; "And you are so beautiful!" She will say these words to our 85 year-old mother as she kisses her on the forehead. Every time she lifts her she kisses Mom's snowy-white hair. Her back hurts. She has muscles where 50 year old women who don't work out at the gym usually don't have muscles. They are earned by daily repetitions in love.
She is a nurturer extraordinaire! When we were young and whispering our dreams to each other across the pathway between our beds, we never could have imagined that she would not bear children of her own, with a husband who was strong like the ones on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Never ever would have imagined it. And yet.

So instead of becoming bitter; instead of withering in self pity or wondering why God doesn't seem to love her as much as other women; she throws her arms open and pulls all our children into her heart. Holds them there when their own parents can hardly stand them. Loves them and adores them and is not afraid to let them have it if they need that, too. She is the soul of goodness and virtue and I cannot believe I am so gosh darn lucky to have her for my sister!

What are the odds?


Thursday, June 18, 2009


There are a few people who do not share my blood, nor my name, but who are settled permanently and firmly in my heart. Anyone who knows me well would know that Merlyn Schofield is one of these. More than half-my-life ago Merlyn stood on the stage of the new Farmington North Stake Center and sang a song for the stake talent night. We had just moved to Utah from PA. I had been talking to someone in the hall when a door opened and I could hear her angelic and compelling voice wafting through the doorway. Like a fishing line cast across the sea of audience she caught me and drew me in. The program had indicated that she had written the song, which blew me away and I must admit made me a tad jealous, so I made it a point to hunt her down and introduce myself, telling her how beautiful I thought her song was. She laughed and said "Oh Goodness, I didn't write that," her smile emitting an aura of confidence mixed with humility.
Next time we met was in my family room on Kensington Street. I had been asked to sing one of my tunes in church and since I lacked any confidence in my own voice I invited her over to learn the song to sing for me. She sat on my hearth, pulling one knee up into her chest, her head bowed as she listened. When I was finished she said, "How about if you sing the melody and I'll sing harmony?" And that is where music as I know it took the turn in the road that led to today. Merlyn was the voice that was not my mother, who said with all sincerity that I could do it...that I could say what I wanted to say musically as well as it needed to be said. She taught me that the microphone is a friend, not to be feared, and she made the melodies I wrote seem so much prettier than they really are. For many years Merlyn and I gigged and traveled and created and dreamed as a team. I called her the vocal chameleon, because she could make anyone sound so much better. Her solo voice is stunning, and she could have easily had a solo career. But she sings like she walks, with poise and grace and beauty, not upstaging anyone but not curling in either, and she is always happier walking beside someone. I am blessed to have had her by my side for nearly fifteen years. We made...oh, how many was it... at least 5 albums together. Took numerous trips to Nashville and LA and Boise. She cheered with every award or contract I received. She wept at the lyrics that moved me, and she laughed where I wanted people to laugh. She cradled my children, and nurtured the hundreds of kids who were lucky enough to have her as their teacher. She loves my family like her own, and I love hers.
A few years back, it feels so long ago, Merlyn decided to re-focus her attention and take a break from the rigors of gigging. If you are a musician you understand. People think you don't really work, you just do the "fun". But the reality of it is that equipment is a pain to lug around, finding strange locations in the days before map quest was a challenge, and the hours are long. You leave at 5:00 for a 7:00 gig, which actually ends up starting at 7:45 because they started the dinner late. When you're done you get to disassemble the sound system and lug it back out to the car, then unload it when you finally get home at midnight. "But you only sang for 40 minutes", they say, expecting that the meager payment is plenty for the sacrifice. Our working hours conflicted with the time she spent with her husband, Kevin, and she decided some things were...well...eternal. So that's when I also stopped singing, until I couldn't stand the silence any more and I started to go solo. I still ache to hear her voice beside mine.
Saturday morning Merlyn called.
"Merlyn!" I said, "how are you? How's Kevin?" Kevin had been in the hospital for a couple months, recovering from a serious brain infection that started with, perhaps, a scrape on his hand that was left untreated.
"Cori, I just wanted you to know that Kevin passed away this morning."
What do you say then? What works, in the Things Everybody Wishes They Knew How To Say book of quotations? I didn't know, and I still don't. But I do know that saying nothing is not an option. So instead we weep together.
The other day she called and asked if I would sing Give Me Jesus at Kevin's funeral on Saturday. Of course I will, though I wonder how I will get through it. If you ever see me singing at a funeral with my eyes closed you will know that I must not look into the eyes of the people I love sitting directly in front of me. It's only science, something having to do with chemistry and the making of tears and nasal drainage and the thickening of vocal chords. It's a hard thing, wanting the emotion to be true and sincere, but knowing that if you go too far the song won't come out and people won't hear it if you can't sing it. When my young nephew Clayton died, Merlyn stood beside me to sing at his funeral. Overcome with sorrow, my voice gave out. After a measure or two, Merlyn wrapped her arm around my shoulder and jumped from the harmony up to the melody, finishing the song for me. She is grace and kindness and gentleness personified.
Today I was in my car at the airport. I was waiting for my sister Sherry to arrive. While I waited I found a CD from a recording session with the song Give Me Jesus on it. We recently recorded it for the new Christmas CD I'm working on. So I put it in the player in the car and listened. That song gets to me every time. It is so simple and so pure and the fellows who play it with me play it with such tenderness it is like we are all four testifying through the song.
Sitting there in the drivers seat I listened to the last verse...
"And when I've come to die
And when I've come to die
Oh, and when I've come to die
Give me Jesus."
As I listened to Michael Huff's lyrical piano, Dave Eskelsen's brilliant guitar, and Mark Robinette's deeply resonant bow drawing across the strings of his bass, I watched an unknown woman walking down the sidewalk toward my car. She had deep red hair and was pulling a suitcase behind her. As she looked up she obviously saw someone she loved, because a vibrant smile spread across her face and her pace hastened. As she passed my car I looked in my rear view mirror, watching her embrace what appeared to be her grown son. He threw his arms around her, and she dropped her bag, enveloping him in her kisses. Tears wove down the sides of my face, quickly running down my neck and into my blouse. In my mind I imagined Kevin and Pauline, his mom, her hands cupping his face as she found his eyes again. A mom and her only son reunited in that heaven place.
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus.
Farewell, friend and brother. Comfort and peace, dear Merlyn.
Kevin Larry Schofield 1955 ~ 2009 KAYSVILLE - Kevin Larry Schofield passed away Saturday, June 13, 2009, after a long illness. He was born April 23, 1955, in Ogden, Utah, the son of Carl Robert and Pauline Burningham Schofield. He married Merlyn Smith, January 5, 1978, in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple. Kevin realized his dream of starting and operating a labor union in 1998 - Utah Alliance of Government Employees. Throughout his career Kevin assisted countless members through difficult situations with compassion and grace. Kevin enjoyed spending time in the outdoors, especially riding Harleys with his friends. Kevin was a member of the LDS church and served honorably in all his callings. He especially loved his work with the youth of the church. He is survived by his wife Merlyn; his sister Taryn; and countless nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and his dog Micky. To celebrate the life and memory of Kevin, funeral services will be held Saturday, June 20, 2009, at 11 a.m. at the Kaysville 17th Ward Chapel, 875 E. 200 N., Kaysville. Funeral directors, Lindquist's Kaysville Mortuary, 400 North Main. Donations on behalf of Kevin may be made to the Kevin Larry Schofield Memorial Fund at Barnes Bank, 33 S. Main St., Kaysville, UT 84037. Our family invites you to express a favorite memory of Kevin by sending e-mail condolences to the family at Interment, Kaysville City Cemetery.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The word of the day is: precaution

Parker’s little legs are three years old. Barely three years old, and full of little boy energy and reckless abandon. He runs down my driveway without the benefit of steady rhythm, the way I beat on my legs like they are drums but I’m not a drummer. Fast, but undisciplined. I fear he will not get the second little knee in front of the first in time to keep himself erect. He laughs as he does this, his arms hanging down to his side like he is throwing the wind behind him and his head bobbing as he chases after a ball or heads to the garage when he notices a hammer. Sometimes the legs don’t keep up, then we get to snuggle and hug until mommy gets home. Three years old. This is the tail end of the pre-caution days. Soon he will learn to be careful. He will remember the fall and the hurt and the blood and the tears and he will say to himself at the top of the driveway, “Remember….” And though he will still hurry, it will be a hurry without innocence.

I weep for the steady loss of naiveté I see dripping out of my grandchildren. I savor every time Sophie says she wants to make chot-lick drop cookies, knowing soon she will notice someone snickering over the translation of the word chocolate. She will crank her head to the side, purse her eyebrows and think about what they are talking about; then she’ll notice that grownups say “chocolate” and she will determine to change the way she says it and that will be the end of it. Timo will realize, if he hasn’t already that the words to the song Take Me Out to the Ballgame are “root, root, root for the home team” and not “fruit, fruit, fruit for the Pirates”.
My boy went through this, and all my girls. They all lost the “pre” and have decided to hang on to the “caution”. Some, more than others. My boy, with the child-heart of three year old Parker, hangs too heavy on the caution. I thought this might never come. I wondered if he would live through his years of reckless abandon. But he turned his head on his way up the mountain he said he would live on as a bachelor-hobo-writer and saw her. Could not turn his head back away from her. Found himself tethered to the love of his life, to taking care of her, and the three little ones who came through her. They stand in four corners, each holding a thread that keeps him attached to the ground like the ropes on a hot air balloon. Wit and whimsy are a flame, burning in the center of him. The heat keeps him aloft. The love keeps him grounded.

If anything will pop the balloon, or douse the flame, it will be his own propensity to worry, to imagine the worst of all scenario and fixate on it. He fights this. Four years of University study of world philosophy, two years of a religious flood as a missionary in England and Wales; all this gave categories for his worries, but did not take them away. Few people know his thoughts. Even he does not know all of them. They play as background to the music in his headphones. But they are always there. It is what makes him look in the rear view mirror when he backs out; what keeps his children in his peripheral vision when they are at the beach; what makes him stop to see Gram even when he’s worn out tired. They make him a poet and an artist and they make his guitar strings ring. I would take those deep thoughts away to give him rest, but the music is just so beautiful.