Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ho Ho Ho

We ended up deciding to not do our Nativity this Christmas Eve for various reasons, opting instead to do Christmas day with all the kids and grandkids.  We met Sarah in Salt Lake to give her the pajama presents for the kids to open that night. They had driven all night to and from a wedding in Cedar City and we didn't want to add more driving to their lives. Then we stopped at John and Ashleys to leave the pj presents for their kids. Sophie and Park and Ruby were all in the tub, but ran out one by one to rip open the packages and clothe their freshly cleaned soft skinned bodies in new PJ's for the big night.  I also remembered to take them this vintage Santa Claus outfit I had found in a groovy little shop in Layton,

 along with a vinyl LP of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. 

 I had meant to give them to Johnny for his birthday in November.

Johnny put on the suit  and posed in front of the tree.  I think it confused Parker a little.
Johnny needs to fill out this suit, don't you think?

It reminded me of a Christmas Eve years ago when we lived at the old house.  The Volcanseks lived next door, and the twins, Jenny and Jonny, were at that age where they were not "believing" any more...maybe.  So Fred and I concocted a plan where I would dress up in my Santa costume (indeed, I have one of my own) and walk around the outside of their house with my old set of horse sleigh bells, just in case they needed a nudge to hold on to the possibility of Santa's existence. 
So late that night I dressed up.  Such a suit fits rather nicely on me.  I tiptoed out across the snowy common area dividing our houses and started ringing my bells, making sure I was visible from the bedroom window.  All the while I am sending messages into the universe, since this didn't seem to fit in the category of sending up prayers..."Let them see me...and let them believe....Let them see me...and let them believe."
Next thing I know Jenny's face is smashed up against the bedroom window.  I turn aside, lifting one leg after the other in the style of creeping discreetly,  attempting to look like I was on my way to the next house, jingling my sleigh bells and making my bowl-full-of-jelly belly jiggle.
And then she calls out...
"What's Cori Connors doing in a Santa suit?"
Shoulda used prayer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ONE

The random word generator on my computer spit out this word today: One.
Here goes….

We were girls, the four of us, chipping away at life in our apartment on East Bruceton Road in Pleasant Hills, PA. George had left for college, and then a two-year mission in Brazil, so it was that way for a number of years: Mom and her three little girls, the tail end of her seven children. During those years, when I pushed and pulled myself into growing-up, I read Little Women in my bed at night by the light of a bayberry candle. My book was an old hardbound copy with thick soft pages. I had bought it at the annual discarded book sale at the Pleasant Hills Library. Its age commanded I flip the switch at the end of my bed and read by the light of a candle, the means by which I imagined Louisa Alcott had written it. The act itself bound me to the women in my household somehow, though they never knew it. My bed was tucked against the wall of my bedroom, with Libby’s bed doing the same on the other side of the room. I had rigged a contraption on the wall so I could turn out the light without having to get up. It involved string and eye screws and paper clips and tape. I could light my candle, arrange my pillow and blankets under my head just so, open my book to the marked page, then reach over and pull the string, which tugged at the switch by the door down at the end of my bed. The room would shift to a box of flickering shadows and I was soon up in the attic with Jo writing the script to her next masterpiece, or racing up the stairs to Beth’s bedside, her hair all matted with sweat and that sweet little Beth-smile assuring me she would be alright.

The scent of Bayberry candle, to this day, takes me back,

My days and nights were filled with women. So when that man-creature came home from four years at Yale and two years in Italy and proceeded to steal my woman-heart, I was on unfamiliar ground. Very sweet, exhilarating ground…but rather unknown to me as a freshly graduated eighteen-year-old Mormon girl in a community of males with other beliefs. (How I did enjoy his kisses!) (Still do!)

So my four sisters dressed in those frothy pastel colored bridesmaid dresses they would never again wear in their lives (except for Ann Marie’s wedding) and I stood in the middle of them in my lacy white dress with the hoop underneath the train. My world changed.

The next year, on David’s birthday, I gave him a copy of a little paperback children’s book called, Just Me & My Dad. I had stapled to the final page a little yellow carbon-copied paper from the BYU Health Center with the word “positive” handwritten next to the place that read “pregnancy test”. Eight months later we found ourselves walking through the aisles of Grand Central, the store in Orem which no longer exists, pausing every fifteen minutes so I could cling to the edge of a shelf and breathe my way through a contraction. At 10 pm we decided to walk around the hospital just in case, trying to make it to the magic midnight hour so we wouldn’t have to pay for another day in the hospital if we didn’t need to. Dave kept track of the contractions, their length and space between them, on a yellow legal pad, the increments of time filling three columns and three separate dates. Just after midnight, on November 19th, I finally laid on crisp white sheets on a bed. I focused on a fly trapped in the casing of the light over my bed: blew on that thing like there was no tomorrow in the Lamaze fashion of the day, intensely focused on the fly as my whole body focused on the baby knocking at the door. I had decided not to have an epidural. I was still the girl who thought Little Women should be read by candlelight to get the full effect, after all. Something about the intensity of the pain made the event take on a sacredness I would never have imagined. Perhaps it was the unity of purpose. Perhaps it was the way I tried to make Dave’s hand fuse to mine, and the way he let me, whole-heartedly. Maybe it was just the stillness of the hour, when the rest of the world was sleeping. Just after 3 am there was a grunt, and a sigh, and a quivering cry in the quiet of the room. In those days we never knew what we would get. It was like Christmas morning every time. So exciting and mysterious. I wonder if kids these days are missing out because they know the gender early enough to prepare the nursery and fill the closet with appropriate attire. In those days they sold a lot more yellow and green crib sheets.

The doctor held the wailing creature by the feet and pronounced a blessing on my head when he told me I had born a son. The nurse, (my former college room mate, Beth,) wrapped a warm blanket around him and placed him on my chest. David bent over and laid his head next to our son, forming a sort of triangle between our heads. His tears fell onto my gown. My tears streaked my cheeks, one hand touching the flesh of the new little boy my body knew so well, the other clenched with David’s. All was quiet and still, save the sound of our throbbing exhales and inhales as we tried to contain in meager human bodies the divinity of what had just occurred. Bless that doctor and nurse for letting us have that moment when time stood still. I have experienced many, many sacred things in my life. Holy events, in holy places. None have matched the sweetness or depth of that moment. I still consider it the most spiritual experience of my life.

That was the pivot; the sharp tip of the compass that draws the circle of our lives seems to rest on that point in my heart. I know it should logically rest on the day Dave and I knelt at the altar, and in many ways that is the truth. But emotionally, and I suspect David would agree, the turning point was that moment in the hospital when our son pressed the seal of our union into the book of life.

We did not know, on that day, that this would be our only son. For many years we did not know this. Three more times we dipped into the valley of the shadow of death and came up with holy treasure. All three times the nurses glued pink bows in their silky hairs when they wheeled them into my room. They have become my three little girls, and I am their Marme, and I cherish their sisterhood now; grateful for their goodness, their devotion, their well developed talents and testimony. They are such a gift to me, my girls.

But I have only one son. One blessed, beautiful, delightful son. He was the keeper of my heart as we walked forward from that day, now nearly 32 years ago, when I met him in the flesh. He was my reason for rising in the morning, and my joy in the afternoon. He made me laugh. He still makes me laugh. And he was willing to let me cry as well, not in anger or frustration, though there was surely plenty of that, but in tender heart-to-heart discussion in the silent hours of the night when the rest of the house was sleeping. He was a philosopher from the get go, and how blessed I was that he allowed me to answer his questions, that he even thought I might have answers to his heart quests. We shared music. We shared books. We cheered at ball games, applauded at performances, hung drawings on the fridge and the wall. Read aloud stirring passages written in his chiseled handwriting. I kept my bedroom window cracked open so I could hear his guitar playing waft up from his bedroom to mine.

He allowed his friends to share our space, and they allowed me to enter now and again, the sweet spot of teenage boys existence.

I was the middle girl of a group of girls, unfamiliar with the world of boys. They had always intimidated me. Scared me, even. My father’s hand, before it left us for good, had not been tender and welcoming; so I did not understand how it might be in a healthy boy’s world. My father could not show me; but my son did.
Thank you, Johnny.
My son.
My one.
My only.
My son.

If I had a scanner that worked I could show you pictures of John through the ages.
Alas, all I have on my computer are pictures of him performing or in various stages of growing his infamous Novem-beard and holding his own treasures.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

WHAT SINGER-SONGWRITER DOESNT DREAM OF THIS?

I have this friend, Mark.  He's funny, and kind, and brilliant, and talented.  Gifted is a better word.  He's married to my friend Sarah, who is also funny and kind and gifted.  Mark does music ~ Sarah is a dancer.  I try to imagine my life without either of them and I'm telling you, it is a sorry picture without the Robinette's in it!
When our kids were young Sarah taught them ballet at the Clytie Adams School of Dance.  I sat with a couple thousand other parents at Weber State's Browning Center one year, watching my little girl twirl around in her cerullian blue tutu.  I was so charmed by the music they were dancing to that I searched the program for the composer.  In tiny script on the bottom of the back of the program it said the music was composed and performed by Mark Robinette. Since my kids' dance teacher was Sarah Robinette I assumed there was some relation.  I listened with more intent through the whole charming program.  At the end I made my way against the stream of people exiting the theatre, all the way down to the front where Sarah and Mark were standing. 
"Was that music composed by someone related to you?", I asked Sarah when I finally inched my way up to her. 
"Yes.  My husband, Mark!"  She nodded her head in his direction.  I stood patiently behind a crowd of people waiting to talk to him. 
"Hi," I said.  "Did you write the music for the little dancer's performances?"
Mark nodded.
"I just want you to know it was fabulous!"
He graciously responded, and I made some ridiculous comment like, "No, really, I'm a songwriter too and I need to tell you that was amazing!"
He smiled, I'm sure thinking who the heck is this person?
I realized how obnoxious I was acting, so I told him thanks and left.  But I kept that name...Mark Robinette...in the back of my head for future reference.
Turns out that following winter Mark was doing a sort of Sunday Service circuit of performances of this song someone asked him to sing with them.  A duet. He sang a part about Joesph and a gal sang the part of Mary.
At some point in the following year our paths crossed on neutral territory and we both figured out who the other one was. He had somehow heard my song that Chris LeDoux had recorded and had a sort of respect for that, and then he found out I had written Joseph and Mary.  And of course I was in awe of his work. 
Neither of us can even remember the first time we had an opportunity to work together.  Susan Tingey probably had something to do with it, but we're not quite sure.  Faulty memory banks.
But whomever it was that got us to make music together, I need to give them a big hug and a shout out, because my life was changed for good.
If you've seen me perform much you'll know Mark as that tall bass player standing beside me (when I'm lucky).  I get his sweet harmonies and deep instrumental resonance when I'm lucky and he's not booked for another gig with the Joe Muscolino Band or the Orchestra at Temple Square, or he's not producing a half time show for the Orange Bowl, or he's not handling sound and tech for an international convention of something-or-other.  He's one of the few people I know who is able to support his family solely on freelance music. He is gifted musically and in so many other ways and I adore him and Sarah!
So a few years ago Mark introduced me to his friend Michael Huff.  Michael played piano with us for a performance of The Little Prince, which Mark and I wrote for the ballet school (yup, I realize the full circle charm in the fact that I get to write and play for that ballet recital now!) Mike is amazing on keyboards! And he is so dang nice, too.  Turns out Michael Huff is gifted in the way Mark Robinette is gifted.  The cashier at Home Depot might not know this about them when they're checking out. It's like...uh, people...if you knew what these guys can do you would not be so casually dropping that box of nails in the bag...you'd be trying to act non-chalant while you watched their every move out of the corner of your eye! 
Last year Dave and I were invited to sing in a regional choir for General Conference.  The director of that choir was Dr. Michael Huff - (otherwise known as Mike).  Michael has his Doctorate in Choral Direction, and I'm here to tell you he is one AMAZING choir director.  There are some songs I cannot sing without tears because of what Michael taught us when he was "teaching us the song".  Truly, if you ever get the chance to sing under the baton of Dr, Huff you should jump!  If I was not Young Women's president right now I would be singing in his choir UTAH VOICES!  We went to their performance of Carmina Burana last spring and it blew us away!  But they rehearse on Wednesday evening, and that's when I have Young Womens.
Wait a minute....it looks like I DO get to sing with UTAH VOICES! 
(drum roll)
Michael asked if I would be a guest artist with his choir for their Thanksgiving Concert, sweetly titled "GIVE THANKS". I'll be singing some of my simple singer-songwriter fare in a couple weeks, at the beautiful Libby Gardner Hall on the U of U campus...with a 170 voice choir backing me up!  And a string ensemble!  And my friends (gifted musicians and songwriters also) Dave and Carla Eskelsen...and...of course...Mark Robinette.
What singer-songwriter doesn't dream of something like this?
I'm so excited!
(and a little bit nervous!)
So if you have read this far (boy, I sure do over-write!) and you are thinking you want a warm fuzzy inspiring way to start the Holiday season, come to the Utah Voices Concert on Monday Nov 22nd.  The music is sure to be delicious!
Details:

Give Thanks – A Thanksgiving/Holiday Concert

Date: Monday, November 22, 2010
Time: 7:30 PM
Runtime: Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes
Location: Libby Gardner Concert Hall (1375 Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City, UT)
Tickets: General Admission - $10 (order online here)
Details: Utah Voices welcomes singer-­‐songwriter Cori Connors (www.coriconnors.com) for an evening of music that will feature Cori Connors as well as the music of English composers, John Rutter and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Michael Huff is currently Director of Commercial Music at Utah State University, working with former Tabernacle Choir Director Craig Jessop.  If you know someone going to Utah State suggest they find a class...any class... Michael Huff is teaching!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Those Eyes

Look at those eyes! He’s gonna be a heart breaker, our Parker! Parker is the only son of my only son, John. He is a kind little 4 year old, sandwiched between two strong spirited sisters, Sophie and Ruby. Though both his parents and three of his grandparents have brown eyes, Parker’s eyes are blue. My eyes are blue. I’m just sayin’….

Parker goes to pre-school just down the road from our house. Mrs. T taught pre-school to his dad, and his aunties. She’s a good one! The other day I walked through the back gate and up the road to pick him up after school. We held hands as we walked along the sidewalk, talking about his friends and what he had done in class. Looked for cars and then crossed the street hand in hand, then when we reached the grass that leads to our back gate I moved in front of him. As we walked across the stepping stones this conversation began:

Park: Gummy?
Me: Yes, Park.
P: You have a big bum.
Me: I know.

We walked a bit more….

P: Gummy?
Me: Mmm, hmmm?
P: You have a big tummy, too.
Me: Yup, I do.

As we turned into the garage he moved in front of me….

P: Gummy?
Me: Yeah, buddy?
P: You also have a big face.

I stopped for a sec, then…

Me: Is that bad?

Parker stopped, too. Turned around, looked up into my eyes, cocked his head to the side and responded…

P: Nah, ith’s cute.

He turned and walked into the house. I followed him and we found some Play Dough.

I could have, had the spirit compelled me, taken this time to talk to Park about social grace, about how people are different and we should be careful with their feelings, etc. But he was wholly pure in what he had said. I was probably more comforted and warmed by his sincerity. There was not one ounce of malice or judgment in his comments. My size is simply an interesting fact to him. It has nothing to do with anything that matters.

I was pondering the interchange that night and I said a prayer that went something like this:

Me: Heavenly Father?
HF: Yes, Cori.
Me: I have a big bum.
HF: MmmHmmm
Me: and a big tummy AND a big face
HF: yes…
Me: Is that bad?
I didn’t see Him pause... didn’t see His eyes look into mine, nor hear Him answer. What I did sense was that He wanted to take my hand, walk into His realm and build something, maybe not with Play Dough, but build something with…something. I sensed that beating myself up about myself was going to keep me from enjoying the PlayDough of daily living. “Cute” is a relative term, and I suspect HF doesn’t really give much weight to anything like that. I’m just guessing about this. And though I’m also guessing about this, because I didn’t see them, I’m thinking today that His eyes were a heavenly blue.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

GALORE

galore \guh-LOHR\, adjective:
In abundance; in plentiful amounts.

She walks into the room and the air changes, rising up like an autumn wind that hits a bank of trees and sends a spray of colorful leaves flying. People who don’t know her will pause, lift their chins and glance around, shrug their shoulders almost imperceptibly and continue their conversations. People who know her move toward her like ducks to bread on water.

She, meanwhile, is wholly unaware of herself, except for a little self consciousness evidenced in the way she tugs at the back of her shirt, making sure it’s not sitting on the Parrish shelf on her back-side. She sees someone she loves, which is basically anyone she has met, and her face lights up; her cheeks rising, her lips parting, her aquamarine eyes sparkling like the sun has just come from behind a cloud on Lake Huron. Irresistible, I tell you. Arms reach out, like zombies from the Night of the Living Dead, only with all good non-scary feelings. They rise in response to her presence. They rise to embrace her. You move your heart in closer to hers and then you smell it; faint and sweet. You inhale just a millisecond longer to capture the scent of Galore.

It’s been her perfume of choice for years. Mine too, though it is not the same on my skin is it is on hers. My skin is too dry. Too selfish. Too….something. But when I smell it on her it makes me want to spray one more spritz in the morning, like schoolgirls who wanted to look like Jennifer Anniston so they spent an hour every morning trying to get the hairdo. We come close, but….

Galore is the perfect name for Ann Marie’s perfume. She is abundance personified. She is graciousness. She is generosity. She holds her cup of life with both hands, raises it toward heaven and watches it overflow as if it were a fountain of youth. There is no end. The more she gets, the more she gives. The more she gives the more she gets. Logic will try to cap it, but like the BP oil spill in Mexico, it will not hold. Her time, her talents, her warm conversation, her culinary skills, her hosting abilities, her testimony, her curiosity, her compassion, her money, her hard work, her tenderness, her laughter, her tears: they cannot be contained. Nor should they be. She is a divine vessel for all of it; a good steward. We’ll be at Costco getting supplies for Thanksgiving and she will pass the children’s toy section and she will move her cart over in that direction like there was a big invisible magnet hidden under the display table. Though there are no little children in her immediate family, she will drop a doll in her cart, already almost full, and then something with some semblance of Mickey Mouseness, along with a Lego set and something that looks like Sophie….oh, and some PJ’s for baby Ruby. These are MY grandchildren. See what I mean?

My mom used to struggle to restrain her concern about Ann Marie’s health. She worked so hard, and got so tired.

“But it makes me happy, Mom.” she would say between yawns.

Ann Marie is our mother’s little bird. Mom doesn’t play favorites, but anyone can see the sweetness of her affection for AM. And there is no wonder. When we were teenagers I sat in the old white rocker doing something wholly selfish while Ann Marie vacuumed and dusted. Once in a while she would comment to us that our mom worked 16 hour days providing for us and she shouldn’t have to deal with cleaning the house when we were fully capable healthy girls, etc. Guilt would get me up for something like a piano polishing, but soon enough I would have to use the bathroom and the little rest was just too compelling and…well, you know. Our current lives are evidence of our natures: just look at Ann Marie’s house, then take a gander at mine.

Like I said, Galore does not smell the same on my skin.

In 1956 my mom and dad had an argument, so I am told, that ended up with my dad at the top of the basement stairs, drunk, and my mom in a heap at the bottom. She spent weeks in the hospital with clots that invaded her heart and her lungs. She was not expected to live. Mom’s sisters had decided between themselves who would get each of my mother’s children. AM, Lib and I watched this from our heaven place perhaps, wondering how we were going to get down there under these circumstances. Mom was pregnant with Ann Marie at the time. The doctors wanted to abort. They worried mom’s damaged heart would not hold out. Mom refused. “Let’s just play it by ear and see how it goes,” she told the doctor. So I imagine Ann Marie’s weightless spirit hovering over our mom for the next months, whispering encouragement in her ear, stroking her hand at night when the room was dark. And when her spirit came into its body, she kicked only enough to make herself known, but not enough to trouble her mother. That’s what I imagine.

Nineteen months after our mother safely delivered Ann Marie in Grandma Jensen’s house for birthing mothers, she delivered me. Sixteen months later Libby came down. Three little girls in a row. AM was the delicate one, the quiet one, with dark hair and a beautiful smile. Her perfume was that sweet smell of little child sweat, all pure and sharp, like fresh milk from the cow. I picture our mom holding her against her chest, coaxing air from her little tummy, burying her nose in the folds of her baby neck, inhaling aroma, memorizing her scent.

That was 54 years ago. Mom is nearly 87 years old now.

Yesterday Ann Marie drove all day, from Sacramento to Salt Lake City, arriving at Mom and Libby’s house at about one in the morning. She and Mike had come to drop Joseph off at BYU. Joseph is the youngest of Mom’s grandchildren, the caboose of the little train following the big red engine. He is a tall, handsome delight of a boy.

“Mom’s still awake,” Libby said when they walked in, “Go say Hi.”
So the three of them tiptoed into Mom’s bedroom where mom lay on her side, her snowy hair glowing against her deep red pillowcase.
“Hi, Mom.” Ann Marie spoke in a whisper, leaning over her bed to try to catch her eye.

“Oh! Hi Doll! What are you doing here? Oh my goodness, you’re all here! Do you get to stay?”

Everyone melts.

Ann Marie bends low to the bed, her lips touch the lips of her mother. I imagine mom inhaling, just a millisecond longer than normal, to capture the smell of Ann Marie…the scent of Galore.

Abundance.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MY MASONIC ALTAR


Truth. Love. Fidelity. Charity.

These four words, painted in reverse glass fashion on the four sides of this antique Masonic altar, remind me of the most important things in my home. Not the furniture, though beautiful things certainly create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I imagine the grain in the wood of this old altar has absorbed many a story; not only the century old ones it acquired in the fields and pastures of the eastern United States, where it was used for outdoor Women's Temperance Revivals. I know for a fact there are decades of family memories caught in this old walnut altar. Evening stories told by firelight, Christmas mornings, music and laughter and a healthy balance of tears.

I cherish this piece of furniture because it has been a constant in the life of our expanding family; sitting in the family room as all our children grew up, and now as our grandchildren scoot their riding toys past it. It reminds me, each time I look at it, that Truth and Love - Charity and Fidelity are the heirlooms I will leave the ones I love.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

LIMB

June 30, 2010 limb


“That is one strange looking tree.”

Dave paused as we climbed the small hill. My fingers, interlaced with his, felt him stop, so (though I had been watching my feet and not the scenery) I paused too.

“Sure is.” I said, cocking my head to the right side.

“I wonder how it grew that way?” He pondered underneath his pursed eyebrows.

“I think that’s not the trunk that goes all the way up.” I said. “I think somehow the trunk got diseased or broken and the limb became the trunk.”

We both stared for a minute, wondering what may have happened, and when it may have happened. The Quakie was bent like the arm of an Egyptian dancer; like the letter Z on an ancient torture chamber stretcher; her silvery bark reflecting the setting sun over Farmington Pond like Zorro had sliced the sky.

When trunks struggle a good strong limb will take over and keep the flow going. Pretty soon it’s hard to tell the difference unless you pause. And you look up.

Trunks break all the time. I wonder if trees grieve the loss?

My mother’s family tree suffered a broken trunk somewhere during the Great Depression. Mid 1930’s. That’s the year her mother, Lizzie Parrish, left the ranch in Blackfoot with a belly ache. Headed to Salt Lake City to visit a doctor. On the way they stopped in Soda Springs to visit her brother Joe. They never made it to the city near the Great Salt Lake.

Mom was in seventh or eighth grade. Her sister Becky was nine years old. Mae was in High School. Mae remembers being called out of class. Someone, unremembered now, followed the path of the three schools like a dot to dot, hastily gathering daughters into an old black automobile. Silently they bumped over the rough roads to Soda Springs in time to say goodbye to their mom.

The trunk broke.

George Parrish grieved the loss of Lizzie until he couldn’t stand it any longer. One year after Lizzie died he married again. Alice. A young thing, rough around the edges, with not much to offer a grieving family. She was younger than some of George’s children, and she didn’t care to raise the younger ones.

So the limbs took over.

Nine good limbs remained on George and Lizzie’s tree: Fred, Parks, Ruth, Ruby, Edna, Mary, Mae, Afton and Becky. Mae, Becky and Afton were pretty green and tender. The big branches stretched up toward the heavens and let the life flow despite their sorrow and discomfort. Not only had they lost their mother, they had in many ways lost their father as well.

My mother, like the two sisters who straddled her in age, lived her remaining teenage years in the limbs of her older brothers and sisters: hung there in a small space while they raised their kids around her. They were good to her, and gave her safety in her solitude. She learned to fend for herself early on. Sewed her own clothes, worked jobs and lived her own stubborn life until she was seventeen and old enough to marry Cy Davis and move, finally, to a home of her own. In their own individual ways my uncles and aunts nurtured my mother into the woman from whom seven more branches sprung. I bend my little green twig of self down toward them here in our family tree, wanting to connect, wanting to thank them for not letting go; for not giving up and letting the whole thing die. When I came along, the trunk had grown over where the break occurred, and not knowing anything different I thought our tree was just a normal one like all the others on the hill.

That’s before I learned to pause.

My own funny little branch sprang from the large sturdy one that came from the crooked trunk of my mother’s family tree. We are zigzagged and odd, but strangely interesting nonetheless. And with every turn of the seasons, like every other tree in the forest, we burst with new life, proving to ourselves that, despite our awkward appearance, we are survivors.

It’s a good thing to pause. And look up.

Friday, June 25, 2010

HONEY

June 25, 2010 honey
Years ago, when my mom and I went on outings because we had something we needed to do rather than to just get her out of the house, I decided I was going to make friends with beeswax. I loved the way the pure beeswax candles we bought in Williamsburg dripped when we burned them. I was gonna make my own! Both Mom and I had antique tin candle molds sitting on our hearths, and I wanted to try candle dipping as well. The prospect was sealed one day while dusting a couple old Santa candy molds I also own; I thought I’d also try making beeswax ornaments from the old molds. Thus began our quest to find good quality beeswax.
Thanks to the yellow pages (these were the days before Google) I discovered a small shop in Salt Lake City where they sold the residue left over from their honeybee hives. On an autumn afternoon Mom and I followed the seam of I-15 down south, off an unremembered exit, past a business selling cast lawn ornaments. We drove back across a long narrow driveway and opened the door to the shop. I’m not exactly sure what the memory was, but the aroma of the place evoked one: a remembrance of something long forgotten…like hundreds of years old. Something stored deep in the spiritual pocket behind my belly button.
We purchased two large blocks of golden wax. I lifted the bricks to my nose as we walked out, inhaling at half-speed. It was earthy and sweet and balanced…it felt balanced - in the way that all the earth should be balanced. Like a dinner plate with two thirds vegetables and one third protein. Like water from a mountain spring the minute it emerges. Like morning air damp with dew. It felt like the benefit equaled the sacrifice. Sweet and earthy and old.
We melted the wax in an old can which we set in a pot of water. The can clanked and jiggled as the water below it boiled, the clump of gold turning to liquid as I stood above it and watched. I stirred the wax with an old chop stick until it was melted. We poured and dipped and scraped. Re-melted, re-poured and dipped again. We still have those golden Santa’s made of beeswax. I recall that afternoon every time I lay my Santa collection across my concrete mantle in our family room.
A few years back I spent a summer travelling to various public libraries in Salt Lake City. They had hired me to do a summer program for children. We called it Happy Faces – Happy Feet. We sang songs, traced our feet, dressed up like fairies, made music shakers out of empty pop cans (we had plenty of them at our house, what with Dave’s Pop Shoppe). Then we marched and kept the beat as we sang, following the pattern we had laid on the ground with our traced feet: A marching band of children with a Pied Guitar-er in the lead. I did a different library every week.
One week there was a little four-year-old boy who completely charmed me when he talked. I had been sitting on a stool, explaining something, when he raised his hand. His name was Thomas.
“Yes, Thomas,” I said, worried that his helium-filled arm was going to wave off his body.
“My Honey said we should do this or that (I can’t remember what it was he said, just that he mentioned his Honey.)
“Oh, good idea!” I responded.
“Who’s Honey?” I wondered who the sweetheart of a four year old would be.
“Ummmm”, he thought for a minute, “She’s just my Honey.”
“OK,” I said.
One week later he showed up in another library.
“Hey!” I smiled as I winked at him. “Weren’t you at our last one in South Jordan?”
“I brought you my Honey.” He turned and took the hand of a middle aged woman. The sort of woman I am now.
I was charmed almost speechless that he called his grandmother Honey.
“So do all your grandchildren call you Honey?”
“No,” she responded, “Only Thomas. He just started calling me that one day and it’s been that way ever since.”
I could not take my eyes off the two of them for the rest of the program. I watched him wrap his arms around her neck when they finished their rattle. I watched her talk to him as he colored. They were perfectly balanced; like the beeswax. The just-right amount of give and take. Sweet and true and eternal.
Honey.

ps- my Honey and I were married in the Washington DC LDS Temple 33 years ago today.  Happy Anniversary, Honey!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

ROCOCO

June 23, 2010 rococo
We stood hunched over in the basement of a centuries-old shop in Bolzano, Italy: Dave, Libby, Mom and me, along with my sisters Sherry and Sue. The shop owner, a man small enough to stand shoulders-back and still have head room, had invited us to maneuver the narrow stairs down into his workspace after Mom had expressed particular delight in his work.

Angels. He carved angels. Rococo carvings: swirls and vines and wavy hair atop cherubic faces with pale plump lips and chubby, kissable necks. Chiseled out of wood, they belied their medium, looking for all the world like you should be able to squish them into your arms like we snuggled our well fed babies, except for the fact that their squishiness always sat atop a set of gilded wings.
I fell in love with them, too. Italy does this to people. Charms them, as if Italian flute players sat invisibly outside little shops and lured us in. We think we can take the feeling home with us to our sterile American houses.
Mom looked adoringly at all the pieces the artist was currently carving. “Oh my!” she’d say, “You have gifted hands!” The more she said, the deeper he took her into his workshop, until finally we were in the chilly dank back room, a fruit cellar sort of place, where there was very little light. There my mother fell in love with two large angel faces, almost life size, beautifully crafted, with obvious spirit infused into them. The were truly beautiful. And truly expensive.
I made myself turn away as I watched them start to negotiate. I got a pit in my stomach. Seriously…was my mother going to try to buy those things? I mean, are you kidding?
I made myself climb the stairs back up to the store space. Found some nice little 2 inch angel heads that were perfectly charming. Singularly lovely, each of them, and much more affordable. “You should be looking at these, Mom.” I thought this to myself, too un-daring to speak it aloud. But I grumped, like I had any right whatsoever to comment on what my mother chose to do with her money. I laid down my chunk of cash for eight tiny angels, which were wrapped in a nonchalant sort of way; while afterwards I watched the artisan, risen from the tomb with two angels under his arms, carefully dust the years of waiting off the ones my mother bought. Large, heavy ones, whose wing-gilding alone cost more than all my little angels. He carefully wrapped them and boxed them and took her money, almost hesitantly, not because he thought it was too much but, it appeared, because he was not so sure he wanted to part with his handiwork.
I hmphed around as we continued down the street, annoyed that she would allow herself such a luxury. I don’t remember, but maybe she was living with us at the time and I thought I had some say in what she did. I don’t know. It was immature and silly nonetheless.
My mom has this strange relationship with money. She thinks it is to spend. She has always had great credit…at least after Dad left and she was in charge of her own checkbook. She went so long with so little that when she started being successful in her own career you’d presume she’d hold on to a bit of it. And she did, I now know. At least held onto enough for a rainy season, if it should come again. But she was not one to believe she should hoard. Money, to her, is to facilitate life. Life does not focus itself on money. Sort of like some people live to eat and others eat to live. When Mom had it; she used it. And when she didn’t; well, she could live happily on less than anyone I know. Libby has learned this from her. They are Realtors. This current economy is a serious test of that philosophy for them. But they are making it; without complaint, without furrowed eyebrows. They are so graceful in their struggles, both of them. They don’t panic. Maybe a bit of silent worry…but they won’t panic until the spirit tells them to. I wish I was more like both of them.
Those big, beautiful rococo angels currently hang right by their front door. I see them every single day. They remind me that my mother loves beautiful things; as my sister does. She understands that artistic excellence requires a cost, and she (bless her heart) is willing to pay that. So few people understand the cost of good art.
Meanwhile, my cute little cheap rococo angels sat in a drawer, unseen, for years. I found them last Christmas and tied them to my chandelier, swaging cedar boughs between the candelabra from which the cherubs hung. I don’t know if anyone even noticed them.
I need to remember this and other lessons from my mom: some things there is no need to chintz out on. If you love something and want it to last; pay for it. This holds true in so many things: education; vehicles and homes; relationships; and rococo angels.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

PERSNICKETY

The randomly generated word for today is: PERSNICKETY

Her nostrils twitched when she entered the room. They twitched, then twitched again until finally she wiggled the back of her hand against her nose in a Bewitched manner, like she was trying to charm herself to another place but didn’t have the witchery of Samantha to actually get herself there.

“Here”, I said, hurrying over to the chair, “Have a seat.” I was working in my study, hammering the keys of a small red laptop; still in my PJ’s, stomach growling from breakfast neglect. I lifted a stack of papers from one of the chairs opposite my desk; laid them on the mountaintop of the desk-pile, held my hand there on top of all of it until I was sure it was balanced enough to walk away.

“No, really, I can’t stay. I just wanted to return the things I borrowed.”

I struggled for the correct response. I knew she was uncomfortable. Persnickety as she was, I still loved her, and something in me wanted her to try to feel at ease with someone who was…well… was not.

She tried. She sat on the very edge of the chair; her knees pressed together, her hands in her lap. She tried to sort of lean her back into the chair, then thought better of it. I could tell she was trying to look relaxed. Trying to pretend she was enjoying it.

It reminded me of the day I tried parasailing over Lake Powell. The boat started up with me tied to its tail. The parachute lifted me into the air then dipped me down over the sandstone, dragging my legs across the rock before the chute found air again and lifted me up. I floated above the boat, high above the cliffs and reservoir. I remember the sounds in my head “Oh, this is so lovely, Ow, ow, ow. Enjoy this Cori, cuz you will never see it again.” I tried and tried to tell myself I was enjoying it, but the blood dripping into the water below me kept blurring the picture. So I knew how she felt. And it stung me in the center of my chest to think I would cause her pain. I looked at her across the miscellany on my desktop. Saw the glow of sunlight through the wisps of hair around her face. Dust specks swirled around her head forming a sort of divine nebula. I found it interesting that I could hold a conversation with her and myself at the same time. Trying to chat politely with the woman opposite me, while the gal who giggles in my head was considering the irony in the fact that the very thing my persnickety friend despised was creating a halo around her face.

Most of the time I don’t mind my desk so much. If it was clean, that would be nice, but I’m fine with it the way it is. I choose to write instead of clean when I’m in here. Most the time I’m ok with it all, until a persnickety friend stops by to return some of the stuff they borrowed. Some of the stuff I keep stuffed in my space. I keep it here because I don’t mind it being here so much, and someone might need it someday. And so many of my friends do mind their spaces being full.

It’s a good thing we have each other, I say as I shut the door behind her. I set the stack of plates and tablecloths at the top of the basement stairs, waiting for David to take them down when he goes to exercise in the morning. I walk instinctively over to the fridge, pull it open, glance to the left and to the right, the top then the bottom, decide its too much work to make something healthy. I shut the fridge, shuffle barefooted back to the study, and lay my fingers atop the computer keys.

Monday, June 21, 2010

WORD OF THE DAY RETURNS

I awoke this morning determined to actually do what my early-morning brain suggested I do.  I think early morning prayers are the best because they are unencumbered by the mounting stack of unfulfilled objectives of each day. So this morning my first thought on rising was to go find the random word generator and sign up for a Word of the Day and then actually DO it! So that's what I did. When I finished writing and went to save it in my Object Writing file on my computer, I was so sad to see that in the file entitled 2010 I have a grand total of ZERO writings.  Since today is Summer Solstice, exactly half way through the year (can you imagine???) I think I'll start anew.  And the word that came up today, truly...this is amazing...was....
TABULA RASA

6-21-2010 Tabula Rasa
There was a store in the no-longer-in existence mall in downtown SLC called Tabula Rasa. Just outside the top floor of Nordstrom, where you left the children’s department and entered the environs of display windows and miscellaneous mood music wafting from little cells of stores lining the sides of the mall. Tabula Rasa was filled with yummy papers and note cards; lovely glass and metal pens with split tips and inkwells whose tops had been dipped in sealing wax. Books, bound in tooled leather with elegant clasps, or with strips of raw leather attached waiting to swaddle the journal: empty books waiting for the touch of ink from daring hands. The store was small and delicious, like a very expensive truffle. I loved visiting Tabula Rasa. My mom has a fabulous carved Nativity set she bought there, which I love. Lib puts it out on their living room mantle at Christmas time. It stretches across the whole mantle: elephants and camels and other creatures making their way to the Holy Family. It was a very expensive set. One only my mom would buy. I, on the other hand, would purchase three inferior sets for the same total amount of money and leave all three of them up in the Christmas cupboard because they just don’t quite do it for me. I wish I was more like my mom.

Tabula Rasa, it turns out, is Latin for “tablet erased”. Fresh start. New Beginning. Do Over.

I lift my hand to my mouth every Sunday afternoon. Insert broken bread. Tip my head back and let sacred water fall past my lips and into my throat. The very center of me knows what I am doing. I do it on purpose. But not always with purpose. Sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I’m rattled. Sometimes I am pondering and still preparing for a lesson I’ll be teaching an hour later to my class of Young Women. But sometimes, when my heart is still and my mind is clear, I imagine the King of Kings sitting at His desk in His heaven-place. I imagine, in my odd way of imagining, that His desk in stacked with pink erasers. Mounded in an orderly pile like a stack of Lego’s, like a pile of pink bubble gum slices, like the countertop in the teacher’s work room the day before school starts; the erasers sit ready to be used. I imagine Him peeking over the edge of Heaven and watching me chew and swallow. He smiles, His eyes twinkling a bit in the sunlight. I imagine Him lifting my pink eraser from the pile…one with my very name on it…and I see Him rubbing the pages of my tabula. I think to myself how thin the paper must be getting by now.

I suppose I should look at my book of life more often. I suppose I should allow myself to see the pages are clean because He cleaned them, and I honestly believe He has the right and power to do that. I wonder why I would believe that. But I do. I feel peace in that belief. I suppose I should notice after I allow the sacrament bread and water to enter my body that my tablet is clean. I would be more gentle with myself then. I would be more grateful and therefore more conscious and therefore more ready for new writing on my tablet: good or bad. If I remember the erasers are ready then I might be more willing to live as I should live…willing to try more passionately because I am willing to make mistakes. Knowing, but not in any irresponsible way, that He can make my tabula… rasa.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?

Yes. Why yes...indeed...there is a doctor in the house. In OUR house!  A fabulously talented, brilliant, beautiful, creative doctor lives in our house.  At least for a while. Fortunately she brought with her two delightful little ones who sleep in their own little beds upstairs.  Timothy, the lover of all things Mickey Mouse; and Anna Bella, the lover of all things pretend. There is nothing more heart meltingly wonderful to this old Gummy than to pull into the garage and see the door open; standing there with both arms thrown out to his side and a toothless grin stretching from one ear to the other. "Gummy!" He squeals my name like he just squished it out of his heart. Oh make me melt!  All our grandchildren do this to me. They completely own me.

So here's to Dr. Sarah Connors Petersen, the Pediatrician. She practices with the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics. She just finished doing a segment on Good Things Utah this morning.  She was great.  Not that I have any bias...but if I were looking for a kid doc, she would be it.  I suspect she listens to her patients, and their parents, and she communicates without sounding like a know-it-all flippant doctor. I'm her mom, but I think it's true nonetheless.
So tonight we will load the two munchkins and their parents into the van and we will all drive to Kansas City, where we get to celebrate with the rest of the graduating Medical Residents the end of their "training". School's out - so to speak!
Hooray for Sarah!
Sarah will be presenting the school with a large giclee' of this painting she did in high school.  (sorry for the keystoning in the photo) She received the Utah High Schools Masters award for this painting, and the Utah Education Association bought the original for their gallery and gave her their Purchase Award scholarship for that year.They also made a poster of the painting, which is a watercolor, and distributed it to all Utah schools.  Here's what the poster said:
For the fifth consecutive year, UEA has purchased an outstanding work of student art to feature in our Collector Poster Series.  this year's selection is "JOY - Chemo Can't Conquer a Smile", by Sarah Connors.  Sarah, a 1998 graduate of Davis High School, is the daughter of David and Cori Connors.  She is currently an art/pre-med major at Southern Utah State University, where she received the Presidential Ambassador Scholarship.  "JOY- Chemo Can't Conquer a Smile" won the Master's Award in the All-State High School Show as well as being selected by UEA.  Sarah would like to thank her art teachers: Harold Peterson, Jan Richins and Roger Cushing for developing her art talents.  She is hopeful that the extra sensitivities that a love of art have given her will help her as she aspires to serve others through the practice of medicine.
I guess she is living her dream, huh? Now that she's done with Residency maybe she can think about picking up a paintbrush again.

Sarah started medical school pregnant.  Imagine Gross Anatomy class (we're talking cadavers here) and morning sickness. Yuh.  But she did it, and that June she gave us this little jewel:


Timothy.
We call him Timo, or Mo, or Mosely, or sometimes Mr. Magoo.
Then, her last year of medical school she was pregnant again.  In spite of a very rough pregnancy she finished her work and wore these robes on one fine June day:


...and two weeks later she did this....


Anna Bella...or Bella Boo...or Princess...or Shrinky Dink.
What fabulous work she does!

Congratulations Dr. Petersen.  You survived, with the help of a good husband, over three years of 85 hour weeks in the hospital.  Inadequate rest.  Inadequate time with your children.  Living in a strange new place with strange new people (who have since become cherished friends. Funny how that happens.) And now...ta-da.....
You are HOME!

(at least until your new house is built!)

Yay for Doctor Mommy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

WELCOME JUNE

I love June.  It starts out great and ends great.  The best thing I did on June 1st was help God make this:

She is as beautiful inside as she is outside...


and she's kind and intelligent and funny...

and she's full of love...

She started out a boingy little bopper we called Captain Destructo (If I had a scanner that worked I would put a picture of her up here in that memorable role...she broke three cribs from bouncing in them.).
Alas, you can only see her as a beautiful woman now.

Happy Birthday my Annie!
(I loved you before everyone else!)
(OK, maybe not God.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

WHAT ANGELS SOUND LIKE

A friend sent this to me today, saying she thought this must be what angels sound like.
I think she's right.

Friday, May 7, 2010

age

I usually use capital letters in the title words when I blog, but not today.  Today I prefer lower case letters for the word "age", and if my computer would do it I would draw the "e" backwards.
I'm feeling aged at this moment.  Not old yet, but ....well, not young.  I married a man 6 years older than myself.  A professional man; a successful one who lifted me rapidly in socio-economic status after I married him...at a young age I might add.  We moved into our beautiful, dignified, well-kept neighborhood here when I was barely 24 years old.  Everyone was older than me.  Like, ten years older than me, most of them.  I was blessed with open armed neighbors who did not hold my youth against me.  At least they didn't make me feel juvenile.  I taught their teenage daughters who were a handful of years younger than I was, and it felt perfectly natural.  But I was always, in the back of my head, a bit younger than everyone else and I worked to feel older, like I was mature and I belonged.
The tables have turned.
Today I joined a lovely group of women for a friend's lunch.  Happy Birthday to my good friend Sheri, who looks like she's maybe 33 and yet has a grand baby who is walking now.  She is younger than I. In fact, and I made mental note of this to myself as I drove home, I was the oldest woman at that table.  I became aware of this as I watched various conversations unfold.  They talked about which instructors they preferred at the gym.  They talked about dealing with their teenage daughters...about corsages and boutonnieres at the prom...about what the proper age to teach kids to do laundry should be.  Of course I was generally pleasantly engaged in conversation myself, but it struck me with every pause that they are where I was ten years ago. Even 15 years ago.
Maybe I am just in that mode today because I woke up knowing I would shuffle out to the computer and compose a letter to Sandy Holman, whose retirement hoopla is at Knowlton Elementary School this afternoon.  Sandy taught our kids, all of them.  We were blessed by this.  And I worked closely with Sandy through the PTA years.  When I was PTA president Annie was 3 years old and thought she owned the school because, truth be faced, we spent more time there than at home. I knew Sandy as a friend, as I knew many of the teachers there.  So in this letter I wrote this morning I was hurled back in time; the same way I am every time I walk through the doors of that school to pick up one of our three grand kids who attend there. It made me feel aged.  Not old.  Just aged.
So then I go to this lunch and I'm ...well, you know.
Tonight I am joining a circle of songwriters at Viewmont High for a benefit concert.  Most of the artists are half my age. I have to have this talk with myself.  I have to remind Her Agedness that she may be playing with more hip, current, attractive, talented youngsters, but she should not beat herself up about it nor should she try to change her style to fit theirs.  I have this talk with her before a lot of shows lately. Things are going weird I tell ya.
Ah, me.  She nods her head and says, "yeah, yeah, I know.  I'm just fine the way I am, blah, blah, blah. Leave me alone."  She is a rather unpleasant person to lecture, myself is. She grabs her guitar and walks on stage and tries not to think about the physical appearances of things...tries to concentrate on the fact that the best songs should be ageless.  She tries to tell herself all this, but her voice still quivers when she starts because she is following some dyn-o-mite guitar player who has fabulous vocal chops and looks like Johnny Depp (that's not always the case, I am just in a worst case scenario mood). I tickle my strings and let this thin thread of a voice fall out onto the floor.  Somewhere deep down, there is a part of me that believes I should be able to stand up next to anyone with my songs and not have to feel like apologizing. She appears only occasionally, however, and the rest of the time I am doing silent battle with the demons of doubt while I sit up there trying to look all hip and relaxed on stage when really I'd rather be in my pj's on the family room couch eating Carmel Corn.
Oh well.  No changing it.  And the alternative to aging is not exactly what I'm looking for.
Onward and upward, so they say. I'll take hold of the reigns and kick my heels into what's left of this life I've been handed. 
I think, however, I'll go take a little nap first.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

MY GUY

Exciting things happened this week, not the least of which is this:

Connors nominated for state Supreme Court

Apr 15, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY — A 2nd District Court judge is one of six nominees for an upcoming vacancy on the Utah Supreme Court.
Judge David M. Connors, a former mayor of Farmington and 2nd District Court judge is one of the six nominees.
Connors was appointed to the Second District Court by Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. and took office January 2008.
He earned a law degree from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School where he was a member of the Law Review and graduated magna cum laude in 1979. He received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1974.
Prior to his appointment to the bench, he was a partner with LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, L.L.P., where he served as head of the Utah litigation group.
From 1979 through 1980, Connors clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, in New York City.
He served as Farmington’s mayor from 2002 to 2006. He has also served as a board member of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, Davis County Council of Governments, Davis Education Foundation, and the Mormon Arts Foundation, and as a trustee for the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. He is a past chairman of the Business Law Section of the Utah State Bar.
Others nominated include: Judge Royal I. Hansen, of Salt Lake City, 3rd District Court; Thomas R. Lee, counsel, for Howard, Phillips & Andersen, and law professor, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University; Judge Carolyn B. McHugh, of Salt Lake City, Utah Appeals Court; Judge David Mortensen, of Springville, 4th District Court; and Jeanette F. Swent, of Salt Lake City, chief, Civil Division, U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A 10-day public comment period will be held before the names are submitted to Gov. Gary Herbert.
Utah Supreme Court Nominating Commission Chair Gayle McKeachnie is accepting written comments regarding the nominees at the Administrative Office of the Courts, P.O. Box 140241, Salt Lake City,, 84114-0241.

The deadline for written comments is April 22, 2010, by 5 p.m.

The commission may request further interviews or an investigation of the nominees after reviewing public comments.
After the public comment period, the names will be sent to the governor who has 30 days to select a candidate.
The governor’s nominee is then forwarded to the Senate Confirmation Committee, which reviews the nominee’s qualifications and conducts a public hearing and interview session.
The Senate Confirmation Committee will forward the final nominee to the Utah State Senate, which has 60 days from the governor’s nomination to confirm the nominee.

The position will replace Justice Michael J. Wilkins who will retire in May.