Wednesday, June 30, 2010


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


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.

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


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


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


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....

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


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:

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


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.)