Wednesday, November 17, 2010


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


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 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'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 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!

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 ( 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!