.
.
.

FOLLOW BY EMAIL

A New Year’s Eve Tale ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, New Year's Eve, power, electricity, failure, lantern, Corky Porky Pie, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)

New Year’s Eve—a time for setting goals and reviewing past events. Or for sitting in the dark because the power disappeared in a blinding flash. Well, maybe not exactly a flash—more like a few winks and a blink.



“It’s hard to believe it’s New Year’s Eve,” I said to my husband, Russ. “How shall we celebrate?”

He twisted from side to side, reminiscent of something from “The Exorcist” and said with a groan, “I’m celebrating by lying on a heating pad. My back’s killing me.”

“Old fogey,” I muttered, stretching out on the TV room couch for a pre-bedtime nap. It’s hard to snooze, though, when someone in the room keeps muttering and groaning. Not to mention the noise Russ was making. I sat up and peeked through the curtains. The falling rain had turned to icy snow in the dark.

“What year are we moving into?” I asked.

“I’m not sure—maybe 2005,” Russ said.

That’s what happens when you get older. Your memory goes south and each year seems the same as the next. On the upside, however, you can hide your own Easter eggs.

Russ popped in a video. Just as it got interesting, the lights flickered and … the room went dark. I looked out the window again. The whole town was as black as a bucket of pitch.

Grabbing a flashlight, I turned it on. Nothing. I pondered the mysteries of life. Who am I? Where did I come from? Why do flashlight batteries never work when you need them?

Snatching another one, I clicked the button. A dim light the size of a pea shone forth. I ran and grabbed the emergency lantern, then hurried back to the TV room. Struggling to understand the Chinese symbols that explained how to operate it, I leaned close and turned the knob.

Click! The lantern’s 10,000 watts blasted straight into my eyeballs. I fell back onto the couch, and for a few seconds saw nothing but a white light at the end of a tunnel. At first, I thought I’d gone to the next life, but I could hear Russ laughing and feel Corky Porky Pie, our dog, hopping on and off me, so I knew I was still alive.

Eventually, my pupils dilated beyond the size of a dust speck, and normal vision returned. In the meantime, Russ turned on the battery-operated radio in hopes of catching the local news. Instead, we listened to a song that expressed the singer’s grief at his pickup truck rusting and his horse catching a cold.

Just then, the emergency lantern—the one that was so good at blinding people—flickered and died. Russ wandered off in search of matches to light his way to the bathroom, while I contemplated stomping the lantern to smithereens.

It’s a good thing the radio announcer came on at that minute and that he has such a soothing voice. It calmed my stomping impulses. Instead, I pondered the mysteries of life. Who am I? Where did I come from? Why didn’t we charge the lantern months ago?

My thoughts broke as Russ walked in and said, “Just think of all those people in the valley who are standing around at dances, in the dark. Aren’t you glad we were old fogies tonight?”

“At least they could huddle together in a big group for warmth,” I muttered through chattering teeth. Then a thought hit me. “I’m going to the bedroom to turn on the electric blanket.”

Russ watched with a grin as I headed upstairs. After two steps, I turned back sheepishly. “Oops, no electric blanket, either,” I said. “It’s funny what we do out of habit.”

The power failure only lasted about an hour and a half. Bless their hearts, the power company employees gave up their parties, went out in the weather and restored service.

Our celebration wasn’t the way we’d planned it that year, but it was certainly worth recording for posterity. And much more exciting than watching a video.

Which reminds me—New Year’s Eve 2009 is approaching fast and I’ve got to skedaddle. Russ needs my help hooking our electric blanket up to a generator.

(Happy 2009 to all. May the new year bring happiness, health, and prosperity!)


What's playing in my head: What are You Doing New Year's Eve? by Marie Osmond and Greg Evigan.

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

---

Blisters on My Mittens ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, snow, shovel, mittens, dog, Corky Porky Pie, write, pencil, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)



Everyone has their own method for shoveling snow. Some get out their blower, while others retrieve their shovel from the garage. I get out a ratty ol’ broom with bristles that are four-inch stubs.

It’s not that a broom is superior to a snow shovel; it’s that my dog, Corky Porky Pie, thinks the broom is a wild animal and loves to chase it. For every foot of concrete that I brush snow off, he kicks two feet back on. And my neighbors are treated to the sight of me swinging a broom with a stubby dog latched onto the bristles.

After twenty minutes, my muscles are tired. Sweeping with a twenty-five pound dog attached is like sweeping with a bowling ball—and just about as effective. Since Corky is too dizzy to hold on anymore, I put him in the house.

I think about quitting, but determination sets in. Despite the stitch in my side and the ache that radiates across my chest and down my left arm, I continue to sweep and push snow. Halfway through, I pull out my cell phone and consider calling for an ambulance but no … by golly, I’m not giving up.

I take a breather, and wonder if all this cold air is destroying my bronchial tubes. “Why do I keep going, when I could be inside eating chocolate cake and drinking hot cocoa?” I ask myself.

“Because eating cake for breakfast isn’t very nutritious,” I answer. It seems that me, myself, and I, are quite good conversationalists.

Back to sweeping I go, and the stitch in my side feels like an appendicitis attack, but I will not let the snow win. I am determined. I am sweeper, hear me roar.

An hour later, the job is done. My mittens have blisters, my nose is frozen and my boots are encased in ice, but I have triumphed. The front step is cleared. There are only two sidewalks and the driveway to go, but those can wait for another day. I feel like a returning hero … and my cake and hot cocoa are calling to me.

I’ve decided that there’s a big similarity between shoveling snow and writing. Everyone has their own method for writing. Some speak their thoughts into a recorder, while others type them into a computer. I use a pencil.

It’s not that a pencil is superior to other writing instruments; it’s that every room in my house has one. Furthermore, I don’t have to plug it in, turn it on, or check it for viruses.

Shortly after I sit down to work, my husband is treated to the sight of me twirling the pencil between my fingers and tossing it in the air, over and over again. It’s not that I’m practicing to be a majorette; it’s that I can’t think of anything to write.

After twenty minutes of staring at a blank page, my eyes get tired. My hand has a charley horse from writing words and then erasing them. The going is so slow that I feel like my pencil is filled with lead.

I think about quitting, but determination sets in. Despite the throbbing in my eyes, the numbness in my wrist and the pounding in my head, I go on. Halfway through, I pull out my cell phone and consider calling for a ghost writer, but no … by golly, I’m not giving up.

I take a breather and wonder if all this eraser dust is clogging my bronchial tubes. “Why do I keep going, when I could be eating Twinkies and drinking chocolate milk?” I ask myself.

“Because too many Twinkies give you hips like an elephant,” I answer.

Back to writing I go, and the ache in my wrist feels like carpal tunnel, but I will not give up. I am determined. I am writer, hear me roar.

An hour later, the job is done. My pencil has blisters, my vision is blurred, and my feet feel like they’ve been encased in ice for lack of movement, but I have triumphed. The first paragraph is written. There are only thirty chapters and a title to go, but those can wait for another day. I feel like a returning hero.

And my Twinkies and chocolate milk are calling to me.


What's playing in my head: Nothing, because I'm too full of eggnog for my brain cells to function!

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

---

A Tisp ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Christmas, newlywed, cookies, tsp, tisp, holiday memories, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)



Words are magical. Even when they’re nonsensical—like mairzy doats and dozy doats or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious—they stick with you, following you wherever you go, popping up at the oddest times.

Being filled with Christmas cheer one year, my husband, his mother and I were making Christmas cookies. Russ and I were newlyweds and still learning each other’s enduring young charms. That explains why I made the mistake of letting him read the ingredients out loud while his mom and I put them in the bowl.

It wasn’t that I was na├»ve about his abilities; I’d already watched his gift wrapping skills at work. He would enclose a present in layers of wrapping paper and tape, which became more wrinkled and wadded as he worked with it. No matter what the initial shape, when he was finished it was lumpy and round.

His version of a bow was ribbon crisscrossed several times around the package and tied in a knot. For some reason, the bow always had a dangling six-inch tail and the cat attacked it every time she walked in the room. It’s no wonder all the packages under the tree looked like they’d been fed through a paper shredder two weeks before Christmas.

But I thought it safe to let him read the cookie recipe. After all, how much could he goof up reading a few lines on a three-by-five index card?

Things went well for the butter, sugar and flour. I suppose those were words Russ had learned in middle school, and with which he had some familiarity. It was the measurement for the baking soda that was the problem.

“You need to put in one tisp of baking soda.” Russ wriggled his eyebrows on the word tisp as if disclosing some great mystery. He was right, a tisp was a mystery.

His mom and I looked at each other. Russ’s mom is a wonderful person and wouldn’t dream of making him feel bad. “That sounds like a lot of baking soda. Are you sure it’s not supposed to be a half a tisp?” she asked.

I stared at her in amazement. What in the heck was a tisp? I was sure she had no clue, but I admired her ability to bluff. And I had to ask myself why she was spending her time as a career secretary in the postal service, when she could have been winning her millions as a poker player in Las Vegas.

I jiggled the box of baking soda. It powder-puffed into the air and made me sneeze, but didn’t do much to clear my brain. Stalling for time, I checked the expiration date on the side but since it didn’t say “expires in a tisp,” I was at a loss.

In all my years of Catholic girls’ school, I’d never heard of a tisp. So why would the Catholic boys know something the Catholic girls didn’t? The boys didn’t even have to take Home Economics 101. They learned useless things in class ... like how to make their armpits belch, or the best way to get a spitball to stick to the ceiling, or how to convince a girl to kiss them behind the bleachers.

Leaning over, I took the card from his hand and skimmed it quickly. I couldn’t find the word tisp anywhere, so asked Russ to show it to me. He pointed to the line where the recipe clearly stated, “1 tsp. baking soda.”

The mistake gave us a giggling fit and pretty soon we were having such a good time we began throwing balls of cookie dough onto the baking sheet from five feet away. It was just as effective as flattening them with a fork like the recipe suggested—and a great deal more fun.

Many years have passed, and words have even more meaning now than before. A word can make me a kid on roller skates again, or bring back the memory of the fragrance of a summer’s night. The right word can bring tears to my eyes. A simple word can even make me feel like a newlywed on Christmas Eve again.

And you can’t ask for more than that from a tisp.

(Wishing all of you a Christmas filled with memories that you'll cherish in the years ahead!)

What's playing in my head: We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Christmas tunes on the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.


---

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

(With apologies to Clement C. Moore)

Adapted by Cindy Beck, © 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Christmas, Clement Moore, cold, flu, sneezing, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)





'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Every creature was sneezing, including the mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that some Kleenex soon would be there.

The children were stuffy, asleep in their beds,
While visions—from Sudafed—danced in their heads.
And Mom with her cough drops, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a few minute's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter . . .

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid day to objects below,
When, what to my watering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight sneezing reindeer,

With a little old driver, that smelled of some Vicks,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Sniffles! Now, Coughing! Now, Hack'n and Sneezy!
On, Drippin'! On Blowin'! On Sore Throat and Wheezy!
To the medicine chest that's down in the hall,
Now cough away! Cough away! Cough away all!"

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Gave everyone Halls, then turned with a jerk,
And laying some Vicks inside of his nose,
And giving a sniff, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a sniffle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"ROBITUSSIN TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!"

What's playing in my head: Up on the Housetop.

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Christmas tunes on the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.


---

That Wonderful Time of Year ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, snow, snowflakes, Currier and Ives, snowplow, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


Winter—that wonderful time of year when snowflakes twirl from the sky, kids laugh and play on their sleds, and neighbors give a friendly wave to each other.



Saturday morning, 11:00am: I stood at the window, watching the beautiful snowfall. Peace descended upon me. I felt at one with the world as my eyes beheld a white mantle that covered the trees with a pristine purity that reminded me of a Currier and Ives print.

Noon: I stood at the window, watching the lovely snowfall. Peace descended upon me, like the white mantle that covered the trees … and the dog run … and the dog that stood forlorn in the middle of the yard because the cats took over his run.

1:00pm: I stood at the window, watching the continual snowfall. An uneasy peace descended upon me, like the white mantle that covered the trees … and the deck that needed clearing … and the front porch, which needed shoveling.

2:00pm: I stood at the window, mumbling about the annoying snowfall. A lack of peace descended upon me, like the white mantle that covered the trees … and my car in the driveway … and the streets coated with ice.

3:00pm: I stood at the window, putting on a parka and mukluks, muttering words that would require an interview with the bishop and watching the stupid snowfall. Dislike fell upon me, like the white mantle that covered the trees … and the cats, who’d ventured out from the dog run and were stuck in a snow drift … and the deck which groaned beneath the snow load.

4:00pm: I stood in the driveway, shaking my fist in the air, hurling curses at the sky, and watching the ghastly snowfall. Annoyance descended upon me, like the white mantle that covered the trees … and the sidewalk that lead to the buried mailbox … which sidewalk we were required to shovel.

5:00pm: I stood in the driveway, one mukluk stuck in a snow bank and the other filled with ice, watching the disgusting snowfall. Fury descended upon me, like the white mantle that covered the trees … and the slush thrown by the snowplow upon my freshly shoveled sidewalk.

6:00pm: I stood in the driveway, barefooted, watching the revolting snowfall. Stealth descended upon me, like the white mantle that covered the trees … and I waited for the plow to make another run past my house … and I chucked both mukluks at the driver.

7:00pm: I stood behind a tree, watching the blasted snowfall. Cunning descended upon me, like the white mantle that covered the trees … and I waited for the plow to round the corner … and I threw my snow shovel at the driver as he pushed a mountain of snow up my driveway.

8:00pm: I stood in the street, watching my husband as he gently removed the cleverly packed ice balls from my hands, and apologized to the snowplow driver for the knot on his head. I watched the snowfall as my husband guided me back into the house … and put me to bed.

The next day, 11:00am: I stood at the window. The sun came out. I felt at one with the world as my eyes beheld a white mantle that covered the trees with a pristine purity that reminded me of a Currier and Ives print … and I made devious plans for the next snowfall.


What's playing in my head: Snow (from "White Christmas").

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Christmas tunes on the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.


---

Hound Dogs We Have Heard on High ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, music, talent, song, lyrics, hound dogs, kibble, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


It’s wonderful to live with musically talented people.



I wouldn’t know, though, because most of my family couldn’t carry a tune in a basket. No, forget that. They couldn’t even carry it in a dump truck. In fact, our musical talents are so lacking, that one of us (let me give you a hint ... it's the guy I married) does not know the entire lyrics for a single song. Nope, not even one. Because of that, his renditions are always … well … let’s just say, “interesting.”

None of that, however, stops us from singing Christmas carols—albeit, out of tune—all through the holiday season.



Not to give you whiplash by changing the subject, but have you ever experienced a busy day, and when night rolled around, you fell into bed exhausted? As you lay there with the warmth of the blankets enveloping you, the Sand Man tiptoed in, sprinkled sleeping dust and just as your eyes drooped … the dog next door started barking.

Oh yes, we’ve all been there. So, for those of you who not only live next to barking dogs but are also musically challenged, I’ve written a song with memorable lyrics. And it’s only taken me days to write it.

Well, maybe not days, but hours ... well ... maybe not hours, but minutes. Okay, the truth of the matter is, I wrote this for our ward’s Christmas skit years ago. But hey—just for you—I finished up the second verse today.

Hound Dogs We Have Heard on High

(Sung to the tune of, Angels We Have Heard on High.)

(Verse)
Hound dogs we have heard on high
Loudly howling o'er the plains
And the mutts, all in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains.

(Chorus)
Come, join in all the fun,
Waking everyone,
Listen to our doggy sounds,
Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof.

Come, listen to our noise,
Bringing us such joys,
Such a lovely doggy sound,
Woof, woof, woof, woof, wooof, wooof, aaaoooo!

(Verse)
Puppies why this jubilee,
Why your joyous bark prolonged,
Tell us what the kibble be
That inspires your noisy song.

(Chorus)
Come, join in all the fun,
Waking everyone,
Listen to our doggy sounds,
Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof.

Come, listen to our noise,
Bringing us such joys,
Such a lovely doggy sound,
Woof, woof, woof, woof, wooof, wooof, aaaoooo!


What's playing in my head: Well, what else but, Hound Dogs We Have Heard on High.

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Christmas tunes on the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.

---

The Tiny Hug ... by Cindy Beck

(A heartwarming story)

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, hug, Tiny Hug, Christmas, love, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)

The birth of a hug is a mysterious thing. One minute there’s nothing and the next minute a small, tickle-y sensation grows in someone’s soul and the person just has to give it away.

That’s how it was with this hug. He started as a teensy impression, born in the heart of a two-year-old. With a smile, the toddler reached out and gave his sister a tiny hug.

When that happened, a warm feeling spread over the hug and he liked the sensation. But he also felt a wisp of sadness. I’m not certain I like this life—given away and moved from one person to the next, he thought. It means I can’t ever become too attached to anyone in particular.

It also meant he would never see his first owner again. His sweet little baby was gone from his life forever. Although Tiny Hug was only seconds old, he already felt blue … so he gave himself a talking to: Chin up! No one wants a sloppy, sorry hug. Time to get to work and become the best hug in the world.

And that’s just what he did—became the best hug in the world. Every time Tiny Hug acquired a new owner, he grew—sometimes by leaps and bounds.

The leaps and bounds happened once when he lived with a kindergarten teacher—a kind, sympathetic Latter-day Saint. One frigid winter day, she noticed a little girl on the playground wearing only a thin sweatshirt. The shivering child’s small hands looked chapped and red. The teacher brought the little girl inside, wrapped her own sweater around the poor thing and rubbed her hands until they were warm. The teacher’s love was so great that Tiny Hug grew twice as large as she gave him away to the little girl.

Another time, Tiny Hug found himself belonging to a soldier in Iraq. The Marine—a grizzled, military man—knew the horrors of war. His heart formed a shell around it, and Tiny Hug found it particularly hard to get in.

I’m not giving up, no matter how difficult it is, the hug thought with determination. He wiggled, twisted, and squirmed. Finally, Tiny Hug broke through.

This man is kind—but very, very afraid,
the hug realized with surprise. So he worked all the harder on him.

The Marine didn’t realize he had a hug inside until one dark night, when shells fell in a blaze from the sky, and a nineteen-year-old near him dropped to the ground, wounded. The young soldier had so much to live for—a wife and new baby back home. The Marine couldn’t bear the thought of the young man lying there, all alone with no one to comfort him. He crawled to him, cradled the terrified, bleeding soldier in his arms and gave the hug away. And the young man lived.

Time went on. Tiny Hug (who wasn’t so tiny anymore) lived with many people over the years. He grew old, but never forgot his first owner. I wonder how my sweet baby boy is doing, the hug often thought.

Eventually, Tiny Hug belonged to a teen-age girl—a shy, sweet young lady. He’d lived with her for several days when one evening, he felt a whispery feeling that it would be his last night on earth. I love the girl, he thought, but oh, how I long to see the little baby who gave me away at the very beginning. If I could only see his bright blue eyes once more, I would contentedly accept whatever may come. And the hug wept.

That night—Christmas Eve—the young lady joined her Young Women’s group, and Tiny Hug went along, tucked in her heart. They drove across town, amidst snowflakes that fell, sparkling under the street lamps.

When they arrived at the nursing home, the young girl sang songs to the elderly, and Tiny Hug felt better. If this is to be my last owner, it will be all right. She always thinks of others and has such tenderness.

During the evening, the young lady focused her attention on an older gentleman who seemed sad and lonely. He wouldn’t even look up at the singers.

Sing your sweetest, the hug silently encouraged.

She did, but the man never looked up. Their performance over and the singers leaving, the girl put on her coat and started out the door. Suddenly, however, she turned and ran back to the lonely, older man. She threw her arms around him and he smiled a soft smile.

The hug felt himself slipping from the heart of the girl into that of the elderly gentleman—the one with the blue eyes—the one who, as a baby so many years before, had reached up and given his sister an unexpected embrace.

And in that instant, Tiny Hug realized something he never had before ... love always comes full circle.

What's playing in my head: Lots and lots of Christmas songs!

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Christmas tunes on the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.

---



Colder Than an Eskimo’s Wallet ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, December, woodstove, aspen, Christmas, The Christmas Song, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Don’t you love the month of December? The crisp, winter air … the smell of aspen burning in the woodstove … fire roaring from the chimney, and rising twenty feet into the air … smoke, roiling in black clouds throughout the house.

We’d never experienced the joy of a woodstove until we arrived at our little home in Utah—in the dead of night, and with Christmas close on our heels.


We stumbled through the door, our eyes blurred from thirteen hours of driving through a blizzard. “What in the world is that?” I asked, pointing to a black, misshapen iron mass in the living room.

“That’s our woodstove.” Russ flipped the light switch, and a yellow glow from the bare bulb encompassed the metal hulk. Russ pointed at it with pride. “Someone said it used to be an old railroad depot stove.”

I looked at its mismatched legs and cracked belly. “Seems to me, it’s more like a county landfill stove.” I shivered. “It’s cold enough to freeze …”

I glanced down at our seven-year-old son, Davey, who’d staggered in and lay curled in a ball, half asleep, on a carpet the color of dried mustard. I continued, “It’s cold enough in here to freeze an Eskimo’s wallet to his gluteus maximus!”

Davey’s eyes popped open. “What’s a gluteus maximus?”

Russ patted his head. “Go back to sleep. Mom meant an Eskimo was gluing his wallet to his … maxi mouse.”

Davey’s eyes drooped as he said, “Oh, a Maxi Mouse. That sounds fun. I’d like one of those for Christmas …” His voice trailed off as he fell back asleep.

I shivered and looked pointedly at Russ. “Well, I can tell you this—my maxi mouse is numb from the cold. Why is it freezing in here?”

Russ rubbed his hands together. “It’s not cold,” he said, “it’s bracing! Makes you feel alive!”

A question zipped into my mind. “Exactly why isn’t there any heat in this place?”

The man who thought the temperature was simply “bracing,” pulled his goose down jacket tighter. “Um … the previous owners left us without any fuel in the tank.”

He pointed to a black rock the size of a small meteorite, sitting next to the county landfill stove. “But, I bought coal. It was cheap, and I thought we could use that to heat the house for a while. At least until I get a paycheck.”

Coal. The anthracite (or was it bituminous?) heat source that warmed London … in the dark ages … which were so dark because soot from the coal fell on everything—houses, people, cats and mice. No wonder the Black Plague was black.

Breaking out of my thoughts of "ye merrie ole England," I touched the meteorite with my foot. Coal dust fell onto the carpet and instantly glued itself there for time and all eternity.

No doubt Russ sensed the vibes my brain sent out at that moment, because he stepped forward, opened the stove’s door, picked up the rock and set it inside. Taking a match from his pocket, he lit it and held it to the lump. The match sizzled and burned until Russ had to drop it. We watched its tiny flame flicker and die. He tried again … and again. The black meteorite sat there, taunting us.

“It’s just psychological that the room feels even colder now,” Russ said, turning his collar up to cover his ears, and shutting the stove door.

“I take it you don’t really know how to light that thing?” I zipped my jacket up to my neck, and pulled mittens from my pocket.

“Nope. Haven’t a clue. But in the meantime, we can keep on our jackets, put on hats, and sleep on the floor. In the morning, when my co-workers come to help move the furniture in, I’ll ask how to get a coal fire going.”

I walked over and zipped Davey into a military-issue aviator jacket and knit hat that I knew would keep him toasty through the night. Russ and I pulled winter caps onto our own heads and curled up next to each other. Then we got giggling fits thinking about it.

“It’s not so bad,” I said, snuggling against him. “We’ll make it through the night and get the fire going tomorrow.”

“Yup,” Russ replied, “and we’re probably the only ones in town wishing Santa would bring us lumps of coal in our stockings.”

I hummed a few bars of “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and then as I drifted off to sleep, mumbled to Russ, “That’s right, but I’d like mine in smaller lumps, and as ones that actually burn, please.”

What's playing in my head: The Christmas Song, written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells, and sung by Nat King Cole.

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Christmas tunes on the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.

---

O’ Christmas Tree ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Christmas, tree, pine, family traditions, Dolly Parton, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)

I’m sure that, like me, you have many fond memories of holiday traditions with your family. Grandpa putting lights on the roof and falling on his head. Grandma sipping a little too much hot, buttered rum ... er ... I mean ... milk. Crazy Uncle Jimmy sliding candy canes into the stockings of complete strangers—while their feet are still inside.

And, of course, there is the family outing in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

During the particular time that I'm remembering, we lived in California. My dad—being a grown-up boy from the inner city of San Francisco—insisted we find a tree in the rugged outdoors. We took along a hatchet ... to beat off other customers at the Christmas tree lot on the corner.



Getting the evergreen home was easy—we tied it to the roof with twine. It rode there until the first bump, and then slid down over the rear window so all that could be seen in back were tangled boughs. But, it didn’t matter because the car heater clunked and spewed out a semi-frozen draft of air every five minutes or so, which served to give the windows a wonderful, winter wonderland look. And a frosted opacity that prevented Dad from seeing other cars as he changed lanes. So it was, with horns blaring and tires squealing, we weaved from lane to lane, through the town, with our prize.



We eventually arrived home in one piece, and in fine, but frozen, spirits. No, not those kinds of spirits. The kind that brings an emotional high.

And that’s when the trouble began.

Displaying his muscles, my dad dragged the tree into the house, knocking all the needles off the underside and leaving a green, pine needle trail behind him. While Mom and I held the metal stand in place, he gave a “heave-ho” and set the tree into it. The pine had a beautiful, single spike at its top, which was just perfect for our angel decoration. I thought she was the most beautiful ornament that existed. It never occurred to me, until Uncle Jimmy mentioned it, that angel tree toppers seldom have such ample … um … cleavage. To quote Uncle Jimmy, “My heck, she looks like Dolly Parton!”

After Dad stepped back from jamming the tree into place, Mom studied it. “The tree is too tall. Look, the top spike is bent against the ceiling at a forty-five degree angle!”

Dad pondered the situation for a minute. “We'll just cut it off.”

Mom looked at him as if he had just suggested there was no Santa Claus. “We most certainly will not. It’ll ruin the look of it. You’ll have to cut some off the bottom.”

Dad got out the hacksaw and started on the trunk. Ten minutes passed and nothing changed. Fifteen minutes passed and a slight rip appeared in the wood. Sweat dripped off Dad’s face and onto the sawdust pile on the floor. A lung-encrusting pinewood powder drifted through the air. Being a California kid, I thought it was snow. Mom ran around with the vacuum, mumbling about men and their bright ideas, and trying to suck up the dust.

By now, Dad’s good cheer had evaporated—like the rum in eggnog—and he picked up the hatchet. Fearing he was going after Uncle Jimmy, I held my breath. Dad went at it with a vengeance and twenty minutes later, the deed was done. No, not Uncle Jimmy—he was still alive and sitting in the corner, eating Christmas cookies and humming an aimless tune.

Dad held up the tree. Silence settled in the room, along with the sawdust.

“It looks kinda like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” I finally said, staring at the bare branches on one side.

“It’s not very tall,” Mom said, eyeing all four feet of it.

Dad scratched his head, and his eyes looked round and perplexed. “How did that happen? It was supposed to be taller.” He plunked it into the stand, and the three of us stepped back to look at it.

Somewhere in the distance, a radio played the first few notes of “O' Christmas Tree.” Then, Uncle Jimmy’s voice—thick with chocolate torte and wassail—offered solace from the corner. “Well, it may not be the perfect tree, but at least Dolly Parton will fit on the top.”




(Note: I do admit to using a teeny bit of artistic license with this story, but you're allowed to do that with Christmas stories ... right? :o)

What's playing in my head: What else but, O' Tannenbaum, sung by Nat King Cole.

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Christmas tunes on the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.

---

The Jinx ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Big Bird jammies, bunny slippers, jinx, turtleneck, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)

I recently discovered a personal truth. I have my own jinx. In this age of catastrophes—hurricanes, earthquakes, and poor cell phone reception—there’s this pixie that has nothing better to do than follow me around, causing wacko things to happen.

Take this morning, for instance. Thinking it was about time to wear something other than Big Bird jammies and bunny slippers all day, I pulled out khakis and a turtleneck. For those who don’t know, a turtleneck is a shirt designed to push the flab on your neck up to your jawbone, giving you four chins instead of the traditional two. The turtleneck gets its name from the ancient Hebrew word, “turtle,” meaning “shirt that only looks good on a twenty-year-old,” and “neck,” meaning … well … “neck.”

Since the turtleneck looked wrinkled—either I didn’t get it out of the dryer in time, or Corky Porky Pie, the dog, had used it as a pillow—I carried it to the ironing board. Just then, Russ walked in and stared at the ironing board as if he’d never seen one before, which tells you how often he irons his own clothes. He knew better than to ask what it was, however, because then he’d get a lesson on clothing care. Finally, after a long minute, he said, “What ‘cha doing?”

“Standing here, waiting for a bus.” The sarcasm being lost on him, I shook the iron. “Darn, it needs water.”

“I’ll get it for you.” Russ headed to the bathroom tap, and I wondered if it was safe to leave him loose in the house in the morning—or any time of day, for that matter. But, surely, nothing could happen while filling an iron. I walked out to apply my deodorant—a ritual that I do at least once a week—and when I came back in, I found Russ standing by the iron with a chagrined look on his face.

“Oops,” he said.

“Oops? Oops what?”

He motioned toward the iron. “You said it needed water, so I added some. Okay, not some—a lot. It overflowed all over the ironing board.”

Never one to be deterred by minor circumstances, I mopped the water up with Russ’s old shirt— which conveniently had his body still in it—and sent him on his way. Then, I started ironing.

Hot, rusty water spurted from the iron onto the turtleneck. The kind of rusty that makes a beautiful, cream-colored shirt look like it has the measles. The kind of rusty that only comes out of a knit turtleneck when you dump undiluted bleach onto it. And not that I’d know from personal experience, but dumping bleach straight onto a shirt not only takes out the stains, it takes out the shirt, too.

After throwing it into the laundry basket, I stepped to the closet and got another turtleneck. One that was pristine, and as white as Donny Osmond’s teeth. I swung it over my head, pulled it down past my shoulders and—just as Russ walked in the room—grazed my chin with my thumbnail.

A drop of blood dripped onto the shirt, looking like a neon beacon against the whiteness. Russ pointed to the injury on my face. “What’d you do, cut yourself shaving?”

“Very funny.”

Russ handed me a tissue, I dabbed at the wound, and looked down at the stain. “I wonder if I can get the blood out of this shirt without having to wash the whole thing. Maybe if I take it off and splash a little cold water on the spot …”

Russ grabbed my arm. “Wait. I have a better idea. I’ve heard that if you spit on the blood, that’ll remove it. There’s an enzyme in your saliva that breaks down your own blood.”

Really? Maybe it was worth a try. I pulled the shirt up to my mouth, spit, and then looked at it in the mirror. The reflection showed a slobbery shirt with two bloodstains. Somehow, in the process of spitting—a skill that apparently does not come natural to women— I’d slid the fabric across the cut on my chin. I gave up, took off the turtleneck, went to the closet, and for the third time in fifteen minutes, pulled out another shirt.

Although I appreciated Russ’s suggestions, it seemed like I was farther ahead before he entered the scene. And that’s when it dawned on me; I had a jinx. And as much as I loved Russ, I was a lot better off without my own personal jinx following me around.


What's playing in my head: Happy Together by The Turtles

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.

---

Stuffing the Turkey ... by Cindy Beck

(Or … Lessons Learned from Last Thanksgiving)

© Cindy Beck 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Thanksgiving, lesson, yams, rolls, pie, Thanksgiving feast, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)



I ate and ate until I thought
My buttons all would pop.
I gobbled up the turkey
Not considering when to stop.

I scarfed down mashed potatoes,
With gravy, yams, and rolls,
And wondered why, when I looked down,
I couldn’t see my toes.

I polished off the stuffing
And a cranberry or two,
Then noticed that my stomach felt
Like it had caught the flu.

It seemed like maybe time to quit
Before I up and died—
But that was just before someone
Brought out the pumpkin pie.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends. May your turkey be juicy, your mashed potatoes creamy, and may your pants have an elastic waistband!

What's playing in my head: Come, Ye Thankful People by Henry Alford.

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.

---

The Men at My Thanksgiving Table ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Thanksgiving, famous men, Thanksgiving feast, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


I hate to confuse you by actually thinking a semi-deep thought, but every once in a while a serious reflection pops into my brain. And what kind of writer would I be if I didn’t document such a momentous occasion? (Meaning the occasion of a semi-deep thought, not the occasion of confusing you.)

Last year, a writer friend of mine, Connie Hall, posted a blog about who she’d like to have as guests at her Thanksgiving table. My interest was piqued by what she said, and I tucked the topic into the back of my mind as a subject for a blog of my own. Since, as I said, serious thoughts vacate my brain quickly, I try to snatch—no, I did not say “steal”—good ideas when they’re presented by my deep-thinking friends.

At first I thought I'd list ... oh ... twenty or thirty men. But I have a small table, and they'd have to sit five to a chair. I finally settled on the nice round number of six. So, for your serious reading pleasure, (really, honest, this is going to be serious) listed below are six men that I admire, and with whom I’d like to share Thanksgiving.

George Washington: I’d take the opportunity to thank him for being a man of courage, one who stood by his beliefs and founded a fledgling country that, in my opinion, is the best on the face of the earth.

Abraham Lincoln: I’d express gratitude to him for his honesty, loyalty to the Union, and kindness and compassion. I’d like to have the chance to tell him how much I appreciated him keeping our nation intact.

Joseph Smith: Few people have endured the abuse, torment and torture that he did and maintained their integrity. I’d like the chance to—in typical LDS fashion—shake his hand and thank him for being an instrument in the Lord’s hands and in restoring the fullness of the gospel to the earth.

C.S. Lewis: I’d like to chat with the man whose books inspired me long before they became popular movies. I’d like to thank him for a land called Narnia, a lion named Aslan and for the way in which they touched my heart.

Jimmy Stewart: There are few actors that I admire, but he’s one. I should have sent him a note while he was alive to express my appreciation for his talent and the wonderful ways in which he used it. But, I didn’t and I would love one last opportunity to thank him for making me laugh in, Harvey, making me cheer in, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and making me cry in, Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.

Corky Porky Pie: What, did you really expect I could keep it serious to the end? Naturally, my dog would sit at the table—well, not at the table, but beneath it—because someone has to eat the scraps when the feast is over.


What's playing in my head: For Health and Strength (and daily food, we praise thy name, oh Lord) by Unknown

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.

---

Up in the Night ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, sound, burglar, noises, birds, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


The other night, after the usual tossing, turning, and fluffing of pillows, I nodded off into that dream where you’re rich, intelligent and able to fly. I’d just gathered riches when a loud, “Wham! Thump, thump!” echoed through the house.

My husband, Russ, and I bolted upright. “What was that?” I whispered.

“I don’t know,” he whispered back.

I’m not sure why we whispered. Whatever was downstairs made enough racket to cover the roar of a jet engine.

We sat there, our ears pricked like barn cats listening for mice. Finally I said, “Why don’t you go see what made that noise?”

“Why don’t you?” Russ pulled the covers up to his chin.

“Because that’s your job. There’s an unwritten law dating back to the Garden of Eden; husbands must warm their wives’ cold feet and they are responsible for checking out things that go bump in the night.” I pulled the blankets to my side.

Russ reluctantly slid out of bed, mumbling his opinion of unwritten laws, and headed toward the bedroom door. “Wait. Aren’t you going to take a weapon?” I asked.

“What would you suggest?” he said, looking around a room filled with books and knickknacks.

Remembering the not-so-recent news of the shooting death of a professional football player who kept a machete for self-defense, I didn’t bother to drag out the sword from under the bed. “How about that book on body language?” I pointed at a book on the shelf.

“Oh, that’ll be a big help.”

“At least you’ll know—by his subtle signals—when he plans to whap you over the head,” I replied.

Opening the bedroom door, Russ started downstairs. I intended to follow, in case he needed help, but the moonlight reflecting on the snow distracted me.

Russ called from the T.V. room, “Come and look at this.”

I figured he’d conked a burglar over the head and wanted praise, so it was safe to go down. As I walked into the room, Russ cracked open the curtains. On the outside windowsill sat a stunned, befuddled dove.

“She must have flown into the window by accident. That’s what made all the noise,” Russ said.

We stood there, hesitant, wondering what we should do to help the poor bird. “You could catch her and bring her in to warm up,” I said.

Russ pulled on a sweatshirt and stepped out into the frigid night. The person driving by craned his neck at the sight of a hooded figure wearing pajama bottoms and slippers with no socks, carrying a shoebox and creeping along the sidewalk. I fully expected the guy to steer into a telephone pole. At any rate, I’m certain the sight of Russ was enough to scare the bird into consciousness, because she took off like a shot.

With the dilemma solved, we traipsed back to bed. Just as the cold in my feet transferred over to Russ’s, the noise happened again.

“It’s that bird,” Russ explained in a sleep-filled voice.

I relaxed in the blanket’s fluffy warmth and while slipping into dreamland mumbled, “But birds don’t fly at night.”

Wham! Thump, thump.

We trudged back downstairs and Russ looked out the window at the frost-covered sill. “I don’t see anything,” he said. “It must be so cold that the birds are falling out of the trees. I’m going out to see if they’re lying on the sidewalk. Maybe I can rescue them.”

It was after midnight. The same man who didn’t want to go downstairs in the cold and dark to check for burglars now wanted to step out into frosty temperatures in his pajamas—again—and rescue birds?

Wanting to do my part, I stayed inside where it was warm and watched from the window. Russ stepped to the edge of the sidewalk, looking perplexed—no birds. His eyes scanned the pine tree, searching for frozen doves falling from the sky when ….

A large, dark shape dived from the boughs, buzzed Russ, and hooted as it flew over to an elm. Giving Russ a cranky look, it sat there, waiting for its chance to return to the pine.

Mystery solved, Russ stepped back inside to give an explanation. “The doves weren’t falling out of the trees in a frozen stupor. A predator was chasing them.”

“Well, owl be,” I said.


What's playing in my head: In the Middle of the Night by Billy Joel

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.

---

The Name’s Beck ... Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, interview, Cheese Doodles, SeaWorld, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Last spring, Candace Salima interviewed me for yourLDSNeighbhorhood.com. The point was to give my readers—all one of them—the opportunity to know me better. It's too bad my mom was off line that day and missed her chance.

Just in case I've picked up any new fans lately—besides that stalker that keeps calling me—I'm posting the interview again. Here, for your reading pleasure, are the questions and answers that give a glimpse into the mind of Cindy Beck ... what little mind there is.


Q: What brought you to the Blogging World and what is your favorite thing about blogging?

A: I arrived at the Blogging World quite by accident. I was trying to find SeaWorld, but I've never been very good with maps. Apparently the Internet is nowhere near Orlando, FL.

I love blogging because it gives me the chance to write whatever comes to mind. Alas, that's also what encourages me to write answers like the one I gave to "What brought you to the Blogging World?" Plus, blogging gives me a perfectly acceptable excuse for staring at my computer screen for hours on end, while eating Cheese Doodles and humming aimless tunes. "Sorry, Sweetie," I'll say to my husband as I wipe Doodle dust off my fingers. "I can't possibly fix supper right now ... I'm blogging."

Q: What intrigues you the most about blogging for yourLDSneighborhood?

A: First of all, it seems like such a nice neighborhood. So much nicer than my own— no kids throwing rotten tomatoes at my dog, or leaving a sharpened hack saw blade at my front door as a present. Or as a warning. I'm not sure which it was supposed to be.

Second, I can use words like, "Oh my heck" in a blog, and all the visitors will completely understand what that means. Not to mention the fact that if I were to blog about baptisms for the dead, no one would wonder if I was talking about putting sprinklers in the cemetery.

Q: What is your favorite thing about yourLDSneighborhood?

A: Oh, you mean outside of the fact that no one has left a sharpened hack saw blade as a present?

Okay, I suppose I'll be serious for just one second. I love the bright colors and the way the home page is set up like a neighborhood. The images and graphics are very inviting. I feel like I've stepped into an LDS Mayberry. All it lacks is Aunt Bee, Opie and a cold glass of lemonade on the front porch.

I think it's great to go to a site that's geared toward Latter-day Saints, where you don't have to worry about content that you might find insulting or offensive. I love the fact that I can read blogs and not have to worry about what wording they'll contain. Oh my heck, yes!

The stores contain items I'd be interested in buying; the blogs are writings I'd be interested in reading. They also have a great radio station called Your LDS Radio.

I think that pretty well sums it up, don't you? So, okay then, back to the Cheese Doodles.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself: What are your likes, dislikes, hobbies, hopes, dreams, etc . . .

A: Likes: Cheese Doodles, donuts, chocolate cake.

Dislikes: Liver, and Brussels sprouts. Either together or separately. Come to think of it, they have the same affect on me as syrup of Ipecac, and I’m not too fond of that, either.

Hobbies: Readin', writin' and NOT 'rithmetic.

Hopes: The only Hopes I know are Bob Hope and the Hope diamond. One has passed away and the other is beyond my budget.

Dreams: Last night, I had the strangest dream. I sailed away to China, in a little row boat to find ya, and you said you had to get your laundry cleaned …*

No wait. That wasn't a dream. It was a song that was playing just before I went to bed.

Q: Tell us something unique about yourself.

A: Not to get technical, but that’s not a question. Anyway, I’m getting tired of typing. Let's just skip this one.

Q: What has been your greatest challenge to date?

A: Coming up with the answer to question number five, above, which is why I skipped it.

Wait. Did you mean my biggest challenge in life? That would be how to get the Cheese Doodle bag open without dumping cheesy puffs in my lap.

Q: What books/projects/ songs are you working on right now?

A: As far as books go, I'm working on a book of LDS Humor with my friend and co-author, Nichole Giles, who also blogs for yourLDSNeighborhood.com. Cedar Fort is interested in publishing the book, which contains humorous anecdotes for and about Latter-day Saints. Some of the stories are funny enough that you might need to do that little dance and run off to the bathroom.

As for projects, I'm trying to figure out why my dryer keeps overheating. There's nothing like charred and blackened socks to give you a clue that something is amiss with the dryer.

When it comes to songs, I'm working on an opus. Or maybe it's a jingle. I've never been clear on the difference between the two. At any rate, I have the music written. It has eighth, quarter, and half notes. Once in a while, for variety, I've thrown in a full note.

The lyrics are simple, so that it appeals to the common man. They go, "Dee,dee, dee. Dee, dee, dee."

Q: What obstacles have you run into?

A: Whether "dee" is spelled with one "e" or two.

Q: If you had three minutes to give advice to someone headed into danger, what would it be?

A: Unplug the dryer before trying to figure out why the socks are burned.

What's playing in my head: *Break My Stride (written by Matthew Wilder)

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

And when you get a minute, check out the Neighborhood's newest venture, Your LDS Radio.

---

The Germ Theory ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, germs, germ theory, cold, scientist, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


Germs—bad, bad germs. I once knew a doctor who told his patients he didn’t believe in the germ theory. It was a joke and if I didn’t have an awful cold right now, I’m sure I’d find it funny.

Have you ever thought about germs? It’s never been proven, but I believe they’re part of an insidious plot. Nowadays everything is thought to be a conspiracy, so why not the common cold?

Can’t you just see it? A scientist with wavy hair, a polka-dotted bow tie and black glasses is sitting on the stool in his lab. Chemicals bubble in beakers, heat rises from his Bunsen burner, the scent of formaldehyde and sulfuric acid mixed with the smell of a bologna sandwich wafts through the air. He ignores it all in his effort to train a germ to do its duty.

The scientist lovingly pats the germ on the head. “Now go on out there, find every Latter-day Saint that you can, and give them a cold right before they’re scheduled to speak in church.”

“Yes, my master,” the germ replies.

“And don’t forget parties. Lay them low as they sit at the ward dinner, chatting with each other and counting it as home and visiting teaching.”

“Yes, my master.” Apparently this germ has learned how to divide and multiply, but he doesn’t have very good language skills.

“Cloud their minds so they forget to use a handkerchief when they cough,” the scientist continues.

“Yes, my master.”

Hold on a minute. This cold germ is starting to sound like Darth Vader talking to the Emperor. Maybe we’d better beef his character up a little the next time he speaks.

The scientist’s eyes gleam with insane pleasure behind lenses thicker than the Hubble telescope. “When they go to meetings, impress them to shake hands.”

The germ blinks in confusion. “My master, I don’t need to do that. We’re in Utah, which is an ancient, Native American word for ‘people who can’t meet without shaking hands.’”

“Oh, I always thought it meant ‘people who can’t meet without refreshments.’” The scientist slicks back the germ’s hair, straightens its little polka dot tie and sends it off into the big, wide world.

You might think I’m making this up in my illness-fogged mind, but I’m living proof that germs do exist. That very same bug showed up and managed to infiltrate its way into my life, giving me the wretched cold I have today.

I’m on to the germ, though. Knowing that I’m contagious, I didn’t go to church on Sunday. I refuse to cooperate in spreading the monster around. I’m not sending it by computer to my writer friends, either. Before starting this blog entry, I sprayed my keyboard with Lysol.

Although ... now that I think about it, maybe that explains the zzzzzt, zzzt, zzzt sound and sparks flying as I type.

Despite my burning fever, hacking cough, and legs that feel Pinocchio’s, I wanted to warn you about it. Germs—they’re more than a theory. They’re out to get you. Pass it on!

What's playing in my head: Germs, Germs, Germs by Jennifer Fixman

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

---

Crater Lake, Part 2 ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Wyoming, Crater Lake, Snowy Range, Laramie, fishing, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


As you remember (or not!) from my blog on Nov. 3, 2008, my family and I had decided to go fishing at Crater Lake. Call us adventurous—although I have to say that Cindy Adventurous doesn’t sound quite as good as Cindy Beck does—but we wanted to find the place just by using a map.

Okay, I’ll tell the truth. We also wanted to use a global positioning satellite receiver, but they weren’t invented back then. Instead, we used the next best thing when we got lost—a desk clerk at a lodge who couldn’t have directed you to water if it sat in a bottle in front of him.

He sounded convincing when he gave us directions—to the lake, not the water bottle—and so, rather than admit defeat, we sallied forth.

It didn’t take long for us to realize our journey had gone awry.

My husband, Russ, stopped the car after five minutes of travel on a dirt road—the one that supposedly led to the lake. He looked at the muffler-crumpling rock in the way. “Houston, we have a problem,” Russ said, holding his hand to his mouth and making the crackly sounds of a microphone.

Our son, Davey, looked out the window. “Roger, that,” he said, giving his own version of crackly noises. Only it came out more like, “Coger cat,” because Flopsey, the dog, had stuck her head in his face, trying to discover why it sounded like popcorn popping in his throat.

I pondered the problem in the road and ignored them all. Then, the complicated solution came to me—just move the rock. I leaped out of the car and moved the boulder.

Russ watched, and even with the shadows from the trees making weird shapes on his face, I could see a mischevious glint in his eye. “Why don’t you sit on the hood and tell me where the big rocks are?” he asked.

“Because when I sit on the hood, I have to hold onto the windshield wipers so I don’t slide off when you stomp the brakes.”

“And the problem is?” Russ wiped dust from the interior of the windshield, which was good. That way the gleam in his eye was easier to see.

I inclined my head toward the front bumper. “ I can’t see past the end of the hood.”

Davey stuck his head out the side window. “I can see, and I’ll tell you when rocks are in the way.”

We drove 5 miles an hour, with Davey pointing out rocks, and me jumping off the hood to move them. It kept us all occupied and made the time pass, which was good, because the dirt road that was only supposed to go one mile went three, and it took us an hour to get to the end of it.

By now, we were positive the lake was close. According to the guy at the lodge—the one with as much sense of direction as a yo-yo—all we had to do was hike in ½ mile and we were there. I could smell fish frying already. We started hiking … ½ mile, ¾ mile, 1 mile. Surely the lake was right around the next bend. And then it started raining. Finally, after 2 miles, wet shoes, and clothes, we saw a sign that said, “Crater Lake.”

“Wahoo, “ shouted Russ and Davey.

“Oops,” I said. The two guys and the dog stopped their victory jig in mid-fling.

“Oops?” Russ walked to where I was standing, just beyond the sign. Davey and Flopsey followed, their tails wagging behind them. Well, maybe Davey’s tail wasn’t wagging, but Flopsey’s was.

Just past the sign … and 800 feet, straight down … sat Crater Lake. We were standing on a rocky ledge above it.

The sun broke through the clouds overhead. “The lake looks beautiful with its azure waters and its shining shores,” I said, in a melancholy voice.

The trail wended its way down to the lake, and Russ kicked a pebble down it. “Yup, and by the time that little stone hits bottom, it’ll be a full grown boulder.”

I looked at the sky. Pinks and oranges tinted the clouds as the sun dropped lower in the horizon. “It doesn’t look like we’ll be catching any fish at Crater Lake today.”

“Maybe not,” Russ said, “but it was a fun ride.”

I stared at him, wondering for a second if the cold drizzle had hypothermia-ed his brain. Then I turned and sprinted in the direction of the car. “Yup, it was so much fun that I call “driver” and the three of you can sit on the hood and move the boulders!”


What's playing in my head (and on my computer): Drive This Road by Peter Breinholt & Big Parade (on Your LDS Radio)


This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

---

"Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors" book winner!

As promised in my blog on October 23, 2008, I gathered the names of those who entered the contest for the drawing for a "Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors." Then, I wrote the names on slips of paper, scattered them on the floor, and let my dog, Corky Porky Pie, sniff out the winner.

In typical dog fashion, he pushed the papers this way and that, hoping one of them held a treat. When nothing yummy turned up, he totally ignored his vital role in the contest and looked at me to see if I had any dog cookies in my pockets.

I encouraged him to pick a winner with the command, "Take it!" He paid no attention to me.

Then, my husband, Russ said, "Bring it!" And the little four-legged darling (Corky Porky Pie, not Russ) grabbed two entry slips and brought them to me!

Therefore, someone is extra lucky tonight ... and the TWO winners are Lori Conger and Nichole Giles. Since I know how to reach both of you, I'll be contacting you so you can give me your mailing address.

Congratulations to you, and thanks to everyone who commented and entered the contest!

----

Crater Lake

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Wyoming, Crater Lake, Snowy Range, Laramie, fishing, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


Many years ago we lived in Laramie, Wyoming. I love the state of Wyoming … the antelope, the sagebrush, the rattlesnakes. Okay, maybe not the rattlesnakes.

I could wax poetic about the town of Laramie, as well. The kind of poetic that resembles Edgar Allen Poe’s darker works. On a scale of one to ten, I’d give Laramie a minus fifty-two. The town has two seasons—“Almost Summer,” which lasts from June 1st to June 2nd, and “Definitely Winter,” which runs the rest of the year. In addition, no matter which of the two seasons you’re not enjoying, the wind blows every day. Every single, solitary day.

Lest you think I’m just being negative, I’ll tell you that Laramie does have an up side. During the winter, it only snows once. After that, the wind just blows ice crystals back and forth across the town in a perpetual blizzard.

All kidding aside, Laramie does have some nice features. All right, I’ll tell the truth; Laramie has one nice feature.









It’s a set of mountains called the Snowy Range*, which contains a beautiful azure lake named Crater Lake.

Back then my family liked to fish, and all the old-timers said Crater Lake was the place to go. The fish there grew ten feet long, weighed two-hundred pounds, and were all starving to death. I could never quite figure out how a fish could weigh two-hundred pounds and starve at the same time, but that’s what people told us.

At any rate, we decided Crater Lake was the place where we most wanted to fish, so one day, we packed up all our fishing gear, got a lunch together and threw the dog in the car. By then there was no room for our seven-year-old son, Davey.

“Should we tie him to the windshield?” Russ grinned in jest.

“Naw, then we’ll just have to pick bugs out of his teeth,” I said. So, Davey squeezed in the back seat with the dog, and off we went, like a herd of turtles.

Now let me ask you a question. Have you ever wanted to do something all by yourself, with no help from anyone else? That’s how we felt that day.

Wait, let me rephrase that. We didn’t want help from any people. Cows, deer or elk could offer suggestions. A GPS receiver was allowed, too, but since it hadn’t been invented yet—to be truthful, this was so long ago that fire had barely been discovered—we pulled out an old, tattered map. After finding the little blue speck on it that was the lake, we headed on our way. According to our calculations, it was about a seventy-mile drive on the highway, a five-mile drive on a dirt road and then we’d be on the shining shores of Crater Lake.

The drive on the highway was fine; it was the dirt road that turned into a problem. Apparently, no one had bothered to tell the mapmaker that there were three different dirt roads every time the map showed one.

We drove around for five hours on bumpity roads. Finally, Russ stopped the car and pointed to the right of the car. “Look. We’ve finally found it!”

Davey, the dog, and I all leaned out the window. “Where?” I asked, cocking my head and wondering if Russ has been sniffing gas fumes lately.

“Daddy, all I see is a mud puddle.” Davey patted the dog’s head before pushing her out of the way so he could point at the puddle.

“Yup. That’s probably the closest we’re going to get to anything even resembling a lake,” Russ said with a laugh.

I tossed the map on the floor. “That is so not funny.”

We drove on … and on. Finally, we spotted a lodge. Real men don’t ask for directions, but real women do, so we stopped and walked inside.

“Are we anywhere near Crater Lake?” I asked. “Like maybe on the same planet?”

The guy at the front desk said, “Oh it’s real close by. You just go down the road about a quarter mile, and turn onto the first dirt road. Drive down that for another mile and you’ll see the trail that leads to the lake.”

Raising my eyebrows, I looked at Russ. If there was one thing we’d learned in life, it was that when something sounded easy, it usually wasn’t.

“Do we need a truck?” Russ asked. His voice held a note of suspicion—we’d seen plenty of muffler-crumpling boulders already in the trek.

“Oh, no, I drive it all the time, and I don’t have a truck.” His voice cracked causing me to look more closely at him. His peach-fuzz face indicated he didn’t know how to shave. Did he even own a driver’s license?

Ignoring the mental warning flags that waved at us like a matador taunting a bull, we climbed in the car, full of optimism at continuing the journey. When we got to the first dirt road, things went a little haywire. Russ took one look and said, “The guy said he drove this road without a truck? It must be because he had a Sherman tank.”

Despite the fact we were tootling along in a Chevette—a car that resembled a roller skate on steroids—and that the vehicle sat a mere six inches off the ground, do you think we’d let a little thing like that stop us? Of course not …

(To be continued.)

*Photos from Snowy Range Views, photographer unknown.

What's playing in my head (and on my computer): Long Lost Child by Mindy Gledhill (on Your LDS Radio)


This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

---

The Deck, Part 2 ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008

(Keywords: Cindy Beck, deck, paint, redwood stain, cats, KitKat, Pretty Kitty, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


As I mentioned last time, our deck needed staining. Okay, I take that back. It was already stained from barbecued ribs, spilled lemonade, and the little whitewashed packages the birds liked to leave for us. To be precise, it needed weatherproofing with a coat of oil-based, redwood stain.

Yes, that’s right—redwood stain. The operative word in that phrase being, “red.” “Red” as in the blood that Russ dripped onto the planks after being scratched by the cat—who thought Russ deserved it for trying to clean him off the deck with a push broom.

We got out the paintbrushes and started working. Spots, speckles and drips flew everywhere. Russ looked war-painted from the back splash. I looked like my usual chic, super-model-self wearing a t-shirt that was three sizes too large and my cut-off, never hemmed, knit pants. The kind that I could fit two cats, the dog, my four-year-old granddaughter, and a third leg into and still have room to bend over. Call me a trend setter, but I think the mismatched flip-flops I wore is what set the ensemble off.

And then Russ came up with an idea for finishing the deck with less drips, and in faster time. He picked up the can of stain and said, “We’ll just pour the stuff onto the wood! It’s so thin, it’ll spread over the whole area and we’ll be done.” He thought it was brilliant. I thought he needed his head examined.

“We'll do that over my fashionably clad, dead body!” I grabbed the can from him as red stain sloshed onto the tiger-striped cat, who now looked like something from a horror movie.

I thought for a second. “But, that does give me an idea. We could roll the stuff on.”

Russ cocked his head, and pondered my suggestion. “Roll it on how? With a t-shirt wrapped around the bottom of a vacuum cleaner?” You can tell who’s the staining expert around our house.

“No, silly. With a paint roller.”

“Ohhhhh,” Russ said, and then recognition flickered in his eyes. “I’ll go get one of those thingies that you need.”

Have you ever noticed that men use the word “thingy” as both a noun and a verb? And sometimes an adjective. Because of that, you never know exactly what the “thingy” is until they walk out with it.

Russ set his paintbrush down on the grass and trotted into the garage. The stain ran off the brush in a wide circle, making the lawn the color of something you’d see in a Stephen King movie. I’m thinking that between the cat and the grass, it might have been Pet Sematary.

Russ sauntered back out, carrying a dented pan that looked like it had survived ground zero during a nuclear blast. He placed it on the sidewalk, took the can of stain from me, and poured some into the pan. Droplets splashed onto my flip-flops.

“Don’t worry about those few droplets on your shoes,” Russ said. “The red will blend right in with the pink and purple daisies on them.”

He poured some more, and stain splattered onto my legs. Russ swiped at the red splotches with his hand, trying to rub them off. “Don’t worry about those few droplets on your legs. They blend well with your brown age spots. None of it will show.”

I eyed my legs, staring at the red speckles that supposedly blended with my age spots, and scrutinized my flip-flops with the red blobs that supposedly matched my shoes’ daisy design. My foot tapped—almost as if not under my control—with an irritated rhythm.

Russ noticed it.

Stain dripped from the overflowing pan onto the sidewalk, making it look like it had the pox. “I’ll take care of that,” Russ said. He grabbed the gasoline can sitting nearby, and tipped it over the splotches on the sidewalk.

“Don’t worry about any of this,” he said, gesturing at the deck and back yard. “We’ll just light a match … and none of it will show.”

(Disclaimer: This blog is meant to be humorous, and not intended as a primer (no pun intended) on staining/painting. Gasoline is flammable; please do not ever use gas to clean stain/paint spills.)



What's playing in my head: Ring of Fire (by Johnny Cash).


This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources and LDS interviews from around the world—all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy.

---