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A Muse-ing by C.L. Beck

By C.L. Beck
© 2008
(Keywords: C.L. Beck, muse, muses, a muse-ing, mythology, magic, Olivia Newton-John, inspiration, ator, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

In mythology, there are only she-muses. That’s not too bad for the women of the world, but I’m sorry to tell you this, guys—it looks like you’re stuck with a gal for your inspiration. Probably a gal who primps, colors her hair and wears fingernail polish named “Who Needs a Prince?”

Even though there are no he-muses mentioned in mythology, I’m certain they exist. They appear right after inspiration strikes and before the writer/artist/musician has a chance to even get one word, drawing, or musical note down on paper. The he-muses are the cause for delayed manuscripts, funky artwork, and music that falls flat in all the wrong places.

Naturally, they don’t have sissy names like the female muses. Their names typically end with “ator” or “ucto” or some other bizarre, “go out and wreak havoc on the world” syllables. I’m sure many of you have encountered them; maybe we’ve even met a few of the same ones.

The Alphabetizer-ator: The muse who inspires you to alphabetize your magazines, canned vegetables, and the spices in the cupboard before writing that award winning novel or concerto. Then he mentions that the cans of old paint in the basement really need to be sorted by color.

The Grinder-ator: The one who reminds you that you can’t create anything unless your pencils are sharp. All your pencils. Every one that’s in the house. Oh, and don’t forget that one out in the car’s glove box. Who cares that you haven’t used a pencil for anything since you were in the third grade? Or that you don’t use a pencil for oil painting.

The Cleaner-ator: That burly guy who bugs you because your desk is a mess. So, before you create anything, you straighten and clean. And then get out the vacuum, take the computer apart and vacuum out the dust. If you’re an author, he’s the one you hear laughing in your head as you accidentally suck the mother board out of your computer, effectively ending your writing career for the month.

The Sharpener-ator: The man’s man. He’s the one that whispers to all the guys that the shovels, hoes, and pitchfork need to be sharpened. It’s a macho issue, since no guy can stand being creative when he has unsharpened tools hanging over his head. This is also the same muse who then tells the guys to go sharpen the Water-Pik.

The Barker-ator: The muse who insists that you can’t think with the dog barking. Or the cat meowing. And can't the birds chirp quieter? Or the leaves stop rustling? He’s the one who inspires you to stuff a potato into the tailpipe of that noisy car across the street.

So far, I've given you a taste of the personalities of just a few of them, but the list goes on and on. They’re insidious. It takes a strong, determined person to defeat them. However, forewarned is also forearmed.

And I intend to tell you more so you can resist. Really, I do.

But first … give me a few minutes to clean off my desk, sharpen my pencils and vacuum out the computer.

What's playing in my head: Magic by Olivia Newton-John (from the movie, Xanadu).

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the YourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.

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

--

Moan-day by C.L. Beck

© C.L. Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Moan, Moan-day, Monday, weeds, gardening, flowers, rose, rose bushes, humor, funny, smile, C.L. Beck, writer, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Monday is misnamed. It should be called Moan-day. Why? Because if anything’s going to go wrong, you can bet it’ll happen on that day.

On this particular Moan-day, it all started with gargantuan weeds in the driveway, near our front sidewalk. I dusted the cobwebs off the old weed-eater, pleaded with it to start and begged it to run long enough to whack everything ... including the grass in the rose bed.

It started. Thirty seconds later, the line disappeared. I spent 45 minutes—with the hot sun beating on my head and sweat dripping down my neck—trying to figure out how to pop the spool out to put in new line.

Finally, I realized it wasn’t going to happen and decided to trim the deadwood in the rose bushes—then tackle the grass and weeds by hand. I got a few of the dead branches into the wheelbarrow when ... weird … there weren’t any sounds coming from the backyard.

That meant something was up with our dog, Corky.

I looked all around. No Corky anywhere, but there were a couple of dogs down the street, barking like crazy.

Ah-ha! The Corky Monster had run away. I found him at the end of the block, visiting the barking dogs. He didn’t have a collar on, but it didn’t matter because I didn’t have a leash. I hefted the big chub against my shoulder and trudged home.

After putting him in the yard, it was back to the rose bed. The sun blazed in the sky, my hair plastered itself to my head and my eyes stung from sweat trickling into them. Walking past the sprinkler valve next to the roses, I noticed something suspicious—the valve box was overflowing with water.

A leak. No wonder the lawn had dry spots and the weeds in the driveway were thriving. I schlepped to the garage, got the sprinkling system key and turned the water off.

By now I had a wheelbarrow with dead branches at one end of the sidewalk, a weed-whacker and 100 foot extension cord at the other end, two valve box lids laying on the lawn, and the sprinkler key sticking straight up out of the ground. My yard looked like I was recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

I realized I hadn’t gotten much of anything done. My stomach growled for breakfast. I was ready for a shower. Or maybe a nap. I figured I could make it easy on myself and nap while I showered. But then the weeding wouldn't get done.

In the middle of all that thinking, a sound seeped into my brain. Actually, it was more like no sound. Corky wasn’t barking.

I plodded to the rear and found him ready to dash through a partially open gate at the end of the yard. So that’s how he got out before!

Then it was back to the valve box to bail water. The sun rose higher in the sky. It was 11:00 a.m. and all I’d accomplished was to get hot and sweaty.

After looking the situation over, I decided to give the weed-eater one more try. Into the house I went to call the weed-whacker people. The gal there didn’t have a clue how to get the spool out. My weed-eater was older than her mother.

I finally saw a little doohickey on the weed-whacker’s cover. One push and ta-da, the housing popped free.

The spool had 18 inches of tangled line. I fed some through, put it back together and started it whirring. Thirty seconds later, the line disappeared. I took it apart, pulled more line and started it up. Thirty seconds later? No line again … that weed-eater hated me.

With all the stopping and starting, the machine ran for a total of five minutes. During that time I managed to weed-whack my bare ankles, chop off the heads of the roses and cut three weeds.
By then it was noon. The heat had sizzled what was left of my brain.

Putting everything away, I decided I was finished with weeding for the year—maybe for the century. I headed inside. Forget that longed-for shower of hours ago; I was taking a nap—and sleeping straight through the rest of Moan-day.

What's playing on my radio: Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells.
What's playing on my TV: Nothing.
What's playing in my head: Same as what's on the radio.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the YourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.

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

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Error, Does Not Compute by C.L. Beck

© C.L. Beck 2008
(Keywords: computer, quill pen, error, computer error, error message, mouse, cheese, stack, programmer, hen, rooster, C.L. Beck, writer, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Despite a nostalgic bent for old-fashioned writer’s tools—the quill pen always looked cute to me—I can’t seriously argue that any previous inventions were ever as handy as the computer.

With a computer, a writer can whip out a story in no time, use grammar and spell check to improve the manuscript, and then delete any errors in the blink of an eye. It can be saved as a file on the hard drive, a CD or on a zip drive. Come flood, earthquake, or mud slide, multiple backups ensure all is not lost.

Armed with that knowledge and counting on the computer's speed, I sat down one night not long ago to work on one of my humor columns. Despite the fact that the clock showed only two hours before midnight, I figured I could whip it out in no time.

I wrote the first two paragraphs in thirty seconds and paused for a minute.

The only sound in the room was the quiet of my thoughts (which included a nagging feeling that I should do a backup) and the whirring of the computer fan in the night. A feeling of bliss permeated the air. That is, until an error message appeared out of nowhere:

ERROR: e4G@fdkcokpv^&589yRG j=+-uHG683{=+#BFGvilxxya]404
We know you don’t understand this. We did that on purpose. Click OK.

Where had the message come from? Were there little men in my machine who knew when I made an error? What error had I made? And why?

Thinking I must have hit a wrong key, I moved my mouse to highlight and delete the message, only to get another:

MOUSE ERROR: Mouse was moved without permission. Windows must be restarted for the move to take effect. Click OK.

Knowing my word processing program had done an automatic backup, I followed the instructions and restarted the computer. In the two hours it took the infernal machine to re-boot, I could have written the column by hand.

When I finally got back to my word processing program, it had backed up my text in Chinese and I was ready to shoot the thing. It must have sensed my hostility, because it sent another message:

INTERNAL ERROR: Stack overflow. Internal stack has come unstacked. Click OK.

There's a stack? A stack of what? I was beginning to think it could only be a stack of mentally unbalanced programmers.

Fidgeting at the thought of a discombobulated stack, I accidentally bumped my mouse. My computer blinked, hiccupped, and all my Chinese writing disappeared. I would have throttled the stupid mouse, except I was afraid if I moved it, it would eat my cheese.

Using stealth, I started typing all over again. Just as I began wrapping up my thoughts, I got another error message:

ERROR, ERROR, ERROR: User has made another error. Replace user. Click OK.

Replace user?

Every writer has her own ethical guideline to follow. LDS writers have an even stricter code. Believe me when I tell you it's for that reason alone I didn't call the computer a “bleeping so and so” when it suggested replacing me.

By now the sun was rising, peeking over the ridge. I picked up my computer, lugged it outside and threw it into the henhouse, where it made a fine nesting box for Henny Penny.

Then I hunted for the old rooster. I was certain he wouldn’t mind donating a tail feather so I could make a quill pen.

What's playing on my radio: Nothing
What's playing on my TV: Nothing.

What's playing in my head: Nothing. I'm just a big blank today:)

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the YourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.

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

--

Bats in My Belfry by C.L. Beck

© C.L. Beck 2008
Sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com
(Keywords: C.L. Beck, bat, cat, scritch, Russ, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

One summer, I was sitting near the door that leads down to the furnace room, when I heard a “scritch, scritch”. Thinking it was Slippers, our cat, I ignored it and continued with my vastly important project of checking email.

Pretty soon, “scritch, scritch, shuffle, shuffle” caught my attention again.

“Slippers, I’m not getting up to let you out. Just sit in the dark and dream of mice.”

“Meow.”

Normally that “meow” wouldn’t have bothered me, but it came from the couch. If Slippers was on the couch, who was scritch-scritching on my landing?

I opened the door to the stairway, and aaawk! There, four feet above my head, was a bat. I slammed the door shut, and did what every woman does in an emergency. I emailed my husband, Russ, a note that said: HELP! There’s a bat in the downstairs. A beady-eyed, black bat!

My ever-so-thoughtful husband immediately sent back an email joke about old bats and flying monkeys.

So I sent him another note: This is not funny. It’s flying around in circles, bumping into things. Every time I open the door to peek in, it hungrily looks me over with its beady little eyes.

In return, my husband emailed me a picture of myself dressed as the “Krazy Krispy Kreme Baker.” In it, my hair was frizzed out, purple circles darkened my eyes, and I held a donut infested with plastic spiders. Underneath he’d written: And exactly why would someone who looks like this be worried about a bat?

Really, it’s unfair for a husband to take pictures of his wife at Halloween and then use them against her years later, when a fifteen-foot bat shows up in the house.

I wrote back: Your shoes are in the downstairs. If all you’re going to do is make jokes, I hope the bat lands in one of your Nikes.

My husband made the drive home in record time. When he got in the house, he cracked the downstairs door open, while I peered over his shoulder. Yup, the bat was still there—hanging upside down, squeaking, and scratching its head.
All of a sudden, it took off and headed towards us. I’ve never seen a man shut a door so fast before.

Russ went into the kitchen and returned armed with a piece of beef jerky, a towel, and a broom. I wondered what the jerky was for ... to entice the bat over so he could catch it?

That just shows you the differences in the way men and women think. The broom and towel were for the bat. The jerky was for Russ.

After gnawing on the boot-leather meat, my husband opened the door and slowly moved the broom handle towards the bat. It spread its wings. I ducked, screamed, and covered my head with my arms … and it crawled onto the end of the broom.

Gee, if I’d known that’s all it took, I could have done it myself.

Scrambling to the front door, I threw it open and Russ took the dangling bat outside. The story should end there, but some people have all this curiosity that gets them into trouble. Especially when those people are not only writers, but also photographers.

“Wait, I want to take a picture of it,” I said. You never know when a photo of a bat might come in handy, right?

I dashed inside, grabbed the camera, and got ready to take the shot. “Now tell me if it starts to fly, so I can duck,” I said to Russ.

There’s no point in taking a picture of a bat from five feet away. I got closer until the bat was a foot away from the camera. I adjusted my focus and …

In a flash, the ungrateful thing unfolded its wings and flew straight for me. Its bloodsucking fangs glistened in the sunlight. Its beady eyes tried to hypnotize me.

I squawked—not from fear, but because I was engulfed by a dilemma. I only had a microsecond to decide. Should I run or shoot the picture?

Well, I certainly don’t have bats in my belfry. It was an easy decision.

I shot the picture, and then ran like a bat out of ... well … you know where.

What's playing on my radio: Nothing
What's playing on my TV: Nothing.

What's playing in my head: Dah na na na na na na na ... Batman!

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the YourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.

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

--

License Plate Frame Slogans (And a chance to win prizes!)

By C.L. Beck
2008

Words are everywhere. Just look around and I think you’ll agree. For example, there are tee shirts with all kinds of sayings. In light of having reached the ripe old age of plenty-nine, one of my favorites is “I’d rather be over the hill than under it.” Appliances all have instructions on the boxes. Steam iron manufacturers now list the caution, “Do not use while wearing clothes.” I find that advice to be a little ambiguous. I can't decide if it means you should iron naked, or you shouldn’t iron the clothes while they’re on your body.

The written word is in our mail, on our televisions (oh, yes, you know you’ve been reading that little ticker tape at the bottom of Fox News), as well as imprinted on our sunglasses and license plates frames. Hey, it’s even in our underwear! For the moment, though, I’d like to ignore the underwear (not wearing it, just writing about it) and concentrate on the advice you see on the rear of vehicles.

Not long ago, my hubby and I were driving along reading the license plate frames of cars we passed. Just for fun, we came up with the followiong list of slogans that we thought had marketing potential in the Latter-day Saint culture—mostly because they were clean and contained no swear words.

If you don’t like my driving … get off my windshield.

This vehicle powered by 350 horses … watch out for exhaust.

Mountain Heights Hospital … your link to eternity.

My lawyer’s smarter than your lawyer … go ahead and hit me.

My grandkids … are kinda homely. Can I have one of yours?

Pass with caution … blind driver.

He who dies with the most toys … has toddlers at home.

How do you expect me to soar like an eagle … when I’m a big chicken?

Friends don’t let friends drive … over other people.

(And my personal favorite, which only women would understand.) You toucha my car, I breaka you … fingernail.

I’m sure that all these slogans have inspired at least one of your own, so I’m running a contest. Submit your slogans as a comment on this blog. The best entry wins a genuine, almost two-inches tall, never-before-used-in-a-bathtub, LDS RUBBER DUCKY!

How do I know he’s LDS? Well, just look at his modest feathers. No belly button showing on that little quacker.

Please note that, despite the photo shown here, your LDS ducky will not have been sitting in a mud puddle. Although the winner’s toy will look similar, the one shown here is a professional model/actor who has been hired to advertise this blog.

Contest is subject to rules and regulations as governed by the great State of Utah … blah, blah ... and ends July 4, 2008.

(I’m sorry I won’t be able to respond to every entry personally, but be assured that in my heart, I’m laughing at yours. And while you're in the prize-winning mood, check out the prizes listed below that are offered by YourLDSNeighborhood.com, for subscribing to their newsletter.)

What's playing on my radio: Walking Man by James Taylor
What's playing on my TV: Nothing.
What's playing in my head: Same as what's on the radio


Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the YourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.

This blog sponsored by YourLDSNeighborhood.com. Please show your appreciation by returning to and browsing through the Neighborhood!
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That’s One Heavy Horse

By C. L. Beck
© 2008


As a kid, I always wanted a horse. However, when you live on a lot the size of a Kleenex, in the suburbs of Washington D. C., the neighbors don’t take kindly to the fragrance of road apples.

The dream never died and when we moved to Utah, the hunt was on. Our son had never ridden, so a calm, gentle horse was a must. When we explained that to the owner we visited, his family exclaimed in unison, “Spooky!” It was a weird thing to say—as far as I knew, we didn’t look like Lily and Herman Munster. When I realized "Spooky" was the name of their horse, it should have been a clue to the animal’s personality. But I figured maybe they’d named her that because she was born on Halloween.

“Will you ride her so we can see how she responds?” my husband asked.

They nodded yes. Their son ran to the barn and in a few minutes brought out a prancing, side-stepping horse.

I wondered … is it normal to see the whites of a horse’s eyes?

The boy leaped on and the horse bolted before the kid’s backside even hit the saddle. They ripped around the arena, scaring the beejeebers out of the barn cat who sat sunning itself by a post. Horse and rider finally reared to a halt, inches away from us, and I had visions of Spooky falling over backwards onto us.

Dust filled the air, but my husband managed to cough out a few words. “Thanks so much, but I don’t think that horse is quite right for us.”

The next horse we visited was a Morgan named Sonja. She was calm, friendly and wanted to follow us everywhere. That was a good sign, wasn’t it?

She was so sweet we probably didn’t need to ask, but I did anyway. “Can we take her for a ride?”

By "we," I meant my hubby. After watching Spooky, the Devil Horse, rear up and flail the air, the only thing I was willing to climb on was a fence post.

Sonja stood quietly, nuzzling the owner’s arm as my husband swung into the saddle. She didn’t crow-hop or walk out from underneath him. That was another good sign.

He rode her in the arena, and she walked sedately, sticking close to the rail—so close my hubby’s knee bumped each post as he rode past. That darned horse was trying to rub him off. Apparently Sonja was great at being an affectionate, manure-producing pet, but not much good for riding.

It took some searching, but we finally settled on a white Arabian. We named her Sugar. I had visions of myself as Lawrence-etta of Arabia. The horse was fine-boned, regal … and not very bright.

We soon found out she also had this nasty cough. Every time she ate hay, she coughed.

Thinking she had a cold, we doctored her with a shot of combiotic … and for good measure, a couple slurps of honey. One did about as much good as the other, because she kept coughing.

Ok, I take that back; the combiotic didn’t do much, but the honey was useful. Hay stuck to her sticky lips and muzzle as she ate, which not only provided comic relief but also prevented her from blowing nasal mucus all over us when she coughed.

Eventually, I asked one of the old-timers about the problem. Reluctance flitted over his weathered face; he hemmed and hawed, and finally mumbled something about the horse being “heavy.”

Heavy? I thought. Of course, she’s heavy; she’s a horse! What nitwit doesn’t know that a horse is heavy?

It turns out the word wasn’t “heavy”; it was “heave-y.” As in, "Thet thar horse has the heaves." When you rode her, she’d cough every few steps. It was like sitting atop a walking earthquake and was about as much fun as having saddle sores. Eventually, we traded her to a guy who knew about her cough.

It was a good trade in my book. We got a hundred gallons of heating oil and he got a heavy horse with hay stuck to her lips.

(Interested in another short story about Sugar, the horse? You can read my story about her in the recently released book, Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers. Visit http://www.bythebecks.com/CoCHorse.html to read an excerpt or order the book.)


What's playing on my radio: Ghost Riders in the Sky by Marty Robbins
What's playing on my TV: Nothing
What's playing in my head: Same as what's on the radio

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the YourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.

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

By C.L. Beck
© 2008


Some say that Latter-day Saints live in their own little universe. I say it isn’t so. Let me tell you, if we lived in our own world, we’d make sure it was a lot more logical than this one!

The universe we currently reside in is filled with weirdness, and it only seems to be getting weirder. I came to that realization the other day after eating some mixed nuts. It prompted me to make a list of the illogical things in life.

  1. I can buy peanuts in a jar. Why, then, do they insist on filling the can of mixed nuts with mostly peanuts? Hey, if I wanted peanuts, I’d go buy peanuts.
  2. A stop light turns yellow to signal it’s going to turn red, and drivers should prepare to stop. Why, then, does it only stay yellow for a tenth of a second? Even Mario Andretti couldn’t stop a car in that amount of time.
  3. I spent a lot of years listening to the television telling me to get an education. Now that I’ve gotten one, everything uses symbols. What … they think I can’t read? And exactly what does a rectangle with a big X through it really mean?
  4. The dials and knobs in my car are part of my safety features. Why, then, do they contain symbols the size of a gnat? I’d need to use a magnifying glass to see them. By the time I hauled it out and got the symbols in focus, I’d be upside down in a ditch.
  5. Laptop computers sound like they should sit in your lap. The other day my hubby was working with it in his lap and the computer overheated and locked up. It took hours to get the thing to shut down. Re-reading instructions, we found out that a lap is soft and covers the cooling vents, so the machine is supposed to sit on something firm. And the reason they call it a “laptop” is …?
  6. Toasters used to cook the bread so it was golden on both sides. Now it comes out brown on only one side. How could something as simple as toast get goofed? Maybe the engineers didn’t have a magnifying glass to decipher those little gnat-sized symbols that told them how to build it.
  7. Let’s not neglect the writing world. Using a computer saves precious time, which can then be used for writing that award winning novel. Oh wait, see number 5 above.

I’ve often heard it said that you should save your work every few minutes. I chose to do just that. I saved this blog to my computer and for double insurance decided I should print a hard copy. I clicked a button displaying a symbol that I hoped meant “print”. The machine made a click and paper scrolled through. (Wow, did I really guess right?) Then the paper jammed, the machine clunked, and it squirted ink everywhere.

And the reason they call it a printer is ... ?

What's playing on my radio: Layla by Eric Clapton
What's playing on my TV: Nothing
What's playing in my head: Same as what's on the radio

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

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Finding New Canyon Lake

By C.L. Beck
© 2008


In the 23 years we’ve lived in Utah, we’ve never found the local fishing hole named New Canyon Lake. The last time we tried, we had a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and we still ended up light years away.

The time before that was even more interesting.

**********

“Did you bring the map?” I asked my husband, Russ.

“What map?”

“We don’t need one,” my son, Dave interjected. “My friends told me how to get there.” Right then I should have known. Men never think they need a map. That’s why couples spend hours circling the same four blocks in Sandy, looking for Temple Square.

“You just stay to the right,” Dave said.

The first right-hand fork in the road arrived quickly. It dead-ended half a mile later, at a locked gate. The sweat trickled down our necks as we got out, swatted mosquitoes, and looked around.

“I don’t see a lake,” I said.

As we piled back in the truck, Dave mumbled, “Maybe they said stay to the left.”

An hour of left turns later, the dirt road narrowed and the aspen grew closer. I asked, “Shouldn’t we be there by now?”

Russ and Dave looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and Dave said, “It’s probably just around the bend.”

Russ swatted the gnats that buzzed him. “Give it one more chance. If it’s not around the turn, we’ll head back.”

I should have ignored them and listened to that inner voice screaming, “You’ve donated 20 pints of blood to mosquitoes and you’re lost. Go home.”

No one wants to be the kill-joy, though. We drove on and within minutes I heard a loud “clunk”.

“What’s that noise?” I asked.

“What noise?” Russ jerked the wheel right and left, too busy avoiding trees to hear anything. He slammed on the brakes. We peered over the dash. The road dropped in a downhill grade that would make even a mountain goat hyperventilate.

“Time to turn around,” I said, prying one white-knuckled hand loose from Dave’s knee and the other from Russ’s forearm.

“There’s no room to turn,” Russ said, so we drove on. The truck clunked every time the steering wheel rotated. I had visions of tie rods snapping as we bounced along.

A few minutes later, I asked, “What’s that smell and why are we going so fast?”

“What smell?” Russ replied, never taking his eyes off the dirt crevice we were pretending was road.

“The one that smells like burning brakes,” Dave said.

Now I had visions of tie rods snapping and us pitching headlong down the mountain side, the truck a flaming fireball from over-heated brakes.

After a tense half-hour filled with clunks and smoke, the grade leveled and we flew down the last hill, bouncing around in the cab like the ball in a pinball game. The truck slid to a stop, the red-hot brakes still smoldering.

Dave pointed at a guy walking towards us. As he got close, the man took his cap off and smoothed his silver hair. “Where’ve you folks been?”

“Up the mountain. We were looking for New Canyon Lake.”

“You’re not anywhere near it,” the man said. “You’re in the valley below. Did you drive the whole way down on that sheep trail?”

I blinked twice. “Sheep trail? That wasn’t a four-wheel drive road?”

“Nope.” He put his cap back on. “Nice day for a ride, though.” He headed towards his truck, then turned and called, “You can leave my field by that gate over there.”

I looked at Russ and shook my head in disbelief. “We’re sitting in the valley—in some farmer’s field.”

“And we came down the mountain on a sheep trail,” Dave said.

Russ sniffed the air. “No wonder our brakes are burning and we have a clunk.”

Silence prevailed, broken only by a meadow lark’s song. Finally, Russ said, “Next time, maybe we should take a right before we hit the sheep trail.”

“We’re never going to find it by driving around aimlessly,” I said.

Dave scratched a mosquito bite. “I read that one day scientists will come out with a futuristic, super technology, satellite tracking thingy—”

“And then we’ll find it,” we all said in unison.

What's playing on my radio: Nothing
What's playing on my TV: Nothing
What's playing in my head: Bennie and the Jets, by Elton John

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They're Baaaaack

By C.L. Beck
© 2008

On March 19th, the swallows returned to Capistrano. Yes, I know that was a couple of months ago, but I’m a slow mover. I never even hear the latest news in town until it’s dead and gone, so I’m lucky to remember that there are birds that show up someplace every year.

Back to the swallows ... their return always seemed so romantic to me. I envisioned a handsome Italian man holding a cheesy manicotti in one hand and a creamy cannoli in the other, wooing Sophia Loren, as the birds encircled them. The swallows would symbolize their eternal love as they fed pasta and pastries to each other (the couple, not the birds).

Then I found out that swallows are messy birds that build their nests in carports and garages, bombing unwary passers-by with mud clods and droppings. To make matters worse, I discovered that Capistrano isn’t even in Italy. It’s in California.

The news was devastating. But, since I was still right about manicotti (a luscious, cheese-filled pasta) and cannoli (a flaky dessert filled with pastry cream), I managed to get over the disappointment. And despite the swallows’ vices, they’re graceful birds, which at least atones, in part, for their messy nesting habits.

On the other hand, I’m 100% certain there is one bird with no redeeming value in this life—the starling. Starlings, like the swallows of Capistrano (and even more like Freddy Krueger, from the movie, “Nightmare on Elm Street”) are baaaaack.

Starlings aren’t native to this country. I only know because I heard it on Paul Harvey. Or maybe I read it on the back of a cereal box. Thank goodness for those two or I’d never learn anything.

It seems that Eugene Schieffelin thought New Yorkers should be able to see every bird that’s mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Since there weren’t any starlings in the New World, he brought them over from Europe and released them in Central Park in 1890.

I, personally, think the man had rocks in his head. Not only do the birds arrive in flocks to eat my outdoor cats’ dry food, but they drive my dog insane because he thinks they’re intruders and thieves.

Which they are. In the spring and summer, I spend my time dashing out the door, throwing whatever’s handy at the birds … which does explain odd things like bottles of ketchup and toothbrushes stuck in the branches of my trees.

I’m sure Sweet William (Shakespeare that is, not Clinton) never realized the mere mention of starlings would have such a far-reaching effect.

The moral of the story? As Latter-day Saints, we’ve been instructed to keep journals so that future generations have words of wisdom to help them along their path. My favorite method of journaling is to print off emails I’ve written and stick them in a binder fifteen years later. But, you might do something different. Regardless, we need to remember this lesson learned from Shakespeare ....

No matter how tempting it is, do not list every bird that flies across the yard. Otherwise, future generations living on a far distant planet might be tempted to import them to their section of the solar system … and end up with the birds from heck roosting in their eaves and squawking from their trees.

What's playing on my radio: Perhaps Love by John Denver and Placido Domingo
What's playing on my TV: Nothing
What's playing in my head: Same as what's on the radio.

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