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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).


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The Deck ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, deck, paint, redwood stain, cats, KitKat, Pretty Kitty, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)

The deck needed staining. Either that or it needed to be ripped off and used for firewood. Since we don’t have a fireplace, we decided staining was a viable alternative. And so, bright and early last Saturday, my husband, Russ, and I stepped out into the chilly air and began cleaning dust and leaves off the wooden planks. Minutes after starting, I watched Russ give a particularly vigorous shove with the push broom.

“Are you having trouble with those two spots?” I asked.

“Uggg,” Russ replied. I assumed that was primitive male-speak for yes. Or maybe no.

Never one to lightly offer my brilliant-but-unasked-for opinion, I tilted my head to one side and said, “That’s not debris, you know.”

Russ stopped pushing, looked at me, and raised one eyebrow. “Oh, really? Then just what is it?”

“Our two cats,” I said, shooing the orange and white one, KitKat, off the deck.



The other cat—the dark tiger-striped—continued sitting there, washing his face. We'd befriended him years ago and named him Pretty Kitty. If it weren’t for the fact that his left ear is half gone and his tail is broken, the name would really fit.



I reached over, patted Pretty Kitty's head, and continued not offering my opinion. “You know what happens when you try to push a cat—it just pushes back.” I hated to state the obvious, but I didn’t want him trying to clean Pretty Kitty off the deck with the broom again.

Russ gently reached down to pick the cat up and Pretty Kitty rewarded him with a swat. One that, had a surgeon performed it, would have been a $200, twenty-stitch incision. Instead, Russ got it for free.

Russ lightly tossed the cat onto the grass as blood dripped onto the wooden planks. Knowing that I’m fastidious about such things as bodily fluids on my deck, Russ said, “Don’t worry about those few droplets. We’re staining the deck red. None of it will show.”

After he patted the cut dry with his shirttail, we picked up paint brushes, popped open the gallon of redwood stain, and started applying the thin, oil-based paint to the edges of the wood. “We should be done in no time,” Russ said, as paint from his brush splattered onto the deck’s white vinyl posts.

“Oops,” I said, as red stain raced in rivulets onto the white, lattice trim below. Drops splattered onto KitKat, who sat sunning himself by the lattice.

“Don’t worry about those few droplets on the cat,” Russ said, as he raced to the garage for gasoline to clean off the dripping and splattered paint. “It’s red stain. He’s orange. None of it will show.”

In a matter of seconds ... or perhaps more like fifteen minutes ... Russ returned with the six-gallon gas can. I waved my paintbrush at him and said, “Hurry, hurry, or the paint will dry and the lattice will look like it has copious wounds.”

As I gestured, a shower of paint flew from my brush. It was just too bad Russ's face happened to be in the way, because otherwise the paint would have made an interesting pattern when it hit the sidewalk.

“Don’t worry about those few droplets on your face,” I said. “It’s red stain, and with all the sun you’ve gotten this morning, none of it will show.”

Russ wiped his brow with his sleeve—which gave him a decidedly war-painted look—then he tapped the deck with his foot and said, "I have a great idea for getting this done quickly, and with a lot less splattering ..."

(To be continued.)


What's playing in my head: Lady in Red (by Phil Collins).


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Dancing in the Moonlight ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, breast cancer, survivor, Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors, mammogram, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


This blog is normally humorous, but for just a moment or two, let’s talk about something serious …

My mom is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed at age 59, and right about now—when I’m only a few years away from that age myself—59 is sounding pretty young. When she told me of the diagnosis, I wondered if she would live until 60.

She had a good doctor, a successful surgery, and a workable treatment plan that included chemotherapy. Her health care and treatment were so good that, as of this point in time, she’s a 13-year survivor.

You cannot imagine how grateful I am for every minute of those 13 years. Nor how thankful I feel that she scheduled regular mammograms and didn’t delay when they discovered a lump. It’s my belief that the mammogram is part of what saved her life.

About a year ago, a “call for stories” arrived in my inbox. Colleen Sell and Adams Media were collecting stories for a book called, A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors. I knew that I needed to write the story about my mom—a daughter’s view of her mother’s journey through breast cancer—and submit it.

It wasn’t easy writing, because it meant reliving the heart-stopping moment when she told me of the diagnosis. It meant calling to mind the desperate, sinking feeling of watching as a nurse wheeled her down the hall on a gurney and into surgery … and wondering if I would ever see her alive again.

However, it was worth the pain of writing it. Adams Media accepted my work, “Dancing in the Moonlight,” along with 45 other stories, and A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors came out in September of 2008. My mom’s survivor friends read the book, nodded their heads in empathy, and shed tears of remembrance … as well as tears of joy because they have lived through cancer, too.

October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” If you’re a woman, please … please … get a mammogram. A mammogram is a little embarrassing (and the machine is usually cold) but it’s relatively painless. Early diagnosis might save your life.

If you’re a man, and you find a lump in your breast, don’t discount breast cancer. It doesn’t mean you’re immune just because you’re a guy. Go to the doctor! Once again, embarrassment is nothing compared to leaving behind those you love because you didn’t seek medical help immediately.

Now for the fun part … I’m holding a drawing here on my blog site and giving away a copy of A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors. The book is one of inspiration and hope. If you—or your family or friends—are currently facing cancer, or have faced it in the past, it makes a great gift.

To enter the drawing, simply leave a short comment on this blog anytime up until midnight, November 5, 2008.

The names of all entrants will be written on slips of paper. The winner will be pulled in a random drawing in which my dog, Corky Porky Pie, will sniff the papers, grab one … and most likely make me chase him around the room to get it back. Of course, if that gets too complicated, I might have to draw the name myself.

On November 6, 2008, I’ll announce the winner at my blog. So, leave a comment and check back on November 6th to see if you won.*

And then … go out and make an appointment for that mammogram!


*Even the words, “Hi,” will qualify as a comment, and if you wish to comment more than once, feel free. It won't entitle you to more than one entry, but I promise I'll read every word you wrote! Winner's name will be drawn on Nov 6th, and she/he will have one week to claim the prize by contacting me at my blog. After that, the prize will be forfeit and awarded to the next name drawn. Contest is subject to rules and regulations as governed by the great State of Utah ... blah, blah, blah ... and ends November 5, 2008.

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Seeds of Truth Part 2 ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, seeds, watermelons, Sugar Baby melons, sewer ponds, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


Time flies when you’re having fun. It seems like it was just days ago that I wrote about the universally held kid-truth that a swallowed watermelon seed will sprout in your tummy.

Oh, wait. It was days ago.

The “babymelon” myth existed long before we were all swallowing seeds, and it seemed certain to persist long after. Probably because the theory behind it is at least partially confirmed for women when they give birth—going through labor does feel like you’re trying to move out an eighty-two pound watermelon.

Despite the fact that I’d delivered my own 7 lb., 12 oz., “babymelon” thirty-some years ago, it was still interesting when I recently found that time-honored watermelon legend debunked. “Listen to this,” I said to my husband, Russ, and shaking the Sanpete Messenger newspaper so that it would quit falling over limp in my hands.

I read aloud, “Spontaneous veggie garden sprouts near sewer ponds.”

“Hmm,” Russ said, without even turning away from the football game on TV. He’s very good at multi-tasking; I’ve even seen him walk and chew gum at the same time. Although, not without tripping.

“According to the paper,” I continued, “there’s huge produce growing in an unattended garden near Ephraim’s sewer ponds.” I mentally congratulated myself on giving an amazingly accurate synopsis of the article’s first line by only changing one word. “Tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons …”

It must have been the fact that I changed that one word that caught Russ’s attention. He turned to me and said, “What?”

I scanned the article, mumbling to myself until I found an appropriate quote. “It says, ‘Nothing was planted, and it’s not being watered, but the stuff just grows.’”

A twinkle appeared in Russ’s eyes. “I hope the ‘stuff’ that’s ‘just growing’ isn’t the kind of ‘stuff’ that you usually find in the sewer pond. You know what they say, the big chunks float to—”

I cut him off as a mental image of big, growing chunks of … um … veggies … came to mind. “The Department of Public Works thinks the garden is a result of seeds being flushed through the water system.”

Russ scratched his head. “You mean all those years we believed watermelon seeds sprouted in our bellies, and now we find out they sprout at the sewer pond instead?”

“Apparently so.” I paused, read the next line, scrunched up my nose and said, “Eeeewww!”

Russ looked at me, perplexed, and then a glimmer of understanding flitted across his face. “They didn’t … did they?”

Nodding and making a Mrs. Yucky Face at the same time, I pointed to the paper and said, “They took one of the monster melons to the city meeting and invited council members to have a slice.”

Russ’s dark eyebrows shot up. “It probably tasted just like sh—”

“You shouldn’t use words like that,” I said, cutting him off, and covering Corky Porky Pie’s ears. “The dog might hear.”

“What words?” Russ asked innocently, turning back to the TV and flipping through channels with the remote. “All I was going to say was it probably tasted just like Sugar Baby melons.”



What's playing in my head: Happy Birthday (because my birthday is coming).

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Seeds of Truth ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, facts of life, seeds, watermelons, Bambino, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)

It’s not easy when you first hear about the facts of life. For most kids, the experience comes as a shock. I remember the day I learned all about it from Angelo, the only Italian kid in the neighborhood.

We sat on the porch one late summer afternoon, watching the weeds grow—for lack of anything better to do. When Mrs. Monson passed by, we both looked up. She waddled down the street, her rounded belly leading the way.

“You know how she got like that, don’t you?” Nine-year-old Angelo scratched at a scab on his knee.

“No, how?” I figured Angelo knew everything because he was a year older.

“Don’t your parents tell you anything?” Angelo gestured at the woman as she shuffled along and rubbed her lower back.

“Sure.” I scratched my head and thought for a minute. “My parents tell me all kinds of things … like …” I paused, trying to remember what great life lessons they’d taught me. Then it came to me and I recited from memory: “Do your homework! Go to bed! Get up or you’ll be late for school …don’t make me come in and pull you out of that bed!”

“No, not that kind of stuff.” Angelo shook his head in disbelief. “Stuff like why that lady has such a big belly.”

I watched Mrs. Monson’s aching back, moving away. “Because she’s going to have a baby?”

“Gee! No! Yuck! What would give you a weirdo idea like that?” Angelo’s brown eyes were almost red at the thought. “How would a baby ever get in there, anyway?”

“I dunno,” I replied, feeling dumber by the minute.

Angelo spit on the ground and crossed himself, like a good Catholic boy. Then looking at me, he drew in a long breath and proclaimed, “She’s big and round like that because instead of spitting out watermelon seeds, she ate them. There’s a fat watermelon growing in her tummy.”

I pondered that and wondered why my parents were so na├»ve as to believe that babies grew in tummies. They probably had it wrong because they weren’t Italian.

“From the looks of it,” Angelo went on in a whisper, his eyes swaying in time to Mrs. Monson’s receding-in-the-distance waddle, “I’d say she ate the seeds at the July 4th picnic. She’s ready to pop out a watermelon any day now.”

He said it so authoritatively, I believed him. In fact, all the kids in the neighborhood believed him. Whenever one of us accidentally swallowed a seed, we waited and watched for germination. One time, we were certain that Angelo was sprouting a “Bambino” melon, but it just turned out to be gas. We measured each other's bellies, and sighed with relief when watermelon season ended and none of us had grown a hybrid, or even an open-pollinated melon.

No doubt, my experience was not unique. You probably had an Angelo in your neighborhood … although maybe his name was something like “Fabio” if you grew up in Beverly Hills. Or “Yo, I be Iceberg de Man,” if you got your start in New York. Or Mahonri Moriancumer if you’re from Utah.

Thank goodness for the Angelos of the universe, because without them we might have learned the real truth about ingested seeds. In today’s world of crashing stock markets, global warming, and the virtual disappearance of Jujubes candy, it’s a truth so shocking that I choked on my chocolate milk when I read the headline in the Sanpete Messenger: “Spontaneous veggie garden sprouts near sewer ponds.”

Could it be? Do those seeds really end up in the sewer pond?

(To be continued …)


What's playing in my head: That's Amore (by Dean Martin).

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A Ghostly Tale ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, October, hobgoblins, ghost, gender roles, toilet, commode, Velcro, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)

October—that month when the wind blows, clouds shroud the moon, and scary things happen. Kids dress up as hobgoblins and play tricks on us. Political candidates run campaign ads.

No, wait. I’ve got that wrong. It’s the politicians that dress up and play tricks on us.

Not to change the subject, but it’s my well-considered, but rarely asked for opinion that God gave men and women strictly defined roles. The fairer sex is supposed to lie awake at night, listening for the peculiar sounds of burglars in the garage trying to steal wheat-filled storage bins—ones that require the lifting potential of a crane.

Or even worse, ghosts inhabiting the bathroom.

Women obviously have the difficult tasks. The sex that could sleep-through-a-nuclear explosion is only required to get up and check out the scary sounds.

And so it happened one night, some time ago …

“Wake up! I hear something,” I hissed to my husband, Russ, in a tone that would bring the undead out of their coffins.

“You’re not getting me out of bed to turn off the porch light,” Russ muttered, rolling onto his side.

I shook his shoulder. “It’s not the light. Something’s in the bathroom.” After giving five seconds for that alarming news to sink in, and noticing that his snoring increased, I elbowed him somewhere between ribs 11 and 12. Or maybe it was between 10 and 11. Whichever it was, it did the trick. Russ shot out of bed like a road apple from a bucking bronco.

“What?” He stared at me, his eyes so wide that they resembled paper plates.

I whispered, “Someone’s using the commode.”

There was a long pause, during which, swirling and gurgling echoed through the house. Then Russ said, “And that’s reason for panic … why?”

Russ’s remaining four hairs on his head looked mussed, and if it hadn’t been such a dire situation, I would have laughed. Instead, I had visions of glowing eyes in the toilet and a white, translucent hand reaching out of the bowl and flushing.

“There’s a girl ghost down there, utilizing the plumbing,” I said, pulling the electric blanket tight around my shoulders.

Russ reached over to pick up his slippers, stopped short and turned to me. “Just how do you know it’s a girl?”

“Because guys always forget to flush in the middle of the night.” I pointed in the vague direction of the bathroom. “It’s my job to hear things that go bump in the night, and your job to roust them!”

He reached over and hoisted me out of bed with one hand. “It’s just a stuck gizmo in the tank. There’s no ghost. But, you’re coming with me, because if you don’t see it for yourself, you’ll have me up all night, repeatedly checking the toilet.”

Russ strode down the stairs toward the powder room. I tiptoed behind him. The wind moaned, the trees swayed, and …

Gurgle, gurgle, swisssssssh. The sound of flushing drifted past us. I envisioned those demonic eyes in the toilet, swirling counterclockwise, and disappearing down the sewer line, only to reappear seconds later and repeat the process.

Russ walked over to the commode—with me stuck to him, Velcro-fashion. “Aaaah!” His voice shook as he peered in the bowl.

I shrieked, turned, and ran into the wall in my haste to escape the Toilet Ghost from Heck.

“Gotcha!” Russ said with a laugh. Then grabbing my hand, he pulled me back from running blindly into the night. Either that or he grabbed my hand so I couldn’t slug him. I’m not sure which.

“Look,” he said, as he jiggled the tank’s handle. The swirling and swishing slowed, the water ceased heaving and the commode settled into silence. “There’s no ghost. It’s just that stuck thinga-ma-jiggy.”

Of course, Russ was right. Toilet ghosts do not exist. He proved it that night, several years ago.

And I believe him … eleven months out of the year.

But, it’s October again, that month when the wind blows, clouds shroud the moon, and scary things happen. Kids dress up as hobgoblins and play tricks on us.

And the Toilet Ghost from Heck returns.


What's playing in my head: Unchained Melody (from the movie, Ghost).

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Emergency Preparedness (Floods)

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, emergency preparedness, floods, disasters, Sanpete Messenger, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)


Some time ago, I mentioned a valuable news clipping that we found in our walk-in pantry ...

OK, I’ll be honest—the clipping was old and tattered, but I thought you’d pay more attention if I said it was valuable.

The newspaper article (Messenger-Enterprise, 1984) was on emergency preparedness, which is a euphemism for, “Hold onto your socks ‘cause this piece of writing will scare the bee-jeebers out of you.” A sense of panic fills my entire being—including my socks—when reading preparedness articles, so I normally burn them and watch as the hot ash floats into the neighbor’s drier-than-a-piece-of-split-kindling pine tree. Despite my burning inclinations, I’d saved this particular article so that if there were ever an emergency, I’d know what to do. Or not to do. Or how to hide under the bed until someone else—like FEMA—handled the emergency.

No, wait. I’d be better off calling in our dog, Corky Porky Pie, rather than enlist the aid of FEMA.

Below, for your edification, and since you probably don’t have a Corky Porky Pie to help you in a calamity, are quotes from the article. My comments follow the newspaper’s suggestions. Please note that for the purposes of today’s blog entry, I’ll only deal with impending floods. I can calmly discuss deluges, since the only water we’re liable to have at my home is from the in-the-ground sprinkling system … installed by my husband. The bathroom faucet pours out dirt.

If you have any other form of disaster, please feel free to call directory assistance for help. Once connected, a recorded voice will ask you—in Swahili—if you’d like to speak to an operator in French, Chinese or Chewbac-ish.

Also, please note that I realize calamities are not a laughing matter. However, due to my vast disaster experience—gained from watching the Poseidon Adventure and Titanic—I feel compelled to give my scientific opinion that the hysterical laughers get better seats on the life raft. And the compulsive weepers are always the first ones fed to the sharks.

So, drum roll, please …

Scary News Clipping: “In the event of a flood, fill available containers, including bathtubs, with water.”

Cindy: The purpose behind this is clear. If there’s an impending flood, we’re all going to need a long, hot soak in the tub to calm our nerves.

Scary News Clipping: “Move important items, such as food, furniture, rugs … electric motors and controls to upper floors.”

Cindy: The only electric motor at our house sits on a 1922 Weed Whacker. No doubt, I’m supposed to save it from the flood because it’ll come in handy to shred the seaweed that grows after the watery event. With a little luck you’ll own an electric trolling motor, which will give you a way to steer your house as it floats downstream.

Scary News Clipping: “Collect valuables, important papers and small appliances such as toasters, etc. …”

Cindy: Wow, really? Collect my toaster? Oh, yes, of course. That’s so I can eat buttered toast while taking my hot bath. And who’d have ever guessed that my hand-held soup blender or electric marshmallow roaster rated right up there with my birth certificate (which states I’m only twenty-nine) and Corky Porky Pie’s AKC registration?

Scary News Clipping: “Shut off utilities (electric, water, gas, etc.) at main switches. Do not touch electrical switches while wet or in standing water."

Cindy: Zzzzzzzzzt! Uh-oh, do I smell burning hair?

Scary News Clipping: “If possible, move frozen food to a locker plant.”

Cindy: This statement leads one to believe that a locker plant is impervious to flood waters. In that case, I say forget all the other advice and check yourself into the locker.

Just don’t forget to bring your parka, mukluks … and the dog’s registration papers.


(For less-humorous-but-more-usable emergency preparedness information, check out: Provident Living, Safely Gathered In, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--US Government)

What's playing in my head: A Day in the Life ( I Read the News Today) by the Beatles. Aaack, it's an earworm that's stuck in my head. Quick, someone comment and suggest another song!

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All the News That’s Fit to Print ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, food storage, emergency preparedness, pantry, Chicago fire, San Francisco earthquake, 1969, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)


“What is that?” asked my husband, Russ, as the faded news clipping fluttered to the floor of our walk-in pantry.

“Umm, a piece of paper?” One of my talents in life is stating the obvious. I’m so good at it that someone should give me an award.

He picked the article up by a tattered corner. “You must have read this a lot.”

I looked over his shoulder at the paper in his hand. It was about emergency preparedness. I’d certainly read the article at least once … upon a time … but its ragged edges were more likely the result of it falling to the pantry floor and me shoving it back onto the shelf.

I wondered if my poker face still worked. “Oh, I’ve read that article dozens of times,” I said, taking it from him. Then the giggles hit and I realized I’d never, ever managed to hold a poker face for more than two seconds in my entire plenty-nine years. That’s why I never played poker. That, and the fact I don’t know a royal flush from a toilet’s flush.

Russ’s dark eyebrows curved in a questioning arch. “Dozens of times? I’ll bet. Then tell me what edition this article was in, and what year it was printed.”

I scratched behind my ear, hoping my brains remembered something … anything … I’d read recently. “Um, it ran in the Chronicle’s edition about how Mrs. O’Leary’s cow started the San Francisco earthquake.”

Shaking his head in amazement, Russ said, “Wrong. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow started a fire in Chicago, not an earthquake in San Francisco. Who ever heard of a cow starting an earthquake?”

“Well, if you’ve ever seen cows stampede, you’d know it sounds like an earthquake—”

Russ gave a stern gaze that only made me giggle more, and then he continued. “What year did the newspaper print the article?”

Taking a deep breath and rolling my eyes in hopes that it would help, I took a wild guess. “1969?”

“Nope, 1984. You lose.” Russ handed the clipping back to me. “By the way, you do know what happened in 1969, don’t you?”

I turned the news clipping over and stared at it, stalling for time. Then, it came to me. “Colonel Gaddafi became the leader of Libya, Neal Armstrong walked on the moon, Charles de Gaulle resigned as the president of France—”

A loud “clunk” echoed through the pantry. For a moment I thought a minor earthquake had hit, but it was only Russ’s jaw, smacking the linoleum. “How’d you know all that?” he asked.

I pointed to my forehead, and said, “Kidneys … er … I mean … brains!”

A long silence followed in which birds chirped, the sun shone, and Russ scratched the back of his head with a puzzled looked on his face. Finally, comprehension flickered in his eyes. “For a woman without a clue about the Chicago fire, or the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—or for that matter, one who has a hard time remembering any historical dates—you suddenly know a lot about 1969.”

“Well, it certainly wouldn’t be that I lived through the ‘60’s. I’m too young for that,” I protested. Then I glanced at him from the corners of my eyes and fluttered my eyelashes. “It’s because I’m brilliant.”

Russ reached over, grabbed the news clipping from my hand, looked it over again and waved it at me. “It’s because you cheated. There’s a list of 1969 trivia on the back of this article.”

“Cheated … brilliant …same difference. And I’m so smart I can tell you one other thing that happened in 1969.” Knowing that I was winning, I put my hands on my hips and strutted around the pantry.

“Oh? Without reading it from the back of the clipping?” Russ said, holding it high in the air above my head.

I didn’t even bother to reach for it. “I don’t need that yellowed piece of paper. A woman’s memory is far superior to—”

“To what? A peanut?” Russ grinned, thinking he’d topped me in the verbal joust.

“Nope, to yours. In 1969, some ol’ geezer—who’s standing in this purple-painted pantry with me—graduated from high school. And that, sweetheart, is all the news that’s fit to print.”


What's playing in my head: A Day in the Life ( I Read the News Today) by the Beatles.

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Food Storage, Glorious Food Storage

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, food storage, emergency preparedness, canned food, bottled food, Mason jar, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

We stood in the musty basement, looking at all the bottled food that needed to be boxed in preparation for our upcoming move. “There must be tons of stuff in here,” my husband, Russ, said wearily. “Can’t we just give it away instead of trying to move it?”

I waved my hand at the metal shelves filled with items. “Give it away? I’ve spent my entire life—all twenty-nine years of it—acquiring this spacious array of food, and you want me to get rid of it now? In these perilous economic times?”

Russ picked up a Mason jar filled with dark, shriveled things, read the writing on the lid and said, “October, 1962. Do you really want to keep this?”

I thought for a second. “In an emergency, wouldn’t you rather have old food than no food at all?” Turning away, I wiped dust from a rectangular packet that sat on a shelf, and was surprised to find a rain poncho underneath—manufactured in the fashion-conscious color of Pepto-Bismol. One thing’s for sure ... come mudslides or floods, the wearer would be visible as she tumbled downstream.

Russ tapped me on the shoulder. “We weren’t even members of the LDS Church in 1962 and knew nothing about food storage. In fact, you were only a ten-year-old, so how did you manage to bottle this jar of … what are these?”

I took a swipe at the label with my dust cloth and read aloud, “Zucchini pickles.”

“They make pickles from zucchini?” Russ’s eyebrows arched in surprise. “I thought zucchini was the principal ingredient in that Ipecac stuff that makes you throw up.”

“Just because you gag on zucchini, it doesn’t mean the rest of the world does.” I handed the bottle back to Russ. “Some people actually like zucchini.”

Russ shuddered. “Not as 1962 pickles, they don’t.” He paused, turning the jar so the light made the zucchini look like a batch of toads floating in brine. “I know you didn’t bottle these, so where’d they come from?”

I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, and pondered the question. Where did we get them? “Um, I think Sister Blevins gave them to me when she moved to St. George a few years ago.”

“So …” Russ paused, as if trying to understand something even more complex than quantum mechanics physics. “We inherited a jar of zucchini?” He paused again. “Is that something we’re supposed to treasure, or what?”

“Of course not, we’re supposed to eat them in an emergency.”

Dust swirled around the bare light bulb in the basement as Russ reached for another cob-webby jar. “Tomatoes, 1970. Let me guess, you’re keeping these as seed for botulism, right?”

“Very funny. You don’t grow botulism; it grows itself.” Noticing a cellophane bag of something at the back of the shelf, I pulled it out. Just as I did, a clap of thunder resounded through the house, and the rain beat against the windows.

I sat on the only dust-free spot on a low, cement shelf nearby, and patted the space beside me so that Russ would sit down. “I just want you to know that if the rain doesn’t stop, and it becomes an emergency situation, I’d gladly share my Pepto-Bismol pink poncho with you.”

“Gee, thanks,” Russ said, grinning at the thought. “And would a flood get me out of moving all this food storage?”

“Nope. But if worse comes to worse, we’ll mix the pickles and tomatoes, and use it as a dip for these tortilla chips.” I handed him the cellophane bag. “The expiration date says 1998. I think I saw some powdered cheese from the same year. What do you say to a batch of petrified nachos?”

Russ eyed the chips and laughed. “Sounds good to me. It’ll mean that much less we’ll have to move.”


What's playing in my head: Food, Glorious Food, from the movie, Oliver.

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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.

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