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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.

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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!

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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.

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'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.

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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").

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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