Over the River and Through the Woods ... by C.L. Beck

Muir Woods © National Park Service, Wikimedia Commons

A few weeks ago, when the weather was hot enough to make the hens lay hard-boiled eggs, we talked about taking a drive up the canyon to enjoy some cool air and take pictures. By "we" I mean my husband, Russ, whose idea of fun is sitting in an air-conditioned TV room and eating huge mounds of ice cream, and my dog, Corky Porky, whose version of recreation is slurping ice cream out of the bowl when Russ is done.

Yes, I know it's disgusting, but I've told Russ that mounds of ice cream aren’t good for his cholesterol.

I stood in front of Russ, blocking the television with my body. Not that my backside is the size of a 42-inch TV screen, but it does obstruct some of it. I made eye contact with him, hoping to impress Russ with the vastly important message I was about to deliver. "I'd like to take my stuffed bear, Swayze, up the mountains and take some pictures of him in the woods. I could use the photos on greeting cards. Would you like to come along?"

Well, okay, maybe what I really said was, “You are definitely coming along with me up the canyon so that I don’t get eaten by a four-legged creature or attacked by muggers!”

Russ stared at me, wordless. I wasn't sure if that meant he had too much ice cream in his mouth to talk, or if he’d heard me wrong and was envisioning battling a four-legged mugger. Finally he said, "Umm, it's really hot out and I don't think it's going to be much cooler up the canyon.”

Corky Porky tilted his head at the word “cooler” and broke into a barking frenzy, which I interpreted as a show of solid support for my proposed jaunt. Really, I’m sure there was no way he barked because he knew “cooler” was where the food goes.

After much gentle persuasion on my part toward Russ—something akin to day trading at the stock exchange, where I gave up having Russ do dishes for a week in trade for his companionship—we packed up the dog, the stuffed bear (that would be Swayze, not Russ) and headed up the canyon.

No more than fifteen minutes later, and a mile or two up the road, I noticed a pattern of large splotches on the asphalt. Unfortunately, so did Russ. “Uh-oh,” he said. “It looks like cows are being herded up the canyon.”

Cows! That meant cow manure at every step. That also meant my fearless bodyguard would want to return home.

And so would Russ.

“That’s probably not from cattle,” I said, hedging. After all, we hadn't actually seen any cows on the road. “Somebody probably dropped a watermelon or two.”

Russ looked at me and raised his eyebrows. “Watermelon is red, and does not in any way resemble hay after it's been through the cow.”

“Well, watermelon has a green rind and when squished by a tire looks like cow pies!”

“Humph,” Russ said. Thank goodness the sharp curves in the road, and the piles of cow pies … er ... I mean, watermelons, kept his attention for the next several miles.

We finally arrived at a nice little meadow, stopped the car, and climbed out. Regardless of the fact that it wasn’t much cooler than it’d been in the valley, I set the teddy bear on a stump and started shooting photos.

“Dang!” Russ said. “There are flies here. They’re eating Corky and me up!” The sound of Russ slapping at the little buggars echoed off the canyon walls and almost distracted me from taking photos.

I fired off a few more shots.

“The flies can’t be that bad,” I said, repositioning Swayze, and hoping that my perspiration dripping onto the camera wouldn’t hamper its ability to get a clear focus.

“Oh yeah? Take a look!”

I turned and saw flies—ones with the accuracy of F-22 Stealth Raptors—attacking Russ and Corky Porky Pie. Russ waved his hands in the air, trying to fend them off, while Corky snapped at them with his teeth.

And then I realized they were also after me. I grabbed Swayze and tore off for the car, nearly running into a tree while trying to wipe sweat out of one eye and watching for cow patties with the other. Russ and Corky Porky Pie followed close behind. By the time we got inside the SUV, we were breathing heavy and perspiring like pigs at a luau.

“So much for it being cooler up here,” Russ said, causing Corky Porky to erupt in another barking frenzy. Only this time inside the car and inches from our ears.

You’ll be happy to know we made it home again with one ear apiece that could still hear, and only fifty-eleven fly bites. I learned my lesson, though. Never, ever again will I try convincing Russ that cow patties are actually smashed watermelons on the canyon road.

No sir-ee. Next time I’m telling him those are key lime pies … and I’m taking along bug spray to protect me from the muggers-disguised-as-flies.

------© C.L. (Cindy) Beck------

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The Allegory of the Chicken and the Pilates Class ... by C.L. Beck

Photo © Mindaugas Urbonas, Wikimedia Commons

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, there lived a bird who thought she was in pretty good shape, especially considering the fact that she was no longer a spring chick. Or even a mature hen. Being half a century old, she was more like a tough ol’ bird. (Wow. Half a century. Seriously … putting it that way makes me her sound really ancient!)

At any rate, one day while walking with her friend, Irma—who was still pretty much a cute, young chick—they talked about taking a Pilates class.

Irma’s blue eyes reflected anxiety. “I’m not so sure about doing that. It sounds like you’d have to be really fit to try it. Plus, I don’t think I have the chicken feed to pay for it.”

But, the Ol’ Bird didn’t notice Irma’s apprehension because she was too busy preening her feathers and admiring the shape of her own drumsticks. They looked pretty dang good, for being a half-century old. Then the Ol’ Bird stooped to tie a shoelace that straggled from her shoe, and ….

What? Yes, I know chickens don’t wear shoes, but this story is what my skilled writing compatriots call an extreme load of baloney allegory, so I’m allowed to write it however I want.

Back to the story … the Ol’ Bird stooped to tie a shoelace that straggled from her shoe, and in a muffled voice—which she felt certain came from having such a plump chicken chest, but actually resulted from her not-so-firm stomach pushing against her diaphragm until she couldn’t breathe—said, “It’s a cinch. You lie on the floor on a soft mat, listen to music played on a sitar, and stretch a little. You can do that, Irma! And the first class is free, so you don’t have to worry about not having enough chicken feed.”

As the Ol’ Bird stood back up, she felt a slight twinge in her hamstring. Which probably, technically, should be called a chickenstring. Rubbing the back side of her fat muscular chicken thigh, she said “Ouch, wait a second. I’ve got a hitch in my get-along.”

It should have been a warning to the Ol’ Bird.

After a few minutes of gentle massage, the hitch eased and they resumed walking. Despite apparent reservations, Irma agreed to try the class and so the following day, off we went to Pilates. Umm, I mean they went to Pilates.

The trouble is, neither of them had a mat. And neither of them liked sitar music. Luckily, it wasn’t played in the class, anyway. If memory serves me correctly—which it couldn’t since this is an allegory and I wasn’t supposed to be there—the Pilates Chicken played country western music.

As it turned out, the Ol’ Bird wasn’t especially fond of country music. She would have preferred something along the lines of the 1960s era Beatles. Which is not exactly “music to do Pilates by,” either. Irma, however, seemed to enjoy the melodies.

And then there was the twisting. The Ol’ Bird discovered that despite her shapely drumsticks, plump chest, and preened feathers, she wasn’t in nearly the limber shape she’d thought previously. Her chickenstrings hurt like heck, and her back had a crick in it from all that twisting. Irma, though, had no trouble holding the poses, looking as if she were born that way.

“Work with your core colors,” the Pilates Chicken stated. Irma’s face took on a dreamy look. The Ol’ Bird had no clue what her core colors were, unless she counted red for blood and yellow for the little bit of chicken fat she was certain she didn’t have. So instead, she conjured green for the grass that needed to be mowed, pink for the flowers that needed weeding, and brown for the hamburger in the fridge that needed browning.

“Relax, clear your mind and center your being,” the Pilates Chicken intoned. Irma became motionless, tranquil. The Ol’ Bird, however, fell off the mat which the Pilates Chicken had so kindly loaned her.

When the class finished, the Ol’ Bird could barely walk. With bedraggled feathers and a pulled chickenstring, she limped out of the building, while her friend looked happy and refreshed. In fact, Irma clucked on and on about how much she enjoyed the experience until the Ol’ Bird became so exasperated she gave Irma a sharp rap on the head with her beak. Then the Ol’ Bird went home and soaked her sore muscles in a hot bird bath every night for a week, and vowed never to exercise again.

And so now you know the allegory of the chicken and the Pilates class.

What? You think there should be a moral to the story? Okay, how about this … no matter how fit you think you are, birds of a feather should never do Pilates together.

------© C.L. (Cindy) Beck------

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Book Review of "Leaning into the Curves" ... by C.L. Beck

Recently, the opportunity arose to do a review of the book, Leaning into the Curves, written by Nancy Anderson and Carroll Hofeling Morris, and the book sounded intriguing, so I accepted.

From the Back Cover of Leaning into the Curves
Molly is happy with her life the way it is, taking the classes she loves and performing with the Fiddling Finleys. But everything changes when her husband, Hank, retires. She's still trying to adjust to this new phase of life when he brings home a Honda Gold Wing—even though he knows she hates motorcycles! Things go from bad to worse when he joins the Temple Riders Association, a “Mormon motorcycle gang” that combines road trips with temple work. Faced with the prospect of being left behind when Hank rides with with his new friends, Molly starts making some changes of her own.

What Other People are Saying about Leaning into the Curves
A Mormon Motorcycle Gang?! Who knew?! The Temple Riders Association (TRA) is interesting enough on its own to fill a novel. When it enters the life of solid-as-a-rock Hank and artsy-motor-cycle-phobic Molly, it puts their marriage to the ultimate test. Though I'm not an empty nester, I related to many of the conflicts Molly and Hank have to resolve as they realize once again just how different they are. I found their adventures and the change in perspective they lead to both entertaining and enlightening. Leaning Into The Curves is populated with fun, colorful characters I won't soon forget. A wonderful novel for fiction lovers of any age. ~ Keri, customer review at DeseretBook.com

For a fun interview with the authors, go to LDS Women's Book Review.

My Opinion of Leaning into the Curves
I'd heard of the Temple Rider's Association before reading this book, so had a small inkling what the group did. However, I must admit that I had no in-depth idea how it worked or why they did it. Leaning into the Curves did a great job of explaining, in a fictional setting, that the group wasn't a "gang" and giving the reasons behind why the story's characters combined riding motorcycles with visiting LDS temples—that is, to ride motorcycles because they love the feeling of freedom and adventure, and to visit LDS temples in order to serve the Lord.

What I especially enjoyed about this book was the insight given into the minds of LDS women through the main character, Molly, and into the relationship issues that can arise between a husband and wife at retirement. There were several times when I laughed at the accurate, humorous way in which the authors portrayed the differences in how men and women think—especially when it came to Molly's fear of motorcycles, and Hank's feeling he no longer needed to be held to his promise to never ride one.

Although I don't think Anderson and Morris necessarily intended for the book to be a primer on the LDS culture and mindset, they did an excellent job of portraying both of those, and accomplished it with a fun, easy-to-read story. I'd recommend this book to both men and women ... just to get them thinking about retirement, how to spend time together without driving each other crazy, and the need to really express feelings in a relationship. Not to mention recommending it for the fun of reading a book that they'll enjoy!

The book is geared for readers who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and although those who aren't members might enjoy the story, there will be religious terms that are unknown to them. Despite that, anyone who can relate to enjoying motorcycles; to being at, or near, retirement age; or to the issues that crop up when husbands and wives spend a significant amount of time together will enjoy the book.

To Purchase Leaning into the Curves
You can purchase Leaning into the Curves at LDS bookstores near you, as well as online at DeseretBook.com.

(Disclosure: This book was given to me by Deseret Book, for review purposes. I was not compensated in any other way, and my opinion of the book is my own.)

Take a Bow ... by C.L. Beck

Today we’re discussing the environmentally friendly topic of recycled bathroom tissue. Yes, there really is such a thing, and it's not what you're thinking. But before we get into that, let’s talk about something of even greater importance—my husband’s inability to teach our dog, Corky Porky Pie, to bow.

Russ and Corky Porky have a wonderful relationship. Mostly because Russ feeds Corky snacks that put weight on both the man and his dog—things like Cheetos, jerky, and popcorn. There isn’t a single food that Russ and his best friend won’t eat. Well, except maybe lettuce. Probably because it’s healthy.

Russ also likes to teach Corky tricks. Things like, “Catch and eat this piece of hot dog.” “Catch and eat this piece of bacon.” “Catch and eat this sunny-side-up egg.”


As is often the case with man and his best friend, the wife teaches the dog the important things. Commands like come, sit, stay, roll over, and play dead all fall under my jurisdiction.

Oh, and also the phrase, “Be quick.”

For those who can’t guess, that’s a polite way of telling the dog—when he’s outside—to go do his thing. I try never to give that particular command indoors. Which means I can’t ever say to Russ, “Shut that oven door before the cake falls, and be quick about it!”

We’ve had a few near accidents with the phrase. Russ often forgets that it’s a command and can’t be used as a question with the dog. He’ll be sitting in his recliner (Russ, not the dog) and when Corky goes into a barking frenzy—which should be a sign to Russ that the dog needs to go out—he’ll look at Corky Porky and say, “What? Do you need to be quick?”

That’s followed by a mad dash up the stairs and a race to get the dog out the door before he promptly follows Russ’s unintentional command to empty his bladder … in the house.

Now I know that there may be a few of you who don’t believe Corky Porky Pie can actually perform this command, but let me assure you, it’s true. I am not making this up, because if I were to make up a bizarre dog trick in the politically incorrect topic of doggy doody, it would consist of the dog scrubbing the toilet on command.

But, back to the subject. For seven years, Russ has been saying, “Bow!” and for seven years Corky has sat, rolled over, and played dead when told to bow. However, today Russ almost had a break through. Literally.

As I sat lacing up my tennis shoes so we could take a walk around the block, Russ said, “Look! Look! I’ve figured out how to make Corky bow. Watch.”

Corky Porky’s brown eyes filled with questions as Russ held half of him in place at one end and enticed him with a treat at the other. I felt certain that would only give the dog a brain cramp and he’d never learn the trick, so went back to tying my laces. Suddenly I heard a commotion and Russ saying, “Catch me, catch me, catch me!”

I know some of you reading this are men, but I’m guessing some of you are also women. Since those are the only two genders available in life, I think I have a pretty good chance of being mostly right on that. And if so, the women in the group will understand this is not meant as an insult toward men when I say that the thought zipped through my brain that guys try to teach their dogs the strangest tricks. What man needs a dog to catch him? If Corky tried to catch Russ, he’d end up as a flat, little Corky Porky pancake.

Naturally, that mental image only took a micro second to flash through my mind, to be replaced by a feeling of unease, so I looked up to see what was happening and saw Russ stumbling head first toward the living room wall. Apparently the words, “Catch me, catch me, catch me!” were not directed to the dog after all.

I looked at Russ and looked at the wall. An ol’ spring chick like me could never get up from tying shoes in time to prevent a turtle from creeping into the wall, much less prevent Russ from becoming an interesting part of the decor. It takes 20 minutes to unkink my hips and get them working, which is one reason why I’ve never won the Utah State Belly Dancing Championships. Well, that and because I don’t look good in a veil.

Fortunately, Russ put on the brakes, and stopped within inches. He caught his balance and said, "I went to stand up and used the recliner as leverage, but it spun in a circle instead and threw me at the wall.” Only Russ could have a fight with a recliner and lose.

Russ wiped the sweat from his brow, and took a deep, calming breath. So did I. Then not knowing what else to do, but wanting to show support, I clapped my hands in appreciation for his death defying feat.

And that's when Corky Porky took a bow.

That's all there is to the story ... except now I'm thinking that for Corky's next trick, Russ should teach him how to put a roll of that new, recycled TP onto the holder.

------© C.L. (Cindy) Beck, all images © Bumblebee Photo/byTheBecks------

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That's When the Fight Started

Photo by Wayne Short, ©Wikimedia Commons

My friend and fellow writer, C. Larene Hall, sent me this in an email, and I couldn't resist sharing. Hope you laugh as much as I did! Drop off a comment and tell me which one was your favorite.

And That's When the Fight Started ...

One year, a husband decided to buy his wife a cemetery plot as a Christmas gift. The next year, he didn't buy her a gift. When she asked him why, he replied, "Well, you still haven't used the gift I bought you last year!"

And that's when the fight started...

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- -- ------------

I asked my wife, "Where do you want to go for our anniversary?" It warmed my heart to see her face melt in sweet appreciation.

"Somewhere I haven't been in a long time!" she said.

So I suggested, "How about the kitchen?"

And that's when the fight started...

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- ---------

I took my wife to a restaurant. The waiter, for some reason, took my order first.

"I'll have the strip steak, medium rare, please."

He said, "Aren't you worried about mad cow?"

"Nah, she can order for herself."

And that's when the fight started...

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- ---------

My wife sat down on the couch next to me as I was flipping the channels. She asked, "What's on TV?"

I said, "Dust."

And that's when the fight started...

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- ---------

My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our upcoming anniversary. She said, "I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 200 in about 3 seconds."

I bought her a bathroom scale.

And that's when the fight started...

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- ---------

When our lawn mower broke and wouldn't run, my wife kept hinting to me that I should get it fixed. But, somehow I always had something else to take care of first, my book, my car, playing golf. Always something more important to me.

Finally she thought of a clever way to make her point. When I arrived home one day, I found her seated in the tall grass, busily snipping away with a tiny pair of sewing scissors. I watched silently for a short time and then went into the house. I was gone only a minute, and when I came out again I handed her a toothbrush. I thought I was being clever at her foolishness when I said, "When you finish cutting the grass, you might as well sweep the driveway, so here, you can use this."

And that's when the fight started...

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- ---------

My wife and I were sitting at a table at her high school reunion, and she kept staring at a drunken man swigging his drink as he sat alone at a nearby table. I asked her, "Do you know him?"

"Yes," she sighed, "He's my old boyfriend. I understand he took to drinking right after we split up those many years ago, and I hear he hasn't been sober since."

"My gosh!" I said, 'Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?"

And that's when the fight started...

------Author unknown------